Many a climber and walker over the years have struggled up Scafell Pike in the Lake District to "bag" England's highest Peak at 978m. Well the unfortunate news is that nearby Scafell has now been measured and confirmed as the holder of this record at 966m. Scafell Pike has been downgraded to 963m following a remapping by Google Earth. The reason for the discrepancy is put down to "erosional creep" and inconsiderate walkers taking away a piece of the mountain as a souvenir.
Professor Mike Wibs and his team are credited with breaking the news. Professor Wibs said "Over many years each walker has been responsible for a downward shift of the underlying rock structure of 0.003mm every time they step on the mountain. With sheer weight of numbers it is easy to see how this adds up. The problem is the loose shale that is easily moved. The unfortunate thing now is that it is likely heavy people will have to pass a "fit for purpose" test before they can tackle the mountain"
The news will dismay countless walkers, not least those who are stout, but will not come as a surprise to many who have stood at the summit of Scafell Pike and gazed across to Scafell wondering if it was higher. The commonly held belief was that this is due to an optical illusion or mountaineering sickness - similar to the bends. However we now know different.
Certificate of miscalculation
Records will have to be redrawn. By an intricate mathematical calculation the Professor has determined that the date on which Scafell assumed the title of England's highest peak was 1st April 1967. All climbing and walking records on Scafell Pike before that date will stand. Groups who have undertaken the "3 Peaks challenge" and similar events since that time can apply to the Professor for a certificate of miscalculation which will confirm their adjusted timings. The Professor has not yet set the fee level for this service but it is thought that the pricing structure will be reasonable.
We spoke to walkers on the mountain today. A group representing the Angling Times, half way through the 3 Peaks challenge, exclaimed "we're gutted! - we only thought of doing this because of the connotation with Pike" The Scafell Pike Fell Running Society who, by a bizarre coincidence, held their first race up the mountain on 1st April 1967 were crestfallen and were calling for a crack team from Ordnance Survey to check the measurements.
The news angered the Lake District Ranger team who appealed to souvenir hunters to return any rocks, shale or stones to them via Freepost so that they might commence a rebuilding programme. "The same happened at Snowdon" said a spokesman "but the Welsh hushed it up so that the investment in the new visitor centre at the summit was not compromised.
The Mountain Rescue Team was more laissez faire about the news "It means 15m less to climb on a rescue mission" said one. "I'll get my cup of tea quicker".
A final thought has to go for the East Anglia Mountaineering Fellowship who last year completed the 3 Peaks Challenge in 42 hours 46 minutes - only to realise they had climbed Scafell in error. They were ridiculed at the time in the national press and serious walking magazines as merry fools. "Who's laughing now? their team leader joked "we now hold the record for being the first group ever to complete the new challenge"