Scafell Pike Ascent via Mickledore

The view towards Styhead: Lingmell Beck valley.
The view towards Styhead: Lingmell Beck valley.

Sadly its been a while since I have been hiking in the Lake District. Last week my absence from the Lakes ended when some friends, who were staying near Lake Windermere on holiday, invited me to join them in an ascent of Scafell Pike. With the weather forecast to be sunny for most of the week there were sure to be excellent views from the summit to make the hard slog up worthwhile.

The Approach to Scafell Pike

Our route started out from the car park at Wasdale Head. We intended to take the mountain scramble route via Mickledore, which winds its way up between the summits of Scafell and Scafell Pike. There is a short lead-in on flat ground, but almost immediately the footpath starts to climb upwards. The initial climb is quite gentle as the path winds around the bottom of Lingmell towards Lingmell Gill. At a height of 300m the path crosses over Lingmell Gill, before heading upwards towards the summit of Scafell Pike.

As we were heading up there were a number of people on the three peaks challenge heading back down. It was not long before we were more or less on our own, with only a handful of other walkers to be seen.

Scafell Pike Mountain Ascent

After crossing over Lingmell Gill the path climbs quite steeply upwards, with a vertical height gain of 250m over horizontal distance of about 1km. It is not steepest path in the Lakes, but…

The path is quite steep for quite a long way.

The ascent of Scafell Pike via this route is quite quick, taking only about 2 hours or so. Many mountains have a much longer approach and consequently take far longer to hike up.

Exhausted after our rapid climb we were rewarded with a great view. Looking back we could see Wast Water, Sellafield and way out into the Irish sea.

View from the bottom of the Mickledore Scramble.
View from the bottom of the Mickledore Scramble.

Mikeldore Scramble

At a height of 550m the path forks, left for the walkers and right for the those wanting to scramble. We opted to scramble up via Mickledore. Prior to the scramble proper there is a 50m ascent up some scree, which gets steeper as you get higher. The scramble leads through a sheltered gulley, it has plenty of hand holds and is not overly steep. There is one part near the beginning where you need to lift your leg up quite high, but this can be avoided by keeping to the right. The Mickledore scramble is ideal for those who have not scrambled before or who are scared of heights. The buttress of Lord’s Rake on Scafell provides a stunning back drop and makes you feel that you are really up in the mountains.

We thoroughly enjoyed our scramble, and feeling pleased with ourselves had a reward of oatcakes laced with pepper. Delicious.

To the Summit of England

Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England, with a height of 978 meters. From the top of the Mickledore scramble there is not much more height to be gained before reaching the summit. The ground around the summit is very rocky and not easy to walk on. Stout walking boots are required! At the summit there is trig point and large pile of stones, which is a memorial to the men of the Lake District who fell during World War One.

Scafell Pike Summit: there are lots of rocks!
Scafell Pike Summit: there are lots of rocks!

True to the forecast, the weather stayed dry and there were only a few high-up clouds. The views were excellent in all directions across the Lake District and beyond. The summits of Bowfell, the Langdales, Helvellyn and Blencatha could clearly been. So too could the summit of Great Gable, which is normally surrounded in clouds whenever I walk up it. It was also possible to see across the Solway Firth to the hills in Scotland.

Descent via Styhead

We left the summit and headed towards Ill Crag. At the col between Scafell Pike and Ill Crag we took a left turn down a relatively gentle scree slope to join up with the corridor route. The path appeared to come to a dead end at a rock face. Helpfully someone had drawn an arrow indicating that a short scramble leads you upwards and back onto the path.

Trekking towards Styhead head did become a little boring, we must confess. A game of I-Spy did not do much to improve matters. After “S” for Sheep and “T” for Tarn no more letters were offered. We plodded on down in silence, hoping that we would have time for a pint in the Wasdale Head Inn.

Wast Water and the Irish Sea beyond, as seen from Mickledore.
Wast Water and the Irish Sea beyond, as seen from Mickledore.

The path down from Styhead that runs parallel to Lingmell Beck was pleasant however. With the final 1km past Wasdale Head being nice and flat, helping our legs to wind down.

The route that we took was back to front in a way, as can be seen on the map below. Normally when hiking the route tends involve a long, time consuming climb up to the summit, with the promising rewards of great views and an enjoyable sandwich to keep you going. With the help of gravity the descent is usually fairly rapid.

Our steep route up Scafell Pike meant that we got to the summit fairly quickly. Apart from the small scree slope, our descent was not steep and relatively long, about 5km. So it took us longer to go down that to get up! In total the walk took about 5 hours.

If you’re thinking of taking a day hike in the Lake District you might be interested to know about the gear that I took up Scafell Pike on this this walk.

More photos from this Lake District hike can be found on our Scafell Pike album on Flickr.


7 thoughts on “Scafell Pike Ascent via Mickledore

  1. I was considering doing Mickledore as part of a route over Scafell Pike but ended up coming at it from the corridor route. Don’t like the look of the boulders in your post! Good info.


  2. We did Mickledore as a part of the Three Peaks Challenge, in the pitch black, in howling wind, thick fog. Mickledore to me then seemed really steep, with just a load of head torches snaking into the gulley. Having read this, I think I need to go back in the daytime.


  3. I scrambled up Mickledore as part of the Three Peaks also – we had practically run Nevis the night before, and I had all sorts of torn muscles to prove it…
    I have no real head for heights either and the description of the scramble worried me – looking at it from close below did the same – but once in the gully and moving up I realised it was absolutely fine. We came down the same route for speed and even scrambling back down was ok – it was my favourite part of Scafell in the end. It’s not scary when you’re on it – though of course I did do it in bright sunshine, and I imagine that Paul’s experience would have been very different!


  4. A lot of people shy away from using Mickledore when on the 3 Peaks challenge, preferring to walk round to the left of Scafell Pike. I did the 3 Peaks last year and we used Mickledore on the way up quite happily, I thought it was actually felt safer to be on than Jacks Rake over on Pavey Ark in the Langdale Valley. Probably best to stay off if its very wet with poor visibility and you dont have much mountain experience.

    Mind you I also wouldn’t recommend coming down Mickledore if you’re in a massive hurry, you may well have some people scrambling up and even though there’s room it might be wise to stay out of the way and descend via the walkers route – I’ve not done your route via Styhead…. I might give that a go sometime this year when I am back up there.


  5. I have recently climbed Ben Nevis and my next challenge is Scafell Pike. Which one is the hardest climb and how long does it take to climb? Any info would be appreciated.


    1. Thanks for your comment Leroy. Ben Nevis is a good deal higher than Scafell Pike and although the walk up the Ben Nevis tourist trail is not technically demanding, it is a long slog, taking approximately 9 hours.

      The quickest way up and back down Scafell Pike is via Lingmell Gill. The route is short and steep, taking about 4 hours if you are fit and a regular walker. If you go via Mickledore, as mentioned above, there is a relatively easy scramble which I would recommend.


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