An exciting but easy route from Threlkeld
15.10.2009 7 °C
You know when you're approaching a bridge over a particularly treacherous looking river and just as you go onto the structure you spot the sign - Weak Bridge - Well, I've a theory that these signs were put up by people living on the far side of the river who didn't want to encourage visitors. Perhaps they also lived on Blencathra judging by some of the names given to the routes up that fell. Narrow Edge and Sharp Edge invoke images of crumbling staircases suspended over a dizzying void though the reality is somewhat different.
While Sharp Edge is indeed an exciting if short scramble that one wouldn't fancy much in high winds or icy conditions, Narrow Edge, also known by the less inspired name of Hallsfell Ridge, has no difficulties you can't avoid but despite its relative ease it does lead directly to Blencathra's summit with fine views throughout. If you stay on the crest of the ridge, the scrambles last longer than on Sharp Edge but are easy and in at least moderately inclement weather, it isn't all that dangerous.
So it was that I set off with Pete, my father in law, from Threlkeld village to ascend the mountain by Narrow Edge. From Threlkeld the path led alongside a stream through trees before crossing the water and branching right beside a stone wall with Blencathra's steep slopes rising to the left. Topping a small rise we were greeted by the view of a waterfall descending from a narrow precipitous looking valley. Our path could be seen climbing the steep slopes of Halls Fell to its right.
There seemed an unusual number of people milling around, many sporting pairs of binoculars and their purpose was revealed by a chap wearing a "Blencathra Foxhounds" hat. The hounds, he revealed were kennelled just below here and were being exercised on the Fell today by following a scent trail. Cameras out in expectation of that shot of a pack of baying hounds charging down the hillside, we set off up the trail. The path climbed steeply through the heather, the views expanding as we climbed steadily higher. Presently we arrived at the top of Halls Fell, a wide hilltop with views of Keswick and Derwentwater behind then south over St Johns in the Vale towards Helvellyn while ahead over the far side were the sweeping slopes of Blencathra's ridges, Doddick and Scales Fell. A couple of lost looking hounds wandered up as if to enquire of their whereabouts but the only others we saw were a group of about half a dozen below the next ridge of Doddick Fell. It seemed that the foxhounds were in disagreement as to where the scent trail was.
The path now led steeply up again to where Narrow Edge rose from the softer heathery slopes like a rugged island. Here the ridge climbed ahead in a series of rocky outcrops and the way up its crest became exhilharating without being at all difficult or insecure. It was a pleasure to be walking on the bare rock and to have to use one's hands on the steeper parts but had the rocks been slippy or the wind stonger it would be easy to walk just below the top of the ridge.
Almost too soon, just as we were really getting into the surroundings, the ridge steepened again and came out on the peak itself. There aren't many routes in the Lakes where a ridge as good as this one leads to the summit of the fell! Usually the view from Blencathra is spectacular, situated as it is on the northern rim of Lakeland facing most of the region across open lands over 2000 feet below.Today though the weather had different ideas and while it hadn't been bad on the way up meaning that we had remained dry, a cold grey mist now rolled in and hid the views from sight. Whilst eating lunch by the cairn I absently read the blurb on my packet of salted peanuts and was particularly impressed to read the words "contains nuts" on the back. I was glad to hear this as it would be somewhat aggrieving to discover that it didn't - a bag of salt has much less appeal.
We followed the ridge roughly south west from the cairn towards the end summit of Knowe Crag with occasional glimpses of Skiddaw and the remote northern fells glimpsed through the drifting clouds to the right and ahead. Just after Knowe Crag we branched off down to the left on a new looking path which descended steeply in wide zigzags. Dropping back below the clouds which clung to the summit, we were treated to a spectacular sunset over the fells beyond Derwentwater which itself was now in twilight. The path was leading too far to the west so we again branched left over easy grassland before finding another path descending steeply towards Threlkeld. A steep,
loose descent which saw much contact between bottom and ground brought us quickly back down to the woodland above Threlkeld where we'd set out, just before night closed in over the northern Lakes.
If you found this route busy - it will be in summer - here's the quiet way up from Mungrisdale