Friday, August 7, 2015

Upper Eskdale : In the Land of Giants

Date: 30th & 31st July 2015
Start/Finish: Jubilee Bridge, Eskdale
Wainwrights: Scafell Pike, Lingmell, Scafell, Slight Side
Height Gained: 4551 feet 
Distance: 13.8 Miles

The Route: anticlockwise form Jubilee Bridge (bottom right)

Wandering around upper Eskdale is a humbling experience. This area, more than any other in the Lake District has a feeling of true wilderness, making you feel small and insignificant amongst the giants of the Cumbrian fells. 

Adding to the sense of isolation is the fact that this is also one of the least visited areas of Lakeland. I only saw one small group of people from a distance in 4 hours of wandering around the Eskdale valley which was in stark contrast to when finally emerging from little narrowcove onto the main ridge to Scafell Pike summit. Talk about one extreme to the other!

The lower Eskdale valley

Bowfell standing guard at the head of the valley

The River Esk

Lingcove Bridge

From here the route crosses the old Lingcove packhorse bridge before climbing up beside the Esk waterfalls and emerging into upper Eskdale and the vast basin of Great Moss.

Nearing the top of the Esk waterfalls and Scafell Pike comes into view for the first time

Scafell Pike and Ill Crag

The upper section of the River Esk guarded by the crags of Scar Lathing

There are paths to the left and right of Scar Lathing into Great Moss but taking the left path brings you up close and personal to the huge crags of Scafell.

The crags of Scafell

Great Moss with Scafell Pike, Ill Crag and Esk Hause at the head of the valley

Great Moss is a hazardous place as your gaze is constantly drawn upwards to the majestic scenery rather than watching where you are treading! A twisted ankle awaits the unwary as the terrain is a large flat peaty area criss-crossed with many little streams. Getting through with dry feet is a challenge in itself.

Cam Spout Gully leading up to Scafell

Dow Crag

Looking back over Great Moss

There are route choices to get up onto Scafell PIke from Great Moss. 1) Camspout gully (but I have done that route before to get to Scafell) 2) Up to Esk Hause and then along the main ridge (done that route too but from Bowfell) or 3) via the steep gully of Little Narrowcove (which I haven't been up before). That settled, I headed up the gully which follows the course of a tumbling gill eventually emerging onto the main ridge leading to Scafell Pike summit. This is where I joined the hoards of other folk all wearily plodding the last few hundred feet up onto England's highest ground.

At the bottom of Little Narrowcove ...

... and the top

Looking back down the Little Narrowcove gully over Pen

First view of Lingmell & Great Gable from the main ridge

Broad Crag and Ill Crag

Scafell Pike summit

 A video of the summit view from Scafell Pike with all the main fells in view labelled

Scafell (where I camped later on) from Scafell Pike

Following the path down to Lingmell ...

... and then up to Lingmell

Lingmell summit with the Scafells behind

Broad Crag & Scafell Pike

Looking over Piers Gill towards Great End

Taking the path towards Mickledore

Scafell Pike from near Lords Rake

So what can I say about Lords Rake. It's steep. It's hard work. It's an exhilarating way up onto Scafell as it traverses its most impressive rock scenery. If you have a spare 5 minutes you can watch this abridged video of me struggling up it.

NB. The famous chockstone at the top of the rake finally collapsed on 31st July 2016. May it rest in 'pieces'.

Looking up Lords Rake

Looking back from the top of the 2nd Col on Lords Rake

Scafell summit views North ...

... and west over Wast Water

Looking back to Scafell Pike from Scafell

Tonight's luxurious accommodation

Drying socks out

It was a comfortable camp until the rain came in the early hours (which wasn't forecast!). While the tarp sheltered me from most of the wind driven stuff I had to seek refuge within the bivvy to keep dry. By morning there no sign of it letting up so I begrudgingly packed up in the rain and trudged back up to the summit before heading down the Slight Side ridge and back to Eskdale. It rained for most of the way. The visibility was about 100 yards. My trail shoes made a surprising variety of different squelching sounds to keep me entertained on the long descent.

Slight Side summit in the clag

Getting back below the cloud base

Nearly back to the road

Below is a 10 minute video highlighting the best bits of the walk, and the process of making camp on Scafell summit.

Kit List

Shelter : Backpackinglight solo tarp (278g) & Integral Designs solo ground sheet (140g) 
Mat : Exped SynMat7 UL LW (595g) 
Sleeping Bag : Sleeping quilt actually, the As Tucas custom down quilt (519 grams)
Stove : High Gear Blaze titanium stove (48g)  + Primus 100g Gas Cart   
Pans : Evernew Solo-set (250g)

Rucksack : Osprey Talon 44 (1.18kg) 
Fluid : Deuter Streamer 2lt Bladder (185g) and 600ml Sigg bottle (100g empty) + Sawyer Squeeze filter (84g).
Food : Fuizion Beef Stew, Buttered Bread, Supernoodles,various sugary snacks.
Bits & Bobs : headtorch and spare batteries, Iphone + Anker 5800mHh battery,  victorinox knife, map & compass, basic first aid kit and Petzl e-lite, spork, various fold dry bags, flint & steel, plastic trowel.  

Camera : Panasonic DMC-LX7 & lowepro case. Go-Pro Hero 4 Silver and spare batteries.

Clothes : Ron Hill wicking T-Shirt, Rab 100 wt fleece (250g), True Mountain Ultralight windproof jacket (100g), TNF Meridian Cargo Shorts (190g), ME beany, TNF E-Tip gloves, sunglasses, Buff, Innov8 short socks. PHD wafer down jacket (about 200g).
Trail Shoes : Solomon Speedcross (310g)

Total weight excluding water = 8kg


  1. Steve, this looks like a magnificent walk. I'm craving something that feels more like wilderness. Lately it's been hard to escape signs of people. While I'm glad more people are getting out into nature, it makes it hard for me to find a place that gives a sense of isolation. Beautiful pictures and video as always. It's so different to what I encounter here. I don't envy the rainy part of the trip though. That would be cold and miserable! I might be one of those people who are so absorbed by the scenery and looking into the distance I fall into a bog or break my ankle on rough ground... Thanks for another great post. One day when I have the money and need more camping camp, I can revisit your gear and set-up reports. Jane

    1. Thanks Jane. Those Lakes have got fill up somehow ! There's no denying that it is a wet area with an average of 200 wet days per year and around 3000mm annual rainfall. I usually try to time my hikes with the better weather but I was caught out in this one. Ah well, you gotta learn to love the rain over here. I too tend to look for the more isolated areas when out hiking. I have a busy 'people job' and therefore need the opposite scenario in order to recharge the batteries. This has to be one of my favourite areas for achieving this.