Highest mountain in England
Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England and second of the 3 peaks, from whichever direction you climb them. At 3,210 feet (978m) above sea level it's the second highest of the national 3 peaks. You'll climb just under 3,000 feet (914m) and walk a minimum of 5 miles (8km) to reach it's summit.
Despite it's apparant lack of altitude the summit plateau of 'the Pike' is a confusing jumble of rocks and boulders at the best of times, but with poor visibility or darkness it becomes a really intimidating place and it's the one peak that unsupported 3 peaks challengers regularly get lost on.
photo opportunity on the 'Woolworth' boulder on the approach to Mickledore. Pulpit Rock and Pike's Crag in the background.
The mountain's name should perhaps be in the plural because there are actually 3 peaks, the two others being Ill Crag and Broad Crag both of which are above 3,000 feet. The neighbouring mountain, Scafell, was once thought to be the highest of the Scafells and indeed looks, from most directions to be the highest, but it is in fact lower than 'the Pike' by less than 50 feet.
The Scafell massif is made up of Borrowdale volcanics and the area is a geologist's delight as evidence of the formation of the rocks and the violent volcanic past is so clearly on display.
Scafell Pike's summit cairn
A huge cairn adorns the summit of Scafell Pike and on a glorious summers day this summit can be a very busy place indeed. In the North facing aspect of the summit cairn is a stone plaque remembering those men from the Lake District who fell in the Great War and dedicating the summit of the mountain to the custody of the National Trust for the benefit of the nation.
Approaching the summit from Mickledore direction
The summit plateau of Scafell Pike can be a really confusing place in poor visibility and darkness for those who don't know the mountain. There are various routes to the summit but only two starting points are practical for 24 hrs 3 peaks attempt - Wasdale and Seathwaite. The Wasdale starting point provides the shortest journey to the summit of this peak but involves an extra hours driving time to reach Wasdale and the start of the route. Once on the mountain the route splits on Brown Tongue and you are again presented with a choice of routes to the summit - Mickledore or the Lingmell col route. Most 3 peaks participants opt for the Lingmell col route as it is easier though slightly longer. The more adventurous will choose the Mickledore route which requires a bit more effort but this is well rewarded as the rock scenery is magnificant. A little mild scrambling is required to gain the ridge and the ground on the approach is loose scree. Navigation between the Mickledore ridge and the summit can be tricky so only go for this route if you know the mountain well and are confident about your navigation abilities, it's no place for the inexperienced. In wet conditions this route can be slippy in which case it's best avoided.
The Seathwaite start presents 3 peaks challengers with the longest route on the mountain. The route starts at Seathwaite farm, passing between the farm buildings then heading towards Stockley Bridge. You're then presented with another choice of route - go via Styhead and the Corridor route or via Esk Hause. The Corridor route is slightly the longer of the two although the difference is negligible but it does involve slightly less climbing. There's a little mild scrambling involved at one point which, in darkness could prove tricky for those who aren't familiar with the route.
The route via Esk Hause is more obvious on the ground until you reach the boulder strewn summit plateau where good navigation skills are required.
Whichever route you decide to take you need to reverse that route to get back down. This sounds obvious but quite often this proves to be the most difficult part of the challenge for many 3 peaks participants and it's when many become disorientated and lost. Rroute finding can be problematic - you've just ascended by this route so it'll be easy to retrace your steps - WRONG! The route can look completely different when doing it in the opposite direction and you may not recognise parts of the route, landmarks etc. that seemed so obvious on the way up. This is particularly so on Scafell Pike and causes many 3 peaks participants to become totally disorientated and to stray onto dangerous ground leading all too often to a call to the Mountain Rescue services. One simple tactic to help avoid this is to frequently stop on the ascent and look back down the route, looking for land marks, changes in path direction etc. so you are more easily able to recognise it on the way down.
Also descending a mountain can be more physically challenging than ascending it - different leg muscles take the strain for a prolonged period of time, muscles that aren't usually called upon to perform in this way.
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