Sunday, 28 October 2018

Wainwright's - Sca Fell and Slight Side From Wasdale Head


Sca Fell, the second highest mountain in the Lake District is often overlooked by the masses in order to tick off its near namesake Scafell Pike.  The latter may be the highest mountain in the Lakes, but for me it is Sca Fell, or perhaps more accurately its North Face that has always held my interest.  As I write my mind wanders to those long walk in’s and the occasional camp, all of which were followed by summer and winter climbs on classics routes such as Moss Ghyll, Moss Ghyll Grooves and Botterill’s Slabs.  Wonderful memories shared with some great pals and all still clearly etched in my mind despite the passage of time.

I can also remember the descent down Broad Stand too, as it was invariably wet and greasy and often felt a great deal more dangerous than the actual graded climbs we had just done.  I mention the latter as the Wasdale Team had just rescued two people from there just before we arrived at the National Trust campsite.  Given the publicity this spot has received due to the injuries and indeed deaths that have occurred here it amazes me that none climbers still continue to attempt it.

In reminiscing over those climbs I did wonder if I had climbed Sca Fell before, however a look at the map suggested I had probably only been on the summit of Symonds Knott a few hundred metres to the north of the true summit.

A little further south is another Wainwright, namely Slight Side, so a plan was hatched to take in both.  

Looking up from the National Trust’s Wasdale Head campsite we could see a few of the higher tops were covered in cloud, but most were clear.  With a forecast suggested an improving day with sunny spells we set off a little later than normal to give the higher hills time to clear.


Wast Water from near Brackenclose, Wasdale Head. 

As a result it was just after 9.30am when the four of us (Moira, Graham and Sandra) set off along the old Wasdale to Eskdale corpse road.  This was followed to the far end of Fence Wood, where we left the main track and headed up the bridleway towards Burnmoor Tarn. 

It was very boggy underfoot and by the time we reached Maiden Castle, a Bronze Age burial mound, I was already bleating about having damp feet - I really must get some new boots!

Rather than continue on the path to the tarn where it looked even boggier we headed diagonally up the fell towards Slight Side.  While working out way around the numerous boggy sections we lost the main path.  Rather than try to relocate the main path we crossed Hard Rigg Gill lower down and began following various sheep trod's which led in the general direction of Slight Side.

Hard Rigg Gill


Hard Rigg Gill below with the mountain of Illgill Head behind

On the final approach just below the summit crags we came across the remains of two Hurricane aircraft that had crashed here in 1941.  Sadly neither of the Polish pilots survived.  The nearby memorial to the airmen looks out over this lonely fell side and as the cloud came in it created a poignant if somewhat eerie reminder of the price paid by people who were not just from the UK, but also from other European countries as well.  Sadly this is just one of number of crash sites in the Lake District.

The memorial with Burnmoor Tarn below

The remains of the Hurricane Engine

     The memorial plaque to Polish pilots P/O Zygmund Hohne and Sgt Stanislaw Karubin who lost their lives here on the 12th August 1941.

I did a bit of research later and found out that Sgt Karubin had fought in Poland and after escaping the Germans he went on to fight in the battle for France. Later he fought in the Battle of Britain and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

Above us the cloud came and went over the summit, but the way up was clear.

The summit of Slight Side viewed from the memorial

In the clag we were unsure which of the two rocky lumps was the true summit Slight Side so climbed them both anyway.

The summit of Slight Side

Moving on towards the summit of Sca Fell the visibility was down to a few metres so it was just a case of making our way over rocky ground until we hit the highest point.

The summit of Sca Fell

Just after reaching the summit it started to rain. Just a shower we thought but by the time we had dropped under the cloud it was pouring down - so much for the good forecast.

79 Wainwrights left to go

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