Sunday, 14 October 2012

An old favourite route from Seathwaite

The Mighty Pike (What Else).

Having started a blog naming myself as ScafellHike and alluding to the 200+ times I've covered the route in one fashion or another, invariably from Seathwaite, where else could I start as my first walking route update other than Seathwaite to Scafell and back again? I normally walk with my two friends but for one reason or another neither were available so I decided to return to this old classic. Due to the severe recent weather the more grass or peat routes are quagmires and the beauty of this route is it is all on the volcanic series rock. It consists of Fix the Fells routes and boulder fields which I love walking on.
I parked up at Seathwaite Farm on Friday 12th October having listened to 'The Beast' whimpering in the cage with excitement for the full length of Borrowdale and set off at 11.05hrs, a late start. The weather was fine at the time and the forecast not too bad for the rest of the day.

This is the view that meets you en route to Stockley Bridge with a decision to make on whether you take the Grains Gill or the Taylorgill Force route. A sight people keep on missing is the ice age moraines you pass on the track to the bridge. If you look back you can see it is not a single lump of rock but debris floated on an ice sheet and deposited at it's limit, it took me a while to see this.
I moved on to Stockley Bridge the pack horse route to either Wasdale or Langdale and decided on the Grains Gill path. It is such an iconic location, the bridge is deserving of an image in it's own right. Here you can see three people on the bridge and it always makes a holiday type snap for those ascending or descending to The Pike or Great Gable.
This route, although regarded as accessing the above can also be used for getting to Bowfell or even The Langdale Pikes, though that would be a trek for most. For the Grains Gill path you cross Stockley, go through the gate and go immediately left ascending a long gradual, though varying climb and crossing a further bridge so the gill is on your right. As you ascend take the time to look back and you will see the whole of Borrowdale, Maiden Moor and Castle Crag laid out before you. It's a beautiful view and just caught here as the cloud descended.
I reached the path below Great End 1hr 10mins from the walk started. Here you branch left and skirt round Great End where I was able to get a view of Hardknott Fell, Harter Fell and Green Crag where I had walked on Monday. It had started to rain a little and the wind was becoming bitter, but that's the enjoyment of it, if you are dressed correctly. The views of Great Gable and Kirk Fell also opened up as the cloud broke and some sunshine got through.

Above, Great and Green Gable with Aaron Slack route up to Windy Gap.


Great Gable with lowering cloud, Kirk Fell to the left. You can just make out Crummock (centre) and Derwentwater (right).
 This is a lovely route to take and concentration is needed to avoid injury causing slips as you hop from one to another. It was beginning to 'busy up' with people coming down from Scafell Pike, some from behind and another group from the Piers Gill direction.
As I ascended to the summit it was now full clag,  I got talking to two men who had apparently come up Mickledore. It was only when they said they were going back to Wasdale that I was troubled and asked by what route? They thought they were descending to Lingmell Col so needed put on the right path. A simple compass check would have shown this and the error was caused by them coming up Lingmell Col and not as they thought, Mickledore. It is an easy fell to get lost on and I've known many instances where MRT call outs have been for people merely lost. As this is the highest, this fell more than any other keeps the rescue teams busy.
Now if fell walking is about anything it is about the views one gets. Here is the normal view from The Pike.
You've got to admit it, that's worth climbing up for! here you get the cairn and also one of the primary trig points in the county. I stopped and had some bait (that's lunch in Cumbria, or it is on the west coast, hence your 'bait box'). There were a lot of three peakers on the summit and these are usually better prepared in both clothing, equipment and orientation.
 I began to descend to Lingmell Col and know the cairn to branch off the path for the classic Corridor route. You get another splendid vista of Lingmell, a small fell that exists as an outcrop of Scafell Pike and is guarded on one side by Piers Gill. You also begin to see your route off down the Corridor with Styhead Tarn as your marker and what a marker it is!

Lingmell with Great Gable and Kirk Fell as the backdrop.

Piers Gill dropping as a 'force' over the cliff face below Lingmell. I love it's sound and the sight of it.

Great Gable, Styhead Tarn with it's distinctive arrowhead shape and to the left, the corridor route.

Piers Gill, a marvellous rent in the landscape and the path you can see comes up from a circuitous route from Wasdale, though I access it from Seathwaite. A favourite of mine, but do it in company when dry and definitely not in ice conditions. You get close to the edge at times and there is a scramble section. (That path seen is NOT The corridor)
The Corridor is a well worn Fix the Fells path and relatively simple that skirts the northern face of Broad Crags and Great End, but be careful of Stand Crag. In my early days I missed the crag scramble and headed toward Wasdale. It has been defaced by a big arrow scratched on it's wall, clearly by another lost soul. After this you arrive at Styhead Tarn and it is normal to aim for the stretcher box at the base of Great Gable before walking past Aaron Slack and Styhead Tarn. This location is a favourite for wild campers, well protected from the west wind howling up Wasdale and very firm underfoot.
Styhead Tarn with a backdrop of Seathwaite Fell.
Journeying on we arrive at the wooden footbridge going over Styhead Gill. Now you have a choice here and the normal one is the common path over the bridge with the gill on your left. A good route, however the much better one for a scramble walk and views of Taylorgill Force is the other side; i.e., don't cross over the bridge. It will eventually bring you to Seathwaite farm where you link with the Sourmilk Gill path for Green Gable or Base Brown. I prefer this route but if you are just after a leisurely walk and scrambling isn't for you, keep off it. I'll update a route one day for this.
The bridge over Styhead Gill. Cross it for 'safe', don't cross it for 'scramble' (On this walk I crossed it for 'safe').
The journeys nearly at an end and you come to the head of Taylorgill Force though hear it, you can't see it. Suddenly the Seathwaite valley opens up as a vista and you see the farm.
When fit it's a decent walk though anyone not used to it will feel it in their legs many days after. There's no grass cushion underfoot on this one, but no boots full of peat either. It's 14.8kms with 1000m ascent. I never tire of it and default to this anytime of the year for exercise in any weather. Be warned though, it is Englands highest and that is it's attraction to the hordes. It is also the wettest place in England , as the plaque states before entering the farmyard.
 For me this was 4hrs 50minutes, though I recommend anyone to give themselves 6hrs at least, certainly on a first attempt. (For those interested, the dog loved it, though it was it's shortest of three walks that week, Monday 21km, Wednesday 18kms and just the 15kms this day. On Saturday it wanted to be off again, though Monday is it's next outing. One day I'll tie a GPS to it';s back to see what it really does cover.)
Best of luck to anyone who takes this up, you will love it.


  1. I had my first visit to Piers Gill a few weeks ago - really striking. Just posted a blog about it!
    My only ascent to the summit of Scafell Pike was in March as part of my final 3 Wainwright's. It was a beautiful day and the summit was very busy.
    The Seathwaite route is the way I want to try next time....
    Great blog :-)

    1. Tanya,I'll take you on that route one day, though an easier drive, but slightly longer walk, is from Langdale. Up Rossett Gill, Angle Tarn to Esk Hause. You can still come down The Corridor but go back past Sprinkling Tarn to Esk Hause.

  2. Very informative Ray, I was very impressed with the Grains Gill route plus the view back to Castle Crag. Having also done the Corridor route for the first time this year they give a proper feel to this mountain after previously only having approached from Wasdale and once from Langdale. Must admit to stupidly starting down the wrong way on the latter. Will be interesting to see your info on the Taylorgill Force path.

    One thing missing - no Pub mention :-)

    1. Martin, I'll see if I can send you some photos of this as I may have some, or put a short blog on for this section only.
      As for the drink, no walking buddy I'm afraid and I didn't want to look like 'Billynomates' in the corner. I've been out today and picked up a buddy though!