Scafell Pike and Wastwater Packraft

In May 2019, I decided to see if I could both climb England’s highest mountain and paddle it’s deepest lake, all in one weekend. I had already paddled the UK’s deepest lake, Loch Morar, and was keen to add another to my packrafting adventures. This time I had my soon-to-be-wife with me, so we decided to camp in relative luxury at the National Trust site in Wasdale, ideally suited for taking the tourist track up Scafell Pike. This is a good campsite, really well positioned for climbing the hills in the area, and at the time we stayed there they were updating the facilities to nice shower/toilet blocks. There’s a pub not far away too, although it always seemed too busy so I think booking would be recommended. We woke up on the morning of our intended climb to amazing weather (which almost never happens) and were soon off to try and beat the masses.

For some reason the early part of the climb out of Wasdale seemed particularly challenging on my legs. So whilst my wife was bounding off like a mountain goat, I was somewhat slower and took a steady pace up the path. At this point there were relatively few people attempting the climb, and it didn’t take long before the views opened up, with almost no clouds in the sky at all.

After crossing Lingmell Gill, we stopped for some water and a snack before continuing, with the path getting ever rockier and the views ever more stunning. We were not alone by this point, with quite a few other walkers setting off up the path. Some of them seemed very under prepared, in jeans and a t-shirt. No water or food. I can tell you that the summit conditions were really starkly different to the conditions in the valley. If you’re going to climb Scafell Pike, show due respect to the mountain (remember you lose 1 degree of temperature per 100 metres of height gained, and that the wind at the summit can be significant). Take warm and waterproof clothing, snacks, water, and a map and compass.

After a fairly strenuous climb, we started picking our way across the boulder field that signals the summit plateau and headed for the summit, where a fairly large group of walkers was already enjoying the view and their sandwiches. Today the walking was easy, but I can imagine the summit plateau could be a bewildering and unpleasant place in poor visibility. It wasn’t long before we were putting on our down jackets (it was freezing and windy despite the good visibility) and enjoyed some food and the simply stunning views. We had made the first part of our challenge!

After around half an hour we started our descent. It was tough on the legs and knees and took a lot longer than we expected. We got spectacularly lucky, as just about sixty seconds after we made it to the tent the heavens opened for a short while – that almost never happens! We ate a nice spinach and mushroom risotto washed down with a glass of cold white wine to celebrate.

The following day, I walked down to the shore of Wastwater, inflated my packraft and set off for a bimble. It was a fairly still and fine morning and it was a relaxing paddle around England’s deepest lake. I was keen to see The Screes up close having walked over Whinn Rigg and Illgill Head the previous year. It was odd to be paddling my raft with no heavy pack on it and I enjoyed the relatively unencumbered paddle.

After a great paddle enjoying the views from the water, I headed back to our Hilleberg Kaitum for a celebratory BBQ. I had managed to climb the highest mountain in England, and paddle the deepest lake. A great way to spend a weekend in the Lakes!

I used the excellent Harvey Maps British mountain map of the Lake District for this trip.

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