A Rake with a View

View of Hollow Stones from the big boulder by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerIt is the start of my Wasdale season and my first visit of the year happens to coincide with a Bank Holiday weekend. With winter having run late this year it was a pleasant surprise to find it sunny and quite warm when I arrived at the National Trust Car Park at Brackenclose. The Brown Tongue route to Hollow Stones doesn't get any shorter but my legs felt stronger as a result of my treadmill work in the gym and the slog up the constructed path didn't feel as bad as it has done previously. It did however feel very warm and I had to take my jacket off soon after starting to climb.

There is still more climbing to be done once you get past the wide open spaces of Hollow Stones up to an unmistakable large boulder. A little way further along the path there is a cairn and just past that is a group of flat-topped boulders where I always sit and contemplate what comes next and put my jacket back on because it can be very cold up amongst the rock. A scree slope rises up from the path to the base of the precipitous Scafell Pinnacle and the start of Lord's Rake, further along the path you can see the the climb to Mickledore, the lighter coloured stones showing the tortuous route up the loose scree.

Pulpit Rock on Scafell Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe walk up scree towards the start of Lord's Rake isn't as difficult as it looks, the stones are fairly stable on the obvious route upwards. Near the top of this section a more eroded gully has developed in the last year and I suppose if it gets bigger it will make this climb as difficult as the one to Mickledore. When you get to the precipitous rock face you will see Lord's Rake on the right, just on the left you should be able to find a cross carved into the rock. You could turn left and take the climber's traverse Rake's Progress to Mickledore, it is easier than the direct scramble up loose scree.

There were no warning signs telling you about the dangerous boulder, they have obviously been swept away by the real danger of Lord's Rake the constant stream of rock flowing down it. I usually make my way up the left hand side of the rake but there is a large patch of snow lying on that side so I decided to use the right hand side for a change. At the bottom of the rake you have to step up over a couple of chockstones that never seem to move before choosing your line of ascent. The material in the lower part of the rake was mainly fairly large boulders that I wouldn't trust to keep still if I walked on them.

Lord's Rake and its fallen boulder by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerIt is steep but by the right hand wall there was no difficulty, there were no loose boulders to scramble over and no loose, sliding stones. The middle section is probably slightly steeper but the larger loose rocks have for now cleared that part of the rake and the surface is almost soil-like material and smaller stones that will make you slip if you try to go too quickly. The leaning boulder is now is sight, from this side it looks very fragile and precarious; there are larger rock fragments here that are too large to slide down the rake.

More lumps of rock have fallen off the boulder and the looser material around its base has eroded away a bit more, there is now a big gap to get through underneath it. Up close the boulder is obviously still a substantially strong piece of rock and from above you can see it is wedged too securely to slip off by itself. Nevertheless it is still a strange feeling getting under the boulder with its many cracks, trying not to touch it although it would take much more than resting my hand on it to make it fall. My main concern was how to get on to the West Wall Traverse later, across the eroded rock face and up the snow that filled the small gully at the start of it.

The fallen boulder of Lords Rake by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI would have to deal with the West Wall Traverse later, for the time being I was going to walk to the top of Lord's Rake. The was a small patch of old snow to get across before the short climb up the second rise, there is no rock wall to protect you from the steep drop to Hollow Stones so the small patch of snow needed some care. The steep second descent contained more snow and was more awkward to get down but there is a protective rock wall here. The gap between the second and final third rise is also eroding steeply down to Hollow Stones and the way across can be awkward if you miss the trodden path such as it is. Finally there is a steep pull up on a non-eroded but stony surface to the true top of Lord's Rake and the exit to Scafell.

By that time it was a brilliantly sunny day, the views went on forever and it made a change to be able to see the structure of Lord's Rake and Scafell. After enjoying the sun for a few minutes I made my way back to the boulder and clambered back underneath it. The start of the West Wall Traverse used to be a small gully but a huge amount of rock has fallen away and you have to carefully make a way over steep broken rock to what remains of it. The remaining few metres of the gully were filled with snow and surprisingly I could only see one set of old footprints in it. The snow was hard and good enough to kick steps into it and I was soon on the traverse, there are fantastic views of the impressive rock of Scafell Pinnacle.

Looking back down at Deep Gill filled with snow by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe West Wall Traverse doesn't last very long before you start the easy climb upwards to join Deep Gill for its final ascent to Scafell. There was still a good deal of snow in Deep Gill, unfortunately somebody has thrown an empty Heinz Beans can into the gill taking the edge of the picturesque view. As you get to Deep Gill it bends around to the right and as I got there I could see that snow filled the full width of it all the way up. There was no way around it, I had to kick in and hang on to the side wall (where it didn't disintegrate) all the way to the top, it didn't help that the bright sunlight was right in my eyes.

Close to the exit at the top you have to turn left by getting a couple of precise footholds in the loose wall of the gill but the snow disintegrated just at that point leaving me in a knee deep hole. It took several attempts, feeling for footholds through the snow before a determined effort and an awkward manoeuvre got me to the exit. The wide plateau was a different world to the gill, a wonderful sunny day; I had a walk over to the rocky tops of Pisgah and Scafell Pinnacle just because I like to look at them.

The top of Scafell Pinnacle and Pisgah by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI walked across the plateau, firstly to the large cross made of stones and then over to a group of stone shelters and cairns before the final easy climb over rocks to the summit of Scafell. There were lots of people at the summit, more than I have ever seen on Scafell; listening to the stories they were telling each other about how they got there it made me wonder how many would have made it in misty conditions. I walked back down to the cross of stones and turned right on a good constructed path towards Foxes Tarn.

The constructed path used to go all the way down to Foxes Tarn but Scafell has reclaimed it, pitched paths are supposed to last 1000 years but this one has succumbed to the scree 990 years before its time. I got down to the Pebble in the Puddle, otherwise know as Foxes Tarn where in spite of the man-made dam of stones getting higher each year there was very little water in it considering that we are nowhere near summer yet. Having said that there was very little water in the Foxes Tarn Gully stream, this gully can be quite a challenge when it is wet.

Foxes Tarn, the Pebble in the Puddle by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerAt the bottom of the gully I turned right for an easy descent on a warm and sunny afternoon. There is a path marked on the map that I was looking for that seems to start just above the Cam Spout waterfall but there seemed little point losing more height than I needed. At the junction of How Gill and the unnamed stream coming from Foxes Tarn Gully I crossed over and started climbing up to the skyline. The ground was steep and rough but I kept on grass with the occasional zigzag being required to bypass boulders and rock outcrops. I saw no sign of any path and no obvious line that a path might take until I found some evidence of flattened grass on the line I was taking.

I wasn't really sure that it was a path but there were some signs of wear on the grass and it took a good line through rocks and up a grassy gully and at the top there was a cairn sitting on top of an outcrop. The place seemed familiar, I was fairly sure I knew where I was and I was fairly sure I was where I wanted to be. The last time I was here I almost got myself into trouble, I should have taken the route I had just climbed but I ended up on very steep ground above Cam Spout Crag. As I started to climb up the ridge on a faint path I looked behind and saw the wall I had crossed last time I was here, it must be there to stop sheep (and walkers) falling off the crag.

Foxes Tarn Gully by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe steep green ridge leads to the subsidiary height of Long Green on the Scafell to Slight Side ridge. There are steep drops and rocks on either side of this airy and occasionally exhilarating ridge. Once I got to the summit of Long Green I turned right towards Scafell, keeping the to the edge gives you a more comfortable walk which is why he path is there. The majority of people seem to make a beeline between Scafell and Slight Side summits, it looks like grass but it is very rough ground with boulders and stones.

There is a final climb over rocks to make my second visit of the day to the summit of Scafell where there still more people than you usually see there. I carried on past the summit for a slight descent to the group of shelters and cairns and then turn left for Wasdale. At first there is steep eroded path where you can easily slide on the loose stones, eventually the gradient eases and you can follow a faint path over grass it's a nice easy walk for a short while. The grassy path turns right and seems to offer a reasonable way down but you are still high up and I think it is a fellrunners route steep, eroded and difficult.

The wall at the top of Cam Spout Crag by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerCarry on following the line of the path, the gradient becomes steeper and the grass become rougher and your knees begin to feel the strain. Don't wander too far away from the edge otherwise you might not notice that you pass the top of a shallow gully which is where you should turn right. It is downhill and steep on grass, your knees really won't like this and it seems to go on for ages. You will come to a fence where you have to cross a couple of stiles but there is no respite from the steepness. Keep going straight downhill, crossing over a small stream might just be a trickle in dry weather until you reach another fence; cross the stream here to get to a stile. Climb over the stile for the last section downhill to the track leading back to Brackenclose.

Andy Wallace 29th April 2006

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