Blencathra via Sharp Edge

Outline of Route
Threlkeld - Scales - Sharp Edge - Blencathra - Blease Fell - Threlkeld (Grid ref. NY 318257)
Total Distance 6.6 miles, Total Ascent 2500 feet, Equivalent Distance 11.6 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. There is a path from Scales Tarn at about NY 329280 up to the summit ridge near Hall's Fell top which avoids Sharp Edge

Details of Route
My stated intention has been to provide interesting full-day routes for fellwalkers. Blencathra, by its very nature, does not avail itself of incorporation into such routes. It is essentially a solitary mountain: you ascend it and descend from it. Its proximity to Bannerdale Crags and Souter Fell is of little help to the route designer. I have therefore provided two of the many interesting routes up; see the (photo) from Sandbeds Moss and (photo) from Great Dodd; and a common, easy, route down. This one need take no more than four hours.

People park all over the place in Threlkeld but there is an official car park (free) to be found by following the road indicated by a large, low-level sign to Blencathra, in the middle of the village. Along that road, about five yards from that sign is a wooden signpost indicating a footpath. Follow that past the back of some tin garages and over a wooden footbridge. The well marked path takes one through gates and over stiles to Gategill farm and on through another gate onto the fellside. Bear right and cross the gill and continue along by the wall. This path firstly crosses Doddick Gill and then Scaley Beck. The path, over rocks, down to the beck and up the other side is horrid: make sure both your hands are free. Soon after a gate gives access from the main road, a path takes off up across the fellside. Use this path rather than continuing by the wall as the ascent opens up views of the Pennines to the east. This path takes you up over the shoulder of Scales Fell, at which point Sharp Edge and Foule Crag come into view, and continues parallel with, but high above, the River Glenderamackin. On reaching Scales Beck cross it and following it up to Scales Tarn.

Sharp Edge is, in my view, the most difficult obstacle on any walker's path in the Lake District. It is not the technical difficulty, but the exposure, that is my problem. My first experience of it was a descent and I remember spending an inordinate amount of time on my bottom whilst trying to hold on for grim death - I have no great head for heights. The view of Sharp Edge from the approach is intimidating on its own (photo). If you decide here, at Scales Tarn, that this is not the day for you to traverse Sharp Edge, and I've done this, there is a perfectly satisfactory route up to the saddle of Blencathra to the left. For Sharp Edge go up the path to the right. You don't need to follow the crest of the Edge (photo) from the start: there is an easier track to the right below the top. This doesn't go all the way however and about half way along, the track turns left up to the crest. With the benefit of hindsight it hardly seems worthwhile following the lower track. It doesn't avoid the awkward section of the ridge, only the easier section, and the view - and the feeling of achievement - is decidedly inferior. Now try to pick your way along the top without thinking about the almost sheer drops on either side (photo). Finally make your escape up the side of Foule Crag to the northern end of Blencathra's saddle.

The view from here to the north west, across to the Solway Firth and the Scottish hills beyond, is eyecatching. Walk to the southern end of the saddle, Blencathra's summit, and the vista to the south opens up. Derwentwater is striking in the middle distance and, as one might expect, the panorama of the Lakeland Fells is unsurpassed.

Follow the summit crest to the west, to Gategill Fell Top, and on to the top of Blease Fell. Keep following the path with Knowle Crags on the left then leaving the crags for the grassy slope downwards. This meets a grassy path crossing the fellside, which you follow to the left. This meets and roughly follows a wall downhill, passing through a gate at the bottom and along between two walls to reach Blease Gill. Cross the bridge and follow the gill back into Threlkeld.

Rev. 02 September 2014

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