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Scafell Pike and Ill Crag
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Ill Crag - South East Face

Location: Upper Eskdale, Central Fells.

Distance: 13.5km / 8.4 miles with alot of ascent and descent

Scrambling Grades: Ill Crag - Grade 3 or Grade 1 and 2 options

Route: From Seathwaite via Grains Gill, Great End, Esk Hause, descending into upper Eskdale passing through the narrow gorge of the Knotts of the Tongue, Little Narrowcove and on to the base of Ill Crag; a broken, rocky hillside providing continuous open scrambling to the top - a vertical interval of almost 500m / 1640ft.

Assessment: The South East Face of Ill Crag is of the longest continuous scrambles in the Lake District with an enjoyable but fairly long approach for a big day out on the fells. Open slab scrambling with plenty of route options.

  Looking north-west from Scafell Pike
     

As we look up Little Narrowcove we proceed towards the lowest slabs on the right of the stream just left of a mossy rock wall. The initial slab leads to a ledge and a steeper slab which we climb by a groove on the left.

Above, easy slabs lead to a grassy bay, which we cross to reach a bilberry ramp leading to a rock step. We climb this to gain a rock rib on the left which takes us below a block-capped rock wall. We then scramble up to the right to gain a heathery hollow.

Now we follow a groove on the right which leads to a rake, left of the crest, to reach a mossy slab. Continuing up slabs right of the crest we then reach a grassy break below a steep central wall that is clearly visible from below.

Above is an impressive sweep of slabs made for climbing.

A vegetative groove on the left provides us with the only feasible route for scrambling where a rope is advisable.

  Slight Side from River Esk
     

We continue gaining the groove from the slabs on the right and follow this until a flake at the top gives access to the rock rib on the left. At this point we move back right and climb the rock rib and a steep step to reach scree and easy ground.

Above lies the third step and we follow diagonally left towards a deep vegetative gully with a rock nose below and to the right. Traversing the nose we then reach easy ground up to the right.

We now move left to a buttress with a groove to the right of a well defined edge: Climbing the groove to gain the exposed left edge is the crux of our scramble and is difficult. This is bordering on rock climbing but can also be outflanked on the right.

Above, a grass ramp leads to a well defined and delightful rock rib, which is our final step to the summit of Ill Crag, where we return via Great End, Calf Cove, Esk Hause and Seathwaite.

  Looking south west to Harter Fell
     

An alternative option is to hop the boulders to Broad Crag and continue to Scafell Pike. From the summit there are plenty of options: Either follow the path north-west over rough ground, towards Lingmell Col, crossing Piers Gill at the fords and returning via the corridor route to Sty Head.

Alternatively,the natural continuation to this route is to continue on from Scafell Pike, crossing to Scafell via Broad Stand.

However, this is obviously a longer and more difficult option which includes Scrambling Grade 3 at Broad Stand where we also descend back to Mickledore and again picking up the Corridor route via Lingmell Col and back to Sty Head.

History: Ill Crags and Broad Stand hold special places in the history of mountaineering, with Ill Crags a favourite of Eric Shipton and Broad Stand being arguably the place where scrambling was born.

 

  Icicles on Pen

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