Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike: A Guide to the Great Summit

Scafell Pike stands majestically in the heart of England's scenic Lake District, its summit reaching up to a height of 3,209 feet above sea level. As the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike draws thousands of hikers every year eager to experience its breathtaking vistas and sense of accomplishment upon reaching the top. 


Situated in the Lake District National Park near the village of Wasdale, the mountain provides a rewarding climb with multiple possible routes of varying difficulty. While an experienced hiker can make the ascent and descent in under four hours, most hikers should plan for six/eight hours given the need to carefully navigate rock scrambles and steep sections. Proper preparation and realistic timing help ensure a safe and enjoyable trek. 


Scafell Pike Weather

The weather on Scafell Pike can be highly unpredictable and change rapidly, especially as you gain elevation. Even on days forecasted to be clear, the summit may be shrouded in clouds. Temperatures also drop significantly compared to valley levels.  


It is not uncommon for the mountain to see rain, fog, wind, and even snow during summer. The loose rock terrain becomes slippery when wet, and visibility may be only a few feet in thick fog. During winter, significant snow accumulation and bitterly cold winds create even more hazardous conditions. 


When planning your hike, closely monitor weather forecasts for Scafell Pike and surrounding areas. Be prepared with proper cold weather and waterproof gear even if the outlook seems fine. The old adage rings true: expect all four seasons in one day on the mountain. A sudden drop in temperature or the arrival of rain or fog can occur without warning.  


Carry extra food, water, and clothing to account for slower progress or delays. Turn back if conditions worsen significantly. While scenic views from the summit make for ideal photos, don't risk venturing into dangerously harsh weather for the sake of reaching the top. Your safety should take priority.


Scafell Pike Route 

There are several routes hikers can take to ascend Scafell Pike, varying in length, difficulty and scenery.


Wasdale Head Route 

This nine-mile round-trip route begins from Wasdale Head village and is considered the easiest path up Scafell Pike. The well-defined trail follows a straightforward incline from the remote Wasdale Head Inn up Lingmell Gill. You'll pass scenic waterfalls and have inspiring views down the valley before climbing up to the summit. Given its popularity and ease, the trail can get crowded during peak times.


Scafell Pike Via Corridor Route  

For experienced hikers seeking a more direct path up the mountain, the Corridor Route from Styhead Tarn cuts five miles off the Wasdale Head trail. This steep, rocky path first involves a lung-busting ascent up neighbouring peak Lingmell before traversing a path known as The Corridor to reach Scafell Pike's summit. Though more gruelling, the payoff is less crowded trails and outstanding views.


Scafell Pike From Borrowdale 

Challenge yourself by beginning from the Borrowdale valley and ascending Scafell Pike via Brown Tongue ridge. After following the pitched path up neighbouring peak Broad Crag, you'll scramble over boulder fields enroute to the summit. Though demanding, this trail rewards with panoramic vistas over Borrowdale and Derwentwater. 


Scafell Pike Via The Band 

For the most direct route requiring serious scrambling, begin at The Band, a rocky outcrop below Scafell Pike's summit. Follow the sequence of large boulders straight up the steep western flank. Hand-over-foot climbing with sheer drops make this path dangerous in wet or icy conditions. Only attempt in ideal weather if you're an experienced scrambler.


Regardless of the chosen route, be sure to have proper hiking boots, ample food and water, layered clothing and navigation aids like maps or mobile apps. Check weather forecasts and plan for the full day. Though Scafell Pike's summit appears close when viewed from Wasdale or Styhead, the ascent takes time and caution. 


How High is Scafell Pike?

Measuring 3,209 feet above sea level, Scafell Pike is undisputedly the highest mountain in England. Strictly speaking, it's also considered the highest peak in the entire British Isles region. However, that title was long contested with neighbouring Scottish peak Ben Nevis, which stands at an official 4,411.5 feet.  


It was not until more accurate GPS measurements in the 1990s and 2000s that Scafell Pike was confirmed as the British Isles' tallest mountain. Even so, some still make the argument for Ben Nevis since its base starts some 1,700 feet lower, meaning its total rise from bottom to top exceeds that of Scafell Pike. The friendly rivalry and close margins add to the allure of climbing both peaks to decide for yourself which seems higher.


Scafell Pike stands on the border between Cumberland and Westmorland in the ancient county boundaries. It lies at the heart of the Lake District National Park within the unitary authority of Cumbria. The nearest major town is Keswick, about 13 miles northeast of the summit. Seascale village on the Irish Sea coast lies roughly nine miles west. 


When viewing Scafell Pike from land or water, it dominates the skyline, rising tall and solitary above neighbouring peaks. Its imposing yet graceful pyramid shape framed against the clouds makes it one of England's most iconic and photographed landscapes.


How Long Does It Take to Climb Scafell Pike? 

The time required to hike up and down Scafell Pike can vary greatly depending on your chosen route, fitness level, weather conditions and more. Most hikers should plan for a full six-eight hours to complete the round trip safely and comfortably. Here are some general time estimates.


Wasdale Head Route 

You'll need five-seven hours to complete the gentle but steady nine-mile round-trip ascent from Wasdale Head. The ascent itself takes two-three hours at a moderate pace. Building in extra time allows for photos, snacks and accounts for crowds on the main trail. 


Corridor Route Via Styhead 

Allow six-eight hours for this steep yet more direct route. It cuts off four miles compared to Wasdale but requires harder climbing up Lingmell then a rocky traverse. Still, the ascent may only take two-and-a-half hours with a quick descent.


Routes from Borrowdale or Esk Hause 

These longer routes traverse rougher terrain and involve navigating neighbouring peaks before Scafell Pike. Allow around 10 hours for a there-and-back hike. The ascent is at least three hours.


Direct Scrambling Routes 

Attempting very steep paths like The Band requires expertise and ideal conditions. But the ascent can be as little as 1.5 hours for fit, experienced scramblers. Total round-trip time is 4-6 hours. 


Poor Weather 

Slippery slopes, obscured paths and slower pace can easily double the amount of time needed. Allow multiple extra hours as a buffer and be ready to turn back.


Regardless of route, build in ample contingency time for photos, snacks, delays, adverse weather and pace differences if in a group. Don't base timing solely on the climb up; carefully descending steep terrain takes nearly as long. An early start and sticking to a reasonable timeframe will help make your Scafell Pike trek safer and more fulfilling. 


Camping and Accommodation Near Scafell Pike

With Scafell Pike situated amid stunning Lake District scenery, many hikers choose to extend their visit to fully experience the area. Thankfully, there are plentiful accommodation options close to the mountain including campsites, country inns, hotels and B&Bs. Here are some top choices for places to stay when climbing Scafell Pike. 


Campsites near Scafell Pike


Wasdale Head Campsite 

Idyllically set at the foot of Scafell Pike, this basic National Trust site has panoramic views. Pitches are open year-round and require booking well ahead in peak periods.


Great Moss Campsite 

This is a quiet site by the River Esk with tent and pod camping. It's a short drive or three-mile hike from Wasdale. Open March to October.


Seascale Campsite 

A larger family-friendly coastal site nine miles from Scafell Pike, Seascale Campsite has camping pods amid scenic farmland. Open year-round.


Hotels Near Scafell Pike  


Wasdale Head Inn

This remote inn is famously located at the head of Wasdale. With basic B&B rooms and a pub serving meals and ales, it's a great base for Scafell Pike. 


Kirkstile Inn

This Kirkstile Inn is a charming 18th century inn with quality food and rooms. Situated in quiet Loweswater, it’s a 10-minute drive from Wasdale. 


Low Wood Bay Hotel  

This lakeside four-star hotel on Lake Windermere has a spa, two restaurants and beautiful views and is about 30 minutes’ drive from Wasdale.


With England's scenic Lake District villages and charming inns nearby, you can turn your Scafell Pike trek into a longer relaxing getaway. Reserve accommodation well ahead during peak visiting times in summer and holidays. Pitching a tent or staying at one of the scenic campgrounds means waking up right at the foot of the mountain, ready to conquer its slopes. 


Climbing Scafell Pike – Planning and Safety Tips

As England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike deserves the utmost respect and careful preparation before attempting the climb. While not technically difficult for fit hikers, its rugged terrain, rapid weather changes and sheer exposed heights make adequate planning and caution imperative. Here are some key tips for safely climbing Scafell Pike. 


Choose a route matching your experience level, and stick to main trails like Wasdale Head if new to scrambling. Build up to more challenging paths only after you gain confidence navigating the mountain.


Check the weather forecast and conditions on the summit. Do not attempt Scafell Pike in extremely cold, wet, windy or foggy conditions if you lack proper gear and experience. Also check visibility if cloudy before ascending from Lingmell Col to the summit. Pressing on into dense fog across the expansive plateau can be extremely dangerous. When in doubt, turn back. 


Wear sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support and grip. The rocky terrain can cause ankle rolls and slippery conditions. Also consider taking trekking poles for added stability. Pack ample spare warm layers, waterproofs, hats and gloves. The summit can be at least 10 degrees colder than the valleys with fierce winds.


Carry plenty of water and high-energy snacks as dehydration comes quickly and the climb is strenuous. And make sure you have a map, compass/GPS and mobile phone. The summit plateau is broad with minimal trail signs. Fog can descend suddenly and cause route-finding problems. 


Don’t climb alone and be sure to inform someone of your route and return time. The steep loose terrain carries greater risk if you run into trouble without backup. And allow ample time to descend carefully as injuries often occur going down. Scree fields and boulder areas require slow, concentrated footing.


Respect weather closures and warnings. Fell tops like Scafell Pike are highly exposed, making them dangerous in extreme conditions.  


Listen to your body and descend immediately if experiencing nausea, dizziness or exhaustion. Scafell Pike's height exacerbates altitude sickness.


While a fitness challenge, Scafell Pike is an achievable summit for most hill walkers if you prepare properly, choose your timing wisely and stay within your limits. Exercising caution and staying vigilant will help ensure you return safely with memories of breathtaking Lake District vistas to cherish. 


Hazards to Be Aware of on Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike does pose objective hazards hikers need to continually assess and mitigate through preparation, caution and good judgement. Here are some key hazards to remain mindful of when climbing England's highest peak. 


Weather Changes  

Scafell Pike's summit is directly exposed to harsh weather sweeping in suddenly off the Irish Sea. Hail, high winds, fog and chilly temps can create dangerous conditions, especially if underprepared. Check forecasts diligently and defer climbing in storms or gales.


Steep Terrain 

Loose scree, rocky scrambles and steep dropoffs require slow progress and care, especially when descending. Wear sturdy boots with good grip to prevent slips or turned ankles. Use poles for stability and stay well back from cliff edges in fog. Do not attempt difficult routes beyond your skill level.



Lack of landmarks on the broad summit plateau and fast encroaching fog can lead to getting lost. Study navigation and have map, compass and/or GPS ready. If fog descends, retrace steps carefully or follow compass bearing to descend safely.


Altitude & Exposure  

The summit's 3,209-foot elevation can bring on symptoms of altitude sickness if ascending too rapidly. Effects like dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath mean you should descend immediately. Seek emergency help if symptoms worsen or persist.


Slips & Falls  

Caused by steep, unstable terrain and rocky outcrops made more treacherous when wet or icy. Go slowly, plant feet firmly and use hands when scrambling. Turn back in harsh conditions if unsure of your footing and skill.



Sudden temperature drops, high winds, rain or low cloud cover can lead to dangerous hypothermia. Have waterproof, insulating layers and emergency shelter ready. Descend and warm up at first onset of shivering or numbness.


With sound preparation and judgement, these hazards can be effectively mitigated to ensure a safe, rewarding trek. Acknowledge Scafell Pike as England's highest peak by staying within your limits and paying continual heed to changing conditions and terrain.  


Scafell Pike Summit Views and Geography

Upon reaching Scafell Pike’s 3,209-foot summit after a strenuous yet scenic ascent, hikers are rewarded with awe-inspiring 360-degree views across England’s Lake District and far beyond. On a clear day, the panorama from the roof of England stretches across Cumbria as far as Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man. 


Looking north, the distinctive summits of neighbouring Cumbrian fells come into focus including Great End, Esk Pike and Bowfell. The summits form part of a crescent known as the Scafell Massif encircling the glacially-carved valleys of upper Eskdale. Clear skies give way to views extending all the way to Scotland's Southern Uplands some 70 miles away.  


Eastward, sightlines open across the valleys of upper Eskdale, Great Moss and Little Langdale with a backdrop of the Central Fells ridge. Prominent peaks like Crinkle Crags and Pike o’ Blisco emerge from the valley mists. On the northwest horizon, majestic Wastwater comes into view, England’s deepest and most scenic lake. 


Pan south across Mickledore to glimpse England’s deepest cave system below Broad Stand and famed rock climbing crags. Further south, views open up across the rolling green farmland and foothills of the Lake District, with Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam recognisable in the distance. 


To the west, stirring Irish Sea sunsets can be observed above the coastal plain dotted with lakes and tarns. The Isle of Man and hills of Galloway in Scotland may be glimpsed across the waters in ideal conditions. This panoramic vista encapsulates the beauty and splendour of England’s highest mountain. 


In terms of geography, Scafell Pike's summit consists of a broad rocky plateau flanked by crags, gullies and scree slopes. England’s highest natural water source, Scafell Pike stream, originates here before flowing into upper Eskdale. 


The mountain is formed from a mix of volcanic lavas and ash laid down during former eruptions. Scafell Pike’s imposing shape and height owe much to sculpting by glaciers and ice sheets during successive Ice Ages. Cirques and U-shaped valleys radiate outwards, carved deep by the ice flows. 


Scafell Pike provides a bird's-eye overview of classic glaciated landscapes and scenic Lake District valleys. When the cloud clears, few mountain summits can surpass the roof of England for sheer breadth and beauty of vistas.


Approaching Scafell Pike from Seascale & Surrounding Areas 

The scenic coastal village of Seascale provides a convenient base for approaching and climbing Scafell Pike, lying only a nine-mile drive southwest of the mountain. Seascale gives ready access to Scafell Pike’s popular Wasdale Head trailheads and allows soaking up lovely Irish Sea views after your hike.


From Seascale, it's a quick 10-15 minute drive inland northeast to Wasdale Head, the starting point for Scafell Pike's main walking routes. Simply follow the B5344 from Seascale towards Eskdale, a scenic route tracing the River Esk inland past farmlands ringed by fells.  


You'll pass through lush valleys and the hamlet of Nether Wasdale before reaching the mountain gateway of Wasdale Head. Its remote inn and campground mark your departure point where bridleways branch off towards Scafell Pike's slopes. Finding parking can be a challenge during peak times. Arrive early or consider using the public footpath from Seascale to Wasdale.


For those staying in Seascale, the three-mile riverside path to Wasdale makes for a fine gentle warm-up before tackling Scafell Pike. You can also trek up the Eskdale valley from Ravenglass, following a lonely country lane past Boot to reach Wasdale in 10 miles.  


Surrounding access points include:

  • Sty Head Pass Start point for the Corridor Route via Lingmell col. Rough forest track drive from Seatoller. Limited parking so arrive early. 
  • Borrowdale Beautiful valley with trails up Scafell Pike from Seathwaite. But narrow, distant roads from Keswick and limited parking.
  • Esk Hause Longer routes to Scafell Pike's slopes begin from this high pass. Reach it from upper Eskdale or the Hardknott Pass. 

Scafell Pike rewardingly dominates the skyline above Seascale, readily ascended in a quick 20-minute scenic drive from the village followed by an invigorating climb to England's rooftop. With accommodations and amenities, Seascale makes an excellent base to discover this iconic peak.


Early Recorded Ascents of Scafell Pike 

While likely climbed for centuries by shepherds and miners, the first recorded ascent of Scafell Pike came relatively recently in history. Most accounts credit poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge as making the first documented climb in 1802, probably via the corridor route from Styhead Tarn. He left his "namque insignem" initials on a rock near the summit to mark the feat.


Other notable early ascents include those by geologists and surveyors studying the mountain's terrain and surveying its height. Among the first was William Wordsworth, who trekked up Scafell Pike in 1825 while taking altitude measurements. His ascent also produced early sketches and poetry describing the mountain's majesty and views. 


As interest in mountaineering and tourism grew in Victorian Britain, hotels and trails were established around Scafell to cater to intrepid climbers. Brothers who ran the Wasdale Head Inn completed an early ascent in 1855, later publishing a popular guidebook that further opened the area to visitors. 


Scafell Pike's summit cairn was erected in 1876 alongside a shelter. By the late 1800s, Scafell Pike was an established peak for hikers, artists and scholars eager to experience England's rooftop vantage point and rugged beauty. 


How Scafell Pike Got Its Name

The origin of the name "Scafell Pike" comes from Old Norse and Old English words describing the mountain's precipitous terrain and summit. "Scafell" likely derives from "Skar-fell" meaning scar or crag mountain. "Pike" comes from the Old English "pic" indicating a pointed peak.  


Together, "Scafell Pike" aptly described the steep, jagged nature of England's highest summit, long recognised by early Norse settlers in Cumbria. The name distinguishes it from neighbouring Scafell mountain and its high crags to the south. 


Interestingly, maps and accounts over the centuries refer to the mountain interchangeably as "Scawfell Pike" or just "Scawfell." The modern standardised name Scafell Pike gradually became widely adopted by the late 1800s to specify England's highest mountain peak. Ordnance Survey maps firmly fixed Scafell Pike as the official name during their first surveys of the area. 


Scafell Pike Trivia and Records

As England's highest and most prominent peak, Scafell Pike has been the site of many notable feats and events over the years. In 1864, Hugh Downman made the first known winter ascent of Scafell Pike amid ice, wind and snow. Many more daring winter climbs followed. J.B. Broadbent raced from sea level in Morecambe to Scafell Pike's summit and back in under 5 hours in 1892, setting an early record. 


Scafell Pike had England's highest water storage reservoir constructed on its slopes in 1921 to provide water to Manchester. Lingmell Col works are still operating today. 


Comet Ikeya–Seki of 1965 was visible passing over the summit, creating unique conditions for climbers to view the spectacle from England's highest vantage point. 


Chris Bonington organised a televised winter climb of Scafell Pike's cliffs and gullies for a 1972 special, bringing mountaineering into popular view.


In 1986, four schoolboys tragically perish in a blizzard near the summit, leading to improved education on mountain safety and preparedness. A memorial stone honours them near the top. 


Extensive archaeology expeditions have found rare Roman Era coins and other artefacts around the mountain, hinting at early exploration of Scafell Pike.


Today, Scafell Pike continues to inspire adventurers to take on new challenges like setting speed records or being the oldest person to reach the summit. England's highest peak retains an enduring allure and influence after centuries in the public imagination. 

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