Blencathra’s best.

Date of this walk: 13/5/2015

Start: Car park (free) at Threlkeld

Facilities: Two pubs in Threlkeld village: The Horse and Farrier and The Sally Inn

Walk route: Shown below. To download GPX files or other formats for this route for free click here

With an appointment in Keswick arranged for mid-morning on Wednesday I planned to use the full day to enjoy the predicted decent weather forecast. So an early rise was called for and it was just before 4am as we headed west along the A66. The clear frosty morning wasn’t to be and as I headed down over the Stainmore pass the cloud cover was extensive over the lakeland fells. Undeterred I stuck to my original plan and pulled up at Castlerigg with not a hint of a decent sunrise. With time to spare a short walk to the stone circle was almost done without the camera, I was glad that I stuck to my habit, the light wasn’t brilliant but the local residents were up with the larks. The ancient stones were now the playground of lambs and even with Bailey by my side they carried on with their antics. Sometimes unexpected opportunities arise which cannot be planned- this time I was lucky.

Castlerigg lambs, Castlerigg Stone circle near Keswick

The lambs soon dispersed and for a brief moment of less than a minute the early low sun broke through but I knew I already had my shot of the day in the bag.

Castlerigg stone circle, Ancient stone circle near Keswick

After a great meeting at Keswick Museum I drove to Threlkeld to act on my second plan for the day. Blencathra is a fell to which I have devoted quite a bit of time for the project which has resulted in me ascending it several times over the past few years, exploring the ridges, gullies and places off the beaten track. Today was different, no seeking out references, just a walk for pure pleasure. Of all the routes, Sharp Edge included, the best route to the summit in my opinion must be via the Hall’s Fell ridge and in fact Wainwright wrote “For active walkers and scramblers, this route is positively the finest way to any mountain-top in the district.”, and that was my route for the day. It was after 12 when we set off and the sun was breaking through the dispersing clouds. Bailey and I were soon on the lower slopes and behind us the valley with the richness of the  spring grasses in the pastures making a patchwork of emerald. 

Threlkeld from the slopes of Blencathra

Hall’s Fell ridge leads directly to the summit and the topmost section provides some enjoyable hands on scrambling. Maybe not quite as airy as Sharp Edge but longer and quieter and if you keep to the spine of the arete, you will get plenty of excitement. Some sections have an easier path away from the crest but at times the narrow edge cannot be avoided.

Hall's Fell ridge Blencathra

The view down the ridge was one that I painted for the Wainwrights in Colour project.

Halls Fell sketch

Before you know it you will complete the ridge and almost trip over the concrete survey ring which marks the fells highest point, often to the surprise to those who have taken the easier ascents. Today we were alone, the advantage of a mid-week visit. We stood for a few minutes and admired the aspect to the south with many of the lakeland fells in full view.

Taking a faint path northwards to Foule Crag we crossed the dip between the two points that give Blencathra its alternative name of Saddleback. There in the dip is a shallow pool, unnamed as a tarn on maps as possibly it doesn’t qualify as it has neither an obvious inlet or outlet. Surprisingly it is not mentioned by Wainwright in the Pictorial Guide, perhaps it didn’t even exist in the early 1960’s. No matter, it was mirror-like today as the air was almost still. The cairn in the middle has increased in size since I saw it first some years ago.

Blencathra summit tarn

Bailey took the opportunity to quench his thirst before we moved on to Foule Crag and Atkinson Pike.

Mungrisdale Common from Atkinson Pike, Blencathra

From here there is a great view over the flat lands of Mungrisedale Common to the rounded slopes of many of the northern fells and the Solway Firth and the hills of Dumfries and Galloway beyond. Mungrisedale Common is assured of a good mention in my book, including my theory as to why AW included it in the fifth Pictorial Guide. A short walk east took us to the aerial view of Sharp Edge.

Sharp Edge Blencathra

Today it was quiet, in fact the whole of the fell was quiet, in my time spent wandering around the summit of the fell I only encountered 4 other walkers. Soon it was time to consider my descent back to Threlkeld. I had already plotted my route, the fine ridge of Gategill Fell would lead me straight back to the village. The path along the height of Blencathra provides stunning views southwards over the deep gullies of the fell.

Blencathra summit

Clouds were forming patches of sunlight on the fell side and for a brief moment Halls Fell ridge, our route of ascent was dramatically illuminated.

Hall's Fell ridge, Blencathra

The view of Gategill Fell from above shows it as a fine ridge for descent, steep and loose at the start it soon eases to a grassy promenade until the point known as Knott Halloo. After that rocky outcrop the fell drops away steeply and a narrow path through the heather took us down to the car park behind Threlkeld.

Gategill Fell, Blencathra

Again, this is another view which I know well, another of the sketches for the project.

Gategill Fell sketch

I know many people aim to reach Blencathra summit by crossing Sharp Edge. Consequently that route can be over-crowded and congested. There is more to this fell than that one route, check out these ridges of Halls Fell or Gategill Fell, you will not be disappointed.

I simply descended down the length of Gategill Fell ridge on a good path through the heather and before long I was back at the car park in Threlkeld.

A fine afternoon out with very few other walkers on the fell.

Thanks for reading.


  1. A great day out Andy and one of the ascents of Blencathra I’ve yet to tread. Nice to know its dog friendly also.. Thank you.

    • Thanks for taking the time to look and to comment Graham. I am currently updating and reloading lots of routes and locations on this new look website so apologies if you are getting regular alerts. As for this route, in my opinion it is better than Sharp Edge, plenty of excitement if you want it and a direct route to the summit.

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