9 1/2 miles
830 metres ascent
7 hours 15 minutes
Scafell (left) and Scafell Pike (right) in the distance looking north down Moasdale at the start of the day.
I’ve never been up Scafell before, in all the times I’ve been to the lakes. This way starts from the beautiful area between Wrynose and Hardknott passes. It starts by following the wide valley of Moasdale. This was like walking on a wet sponge most of the way. Lovely and soft on the feet but you need to think light thoughts to avoid sinking. Great views of Crinkle Crags on the right, Bowfell just after, then the fantastic Scafell range including Scafell, Scafell Pike, Ill Crag, Great End, Esk Pike, and the various classic rock climbing crags like Scafell Crag and Esk Buttress.
Long Crag in the middle distance and the scafells behind.
Bowfell in the distance, seen from Lingcove Beck, looking north.
Looking south down eskdale.
At the end of Moasdale the path rises a little and then drops down. On the map you seem to have to do a slight detour left to follow the marked path but it’s quite easy to carry straight on to cross the stream via whichever stones you find convenient then contour round just below Long Crag towards the aptly named Great Moss. All the way so far I hadn’t seen a soul, despite it being some of the best and warmest weather of the year. I thought as I got to the foot of Scafell I would see more people coming up from the Eskdale path but still there was no-one.
The path now gets steep and it starts with some pleasant easy scrambling (perhaps barely grade 1) with a lovely tumbling stream on your left and some turquoise rock pools that would need a much hotter day to tempt me in. The mountain scenery is tremendous, especially the various crags to your left on the flanks of Scafell and the massive Scafell Crag way above you.
Scafell crag. The foxes tarn path goes left up here. You can take one of many possible lines, either up the grassy rocky steps in the centre, or up the gully – see next pictures.
The gully approach to foxes tarn. Easy scrambling but with some large boulders looking ready to fall down.
The Foxes Tarn path isn’t obvious so you need to be careful with your map reading and match the actual terrain to the features on the map. There are various feasible and obviously trodden lines and I took one of them. It was scrambly up steep grass and rock steps but perfectly fine (as long as you watch where you’re heading for). I soon naturally joined the head of a great defile filled with boulders and then saw a couple below me join the defile at its base, so perhaps that was the normal way? It didn’t look very attractive as it all looks on the point of falling down. More on this later.
After the defile there is still plenty of loose almost-falling-down rocks, then what I presume to the the tarn, which is more of a puddle. There was still a snow patch here, even after all the warm weather we’ve had. Now the path turns right and up a very unpleasant scree/gravel slope but not for long and then the top.
To the right is Symonds Knott, which is right at the top of Scafell Crag. You get a great view of Scafell Pinnacle and Pisgah behind it (which you can easily scramble onto) and down the very steep and narrow Deep Gill, still choked with snow, and a great view to Pike’s crag beyond in the sunshine (Scafell Crag has a reputation for being cold but Pike’s crag gets all the sun going).
Across great moss eastwards towards crinkle crags from near the top of the ascent.
Looking down from the top of scafell crag, pinnacle buttress in the foreground, Pikes Crag centre/middle ground, great gable in the distance. I think the view of pinnacle buttress is showing us Low Man followed by the knife edge arete.
The top of pinnacle buttress in middle ground, Scafell pike in the distance.
Great Gable, Kirk Fell, buttermere and borrowdale in the distance, looking approximately north west.
A good view of the head of Deep Gill, Pinnacle buttress, showing the top of high man with Jordan Gap separating it from Pisgah Buttress.
Scafell summit, looking south
A few people on the top but not many and certainly not as many as the Pike over the way. Not being the highest has advantages if you like solitude.
I got a good show when a fast jet, which I’m guessing was a Hawk trainer, flew by between me and Great Gable at about mountain top height, straightened and then dived steeply down towards wastwater, ending up seemingly skimming the surface of the water. Of course, the camera was turned off with the lens cap on so no chance of getting it ready to get an action shot.
Return by the same route, except on the way down (not mentioning ending up on my backside on the scree slope at the start) I went down the sharp tumbling defile I’d seen the other couple coming up earlier. Rocks from football size to family car sized are all perched as though frozen and on the point of falling. It’s a steep but exciting descent with some simple scrambling. I wouldn’t like to do it on a busy day, thinking about other people possibly dislodging the boulders above me, but I got down without shifting anything. If you’re coming up and are looking for this way, it’s pretty obvious, a dead straight gully on your left just below Scafell Crag.
Half way down, Foxes Tarn just behind me, the top of the steepening into the gully just ahead.
Back across Great Moss. Eskdale Buttress is the large crag on the left.
Looking towards Long Crag (left) on the return.
Looking north to Bowfell as I go over the top of the head of Moasdale (behind me).
Return by the same route and still no people around, a real treat in this area.