Esk Ghyll – ‘The BIG One’

Location: Eskdale Time Taken: 5-6 hours (from meeting to leaving) Price: £90 (per person)
What’s involved?
A ghyll scramble (ascent) of the mighty Esk Ghyll (aka The BIG One)  – This location has the biggest cliff jumps in the Lake District and is the most aquatic ghyll scramble that we offer. It involves ascending a mountain gorge and includes lots of cliff jumping, swimming and scrambling. There is a 40 minute walk to and from the location carrying all of your kit – but it is definitely worth the effort.
Who will it suit?
Although no previous experience is required – It is important that you are a confident swimmer and have no fear of water or jumping into it. This is for adults and older teenagers only. You must be fit and able as this is a very strenuous outing that requires a level of self reliance. This really isn’t a good option for those who have never done anything “outdoorsy” in the past, those who are inactive, those who do not like water, jumping into it or being fully submerged in it or those that can not swim.

The location:

Esk Ghyll is located in the South of the Lake District in the stunning Eskdale Valley. It is a very remote location  reached most probably (depending on travel direction) via the Hardknott Pass. You must be a confident driver to navigate this pass as the road is steep, winding, narrow and can be busy later on in the day.

Parking is free but limited at this location. Due to the remote location, there are no lockers, changing facilities or toilets. Changing takes place behind a drystone wall.

Whats involved?

It is an ascent of the mighty mountain gorge known as Esk Ghyll – “The BIG One”. It is the most aquatic outing we have, with the cliff jumping considered to be its main attraction. It not only has more jumping than any other ghyll scramble but the jumps are the biggest the Lake District has to offer. In-between the jumping you will be scrambling your way up the gorge, swimming through its deep emerald pools and climbing up its milky-white waterfalls.

After handing out the kit (list below) everyone will pack and carry all of their kit to the changing/start location. This is accessed via a 40 minute hike on relatively flat terrain. Everyone will be required to take charge of and carry their own kit to the start point and back to the cars at the end. The beautiful mountain setting and the epic jumps will more than make up for the walk-in/out.

Once at the start point everyone will be given the opportunity to have a bit to eat and drink (so remember a packed lunch). We will then get changed behind dry stone walls. All bags are left out in the elements behind the walls, therefore it is important that everyone brings a bin liner/dry-bag to keep their clothes and valuables dry inside the rucksacks while we are out ghyll scrambling. Once we finish the scramble we get changed back into our dry clothes, have another bite to eat. Rucksacks will then be packed. The bin liners are now used to carry your wet kit (inside your rucksack) so your rucksacks stay dry.

 The nature of the ghyll:

It is a very aquatic outing that takes place in and around both fast flowing and deep water. The ghyll can and will be ran in times of moderately higher water levels (group dependant), however there is a fine line between “exciting” and it being “dangerous” – this is due to the ghyll being very “river-like” rather than “stream-like” due to many mountain streams feeding into it.

When the water level is high the ghyll can be very fierce  – however, we have built up a lot of experience in all conditions in this ghyll and we will make the right decision whether or not to run your session – A safer but very exciting ghyll to run in times of flooding is Stickle Ghyll + Upper Falls in Langdale (we tend to default to this ghyll when Esk is too dangerous to enter).

A positive thing about the canyon being “river-like” rather than “stream-like” is that it doesn’t run dry/low in prolonged spells of warm dry weather that we tend to get during May/June.

Who does it suit?

This is for adults and older teens only. You and your group must be fit and able as this is a very strenuous outing that requires a certain amount of self reliance and the ability to be on the go for up to 6 hours, travelling on challenging terrain. Although no previous experience is required – it is important that ALL of your group are a confident swimmers and have no fear of water, jumping into or being fully submerged in it. You must also be confident scrambling up and over wet, slippy and rocky terrain.

The jumps are the main attraction at this location. They are all avoidable, however, if anyone really hates jumping and their plan is to by-pass all of them then this isn’t the location for your group.It would be better to choose one of our locations with less jumps.

To further reinforce the point – this ghyll scramble is not a good option for those who have not done anything “outdoorsy” in the past, those tho are inactive, those who do not like water, jumping into it or being fully submerged in it or those who are not confident swimmers.

What’s provided:

  • Full wetsuit (3-5mm)
  • Additional wetsuit jacket (3-4mm)
  • Buoyancy aid
  • Helmet
  • All ghyll equipment & guide
  • Medical kit with a dry storage container for personal medication
  • Photo’s

Note: We also have special winter kit for the colder days/months!

What to bring:

  • Old trainers/hiking boots you don’t mind getting wet (for use during the ghyll scramble) – no slip-on type shoes, plimsolls or crocs
  • Additional footwear for the hike to and from the location (it can be wet under foot)
  • Swimming costume/trunks/boxer shorts to wear under the wetsuit
  • Rash vest/base layer to wear under the wetsuit (NOT COTTON – its cold when wet)
  • Towel
  • Dry clothing
  • Food & drink
  • Any personal medication
  • Large rucksack (40l) to carry all equipment to the start point
  • Binliner / dry-bag – to keep clothes  and valuables dry while out doing the ghyll scramble


Typical timeslot

  • Morning Only

We try to time our sessions so we miss the traffic both on the roads and in the water to ensure the best experience is had. This timeslot almost guarantees that we miss everyone else.

How long will it last?

The activity will last no more than 6 hours from the point we meet to the point we say goodbye. The exact time depends on group size, the confidence and ability as well as the fitness of the participants and also the water conditions.


What time of year?

The season runs roughly from March to October depending of what type of Spring/Autumn we are having. Once its frosty you can’t get over the pass. Roughly speaking May and June tend to be the hottest and driest months. August tends to be wet and the rest of the months can go either way. Please be aware that the sessions go ahead even if it is cold, windy and/or raining. Please have this in mind if you book for the wetter months as there is more chance of poor weather and you need to be up for it. The only time its cancelled is if it is badly flooded or if its too frosty for the pass.

So to reinforce the point further – please expect for the ghyll scramble to go ahead even in poor weather and if you are not keen on this idea then don’t book. The only time we cancel this activity is if the conditions make the activity unsafe – and this decision is made by the instructor and is usually due to dangerously high water levels.

  Meeting location:

The meeting point is the car park at The Woolpack Inn, Hardknott Pass, Eskdale, CA19 1TH. You are looking for a silver logo’d van parked up. It is likely you will be driving over the hardknott pass to reach the meeting location. This is a steep and winding road and is very narrow when passing other cars. It gets very busy later in the day. It helps if you are a confident driver to navigate this road. There is no telephone reception in the valley and the drive is challenging so please leave enough time for travelling as there are no refunds for people who turn up late. I try my best to wait for you, however, you may be joining others or I may have other groups to run after yours and the session might have to go ahead without you.

Note – You need transport as the pub is just a meeting location – we need to drive a further couple of miles to the park in a lay-by.


  • Lots of jumps
  • Biggest jumps in the Lake District
  • Great scrambling
  • Suitable for confident “first-timers”
  • Beautiful location
  • Normally not very busy
  • Can be ran in minor flood conditions (group dependant)
  • Very aquatic
  • Jumps/climbs can be avoided
  • Pub, accommodation nearby


  • No telephone reception
  • No public transport
  • Need a car to get to lay-by from meeting place
  • Challenging roads to get to meeting location
  • Not suitable for everyone
  • Not good for spectators
  • Not possible for people that want a less aquatic outing
  • No changing/toilet facilities
  • 40 minute walk-in/out carrying a bag
  • Big kit list to bring
  • Very remote




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