Scafell Pike from Seathwaite

Scafell Pike

This is one of the most popular routes up the highest mountain in England starting from the small hamlet of Seathwaite at the end of a minor road in the Lake District's Borrowdale Valley. It is also the route most commonly used for those taking on the national Three Peaks Challenge. Of the three mountains in the challenge Scafell Pike is actually the most technical of the three walks and often considered the hardest. This route heads over Stockley Bridge above Seathwaite then takes a fairly straightforward ascent up Grains Gill to reach Esk Hause. The route then takes on a high level traverse of the Great End, Ill Crag and Broad Crag ridge involving navigation of a rather tricky boulder field then on to Scafell Pike. Unlike Ben Nevis or Snowdon, Scafell Pike doesn't really have what people refer to as a tourist path. Those not doing the Three Peaks Challenge can take their time and explore the summits and views from Great End, Ill Crag and Broad Crag. The views from Scafell Pike are fantastic with a panorama over the Lakeland fells. Navigating on the higher parts of this walk can be difficult in bad weather or low visibility, and Scafell Pike is a serious mountain with changeable weather conditions at any time of the year. You should always be carrying the right gear and know how to use it, particularly your map and compass. Those taking part in the national Three Peaks Challenge should research and follow the codes of practice that set out guidelines to ensure that the potential risks of tackling this aspect of the Three Peaks Challenge are minimised.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts in the small hamlet of Seathwaite in the Borrowdale Valley at grid reference NY 235 121. To get to Seathwaite take the B5289 road from Keswick passing Grange and Rosthwaite. Just before the road reaches the village of Seatoller turn left down the minor road which is sign posted to Seathwaite. Three Peakers beware if using a sat nav system; there are two Seathwaites in the Lake District!
  2. The roadside at Seathwaite is a really popular place to park. At busy times, this causes access problems for people who live there including farmers and potentially emergency vehicles. If you turn up and find that you can’t easily park at Seathwaite without being confident a fire engine or tractor and trailer could easily pass, please find an alternative place to park or consider another walk.
  3. From Seathwaite head south through the farm area and follow the track that heads up in to the valley on the east side of the gill.
  4. After just over a kilometre the track will reach the beautiful stone built Stockley Bridge. Cross Stockley Bridge and then turn left on to the Grains Gill footpath.
  5. Follow the footpath heading south and it will ascend the wide Grains Gill valley with the gill on your left. After a kilometre the path crosses a wooden footbridge over the Grains Gill.
  6. Continue on the same ascent path now with the gill on your right hand side. The going gets steeper as the path nears the impressive gorge of Ruddy Gill. After passing Ruddy Gill the absolutely huge buttresses of Great End towers over you and dominates the view ahead.
  7. The path reaches another path below Great End. Here turn left in a south easterly direction. After just over two hundred metres a path heads up to the right. Take this path and it will ascend a shortcut to Esk Hause.
  8. At Esk Hause turn right and head in a westerly direction on an obvious path heading up towards Calf Cove and the col between Ill Crag on the left and Great End on the right.
  9. Once you reach the col if not tackling the Three Peaks Challenge you can turn right and head up Great End. The views off Great End down the Borrowdale Valley over Derwent Water to Skiddaw are fantastic.
  10. If you choose not to summit Great End then simply carry on along the main path now heading towards Ill Crag and the infamous boulder field on its north eastern ridge. This is a tricky boulder field that can be a dangerous place when wet or icy so take extra care and try to step in between the boulders where you can.
  11. The path continues to snake over the ridge passing Ill Crag and then Broad Crag before descending down to Broad Crag Col. Those who are not tackling the Three Peaks Challenge can take their time and explore their summits. Ill Crag gives great views in to Great Moss and shows the quieter and more rugged sides of the Scafells.
  12. Once you reach the bottom of Broad Crag Col it is then just a case of ascending the final pike on the opposite side to reach the summit plateau of Scafell Pike. The summit is a rocky place. It has a large circular stone cairn with steps to its flat top and nearby a stone OS trig point pillar.
  13. The views from Scafell Pike summit are incredible with almost every major Lakeland Fell within view. On a clear day the Isle of Man will be visible in the Irish Sea to the west.
  14. Looking in a south west direction across Mickledore you will see Scafell. The fact there is a Scafell and Scafell Pike still confuses people. Scafell is actually slightly lower in height than Scafell Pike. Many years ago it was thought to be the other way around as from Wasdale it does appear that way. This is because Scafell is a lot closer so it is simply an optical illusion.
  15. To descend from Scafell Pike, head east to north east from the summit back down to Broad Crag Col. From Broad Crag Col head up the opposite side of the col to get back on the path that passes over Broad Crag along which you came earlier.
  16. Continue along the main path passing by Broad Crag, then Ill Crag, and again the tricky boulder field. The path will continue its descent through Calf Cove again and back down to Esk Hause.
  17. At Esk Hause turn left and down the short cut path back to the main path below Great End. Here turn left and then after just over two hundred metres turn right down the path to pass Ruddy Gill gorge and descend back in to the Grains Gill valley.
  18. Follow the descent path over the wooden footbridge over Grains Gill all the way to Stockley Bridge. Cross Stockley Bridge again and head down the track heading north to reach Seathwaite where there is a lovely little cafe for food and refreshments.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL6 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 90 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Lakeland Central Map Click to buy Harvey Lake District Mountain Map

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.