Blencathra via Hall's Fell Ridge and Sharp Edge

10th May 2017

So there I was, nearly two thousand miles away in a pub in Benalmadena called St Andrews Bar and, after a rather heavy night it was time to take the following day easy. My mind is never far away from Lakeland and I guess it's fair to say that my friends and family understand what a hold the place has on me especially when I'm away.

It's 31°C and I'm burning up and no amount of water is quenching my thirst, I drink it by the litre load and still my mouth feels like sandpaper, I'm with my twin brother who is getting married next weekend and it's time to celebrate the only way that brothers and friends do, we eat and we drink. But the Lakeland fells are never far away and I find myself looking down at my mobile phone which is equipped with National Park Ordnance Survey mapping software and I start to doodle but my head isn't registering in this heat and with a strong sun bearing down on the screen I struggle to see, where can I walk when I get back?

The answer came as I slipped my mobile phone back into my shorts pocket, first a vision of Newlands instantly followed by the route which opened Lakeland for me all those years ago, a beloved route which got me to think seriously about starting a website but unfortunately as I drove along the A66 the fells that I had yearned for over the last few days are under a heavy bank of haze. I glance back at Blencathra through my rear view mirror.

Wainwright Guide Book Five
The Northern Fells

-Sharp Edge

Sharp Edge is a rising crest of naked rock, of sensational and spectacular appearance, a breaking wave carved in stone. The sight of it as close quarters is sufficient to make a beholder about to tackle it forget all other worries, even a raging toothache. 


Ascent: 3,500 Feet - 1,067 Metres
Wainwrights: 2. Blencathra - Mungrisdale Common
Weather: Overcast To Start Turning Brighter Towards Midday, Cool Across The Summits. Highs of 17°C Lows of 9°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Threlkeld Village
Area: Northern
Miles: 8.5
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 4 Hours 40 Minutes
Route: Threlkeld - Gategill Farm - Hall's Fell Ridge - Blencathra - Scales Tarn - Sharp Edge - Foule Crag - Mungrisdale Common - Cloven Stone - The Stake - Path Below Blease Fell – Blencathra Centre – Threlkeld

Map and Photo Gallery


St Mary's Church, Threlkeld 9°C

Feeling a tad disheartened - although knowing deep down that I had made the right choice I set about planning a route and for me, personally, the best ascent on to Blencathra can only be by the Hall's Fell Ridge before cheekily adding the traverse of Sharp Edge if only to spice things up a little, a route that I had previously claimed during my Harry Griffin 2,000 footers. Threlkeld was quiet this morning and I parked easily alongside the stone wall which overlooks St Mary's Church. The forecast had been for sunny spells throughout the morning making way for brighter spells midday onwards although I must admit I'd personally swap the word sunny spells for grey and overcast. I'm wearing shorts with a light base-layer T-Shirt which shows about seven stages of sun-tan from dark brown to pink around the tops of my sleeves, I look I guess, the typical English tourist owing to the fact that I wouldn't worship the sun throughout my break unlike my brothers and friends who all screamed in agony after pulling T-shirts down over suntanned torso's while getting ready to go out, yep I'm a wuss, but at least I'm not suffering now.

I'm not quite sure if it's due to just coming back from hotter climates but that nip in the air causes me to throw a second mid-layer on which I know will be lifted off once the climb begins but for now, it takes the bite out. With walking poles extended and my car locked I head out through the main street towards Gategill Farm passing a young chap, work tools at his side who is waiting for a lift, within minutes I have left the village and I'm surrounded by farmers fields on both sides. Young Lambs doze behind the hedges totally unaware of my presence as the Hall's, and Doddick ridges take hold, blimey the pull up onto Hall's Fell never looks any less steeper I mutter.

Views towards Knott Halloo, Gategill Fell, Middle Tongue, Hall's Fell Top and Hall's Fell Ridge as I approach Gategill Farm.

I'd only been away for a few days but my diet consisted mostly of beer and burgers, convenience food for five lads I guess. With this however, and not just myself we all kept hydrated drinking up to three litres of water a day which was provided by the little shop below our apartments, OK I wont lie, maybe a family bag of crisp each too for between meals, told you, we ate like kings.

The farm track is dusty and up ahead, in a field behind the Farm a tractor spreads silage which fills the nostrils, It feels good to be back. I've only been walking for around ten minutes but I'm already regretting my decision to wear my added mid-layer, it will come off before the climb begins, perhaps after I have passed through the Farm where I know an old wooden viewing bench awaits at the foot of Gate Gill.

Gategill Farm.

The track continues through the farm passing the site the Blencathra Foxhounds who hear my approach well before they can see me setting off a volley of barking although a small dog (breed unknown) which roams the yard teases the Hounds behind their locked kennels. The farmer is just yonder manoeuvering his tractor behind a high hedge, he of course knows I'm passing through but we still can't see each other.

I continue by following the track as it rises steadily below a canopy of trees towards Gate Gill.

Hall's Fell Top (Blencathra summit) and the Hall's Fell Ridge seen over Gate Gill.
Well, despite it being just a steady plod up from the Farm things have definitely started to heat up, and it looks like the sun is starting to make a appearance too.

Views back over Threlkeld towards Threlkeld Knotts, Clough Head, High Dodd and Low Dodd.

Ascent on Hall's Fell Ridge.
The light was sporadic to say the least sometimes blessing the hillside in fantastic sunlight, others the light was so low I struggled with views and any form of photography. This inadversary helps as I got into the steep climb over Hall's Fell feeling, then passing through the burn beyond a series of false summits before arriving on the ridge itself, here I gaze down over the heather covered fellside into Doddick Gill where I am reminded of the ascent that David and I pulled during my 2,000 footer campaign, back then the heather was in full blossom and a pleasure to ascend through. Further along the ridge more memories came flooding back as I pass a grass bank which had been used as a viewing point or simply a place to rest, today I walk on by feeling fit and ready for the scramble ahead.

Hall's Fell Top from Hall's Fell Ridge.
Today conditions mean I can choose how I ascend the ridge, predominantly I walk the spine of the ridge only opting to use the path(s) when I really had too, the rock and grooves are dry leaving excellent footings.

The view over Middle Tongue towards Gategill Fell Top.

From the base of Narrow Edge the ridge takes on it's distinctive curve.

Hall's Fell Ridge from Narrow Edge.

Despite the odd rare glimpse from the sun which brought instant warmth my ascent was done feeling on the cool side where I opted to keep just my T-shirt on rather than layer up which might have been an issue along Narrow Edge. Up above me and heading towards the summit I spot a solo walker, I'm only around 200 feet below him but he will reach the summit well before I do.

Gate Fell Top, Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw Little Man and Skiddaw from Blencathra summit.

The solo walker paused at the top of Hall's Fell Top and took some photos of the ridge which I probably guessed included me in ascent (I hate being watched) so I just continued head down, by the time I reached the summit he was long gone leaving the whole summit to myself, a rarity.

Looking south east couples and more solo walkers are ascending via Scales Fell who by now are cresting Doddick Fell Top, I soak in my summit time feeling the pinch from a cold breeze, my view is of haze in almost every direction with the exception of the more northerly summits such as Bannerdale Crags, Bowscale Fell and further north, High Pike which is blessed in sunshine.

The decision had already been made to make the traverse of Sharp Edge yet in order to reach it I must descend around 890 feet towards Scales Tarn.

I do this by using the zigzag path as I descend towards the top of Doddick fell Top.
Then I veer left via a narrow grassy path seen at the bottom of the zigzags which then joins up with the Scales Tarn path.

Sharp Edge and Tarn Crags seen above Scales Tarn with Bannerdale Crags, Bowscale Fell and Carrock Fell in the distance.
I use my descent to not just take in the fantastic views over Sharp Edge but to evaluate how busy the ridge is and as it goes, there doesn't seem to be anyone crossing at the moment, but all that can change as I'm about to find out very quickly.

A close up of Sharp Edge.

During my first crossing of Sharp Edge a water bottle fell from my pack on the Scales Tarn side and every time I see Sharp Edge I wonder where it is, not the fact that I'm within the presence of one of Lakelands most famous ridges!

Funny how the mind works isn't it.


Sharp Edge.

By the time I had descended Scales Tarn two chaps who I had been observing during descent started to make the climb towards Sharp Edge "couldn't you have just waited until I had passed you" I mutter - OK Paul you daft bugger they are probably thinking the same which is why they started their ascent before you reached the Tarn (that's my impatient side rearing) Besides the two, who by now are in ascent, two more walkers arrive from the Scales Beck side and 'mornings' are shared.

I could wait around for the two walkers up ahead to get a good lead on me but I'm crap at standing around doing nothing, instead I go for it.

I reach the start of the traverse instantly feeling that cool breeze again but I put it aside while I de-shoulder and secure my walking poles onto the side of my pack. I have traversed Sharp Edge enough times; and although I don't claim to know the ridge like the back of my hand I do have those 'my places' along the ridge where I know I feel comfortable with. I gain the ridge by short scramble and leave the path below where I found the two guys who had left Scales Tarn just ahead of me who by now are making a comfortable crossing.

Foule Crag from Sharp Edge.
'Foule Crag' perhaps one of the best scrambles for non-climbers in the District.

Looking back along the smooth section of Sharp Edge.
No wind and dry rock made for a safe and confident crossing.

Living on the edge.

The two walkers had by now passed over the 'Awkward Place' and now it was my turn, a section along the Traverse which always gets my heart thumping and today was no different.

Still couldn't see my water bottle though!

Ascent of Foule Crag.

And if the traverse of Sharp Edge isn't enough I now have this delicious scramble up ahead where walking poles remain firmly fixed to my pack. The guys in this photo demonstrate the ascent up Foule Crag by following a narrow grove within the wall of the crag, approached towards the right base after the traverse.

If the grove doesn't take your fancy ascent can be gained via the rock wall which on a day like today shouldn't pose too much of a problem for the confident walker with a head for exposure and heights.

Looking back on Sharp Edge from the ascent on Foule Crag.

During my ascent on Foule Crag I had by now caught up with the two guys ahead at the top of the groove, we share a laugh as I pat my belly laughing "I'm sure that groove used to be wider than that" We spend a few moments chatting looking down on more walkers taking on the ridge one of whom has two black and white Collies who conquer the ridge confidently.

"Ok guys, enjoy the rest of your day" before continuing the rest of my ascent reaching the top of Foule Crag where I de-shoulder and unpack my walking poles.

Views towards Bakestall, Knott and Great Galva as I make my way towards Mungrisdale Common.
The skies are really starting to clear revealing surrounding summits less the haze which has affected the majority of my view for the best part of the morning. A cool breeze is blowing, too cool for comfort so I add my mid-layer once again while I soak up the solitude on route to one of my favourite Lakeland summits.

Looking back towards Bannerdale Crags, Atkinson Pike and Blencathra from Mungrisdale Common summit cairn.

The approach to Mungrisdale Common from Atkinson Pike may not be everyone's cup of tea but the approach is just one of the reasons what makes it up there within my top ten of Lakeland summits, how after the hustle and bustle of Blencathra and Sharp Edge (admittedly not today) you can then relax and soak up the remoteness that only Mungrisdale Common can provide.

What a fantastic position Mungrisdale Common has, I really love this place.

A somewhat hazy view towards Skiddaw House, Sale How, Skiddaw and Bakestall.
Not far from the Cloven Stone now where on arrival I think I'll break open a early (ish) lunch.

Lunch time at The Cloven Stone.

I continued to follow the grassy prominent path south westerly passing the stone cairn with the Cloven Stone just yonder as the land begins to fall away.It had brightened up considerably by the time I reached the Cloven Stone yet as I was stopping I opted to keep my mid-layer on until I was ready to leave. As usual I'm on cold beef rice and chopped tomatoes which I eat whilst perched on the stone with both boots dangling out. "Be funny I thought" should someone see my feet hanging out here, but there's no-one around because every few minutes I'd peep out and check.

With lunch finished the inevitable happened and two walkers approached from the rear and got quite a shock to see me sat there, as it happened I was was just about to pull the cord on my pack ready to fasten the lid down.

"oh didn't see you there!" Sorry I've just been watching the world go by I replied, but I'm ready to go now. The woman noted my camera and asked was I uploading my pictures onto Twitter which prompted me to tell her about the website which I'm never too keen about because I'm not the promoting type.

They had a lovely little Terrier named Sid who was three years old, Mungrisdale Common would be his 83rd Wainwright. I stroked Sid's head warmingly and let him sniff my face, good on yer Sid.

We bid each other 'enjoy the rest of your day' before heading out towards The Stake from where I would pick my return path along the western flank of Blease Fell before heading towards the Blencathra Centre and finally Threlkeld.

Great Calva as I pass this ruined Sheepfold on route to The Stake.
It would seem that the forecasted sunshine has finally arrived.

Views back towards Lonscale Fell East Ridge, Burnt Horse and Great Calva.
From the path below Blease Fell.

Latrigg with that haze still amongst the North Western Fells.
Despite the haze the Temperature is well into double figures leaving my walk back to Threlkeld very pleasant

It doesn't get much better than this.

I had only passed one walker along the path below Blease Fell where a simple Hi was exchanged. I observe Lonscale Fell East ridge ready for a upcoming ascent before my path traces eastwards passing through the carpark found behind the Blencathra Centre, it is almost full.

I had the option to pass through a Farmers field at Middle Row where I found Sheep and Lambs grazing under the warmth of an afternoon sun but I opted to continue so as not to disturb them by following the road all the way back into Threlkeld as Gategill Fell now starts to appear into view.

Gategill Fell and Knott Halloo seen shortly after passing High Row Farm.

Threlkeld Village.

I arrived back in Threlkeld after passing a row of Cottages that were under construction as plasterers dust emerged from the open front doors. Inside it looks pretty hot as the workman work their trowels on walls and ceilings. By now a large group of School children are lined up outside the Primary School waiting to go out on a field trip, teacher breaks the line and allows me through, my scorched sweat couldn't have been pleasant and I apologise silently. At the crossroads I turn left passing immaculate cottages with spring flowers growing in hanging baskets and along neat garden borders.

My car soon comes into view bringing an end to a perfect plan B walk but I'm hungry as it emerges I still haven't finished off my lunch which I do whilst sat on a wooden bench close to the lamppost up ahead.

Teacher and children round the corner and stop whilst looking down into their books, I overhear the teacher say "see that stone building (pointing to the stone building in the right of this photograph) that's the old joiners shop" while each child looks up and writes it down.

If any few words, any view was going to bring me back to earth after the hustle of a lads stag do in Benalmadena, those last words hit the spot.


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