Scafell Pike from Seathwaite

27th December 2017

I wasn't quite sure if my Wansfell walk was going to be the last of 2017 although I always held a little hope that I might be able to squeeze one last walk between a break in the weather and that's just what happened with todays walk. Usually at this time of year the forecast changes hourly, but the forecast for the Tuesday and Wednesday between Christmas and New Year looked set to hold so I came up with two walks, one of which was to return to the High Stile ridge from Buttermere, the second walk was a little more epic in Scafell Pike and Lingmell from Wasdale Head.

It was only after swapping emails with David the evening before did I ask did he want to join me on my now decided Scafell Pike walk, sadly David was unable to join me due to family commitments but David did leave me thinking about road conditions in and around Wasdale where a hard freeze was forecast overnight which could only spell trouble before I'd even left the car.

I had a quick mull over the pro's and cons and everything pointed to ditching my starting point from Wasdale Head and instead I choose to start the walk from Seathwaite which added another three miles to the walk bringing the total miles walked to ten. Ten miles within the mist of Winter deserved a perfect forecast with equally perfect conditions underfoot, I got my wish with crisp blue skies and fresh snow underfoot. I've had some great walks during 2017 but this one came very close to topping them all.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

-Scafell Pike

Why does a man climb a mountain? why has he forced his tired and sweating body up here when he might instead been sitting at his ease in a deckchair at the seaside, looking at girls in bikinis, or fast asleep, or sucking ice-cream, according to his fancy. On the face of it the thing doesn't make sense.


Ascent: 3,853 Feet - 1,175 Metres
Wainwrights: Scafell Pike
Weather: Highs of -1°C Lows of -2°C Feels Like -13°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Seathwaite, Borrowdale
Area: Southern
Miles: 10
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 6 Hours
Route: Seathwaite - Grains Gill - Ruddy Gill - Esk Hause - Calf Cove - Broad Crag Col - Scafell Pike - Lingmell Col - Top of Piers Gill - Corridor Route - Sty Head - Styhead Tarn - Styhead Gill - Seathwaite

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA12 5XJ
Grid Reference: NY 235 712
Notes: I guess its fair to say that Seathwaite is to Lakeland what Times Square is to New York. Set within the heart of Borrowdale in the heart of the Lake District Seathwaite is the walkers hub of Lakeland. Seathwaite is the starting point for many a walker heading for the highest ground in England when during the Summer hundreds of 'Three Peakers' visit Scafell Pike. There is room for ample parking yet it's quite difficult to put a figure on how many cars and mini buses park in the valley at any one time which I estimate between thirty to fifty cars per day, the latter parked half way up a hedgerow! Up until Spring 2017 the farmer would allow parking right up to the entrance of Seathwaite Farm yet because of inconsiderate parking the farmer has now restricted this by leaving large boulders on either side of the lane for up to two hundred yards. If early you can still park close to the Seathwaite Farm and enjoy a great day on the high fells but please be considerate to the land owner by not blocking any access to gates because it has been known under extreme circumstances that vehicles which are blocking access will be moved by any means. During peak season the farmer opens up a field on the left hand side and charges £3.00 for all day parking. Not bad value considering the amount we all take away from a day on the fells. Off peak, Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Seathwaite Farm, Borrowdale 08:20am -2°

Dawn still hadn't broke as I drove along the A66 towards Keswick first passing Great Mell Fell then the glorious Blencathra where through the darkness I could see a thick white coating of snow set against a black starry sky, it was an incredible moment which sent butterflies tingling in the pit of my stomach, next came Clough Head, Lonscale Fell then Skiddaw before taking the A591 for Keswick immediately skidding over a patch of ice before coming to a stop at the roundabout, blimey that caught me by surprise and I was pleased the road was quiet. I drove through Keswick town centre passing dog walkers out for their morning strolls while shop keepers prepared to open up for the day. I soon found myself on Borrowdale Road and had dawn f broken I might have stopped off to take a few snaps from Ashess jetty or Kettlewell car park but instead I continued towards Seathwaite thinking maybe I'll stop later on my return home.

It was still dark during my drive through Borrowdale although by the time I reached the parking spaces close to the farm dawn was just starting to break, before I even had chance to park up three head torches were lit up alongside Sourmilk Gill no doubt on their way towards Gillercombe or Base Brown. With a strong forecast I wasn't surprised to find just a few spaces left and I parked my car next to a metal gate making sure enough space was left to manoeuver a tractor or quad bike, the car on the opposite side of the gate had done the same. It's -2°C but with little to no wind it feels milder, I kit up accordingly adding my new Mammut beanie which I kinda lost patience with into the walk but more on that later, my three year old Extremities gloves are also added which are now showing their age with most of the touch pads on each finger completely worn away but they still do the job of keeping the wind and damp out and that's good enough for me.

Seathwaite Fell as I approach Stockley Bridge.
With the car locked I shoulder my pack with a thud against my back due to the added weight of the usual Winter extras including crampons and ice axe. Seathwaite Farm is soon reached and I spot the farmer walking between the two barns seen in the right of the photograph and he disappears before I got chance to say 'morning'. I look back and spot no one behind me before opening the gate on the other side of the farm revealing Seathwaite Valley with Seathwaite Fell still in shadow of neighboring Glaramamra, a drop in temperature is soon felt as I make my way towards Stockley Bridge passing over fresh wet boot prints but with no sign of who's they were I'm left guessing were they too ascending via Grains Gill or Styhead, I guess I'll find out soon enough.

The path alongside Grains Gill.
I continued to follow the fresh wet boot prints which confirmed who ever I was following was way up ahead (is it just me who is fascinated by who is ahead of you!) The path climbs steadily over frozen ground and up ahead I can see I'm about to reach the snow line.

Looking back into Seathwaite towards Hind Crag/Glaramara (R) and Seatoller Fell (L)
The path switches from right to left (during ascent) after crossing Grains Gill where care had to taken due to black ice forming on the footbridge which I only noticed at the last minute when light had caught the ice. With Grains Gill crossed I was now in the snow line at around 1,100ft. The snow was as expected light and powdery which thickened up to around 6-10 inches in places, my main concern was ice covered rock which was now covering sections of unavoidable path.

Great End comes into view.

It's a view that I never tire of and todays was no different, in fact after changing the route at the last minute the first thought I had was the view of Great End from Grains Gill, bloody perfect.

Up ahead the trio of walkers whose boot prints I had been following come into view seen centre left.

Great End dommineers my ascent.
Continuing my ascent to the point where Ruddy Gill now flows into Grains Gill while up ahead any lingering cloud is making way for clear blue skies.

Distant views north over the Seathwaite Valley towards a distant Skiddaw.

Great End from Ruddy Gill.
I'm almost at the head of Ruddy Gill now as the trio of walkers I've been tailing head towards lower Esk Hause.

Great End seen with Central Gully.

Allen Crags from the ravine at the top of Ruddy Gill.
With the top of Ruddy Gill reached it was time to access the conditions, the snow underfoot as you can probably see in the bottom right still isn't any great concern just yet but sections of the path had began to freeze over meaning it might be time to be thinking about adding my crampons.

Allen Crags.

Clearing skies over Ruddy Gill towards Seathwaite Fell, Great Gable, Windy Gap, Green Gable, Base Brown, Dale Head and High Spy.
There seems to be a theme with cloud over the summit of Great Gable today which seemed to linger for much of the day. Those with a keen eye may be able to spot Sprinkling Tarn in the centre left of the picture.

Great End and the Gable from Ruddy Gill.
The cloud appears to have lowered from the summit over Windy Gap, still a spectacular scene.

Lakeland Winter Wonderland.

While the temperature continued to plummet I decided to de-shoulder just prior to reaching the top of Esk Hause where I found a dry boulder to place my pack on, despite the lack of hardened snow underfoot it's always best to add the crampons before they are actually needed and I gathered this was as good a time as any. The rock was just the right height in which to add my crampons comfortably double pulling on the straps before carefully looping the strap between the metal securing rings leaving time to also tuck away any excess strap.

From no-where a fell runner passes with a joyful Hi! and before the time I had to look up he had gone in a flash, I only caught the colours he was wearing and nothing else! Before I re-shoulder I also add my neck gaiter before continuing my way towards the top of Esk Hause, each step bringing with it mind numbing windchill, but that didn't matter...

Esk Pike from Esk Hause.
On reaching the top of Esk Hause I was greeted with not just immense windchill but a spectacular light show over Esk Pike caused by a low Winter sun and cloud which continually poured over the summit from the direction of the Langstrath valley.

Esk Pike light show.

III Crag from Esk Hause.
Just a hundred yards away from Esk Pike above III Crag the skies were completly clear, what a treat !!

Spectacular Esk Pike.
I must of lingered for about five minutes just watching the cloud and light over Esk Pike before spotting a chap who had ascended from Ruddy Gill too although I never noticed him behind me, perhaps he had come from the direction of Sprinkling Tarn? Spindrift was now being whipped up and as the two of us stood about fifty feet apart we both knelt down cameras in hand to capture the spindrift in action.

Spindrift over Esk Hause with Esk Pike in the background.

The light show over Esk Pike continued and after taking a 30 second clip on my mobile phone (which required the removal of my gloves) I couldn't hang about any longer despite the fabulous views I was leaving behind I had been stood for around ten minutes and my body core was starting to feel the affects.

I push on towards Calf Cove.

The view over Yeastyrigg Crags towards Hard Knott and Harter Fell (Eskdale) from Esk Hause.
After feeling the chill for the best part of ten minutes it was tough finding rhythm below Calf Cove, the wind had built in strength and with it the windchill was the coldest I felt for years and, besides the brain freeze my left jaw and teeth started to feel the affects of the severe chill.

Calf Cove.
Snow drifts covered much of the path between Esk Hause and lower Calf Cove, at only a depth of around six inches the crossing shouldn't have taken more than ten minutes but although I wasn't timing myself it seemed to take much longer and used a whole lot of energy. Just prior to reaching Calf Cove I pass the trio of walkers I had been trailing since leaving Seathwaite, they are sat down in the face of the wind against a large boulder and for whatever reason with a cross shelter within Calf Cove I couldn't understand why, I pass with my left arm raised to say Hi.

Esk Pike from Calf Cove.
With the cloud drama continuing over Esk Pike I took this one last shot before I lost the view, down below the walkers who I had just passed are back on their feet and are making their way towards Calf Cove.

Views back over the head of Calf Cove towards Great End.

Lingmell, Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Pillar, Scoat Fell and Red Pike (Wasdale)

III Crag.
From the top of Calf Cove I negotiated the boulder-some ascent and came to a standstill on viewing III Crag, up ahead before the main path is reached more boulders have to be negotiated, the snow underfoot had still not frozen and I knew that wearing crampons here might make the crossing a little tricky, had the chill not been so severe I would have stopped and removed my crampons and added them later but it was just too cold to stop so instead I slowly picked my way around or over before continuing my way towards Broad Crag Col.

A direct view over Upper Eskdale into the Mosedale Valley with Crinkle Crags and the Coniston Fells over on the left and III Crag on the right.
It doesn't get much better than this.

Scafell Pike and Broad Crag ahead.

Despite the lure of Great End and Broad Crag my main objective had always been to reach Scafell Pike, adding extra summits to a pre planned walk can add extra time especially under such conditions and in the worse case scenario can result in descending after dark, if this is something you aren't used to and you aren't properly equipped it can come as a shock which is when panic can set in and accidents happen, please remember at this time of year on a clear day there are only seven to eight hours daylight. Most people adhere to this rule but some simply don't think ahead, please don't be one of them.

Spectacular spindrift.

Scafell Pike and Broad Crag.

The elements were again upon me but the view and indeed the spindrift more than made up for this. Although it didn't take too long to reach the descent between III Crag and Broad Crag it was made to feel longer by how harsh conditions felt. I look back and spot the trio of walkers, the strongest of whom is wearing a red jacket who at times catches up to within a whisker of me only to stop to allow his friends to catch up.

Good man.

Scafell Pike at her finest.
With Rough Crag seen falling away to the far left.

Broad Crag with the Mosedale Valley over in the far distance.

Epic mountain scenery.
The summit of Scafell Pike may look just a stones throw away but there's some tricky terrain underfoot in order to descend Broad Crag Col before the last 350ft of ascent before reaching the summit itself.

View over Broad Crag Col towards Scafell Pike.

Broad Crag Col.
With Little Narrowcove falling steeply away to the left.

Pen, The Yeastyrigg Crags Ridge, Hard Knott, Crinkle Crags, The Coniston Fells and a sun lit Morecambe Bay from Broad Crag Col.

The final 350ft ascent towards the summit.

As always I stick to the right finding no great difficulties during the whole ascent, it's always advised to carry crampons along with an ice axe during such conditions although as you can see the snow is still fresh and powdery which continued all the way to the summit. I could have removed my crampons here but I choose to leave them on knowing I'll be needing them during my descent to Lingmell Col later, however I did swap my walking poles for my ice axe which aided in ascent.

Looking back over Broad Crag Col towards Broad Crag.
The trio of walkers who I over took at Esk Hause never far behind.

Cloud gathers as I approach the shoulder of the summit.

The view towards Great Gable and Styhead from Scafell Pike summit.

Upon reaching the shoulder of the summit I just knew that by the time I would reach the shelter I would be within the cloud, I could see it approaching and if anything it only added to the ambience of reaching Englands highest ground. At one point visibility dropped to around twenty feet and yet the sun still poked through the cloud like a giant torch only for the cloud to clear, then for it to return again. There was two guys already there which made a total of six at the summit, they spoke joyfully while the trio took shelter on the other side of the summit from the wind, one of the two guys held out a barometer gadget and I wondered over interested in its reading, it read -13°C windchill and it sure felt like it.

Great Gable, Kirk Fell and Pillar from Scafell Pike summit.

Both my jaws along with my teeth started to feel the affects from the windchill again and I remembered thinking that the best part of climbing Scafell Pike was not the actual summit, but the climb which I had done under some of the best, yet harshest conditions I've had the pleasure to walk in, it was time to leave.

Descending Scafell Pike with views over Middle Fell, Seatallan, Yewbarrow, Red Pike (Wasdale) Caw Fell and Pillar.
By the time I descended towards the main path back to Wasdale Head/Lingmell Col the cloud cleared ahead of me although after taking numerous 'look backs' the cloud over the summit never completely cleared, I followed the stone cairns and started to make my descent towards Lingmell Col.

Views over Goat Crags (Lingmell) towards Yewbarrow, Middle Fell, Seatallan, Haycock, Red Pike (Wasdale) Scoat Fell, Pillar and Kirk Fell.
The snow remained soft underfoot only encountering sporadic ice which could have been avoided had I not have been wearing crampons. At this point I could have taken them off but with my return back to Styhead being via the Corridor Route and considering the lack of light/heat source the route receives at this time of year my perception is it's going to be quite icy which is why I'm deciding to keep the crampons on.

Great Gable, Green Gable, Base Brown, Styhead and Sty Head Tarn taken above Lingmell Col.
The summit of Great Gable just couldn't shift the cloud today.

Lingmell from Lingmell Col.
Had I have been comfortable with my time keeping I would have made the out and back and summated Lingmell but due to the unknown conditions along the Corridor Route I thought it best not to take the chance.

Lingemell, Great Gable and Kirk Fell from the top of Piers Gill.
Having descended Scafell Pike I took the unusual steps of not following the stone cairns towards the top of Piers Gill and instead opted to descend to the ravine via the stone wall, a route that I have taken numerous times before. While descending via the stone wall I spot two walkers (seen centre right below Middleboot Knotts) where they appeared to break for lunch, speaking of lunch I'm still yet to have mine but all I can think of right now is seeing what awaits me on the Corridor Route.

Sunshine over Great End with Round How below from the Corridor Route.

Great Gable, Kirk Fell and the top of Crisclife Knotts from a un-named frozen tarn on the Corridor Route.

Lingmell and the great cleft of Piers Gill from the Corridor Route.
I had made the right decision in keeping the crampons encountering more ice along vast sections of the route making the traverse quite tricky had I not been wearing the crampons. The familiar scramble below Lambfoot Dub (Great End) was trickier than I thought and I took time to reckie my ascent and in the end I decided to ascend where a marker arrow had been painted onto the rock.

Hoorah! the cloud is finally lifting from Great Gable summit.

Great Gable and Kirk Fell.

Lunch with a view as I overlook Sty Head Tarn from Styhead.

Having traversed the Corridor Route I climbed up towards Sty Head where I figured I'd earned myself my lunch not before passing a young couple who was about to take on the Corridor Route, from what they told me I gathered they were heading back to Wasdale Head as the girl looked down and said "oh I see your wearing crampons" I'll be honest I replied, I've been up to the summit of Scafell Pike and the ascent/descent could not have been done without them but the traverse of the Corridor Route is much tricker as I point back at the base of Skew Gill where ice had formed in the lower ravine where the Corridor Route passes through, you really need to be careful right there along with equally tricker sections including the rock I had scrambled earlier, they appeared confident and thanked me for my honesty.

Having reached Sty Head I was now ready for lunch which was chicken flavoured rice with chopped baby tomatoes followed by two chocolate bars for afters, I took one spoonful of the rice which felt like it had been in the freezer and was on the verge of frozen, my body core temperature took a dive after three more forced spoonfuls and I had no choice than to put the lid back on and eat my chocolate bars instead.

You've guessed it, frozen too.

I had only rested for ten minutes or so but it was enough to feel the affects of the windchill, admittedly not as severe as my experience over Esk Hause and the summit of Scafell Pike. I took my crampons off after unpicking the frozen bindings before giving them a few taps against a boulder to free them from ice and snow. I fix my beanie which all day had just wanted to give my head the slip for the umpteenth time I start to make my descent via Styhead Gill finding the conditions underfoot icy and frozen, it was at this point I wished I'd kept the crampons on but I wasn't about to take them out again. I pass two walkers whose path I crossed while I was ascending Scafell Pike but I don't think they recognised me, they went on to descend into Seathwaite via Taylorgill Force. Views soon open out over Seathwaite which is as dark as I had left it this morning with only the captivating long distance view of Skiddaw some twelve miles away. Despite the lack of snow ice is still causing issues and I choose to descend off path as I often have before soon peering over Stockley Bridge while a solo walker wearing a blue jacket crosses. With the clunk of a gate I too cross bridge and I catch the walker up whom I share the last half mile back into Seathwaite with.

He was the type of guy who only after moments of meeting you could of sworn you'd known him longer, he went onto say he was staying in the Youth Hostel in Borrowdale, we shared a few more stories and it turned out we had a lot in common before arriving back at Seathwaite Farm where we were greeted by the farmer who with his son, he was tinkering with his tractor "how do lads" "alreet" I replied before arriving back at my car, I felt I knew the chap enough to offer him a lift back to the Youth Hostel but he thankfully declined whilst pointing towards the view "it's not the worst view to walk back is it"

It was only whilst eating lunch did I think the first thing to do when I got back to the car was to switch the engine on and set the heater too high but funnily enough I'd started to warm up and it was no longer on my mind. My fellow walker had walked a good half mile as I drove by and gave him a wave through the drivers window. Seathwaite had been in shade for the best part of the day yet as I left the valley behind I emerged into sunshine with frozen fields either side of me whilst at the same time capturing the snow capped summit of Great End basking under a Winter sun.

Skiddaw from Ashness Jetty.
From Ashness Jetty I took my last photograph of 2017 of a snow capped Skiddaw seen over Derwent Water. Happy New Year everyone.


Back to top