Blencathra is not only one of the oldest mountains in Lakeland, it’s one of the finest too. Exhibiting a strong spirit of independence it is a favourite of young and old alike with myriad routes to its lofty summit where, on a fine day the fellwalker will be rewarded with some of the best views in the district. Complimenting the easier walking routes are two excellent scrambling ridges, one of which has attained classic status - and for good reason; in an area where narrow arêtes are in short supply Sharp Edge is in my opinion the daddy, gifting the scrambler and adventurous walker with the airiest, most sensational tightrope Lakeland has to offer.
metres / Distance
NY3400726767 The approach to Sharp Edge couldn’t be more simple and starts from the roadside where a gate gives access to the gentle, bracken fringed path which contours around the lower slopes of the fell. Before long a faint trod forks off to the left gaining the broad back of Scales Fell. Ignore this and keep to the well trodden path which hugs the rim of Mousthwaite Combe with steep slopes dropping off to the right.
NY3444727729 At the head of the combe the walk changes character as we drop into the valley of the River Glenderamakin. Suddenly the busy A66 is forgotten and we enter true hill country with a secretive valley laid out before us and Sharp Edge ahead throwing down an irresistible challenge. Before our scramble begins one more treat awaits as we reach Scales Tarn deeply set within its fine glacial combe. Rest awhile to soak up the atmosphere of this wonderful place and catch your breath, ready for the excitement soon to come.
NY3299428128 The way ahead is obvious and a short walk leads to the start of Sharp Edge which commences with an easy angled groove. Once on the crest it is simply a case of following the ridge over small pinnacles and a pavement wide level section which, while never technical is exposed and very polished. A bypass path on the right is ultimately more trouble than it’s worth and terminates in a loose scramble where the crest must be regained. A bold step past a leaning pinnacle constitutes what many consider to be the crux though to my mind the final scramble up Foule Crag where the ridge abuts the fellside is both technically more difficult and more exposed, though happily it doesn’t exceed grade 1 so with a steady approach there is nothing to fear in good weather. To get started on this final section a prominent groove to the right leads to more broken ground until Blencathra’s saddleback is attained.
NY3254528302 From here a short walk along the grassy ridge (with an optional visit to Atkinson Pike) will deliver you promptly to Hall’s Fell Top, Blencathra’s summit at 2847ft where if you’re lucky you’ll want to linger to enjoy the wonderful and far reaching vista.
NY3231727704 A variety of descents are available using any of the southern ridges but in keeping with the mountaineering flavour of the day I recommend Hall’s Fell Ridge which starts right from the summit of the mountain, itself a fun grade 1 scramble where any naughty bits can be avoided on good paths.
NY3248226255 At the foot of Hall's Fell excellent paths skirt the toes of the mountain, crossing Doddick Gill and Scales Beck before returning to the start and maybe a well earned pint in the White Horse Inn.
Start/Finish: The route starts 250m SW of Scales at NY 340269. There are several lay-bys on the A66 where parking is free, NY339268
Nearest town: Keswick
Terrain: Excellent, well graded paths all the way to Sharp Edge. Sharp Edge is an exposed arete composed of Skiddaw slate which gives a good grade 1 scramble; if wet it can be extremely treacherous and is best avoided. Hall's Fell is a steep, rocky ridge, exposed in places with clear paths bypassing any difficulties (but also a grade 1 scramble if the true crest is followed).
Seasonal variations: Under a mantle of snow and ice Sharp Edge and Hall's Fell Ridge become a mountaineering expedition and receive a winter climbing grade of I
I agree, Sharp Edge is a great scramble when the rock is dry. When wet however, it turns into a slippery nightmare. My Vibram soled Aku Croda scrambling boots afforded about as much purchase as a layer of verglass - utterly lethal, and so sharp edge is not somehwere I'd recommend in the wet.
I've always thought it best done the other way around - up Halls Fell, 'down' Sharp Edge. Sharp Edge itself is fairly level, so you don't lose anything doing it the other way. How do you calculate the time needed for the circuit? Seems quite generous, though I suppose that's no bad thing.
Did it in the wet, wind and mist on Sunday and is the only way to make Sharp Edge adventurous, in the mist you can imgine the drops are vertical and much higher, in the wet it makes the slate like verglass and you cannot get away without three or four points of contact on the rock at all times and the wind just makes it a hell of a lot more exciting. The obvious and main reason is you get the place to yourself, whereas on a sunny afternoon you get queues of oaps lined up waiting to cross, even families with children taking there time and it generally feels anything but a mountain enviroment. Done it seven or eight times in the summer and never really enjoyed it as much as in the wind rain and mist.