Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Sharpest Edge

A classic Lakeland day on one of Britain’s finest ridges

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Blencathra, at a height of 868 metres, is one of the northern guardians of the Lake District and is accessed easily from the A66 road near Penrith. We set out for the popular summit top via Sharp Edge, the prominent rocky arête beside Scales Tarn. 

It was a promising autumnal morning, a blanket of cloud keeping us warm and no wind to quell our plans. We started early, snaking around the hillside on a good path into steep valleys. Climbing up to Scales Tarn, Sharp Edge came into view and we would have the ridge to ourselves. It was a secluded and peaceful place next to the tarn, stopping for a bite to eat with banter amongst friends. 

Sharp Edge scramble (Grade 1) gave us a sense of adventure and exposure on good rock, but in poor conditions it could be a more risky experience. I was glad for sturdy boots and good waterproofs on this classic ascent of Blencathra. After clambering up steep ground we reached the rolling mountain top, and paced off to bag the nearby summit of Bowscale Fell. 

The surrounding area in the northern Lake District is often ignored by walkers that head for the honeypot locations at Windermere or Ambleside. Yet they are missing out on a landscape undisturbed, barren and interesting, which asks for exploration of the rolling upland plains, reminiscent of the Welsh Carneddau. 

By lunchtime we were crossing back to the summit of Blencathra and the views were sublime. From there we could gaze south… the iconic Lakeland fells rising skywards, covered in a patchwork of sun and shadow. 

Our route descended via Hallsfell spur, south of the peak, and we strided down the jagged rib with smiles, taking photos and feeling lucky for a dry walk on the hill. 

Blencathra offers an impressive mountain day for any person: the occasional rambler or the mountaineer. So get your kit together and make the journey to try one of Britain’s finest ridges. 

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