The Scafell massif from Middle Fell. Scafell is on the right. From this angle Scafell appears higher than Scafell Pike.
|Elevation||964 m (3,163 ft)|
|Prominence||133 m (436 ft)|
|Parent peak||Scafell Pike|
|Listing||Hewitt, Wainwright, Nuttall|
|Range||Lake District, Southern Fells|
|Topo map||OS Landrangers 89, 90, Explorer OL6|
|Listed summits of Sca Fell|
|Symond's Knott||NY207067||959 m (3,146 ft)||Nuttall|
Scafell (// or //; also spelled Sca Fell, previously Scawfell) is a mountain in the English Lake District, part of the Southern Fells. Its height of 964 metres (3,162 ft) makes it the second-highest mountain in England after Scafell Pike, from which it is separated by the col of Mickledore.
Until about 1920, the phonetic spelling "Scawfell" was the most common version. This was used by, among others William Wordsworth who, in addition to poetry, wrote a popular guide book to the Lake District, Harriet Martineau, Jonathan Otley (who was one of the first to measure the height of most of the Lakeland fells), John Dalton (who also estimated the elevation of many of the fells), the surveyor of the Wasdale Head Enclosure map of 30 January 1808  and the all hotel keepers and tour operators who lived or operated in the area, as typified by the many adverts in M. J. B. Baddeley's guide of 1895 (versus the guide text which was consistent with the maps therein). This split between local usage and maps printed by national publishers is further illustrated by the Wasdale Hall Estate Plan and Sales Particulars, dated 30th Sept 1920. This uses the spelling "Scawfell" throughout except in the map attached which was reproduced with permission of the Ordnance Survey. The first edition of the Rock and Fell Club Guide was titled "Climbs on the Scawfell Group". The phonetic "Scawfell" was still noticeably in use in the 1950s.
The change to the shorter spelling appears to have originated in the Donald Map of 1774, a document with a noticeable number of placename errors. This was then perpetuated by the Ordnance Survey from 1867. The Donald map is the first to name many mountains in the Lake District - earlier maps concentrated on showing passes through the mountains. Until 1867 the two spellings are roughly equally split on maps, the shorter form being more common with London publishers. General usage at the time was predominantly "Scawfell". The only notable guide book that used "Scafell" prior to 1867 is Ford. The Ordnance Survey produced detailed procedures on capturing correct placenames in 1825, largely as a result of their survey work transferring to Ireland between 1824 and 1838. However, when they restarted their work in England, given the status of Sca Fell as an essential surveying station (taking bearings of Slieve Donard and Snowdon, thereby helping to fix the relative positions of Ireland and England), the familiarity with this mountain probably meant that the "Name Book" procedures were overlooked. Hence the correct enquiries were not made and the mistake of Donald was perpetuated.
Originally the name Scawfell/Scafell referred to the whole of the massif from Great End south to Slight Side; only more recently has the general term become applied solely to the part of the fell south of Mickledore. Wainwright's comments on this in book 4: "When men first named the mountains, the whole of the high mass south of Sty Head was known as Scaw Fell....". Once Scafell Pike (which has its own convoluted name history) had been identified as England's highest mountain, that fact and the greater interest in climbing and fell-walking necessitated the Scafell Range being broken down into a number of individually named elements. This process of renaming started after 1809 (when the Ordnance Survey was consistently referring to "Sca-Fell Higher Top" and "Sca-Fell Lower Top") but before the death of Jonathan Otley in 1856, as Otley commented on this change.
It was once believed that Scafell was the highest mountain in this part of the Lake District — it is much more prominent in views from many directions than its higher neighbour — with the three apparently inferior peaks to the north (those now known as Scafell Pike, Ill Crag and Broad Crag) being known collectively as the "Pikes of Scawfell". The heights of many of the fells were first measured by John Dalton (Scafell: 3,240 feet) as a result of his study of meteorology and Jonathan Otley, who published a height of 3,100 feet (944.8 m) for "Scawfell" on his map of 1818. The Ordnance Survey first gave a height of 3,166 feet in 1809, but this remained essentially unpublished until the maps of Cumberland were printed. Dorothy Wordsworth did discover shortly after her ascent of "The Pikes" (Scafell Pike) in 1818 that this peak was higher than Sca Fell - presumably from Otley's map and guide book.
Scafell stands between Wasdale in the west and upper Eskdale to the east. The highest part of the fell is a ridge running south from Mickledore as far as Slight Side, which is counted as a separate fell by most guidebooks. Despite regarding Slight Side as a separate entity, Wainwright included the wide upland area beyond it to the south west as a part of Scafell. More modern guides have partitioned the plateau off as a further independent top, Great How.
The opposing flanks of Scafell are entirely different in character. Smooth slopes, lacking vegetation at higher levels but also devoid of any real interest, run down toward the head of Wast Water. On the east and north all is rock, walls of crag looming impressively over Eskdale.
From the narrow ridge of Mickledore the northern face of Scafell rises precipitously, an unusually complete barrier to progress along a Lakeland ridge. At the top of the rise is Symonds Knott (3,146 ft), the northern top. The wall of crags — Scafell Crag to the west and the East Buttress above the Eskdale side of Mickledore — has two main weaknesses. Running laterally across Scafell Crag is Lord's Rake, a scree filled chute with several intermediate cols. It has two upper entrances onto the saddle separating Symonds Knott from the main summit. Formerly passable as a scramble, it suffered from a serious rock fall in 2002 — with subsequent further falls — and recent guidebooks do not consider it a viable route, although it is gradually becoming more stable. The second breach in the crags is Broad Stand, a series of sloping steps which drop down from Symonds Knott almost to Mickledore; however, these steepen immediately above Mickledore and cannot be negotiated safely except by rock-climbers. The main summit stands a little to the south of the saddle, all around being a sea of stones. An easy ridge then steps down southward over Long Green to Slight Side. On the east are Cam Spout Crag and the fine high waterfall after which it is named.
Beyond Slight Side is a rough upland with many craggy tops and a number of tarns, before the southward descent finally ends in Lower Eskdale. South West of Scafell, below the scarp of Great How, is Burnmoor Tarn, one of the largest in Lakeland. Around 40 ft (12 m) deep it holds trout, perch and pike. The tarn is prevented from following what would appear the natural line of drainage into Miterdale by moraines, and empties southward, reaching the Esk at Beckfoot. Near the southern shore stands Burnmoor Lodge, once a keeper's cottage and a dwelling two miles (3 km) from the nearest road.
Summit and view
The main summit bears a large cairn on a short rocky ridge. Northward is a saddle, marked by a large cross of stones and then the bouldery climb to Symonds Knott, the north top. This gives views straight down to Mickledore.
Scafell gives a very different view to that from its higher neighbour with Wastwater and the coastal plain given great prominence. There is a fine vista of the Western Fells, together with Bowfell and the Coniston Fells.
While now known to lack some of its neighbour's elevation, Scafell is still the more difficult peak to climb, especially from the precipitous northern and eastern sides. The traverse of the ridge between Scafell Pike and Scafell is especially difficult because steep cliffs prevent a direct walking route, entailing a considerable loss of height to get round the obstacle. The direct route up the crags, known as Broad Stand, is a dangerous and exposed scramble that has caused many accidents and injuries; it is usually treated as a rock climb, with appropriate protection.
The classic ascent via Lord's Rake path from Wastwater is now threatened by unstable rocks following a rock fall in 2001. Lord's Rake may be followed in its entirety, or near the top of the first col, a diversion may be made onto the West Wall Traverse, the exit of which lies closer to the summit. A pleasant but lengthy alternative begins from Boot in Eskdale, following the River Esk upstream, and scrambling up to the summit by way of Foxes Tarn. A gentler return can be made across moorland, by way of the Burnmoor Tarn. Also starting in Eskdale, the Terrace route can be followed from Wha House, first ascending Slight Side.
Scafell Crag, the massive north buttress of Scafell, is one of England's largest cliffs and has many famous rock climbs.
- Wainwright, A. (1960). The Southern Fells. London: Francis Lincoln. ISBN 0-7112-2230-4.
- Otley 1818 map
- from a study of more than 3,600 search results in the British Newspaper Archive, items searched: "Scawfell", "Scaw Fell", "Scafell", "Sca Fell"
- Cumbria Record Office, Whitehaven
- M.J.B Baddeley, BA, The English Lake District, 7th edn., publ. Dulau & Co. 1895
- C F Holland, Climbs on the Scawfell Group, publ. Fell and Rock Climbing Club of the English Lake District, 1st edition, ?1921
- British Newspaper Archive
- Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle
- OS 6" to the mile, sheet 174, surveyed 1860-62, published 1867
- Rev. William Ford BA, A Description of the Scenery in the Lake District intended as a Guide to Strangers 3rd edn. 1843
- Lieutenant-Colonel William Mudge, RA FRS and Captain Thomas Colby, RE An Account of the Trigonometrical Survey Carried on by Order of the Master-General of His Majesty's Ordnance in the Years 1800,1801, 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, 1807, 1808 and 1809. publ.1811
- Thomas Fletcher Smith Jonathan Otley, Man of Lakeland, publ. Bookcase 2007
- letter to the editor, Carlisle Journal, 25th Nov 1853
- Richards, Mark: Mid-Western Fells: Collins (2004): ISBN 0-00-711368-4
- Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team. Accessed 29 September 2007
- Blair, Don: Exploring Lakeland Tarns: Lakeland Manor Press (2003): ISBN 0-9543904-1-5
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