Blencathra via Hall's Fell Ridge

27th November 2016

Despite a continuous run of dry and sunny weather which Lakeland has been experiencing as of late todays walk hinged on a rather uncertain forecast which should see plenty of sunny spells mixed in cloud which would linger around the summits even adding that the highest of which could protrude above the cloud.

Today is of course a Sunday and as such I try to limit my mileage both on and off the fell. Initially I had planned a walk on the Coniston Fells before being reminded of the lure of the Hall's Fell ridge after driving past Blencathra last weekend on route to Braithwaite when I suddenly thought "it's been a while" OK I admit it's only been seven months but for such a fine traverse that can feel more like ten years.

With a green light forecast I packed my winter kit which included Ice Axe and Crampons both of which I still hadn't put to use so far but it's still very early days as far as Winter walking goes. The heavy snow that had fallen prior to last weekend is less substantial and is in thaw but this varied leaving Blencathra Buttresses with only patchy snow below 800' above this height snow drifted and accumulated but was still avoidable although extra care had to be taken when negotiating the craggy outcrops.

This wasn't the case for the descent via Blease Fell where the snow depth was up to two feet from the summit to around 500' all of which meant for now anyway, the Ice Axe and Crampons just came along for the ride but what really made this walk that extra special was the cloud dramatics which was more than the reward for sunny spells that never really materialised.

Wainwright Guide Book
The Eastern Fells

-Hall's Fell Ridge

For active walkers and scramblers, this route is positively the finest way to any mountain-top in the district. It is direct, exhilarating, has glorious views, and (especially satisfying) scores a bulls-eye by leading unerringly to the summit cairn.


Ascent: 2,430 Feet - 741 Meters
Wainwrights: Blencathra
Weather: Feeling Wintery With Sunny Spells to Start Turning Overcast. Highs of 7°C Lows of 5°C Feels Like -10°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Threlkeld Village
Area: Northern
Miles: 5.2
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 3 Hours 45 Minutes
Route: Threlkeld - Gategill Farm - Hall's Fell Ridge - Blencathra - Knowe Crags - Blencathra Centre - Threlkeld

Map and Photo Gallery


Threlkeld Village 08:50am 5°C

I had gone to bed the evening before thinking that before I head north I would have to defrost the car but this wasn't the case after opening the blinds to find my car completely frost free. This was good news which meant I didn't have to wait until the car had defrosted but I guess the rise in temperature wasn't just noticed close to home but on the Lakeland fells where I had expected to see similar conditions to that of last weekend but after putting a post on my Facebook page stating todays walk intensions I received a comment from John Patterson of Keswick who noted that I maybe a few days too late with mild temperatures over the last few days hence the recent thaw. John was right and by the time I drove past Blencathra which was partially covered by cloud only patches of snow could be seen but as a precaution my winter essentials remained part of my kit.

I'm always a little wary when I arrive a little later as many 'hot spots' especially when clear weather is forecast who's parking spaces can be quickly taken but thankfully this wasn't the case when I arrived in Threlkeld where I parked with ease next to the Church leaving plenty of room for late comers. With cloud still lingering I dawdled during my kit up, a calming rarity these days. Unusually I had left the house without a full breakfast and with only the one Banana I was starting to feel peckish already so I spooned three of four full mouthfuls of chicken flavoured rice in which wasn't the best thing to digest for breakfast but at least it stopped my stomach growling. With the car locked I head out of the village where I pass a dog walker followed by an employee from the Horse and Farrier who smiles and nods with a 'good morning'

Halls Fell, Doddick Fell and Scales Fell from Fell Foot.
From the village I head north east towards Gatesgill Farm where I spotted the cloud clearing from Blencathra summit although it was still rather murky and nothing like what had been forecast.

Passing through Gategill Farm.
Where I was treated to a chorus from the Blencathra Foxhounds housed in nearby kennels.

Blencathra (Hall's Fell Top) from Gate Gill.

The track leading towards the farm progresses steadily passing through the farm yard then through a wooden gate sign posted Gategill. It is here the path continues towards a second gate next to a bench as views open back out over Threlkeld and the Vale of Keswick.

To my right flank Gate Gill flows over a series of waterfalls which can be seen through woodland and most certainly heard which drowns out the traffic travelling along the A66 while ahead a fellow walker has already started his ascent on Hall's Fell so I hang back a moment just so he can get a lead on me if only to create a gap between us both.

Doddick Ridge and Scales Fell with the Great Mell Fell and Little Mell Fell in the distance.
With my fellow walker now out of sight I press on first taking on the steep zigzags that wind their way upon the ridge as I am reminded just how steep the initial ascent actually is by stopping more times than I care to mention, phew why are my lungs not liking this ascent! I guess the cold rice for breakfast didn't help.

Epic cloud retreat over White Pike, Clough Head and Great Dodd.

Once the ridge was gained I knew that most of the hard work was behind me with the exception of a few technical negotiations ahead I could now rest easy and enjoy the ridge. With a feeling of contempt I spin around as I could see the skies ahead were starting to clear leaving large blue gaps between the cloud before turing around to see the views over Clough Head which was enough to stop me in my tracks.

Meanwhile up ahead I could see my fellow walker ploughing himself into the walk and from what I could gather, he missed these few magic moments.

A close up of White Pike, Clough Head and Great Dodd.


I'll never look at White Pike the same again after this mornings views.

Meanwhile up ahead the skies have completely cleared.
This was really starting to turn into one of those memorable walks as the cloud left the summit making way for clear blue skies all be it, feeling very brisk indeed.

Hall's Fell Ridge.

Despite the lack of snow care still needed to be taken as much of the rock along the ridge was only semi dry leaving it in places greasy underfoot. It didn't go unnoticed that long sections of the well worn path had been buried below snow which by now was in thaw leaving it difficult and time consuming to wade through, it was much easier to walk the spine of the ridge even if it meant trusting your footings first.

To the East Doddick Gill, Doddick Fell and Scales Fell with the Mell Fells beyond.

While to the West, Middle Tongue, Gate Gill and Gategill Fell.

Looking back along Hall's Fell Ridge.

As I approached the distinctive curve in the ridge I could see that my fellow climber up ahead had stopped to add a helmet which at first I thought was a little odd but when I thought about it more he was only acting on the side of precaution and you can't blame a man or woman for wanting to protect the most valuable part of the human body.

I don't mind admitting with more height gained testing ones footing was becoming more and more a regular occurrence and thought had to be put into the next twenty or thirty feet ahead which even after many ascents still gets the heart rate going!

Looking back from just above the curve in the ridge.

As the blue skies faded in favour of cloud.
Only quarter of an hour had passed since I had been looking up towards the summit which had been blessed with blue skies yet while I had been concentrating on my ascent a mass of cloud began to creep down from the summit which would soon totally envelope the whole ridge.

But at least it did it in style.
I could have sat here all morning watching the cloud take away my views.

Blencathra summit.

With limited views, a dripping nose and cold wind chill I continued along the spine of the ridge and watched my fellow climber crest the summit through a thickening of cloud. All that was left was the last push towards the circular trig point where I at least expected to find the summit area full of fellow walkers but found no one, not even the young chap I had followed in ascent.

Voices carried through the wind and soon through the mist three fell runners appeared who asked? "Did I need crampons"...nah I replied...soft wet snow in thaw but thankfully the rock was partially dry I replied.

After posing for a selfie photograph they returned the same way they had come via Gategill Top and soon I was hearing more voices this time from the direction of the Scales Tarn path where three youngsters appeared fully kitted out for an expedition on the fells, hi's and hello's are exchanged but I don't leave the summit just yet as I could now see large gaps appearing directly above the summit revealing a deep blue sky.



The wind chill was starting to become a problem and I was finding it difficult to just 'hang around' waiting to see if the cloud would clear but with each moment passed I would tell myself just one more minute...

This for now was the best view I got which revealed Gategill Fell top although still just a couple of hundred feet higher blue skies teased down on me when all the while I was in the mist of cloud...ohhh just a couple of hundred feet and I could have been looking down on a cloud inversion...oh well never mind (wipes nose for the umpteenth time and calls it a day)

Hang on a minute.
The cloud is starting to break as the sunlight streaks through.

Oh look a Broken Spectre.
Not my finest but still always nice to capture.

Thirlmere through a break in the clouds.

Knowe Crags.
I didn't have to wait much longer before the cloud started to break generally the further west I walked although this wasn't the case as I looked back on Blencathra which was still under cloud.

Snow cornice close to Knowe Crags summit

You can see how the wind has shaped the cornice to look like waves on the ocean which lead me to think what I was actually looking at was a frozen wave!

Views over the Skiddaw Forrest towards Burnt Horse, Sale How, Blake Fell, Bakestall and Great Calva.

More snow cornice close to Knowe Crags captured under moody light.

Derwent Water and a host of North Western Fells.

Golden Thirlmere.

Here without the zoom.

Descending Blease Fell with views of Lonscale Fell East Ridge.
From the summit of Knowe Crags I descend west where the familiar path was consumed by deep snow, here I am all too familiar with the zigzag path which by now wasn't to be seen just thousands of footprints marking its course some of which lead directly off the fell because the deep snow underfoot allowed a pathless descent until around 500' was reached from where any remaining snow was confined to just patches.

Cat Bells and Causey Pike feature amongst many of the North Western Fells as I reach the Blencathra Centre.

With snow capped boots I descend the familiar steep grassy slopes where views of car roof tops parked close to the Blencathra Centre edge nearer and nearer. By now I am able to remove my hat and gloves and enjoy the last few miles back to Threlkeld in relative comfort despite my leaking nose. Today has been one of those magic hours spent on the fell within the cusp of Winter.

With time on my hands I break out lunch whilst sat above said car roof tops where once again I tuck into my chicken flavoured rice when really I could have curled my fingers around a hot cup of coffee whilst my nostrils are being treated to the smell of wood smoke which billowed from a nearby chimney.


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