20110924_Scafell Pike Circular Walk from Seathwaite … Diary 2 of 2 … The Descent
When : 24th September 2011
Where : Wettest and Highest Places in England, Lake District, Cumbria, England
Distance : Full walk approx 14.9 km (9.2 miles)
Heights climbed : Full Walk approx 992m (3255 ft) and about the same down.
Car Parking : Limited parking at side of road at Seathwaite, Upper Borrowdale.
Summary : The main walk of three circular walks in the superb English Lake District, Starting and finishing at Seathwaite in Borrowdale.
- Ascent (Previous diary entry) taking in Grains Gill, Stockley Bridge, Ruddy Gill, a skirt around Great End, Boulder fields to Broad Crag summit, Final rise to Scafell Pike.
- Descent (This diary entry) From Scafell Pike, via drop towards Lingmell Col, The Corridor Route, Styhead Tarn, Styhead Gill, Taylor Gill Force and return via Stockley Bridge back to Seathwaite.
If you click on a pic’ it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream.
There was so much to write about on this walk, that I’ve decided to split it into two diary entries … The Ascent from Seathwaite (see other diary) and The Descent to Seathwaite (This diary), where we took the corridor route, but more of that later.
We’d had a very wet climb up to the summit, but once on top the rain eased, at least a little, and after finding the hidden treasure (see the first diary) we decided to have a spot of lunch and then take a few more photo’s. Despite the grey cloud and poor visibility these just HAD to be done … but unfortunately Janet’s camera had finally succumbed to the rain and had simply packed up and would only show a wishy-washy purple haze on its back screen – Not good, especially as it was virtually brand new! This just left my camera, which was fished out of its plastic bag from deep inside my rucksack and we posed for each other by the side of the trig’ point which looks a little worse for wear. A gentleman kindly did the honours for us so that we could appear in the same photo’ at least once during the walk – It proves we both actually made it to the roof of England.
It didn’t take long for us to start feeling cold, and there was no sign of the clouds breaking up or lifting enough for any views, so we hoisted sacks on backs, took a compass bearing and set off over the barren rock strewn surface. There was a steady stream of people coming both up and going down …. not enough to call it busy, but nearly always someone within sight (or at least earshot) as we dropped steeply down the rugged fell side. As we dropped, the path, marked by regularly spaced cairns of varying sizes, became quite distinct … testament to the many thousands of footsteps that’d been up and down this way before. We spoke with a several people on their way up, most of whom had come up from Wasdale and were keen to know how much further they had to climb. After a while and quite a bit of descent someone said they’d come up via The Corridor Route (Used to be called The Guides Route I think) which was of interest to us as they informed us the path is reasonably distinct and the parting of ways marked by a cairn; Very useful info’ especially in the mist.
As it happened, as we dropped further, the visibility did start to improve, marginally at first but a definite improvement. We could even see the shadowy bulk of some of the surrounding high fells, to my mind giving a sense of scale to the landscape previously lacking. The right hand branch of path was duly found without much difficulty and we turned off sort of northwards [before the Wasdale path took a big turn to the left heading towards Hollow Stones and Lingmell Gill]. We were now on The Corridor Route. The route on the map heads sort of generally NNE but in a series of wiggles winding its way through the craggy terrain. Trying to relate exactly where we were relative to the terrain wasn’t easy due to the lack of distinct reference points in the mist, but occasionally the cloud would lift and swirl and give a glimpse of the surrounding fells – These were special moments, difficult to capture on camera in the gloomy conditions and with a damp lens, but emotionally quite uplifting, especially when patches of sunlight lit up little bits of fellside and valleys around us.
At one point, whilst approaching the top of one of the several ravines with a tumbling stream and waterfalls (between Criscliffe Knotts and Stand Crag), we could see a party of walkers trying to negotiate the required crossing. It was either particularly difficult or they were making a bit of a pigs ear of it. Maybe it was from our slightly elevated position, but we could see a nice line to follow in the crags above the stream. On the other hand, they had dropped into an area of scree, with a steep drop into the chasm below them (maybe chasm is a little over descriptive but I think I’m allowed some poetic license occasionally) and they were struggling to make the stream crossing and rise back up to the path. We must have looked consummate experts as we chose the higher line and traversed around the obstacle with no problems at-all, well maybe it looked more straightforward than it was, as there was an awkward drop to regain the path, which then promptly rose again over a little crag necessitating a mini-scramble where we passed the time of day with a gent’. The young man checked with us that he and his party were on The Corridor Path and then quizzed us about how long it’d take to reach the summit of Scafell Pike from where we were.
After saying our farewells we moved off, only to hear the man shout after us … so, we stopped again, waiting for him and another younger man to join us. It turned out they were brothers, and the younger of the two was struggling somewhat, having picked up an injury of some kind – whatever he’d done, he wasn’t moving very well and we were asked if we could guide him down off the mountain to Seathwaite/Seatoller so allowing the rest of his party to press on to the top. Well we were going that way, so after a little thought we agreed to “babysit” the young man down with us.
The next stage traversed the rugged fells on a reasonable path, winding its way downhill, crossing tumbling streams in places as we went. With our new guest walking with us our pace had slowed quite a lot now, but I don’t think that mattered too much because at least we were now pretty much below the cloud base and some views had started to open up around us. In fact it was quite atmospheric, especially looking down The Lingmell Beck valley to Wasdale Head and across the bowl at the head of the valley to the area of Sty Head where we were heading towards.
Our guest explained that on the outward route his party had dropped into the bowl, negotiated the wet boggy area in the bottom and then made the steep climb back up to reach The Corridor Route path somewhere near where we were now stood. It was this steep climb where he’d picked up his injury, curtailing his attempt on Scafell Pike. Maybe with a bit of better map reading he’d have been able to bag the peak to go with his only other two mountains he’d ever walked: Snowdon and Ben Nevis. You see, the path doesn’t actually go where they’d gone, no, it stays high to the east of the bowl and we took this route eventually rising northwards to meet a bridleway forming a T-Junction.
Turning right would have taken us up to Sprinkling Tarn an onwards to meet our outward route at the head of Ruddy Gill under the flanks of Great End. This wasn’t our intention though. We turned left, heading west on relatively level ground passing a number of small pools before reaching a mountain rescue stretcher box with super views down over Sty Head Tarn to our right as we went.
The Stretcher Box area gives a number of route choices, South-West for a low level route down into Wasdale Head, West for a higher level route down to Wasdale Head; North-West for a very steep climb onto Great Gable; and NNE dropping down to the left hand bank of Styhead Tarn. This last route was what we needed, and we set off on the very obvious path but not before a bright yellow R.A.F. Rescue Helicopter passed overhead, a patch of blue sky opening up above as if some higher power was smiling on the crew. In fact the still stormy looking clouds had started to break up now and we now started to dry out – I even took my over-trousers off thinking rain was now unlikely (wishful thinking maybe, but worth the risk). Our route passed very close to Styhead Tarn and then started the descent down the left hand bank of the cascading waters of Styhead Gill and then crossed the river to the opposite bank to continue on with a super view down into Borrowdale.
It now felt like we were nearing the end of the walk, and I’ll admit to a degree of weariness, but at least I didn’t need to concentrate on my map reading now. The descent increased in gradient and we dropped on the decent path which bent to the right near Taylor Gill force as we reached the tree line. This was a pretty spot in the sunshine (and is easily accessible from Seathwaite if you just want a short walk) and probably deserved a stop to really appreciate its charm, but I think all three of us just wanted to be off the fell now and just continue down to reach Stockley Bridge where it crosses Grains Gill. If you’ve read my “ascent diary”, you’ll remember we’d crossed this bridge in heavy persistent rain and it was nice to be able to stop, take a few photo’s and actually appreciate the setting.
It was here that we now parted company with our guest walker. I’d got the impression he’d slowed somewhat and might appreciate now moving at his own pace and not feeling pressure to keep up with us anymore. I also thought our pace would probably start to pick up now we were in the valley bottom with the flat, good surfaced path stretching out in front of us and so we said our farewells, wishing him good-luck in meeting up with the rest his group we’d left earlier in the afternoon. All he wanted to do now was find a pub and sink a pint or three of lager … it seemed to have become somewhat of a one track thought for him on the way down … Each to his own I guess … We soon put some distance between us as he sat down on a rock for a rest. Looking back to where he was sat in the distance, the views back up the valley were so much better than in the morning; it’s incredible how quickly our weather can change really.
The final bit of the story is we soon reached Seathwaite farm to find “Jakes Snack Shack” still open and we joined a handful of fellow hill walkers by buying a very welcome mug of piping hot tea. Incredibly, there was a third story of injury – an older gent had slipped, banged his face on rocks and had a bloody nose that just wouldn’t stop bleeding. He suspected he might have broken his nose, but had been fit enough to get off the mountains with his mates, albeit with two big wedges of tissues stuffed up his nostrils – not attractive, but effective. And that was basically that, a couple of hundred yards through the farm and down the road brought us to our car … a change of footwear and then the couple of miles drive down the valley to Borrowdale Youth Hostel.
Well, in summary, WHAT A DAY …. Certainly eventful and packed with drama :- Rain; Fog; Surface Water; Difficult Map Reading; More Rain and Fog; Mountain Rescue in action; Boulder Fields; More Rain and Fog; Reaching the highest point in England; Gaining an injured guest walker; Rescue Helicopter; The sun eventually appearing; Meeting another injured walker and a huge sense of achievement considering my semi-knackered knees and my consultant-surgeon’s recent comments about stopping walking!
That’s it !!! …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel very welcome, I’d love to hear from you.