Flying high on bagging our very first Munro – the one and only Ben Nevis – and sleeping like rocks in the bunkhouse, we packed up and hit the road for Scafell Pike in England’s Lake District. Making a short stop in Fort William to check out directions to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, we came back to find the camper van had a flat tyre.
And that the roadside assistance had expired.
And that the spare tyre was rusted out and flat as a pancake.
While the repairs were getting sorted, we ate meat pies, bought tea towels and postcards, toured a castle ruins, had a beer, noshed on Haggis-flavoured crisps, checked out the Ben Nevis distillery, bought some whiskey, said hello to local livestock….and all was good.
By the time our camper van was roadworthy again, our leisurely driving day south to England turned into ~255 miles to get under our belt before it got tooooo late (aka dark). We left Fort William late afternoon….yikes.
Getting out of Scotland was a lot of twisting turning lanes. Miz W. was the best driver ever, and thank the gods for her driving skills and Miz J’s navigation system, along with Liz Hurley’s input. Our sat nav was totally Liz Hurley, embodied. And most of the time Liz Hurley was sending us in the right direction.
But she started to fade after many, many hours of driving. We also lost the radio. The cigarette charger died all together. The interior van lighting extinguished. It was pitch black outside. All started going straight to hell in a hand-basket.
The camper van became entirely persnickety (hot wires?) so we pulled over at a bus stop, possibly in Egremont, to let it cool off. I think it was about midnight at that point. It wasn’t until we hopped out to find a bush to pee behind when we realized we were right next to a very old, scary-looking cemetery. Only a rock wall separated us from … the undead.
Well, that was my only motivation required to move it. (The others were much more brave.) Once the van had a decent rest, we were back on the road. We ended up sleeping around 0230 hrs-ish in the Gosforth commuter parking lot where we popped the top and squeezed in amidst all the luggage for a snooze.
Later that morning, we woke to a busy little car park all around us.
We nipped across the street to the corner store and to the bakery for breakfast pastries, yogurt and a few hiking snacks, and were quickly on our way to Wasdale Head, where we’d eventually find both the trail head and Miz J.’s friend from York, Miz S. and her sister waiting for us to conquer Scafell Pike.
SCAFELL PIKE – DAY 3
(978 m or 3,209 ft)
About Scafell Pike: Wasdale Head is home not only to England’s highest peak, but also to the deepest lake, smallest church and biggest liar. How could one NOT visit such a charming locale? On the western edge of the Lake District, it also (as many places in the UK) seems to have it’s own weather systems, so be prepared on Scafell Pike! Fun fact: The peaks of the Lake District are known as ‘fells’ from the viking word ‘fjell’ for mountain.
Savvy choice: Camp (or stay) right at the Wasdale Head Inn (birthplace of British mountaineering) for easy access to the trail heads of many great hill walks. Fee for camping is just 5 GBP a night, and that gets you a lovely green, access to the toilets/showers, and a welcome to pop in the next morning for bacon sandwiches. Heck ya, bacon sandwiches!!
Closest pub: Wasdale Head Inn’s Ritson’s Bar is cozy and welcoming, with every drink under the sun available, packed with walkers and local colour as well. Menu’s good, served to 9:00 pm, and dessert is available late. Customer service is spot on.
We met up with Miz S. and set off midday for our trek just down the road from the Wasdale Head Inn at the National Trust car park.
Across the footbridge, past the sheep, through the meadow and up the hill, we starting on a lovely path of stone steps – both manicured and natural – where National Trust workers were upgrading the path. Wonderful work! What a way to spend the day! Looking back from the slopes of Lingmell, there are delightful views of Wast Water.
After crossing Lingmel Gill on stepping stones our little group slowly separated, each finding her own pace, with Miz S. and her sister springing onwards like goats, while Miz. W. and Miz. M. chilled out on the slopes for a few photos and a snack.
The sunny, warm day was such a contrast to the rain and sleet of Ben Nevis. Stopping frequently to take a breath and repeat to myself – hills? I have such respect for these “mountains”!
We each continued up the steep ascent towards the Hollow Stones, a tumble of glacial debris that requires a sharp eye for cairns, as not to lose the path. My path ebbed and flowed with those of Miz J. and Miz S. It was steady hard work, step after step. Lots of time to think and muse. What I enjoyed about this trail was – due to the clear skies – that I could look up and pick out the trail above and beyond. It was a different set of cards dealt on this hiking day.
On the traditional National Three Peaks Challenge, this leg is done completely in the dark, in the dead of night. That is surely a challenge in itself as the approach to the summit is very rocky, where you mount a boulder field of shattered rock and the vistas of Lakeland which unfold from every direction wouldn’t be seen at all!
Catching up to Miz J., we hiked the final bit together to the summit.
Glorious views of the Lake District!
The whole gang met up together on top of Scafell Pike, then headed down slowly – sore knees today!! – to reconvene in Ritson’s Bar for drinks and supper. In total, I think it took about 5.5 hours.
Next stop: Snowdon!