The Harry Griffin 2,000 footers Walk 26 -Blencathra and Neighbours

5th September 2015

Any walk involving the Hall's Fell Ridge together with Sharp Edge is always going to be something special which is why I had chose to walk 'Blencathra and Neighbours' close to the end of my 2,000 footers challenge - saving the best until last as so they say. Another special reason for todays walk will see both David and myself walk, something that we haven't done since the end of May, the reason for this is we have both been kept busy with our respective projects and of course my house move.

At the start of my campaign David had always expressed interest in this walk which was just another reason why I left it close to the end, of course within hind sight David went onto say that should I get the weather in between just go for it, as it so happened I was busy with my other walks and todays forecast fell just right for a traverse across Blecathra's edges. However, above all else this route was possibly the vaguest that I had to encrypt enlisting the help of David so we could both syphon the same route that Harry had used that day back in July 77 which back then, was Harry's first walk of his 2,000 footers challenge.

As the walk progresses I will explain both routes and why today, we couldn't stick to Harry's original plans, but me, I'm blaming mother nature and maybe how we interpreted the route from Harry's own words, which were a little vague as mentioned, it's only afterwards that things started to look more clearly by which time, we had committed further into the walk, irrespective of this, all six two thousand foot summits were collected as we soon knitted the walk back into the original route.

This is Blencathra and Neighbours.
Freeman of the Hills
'Blencathra and Neighbours'
I was in the middle of the sudden thunderstorm as I trotted down the side of Foule Crag towards the Glenderamackin col. I steered north by compass for Bowscale Fell, the driving rain and marshy ground making the trip more unpleasant than invigorating, and was pretty wet by the time I reached the cairn.
Harry Griffin

Ascent: 4,600 Feet - 1,403 Meters
Summits Over 2,000Ft: 6, Blencathra (Halls Fell Top) - Knowe Crags - Bowscale Fell (NY 333 305) - Bowscale Fell (NY 340 310) - Bannerdale Crags (NY 329 296) - Bannerdale Crags (NY 336 290)
Weather: Sunny with cold winds across the summits. Highs of 15° Lows of 10°C
Parking: Road Side Parking, Threlkeld
Area: Northern
Miles: 13.6
Walking With: David Hall
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 8 Hours 20 Minutes
Route: Threlkeld - Gategill Farm - Hall's Fell - Hall's Fell Ridge - Blencathra - Scales Fell - Scales Tarn - Blencathra - Knowe Crags - Blencathra summit Tarn - Atkinson Pike - Glenderamackin Col - Bowscale Fell - Bannerdale Crags - River Glenderamackin - Mousthwaite Combe - Scaley Beck - Diddick Gill - Gategill Farm - Threlkeld

Map and Photo Gallery


The Horse and Farrier - Threlkeld 08:00am 10°C

Both David and I had arranged to meet by the Church in Threlkeld at 08:00 myself arriving around ten two shortly followed by David, it was only natural that we needed to catch up which we did briefly before both our walking projects soon took over the conversation "It only seems like yesterday I handed you that book Paul" David of course referring to the two thousand footers challenge.

David was right, it did only seem like yesterday but should you have asked me that during my last ascent on St Sunday Crag I might beg to differ, because that was one hell of a tough walk I laughed. We kitted up both cars adjacent to one another lacing up and catching up respectively. Despite the promising blue skies above our heads the morning air had a nip to it so jackets were added if only to take the bite away.

With both cars locked we headed out passing the Horse and Farrier before picking up the tarmac road first passing the entrance to Gategill Farm which had a sign posted 'under construction' usually access to the bottom of the Halls Fell Ridge could be gained by walking through the farm, but with the sound of excavators confirmed we decided to press on further up the path before coming to a stop at a permissive wooden gate which we walked through bringing us out onto open farmland, ahead a steepish pull which warmed the calfs up in the direction of the corner of the field from where we would then gain Gate Gill and begin our ascent on the Hall's Fell Ridge.

Clear views over High Rigg, Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell and Raven Crag.
It soon became apparent just how clear Lakeland was today with breathtaking views over High Rigg Bleaberry Fell and not forgetting Walla Crag far off to the right.

Clough Head and Threlkeld Knotts from the start of the Hall's Fell Ridge.

We hit the steep path in good stead only stopping to take off the jackets we had added not twenty minutes earlier, this owing to the fact that we now had a warm sun on our backs coupled with a steep start, brows were soon being mopped. Soon we crested the base of the ridge allowing clear views all the way to Hall's Fell Top, the true summit of Blencthara, it was around about this point did we stop to consult the route, which, the pair of us were familiar with 'what do you reckon Paul' where do you think Harry made his decision to leave the ridge before descending back over Doddick Gill and Scaley Beck thereafter.

The wind had picked up and was starting to cool the sweat that had formed across my forehead, I'm not sure scanning the lay of the land at the same time, as Harry had mentioned the 'Hall's Fell Ridge' before realising he had been here recently before - thus giving him reason to totally change his plans.

In Harrys words he had left the ridge for Doddick Gill then rounded himself into Scaley Beck, but from where exactly did Harry leave the ridge?

At this point this was the least of our worries as we proceeded to investigate Doddick Gill from a higher up, it would seem from here sticking to the original route was going to be tricker than first thought, all because of the...

Traversing off path above Doddick Gill with the Doddick Ridge ahead and Scales Fell behind.


Both David and I agreed to take on the heather and do a little exploration over Doddick Gill by which time we had already committed wading through knee high Heather which so early into the walk, was starting to sap at energy levels, but, we continued anyway determined to figure out Harry's original plans which was starting to get more and more apparent, our only trouble was, we had committed too far up the ridge to stick to them.

Smell the heather.
Our late commitment saw us wade through around six hundred meters of Heather which smelled wonderful, there of course was a downside to this, our legs were starting to feel raw and just about everything including my camera was turning a nice dusty pink, it's a good thing none of us suffer from hay fever.

Taste the heather, here looking down on Doddick Fell.

This I guess was the moment it finally clicked in that Harry would have left the Hall's Fell Ridge in favour of Doddick Gill seen below, before continuing into Scaley Beck thus gaining Scales Fell after a steep scramble over boulder and scree. This was a heart rendering decision for me because it was at this point did David ask "what do you want to do Paul" With our commitment so high up and the heather which covered every flank across all of Blencathra's buttress we finally came to a joint decision where by we agreed to shelve Harry's route - beaten back by the heather would you believe.

It had taken both David and myself nearly half an hour to wade through six hundred meters of the stuff, having to descend, into Doddick Gill by it, then to reach Scales Fell the same way would have taken the best part of the day still having four summits to collect afterwards.

Justifying this decision having pain stakinginly stuck to all previous routes caused a gulp to form in my throat, but we were beaten by season, ours by September when the heather blooms, and Harrys in the middle of July when he wouldn't have been faced with the same problem.

Beaten back, it's time to admit defeat.
I draw a line under our decision, the plus side of which was, we now get to climb The Hall's Fell Ridge.

Hard work re-joining the Hall's Fell Ridge as David demonstrates.
By this time I figured we had seen enough of the Heather to last us a life time as we crawled our way back onto the ridge, the funny thing was despite this being a ridiculous steep climb morale was high as we agreed to empty the contents of our boots once back at the top of the ridge.

Views back down the start of the Hall's Fell Ridge.
Having gained the ridge we could now concentrate on the ridge route, ahead of us a couple of walkers had already passed us as we clambered our way back onto the ridge, they were at this point some way ahead of us making good ground on the summit as I, tipped out the twigs from my boots whilst at the same time giving my camera a wipe down with the bottom of my base layer, by eck it's cold lets get moving

Views back along Hall's Fell Ridge.
Instead of using the path that flanks the ridge, and, with not already suffering enough excitment for the morning we decided to go 'off path' all the way to the summit, David went first who surprised me as he always told me he would always shy away from any exposed routes.

David heads staight up the front of the final section of the ridge known as Narrow Edge.

Narrow Edge from the start.

Views back down Narrow Edge over Hall's Fell Ridge.
Stopping every now and again to take in the natural curve of the ridge and the grand views it offers.

Narrow Edge.
The path can be seen as a crease in the rock just off to the left.

The Hall's Fell Ridge from Narrow Edge.
Here the rock was dry offering plenty of grip which made the ascent of Narrow Edge an exciting one to say the least, yet in the back of my mind I could only think on would Sharp Edge offer the same as I am about to find out in a little while.

The Doddick Ridge and Scale Fell seen with Doddick Gill far below.

Gatefell Top from Blencathra, we'll be back here soon but first.
We soon topped out on the summit of Blencathra and was met by a brisk breeze to say the least, here Gategill Top can be seen in the picture and beyond, Knowe Crags which although lower than Gatefell Top by 154 feet will be claimed as my second two thousander of the morning, but first, we ease our way back into Harry's original route as humanly possible, we now head away from Knowe Crags by means of descending to Scales Fell from where, I will traverse Sharp Edge and David will collect Scale Tarn as part of his Tarn Walks.

We descend over Doddick Fell towards Scales Fell thus, picking up Harry's original route.

Sharp Edge from Scales Tarn.

Scale Fell was soon summited but not collected, here we paused for a while as we took in the ascent that Harry would have been dealt with that day back in July 77, this of course would have been common ground for a climber as he seamlessly picked his way over the Doddick and Scale Fell ridges but for us mortal walkers, even on a good day less the heather, this would have been quite a feat on its own.

I take my hat off to Harry.

Leaving Scale Fell behind and a host of walkers crossing its paths we descend to Scales Tarn which was cocooned in a labyrinth of warmth sunshine, so much so quite a lot of people had settled there for an early lunch. I kept a vigil eye on said walkers seeing which ones would ascend the approach path for Sharp Edge, none of them did. With this I tell David I'll wait around a while if only to 'take it all in' but I guess my nerves and my optimism was getting the better of me, I simply couldn't stand still after agreeing with David, I'll meet you back on top as I pressed on with good pace to the base of Sharp Edge.

Sharp Edge close up.

Sharp Edge.
I was almost at the base of Sharp Edge when I remembered that I needed to pack my walking poles away, ahead of me and a fellow walker chomps away on an apple, by the looks of it, he is also biding his time before his own ascent.

Looking back on Sharp Edge.
After joining the main ridge the first thing that became apparent was just how strong the wind was, the second, despite the rock appearing to be dry felt greasy underfoot.

Sharp Edge.
On any other occasion I would thunder my way across the ridge but I had no choice than to exercise on the edge of precaution owing to the wind, with this I dip up and down the ridge only gaining an advantage close to the most exposed section otherwise known as 'The Crux'

Foule Crag from Sharp Edge.
For me, the ascent on Foule Crag from Sharp Edge is just about as exciting as traversing Sharp Edge itself, however, there's still the small matter of crossing one of Lakelands most exposed points at The Crux, which starts by first lowering oneself down onto a rock platform from one of two of the large rocks shown in the left of the photo.

The Crux, Sharp Edge.

My apple eating walker had soon caught me up, I put this down to my camera stops and the fact that the way this fellow traversed Sharp Edge like he could do it in his sleep, however, The Crux stopped him in his tracks as he nervously pointed out to me just how greasy the rock felt underfoot, couple this with just how smooth the rock is, well I guess you know what I'm going to say...

I've no idea why this guy his holding his thumb up, my only advice to him was 'mate I won't watch you' we laughed and I pressed on with what I consider to be the best part of Sharp Edge.

Here, looking down on Sharp Edge from Foule Crag.
My ascent on Foule Crag would be direct and not by the path over on the far right left looking down) here I use the natural crease in the crag from where I rattle feet after feet of ascent all the while trusting dry rock along with trust worthy foot holes.

Ascent on Foule Crag.

RAF Sea King sweeps over the top of Blencathra summit.
Having almost topped out at the top of Foule Crag an RAF Sea King makes a surprise entrance first by sweeping over Scales Tarn only to return from the direction of Mungrisdale Common, I've no idea why this happened and was pleased to report so, however, this is as close as I'd ever like to get to a Sea King.

Taking it easy on Gatefell Top summit.

We made our way back to the summit of Blencathra which by now had a large gathering of walkers around it as David remarks 'this would of been Harry's first summit of the day' I know mate, had we not got tangled up in the heather it would have been ours too. With just a by-pass we head past the summit and follow the path towards Gategill Fell Top where David struck up conversation with two walkers also enjoying a day out 'just on Blencathra' they spotted David as he waited for me to top out on Foule Crag and was surprised to see him here after asking was he heading down Sharp Edge "no I'm just waiting for a mate"

Despite the clearing skies the wind around the summit soon bites after standing still for long enough which is why we dipped below the summit of Gatefell Top and decided to break out lunch by which time we had the area to ourselves, having taken in the views we were soon joined by a large group of walkers right about the same time we decided to pack up before heading onto our next summit of Knowe Crags 'excuse me, excuse me' could you take a group photo please.

Aye go on then - one of these days I'm gonna photo bomb one of these group photos!

Gategill Fell Top from Knowe Crags.
Having packed up lunch we headed down to the second two thousander of the morning in Knowe Crags before returning over Blencathra summit for the third and final time before heading across the Saddle to collect Blencathra summit Tarn for David's Tarns project, after stopping to take photos we headed across the gentle rise over Atkinson Pike before descending down towards Glenderamackin Col.

Splendid eye watering views over Mungrisdale Common with Skiddaw, Bakestall, Great Calva in the distance.
We were soon descending for grassier climates which would spell the end of the hard work, ahead Bowscale Pike and Bannerdale Crags awaits taken in by distant views of the Northern Fells at which point, we both remarked just how welcoming they looked today, a sure place to find some peace and quiet.

Descending Glenderamackin Col for Bowscale Fell and its subsidiary summit seen behind.

Bakestall, Great Calva, Knott and Pike seen as we pass over Glenderamackin Col.

Bowscale Fell (Pile of stones) Subsidiary summit from Bowcsale Fell.

We had spoken on how wet and boggy the area between Gleneramackin Col and Bowscale Pike would be having both agreed that it hadn't rained for a while and, the ground should reflect this, how wrong we were as this section of path was still living up to its name as one of the boggiest, and indeed wettest in Lakeland, I guess we are so used to it we wouldn't have it any other way.

Ahead just over half a mile away Bowscale Fell subsidiary summit awaits, were between us and it, a little descent is needed followed by equal was only on my way back did I remark, that this was the last 'out and back of the two thousand footer challenge'

Nostalgic times, but am I going to miss them? of course I will.

Bowscale Fell (NY 340 310) subsidiary summit in front of Bowscale Fell North Ridge.
Bowscale Fell was soon reached after the short pull to its summit, here the afternoon light seemed to switch and shadows lengthened, it was also the summit furthest away from Threlkeld our starting point, we didn't say nowt about the matter but I guess we were both thinking it, time to head back over Bowscale Fell and its subsidiary summit to collect the last two summits of the walk.

Bannerdale Crags and its subsidiary summit seen over on the right.

Bannerdale Crags from Bannerdale Crags subsidiary summit (NY 336 290)
Once again to gain the subsidiary summit of Bannerdale Crags more bogs had to be negotiated, in taking the fifth summit of the walk we had to leave the Ridge early blighting views into Bannerdale, after a quick photo we took a direct line for the main summit only veering off over to the right once we hit the gentle rise, not before,more bog hopping.

Blencathra and Sharp Edge from Bannerdale Crags summit.
We soon found ourselves at the main summit of Bannerdale Crags ending our collection of six summits for the walk but by no means was the walk over, next - in keeping with the original route we would descend steeply back to the River Glenderamackin, something of which I know was going to pull at tired muscles.

The River Glenderamackin after descending Bannerdale Crags.
My camera quite rightly stayed in its bag as we took in the steep descent keeping as close to the old lead mine spoil as possible, here the flank of the fell dropped away steeply before finally arriving at the River Glenderamackin where David spotted an old tree root which had been preserved under a couple of feet of peat, with no trees around we could only wonder that perhaps we were looking at something at least a couple of hundred years old.

White Horse Bent and Souther Fell as we round pick up the Scales Fell descent path.

After crossing the River Glenderamackin we topped out on the main path, not before a steep slog up a grass bank which almost stopped the pair of us in our tracks, ahead however, we knew we now had the comforts of some great walking as we take on the flank of Scales Fell in descent before the couple of miles walk back to Threlkeld passing beneath the flanks of the Ridges that we had explored only hours earlier.

Good times.

Great Mell Fell.

The Doddick Ridge from Scaley Beck.

With the descent behind us we now took on the Bracken lined path back to Threlkeld passing Doddick Gill along the way, this however wasn't without incident as we climbed out of the Gill via a slight scramble where we were met by a group of walkers descending the same scramble, we waited patiently for all members of the group only to be told 'you can have it now' or words to that effect, thanks for waiting the extra ten minutes then.

I guess not.

The Mell Fells seen as we approach Gate Gill.

Blencathra and the Hall's Fell Ridge seen before descending into Gategill Farm.

Passing through Gategill Farm.

We decided, unlike this morning to return to Threlkeld via Gategill Farm as now we couldn't hear any noise from the construction site, instead we were treated to loud barking from the kennels situated close by which of course are home to the Blencathra Fox Hounds.

Sounds like it's tea time.


The Hall's Fell Ridge from Threlkeld.

"This is how I like to end a walk" remarks David, a dusty track underfoot which is just what we were treated to before arriving back in Threlkeld and normality.

We take in that last half mile under a warm afternoon sun silently wondering how many walks would end just as well as todays had, with scorched brows we head on back through Threlkeld passing the Horse and Farrier who's beer garden is playing host to a wedding reception all under the gaze of Blencathra and its ridges. Back at the cars under the shade of a canopy of trees we kit down whilst sat opposite the owner of a cottage reads the paper whilst sat in his front garden, an idyllic setting if there ever was one.

Kitted down we chat behind David's car about the last walk of my campaign, we go through eventualities and agree contact during the middle of the week, we end our conversation as always with a handshake followed by, I only hope we get the same weather as good as we had today.

I smile and say, aye me too.


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