Scafell Pike Barefoot Hike: Lessons Learned from England’s Highest Peak
Back in 2019, I decided to kick my merrels off, let my hobbit feet roam free, and set off to climb Scafell Pike – England’s highest peak.
I feel like the most rewarding adventures are often the ones that we don’t really plan for. The ones where you just head out on a whim with a rough idea, but open to whatever lies ahead.
We rocked up to the foot of England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike, way back in spring 2019, with a bag of sandwiches & chocolate bars.
It was only that morning or the night before that we decided to give it a climb.
And only in the carpark at the foot of the hill that I decided I would do it barefoot.
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The Easy First Steps
I find that with most of the habit changes I’ve made in my life, once I get going, the initial week or two is the easiest as as I’m fuelled up on excitement at doing something new. Likewise with the Scafell Pike climb – the first half of the ascent was pretty easy going.
There’s plenty of soft, plush grass, and even some makeshift stairs that were kind on the soles. The sun was shining and at that point I felt pretty nimble and optimistic about the rest of the climb.
It seemed like we’d missed the early crowds so most people were on their way down from the summit as we were heading up.
As we passed groups of hikers, the reactions to my bare feet ranged from a slightly bewildered smile and double take (which is fair enough), to stopping in their tracks to outright tell me that I was mad and there was no way I’d make it to the top.
I can be a bit stubborn and foolish, so I smiled, nodded and cracked on.
Barefooting the Boulder Field
As I was warned, the last third of the ascent is where things started to get tasty (and not just because of the chocolate breaks).
If you’ve climbed Scafell Pike before, you’ll know that the soft grass and man-made steps make way for a boulder field filled with sharp scree and jagged outcrops.
Not ideal for the soles, but it wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds.
I hit a few sharp stabs here and there, but no blood. All good.
As the sky clouded over, we reached the summit. It’s a pretty spectacular view, so we admired it for a few minutes while we munched down on our remaining snacks, and then began the real fun…
A Mindful Descent
It turns out that when you’re descending with heavy legs and tired feet, the rocks underfoot seem to have a bit more dig to them.
Any lapse of concentration is greeted with a delightful stabbing pain, like the mountain is pissed off with you. The quads begin to burn and the tiny muscles and tendons through the feet and ankles start to shout.
In a way, it’s a supercharged mindfulness exercise. Like getting whacked by a stick to help you maintain focus while meditating.
One step at a time. Tread lightly. Pay attention or the mountain will remind you who is in charge, and punish you for being a silly bugger.
Eventually, the scree died out and my old friend the soft grass returned. We slid down with a renewed sense of energy. The hard part done, the end in sight. The adventure coming to a close, the cycle complete.
The climb itself was cracking and we both made it down in good time without any injuries, which is always good.
Lessons Learned From The Barefoot Hike
- Walking barefoot on grass is lovely, and much more comfortable than it is when wearing shoes.
- Going barefoot on a sharp scree slope isn’t ideal, and it’s probably much more comfortable when wearing shoes.
- If you do something out of the norm in a public setting, you will inevitably get some funny looks and the occasional person objecting to what you’re doing. Both can be good exercises for those of us who tend towards social anxiety.
- Sometimes the best adventures are those that we don’t do a whole lot of planning for. That doesn’t mean you should be reckless, but calculated risks can sometimes pay off.
- Barefoot hiking, like many endurance activities, can be a great mindfulness exercise, almost forcing you into the present moment.
- When in doubt, take a bit more fuel and water than you think you’ll need.
- Basic strength training, mobility work, and some low-intensity, zone 2 training can be a good base for being able to do adventures on a whim.
- Check yourself and your hiking buddy for ticks at the end of the day if you’re adventuring in the lake district.
Over to You!
I’ve not been able to do adventures like this for a quite some time due to the health stuff, but as I start to recover, it’s something I’d like to do more of and hopeful share on here too if anyone fancies that.
I know most readers/viewers stop by for the training content. I still plan on doing that, but what I enjoy most is putting that training into action. Doing the doing. And if my health is in a place where I can do more doing, then that’s what I’m gonna do.
Any questions, or comments let me know down below. And if you found this post interesting, feel free to give it a share with others who you think might like it.
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