Day 2’s route of 13.3 km with 1415 metres ascent and 1069 metres descent. Despite being one of my shortest walks ever, it was by far the hardest and most gruelling walking day I have ever done. I guess the steep hill climbs, the vertical descents and the general rocky terrain had conspired to make this one of the toughest walks to date! That said I am a happy chappy as I managed to climb both Sca Fell and Sca Fell Pike in one day. Red is planned, blue is actual. The big deviation to the North was caused by me missing the ‘Corridor’ route.
Firstly, apologies for this mega-post. I had wanted to make it shorter, but felt that I couldn’t adequately do this day any justice by doing so!
Day 2 was one of the shortest walks I had ever done at a mere 13.3 km, but paradoxically, it was also one of the hardest walks I have ever had to do. In terms of energy usage, the walk wiped me out! In fact I had to make a decision to use some of Day 4’s rations to keep my energy levels high enough to keep going.
So the first thing I learnt on this day is that where there are steep mountains, vertical descents and a lot of loose rock to climb over, energy consumption will be much higher than normal. The very hot and humid weather didn’t help either!
I think for future walks of this kind, I will take a light dried pasta meal for lunch. This should hopefully allow me to keep the same tempo up throughout the day.
The other more serious lesson I learned on this day was navigation.
When I started hiking I was a stickler for navigation. If I didn’t know my exact position to within 1 metre I would get agitated. What’s more, if there were any variances in my route, it would be followed by a forensic examination of proceedings when I got home!
Needless to say, I soon learnt to chill out. My view of navigation became, ‘ok I kind of know where I am -ish, I just need to head in that direction!’. This style of navigation, still used map and compass, but I was never ‘put-out’ by being off track or by not knowing precisely where I was.
However, as I was to find out, this more laid back style, whilst good for low lying areas, is not a good technique for Mountain use.
Sca Fell opened my eyes to the fact that one needs to know exactly where one is going and one needs to move with accuracy at all times. My Ad Hoc approach had me attempting 3 wasted descents and re-climbs. All I had to do was stick accurately to the plan, then I would have done the descent in one!
What’s worse, had the visibility been very poor, I could have easily ended up getting myself trapped on a ledge in a very similar situation to a person that I photographed in this blog (see below).
I have learnt my lesson now. For the low lands, I will continue to use my more relaxed approach to navigation, but for the highlands I will now switch to using higher accuracy techniques to ensure that I always know exactly where I am!
In terms of the Sca Fell descent toward Sca Fell Pike the one big piece of advice I can give, is that unless you have rope with you, or are a very good climber, you must descend via Foxes Tarn – this is the only safe way down in that direction!
In addition to learning a lot, I thoroughly enjoyed this day, it was everything that I expected the visit to the Lakes to be! Full of adventure, surprises and gorgeous views!
As with all my other blog entries, I’ll let the pictures tell the story:
For this trip all my breakfast’s would be Freeze Dried meals. It felt a bit odd from my usual routine, but did save on the old washing up!
Burnmoor Tarn that I’m camped at is as flat as a mill pond this morning!
The sun starts to rise above the peak of Sca Fell – the first big climb of the day. My intent is to follow Hardrigg Gill, then from there climb directly up the front of the mountain.
There is the stream of Hardrigg Gill – the first part of the plan is easy – just follow it up Sca Fell until it runs out!
Here I’m contouring around the side of the hill just above Hardrigg Gill. In the background is Sca Fell – the first peak of the day!
I soon get to the point where I will be climbing out of the Gill and onto the front of the mountain.
I’m now on the front of the mountain. The peak looks a long way off!
The first part of the climb is relatively easy, but as I gain elevation I run into the boulder and scree slopes. The rocks here were very loose. Climbing this type of terrain, especially in the heat and humidity of the morning was quite difficult – a lot more difficult than I had envisaged!
I find a small grass platform above the first scree slope and decide to rest up, eat and drink. Unlike Mount Snowdon, Sca Fell has no real tracks to take you to the top, at least not from this direction!
Back on with the climb and straight into another tiring boulder field!
Up above I can now see the peak – looks like I’m nearly there. The one thing I did like about climbing the scree slopes was the noise the rocks made as they fell down – straight out of a Hollywood Movie!
I find another grass apron. Here I’m looking down on Burnmoor Tarn where I was camped this morning – it looks a long way down!
A wide angle shot from my rest position. Burnmoor Tarn is to the left and Wast Water is to the right. The hills directly ahead were the ones I climbed the previous day to get to the Tarn.
I can feel that I’m near the top now. It’s amazing how in such situations that one suddenly finds additional reserves of energy!
A rest just before the final climb to the peak of Sca Fell!
Very nearly there – just a little more effort!
The view to the West. Here one can see that I’m already broaching the low level cloud layer.
The last outcrop of rock to climb then I have made it to the top of Sca Fell!
The top is now nearly in grasp!
There is the top!!!! Wooot!!!!!! That was quite a difficult climb – much harder than the climb up Snowdon.
The view Northwards from the very top of Sca Fell at 964 metres.
Ah ha! So that is what a Cairn Shelter is! A hollowed out Cairn to allow climbers to shelter from the elements. There are two climbers already there chilling out. They had come up the way that I need to go down, which is via Foxes Tarn.
A wide angle photo from the peak of Sca Fell. Alas there is no Trig point here to pose from!
I head Northwards looking for a way off the mountain that will take me into Broad Stand for the final climb on Sca Fell Pike!
To the North are many big drops like this one. Subconsciously I know I need to descend via Foxes Tarn, but I incorrectly believe that I can take any route down….
As I scout for a safe descent I get this marvellous view of the River Esk and its flood plains which look a long way down!
This is one of the three unsuccessful descent routes I tried. They all looked promising, if a little steep…
As I proceed with the descent, I find it takes me to a sheer drop like this one. There is nothing for it but to climb back up….
My three attempted descents cost me a lot of energy. The climbs down were hard enough, but the climbs back up were even harder! I think there is a lesson to be learned here….
This GPS track shows my three unsuccessful descent attempts from Sca Fell – each resulted in a sheer drop, followed by wasted energy climbing back up. The only safe way down in this direction is via Foxes Tarn which can be seen on the left. I learnt a valuable lesson here: When in the Mountains, one should use precision navigation at all times!
Once I get back to the top after my third descent attempt, I finally spot the trail leading to Foxes Tarn. Today proved that on Mountains, ones navigation has to be precise. There is no room for the usual wishy-washy ‘I’m-headed-in-the-right-direction-so-who-cares?’ approach. The very approach style I had been guilty of.
Down below is Foxes Tarn – which is the only safe descent to the North without using rope or possessing excellent climbing skills and nerve. The descent is very steep with very loose rocks and chippings under foot. This makes for a very tiring and slow descent.
I get to Foxes Tarn where I am then presented with an almost vertical descent down to Broad Stand. Again, loose rock ensured that I was taking my time over the descent. I’d rather be slow than fall from this height!
I get to the bottom – this is the view up the way I had descended. In many respects it is a lot harder descending these almost vertical slopes than it is ascending them. You do need a good head for heights when doing these kind of climbs!
I’m now in Broad Stand, a cutting leading to the top of a ridge-line that will ultimately take me to the top of Sca Fell Pike. This is the view in the direction I need to climb!
I am now ascending up to the ridge-line. The heat of the day is making this a very tiring exercise. It is a good job there is a stream nearby to top up water supplies as I seem to be drinking a lot more than I usually do.
As I near the top of my Ascent to the ridge-line at Broad Stand I am once more confronted with loose stones. Until coming to the Lakes I haven’t really had much experience of crossing this type of terrain, but take it from me, it is extremely tiring. In the future I will need to take this into account and plan my timings accordingly.
Just above me I spot some kind of artificial structure and wonder what it is?
As I get closer it becomes apparent that this is a rescue post! Why would they want one of these in this specific location?……
That’s the reason why… If you look closely at this picture you will see a person trapped toward the top of the picture with two chaps at the bottom trying to convince them that they cannot climb down safely from there. I felt sorry for the trapped person. They had done what I had – descended off of Sca Fell on an unsafe route. The only difference is that I understood the situation I was getting myself into and turned around in good time. After much discussion the person in question is finally persuaded to turn around and climb back up – they must have been very disheartened to be so near, yet so far. So the morale of the story is that if you need to climb down from Sca Fell to get to Sca Fell Pike, the only safe way down is via Foxes Tarn!!!!
Here I’m climbing the final 50 metres or so to get me on to the ridge line that will ultimately take me to the top of Sca Fell Pike.
As I climb up I start getting great views to the South toward Wast Water! It’s views like this that make hill climbing very worthwhile!
The view South Westwards toward Sca Fell, the Mountain that I had summited earlier!
I’m now on the final climb up to Sca Fell Pike itself!
The view to the South East. The River Esk now looks a long, long way down!
The peak of Sca Fell Pike hooves into view and focuses the mind!
The view to the West is simply breath taking, that and the fact that I cannot believe there are so many cairns up here! Is there a need for so many?
This part of the ascent is very busy with people. It seems that once again I have chosen one of the least popular routes up to the summit! It’s only as I near the peak that I see the happy throng of peeps ascending the Mountain from the West.
Nearly there! Once again the rocky surface makes for tiring progress, though luckily the slope at this stage is relatively shallow compared to the slopes I had been climbing earlier on today.
Not far to go! Just got to hang in there!
The view to the North West from the top of Sca Fell Pike! Just awesome!
There is a structure at the top of Sca Fell Pike. I wait for it to clear before climbing it. Although it is the highest point, the official highest point is the trig point…
At the top of Sca Fell Pike at 977 metres!!!!! Wooottt!!!! I have now bagged both Sca Fell Pike and Sca Fell – all in one day 🙂
I could not believe the number of people up here, with more coming up all the time!
I take a quick compass reading off of the map to determine my descent route. As it would turn out, it was the main ascent route that everyone else seemed to be using!
The view to the Northwest is excellent as I head downwards. In the far distance one can see Great Gable on the left and Styhead Tarn. I need to get to that Tarn via the ‘Corridor Route’. Then from there I would head on upwards to Sprinkling Tarn – my camp spot for today.
I eventually get near the bottom of Lingmell valley to the North West of Sca Fell Pike. The descent is very tiring and wearing on the knees, so I’m glad to get to this relatively flat ground. Here I turn off North Eastward into this direction to find the ‘Corridor’ route. Many onlookers seemed surprised, I guess it’s because I just seemed to leave the track descending Sca Fell Pike and head out out on my own in a seemingly random direction!
At this point I’m headed North East. I know from the map that I have missed the ‘corridor’ route, but I am headed on a parallel route, so I just continue downwards enjoying the scenery. I found that by this point my personal energy reserves were feeling like they were bottoming out. In the end, I authorised the use of rations set aside for day 4 to try and prop up my energy reserves.
The views on my descent North Eastward are just stunning. At this point I’m a little worried though. I ran into a couple headed the other way. They too had missed the corridor route, but they said they were glad they were going up rather than down as they didn’t think they would have been able to do the rock scramble in the opposite direction going down. They seemed to think that I was a seasoned walker and that I knew what I was doing and that I knew of the impending rock scramble…
‘Oh My’* I thought, I have to climb down there?! So this was the rock scramble that the couple were talking about. This is definetely not a route for peeps that don’t like heights. I can see what they meant too. I’d rather be climbing up it than down it too…
*’Oh My’ is the literal transalation of the slightly more colourful version of the sentence that I was actually thinking 🙂
I get to the bottom of the rock scrabble without incident and much relief! I’m now proceeding North Easterly on an intercept with the bottom of the valley!
The continuous descent is taking its toil on my knees. I decide to give them a rest and make a Chicken Soup. Hopefully this will help restore some much needed energy too. The Jet Boil Sol makes very quick work of this, much quicker than using the Trangia!
As the afternoon wears on, the temperature rises ever upward! In the end I have to put on my sun hat and extend the neck protector. The heat was almost unbearable.
The next climb… This time up to Styhead Tarn. The extra provisions that I’m eating are having a positive effect on my energy levels. It seems that for big climbs like those experienced today, my daily planned energy intake is not high enough. I had a similar experience after climbing Snowdon, but offset that by going into a Cafe. I think this is a lesson that is well and truly learned.
The view down the valley by Spouthead Gill just behind me. I spent around 10 minutes sat down here just admiring the view!
Going Up! …. Still…. I can tell by the slope curvature that I’m nearly there though!
….But it is a false ridge! Back on with the climb!
I get to the top of that ridge-line and finally get to see Styhead Tarn! Cool – that means there is only one more climb remaining to get me to my camp spot by Sprinkling Tarn.
I’m now on the last climb of the day that will take me up to Sprinkling Tarn at around 600 metres elevation.
Here I see a mini-waterfall as I ascend up to Sprinkling Tarn. That is one thing about the Lakes, I have never wanted for water!
I’m nearly there! At least I’m hoping I am. Hopefully, this isn’t a false ridge and that I would soon be seeing Sprinkling Tarn!
Sprinkling Tarn!!!!!!! Wooot!!!! My camp spot for today – time for some much needed rest. It should be noted that this wasn’t my original planned camp spot. The original one is around 5 km further on, but with my knees and energy levels in the state they were I had decided soon after climbing Sca Fell Pike that I would camp here instead.
When I look into the Tarn I see it is absolutely full of little fish! You have to look carefully at the photo, due to their brown colouration!
Here I’m making camp. The new rucksack and stove have both proven to be improvements over my previous kit!
The camp is now ready! I plan to eat early before the flying insects put in an appearance!
My tent pitch by Sprinkling Tarn. Absolutely great view from the tent and no fear of running out of water!
This is a close up of the Akto Tent’s large Vestibule area. It kind of looks odd to me without the foot-print. But not taking it has saved me a large amount of weight for only the small loss of a sheet covering the ground in the vestibule area – sounds like a great deal to me! 🙂
Boiling the water for my food. I’m continually caught out by how quickly the Jet Boil boils water. It seems to always be ready before I have even got the food pouches prepped properly! The only real downside that I found is that the pot cosy doesn’t insulate enough to allow one to hold the pot directly – you have to use the handle. There was one other downside, in that at first, I couldn’t unlock the pot from the stove once it had boiled! It would take me another day to make sure I didn’t over-tighten the pot onto the stove prior to lighting it! This resolved the problem!
The great view from my tent! This is what wild camping is all about! 🙂
First up is Sweet and Sour Chicken by Mountain House. As usual, it is delicious. I really needed this food. I was so de-energised, I had to take small rests whilst putting up the tent. In the future, whenever big climbs are involved I will take more food – I might even extend to an additional pasta based lunch as a mid-day pick-me-up.
For Dessert I’m munching on a delicious Mountain House Apple and Custard mix. Whilst I enjoy Mountain House products, I seem to have gone around their menus several times. I think I will have to branch out and try some alternative freeze dried meals to expand my choice!
Boots are finally off as I lie down and take a well deserved rest. The view from my reclined position is a good one directly onto the Tarn and Great Gable!
The sun starts to set behind Great Gable!
The setting sun over Sprinkling Tarn!
Zipped up and ready for bed. I’m still not used to seeing a grassy vestibule – but it does have a certain charm!
The route up to Sca Fell at 964 metres elevation (Red is planned, Blue is Actual). This was a straight frontal walk up the mountain – I can now see why most people prefer to take the ridge lines 🙂
The climb up to Sca Fell Pike at 977 metres. The climb was made easier by the fact that I had gained most of the elevation climbing Sca Fell.
The camp site for Day 2 right next to Sprinkling Tarn at around 600 metres up!