Lake District Walks
Scafell & Slight Side
Date: 29th Sept 2012
Distance: 9.3 miles
Ascent: 3342 feet
Time: 6 hours 50 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: NY200009
A soggy walk up into the upper reaches of Eskdale was followed by an exciting climb on to Scafell.
Route Summary: Wha House - Taw House - Scale Bridge Silverybield Crag - Sampson's Stones - Cam Spout - Foxes Tarn - Symond's Knott - Scafell - Slight Side - Cat Cove - Wha House
1. Scale Gill
2. Harter Fell and Eskdale
3. Slight Side
4. Looking back towards Harter Fell
5. Rain in upper Eskdale
6. Cam Spout
7. Upper Eskdale
8. Approaching Mickledore
9. The gully leading to Foxes Tarn
10. Looking back down the scree to the tiny Foxes Tarn
11. The top of Scafell from Symond's Knott
12. Symond's Knott
13. A brief glimpse of Wastwater
14. At the top of Scafell
15. Long Green
16. The top of Slight Side
17. Enjoying the view from below the summit of Slight Side
18. Crinkle Crags from the descent of Slight Side
19. Slight Side
20. Hard Knott
Walk Detail: This was the second walk of my two day trip to Eskdale and a chance at last to have another crack at Scafell after I'd had to turn away on Mickledore five years before after injuring my knee climbing Scafell Pike. I was particularly looking forward to this walk as the approach and ascent via Eskdale is rated as one of the best walks in the Lake District. The route of return would also enable me to bag Slight Side.
As with the previous day the ground underfoot was very wet. Paths were muddy or submerged in large pools of water and later the rocky ground of Scafell itself was slick and a lot of care had to be taken. In addition my boots and trousers, despite a night in the (extremely hot) drying room at the youth hostel were both still stubbornly damp.
The approach up the lonely upper reaches of Eskdale was indeed an interesting walk and, though it largely stayed on the top of the Scafells, the cloud lifted high enough to allow great views of Esk Pike, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags. Regular rain showers were punctuated by patches of sunshine that would suddenly and briefly illuminate the valley.
After a long approach walk the climb began in earnest alongside Cam Spout Force. At the top of the falls the path then followed the stream upwards to eventually lead towards Mickledore. With the exception of Mickledore itself and some of the crags of Broad Stand much of the surrounding fellside was largely submerged in hill fog.
The next stage of the climb was a scramble up a gully to reach Foxes Tarn. This section certainly got my adrenaline going as the gully was very wet with the stream flowing down it enlarged by the recent rainfall. In some places hands and feet were submerged by the running water. I'd probably have felt more comfortable about this section had there been other people about but I'd set off early and had seen no one so far and with the cloud low and the wet conditions it is fair to say I was a little bit nervous.
Eventually I reached the puddle like Foxes Tarn and then tackled the final scree slopes to make it up on to the top. Before heading for the main summit I first turned right to visit the rocky knoll of Symond's Knott. Up until this point I'd been largely sheltered by the prevailing wind until this point so I made sure I didn't stray too close to the rim of Scafell Crag. On the top of Symond's Knott I sheltered from the wind for a while talking to another walker who had minutes earlier visited the top of Scafell and in doing so had completed the Wainwrights. Whilst talking breaks in the cloud would briefly reveal Wastwater and the surrounding fells which in turn would lead to us both leaving the shelter and desperately try and get some photos before the cloud closed in again.
After saying goodbye to each other I then made for the summit of Scafell proper. Due to the wind, and the fact that a party of walkers had just beaten me to the nearby shelter I didn't stay long at the top but continued south heading for Slight Side. The path wasn't always easy to follow as the ground was so rocky and for long periods the cloud seemed to get lower. I did however enjoy some good views of Long Green, which from this angle of approach looked like a separate top.
Eventually, after what seemed a very long time I emerged back out of the cloud just before reaching Slight Side. Coming down from Scafell the top of Slight Side does not look anything special but standing on the summit with the steep drop to the south the summit provides some spectacular views.
After a steep descent from Slight Side the rest of the walk proved to be somewhat tedious, partly because the ground was so wet but also because on two occasions I somehow wandered off the main path, firstly into the middle of a marsh in Cat Cove and then a bit further I missed the start / end of the Terrace Route as the trod I was following descended down to the wall much sooner than I should have. Judging by the number of muddy footprints along the wall I was not the only one to have made this mistake.
It was with some relief that I finally got back to the car park. Despite the regular showers, low cloud and soggy ground I had, on the whole, enjoyed the walk. I certainly enjoyed the approach up Eskdale and the subsequent climb.