blencathra

wainwright

Guess where I’ve been? We had an amazing weekend (more on the fest shortly) but I thought I’d begin with where it concluded — a walk up Blencathra. Dominating the skyline of the Northern Lakes with its craggy buttresses and dark gulleys, this is a really distinctive and deservedly popular mountain. Predictably, we plumped for the most famous route of ascent — up Scales Fell and over Sharp Edge — an exposed, rocky and (for me) hairaising arête along which one must pick one’s way with care, before ascending Foule Crag, whose name speaks for itself. You can see both edge and crag to the right of Tom’s head in this photo.

sharpedge

Being some kind of bloke-weasel, who scampers up and down mountains on a daily basis, Tom rather scoffed at the purported challenge of the edge. But I, who scamper a bit less, was not nonchalant at all.

waiting

One of the problems with Sharp Edge is that it is not as sharp as it looks — so much of it has been worn smooth by the weight of a million walkers’ arses. The smoothness of the rock certainly increases the difficulty of scrambling about an exposed ridge in heavy boots. At the end of the arête you can see the base of Foule Crag — yes, the bare rock face on which those two white specks / people are about to take their chances. I confess I got the fear. We let the other edge-traversers head in front before I took my turn.

wazzontheedge

Me and my arse had a little difficulty getting around what Wainwright refers to as the “awkward place,” and the base of the crag is the foule-est bit of it. . . but with some help from Tom indicating the tricky hand-holds, I made it across and up. Fun! When you reach the summit, you are rewarded with views North across the Solway Firth to Scotland, and to the South and West, the peaks and lakes of Cumbria are all laid out before you. The spectacular fell architecture of Blencathra itself looks pretty good from up there as well.

blencathra

We came down via Doddick Fell — a route which Wainwright recommends and which we thought was superb. What a great walk! So if you are ever going up Blencathra with a choice of ascents and are feeling a little nervy about what th’edge entails, I would say just go for it — its really not as hard as it looks. And can I say there is nothing better than a good Cumbrian pie at the top of a Cumbrian mountain. . .

pieface

or a pint of Cumbrian ale at the bottom.

pint

23 responses

  1. Wow, great walking! My mother in law claims to have done Sharp Edge in the fifties (I don’t doubt her). I am definitely of the faint hearted.

  2. Well done! I took a less strenous way to “unwind” after the Woolfest down at Castlerigg Stone Circle. Should have waved to you up on the spiky peaks of Blencathra towering above me. A beautiful weekend to be out and about in the lovely Lake District.

  3. You guys are a total inspiration. I love that after all the weekend had involved you found the resources to tackle this daunting physical challenge!

    I’m really impressed! This is certainly remeniscent to me of Crib Goch – the knife-edged arête in Snowdonia that I recall with a shudder – but having picked my way along that while not in the best of health or fitness several years ago I can certainly agree with your point that it’s worth just going for it with these things.

    Hooray for the insane weasel-jumping! I love your mountain posts and am most intrigued by the beauteous walking book with its printed mountains in this post; what is it?

    • The book is the 5th in Wainwright’s series of “pictorial guides to the lakeland fells’ – The Northern Fells. Indispensable!

  4. Amazing walk! We drove past Blencathra (or Saddleback as the AA road map prosaically has it) on our way back down south and tried to spot you and Tom. You must have been too far up (or already in the pub)!

  5. Wow! I don’t think that we have places like that to go walking here in Ontario. I am rather afraid of heights so I don’t know how well I’d do but someday I’d like to visit Scotland and do some walking in that breathtaking landscape. Until then I’ll just have to continue to live vicariously through your accounts of adventures had.

  6. Wow! that looks just AMAZING – well done you for being big and brave. Great satisfaction at the end though.

  7. I am jealous! Blencathra is one of my very favourite mountains. Well done on negotiating Sharp Edge – I’ve done it that way once and I think that’s quite enough!

  8. Wot a great walk! I am very impressed by your bravery at the scary slippy edge. It is alright for crazy boy-weasels but I would need to be coaxed up a ridge like that. Hurrah for pie and beer reward. Lxx

  9. What an incredible view, how pleased you must have felt when you were at the top. Well done! I love the book you are looking at in the photo.

  10. Wow! Sounds horrifying to me, I guess I’m a bit afraid of heights on mountains (not in skyscrapers, for some reason). But I vicariously love the pictures.

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