Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head - My climb to the summit of the highest mountain in England. By Dr. Sabrina Abdollah, ATC Overseas Member & Engineer based in the UK.

November 29, 2016

Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head - My climb to the summit of the highest mountain in  England. By Dr. Sabrina Abdollah, ATC Overseas Member & Engineer based in the UK.

It was a frosty Tuesday morning and I was standing at the National Trust’s Wasdale campsite surrounded with mountains covered in snow. That was my first experience at this campsite and the views were simply surreal. I knew I needed breakfast so began cooking. I had oats in a cup, fried egg and a “toast” while admiring the beautiful scenery.  I packed my bag and by 10am, both Geoff and I were ready to “conquer” Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.

We decided to follow the route famously known as the shortest and easiest way to Scafell Pike.  Theoretically, from Wasdale Head, it was a straight forward walk towards Lingmell’s south west ridge although gloves plus mittens were required (brrrrr). The stone path suddenly became tricky to walk on as it was completely covered with solid ice and gradually there wasn’t any more paths to walk on –  as they’ve been covered with snow.  We checked the map, followed the cairns and onto easier zigzags ahead.  Very quickly, the situation worsen, clouds were very low and visibility reduced.  Walking into deep snow proved to be more challenging... soon the climb became steep. Surprisingly, a sudden turn of weather was in our favour. The sun came out, greeted with glee.  I started to run thinking the summit was just ahead of us “Geoff, run, before the sun disappears again!”.  To my disappointment, I could just see the trig point about 200 metres away and the sun had totally hidden behind the clouds, replaced with cold, strong wind (30 mph) and almost zero visibility We slowly paced ourselves after the short burst of “sprints”!  Onto the platform of Scafell Pike and finally arrived to its trig point.  This has been the long awaited moment for me to have successfully completed the 3 highest peaks in the UK.

Despite the unfavourable weather, we did not move for at least10 mins as that was the only spot with 4G – no connection on campsite.  Returning from the summit, visibility remained very poor. We lost the cairns and ended walking in the opposite direction of the path.  Note to self, when in doubt, stop, refer to map and compass – get your bearings right!  In deep snow and poor visibility, it was easy to get lost. The route was without a shadow of doubt no longer the “shortest” and “easiest” route as per our initial plan.  Luckily, within minutes, we saw the mountain rescue box and thankfully it became clear where we were. We walked up to the narrow col of Mickledore between Scafell and Pike and ascended into a steep drop through the gully.  It became tricky as it was covered with solid ice (the perfect crampons which I didn't have moment) and the scree was very slippery.  Some of the stones were dislodged due to the recent wet weather hence required sheer patience, balance and extra precautions.  What felt like the longest day of my life finally took us to Hollow Stones and the path eventually became visible again. An overwhelming sense of relief took over me as looking through the horizon, we spotted our campsite and kept our focus on it all the way until we arrived at our campsitee safe and in one piece, just when the sun was setting. 

Total distance = 16 km
Time taken = 7 hrs (had 3 coffee breaks and lunch)
Ascent = 1100 m (summit 978 m)


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