Scafell Pike in Winter

A week in Scotland seemed like a good idea. However, day two brings an imminent storm. The Lake District becomes a safer option for the rest of the week. Waking up next morning in Seathwaite, thick snow on the ground, sun shining with no sign of bad weather, a Scafell Pike Winter walk becomes a must.

The Scafell Massif
The Scafell Massif

Scotland and a storm heading my way

After driving up to Scotland for a 5-day expedition up, along and around Ben Lawers, I only got a day into my trip when a patch of signal updating the weather app tells me there’s a storm heading towards the Northern part of the UK.

I would be snowed in if I stayed. This seemed like a dream come true for a short while, as I had everything I needed to get through the pending adventure. I’d set out to ‘get away from it all’ for 5 days and this would definitely make it so but I had a group hike around Fleetwith in the Lake District scheduled for the Saturday. Also, on Sunday I had a Navigation Workshop booked in.

Responsibility, and common sense, prevails. I drop off the ridge to make camp; next day heading for finer weather and my beloved Lakeland. Up on Ben Lawers summit, I clocked 77mph ‘breeze’ and couldn’t see a thing for the most part of that day, life can be beautiful.

kestrel 2000 anemometer

Kestrel 2000 Anemometer

Instead of guessing, you can measure the wind speed on a mountain summit is easy with the Kestrel 2000 Anemometer.

It also measures temperature, unlike the 1000 and wind chill factor.

The battery last for ages, it’s waterproof and very ergonomic. Mine comes on every trip.

Wild camping on Ben Lawers

I descended below the snow line and contorted the MLD Trailstar around an old ‘shielding’, the Easton pegs used in very unconventional ways that served purpose. My head rested on a rock as did my legs but I slept comfortably in adventure.

mld trailstar
MLD Trailstar wild camp on Ben Lawers

Next morning I sighed over a cup of cowboy coffee, reflecting on my truncated wanderings and quietly celebrated the peace I’d found. I literally stuffed my temporary home into my rucksack and took a rough bearing West along a crooked wall which would lead me to my familiar red van parked up near the pass. Now for a three hour drive South and escape the pending storm.

Parking up at Seathwaite in the afternoon, I thought I’d head up Rosthwaite Fell, then see if Glaramara was in reach. The hail, and the tail end of the storm, came in as I topped the subsidiary Wainwright summit of Bessyboot in the jaws of Borrowdale. Dark soon, I abandon the escapade and head face first into the driving hail.

Destination Scafell Pike

I awoke next morning with lots of snow in the valley and strewn on the fells. I’d parked in Seathwaite down near the farm, ready for a day up Glaramara. Topping Bessyboot in that hail storm, I promised I would get a pair of goggles when I got home, ouch. Now my plan would be to climb up the side of Glaramara, bag Allen Crags and see what day is left.

When I got to the start of the climb my brain cells engaged. What the hell was I doing?

Change of plan

There’s snow from Seathwaite to Summit and the sun was beaming down on me. Although I had spikes, crampons and an ice axe at my side I was down to a t-shirt and soaking it in. Why would I not have my sights on Scafell Pike?

I scooped a mouthful of water from the beck and sucked it through a Sawyer filter pondering my day. Quickly, I came to the conclusion that today was now looking like another wild adventure instead of a box-ticking exercise. I carried on up the valley, through ‘the gate’ near Stockley Bridge and up by those trees along Styhead Gill.

Styhead Tarn in Winter
Styhead Tarn in Winter

The valley was beautiful in the sun and with the storm that had been forecast over the week I’d not seen a soul all morning. My Scafell Pike Winter walk is a peaceful one.

Kahtoola Microspikes
Kahtoola Microspikes

I chatted to a couple at the Stretcher Box, and the farmer up a Stand Crag whilst I snapped Great Gable, but that was it for the whole ascent. I clambered down ‘the tricky bit’ in my Katoolah Spikes and praised them time and again, got to a fork and excitedly realised that Ling Mell would get the green light as well today.

Ling Mell summit

Ling Mell summit cairn
Ling Mell summit cairn

As I reached the large summit cairn, having strapped on my Grivel Crampons at the col, I heard a horrendous swoosh, a split second before turning to see a fighter plane flip and fly inverted a hundred feet or so above my head like he’d headed straight for me to say ‘Hello there!’. Wow.

I couldn’t have got a good photo if I tried, I was spellbound and just lifted a hand in salutation.

Fighter plane in the Lake District
Fighter plane in the Lake District

Scafell Pike summit in Spandex

Down now to the col for a change of spikes and a clamber up the boulders to the Pike. Getting to the summit, the wind get’s crazy, so I film a cheeky vid for my profile video. The sky was stunning to the South. I crashed down on the ground, the other side of the shelter, to hydrate and get a bite.

I need to be quick. It’s December and it’ll be dark at 4. It’s just passed 3 now and I’ll be walking in the dark soon enough. I’d really like to get down to the Stretcher Box, and a path of sorts, by sundown.

Pillar and Great Gable from Ling Mell in Winter
Pillar and Great Gable from Ling Mell in Winter

The wind is wild. I can hear nothing. I sense a presence.

I’m sat against the towering shelter and turn around to see this guy in spandex like he’s doing a keep fit section on Good Morning Britain in the 80’s, head band and everything! Scared the bejesus out of me.

Get this. He and his friend got dropped off in Wasdale in the afternoon and they’re running to his home; in shorts, t-shirts and trainers! Where does he live? Langdale? Grasmere? No, Glenridding!!! Next time you criticise someone wearing clothing you wouldn’t, in the mountains, consider their experience and skill. I’m thinking of getting to the tarn by nightfall and these guys will be running over mountains during the night for hours. Legends. Me, humbled.

Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route
Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route

Scafell Pike North East gully and the Corridor Route

There’s no sense in following the runners and summiting Great End, like on the route enclosed, it’s too late in the day. I scramble down the gully that we’ll be ascending on our Scafell Pike Winter Hike event in April 2019. The going is very slow from here, what might be a half-hour in daylight takes an hour in the failing light and thickening cloud. There’s soon the tricky crag by the beck to negotiate, something I wouldn’t recommend anyone do in this light.

I have the right gear and take my time, there’s a step to climb up and the axe comes in useful. Eventually, I return to Styhead Tarn. From here I can relax. I make a brew as the light is no more, and chill on my final few miles back to the van.

I never set out to climb Everest but I’ve had a great adventure. Most of what made my day was the time I’ve spent alone washing away the stress. I’ve seen five people all day if you include the pilot! What a day, Scafell Pike Winter walking, what a mountain.

Can’t wait for a return. Next time will be a birthday with clients, a different story will be told.

Scafell Pike summit weather

Checking the weather for a mountain expedition, I’ll have a look at MWIS before I go and take screenshots to save on my phone. Out in the mountains I’ll use the MET Office app on the phone. All Mountain Leaders do the same.

Read next…

Get your kit together for Winter hiking with my blog – Winter Walking and gear you’ll need.

View from the Priests Hole Cave
View from the Priest’s Hole Cave