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Wast Water - Scafells
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Scafell (left), Symond's Knott and Wast Water
Scafell (left), Symond's Knott and Wast Water. Lord's Rake slants up in the shadowed crags on the right.
Kirkby Stephen
Danby Wiske
Ingleby Cross
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Lion Inn

The weather today was not as good as I had hoped with clouds hovering around just above the tops of the peaks surrounding Wasdale.

Leave Wasdale Inn on the road southwards, passing a public carpark in about 200 metres. Continue south for another 200 metres to a bend in the road where a path to the left is signposted to "the Scafells". The grassy fields are crossed over Lingmell Beck and then left for bracken-covered open ground as the path rises.

As you climb up the path, keep an eye to the west and the views opening up along Wast Water. The path enters the steep-sided valley of Lingmell Gill and climbs along the east bank of the small stream. The gradient is not too bad but the climbing is quite steady along a track that starts off as well-formed but becomes more eroded further up the valley. A last view along Wast Water is visible from Brown Tongue where the stream forks and the path crosses over to climb the tongue itself. Of more importance are the buttresses of Scafell Crags ahead which begin to loom over the valley.

Wast Water from Brown Tongue
Wast Water from Brown Tongue

A slightly steeper climb brings you into the head of the valley under the crags where there is a choice of scree slopes to climb. An obvious path leads straight up the scree in front of you to the col of Mickeldore. A boulder field to the left successfully conceals the route up to Lord's Rake - a narrow shoulder-width passage traversing through the base of Scafell Crags up onto the west side of Scafell. From below, I could just see the shadowy entrance to the rake. However I did not recognise this as Lord's Rake and so took the clear path up to Mickeldore. On Mickeldore I looked back to see the rake and was tempted to drop back to it. But I decided to bag Scafell Pike first.

A path climbs over stony ground from Mickeldore and rises up the side of a ridge to Scafell Pike at a height of 987 metres (3208 feet). There is quite a bit of "furniture" on the summit, including a semi-circular wall providing welcome shelter from any wind. The views are tremendous - I was lucky enough to have the clouds lift for the half-hour I spent on the summit. To the north-east, there is the gray cone of Great Gable with the path climbing its rocky slopes looking quite flat from this height. On the horizon above Styhead Pass, you can see the far-off summit of Skiddaw and the green fields of Borrowdale leading up to the shores of Derwentwater lake. The bald summits of Broad Crag and Great End are closer to hand - a path is visible winding over Broad Crag heading for Esk Hause and an easy descent to Styhead Pass. On a clear day you can look over to the Helvellyn hills to the east and see the notch of Grisedale Hause which the Coast to Coast Walk crosses. The Langdale Pikes peek over the intervening Crinkle Crags further towards the south. If you look west over Mickeldore then the Scafell Crags form a wall rising up to the rugged top of Symond's Knott with an easy ridge beyond leading up to the smooth top of Scafell.

This is where I got a little confused - I was still fixed on my original idea of going to Scafell first. Thus I wandered off on the clear path dropping to the east (this is the Corridor Route that ends up at Styhead Pass). My mistake became obvious when I looked up and saw the knob of Lingmell in front of me. This turned out to be a lucky mistake since I actually continued down the route to a dramatic gorge dropping down into Wasdale - worth the 25 minute detour.

A short climb back to Scafell Pike and a nice descent got me back to Mickeldore. I dropped south under Symond's Knott to have a look at a cleft cut into the crags. The guidebooks are right when they say that it is really a climbers route up to Scafell. I continued down the slippery scree slopes to where a tiny stream emerges from a fissure in the cliff walls. This is the route up to Foxes Tarn - an interesting clamber up the tiny gorge, often over boulders and with moss-covered walls at your shoulders. The gorge emerges into a small bowl under Scafell with the even-smaller tarn to one side. A well-constructed path then rises in zigzags up to the ridge between Symond's Knott and Scafell. The summit at 974 metres (3162 feet) is a couple of minutes along the ridge. More good views await you.

To gain the top of Lord's Rake, go back along the ridge towards Symond's Knott (worth a visit for the dramatic drop over the crags) and follow a path along the top of the Scafell Crags. The path descends quickly to a notch in the crags where Lord's Rake starts. The first section is a steep narrow drop over loose gravel into a vertical gully - take care here. The gully is crossed on a narrow trod and the far wall climbed to a gap between the crags proper and a rock pillar. Beyond the gap, another gully is traversed (more steep, slippery slopes) to a similar cleft. This leads to the final part of the rake - a rocky, steep slit deep within the crags. The exit from the rake leaves you at the top of a scree and boulder field which is easily navigated down to the path along Brown Tongue. The descent into Wasdale is easy.

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