Scafell Pike

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Scafell Pike
Scafell massif.jpg
Scafell Pike (centre) from Yewbarrow
Highest point
Elevation 978 m (3,209 ft) [1]
Prominence 912 m (2,992 ft)
Ranked 13th in British Isles
Parent peak Snowdon
Isolation 151.98 km (94.44 mi)  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Listing Marilyn, Hewitt, Hardy, Wainwright, County Top, Nuttall, Country high point
Coordinates 54°27′15.2″N3°12′41.5″W / 54.454222°N 3.211528°W / 54.454222; -3.211528 Coordinates: 54°27′15.2″N3°12′41.5″W / 54.454222°N 3.211528°W / 54.454222; -3.211528
Lake District National Park UK relief location map.png
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Scafell Pike
Location in the Lake District
Location relief map Borough of Copeland.svg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Scafell Pike
Location in Copeland Borough
England relief location map.jpg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Scafell Pike
#Location in England
Lake District National Park, Cumbria, England
Parent range Lake District, Southern Fells
OS grid NY215072
Topo map OS Landrangers 89, 90, Explorer OL6

Scafell Pike ( /ˈskɔːfɛlpk/ ) [2] is the highest and the most prominent mountain in England, at an elevation of 978 metres (3,209 ft) above sea level. [1] [3] It is located in the Lake District National Park, in Cumbria, and is part of the Southern Fells and the Scafell massif. [4]


Scafell Pike forms part of the inactive Scafells volcano. [5]

Etymology and name history

The name Scafell is believed by some to derive from the Old Norse skalli fjall, meaning either the fell with the shieling or the fell with the bald summit, and is first recorded in 1578 in the corrupted form Skallfield. [6] An alternative derivation is from the Old Norse "skagi", meaning a cape, headland, promontory or peninsula – so giving an etymology that aligns with Skaw in Shetland. [7] It originally referred to Scafell, which neighbours Scafell Pike. [8] What are now known as Scafell Pike, Ill Crag, and Broad Crag were collectively called either the Pikes (peaks) or the Pikes of Scawfell (see below regarding spelling); from many angles Scafell seems to be the highest peak, and the others were thus considered subsidiary to it. The name Scawfell Pikes was adopted "by common consent" according to Jonathan Otley, shortly before the publication of the 4th edition of his guidebook in 1830. [9] Up to this point, England's highest mountain (its status as such was not known until the early 1800s) did not have a name of its own; it was labelled Sca-Fell Higher Top by the Ordnance Survey in their initial work in Cumbria in the first decade of the 19th century. [10] The newly developed name reported by Otley first appeared on a published Ordnance Survey map in 1865.

Formerly the name was spelled Scawfell, which better reflects local pronunciation. [8] [11] [12] [note 1] This spelling has declined due to the Ordnance Survey's use of Scafell on their 1865 map and thereafter.


Scafell Pike is one of a horseshoe of high fells, open to the south, surrounding the head of Eskdale, Cumbria. It stands on the western side of the cirque, with Scafell to the south and Great End to the north. This ridge forms the watershed between Eskdale and Wasdale, which lies to the west. [13]

The narrowest definition of Scafell Pike begins at the col of Mickledore 831.6 m (2728 ft) in the south, takes in the wide, stony summit area and ends at the next depression, Broad Crag Col, c. 877.6 m (2,879 ft). A more inclusive view takes in two further tops: Broad Crag, 935.3 m (3,069 ft) and Ill Crag, 930.9 m (3,054 ft), the two being separated by Ill Crag Col, 882.3m. This is the position taken by most guidebooks. [14] [13] North of Ill Crag is the more definite depression of Calf Cove at 853.4 m (2,800 ft), before the ridge climbs again to Great End 909.5m.

Scafell Pike also has outliers on either side of the ridge. Lingmell 807 m (2648 ft), to the north west, is invariably regarded as a separate fell, [14] [13] while Pen, 760 m (2,500 ft), a shapely summit above the Esk, is normally taken as a satellite of the Pike. Middleboot Knotts is a further top lying on the Wasdale slopes of Broad Crag, which is listed as a Nuttall.

The rough summit plateau is fringed by crags on all sides with Pikes Crag and Dropping Crag above Wasdale and Rough Crag to the east. Below Rough Crag and Pen is a further tier, named Dow Crag and Central Pillar on Ordnance Survey maps, although known as Esk Buttress among climbers. [15]

Broad Crag Col is the source of Little Narrowcove Beck in the east and of Piers Gill in the west. The latter works its way around Lingmell to Wast Water through a spectacular ravine, one of the most impressive in the Lake District. It is treacherous in winter, as when it freezes over it creates an icy patch, with lethal exposure should you slip. Broad Crag is a small top with its principal face on the west and the smaller Green Crag looking down on Little Narrowcove. From Broad Crag, the ridge turns briefly east across Ill Crag Col and onto the shapely pyramidal summit of Ill Crag. Ill Crag and its associated crags overlook Eskdale. [13]

Scafell Pike has a claim to the highest standing water body in England in Broad Crag Tarn, which (confusingly) is on Scafell Pike proper, rather than on Broad Crag. It lies at about 820 metres (2,690 ft), a quarter of a mile (400 m) south of the summit. Foxes Tarn on Scafell is of comparable height. [16]

Mountain classification

Scafell Pike is a Marilyn summit which automatically makes it a HuMP and a TuMP. Scafell Pike is topologically unusual because the Marilyn qualification contour line (150 metres below the summit) passes around Scafell which is itself a HuMP.[ citation needed ]

Scafell Pike's Maquaco Line also encloses three other TuMP summits, Broad Crag, Ill Crag and Great End.


The summit of Scafell Pike, seen from neighbouring Broad Crag Scafell Pike from Broad Crag.jpg
The summit of Scafell Pike, seen from neighbouring Broad Crag

The summit was donated to the National Trust in 1919 by Lord Leconfield "in perpetual memory of the men of the Lake District who fell for God and King, for freedom peace and right in the Great War 1914–1918 ...". [17] [18] There is a better-known war memorial on Great Gable, commemorating the members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club. [19] [20]

The actual height of Scafell Pike is a matter of definition or guesswork. The highest point is buried beneath a massive summit cairn over 3 metres high and it is not known how high the fabric of the mountain rises under the cairn. Traditionally the height was given as a very memorable 3210 feet or 978.4 metres. [13] The metric height of 978 metres converts to 3209 feet.

Scafell Pike is one of three British peaks climbed as part of the National Three Peaks Challenge, and is the highest ground for over 90 miles (145 km).

Listed summits of Scafell Pike
NameGrid refHeightStatus
Ill Crag NY223073 930.9 m (3,054 ft)Hewitt, Nuttall
Broad Crag NY218075 935 m (3,069 ft)Hewitt, Nuttall
Middleboot Knotts NY213080 703 m (2,306 ft)Nuttall


Ordovician and volcanic activity

Scafell Pike consists of igneous rock, including breccia, andesite and rhyolite, as well as geothermal tufa, [21] dating from the Ordovician; it is geologically part of the Borrowdale Volcanics and along with the other peaks of the Scafells, forms part of an extinct volcano which was active around 400-450 million years ago. [5]

Pleistocene glacial activity

The rugged summit of Scafell Pike was shaped by glacial erosion of the Last Glacial Maximum (~20,000 YA), during which the Lake District was overlain by ice sheets with thicknesses of several kilometers. [22]

Contemporary weathering

The summit plateau of Scafell Pike, and that of other neighbouring peaks, is covered with shattered rock debris which provides the highest-altitude example of a summit boulder field in England. [23] The boulder field is thought to have been caused in part by weathering, such as frost action. Additional factors are also considered to be important; however, opinion varies as to what these may be. James Clifton Ward suggested that weathering with earthquakes as a secondary agent could be responsible, while John Edward Marr and Reginald Aldworth Daly believed that earthquakes were unnecessary and suggested that frost action with other unspecified agents was more likely. [24] To the north of the summit are a number of high altitude gills which flow into Lingmell Beck. These are good examples in Cumbria for this type of gill and are also biologically important due to their species richness. [23]


Scafell Pike is a popular destination for walkers. There is open access to Scafell and the surrounding fells, with many walking and rock climbing routes. Paths connect the summit with Lingmell Col to the northwest, Mickledore to the southwest, and Esk Hause to the northeast, and these in turn connect with numerous other paths, giving access to walkers from many directions including Wasdale Head to the west, Seathwaite to the north, Langdale to the east, and Eskdale to the southwest. The shortest route is from Wasdale Head, about 80 metres above sea level, where there is a climbers' hotel, the Wasdale Head Inn, made popular in the Victorian period by Owen Glynne Jones and others. According to the National Trust, as of 2014 there were over 100,000 people per year climbing Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head, [25] many as part of the National Three Peaks Challenge.

Survey point

Scafell Pike was used in 1826 as a station in the Principal Triangulation of Britain by the Ordnance Survey when they fixed the relative positions of Britain and Ireland. Angles between Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland and Scafell Pike were taken from Snowdon in Wales as were angles between Snowdon and Scafell Pike from Slieve Donard. Given the need for clear weather to achieve these very long-range observations (111 miles to Slieve Donard), the Ordnance surveyors spent much of the summer camped on the respective mountain tops. Scafell Pike was not used as a station in the earlier part of the Principal Triangulation of Britain, even though Sca-Fell formed one corner of a Principal Triangle. [note 2] The Ordnance Survey's high precision theodolite was not taken to the summit until 1841. [10] [26] [27]

Views from the summit


Annotated Scafel Pike Panorama.jpg
A panorama from the summit of Scafell Pike, August 2007

(Scroll left or right)


Scafell pike summit panorama.jpg
Panorama of the arc from Helvellyn to Scafell in the snow of 2010. The south summit of Scafell Pike is in the foreground.

List of summits visible

As the highest ground in England, Scafell Pike has a very extensive view, ranging from the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland to Snowdonia in Wales. On a clear day, the following prominent mountain tops (Marilyns) can be seen the summit. [28]

See also


  1. These references on spelling of "Scafell"/"Scawfell" are examples of the more common usage during the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, as can readily be found in the many contemporary guidebooks and local and national newspapers. A useful contrast is the difference in Baddely's guide (1st edn. 1888 and many later editions) between the guide text ("Scafell", following the maps used in this common guide-book) and all the adverts therein of hotels, tours and views, which were placed by local businesses ("Scawfell").
  2. Absence of angles taken from one corner of some triangles was attributed to difficulties of access in the preface of the 1811 report by the Ordnance Survey.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scafell</span> Mountain in the English Lake District, Cumbria, England

Scafell is a mountain in the English Lake District, part of the Southern Fells. Its height of 964 metres makes it the second-highest mountain in England after its neighbour Scafell Pike, from which it is separated by Mickledore col.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mickledore</span>

Mickledore is a narrow ridge, 840 metres (2755 ft) high, connecting the mountains of Scafell and Scafell Pike in the English Lake District. It is also a pass between the valleys of Wasdale and Eskdale.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wast Water</span> A body of water in Cumbria, England

Wast Water or Wastwater is a lake located in Wasdale, a valley in the western part of the Lake District National Park, England. The lake is almost 3 miles (4.8 km) long and more than one-third mile (500 m) wide. It is a glacial lake, formed in a glacially 'over-deepened' valley. It is the deepest lake in England at 258 feet (79 m). The surface of the lake is about 200 feet (60 m) above sea level, while its bottom is over 50 feet (15 m) below sea level. It is owned by the National Trust.

The National Three Peaks Challenge is an event in which participants attempt to climb the highest mountains of England, Scotland and Wales within 24 hours. It is frequently used to raise money for charitable organisations. Walkers climb each peak in turn, and are driven from the foot of one mountain to the next. The three peaks are:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pillar (Lake District)</span> Mountain in the English Lake District, Cumbria, England

Pillar is a mountain in the western part of the English Lake District. Situated between the valleys of Ennerdale to the north and Wasdale to the south, it is the highest point of the Pillar group. At 892 metres (2,927 feet) it is the eighth-highest mountain in the Lake District. The fell takes its name from Pillar Rock, a prominent feature on the Ennerdale side, regarded as the birthplace of rock climbing in the district.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Great Gable</span> Mountain in the United Kingdom

Great Gable is a mountain in the Lake District, United Kingdom. It is named after its appearance as a pyramid from Wasdale, though it is dome-shaped from most other directions. It is one of the most popular of the Lakeland fells, and there are many different routes to the summit. Great Gable is linked by the high pass of Windy Gap to its smaller sister hill, Green Gable, and by the lower pass of Beck Head to its western neighbour, Kirk Fell.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bowfell</span> Mountain in the English Lake District, Cumbria, England

Bowfell is a pyramid-shaped mountain lying at the heart of the English Lake District, in the Southern Fells area. It is the sixth-highest mountain in the Lake District and one of the most popular of the Lake District fells for walkers. It is listed in Alfred Wainwright's 'best half dozen' Lake District fells.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Great End</span> Mountain in the Lake District, England

Great End is the most northerly mountain in the Scafell chain, in the English Lake District. From the south it is simply a lump continuing this chain. From the north, however, it appears as an immense mountain, with an imposing north face rising above Sprinkling Tarn (lake). This is a popular location for wild camping, and the north face attracts many climbers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crinkle Crags</span> Mountain in the English Lake District, Cumbria, England

Crinkle Crags is a fell in the English Lake District in the county of Cumbria. It forms part of two major rings of mountains, surrounding the valleys of Great Langdale and Upper Eskdale. The name reflects the fell's physical appearance as its summit ridge is a series of five rises and depressions (crinkles) that are very distinctive from the valley floor. In Old English, cringol means twisted or wrinkled.

Wasdale is a valley and civil parish in the western part of the Lake District National Park in Cumbria, England. The River Irt flows through the valley to its estuary at Ravenglass. A large part of the main valley floor is occupied by Wastwater, the deepest lake in England. The population of Wasdale was only minimal and, from the 2011 Census is included in the parish of Gosforth.

High Raise (Langdale) Mountain in the English Lake District, Cumbria, England

High Raise is a fell in the Central Fells of the English Lake District, not to be confused with another High Raise situated in the Far Eastern Fells. High Raise is one of the most spectacular mountains in the district; with a height of 762 metres (2,500 ft) it is the highest point in the central fells of Lakeland.

Esk Pike Fell in the Lake District, Cumbria, England

Esk Pike is a fell in the English Lake District, one of the cirque of hills forming the head of Eskdale.


Buckbarrow is a small fell in the English Lake District overlooking the western end of Wastwater. It is featured in Alfred Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells and is given a height of 1,410 ft approximately; however, the Ordnance Survey and other guidebooks now give an altitude of 423 m (1,388 ft). The fell’s name means ‘The hill of the buck or goat’. It is derived either from the Old English word bucc meaning buck or the Old Norse word bokki meaning a male goat.

Kirk Fell

Kirk Fell is a fell in the Western part of the English Lake District. It is situated between Great Gable and Pillar on the long ring of fells surrounding the valley of Ennerdale, and also stands over Wasdale to the south. However, it is separated from its two higher neighbours by the low passes of Black Sail and Beck Head, giving it a high relative height and making it a Marilyn, the thirteenth highest in the Lake District.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ill Crag</span> Fell in the Lake District, Cumbria, England

Ill Crag is a fell in the English Lake District. At 935 metres (3,068 ft), it is the fourth-highest peak in England, after Scafell Pike, Sca Fell, and Helvellyn. Ill Crag overlooks Eskdale and has splendid views across to Bowfell and Crinkle Crags.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Esk Hause</span>

Esk Hause is a mountain pass in the English Lake District, England. It is where the paths from Eskdale, Borrowdale, Langdale and Wasdale all meet. Esk Hause is a first step to reaching higher summits, such as Scafell Pike, Great End, Esk Pike and Allen Crags, which are all nearby. This can be a confusing place for walkers, especially in mist. This is because two paths cross at right angles on a tilted grass plateau, but not at the summit of the plateau. The popular Great Langdale-Wasdale path crosses at an elevation of 727 m (2,386 ft) at the wall shelter; this is the lower of the two passes known as Esk Hause, but is, in fact, not the true pass, which is 30 m (100 ft) higher and 270 m (300 yd) distant, a less-used pass between Eskdale and Borrowdale that occupies the depression between Great End and Esk Pike. The 'true' Esk Hause is the highest pass in the Lake District, but Sticks Pass is commonly named as Lakeland's highest pass, most probably because fellwalkers equate "Esk Hause" with the lower of the two passes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lingmell</span> Mountain in the English Lake District, Cumbria, England

Lingmell is a fell in the English Lake District, standing above the village of Wasdale Head. It is an outlier on the north-west flank of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain.

Yewbarrow Mountain in the English Lake District, Cumbria, England

Yewbarrow is a fell, in the English Lake District, which lies immediately north of the head of Wast Water. It is 628 metres high and in shape resembles the upturned hull of a boat or a barrow. Yewbarrow is on the left in the classic view of Great Gable and Wast Water.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Slight Side</span> Mountain in the English Lake District, Cumbria, England

Slight Side is a fell in the English Lake District it stands 25 kilometres east southeast of the town of Whitehaven and reaches a height of 762 m (2,499 ft). Slight Side lies at the south western edge of the Scafell Massif, a four-kilometre-long crescent of high ground which includes the highest ground in England. The fells names derives from the Old Norse language and means "The mountain shieling with the level pastures", it is a combination of the Norse words "sletta" and "saetr". With a shieling meaning a shepherds hut or a mountain pasture used in the summer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southern Fells</span>

The Southern Fells are a group of hills in the English Lake District. Including Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England, they occupy a broad area to the south of Great Langdale, Borrowdale and Wasdale. High and rocky towards the centre of the Lake District, the Southern Fells progressively take on a moorland character toward the south-west. In the south-east are the well-known Furness Fells, their heavily quarried flanks rising above Coniston Water.


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