13th September 2015

The Roof of England

Time 8am to 5:15pm
Duration 9 hr 15 min
Distance 10.5 mile
Ascent 4500 ft
Walking with Paul Sharkey and Rod Hepplewhite
Wasdale Head - Down in the Dale - Brackenclose - Lingmell (direct) - Lingmell Col - Scafell Pike - Mickledore - bottom of Foxes Tarn gully - Mickledore - Lord's Rake - Scafell - Long Green - Slight Side - Long Gill - Hardrigg Gill - base of Hard Rigg - Corpse Road - Brackenclose - Down in the Dale - Wasdale Head
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre -
Car park, Wasdale Head

Wasdale can boast possession of the highest mountain, the deepest lake and the smallest church. What I'd like to do is add the busiest car park onto this list. During the summer months this is an incredibly popular place, particularly in June when the three peak walkers are out in force.

Unbelievable I know, but parking is actually free. This tiny hamlet also has a hotel / pub, a shop, a camp site and all the facilities you expect to find with it.


Route Map


Way back in 1977 I was still at school. And while I may have been out of short pants, I was still a few years away from being issued with a national insurance number. That summer we'd been on a caravan holiday in Scarborough where I seem to remember asking for an advance on the following weeks pocket money so I'd have enough cash to buy a cassette recorder. That same summer a gentleman called A Harry Griffin took on a retirement project to visit the summit of all the Lakeland fells over 2000ft in height. He had already spent the best past of his life climbing and walking in the Lake District and, for the benefit of others had written a dozen or so books about the place. I own a copy of all those books and have read each of them several times over. One of the books stands out as different from the others because this one "Freeman of the Hills" is a personal account of that very round of the 2000ft fells; comprising of 27 extremely difficult walks.
Earlier this year Paul told me he was considering doing the same project. "Blimey, that's a heck of a task" I told him. At that point I assumed he just meant he would visit all the summits. When he said he was going to do the same 27 walks by the same routes I almost fainted. Today I join Paul on the final walk - The Roof of England.

Here we stand for a moment at the bottom of Lingmell and each of us in our own way contemplates the steep walk ahead of us. On my mind was that after a night with hardly any sleep I was not on form today. So, needless to say the walk up here felt much more difficult then it should have been. On the plus side however, it had all but stopped raining so spirits were high when we set off on this the first of many steep ascents today.

Turning around we see Wast Water below us.

Looking down to Wasdale Head.

Lingmell summit was reached in thick cloud and with no view. It was a shame really, but, sometimes walking in cloud like this can add enjoyment to a walk rather than taking anything away from it.

From Lingmell we make our way through the cloud to Scafell Pike.

I think it was me that simply said "where is everyone".

During the few minutes we spent at the highest point in England one or more of us, rearranged our clothing, blew our nose, had a drink or took some photos. One thing we were all agreed on is that the actual summit area has to be one of our least favourite places in the Lake District. The best thing this summit has going for it are the fantastic routes that just happen to take you over the top (today's walk being one of them). Speaking for myself, being the highest has absolutely no significance whatsoever.

From Scafell Pike we head down to Mickledore Ridge where the mountain rescue stretcher box slowly became visible through the thick cloud. Here we'd turn left to walk steeply down to Foxes Tarn Gully.

It's a steep route down here and in this case, down hill certainly doesn't mean an increase in speed. Quite the opposite. Attention is given to every step as the ground is likely to slide away underneath you.

20 minutes after leaving Mickledore we arrive at the base of Foxes Tarn Gully only to find yesterday's heavy rain had turned the place into a waterfall. Before we reached this spot we could hear the water and if I can be honest after the event, I knew before we got this far that we wouldn't be going that way today. The three of us stood for a while discussing the route in detail and how the water would impact on an already difficult ascent. With a degree of disappointment we agreed it simply wasn't worth someone getting hurt or even stuck halfway up.
The best thing I can say here is "never be afraid to turn back".

We all look at each other and say "Lord's Rake it is"
Once Paul had taken a final look at Foxes Tarn Gully we turn around and begin the ascent back up to Mickledore.
Half an hour later we were back at Mickledore and soon making our way down the VERY tricky path to get us to the start of Lord's Rake. All of us found the need to use our fifth point of contact while going down here. Once or twice the language was not suitable for a respectable website like this one, but I'm sure you can guess what I mean.

The weather has taken a turn for the better now, with the cloud lifting and it brightening up quite a bit. It was here that waterproofs were removed and we prepared for the walk up Lord's Rake.
Adding scale.

Looking back across to Mickledore Ridge; now free from cloud.



Trying to keep a reasonable distance between us Paul went first, then Rod and then myself in third place.

Only a fool would try to rush their way up here, I was thinking to myself as we make slow but careful progress up Lord's Rake. Progress that went hand in hand with the high levels of concentration each of us must have been putting in to the event. Despite this conversation continued to flow with ease.

We chose the right hand side of the rake for our ascent so we could hold onto the slippery rocks to keep us firmly in place each time we felt the ground sliding away beneath our feet. Every now and again some of the larger stones would roll down behind us as we disrupted what was quite unstable to begin with. And, on one occasion I was forced to shout "that wasn't me" as a particularly big slide happened across to my left.


The view back down Lord's Rake.

Nearing the top now and we switch from the right hand side of the rake to the left hand side. You can see the distance is nothing to write home about but it still takes a great deal of care.

Looking back across the top of Lord's Rake to Scafell Pike.

Lord's Rake was behind us but we still had a short section of rough ground to complete before reaching the 'normal' route onto Scafell.

After a thoroughly enjoyable walk up Lord's Rake we're now standing on the side of Scafell with a clear view down to Wast Water, Burnmoor Tarn and the Cumbrian coast in the distance.

Heading to Scafell summit. In contrast to it's slightly higher neighbour, Scafell summit area is a great place with a different feel about it altogether. It doesn't happen very often but there were more people up here than there were on Scafell Pike (during our visits).

Scafell summit. The other visitors were just out of shot.

Scafell Pike, Ill Crag, Esk Pike and Bow Fell taken from the edge of the ridge on Long Green.

The next 2000ft summit Paul was aiming for was Cam Spout Crag; the rocky bit down there with the wall on it. Today I took the easy option and stayed up on the ridge as a spectator.

I look across to Esk Pike, Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags while Paul and Rod make their way down to Cam Spout Crag. You can just make them out bottom right of the picture.

A close up of Cam Spout Crag.

Here's a view looking back up Long Green to Scafell. I took this as I sat waiting for the rest of the group to finish their adventures on Cam Spout Crag.

Slight Side summit.

Route planning on the hoof -
"Which way do you fancy going back"
"Why not take a hard line route to the blue dot - then across to the yellow dot - then to the red dot. That should do the trick."
"OK that'll do" and off we went.

Long Gill.

Looking back up to Scafell and Slight Side.

You wouldn't think it was the same day we'd set off walking on this morning. In front of us are Haycock, Yewbarrow, Pillar and Kirk Fell.

When Harry Griffin did this walk back in 1977 he tells us how he trotted back from Slight Side to Brackenclose. Well, I can assure you there was no trotting done by any of us today. It was a leisurely walk back in surprisingly hot sunshine and smiles all round for the way the walk had panned out.

Lingmell, Scafell Pike and Scafell seen from the bridge over Lingmell Gill.

A close up of Great Gable.

All that remained now was for us to cross Lingmell Beck (not Lingmell Gill, that's the one we crossed earlier) and walk the short distance back to Wasdale Head. Ahead of us Kirk Fell and Great Gable rise out of the valley with both of them looking exceptionally clear as afternoon turned into evening. A fitting end to a great walk for Rod and myself and of more significance, a fitting end to the whole project for Paul.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks