Route 6.8 miles (Memory Map Route File)
28th February 2008

At the summit of Helvellyn, my helpful guide had pointed over to Sharp Edge nicely picked out in the sunlight and told me that if I’d enjoyed Striding Edge, then that was another good scramble. Since then I’ve been looking for the best balance between weather and spare time in order to make a second trek up to the lakes.

In the seventh of his pictorial guides, Wainwright lists Blencathra as one of the best fells in Lakeland and also Sharp Edge as one of the best places (excluding summits) for a fell walker to be. Hearty recommendation that this should be my next target.

Blencathra is one of the grandest objects in Lakeland. And one of the best known. Seen from the south-west, the popular aspect, the mountain rises steeply and in isolation above the broad green fields of Threlkeld, a feature being the great sweeping curve leaping out of the depths to a lofty summit-ridge, where the skyline then proceeds in a succession of waves to a sharp peak before descending again in a graceful curve, to the valley pastures far to the east. – A. Wainwright

I’d passed through thick fog on my way up the M6, but by the time I reached my exit at Penrith, it was cloudy but visibility was good. Blencathra stood tall and proud dominating the view as I approached from the East finding a small lay-by across the road from Scales which seems to consist of a couple of houses and a pub.

A short walk down the road brought me to the start of a slog up the side of Scales Fell, overlooking Mousthwaite Comb, glimpses of chaffinches and greenfinches in the gorse bushes gave me plenty of excuses to stop and catch my breath which, as always, was lacking on the ascent.

Finally, reaching the ridge of Scales Fell, I got my first view of Sharp Edge, in the distance it looked nowhere near as scary as Striding Edge, so I followed the path along the side of the valley.

Scales beck is a fun little scramble, up to the tarn, it was a bit colder now, with clouds frolicking over the edge of the mountain above me and a stiff breeze in the shadow of the edge. This was the perfect spot to sit down and have a bit of a rest before the highlight of the day.

Obviously many people turn aside at this point and take the easier route to the south up Scales Fell, a tempting proposition as the rocks tower above you, but despite my trepidations I donned my rucksack once more and started up the northern path.

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

Sharp Edge is a well deserved name, the arĂȘte seems far narrower than either of the two on Helvellyn and the left hand side particularly steep, without a guide this time, it was up to me to pick the best route I could. The wind had dropped at this point and the cloud that had been threatening to envelop the top of Foule Crag had decided to wander off in a different direction, perfect for the challenge ahead.

I discovered religion several times on the way over, in several places the route offers you slopes to try and balance on rather than the footholds and handholds available on Striding Edge and in some places I could only manage a careful crawl from one rock to the next.

A couple of times I found myself in a position where I couldn’t see any way forward or back and had to just hang on and force myself to relax before re-assessing my next steps and pushing cautiously on.

From the cairn to the top of Foule Crag took me around 45 minutes, but as I was alone on the fell safety rather than speed was the order of the day. The mountain celebrated my safe arrival onto its broad back with a few flakes of snow and the return of a light breeze.

Having made an early start, especially on a weekday, I had expected the fell to be quiet, but to my surprise I only met one other person (although a couple of others were seen from a distance) not long after I had reached the summit and started my descent, even more surprisingly, it turned out to be Dan, the guide I had met on Striding Edge during my first trip to the Lakes.

The views from the top vary from the flat farm-land stretching all the way to the Pennines in the east to the seemingly endless waves of fells behind Keswick to the west. Taking the long but easy route across the top and down Blease Fell at the western end of the fell allowed me to appreciate this view rather than having to concentrate on the faster but more treacherous descents offered by the butresses that shore up the southern flank of the mountain.

Having reached the base of the mountain at Blease Farm, I decided to follow the track around the base which seemed to offer a fairly easy walk back to the car, for the most part it offered just that, but at the base of Doddick Fell, just as energy was starting to flag, the easy route is barred by a gate warning of bulls in the paddock ahead. The only alternative was to climb the steep path that leads around. As if that were not enough, the path drops away alarmingly to Scaley Beck necessitaing a scramble down and another up the other side for the final stretch to the pub at Scales.

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