The Six Great North Faces of... The Lake District

Whether it's Scafell or the Walker Spur, for a bit of nastiness and drama north faces are the way to go, according to Ronald Turnbull

Illustration photo of The Six Great North Faces of... The Lake District

Words and pictures: Ronald Turnbull

The Eiger, the Matterhorn, the Dru and Piz Badile; the Grandes Jorasses and the Cima Grande. If you’re a serious Alpine type, what you want are the six great north faces.

North faces are nasty. They’re bleak, they’re steep, and they hold their snow. The storms are stormier, there’s dirty old ice even in midsummer, and every afternoon they turn into waterfalls, stonefalls and avalanche. They’ve made one of the great mountain books (Starlight and Storm by Gaston Rébuffat) and formed the first act in the tragedy that was Alison Hargreaves.

Old-style alpinists stuck to the airy ridgelines, and so do walkers in the English Lakes. But sometimes it’s fun to be a steely-eyed, monkey-bearded, rock-hard alpine man or lass. Moss and loose rock; waterfalls and no particular path; steepness and scree. Whether it’s Pillar or Piz Badile, for a bit of mountain nastiness, you need to be on a north face.

Click the links below for routes and maps

Pillar North Face

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Dale Head North Face

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Skiddaw North Face

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Scafell Pike North Face

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Bowfell North Face

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Scafell North Face

First published in The Great Outdoors, April 2015