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" Blencathra - the 51st State "

Date & start time:      2nd September 2021.   11 am start.

Location of Start :     Roadside near The White Horse Inn, Scales, Cumbria, Uk. ( NY 339 267).

Places visited :          Scales Tarn, Sharp Edge, Blencathra, with a Doddick Fell descent.

Walk details :              5.5 mls, 2275 ft of ascent, 4 hours 45 mins, plus the walk back to the car.

Highest point :           Halls Fell Top (Blencathra) 2,847ft - 868m.

Walked with :             Martin, myself and the dogs, Dylan and Dougal.

Weather :                     Hazy blue skies, a gentle cool breeze on the top but very hot lower down.                

                     

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. Licence number PU 100034184.

 

This has been a busy year for my neighbour Martin as he and Shelagh made a retirement move from the south of England late last year.

Little did he expect to land in Cumbria and even less to embark on a new hobby of fellwalking.

He has now found his dream house, some hours across the Scottish border, but before he moves even further north he wants to add one last classic walk

to his impressive list of fifty Wainwright summits that he has climbed since January . . . roll on this "51st summit" bid today.

[ He tells me he'll be back to complete the full round of 214 in due course.]

- - - o o o - - -

 

The starting point for today's walk is Scales Green

which is effectively the White Horse Pub, Threlkeld,

adjacent to the A66 road from Keswick to Penrith.

We found parking in the nearby layby.

 

- - - o o o - - -

The shortest of road walks to the path close to the sign and then very quickly we are out onto the open fell

walking up behind the pub on a gradually ascending path across the lower slopes of Scales Fell.

Looking down into Mousthwaite Comb.   The path brings walkers up from the alternative parking on the road at the start of this route.

In the old days this path would also have given access to the old mine, the small spoil heap of which can be seen above the bracken bordering the path.

A lone walker makes their way down the path . . . an early starter ?
Martin and I were later starters . . . it's nearly11.30 am.

Dougal is wearing the latest in red gortex fashion due to a cut on his pad a few days ago.

Despite my best efforts it stayed on only till he got it wet in Scales Tarn, but he's not worn it since as the cut is completely healed.

The path up alongside Mousthwaite Comb increases to about a 1 in 1 climb . . . 45 degrees in new money.

In the distance we can start to see the higher central fells of the Bowfell, Great End and Scafell Pike.

High above White Horse Bent, the sharp turn of the Glenderamackin River, the gradient eases and Foule Crag comes into view. 

Our major climb today is the Sharp Edge Arête, the steep rocky scramble (highlighted in grey) climbing up to the summit of Atkinson Pike.

Scales Beck branches off the main river and leads us up to the tarn.
Time for some nice pitched-path stonework.

Soon we reach Scale Tarn, one of the highest of the classic upland tarn of Cumbria.

It sits below the sheltering walls of Foule Crag, the left hand extension of which forms the saddle-like top of Blencathra when seen from the A66.

With plenty of time and good summer sunshine we'll take a slight diversion from the normal, instead of taking the direct right hand path.

Martin is happy to circumnavigate the tarn, so are the dogs.
Our reward, an unopened bottle of beer already cooling in the lake !

Someone must have had their lunch here, placed the bottle to cool but forgotten all about it when they left.

This is not the action of a true fell walker . . . they would have had Jennings or Loweswater Gold rather than this 5.9% Tequila flavoured lager !

We'll keep the beer till later as we continue on round the tarn.

We will rejoin the original path before the start of the steep climb up to the left.

On the path to Sharp Edge now, looking across to the alternative direct summit route on the other side of Scales Tarn.

Conversation flowed as we climbed, first with Martin's English accent then a change to a Welsh feminine lilt.

Martin, delighted to be climbing this classic route . . .
Kathryn is Welsh, but now living with Martyn much closer to the lakes.

Kathryn originally hails from Gorseinon, only about four or five miles from where I was born.

Martyn is Middlesbrough through and through 'since he were a lad', but he hid his Teesside accent quite well.

They were both relatively new to Cumbrian fell walking and conversation naturally swung to the nature of the route ahead.

Once we reached the skyline, the grass disappeared and the rocky scramble started.

The climb has two distinct parts, the exposed arête for the first half, a steeper scramble for the second.

The dogs free reign for the climb, as both they and I are safer when not tied together by a lead !

The exposed section has a series of flat slabs  to cross.
This first one is close to where the guy was sitting in the other photo.

Today it is fine, dry and the grip is excellent, but this route could justify one of those yellow health and safety notices . . . "Slippery when Wet".

The skiddaw slate rock is notoriously slippery and slimy when damp, a route to be avoided in the rain.

Martin crosses the broad slab . . . the dogs show him the way ahead.
Safely across the exposed section and onto the flat ground beyond.

The other problem here is the lack of really good handholds and there's no 'edge' to stop a slide off the path, as you can see in the next photos.

Martyn's picture of the rounded crest from lower down.
My photo looking back at the final exposed slab.

Having actively encouraged Martyn and Kathryn to continue with the climb, by saying how it should be relatively easy today,

I saw them progressing rather slowly as they climbed up behind us.  With Martin safely over I went back to give moral support !

With words of encouragement, Kathryn found the climb less daunting and frowns turned to smiles as she progressed up the climb.

Sharp Edge done . . . but don't underestimate the next steep scramble up Foule Crag before you reach the top !

Time to relax now as everyone is safely across and up onto the summit path.

Martin and I break off to enjoy refreshments on the top of Atkinson Pike.

Most folk continued on towards Blencathra, the summit of which is seen from our mountain-top lunch spot.

Lunch with a view . . . grab yourself a sandwich and enjoy the panorama.

Click here or on the photo above for your own 360 degree annotated photo.

Suitably refreshed we take a slight diversion back across the flat plateau to see the extensive view to the east.

In so doing we pass both the old cross  . . .
and the newer quarts stone one on the summit ridge.

Wainwright attributes the white cross to the work of a Mr Harold Robinson of Threlkeld

who placed the stones during his many visits to the top from 1945 onward.  The origins of the second cross is unknown

but one of these memorials is thought to commemorate a lone walker who lost his life on these high fells.

Crossing the summit ridge, passing the small tarn and starting the climb towards the top.

Walkers silhouetted on Gategill Fell beyond the climb to Halls Fell summit.

Martin and I reach the top

and the view down to Keswick and Derwent Water now draws the eye.

- - - o o o - - -

 

Blencathra Summit is topped

by an unique trigonometrical ring of concrete.

rather than a trig pillar.

 

Now it is enhanced by the presence of Martin,

Martyn and Kathryn who have also just arrived at the top.

 

- - - o o o - - -

When I was here with my family back in April we descended by the Gategill Fell route.

Today Martin and I could descend by the Halls Fell Ridge down towards Threlkeld, but I suggested we pass on this interesting 'ascent'

leaving it to encourage Martin to return and climb it at some point in the more distant future.

Instead we'll pick the next ridge across and head off towards Doddick Fell seen beyond the obscene zig-zag track in the foreground.

This machine made path was designed to reduce erosion, but there's more gravel exposed than there ever was.

It is a real man-made intrusion into the fragile wilderness of the high fells.

I try and avoid theses zig-zags at all cost but make sure I walk well to the side to avoid creating a secondary shortcut between the loops.

My diversion took me all the way over to look down

on the spectacle of the deep blue Scales Tarn that we had circumnavigated earlier.

Sheep safely graze by the more natural path up from the tarn.

From this vantage point we could see the next set of fell walkers taking their turn at climbing Sharp Edge.

With the big lens on the camera I could see they've crossed the slabs and are starting up the Foule Crag climb.

Our own single wide zig-zag brought us back to the Doddick Fell summit

and we could look down on what would be our descent route through the heather, back towards Scales.

The old Mosedale viaduct on the now closed Penrith to Keswick Railway.

- - - o o o - - -

 

 

As we drop down through the wonderfully coloured heather

we have a lovely view of Halls Fell top

and the Doddick Gill valley

that leads up to the highest point of Blencathra.

 

- - - o o o - - -

The steep descent eases slightly as we reach the lower part of the fell.

The route swings slightly west before steepening once again.

Away in the distance the high central fells gradually drop below the horizon formed by Bleaberry Fell and High Raise.

We reach the fell wall and head east once again, back in the right direction for the car.

There is however a final sting in the tail on this lower route . . . the crossing of Scaley Beck.

A seemingly simple task to reach the other side
but there's a sharp descent over smooth rocks
to get safely down to Scaley Beck.

Down at this low level we've lost the summit breezes

so Dylan relaxes in the cool waters of the beck before we move on towards the end of the walk.

We could have turned right on reaching the road and return directly to the car,

but would seem churlish in this heat not to celebrate Martin's successful 51st summit in the time approved manor.

A pint of Jennings and a packet of vegetarian (!) Black Pudding Crisps in celebration.

Cheers Martin . . . here's to the other 163 summits still to complete

unless you get distracted my those 282 Scottish Monro Hills that you'll be living closer to next month.

Being part of 'phase one' of your new hobby has been a delight . . . today you've reached your 51st state.

- - - o o o - - -

Martin was taking photos too of course and he offered me his view of the day.

Click here or on the photo to play Martin's sideshow

- - - o o o - - -

 

An email received after the walk . . .

Hi Roger

Great to meet you and Martin on the way up Blencathra and thanks again for guiding Kathryn up Sharp Edge !

Attached a few pictures, love the web site we shall definitely be referring to it in the future.

Regards Martyn and Kathryn.

 

It was that Welsh accent as we climbed up to Sharp Edge that started our extended conversation today.

I've used a couple of the photos as you have probably seen.  Many thanks, diolch yn fawr . . . RmH

 

- - - o o o - - -

Now the other news you've all been waiting for . . .

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have your favourite web site pictures hanging

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plus support a good cause into the bargain.

- - - o o o - - -

 Yes . . . for this 15th superb edition we've done it again.

" Twelve months of Loweswater pictures, Lakeland scenes,

your favourite mountain dogs . . . and don't forget the bonus photo

on the front cover ! "


Click here to order

your 2022 Loweswatercam Calendar

- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with my Panasonic Lumix Gx8 Camera plus the two from Martyn and Kathryn that we met on the walk.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . a celebration beer and a 2022 Loweswatercam Calendar.

Go to Home Page . . . © RmH . . . Email me here

Previous walk - 26th August Helvellyn via Brown Cove

A previous time up here - 18th August 2005 An O.F.C. walk up Blencathra