Frequently Asked Questions about Climbing Scafell Pike
Since the popularity of this page has risen I have had to stop responding to individual requests for information. I hope that the information below will help people plan their ascent of Scafell Pike.
It is important to note that there are always risks associated with hill walking, climbing and mountaineering. Being able to evaluate the conditions and judge them for yourself is one of the key skills in mountaineering, which includes walking the hills in the Lake District. If you are unsure as to whether it is safe to set out this may well be an indication that it would be good to gain more experience first or join an organised or guided group.
How long will it take?
Whilst it is impossible to say with any accuracy how long it will take any particular group to climb Scafell Pike most reasonably fit regular hill walkers will take between two and three hours for the ascent from Wasdale Head and less for the descent.
What route should I take?
There are excellent routes to the summit of Scafell Pike from Wasdale, Borrowdale, Eskdale and Langdale. The route from Wasdale Head is the shortest – see further down this page for a map of the route, however the Corridor Route from Borrowdale via Styhead Tarn is not too much longer and has a more gentle ascent. The Eskdale and Langdale routes are significantly longer. In poor visibility or darkness all of these routes need well-practiced navigation skills.
What about dogs?
Many dogs thouroughly enjoy the walk up Scafell Pike. However it can be a struggle for dogs not used to fell-walking. Most significant to dogs is the bouldery terrain on the summit plateau (from Lingmell Col upwards). If they are not used to travelling a significant distance over rough rocks it can cause problems with their pads. Scafell Pike is a poor choice for a dog’s first fell walk. Another problem area for dogs is the Wasdale Screes due to the large boulders and we have had to rescue a number of dogs in recent years from this area.
What will the weather be like?
It is impossible to predict the weather accurately for more than a couple of days ahead. There are some excellent mountain weather forecasts available here. Obviously the weather is likely to best in the summer, however strong winds, severe windchill and even snow are possible all year round. To give yourself the best chance of an enjoyable day climbing Scafell Pike have a few days available and choose the one with the best weather forecast.
Will there be snow and ice?
Spring 2013 has been exceptional with huge quantities of snow, some of which will last into May. It is not unusual to find reasonable quantities of snow high up on the mountain any time from October through to May. During the winter months the Fell Top Assessors report for Helvellyn will give a good idea of conditions in the Lakes in general. Searching for local blogs may also give a clue to the conditions. Whenever temperatures are sub zero water ice can form and winter equipment should be carried. If you are out without crampons and axes avoid circular walks and be prepared to turn back if faced with winter conditions. The summit temperature is likely to be between 5 and 10 degrees lower than the valley temperatue.
What should I take with me?
Plenty of warm clothing, waterproofs, good quality mountain boots, food and drink, map, compass, torch, whistle and either a survival bag or bivi tent.
What about technology – mobile phones and GPS?
Technology can be very useful, however over reliance has caused problems for some of the people we have rescued. The mobile phone signal is patchy, in a real emergency, if you are high on the fells it could perhaps be better to head somewhere with a view of Sellafield or Keswick, two nearby transmitter sites. Navigation using GPS can make life significantly easier, however, batteries fail particularly in cold conditions on smartphones. Also you need an appropriate map (satnavs are not suitable!). If you are using a GPS to navigate make sure you have a paper map and compass as a backup and know where you are so that if the batteries die you don’t have to try to work out where you are.
Who should I tell where I am going?
Write down in detail where you intend to go, where your car will be parked, your vehicle registration number, and what time you expect to return, also include the mobile phone numbers of all members of the party. Give this to someone responsible with a cutoff time at which to call the police, remember to include some time for navigational mistakes and enjoying yourself!
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We hope you have a safe and enjoyable day on Scafell Pike, remember to make sure you have enough energy for your descent. There is nothing wrong with turning back before the summit and returning in the future for another attempt.