Outline of Route
Seathwaite (Borrowdale) - Stockley Bridge - Sty Head - Lingmell (via Corridor Route) - Scafell Pike - Great End - Esk Hause - Grains Gill - Stockley Bridge - Seathwaite (Grid ref. NY 236122)
Total Distance 9.0 miles, Total Ascent 3600 feet, Equivalent Distance 16.2 miles
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Details of Route
Starting from Seathwaite - parking is free - continue straight ahead through the farm. (There is a footpath indicated to the right amongst the farm buildings which leads along a lane to a wooden footbridge. Walkers wishing to view Taylorgill Force at close quarters should cross this bridge and follow the path on the left alongside the River Derwent. This is a picturesque alternative route to Sty Head.) Those following the main route continue straight ahead along the farm road to Stockley Bridge (photo). Taylorgill Force is an impressive sight up to the right (photo). After crossing the bridge you will notice a path on the left alongside the beck. This is the Grains Gill path, the recommended return route. Go straight ahead, through the gate and up the well-trodden path westwards towards Taylorgill Force. This path takes you well to the left of the waterfall but approaches Styhead Gill further upstream. This watercourse is usually easy to cross but there is no great urgency - there is a wooden footbridge further on. As Styhead Tarn is reached we get the first sighting of Lingmell, the first peak on the route (photo).
After passing to the right of Styhead Tarn, Sty Head itself is reached. (Note: the word "Sty" derives from the Old Norse stigr meaning "steep path" and has nothing to do with pigs!) Bear left along the well marked path towards Esk Hause. A retrospective view over Styhead Tarn includes Blencathra in the distance (photo). After about 300 yards, by a large cairn in a dip in the Esk Hause path, a well trodden path goes off downhill to the right towards a ravine, Skew Gill. This is the Corridor Route (photo). After crossing Skew Gill the path rises above Stand Crag where the view of Great Gable (photo) can be enjoyed to the full. It bears left above Greta Gill (photo). There is an awkward descent here, down a rock step (photo), which would appear much simpler were it not above a steep drop into Greta Gill. This may provoke a sharp burst of adrenaline but is perfectly safe if taken with care. The path continues around the head of the ravine (photo) and in a gradually upward direction below Round How where it crosses the southern branch of Greta Gill (photo).
Further on, where the path branches, take the one to the right (the left hand branch leads to Broad Crag col) past a tiny tarn (photo) towards Lingmell Col (photo) which takes you circling the head of the spectacular rift of Piers Gill (photo). From here follow the wall up to Lingmell Col. The route up to Lingmell itself is clear, short and sweet, with breath-taking views on the right down Lingmell Crag to Piers Gill, now way below. It is well worth continuing further to a subsidiary summit where views of Mosedale are less restricted (photo). Return to Lingmell Col and bear slightly to the right where the well-trodden path up from Hollow Stones can be found, and followed up onto Scafell Pike.
From the summit, views of the Lakeland horizon cannot be bettered (360° panorama), this is after all the highest point in England. From here, on a clear day, the Isle of Man can be seen on the western horizon, jutting high out of the Irish Sea. It's as well to remember that its highest point, Snaefell, is over 2000 feet high. Scafell Pike is invariably busy and if you want some peace and quiet, wander over the boulders to the south peak, and contemplate the relative peace of Eskdale, way down below (photo) and ponder the routes to Scafell (photo) for another day.
Head northeast from the summit to find the well-marked route down to Broad Crag col. Where there is a choice of ways down the slope the going is usually easier on the left. Continue up towards Broad Crag finding your own way over the boulders. There is no definitive path. Here, and for the next half mile, progress is made by stepping from boulder to boulder like branching sets of stepping stones. The main route goes to the right of Broad Crag, and to the left of Ill Crag. The dedicated Lakeland walker will visit these summits once in a lifetime but the exertion seems out of proportion to the gains. After the descent from Ill Crag on the Esk Hause path, another path goes off to the left over a grassy slope towards Great End. Climb to the summit - the screes and crags of Great Gable are a fine sight, as is Wasdale Head and its surrounding peaks (photo) and a good northern panorama (photo). On clear days, as from Scafell Pike, the Isle of Man is visible from here (photo) beyond Lingmell and Sellafield. Visit the top of the northwest face for a view down the gullies that split the cliff (photo) and the southeastern summit for a good view southeast (photo). Return to the Scafell path where you left it and walk down towards Esk Hause.
Before you reach the true Esk Hause, ie the head of Eskdale, the ground to the left becomes less boulder-strewn and more grassy. Make your way across this to find a clear and well-marked path, originating at the hause, which heads down towards Sprinkling Tarn. This gradually approaches the path from Angle Tarn. About 300 yards after these paths meet, and before reaching Sprinkling Tarn there is a path to the right dropping down into a gully, crossing Ruddy Gill, and then going up the other side. Follow this and you will soon find yourself walking above the steep ravine cut by Ruddy Gill (photo), which has made a right turn. This is exhilarating stuff, being close to, but not actually in, danger. Beyond the ravine the way is now clear all the way back to Seathwaite. A footridge crosses Ruddy Beck before it joins Grains Gill which latter the path approaches but does not reach until Stockley Bridge. There are fine views all the way down the valley (photo) which is a good excuse to linger on the way down this easy, gradual descent. Walkers seeking the easiest way to climb the highest mountain in England need look no further that this, discarding the ascents of Lingmell and Great End on the way.
Rev. 18 July 2012