“This is it, the Mecca of all weary pilgrims in Lakeland, the place of many ceremonies and celebrations, of bonfires and birthday parties; the ultimate; the supreme; the one objective above all others; the highest ground in England, the top of Scafell Pike.” A. Wainwright, The Southern Fells.
Last Saturday I walked to the summit of Scafell Pike again…this was my third ascent and next year I will climb it again. I will continue to walk this peak year on year. So the question is why do we climb mountains? Why Scafell Pike? Is it worth it? In this blog I will set out 7 reasons why I climb Scafell Pike and why I consider it worth doing.
Reason 1 – because it is England’s highest peak.
It is also, therefore, one of the three highest peaks of the UK. I have walked this mountain with friends, with family and more recently with paying clients. The sense of achievement from all when completing the highest peak in England is fantastic. Many clients have never done anything like this before and it is wonderful to be part of enabling this achievement.
Wainwright was less than complimentary about the peak but still recognised why people would want to complete it.
“It is a magnet, not because of its beauty for this is not a place of beauty, not because of the exhilaration of the climb because there is no exhilaration in toiling upwards over endless stones, not because of its view for although this is good there are others better. It is a magnet simply because it is the highest ground in England.” A Wainwright, The Southern Fells
Reason 2 -the views
If the weather is good the I have found the views can be amazing, all the way to the coast, over towards Scafell, and, from Lingmell across to Wasdale and Kirk fells. Last weekend we had low cloud and rain but every now and then the cloud lifted and we got glimpses back up towards the summit. Then on the descent the weather improved even more and from our route onto Lingmell we could see across to Mickledore, back down to Wast water and over to walkers descending by the Corridor route. I find these views inspiring and in my head I start to plan all the other fells to walk, paths to follow and routes to complete.
Reason 3 – to bag a Wainwright (or two).
On our recent descent from Scafell Pike we found an older gentleman trying to make sense of his guidebook which was wrapped up in a thick clear plastic bag to protect it from the rain. He had done Scafell Pike and was now looking for the route to Lingmell. He was bagging Wainwrights and proudly told us he only had 40 left to do. We were also going up Lingmell so he followed, accidentally to our lunch spot! We set him right again and off he went up Lingmell, each time the cloud lifted we spotted him a bit further up the path until he finally disappeared over the top. I hope he manages the rest of his challenge. For many people a challenge such as completing all 214 of the Wainwright peaks is what inspires them to return to the Lake District year after year. Or if your name is Paul Tierney, you can do them all in 6 days 6 hours and 5 minutes.
Reason 4 – the experience.
Each ascent of Scafell Pike, for me is a new experience. Different weather, different times of year, different people all add to this experience. For our clients it is a big learning experience, taken out of their normal comfort zone they get to learn how to cope when their legs ache, they are getting a bit cold, wet or sometimes too hot. How they manage this can really test their resilience, encouraging positive thoughts is all part of the job!
Reason 5 – Flora and fauna.
Last weekend was the first time I spotted Eyebright, a small white flower which is said to have medicinal properties for the eyes, hence its name. All the way up the mountain we pointed out Tormentil, Harebells, Ling and Bell Heather, Star Moss, various Lichens and other plants of the area. We also talked about the Herdwick sheep and how they are hardy enough to survive the tough conditions on the fell all year round. It is some of these aspects I think maybe those completing the 3 peaks challenge miss out on. There is so much more to see but you need to have both the time and inclination to see it.
Reason 6 – to test equipment.
Walking up a significant peak in inclement weather is always a good test for the outdoor gear! Interestingly one of the 3 peaks group leaders stopped for a quick chat as our paths crossed. She asked who we were leading, said she knew we were leaders by what we were wearing, particularly the footwear. I had my La Sportiva boots on and my partner was wearing his Salewa boots, both B2s. I also had my Rab waterproofs on so was dry and comfortable throughout. Many others that we saw on the peak that day were wearing leggings and basic waterproof coats. Now they must have got cold and wet and can’t have been feeling particularly comfortable. Fine if they keep moving but not if they have to stop for any reason.
Reason 7 -to test fitness levels.
The other good test of a route like this is to see how good the fitness levels are. I know that I can complete a walk like this now day in, day out without a problem but it wasn’t always like this. Fitness comes from consistent activity and I have built this up over the years. Fitness is not just about completing the route, however, it’s about how you feel the next day and the day after that. Our clients all complete the walk but it is the next morning when we see how fit people really are!
Alfred Wainwright also asked the question why does a man climb mountains? His thoughts were that “It may be solace for some, satisfaction for others: the joy of exercising muscles that modern ways of living have cramped, perhaps; or a balm for jangled nerves in the solitude and silence of peaks; or escape from the clamour and tumult of everyday existence.”
What are your reasons for walking up (and down) mountains? Let me know in the comments below.
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