A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Sca Fell

After my tiring day on the Mosedale Horseshoe I woke on the Thursday feeling much fitter and raring to go. The previous night I'd thought to myself there was no way I'd be pushing myself up another high fell today. But here I was at 9.30 am on the steadily rising Lingmell Gill path up to Sca Fell, the 2nd highest mountain in England. All week I'd been gazing up at its awesome crags, which are separated from its sister fell, Scafell Pike (England's highest peak), by the high, stony, stunningly situated Pass of Mickledore. The 1st photo shows the view back to Wast Water at a point where this popular, stepped path crosses the gill before ascending, ever more steeply, Brown Tongue.

It was already very warm. The Lake District weather had been getting hotter and hotter all the week - as the forecast had predicted. Soon the path split in two: the left fork to any number of Lakeland summits including Lingmell, Great End and Broad Crag, and, in a roundabout way, Scafell Pike; the right fork to the lofty Pass of Mickledore, the col between Scafell Pike and its slightly shorter sister, Sca Fell. My sights were set on the less accessible, less frequented top of Sca Fell, so I took the right-hand path. Soon the crags closed in, notably Scafell Crag, which is the northern buttress of Sca Fell and famous for its rock climbs. There were very few walkers about as I scrambled up the final slippery scree slope to the col. The view from here is simply breathtaking. You feel quite exposed (though you're not really) among the high crags, steep gullies and acutely angled slopes all around you.

I didn't even contemplate ascending via Broad Stand (this is Grade 3 scrambling), Lord's Rake (now dangerous because of a fallen pinnacle of rock and very loose scree) or Deep Gill (scary!) I had neither the experience nor the energy. (I later met up with a couple that had combined Lord's Rake with the West Wall Traverse - and they looked mightily relieved and pleased with themselves! I also met 2 brothers from Barrow who'd climbed Lord's Rake past the fallen boulder and up to the top - though they said the crux was slippery and the handholds friable.)

No, what I did was descend a little way towards Eskdale down some unstable, awkward scree, then scramble fairly easily up a damp gully to Foxes Tarn - a tarn so tiny it's more of a puddle. Then a zigzagging path up another steep scree slope brings you quite soon to the saddle between Symonds Knott (959 m) and the true summit of Sca Fell (964 m) where I ate my lunch in its stone windshelter. I spent a long time exploring these wild and rocky eminences. The views were hazy but extensive. This is a view of Deep Gill (2nd photo) and this is a view across Deep Gill from Symonds Knott (3rd photo).

The return route to the campsite - south-west off Sca Fell towards Burnmoor Tarn (one of Lakeland's largest, and full of trout, perch and pike) then north along a clear bridleway to the head of Wast Water - was long but unproblematic. What a day this had been - one of my very best in the fells.


GeoffC said...

Another great day. That steep slope above Foxes Tarn was a clear pitched path not long ago, it has disappeared under falling scree now.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, it was pretty fabulous. I much prefer the relative peace at the top of Sca Fell to the frenzy of Scafell Pike. Bizarrely enough, I heard the strange waftings oif cello music coming from the Pike that Thursday - the Sheffield-based Extreme Cellists group were giving a concert there! It was on the BBC News later that day.

Dominic Rivron said...

Your vivid account makes me all the more determined to get over there again! (The idea of playing the cello up there is not without its attractions. It's great playing in wild places: a friend and I were playing a ukulele duet on top of Penyghent not so long ago).
I keep meaning to have a go at Broad Stand (without the cello!). If Coleridge can descend it accidentally...

The Solitary Walker said...

Something for 'climbers and mad poets' only, I think - tho' perhaps for mad musicians too?

Lsat time I was on Penyghent it was so f****ing cold I could hardly get my fingers to open my sandwich box let alone tune a stringed instrument!