Britain’s greatest scrambles: Jack’s Rake, Pavey Ark

Cutting across Pavey Ark’s cliffs in the heart of the Lake District, Jack’s Rake is possibly the most spectacularly located scramble to be found anywhere in England’s hills.

Britain's greatest scrambles: Jack’s Rake, Pavey Ark

by Ben Weeks |

Talk to anyone who’s climbed Jack’s Rake – and it’s very definitely a route you climb – and the responses you get will largely fall into one of two distinct camps. Either you’ll be met with wide-eyed enthusiasm about the ease of route-finding, the thrilling exposure and the phenomenal views, or they’ll glaze over slightly and begin to tell their story in the hushed tones of someone recounting a near-death experience.

These polar opinions are the result of the Rake’s somewhat schizophrenic personality, and neither is unfair. In the wet, Jack’s Rake becomes a slippery gully of polished rock and friction-stealing run-off. Some of the rock is loose, meaning care should be taken if there are scramblers (or sheep) above; a helmet is never a bad idea. The only escape before the top is to reverse the climb and, although not technically difficult, it becomes tricky when there are others on the route as there are very few passing places. Finally, the consequence of any fall, although unlikely, would be catastrophic – sadly, people have died.

But choose a dry day with, if possible, minimal traffic. and the linear nature of the climb – paired with its position on a diagonal slant across the towering face of Pavey Ark – provides a relatively straightforward way to experience a taste of real mountaineering, making Jack’s Rake an obvious progression from the classic edges and ridges of the Lake District or Snowdonia.

Distance 5km**| Ascent** 600m | Scramble rating Grade 1 | Go there after a few dry days when the wind is low and, ideally, there are few people about.

1.

From the point where the path from Langdale arrives at Stickle Tarn, the rake is obvious. Over the water the tall, dark face of Pavey Ark looms, and Jack’s Rake can be seen rising across it from right to left. Head around the western shore and follow the worn path up through the scree to the start of the gully.

Pavey Ark over Stickle Tarn, with Jack's Rake running up across the face from right to left.
Pavey Ark over Stickle Tarn, with Jack's Rake running up across the face from right to left.
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2.

If you’re going to put a helmet on, now’s the time to do it, as the first section is serious with little opportunity to stop and make adjustments to kit or attire.

3.

Begin climbing the obvious gully. Smooth, polished rock evidences the many boots that have come this way. To the left is a low rock wall blocking the exposure. Do not be tempted to clamber up on to this to avoid any harder moves, but stick within the trough.

4.

This first section of The Rake ends on a wide, flat grass ledge marked by a lone rowan tree. This is an ideal opportunity to catch breath, adjust layers, grab a snack or drink, and take in the growing exposure above Stickle Tarn and expansive views over Langdale.

The lone tree with the great view
The lone tree with the great view.
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5.

The next section is quite steep, and there’s no escaping the fact that you’re a long way up. But the holds are good and a steady, considered approach will soon see you through the continuation of the gully.

6.

Eventually the rake merges into a wider buttress of rock with some slabby obstacles to clamber over. The polished rock and signs of traffic can be followed all the way up to Pavey Ark’s understated summit on the edge of the mountain overlooking Stickle Tarn.

7.

The most straightforward descent route is the path winding down between Pavey Ark and Harrison Pike. But if the weather and time are on your side, Pavey Ark is a great point from which to explore more of the Central Fells, making the scramble just the start of a day’s adventures.

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