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No underestimating Scafell Pike

Posted 12 March 2012
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No underestimating Scafell Pike
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Those who have put on some well-worn walking boots and climbed the highest mountains of England, Wales and Scotland will be well aware of the fact that Scafell Pike is the lowest of the three. But that certainly does not mean it is the easiest.

Putting it in Munro terms, were the 3,210 ft Scafell Pike Scottish and it would be only 184th on the Munro list.

Yet height is not everything. There are relatively simple routes up Snowdon like the Pyg Track and Llanberis Path. Ben Nevis also has an easy route to the top - the zig-zagging Tourist track. But the steepness and rockiness of England's highest makes it a tough task at any time and in any weather. A climb from Eskdale is long and eventually steep. One from Wasdale is very steep, the Corridor Route requires some scrambling and the Langdale approach is both long and involves crossing the huge boulder field of Broad Crag.

Proof of how tough a mountain this is came this last weekend (March 10th and 11th) when Wasdale Mountain rescue team had to carry out three operations in a single day, aided by colleagues from the Duddon and Furness team.

The first of these was a case of sheer exhaustion overwhelming one man in his sixties, who had to be helped down from the narrow Mickledore ridge that separates Scafell Pike from its neighbour (and England's second highest mountain) Sca Fell. A second man had to be rescued after suffering a severe ankle injury in the Brown Tongue Gill area on the slopes above Wasdale, to which some of the rescuers were diverted.

With these two incidents to deal with, the teams could have done without meeting a pair of walkers who had been ill-prepared by heading up the mountain without torches and who were struggling to find their way down in the fading light.

So the lesson may be clear; Scafell Pike is not a mountain to be messed with. It is hard climbing in rocky conditions where tiredness and injury are always a threat.

But it is also the case that, as with any mountain, walkers can help themselves by taking Ordnance Survey maps, a compass and torch, as well as wearing waterproofs.