A record of my cycling trips in Britain and abroad


Climbing Scafell Pike

Day 5
Cycling distance: 32 km / 20 mi
Walking distance: 18 km / 11 mi

day5cycle.pngWe arrived at the campsite in Kendal late at night, having resolved to go into town in the morning to repair the bikes and stock up on supplies. The campsite was a ‘Caravan Club approved’ site: rather twee (and expensive!), but it did have washing machines, which we could use in the morning while we went into town. Once we’d put up our tents, we turned in, as it was already rather late. Sleep, however, eluded me for a while: the noise of a family squabble, a dictator-in-miniature lording it over his children, from the caravan on the next pitch kept me awake for some time.

We woke up late and had a leisurely breakfast: we were in no rush to go anywhere before the shops opened. Once breakfasted and packed, we cycled the half-mile or so back down into town. The first bike shop we came across looked like a decent, reputable place, and they must have thought Christmas had come early: new tyres and tubes for Polly’s bike, and new tyres, tubes, brakes and cables for Simon’s. This would take them until lunchtime to repair, so we spent the rest of the morning wandering around Kendal and sticking up on supplies, food, cooking gas and the like. After coffee and sandwiches we went back to collect the bikes: hopefully that’s the end of any punctures!

dscf2355.jpgWe headed back out to the campsite, picked up our tents and washing, and continued on along the road to Windermere. Polly and Simon were keen to get there as soon as possible to make up for lost time, so elected to take the A road all the way; I followed a more scenic route, with plans to join them again at Langdale before climbing Scafell. Both routes, however, involved taking the main road from Windemere towards Ambleside; although busy, the traffic was fairly slow, and this road had a nice, long descent into Windermere itself, followed by a rambling route just above the shore of the lake. A little before Ambleside, I turned off the road and followed a path through the trees and along through Elterwater. Soon, the trees gave way to open fields as the road wound its way along the valley, with the headwall growing ever closer. I stopped at the last campsite on the left, a nice site tucked away in a little copse, and as I entered I saw Simon and Polly just finishing off a snack, having arrived half an hour or so before me. There was just enough daylight left to attempt the climb, but I was apprehensive about leaving it any longer; I tucked my bags under the tent flysheet in case of rain, and we immediately set off to climb Scafell Pike, mountain number two.

day5walk.pngAlthough the lowest of the three mountains, the walk up Scafell - at 11 miles - is the longest of the trip. We climbed up from the east side, with Langdale behind us stretching down to Elterwater. It was a blustery afternoon, with strong gusts and rain on the way up. However, we were lucky and the clouds cleared as we reached the peak, giving us fantastic views across the Lake District, with the Mull of Galloway visible across the sea, and Scottish mountains - our route - to the north. dscf2359.jpgWe spent some time at the summit taking in the view, and contemplating our journey so far, and the road ahead. I really like the feeling of climbing a summit; it does feel like you are ‘on the roof of the world’, if that isn’t too cliched; I’d love to experience what it’s like on top of a peak in the Himalayas or the Andes. However, for today Scafell was enough, especially as it brought back memories from my childhood: I spent many happy holidays on and around the railway that starts from Ravenglass and runs up the valley towards Hardknott Pass, and I also remember a visit to Sellafield, whose gleaming white domes we could see shining in a patch of sunlight.

dscf2360.jpgAfter a quick snack, we turned our way downhill, following more or less the same route as on the way up. I was surprised by how few people we saw: there were only perhaps half a dozen in total, on the way up and down, and noone else on the summit when we were there. This was a strong contrast to Snowdon, which was busy like a motorway, despite the inclement weather and the early start! We did come across a flock of sheep being herded up the hill as we were on our way down. I find it incredible how responsive sheep dogs are; if I had a dog I’d want one like that! We arrived back at the campsite just as dusk was starting to fall, having taken longer than we’d expected for the walk. Then it was showers and get changed, and off to the nearby pub for a well-earned meal!