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Saturday, 31 March 2012

It was a sunny day .......March 30th
  And not a cloud was in the sky, at least when we left Newcastle this morning.
  Another sexgadgie outing, two cars, meeting initially in the Keswick Coffee Lounge for a five flitch bacon sandwich and pot of tea, although I do think the tea could be a bit stronger.
 A quick decision  sent us off to climb Scafell Pike, at 3210 feet the highest point in England. Minute by some standards but a good walk out.
 There are several routes up the Pike but we chose to climb from Seathwaite. Directions from Newcastle are the same as last week but as a reminder take the A69, the M6, the A66 to Keswick and find the B5289 signposted Borrowdale. Drive down this road almost to Seatoller and turn left down the narrow lane signed Seathwaite. Go past the Yurts on the camp site and park as near to the farm as you can. This is a very popular start for walks, you may have to be well back from the farm.
 Naturally, being a good walk it crosses two maps, OS4 and OS6, The English Lakes, North Western and South Western sections. Seathwaite Farm is at GR236122 and is lavishly equipped with a phone box and toilet operated by the National Trust!.
 From Seathwite there are several routes up to Scafell and for today's outing we have chosen to go up Taylor Force Gill for the scramble.
In the farmyard go through the gate on the right handside which goes through the cowshed/byre/mistal* and follow the path, cross the stream and turn immediately left. A vague and muddy path leads across fields in a southerly direction and then turns south west as it approaches Taylor Force Gill. A steep scramble up the side of the Gill brings you out to the flatter area alongside Styhead Gill.

Taylor Force Gill.
Somewhere I have photograph of it frozen solid
and looking even prettier.

The lads scramble up the side of Taylors Force
The footpath leads on to Styhead Tarn, another pretty fell tarn. We were once stopped there by a man doing market research into walking gear. We answered his questions. Not so much as a mini bar of Kendal Mint Cake** for our efforts.


Styhead Tarn with Great Gable in the background.

Follow the path beyond the tarn until it reaches the stretcher box. It really does contain one, I looked once, and Herbie has probably slept in it.
At this point we followed a short cut over a grassy hillock, down a short rocky slope until we joined the Corridor Route. This footpath is a popular trail, initially fairly level  and with one  twelve foot downward scramble but eventually it becomes a steady upward plod. It crosses the top of two gills, the first is Greta Gill, the second the yawning chasm of Piers Gill. Some years ago a man fell into Piers Gill and broke his leg. Unable to get out he survived for a couple, of weeks on little food and water before someone heard his cries for help. The sides of the gill are steep, the path round the top has been strengthened with large stones although care is needed in winter. Plod on. At Lingmell Col turn left and continue plodding the zig zag path that leads to the summit of Scafell Pike. On the summit there are several shelters which make excellent Herbie Spots, and the views are magnificent. In the south east it is possible to make out Ingleborough, to the south is Morecambe Bay and to the west the Isle of Man. But not today as the clouds crept in beneath us. (Temperature inversion he said, quickly donning the patched jacket.)
Ben had brought his delicious ginger biscuits, Harry offered healthy oranges and I handed round preservative packed pork pies to those willing to eat them.
Since I have had a mobile phone I have rung my mother from the top of Scafell Pike and today was no exception. As she lives in Morecambe it is a direct line! There were one or two mutterings about using phones in the wild but a phone call from the top, of England must be better than the usual "Hello I'm on the bus."

Wearing Rohan shades, Ben admires the view from Scafell Pike.


Dave packs as Ben and Harry admire the view on the summit of Scafell Pike.

The path down from the summit is a steep descent in a north easterly direction which then climbs between Broad Crag on the left and Ill Crag on the right. We gadgies refer to it as the boulder field and you do need to take care crossing the large stones on the cairned path. After about a mile take the right hand path at Calf Cove that leads down to Esk Hause. Here turn left then left again to pass in front of the imposing climbers paradise known as Great End. Not too far below is Sprinkling Tarn and close by is the wettest place in England. Wet because it is in a natural bowl surrounded by hills that force moisture bearing air currents upwards to cool and fall as rain! What a wasted talent. Before the tarn a path on the right dips down to cross Ruddy Gill which becomes Grains Gill which leads down to Seathwaite and the end. The top of the gills are very deep, have beautiful pools and waterfalls and Dave's first wheatear of the year, plus a meadow pippit.

            Grains Gill, too much sunlight  for a prize winning picture.

Before reaching the farm another ancient gadgie tradition is to stop at Stockley Bridge for a final drink before heading back to the cars.
Stockley Bridge. Usually a fast flowing stream but quiet today after a fairly dry spell.

Back at the cars we compared pedometer/GPS readings as usual. My good old reliable Higear said 9.3 miles. Unfortunately I had switched on my Outdoors GPS but had managed to switch it off again as I put it in my rucsac and didn't realise until we stopped at Styhead Tarn. So although it worked well from then on it gave a walk of 6.8 miles.
Two ped Dave averaged 9.5 miles and Bens Ukrainian powered bragometer claimed 9.6. Seems reasonable to claim 9.5.
We stopped on the way home for alcoholic refreshment at the Horse and Farrier in Threlkeld. Today it was packed with people who had been out enjoying the unseasonal weather. Fortunately I was not driving and enjoyed a couple of pints of Jennings Bitter.
* The English language has a variety of words for cowshed. Mistal, peculiar to the area around Cravendale is my favourite.
**Kendal Mint Cake, for my foreign readers is a block of tooth rotting sugar flavoured with mint and sometimes covered in chocolate. and always carried on British expeditions to Everest, the Arctic and the Antarctic.

There are of course many books on the English Lakes. The best guides remain Alfrd Wainrights eight Pictorial Guides. Written with a gentle sense of humour and with beautiful drawings and maps they are a must.
For more serious route directions than mine try www.lakedistrictwalks.com