Scafell and Scafell Pike, and Eskdale in the rain – June 1990

Day 1

In gorgeous weather, five of us – all former Venture Scouts or “Explorers” as they are called nowadays – set off around 10a.m. from Eskdale youth hostel. We had a long tramp in, over boggy ground, leading to Slight Side. We reached Sca Fell by 1p.m. Great sport was had in descending the gullies and rakes from Sca Fell down to Mickledore. We were young, then. This was the best part of the day.

There was exceptional and quite unusual visibility from the tops. The hill of Galloway were clearly in sight across the Solway Firth, and we could even see the Isle of Man. This kind of clear air is quite rare in high summer. We took in Broad Crag, Ill Crag, and backtracked to get Great End as well. From Great End, we descended to Esk Hause.

Tired and hungry, we continued over Allen Crags to Glaramara, and thence down the long and winding path to Borrowdale. Excellent hillwalking, particularly in the evening, and worth getting hungry for to be out walking in such lovely light. I had a heavy carry – I was carrying a tent for the return leg – and was totally shattered for two hours or more at the end of the day. We stayed at the youth hostel at Longthwaite, Borrowdale.

Day 2

I had intended to continue to make it a three-day trip, but had to admit defeat with my boots and feet. Alone, I walked back from Longthwaite Borrowdale, up to Esk Hause, in worsening rain, which increased to a frenzy at Esk Hause. Unaware – but perhaps not (as my paper notes say) “blissfully” unaware – I pushed on through the rain down the wrong path from Esk Hause, something of a cross-roads in the Lake District. Only when I recognised the shape of Gimmer Crag ahead did I realise I was on the wrong road. I retraced my steps to the col, where I blundered about in the swirling mists and boggy ground, before descending slowly into Eskdale. Up at the very top, Eskdale is a narrow gorge – very exciting hillwalking. It was raining hard all the way, but it was very atmospheric.

Upper Eskdale is magnificent. The middle reach of the valley is a huge plain, surrounded by high mountains. The Sca Fell massif looks very good from down here. It was a long walk. I left Esk Hause at 1.15pm and arrived at Brotherilkeld at the foot of the Hard Knott Pass – the top of the civilised or cultivated part of Eskdale – about 4.20pm. I met one person the whole afternoon – very wild country.