Scafell from Black Sail Pass
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 Burnmoor and the head of Wastwater. But on the east crags looming impressively over upper Eskdale, and on the north side Scafell Crag provides some the finest rock scenery in the Lake District.
From the narrow ridge of Mickledore the northern face of Scafell rises precipitously, an unusually complete barrier to progress along a Lakeland ridge, which frustrates many ridge walkers who find that this is a cliff for rock climbers only. At the top of the rise from Mickledore 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, Lord’s Rake 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 block that was bridged across the head of Lord’s Rake collapsed into the gully in July 2016, leaving several small unstable blocks behind, which can be avoided with care. The access to West Wall Traverse is clear of debris.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 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 from the nearest road.