Sunday, 9 July 2017

Blencathra via Sharp Edge

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Route: Scales, Knotts, Mousthwaite Comb, Brunt Knott, Scales Tarn, Sharp Edge, Foule Crag, Atkinson Pike, Blencathra, Doddick Fell, Doddick Farm, Scaley Beck, Scale

Date: 09/07/2017
From: Scales

Parking: A66
Start Point: Scales
Region: Northern Fells

Route length: 5.7 miles (9.2 km)
Time taken: 02:49
Average speed: 2.0 mph
Ascent: 715m
Descent: 710m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Blencathra (868m)

Other Summits: Doddick Fell (742m)

Other points of interest: Scales Tarn, Sharp Edge

Sharp Edge is one of the quintessential Lakeland outings, often held in the same regard as Striding Edge and (to some extent) Crib Goch - though it is much shorter than it's illustrious Welsh counterpart.

This walk, though short, packs a lot into a short space. First, there's Sharp Edge, the narrow arĂȘte that either invokes a sense of delight or, possibly, terror depending on your outlook.

Following immediately is a modest scramble up Foule Crag to reach Atkinson Pike. Then there's Blencathra and its tremendous views before a descent of Doddick Fell that takes you right back to the valley below. All in all, a grand day (or afternoon) out.

We parked in one of the many lay-bys that line the A66 beneath the steep slopes of Blencathra and, after some mild trespassing, found the path that would take us up the southern end of Souther Fell.
The Vale of Keswick
Great Mell Fell
Mousthwaite Combe with Sharp Edge in the background
Here, the path climbs fairly steeply up the side of Mousthwaite Comb, a curious barrier to the River Glenderamackin, sending it on its circuitous course around Souther Fell. At the head of the coum, the route follows a well-established path up the Glenderamackin valley to reach Scales Beck below Brunt Knott where it climbs once again up to Scales Tarn. From here, things start to get a little more exciting.
Looking down Mousthwaite Comb
The River Glenderamackin
Souther Fell
The Gelnderamackin once again
Sharp Edge
Looking back down the valley
Scales Beck
Scales Tarn
For a while, Sharp Edge has been looming up ahead, the very obvious light grey ridge seen in profile, often with a number of walkers, silhouetted against the skyline. It can be accessed by the very obvious path that branches right up the hillside but it is worth stopping for a moment at Scales Tarn to savour the impressive mountain scenery in front of you.
The way to Sharp Edge is obvious
Sharp Edge
The initial climb along the path is easy enough until it reaches the first series of rock outcrops where the scrambling begins. Here, it is straightforward with many lines and no cause for difficulty. This short section will take you to the start of Sharp Edge, the vertiginous ridge ahead, and it is here you can decide whether to take on the challenge or return to Scales Tarn to find another route. If you decide to carry on, here's what you can expect to find.
Approaching Sharp Edge
It had turned into an amazing afternoon
The first hurdle on Sharp Edge
Looking back down to Scales Beck
Sharp Edge
Sharp Edge sweeps up ahead of you, an extremely narrow ridge with steep drops on either side. If you can stomach the exposure, clambering along its crest is not too difficult and most sections can be done without using your hands. I'd say that it's actually slightly wider than it first appears with only one or two truly 'knife-edge' sections to tackle.
Sara negotiating Sharp Edge
Sharp Edge
Sharp Edge
Sara on one of the wider sections
Sara on Sharp Edge
Around half way, you will reach a notch on the ridge with a short, jutting rock poking out at the top. This is widely known as the Bad Step, as the rock has been expertly polished by thousands of backsides. In the dry, you may not even notice it and continue on regardless, but when it is wet, the underlying slate can become lethally slippery with a number of casualties ending up the 'usual gully' as the Mountain Rescue put it.
Continuing Sharp Edge
Down to Scales Tarn
The Bad Step on Sharp Edge
With the Bad Step negotiated, Sharp Edge starts to climb before ending at the base of Foule Crag. Short but sweet, it's a great introduction to exposed ridges and a real shame that it doesn't last longer. Scrambling up Foule Crag is entertaining in itself, the noticeable gully to the right being the most obvious route of ascent. Views back along Sharp Edge and down to Scales Tarn are understandably excellent.
Sharp Edge from Foule Crag
Sharp Edge and Scales Tarn
Finishing Sharp Edge
Eventually, you will reach the top of Foule Crag where a path will lead you along the top of Tarn Crags and the final climb to Blencathra's summit. Instead of a traditional trig pillar, there is instead a small circular ring to denote the summit. Views from Blencathra are something special. taking in a huge sweep of the entire national park.
Atop Tarn Crags
Sharp Edge and Scales Tarn
Blencathra's summit
Hall's Fell Ridge
St. John's in the Vale
The central ridge
At the top!
After some brief map consultation we decided to follow the Scales Fell ridge to the top of Doddick Fell, one of the many ridges that run south from Blencathra's main ridge, Hall's Fell being the best of the lot. Doddick Fell, while lacking some of the excitement of Hall's Fell, does have superb views of Doddick Gill and the crags below Blencathra's summit - something you don't really see from the other ridges.
Scales Fell
The top of Doddick Fell
Blencathra
Doddick Fell
Doddick Fell
Blencathra
Doddick Fell and Doddick Gill
Descending the ridge takes some time though it's not particularly difficult. Upon reaching the bottom, all that was left was to follow the wall back towards the layby where the car was waiting. There was one tricky little section at Scaley Beck where a rock step needs negotiating but again, the route is largely trouble free.
Doddick Gill and Blencathra
The Vale of Keswick
Clough Head
The path above Doddick Farm
Scaley Beck
In all, a great afternoon out on a superb fell. Sharp Edge is an excellent scramble the absolutely has to be done. It's just a shame the excitement is short lived. This walk is a short, sharp blast of entertainment - pun intended.