Where to Next? Scafell Pike

Monday has rolled around too soon again and the weekend seems like a distant dream, so start planning your next escape to the hills with our guide to Scafell Pike.

What makes Scafell Pike so damn special is that you can�t assign an image to it.
Snowdon: pyramid. Ben Nevis: flat-topped hulk. But the Pike has no identity beyond a few square kilometres of hideously complicated contours and its spot height: 978m.
Additionally, its location � encircled by its gang of burly, brutal-shouldered looky-likeys Scafell, Ill Crag and Esk Pike � makes it a tricky devil to even spot. I�ve only once been within eyeshot of it on a day when it was clear of cloud. For me, Scafell Pike had become the invisible mountain; the shark in Jaws that you itch to get a look at, but know that when you finally do, the mystery will be punctured and its potency lost. Fine by me, I wouldn�t want anything to dilute the potency of this mountain.

The Elusive Pike

For hill-walkers, the Pike is a consistently fascinating and elusive objective, packed with illustrious diversions. One way up is a traverse among one of its most arresting features: Piers Gill. An L-shaped crack sliced deep beneath the subsidiary top of Lingmell, its an impressive sight � a mini-canyon, almost. Tackling the ghyll itself is a serious proposition. Without good rock-climbing skills and a few weeks of drought you can only scramble part of it. Anyone doubting this can look over the lip from the top, to see a water-floored vertical drop that makes your stomach lurch.
From Piers Gill, it�s a short, sharp ascent to the col between Scafell Pike and Broad Crag. A broad basin walled with high, cloud-smeared battlements of rock, this would normally be the point where you would turn right and go for the top. But instead, if it�s clear, wander over it onto Pen � a cone-like satellite of the Pike whose modest name is almost invisible on the 1:25000 map. It�s something of a secret that this is the best spot to appreciate the muscular rock architecture of the Pike�s broken face. And from here it�s clear that no other mountain in England says �geological violence� with quite the conviction of Scafell Pike. Bulbous tumours of rock scribed with dripping striations hang off the side of the peak�s upper reaches.

Explore the summit plateau

Once up on the summit plateau, make sure you spend time exploring it, weaving among the cairns, Pulpit Rock is a spire-like promontory where the plateau drops into Hollow Stones � and Pike�s Crag. It is a spectral jumble of mist-wreathed hollows, crags and chaotically scattered cairns. The only thing missing to complete the atmosphere of this place are whispers in the air.
To descend, take a sunset-lit walk-out into Mickledore, the rocky crook between Scafell Pike and its oft-confused second head Scafell. From a distance the notorious Broad Stand scramble looks innocuous. As you get closer you realise that what looks like an easy scramble is actually an impressive rock buttress that crawls up Scafell�s vertical north-east crag.
Walking down the Brown Tongue path, you can make a short diversion to Lord�s Rake and gaze at this notorious mountain exhibit. After wandering down the scree towards Wasdale, look back and if you�re lucky, the mist will clear and you�ll see Scafell Pike as a whole.
The thought of thousands of poorly co-ordinated charity challengers and their support crews noisily descending on Wasdale, drinking all the water, using the roadside as a toilet and piling dangerously up the mountain � however worthy their intentions � makes my heart break.
But there�s a challenge I�ll endorse: spend a full 24 hours on this mountain alone. Explore it properly. Come at it from every point of the compass. Mark up your map with the hidden gems that you discover and then eat and drink at one of Wasdale�s pubs, sleep in a great B&B and wake up to a panorama of the highest, most gloriously isolated peak in England.

Don�t miss

Pen NY220067
Superlative viewpoint that gives you a cracking look at the crags of the east face. Also a great place to chill out and look over Eskdale and Great Moss.

Piers Gill NY212083
Deep crack that runs beneath Lingmell to the north of the Pike. A traverse above it makes an exciting approach.

Lords Rake NY206068
An essential stop, along the Broad Stand (NY210069), on any Scafell Pike safari, this a cross will be etched into the rock to the left of the Rake if this notorious scramble is unsafe to climb

Mickledore NY209069
Substantial dip and path junction between Scafell Pike and Scafell; home to a stretcher box, Broad Stand and cavernous views into both Wasdale and Eskdale.

Wasdale Head Inn NY187088
A local institution, Wasdale Head Inn is the perfect place to sit out a storm, gawp at the climbing memorabilia or enjoy some of the home-brewed ales including Trail Ale! The Inn also offers accommodation � tel. 019467 26229 www.wasdaleheadinn.co.uk

Burnthwaite Farm B&B NY193091
Sumptuously comfortable B&B with immediate access to the Moses Trod path which leads to Piers Gill and gives great access to Great Gable and the Napes.
As close to the mountains as you can get � tel. 019467 26242 www.burnthwaite.co.uk