Why Climb Scafell Pike?
It’s England’s tallest mountain – do you need another reason? Okay we know that’s not saying much in the scheme of things – we’re hardly talking Himalaya territory. But it’s rocky and suitably gnarly enough to give you a real taste of adventure, and the view, if you’re lucky enough to get one, is stupendous. If you want a cracking day out in one of the loveliest spots England has to offer, Scafell Pike is it.
Did you know Scafell Pike isn’t just England’s highest peak? It’s also England’s highest war memorial. It was given to the National Trust in memory of those who died in the First World War so that we have the freedom to enjoy the mountains today.
Scafell Pike often gets shortened to Scafell, which can get a tad confusing as there’s another mountain nearby called Scafell. And Scafell’s England’s second tallest mountain… we told you it gets confusing! Maybe you better bag them both…
It's also part of the National Three Peaks Challenge route - if you fancy a real adventure, come and join us on our National Three Peaks trip!
Want to know more about the National Three Peaks Challenge? Get the lowdown here.
Where is Scafell Pike?
Scafell Pike’s right in the heart of the Lake District National Park in the Northwest of England. The Lake District deserves a special place in the heart of every adventurer. It ticks all the boxes – high pointy mountains, rocky scrambles, epic views, and, of course, majestic lakes.
You'll also find some lovely towns and villages, including Keswick, Ambleside and Grasmere - you can't go to Grasmere and not try the famous Grasmere gingerbread!
How to get to the Lake District?
The nearest train stations are Penrith or Oxenholme, both on the West Coast Main Line which runs between London Euston and Edinburgh.
For Wasdale Head, Ravenglass station is on the Cumbrian Coast Line. The Wasdale Shuttlebus is a great free service that runs between Ravenglass Station, Gosforth, Nether Wasdale and Wasdale Green. Donations are welcomed to keep it running - it's totally worth it!
From the south or the north, the M6 will be your route to the Lakes.
From the northeast, take the A66.
Getting to Scafell Pike by bus
It's easy to get around the Lakes by bus and you don't have to worry about parking. You'll score eco points too!
For Wasdale, use the Wasdale Shuttlebus.
Closest airports to the Lake District
Nearest airports are Newcastle, 118 miles away, and Manchester, 136 miles away.
Where to stay for Scafell Pike?
The main choices are Borrowdale and Wasdale, but Borrowdale does get very busy in the summer months as it's on the popular Coast to Coast route.
Climbing Scafell Pike from Langdale's also an option - more later.
The Longthwaite Hostel. It’s reasonably priced and has a restaurant. During Covid hostels were offering private rooms only so you’ll need to check the current situation.
Wasdale Hall– a former 19th century mansion.
Dinah Hoggus Camping Barn – sleeps up to 12 people
Seathwaite Farm Bunk Barn - sleeps up to 10 people
Hotels in Borrowdale
If you really want to push the boat out there’s the Borrowdale Hotel
Royal Oak Hotel, Rosthwaite - newly refurbished
Hazel Bank - has its own private woodland
Scafell Hotel, Rosthwaite – award-winning breakfast!
Langstrath Country Inn, Stonethwaite – a traditional Lakeland Inn and practically on the route up Scafell Pike
Another option is to stay in Keswick and use the number 78 bus from Keswick to Seatoller. You’ll find a boat load of options here.
Hotels in Wasdale
Wasdale Head Inn – iconic Lakeland inn, surrounded by mountains
The Strands Hotel, Seascale – a bit further away but has its own microbrewery
Hotels in Langdale
The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel– slap bang on the start of the Langdale route
New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel (not confusing at all) – lovely setting
Millbeck Farm, Great Langdale – packed lunches available
Camping in Borrowdale
Chapel House Farm, Stonethwaite – has dishwashers!
Seathwaite Farm, Seathwaite – dog friendly
Seatoller Farm – woodfired pizzas available at weekends
Camping in Wasdale
Wasdale National Trust campsite is literally at the bottom of Scafell Pike
Camping in Langdale
Wild Camping in the Lake District
Okay it’s not technically legal in most of England, but wild camping in the Lake District National Park is generally tolerated as long as you camp above the highest fell wall, respect the environment, pitch late and leave early.
Don’t be that person – if you follow the principles of leave no trace, pack out litter, no open fires and leave the site as you find it, a wild camp in the mountains can be an amazing experience.
What is the weather like in the Lake District?
Mountain weather can be notoriously unpredictable and can change fast. It’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day and although it might be t-shirt weather in the valley, temperatures can plummet rapidly as you climb. There's always a risk of low cloud, rain and high winds. Get used to keeping a close eye on the weather when you're in the mountains.
In winter you can add snow, blizzards, white-outs and ice into the mix.
What kit will I need?
- First off, we recommend a good, sturdy pair of walking boots with ankle support. The summit plateau is a bit of a boulder field and paths can get slippery when it’s wet.
- A decent set of waterproofs is a no brainer. Even if the forecast promises a dry day don’t believe it. The Borrowdale Valley ain’t called the wettest place in the UK for nothing!
- Layering up is a good idea. A base layer that wicks sweat away from your skin, a warm layer like a fleece or down jacket and a windproof shell will give you options for all temperatures.
- You’ll appreciate a pair of waterproof gloves and a hat, even in summer. Did we mention it can be cold at the top?
- Saying that, we do get the odd heatwave in the UK and it’s pretty exposed up there, so if it’s summer make sure you’ve got sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- You should carry a basic first aid kit in your pack – nothing elaborate, just blister plasters such as Compeed, pain killers, bandages and wipes.
- An emergency foil blanket is great to chuck in your rucksack – you never know…
- Plenty of fluids and snacks. You’ll expend a LOT of energy. Take more than you think you’ll need.
- Means of navigation. Ideally a good old-fashioned paper map, compass and the nous to use them but a GPS or maps from an app downloaded for offline access are a useful backup. Don’t rely on an app solely for navigation though - the cold saps phone batteries like nothing else.
- A charged power pack is always useful so you have a working phone for emergencies.
- Take a head torch if you think you might lose the daylight. Again, don’t rely on your phone torch just in case it dies.
- If you’re planning a winter ascent, winter equipment like step-in crampons and warmer layers will be needed.
- Walking poles can help take pressure off the knees on steep descents.
When should I climb Scafell Pike?
Unless you’re an experienced mountain hiker, the best time to climb is between May and October. Any earlier or later and there’s the possibility of encountering snowy and icy conditions.
Bear in mind though that as with any mountain environment the weather can change very quickly and it can be freezing cold, cloudy, wet and windy at the top in the middle of summer. Come prepared to experience all the seasons in one day!
We highly recommend keeping a close eye on the weather forecast, particularly the mountain weather, and if you’re in any doubt it might be wise to change your plans.
Do I need a guide?
If it’s your first time in the mountains or you don’t feel confident, hiring a guide can be a great way to experience the delights Scafell Pike has to offer without the stress. Plus you might meet some adventure buddies too!
If you’re a reasonably confident hiker, the weather’s okay and you have decent navigation skills there’s no reason you can’t tackle it on your own.
What to do in poor visibility
Cloud cover can come down at any time even if it’s sunny in the valley bottom, and when it comes in, it comes in fast, so you’ll need to be prepared.
Always carry a paper map - an Ordnance Survey map is ideal - and a compass with you and know how to use these. Take a navigation course if you're not confident.
Look for cairns – those small piles of stones placed at regular intervals along the path as a guide. They’re deliberately placed in such a way that you should be able to see at least the next cairn from each one even in mist.
What to do in an emergency
No matter how well prepared you are, accidents can and do happen, and in the mountains things can get desperate pretty darn fast.
First, take a few deep breaths and assess the situation. Ask yourself whether it's really an emergency and whether there's a chance you could get yourself down without help.
If it is an emergency situation call out Mountain Rescue by dialling 999 or 112, ask for the police then Mountain Rescue. They'll need to know where you are, ideally a grid reference, plus details of the incident. Unless instructed otherwise, stay where you are and try to keep warm - it'll likely take them some time to reach you. We've found a load of apps to help with navigation and more - take a look at our faves here.
If you pre-register your phone you can send texts to 999/ 112, which can be a literal lifesaver if you've not much juice left.
Scafell Pike is a lot more fragile than it looks and is under constant pressure from the hundreds of thousands of people who flock to the Lakes each year. Paths need constant monitoring and costly repair to protect them from erosion.
We can all do our part by sticking to the main paths – short cutting creates more erosion – taking all rubbish away and not damaging dry stone walls.
A donation to Fix the Fells helps them carry out their good work.
The Mountain Rescue is a magnificent organisation made up of volunteers who give their time to help walkers and climbers in difficulty. Anyone can have an accident, but you can reduce the likelihood of needing their services by making sure you’re fully prepared and your navigation skills are up to the job if the cloud comes down.
Which route up should I take?
There are two main routes with a lesser-known third option. The best route for you depends on your experience, fitness and personal preference.
The easiest route - Wasdale Head route
Climbing Scafell Pike from Wasdale is the shortest and most straightforward route. It’s the most popular one used when attempting the National Three Peaks Challenge.
Although it’s short, it has a very steep start – you’ll climb 700 metres in just 2 kilometres, so you may need a few rest stops. The majority of the path is obvious but as it nears the summit it becomes rocky and more indistinct. Retrace your steps back down the same route to Wasdale Head, but be aware it can be tricky finding your path back down in mist – miss it and you could be wandering for hours.
Total Distance - 6 mile round trip
Total Climb - 900m/ 2,953 feet
Walking Time - 4-5 hours
Start and End - the car park at Wasdale Head (CA20 1EX) - although you could end your walk a mile further down the road at the Wasdale Head Inn – just saying!
OS Map – OS Explorer Map OL 6 (The English Lakes – South Western Area)
Parking – car park with public toilets at Wasdale Head
Bus Stop – Wasdale Green for the Wasdale Shuttle Bus
The mid-level route - Borrowdale and the Corridor Route
The climb from Borrowdale is a longer, steadier approach to the summit. It’s the most popular route because the views are sublime (on a clear day of course!)
The route crosses Stockley Bridge before climbing to Styhead Tarn, where you can either choose to climb the path by Grains Gill or take the more exciting but more exposed Corridor Route to reach the sparse path between Ill Crag and Broad Crag to the summit of Scafell Pike.
Total Distance – 9 miles
Total Climb – 1000m/ 3,281 feet
Walking Time – 5-6 hours
Start and End – Seathwaite, Borrowdale
OS Map – OS Explorer Map: OL 4 (The |English Lakes – North Western Area) and OS Explorer Map OL 6 (The English Lakes – South Western Area)
Parking - there’s a large National Trust car park at Seatoller (CA12 5XN) with public toilets. There’s also a National Trust car park at Rosthwaite (CA12 5XB).
Bus Stop - Seatoller car park for the number 78 bus from Keswick
The hardest route - Great Langdale
Climbing Scafell Pike from Great Langdale is a long but belter of a day out in the fells. It’s not for newbies though as you’ll need to climb a couple of rocky peaks on the way.
The route climbs Bow Fell, where there’s an epic view over the Eskdale Valley to Scafell Pike itself. Esk Pike is the next peak to be tackled then the route drops down to Esk Hause to join the Borrowdale path between Ill Crag and Broad Crag to the summit of Scafell Pike.
An easier return route follows the Sty Head path past Angle Tarn and back to Langdale via Mickleden.
Total Distance – 12 miles
Total Climb – 1,400m/ 4,593 feet
Walking Time – 8-10 hours
Start and End - The Old Dungeon Ghyll
OS Map - OS Explorer Map OL6 – The English Lakes – South Western Area
Parking - The New Dungeon Ghyll car park (LA22 9JY) is on the B5343. There are toilet facilities. There's also a small car park at Old Dungeon Ghyll, but it fills fast.
Bus Stop – the Langdale Rambler bus (516) from Kendal to Windermere stops at the Dungeon Ghyll car park
FAQ ABOUT CLIMBING SCAFELL PIKE
How hard is it to climb?
Scafell Pike isn’t too difficult – it’s fairly straightforward and there's no scrambling. However, it’s typical mountain walking - paths are steep and rocky in places and can be slippery in wet and icy weather. The summit of Scafell Pike is a boulder-strewn plateau so you’ll need to watch your ankles. This can also make it difficult to pick the right path down from the summit in poor visibility.
The weather can up the difficulty level too – climbing Scafell Pike in clear, sunny conditions is very different to climbing when it’s raining sideways, blowing a gale and you can’t see more than two feet in front of you. You’ll need to make sure you can navigate confidently in poor weather.
How dangerous is it?
Okay, in the scheme of things Scafell Pike is relatively titchy, especially compared to some of Scotland’s Munros. However, it is still a big, pointy mountain and shouldn’t be underestimated - People have died climbing it. You’ll need to plan your ascent, make sure you’ve got the right gear and equipment and know how to use it.
Is Scafell Pike harder than Snowdon?
Although it’s a shorter climb than Snowdon, Scafell Pike is considered tougher as it’s steeper. It's the smallest peak in the National Three Peaks challenge but that doesn't mean it's the easiest!
Can I climb Scafell Pike in one day?
Yes it’s perfectly doable in a day. The time you take will depend on your fitness, the route, the weather and how many stops you take. Always allow more time than you think you’ll need.
What’s the best route up Scafell Pike?
That’s up for debate (you tell us) but in our opinion it's the Corridor Route from Borrowdale.
Where is the car park for Scafell Pike?
There are car parks at Wasdale Head, Seatoller, Rosthwaite and New and Old Dungeon Ghyll (Great Langdale)
How high is Scafell Pike?
Scafell Pike is 978m/ 3,209 feet high.