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.
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.
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.
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.
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. . .
or a pint of Cumbrian ale at the bottom.