The Final Drive

It was time to leave the Dales and head to the Lake District to face Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak. We were hoping the route would take us the same as we’d taken a few days before to get to the Dales. I really wanted to get the drone up in the air again to chase the van! We were wrong. Big time. But for once, this negative turned into a massive positive. We’d soon realised that we weren’t travelling the same way and we (I really mean me as I wanted to go flying!) accepted that views were not gonna be as great. The route took us along Wrynose Pass, a very long road that took us towards the Lake District. After climbing up what felt like a mountain, I could see in the rearview mirror some of the most amazing landscapes I had not seen for some time. This route was so much better! You could see for miles and the horizon was littered with lakes and hills. It was time to fly! We pulled over and the drone went into the air to capture some of the best shots and video we’d seen this trip! We kept driving and the backdrops got better and better. At one point, I even found the remaining bricks of the Hardknott Roman Fort! Something that was not visible from the road and that we wouldn’t have seen if it were not for the drone. You could even see the little campers and their tents! We parked up a few times, but the batteries on the drone finally died. Two just isn’t enough…however, I think when you have amazing landscapes like this, no amount of batteries will be!

Wasdale National Trust Campsite

Today was the final climb of the trip. After finally arriving in the Lake District; we settled down in our new home for the next four nights. We chose the Wasdale National Trust Campsite for a few reasons. It’s always good to contribute to the running of the national parks, but most importantly, it was at the very base of Scafell Pike. It was £21.75 per night and that provided us with a powered hook-up. Although it could have been cheaper to get one without electric, the price difference isn’t that great. When we checked into the site, the weather was that misty sort of rain. Wet rain as I call it. With the weather being typically British, we’d be stuck inside the van watching films on the laptop. The ability to charge the batteries is a must (although I have waited around in camp toilets before using their plug sockets – not my proudest moment!). When we booked in, the member of staff had told us that there had been a record number of cancellations due to the weather. I guess that would be easy to do if you live near, but we only had the van for a short time so like it or lump it, we HAD to stay!

The site was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was on the edge of Wast Water. Wast Water stands at 3 miles long and at 79m deep, making it the deepest lake in the England! One of our favourite lakes we’ve visited is Lake Tahoe in California/Nevada which stands at 501m deep – and that’s not even their deepest lake! Down the road from the site was a pub and a small camping shop but the closest set of shops after that was a good 50 minutes’ drive away. It was a good job we bought everything beforehand, however, they did have a small camp shop on site which seemed to have all the essentials. On the notice board of the site-shop was the weather report. Looking at that was quite deflating. For the next few days, the weather would be dreadful. Non-stop drizzle with a sky full of clouds….apart from Thursday. It was still awful weather, but it said it should clear up in the early afternoon…..should. I guess that was the day the mountain had to be climbed!

The site was of a good size. Along the edge was the powered hookups and in the middle was the tent area. They even had wooden “pods” scattered around the site. They looked pretty cool and a lot more comfortable than a van or tent! There was only one toilet/shower block but it was always clean and tidy so that made up for it. The only real downside to the showers was a common one – the extreme lack of storage space. The shower cubical was very spacious and could have easily had a few shelves in but we ended up having to drape everything over the door and balance items on our shoes! It supplied BT WIFI at a cost which is handy as there is absolutely no phone reception there. None. You couldn’t even make emergency calls! This had been the same everywhere we had been so it was no surprise. It’s nice sometimes to stay off the grid for a bit. I couldn’t do it for longer than a few days though – I know Stef would go crazy if all she had was my company for a week!

Our little plot was great. We were surrounded by bushes and trees which made it very secluded. The only problem was the overhanging trees. The rain would run of the branches and drip onto the top of the van. It’s always fascinating how a little drop from a great height can create the loudest of sounds on a metal roof! Every now and again, it would stop raining so that was our chance to get out the table and chairs. Stef even managed to get the camp stove out and whip up some delicious dinners.

How about some MORE rain!

The first day was miserable as the weather report said it would be, so we decided to take a little trip. We didn’t know where but we headed for the coast – we pretty much chased the sun for a few hours. We ended up in Whitehaven, a small little town with a port. To be honest, we only stayed there to top up on food and to use their 4g mobile phone signals! It was an added bonus that it wasn’t raining there so the hour’s drive was totally worth it!

When we finally returned to Wasdale, the sky was clearing up and it seemed the perfect opportunity to head to Ritson’s Bar for some much-needed alcohol! There was an off-road trail that led from the site to the bar. It took us to the bed of a dried-up stream or what also could be for the mountain water runoff. It was pretty dry at the time considering the rain we’d been having. There were a few times though where we did have to hop over stepping stones to cross smaller streams. It was easy on the way to the pub in the daytime, but I could only imagine how hard it would be in the dark whilst intoxicated! When at the bar, we sipped our drinks whilst sitting by the river. It was so peaceful and had a great view. Probably the best drinking view of the trip!

On another journey out of the park, we decided just to drive and see where it took us. So, sat nav turned off, we hit the road and just started driving. We hit a little coastal town called Seascale and decided we were hungry. Stef kept an eye out for somewhere to eat but unfortunately, there were slim pickings. So onward we drove. Not knowing where we were going, I turned down what I thought was the main road. It was a long road and we travelled for about a mile. It soon became apparent, this wasn’t the main road. The road turned into a dead end and we were presented with Fellside Power station with police cars lined up outside! With nowhere to go, I swung the van around and headed back into town. Our next little village on the lineup was Gosforth just further inland. Stef had read that there was a lovely little fish and chip shop and with our stomachs now eating themselves, we just had to go. We found the village car park and drove around it looking for a spot. As we did, I could see a police car following our every move. As we got out we had a couple of armed police approach us. I’m very police friendly so always up for a chat. Apparently, we looked suspicious driving right up to the power station and doing a quick U-turn to get out of there. I don’t think to perform undercover reconnaissance in a big brightly coloured camper van with a giant cat painted on the side would be a smart idea, but we entertained them. Within a few minutes, more units had arrived – the locals must have loved it. I don’t know if they thought we were a threat or they all just wanted to have a look at our amazing camper, but after a while, we were free to leave. I guess it’s not every holiday you get interrogated by armed police! Once released, we headed to The Lion and Lamb, took a seat and were amazed by the extremely tasty fish and chips. I had the “Posh Fish and Chips”. My eyes were definitely a lot bigger than my stomach but I managed to force it down!

Stef had decided not to climb Scafell Pike. She’d done me proud doing Snowdon so I was cool with that. It was going to be a longer than normal trek anyway as I was taking the Mavic drone out with me. Although the weather wasn’t great, it wasn’t raining. The only thing to worry about then was the strong wind. The Mavic isn’t the biggest of drones and I didn’t want it getting blown away. If I had taken it up in the 40mph winds of Snowdon, it would have disappeared in seconds! Stef made me take loads of snacks for the walk as well and made me promise I’d eat them. I get too carried away to think about food but I took them anyway!

It was a 6-hour return trip and also the smallest of the three peaks of the UK standing at only 978m tall (Ben Nevis is 1,345m and Snowdon is 1,085m). I had downloaded the OS map and have the app Viewranger on my phone (available on iOS and Android). Stef and I have used it a number of times as it has a great community of hikers/walkers that have uploaded their own trails all over the UK. Viewranger is a great app to have as it overlays your GPS position on downloaded OS maps. It even draws the path you took so it’s easier on the return. It’s hard to get lost with an OS map loaded as they display footpaths, or so I thought. I had planned to take the Scafell Pike from Wasdale route to the summit. I’d be crazy not to as I could literally see the gated entrance from our plot! I’d read on a sign at the Inn that the Wasdale route splits into two midway and it suggested taking the left way as the right would be difficult/more interesting to climb. As I didn’t have my crampons with me, I guess I was taking the easy way!

Path To Scafell Pike Summit

The weather was mild and the clouds were covering the sky. I’d packed enough clothing to survive a snow storm. I knew within the first 30 minutes I’d be sweating and wanting to strip down but it’s better to be prepared as I knew that it was going to be VERY chilly at the summit!

The Climb to Scafell Pike Summit

Stef said that if I wasn’t back before 7 pm she was going to send out a search party. It gave me plenty of time – I could have done it crawling (well maybe not crawling but you get my point). So I said goodbye to Stef and on I went. I walked through the gate and up the path. After a few minutes, I checked the app…D’oh, I’d taken a wrong turn already! Luckily, it was a small detour which took 5 minutes to rectify. The detour led me through a field full of cows. As I walked past them, they stopped chewing on the grass and started staring at me. It was quite a scary experience with so many cows watching me. Were they going to jump me? You always read that cows kill more people a year than sharks…was I going to contribute to that statistic? Back on track and the path got steeper. A lot steeper. Although Scafell Pike was the shortest, it also felt like the steepest. It was extremely tough on the legs despite having the hiking poles out from the get-go. The path was made of large rocks and ran to the left of a small stream. It wasn’t the easiest of paths as it wasn’t a case of just walking up steps – they were uneven and damp, so as well as the constant strain on the legs, you really had to think about where you were putting your feet. Looking back on the route just taken, you could see Wast Water. It was becoming a great view, however, the cloud filled sky kept the scenery dark and grim.

After about 45 minutes, the path widened and turned into a large mass of rocks. It looked less like a path and more like a dumping ground for a quarry! The area was so large, I was concerned that I would turn right at the fork by accident and end up having to climb a cliff to the summit! I used the app and it stated that I was on the right path and would have to continue up the mountain for a good hour or so until I got to the fork. After a short while, there were rock cairns every 500m or so along the route like there was at Ben Nevis. I was hoping that they would lead the way to the summit and not some cruel joke that someone was playing with the tourists leading them astray!

It was still very foggy and at some points, like the rest of the mountains, visibility became quite poor. I was hoping that it would clear at the top as it was hard to see any more than 100m around you. I passed a few people on their way down. They looked worn out and upset. Asking if I was on the right path, they told me, yes but not to bother as you couldn’t see the end of your nose with the fog up there. Great. Still, I powered on – the weather report said it would clear and when have they ever been wrong??

I caught up with two young women also taking the same route. Like a lot of the people I saw climbing Ben Nevis, they were not prepared at all. They were wearing t-shirts, had no bags and a single bottle of water to share between themselves. It’s still the tallest peak in England – not a stroll to the closest supermarket! I would pass them for a bit, stop and take photos of the foggy landscapes and fluffy sheep and they would catch up. Each time, they looked colder and colder. I was well prepared and had a coat going spare which I offered up and said I would pick it up later. But they refused. Oh well, at least I was nice and toasty.

As I got to the fork, I met some people coming down from the right. They told me that they hadn’t been to the summit but had turned around as the path got ridiculously tough to navigate. When they had to climb some rocks, they had to give up. I’m all up for climbing, but without Stef by my side, I was bound to fall, break a leg and be trapped there for days! The left path it was!

Luckily the path was still littered with the rock cairns guiding the way up to the summit. When I got closer to the top, it got very cold. It was weird. It was like I had walked through an invisible layer of cold. A few steps back and it was warmer. Spooky. It was still slightly cloudy and the fog wasn’t as bad, but I wanted a better view. I waited in the warmth and decided to eat some snacks and take more photos of the photogenic sheep. After about 30 minutes, I decided to carry on to the summit. I couldn’t wait around anymore – the summit was calling.

As I walked the final kilometre, I saw a few groups of people coming down. They all had the same look as the ones prior. It was still foggy and the view was very poor. It wasn’t looking good. I got to the very top and there was only one group of hikers up there. The summit was covered in rocks and you couldn’t see the edge through the fog. It was bad but what could I do? Whilst snapping away, the women from earlier also made it. They seemed quite disappointed, pretty much like the rest of us up there. I advised the women that the weather report said it was going to clear up and they should wait around and they did. A minute later, the most amazing thing happened. The wind picked up slightly and the fog started to blow away. Within the next few minutes, we could see blue sky – it was brilliant!

The view was amazing. I could see all around. The hills and mountains seemed to go on forever. I couldn’t stop snapping away. As I stood there taking photos, I could see the people that had walked past me on the way up. They’d obviously seen the sky clearing and didn’t want the hike to have been a waste of time so returned to the top!

I made my way to the top of Scafell Pike taking photos of all angles. I stayed there for a good half hour and only decided to make a move when my fingers started to feel numb. By this time, the number of people on the summit had increased greatly. It was no longer the peaceful place it was when I first arrived.

Panoramic view from Scafell Pike

Panoramic view from Scafell Pike

The Descent

Now was the fun part. I was good for time (or so I thought) so it was time for the drone to make an appearance. The wind was a little strong so I had my doubts as to whether the little Mavic could cope. The great thing about the Mavic is that you can get it out of your bag and be ready to fly in about a minute. My last drone took about 7 minutes as you had to screw all the propellers on and connect the camera and battery. Loooonnnggg. As the Mavic ascended into the air, I could see it battling with the wind, however, the little drone was winning. It was very impressive. I managed to get a few good shots off and before I had realised it, 40 minutes and 2 batteries had gone by! It’s true what they say…TimeDrones fly when you’re having fun…

View of Wast Water whilst climbing Scafell Pike

The journey down was a lot nicer than up. I had the lovely view to look at and the sky was a hell of a lot clearer. As I made it to the campervan, Stef was sitting outside writing a blog. She looked at me and said, “Where have you been?” I looked at the time and it was 7:30!! Good job she hadn’t sent out a search party. I just lost track of the time when taking photos and when I get that drone out I get so distracted!

View of Wast Water whilst climbing Scafell Pike

It was well worth the steep hike up to the summit of Scafell Pike. I was happy. I had officially climbed the three highest peaks in the UK. Wow.

Here’s the route I used to climb the highest peak in England:

Final Thoughts

I think the UK is very underrated for places to go on holiday. Many people say there are better sights abroad, I was one of those people! But this trip has taught me that I really need to see more of this place I call home – Great Amazing Britain. It’s crazy to think that I have been all around the World; Stepped foot on soil which many have not touched; Seen places which people can only Google; Encountered experiences that people can only dream of but bearing in mind I have driven 25,000 miles around North America, I’d never been to Scotland which is only a 400-mile trip north! Crazy.

As a result of this trip (minus the dreadful weather we had!), we have now decided to buy a campervan of our own. Our own 4 wheels to travel not only the UK but Europe and beyond. We can’t wait and hope you continue to follow our future travels!