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My family & I are planning a holiday in the UK Lake District this year and I'm hoping to fulfil a longtime desire to climb Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain. I'm moderately fit and enjoy the challenge of a climb so I'm not too worried about the attempt, but while the rest of my family enjoy a good walk, they have no desire to try to climb the whole way to the top.

I know there are a number of routes up the mountain but are any of them particularly suitable for people who want to enjoy a less challenging walk, with a place they can stop and perhaps have a picnic before returning to a parked car, while I carry on to the top?

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    One thing to consider about this plan is navigation. In theory, having your family turn around half way up and make their own way down doesn't sound particularly difficult, but it's still easy to get lost even when retracing your own steps (especially if low cloud/fog rolls in). Esk Hause is famous for being easy to get lost (as I know from personal experience...)
    – Andy
    Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 15:50

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This is a bit tentative, as I haven't done it myself. So think of it as a suggestion to be looked at on the map, and apply all the usual precautions for mountain hiking, not just for you but for the other group. They also need to get back down safely.

I propose starting at Wasdale Head (or Wasdale) - it's a popular starting point, and the start of the route recommended by the local mountain rescue team. Wasdale Head has facilities if they get back early.

You still have a couple of options:

  • If you hike from Wasdale via Hollowstones (probably the most common route), they can picnic at the (small) waterfalls on Lingmell Gill (4--6km and 200--600m ascent for them).
  • Alternatively you can head via Lingmell Beck and the Corridor Route; they'd then picnic turn around somewhere on Lingmell Beck; again they have the option of hiking to waterfalls (slightly bigger ones) or Sprinkling Tarn (for 6--10 km and 200--600m ascent for them). Some of the routes in this area are more technically challenging solo I'd stick to hiking rather than scrambling routes, which might mean a little further east (via Esk Hause). This would work well if you all walked up to Sprinkling Tarn.
  • You could make it into a loop, meeting them back at Wasdale Head. I'd suggest going up Lingmell Beck with them, then taking the Corridor Route, and back down via Hollowstones. This is mapped at the Corridor Route link above.

With any of these ideas, those wanting a gentler walk are staying in a valley, though still with a fair bit of climbing. It will be much more sheltered than your route. You'd be doing 11--15km with about 1000--1200m of climbing, depending on which route.

If your family and the weather are suitable, Sprinkling Tarn and several of the pools along Lingmell Beck are known as wild swimming spots too.

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    I have done it myself and it's a fairly easy walk up from Wasdale Head assuming the river isn't in spate. It does turn into very rocky ground in the upper section which isn't great for a picnic though. You can split off about halfway up and take a lower circular route.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 9:43
  • Thanks @Separatrix. I reckoned from the map and online photos that turning back before the rocky ground would work well for the family - a decent valley walk, scenic, with a picnic spot and not to rough or steep. But your point about the river level suggests reversing my last suggestion if there's any doubt about how big it will be. It won't be in spate now, and is unlikely in summer, but it will rise very fast if there's a downpour in spring
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 11:24
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If you approach from the north (Seathwaite, in Borrowdale), then Sty Head Tarn makes a nice place to stop and enjoy the scenery for a while. There's a very clear path, so it will be easy for your family to return via their ascent route.

Slightly further up from Sty Head is Sprinkling Tarn, which also makes a good picnic stop. This will be on your route if you go up to Esk Hause and over the top of Great End, but not if you go via the Corridor Route.

Another possibility, given you're using a car, is to do a car exchange between the Sty Head route and the Grains Gill route (via Langstrath). You can include the Pike as you do the route in the opposite direction to your family. This suggestion really needs two keys, because you won't meet as you pass, but it does work well if you want to walk much faster on your summit trip (covering more distance, but in about the same time).

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