Great End

Published 12 August 2015. Last updated 7 November 2019

At some point, every Wainwright fellbagger will find themselves heading to the big one. The highest fell in England: Scafell Pike. It has to be done. This massive fell is waiting for you. You and many, many, many other people. So when you’ve done it, why not take in a quieter fell as well, like Great End as well?

Where do you go to when you’re at the highest point in England? What comes next? Well unless you’ve arranged for someone to whisk you away from the top of Scafell Pike in a helicopter, you probably need to start walking and go down hill.  For unlike Snowdon, Scafell Pike doesn’t have a mountain railway to take you down to the valley floor.

Suddenly the car, parked up at Seathwaite, seemed a long way away.

Still if you play your cards right, as you head down to the location of your motorised vehicle (or a taxi, tent, several mile walk to the bus stop, whatever), you can bag another Wainwright as you go.

It was time to visit Great End.  Well, it would be rude not to.

At 910m high, Great End’s not that much smaller than Scafell Pike itself, and is the most northerly mountain in the Scafell massif; a group that includes the Pike, and Broad Crag, and it was the latter that we would hit first. But it’s not the star, so is far less well known.

First though, we had to get off Scafell Pike, which we did via a distinctly steep, scree filled path.  It wasn’t exactly a long distance to head down, but it was tough going, putting some real strain on the ankles. And not to mention keeping balance on the loose rock.  Based on the looks of those passing us in the opposite direction, we were more than happy to be going down rather than up.  Wild eyes and red faces stared at us as we passed by; most managing little more than grunts of recognition in-between breathing deeply for air.  Anyone approaching Scafell Pike from the north east certainly has their work cut out for them.

Soon though the path levelled off temporarily, as we met up with other paths taking walkers off in different directions, and then it was time to head up a relatively easy path to the top of Broad Crag.

Broad Crag may be 934m high and the fifth highest peak in England, however Wainwright only mentions it briefly as part of his Scafell Pike chapter of the Pictorial Guide to the Southern Fells.  His reasoning is perhaps related to the fact that Broad Crag’s status as a distinct fell, is relatively recent; back in the 1950s it was considered merely to be a secondary summit.

The result is that the Crag’s often overlooked – certainly we didn’t make the slight diversion to its summit cairn – yet it’s an impressive place. The top of the fell is long, relatively wide and absolutely full of boulders.  There’s no real path, just a few cairns to help you on your way as you bounce enthusiastically from one rock to the next.  It was an unbelievable amount of fun.  Well, for those of us who enjoy such a thing.

Once we’d finished boulder hopping, the task of getting to Great End was relatively simple.  All we needed to do was head off the path to Esk Hause that we were following, and make the short detour to the fell top.  But there was something about the approach that suggested it required it to be savoured, which is why we paused for reflection on the grass before doing so.  Or maybe it was the fact that there were biscuits and Eccles Cakes burning holes in people’s rucksacks.

It was a suggestion that proved to be right.  Approaching it from the south – which is the only way the walker can – Great End didn’t particularly look much at all.  Yet from its wide, plateau summit, it revealed an absolutely breathtaking view of an area surrounded by fells. Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, Great Gable and more.  Then there were the valleys.  Langdale was lurking just over there, and Borrowdale, with the mighty Derwent Water was there, shining brightly in the sun, right ahead of us.

We scrambled and bounced over its rocky summit, seeking out different spots to see if this majestic view could be made any more spectacular.  And often finding it could. Even better, because few people seemed to bother to make the visit, we could have the views all to ourselves.

The views continued as we returned to the Esk Hause path, and began to make our way down to our cars, along path besides via Ruddy Gill and then Grains Gill.  But grand as they were, none seemed to quite match the wonder from the fell top we’d just been on.  Our day of walking may have been all about getting to the highest point in England, however it was clear that when it came to the views, Great End had been the true star.

View all 65 of my Scafell Pike/Great End walk photos on flickr

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