Leaving Ben Nevis behind, and taking on Scafell Pike – the highest summit in England.
Leaving Ben Nevis
As we settled into our cramped spaces, a late night the evening before, a full day kicking our heels and then walking Ben Nevis left me feeling pretty wiped out. I found the best position I could, and tried to get some sleep. The roads away from Ben Nevis were winding, and Tim (our driver) was driving purposefully, so sleep didn’t come easily, getting jolted time and time again. Once we hit the major roads, I managed some fitful rest until we left these and found the smaller roads leading to Scafell Pike.
We all gradually came round, and peered into the darkness as we motored through deserted and increasingly narrow and winding country lanes. In time, we found Wasdale Head, parked up, made use of the (very basic) facilities, donned our head-torches and at 03:30 set off into the inky night. As we walked, we saw dozens and dozens of head-torches winding their way down the mountain. In reasonably short order, the light started to filter into the day, meaning we could walk without our head-torches, making life significantly easier. We’d planned the timing to minimise night walking to every extent possible, and this was a master-stroke with hindsight.
As we walked, the vestiges of the night faded away, and the dawn started to gradually appear, revealing a growing view behind us as we gained height. Knowing that weren’t even half-way through the challenge, these views lifted flagging hearts.
Summiting Scafell Pike
The early part of the walk was straight-forward enough once the legs and mind woke up! The path followed a stream, before breaking left and becoming a series of large stone steps, each of which was a decent step up. As we strode on, differences again emerged in our abilities to ascend, and one of our group started struggling. We did what you do in a team, which is to rally round, share provisions, and pull-together. With some electrolytes inside him, we steadily worked our way onwards and upwards.
We were faced with 2 options on the ascent – and we chose to take the left route, which was steady and not too demanding until the later sections. As we approached the summit, the track became less distinct and rutted, and the rock was shattered and sharp. Missing a footing and taking a tumble would most likely result in deep gashes, so keeping focus was imperative.
We made our way to the trig point on the summit, and the scene that we saw was simply spectacular. While we had been walking in the early morning light, the sun had not fully risen, but we now saw it emerging from the mountains beyond. It was truly captivating, and with most of the other walkers having already descended, we were the only five on the highest point in England! There were more peaks than could be counted, each one having a distinct and muscular profile.
Descending was done at a healthy gallop which suited some (not me) more than others. Back at the car park we rapidly changed, made use of the Trainspotting-esque portaloos, and at 07:30 installed ourselves in the XC90 for the drive to Snowdon.
Scafell Pike took us a little under 4 hours. We were now on our way to Mount Snowdon – the final summit to tackle.