Through the Viewfinder
And What Alice Found There
Last weekend I finally reached my target of hiking 100 Wainwrights by the end of 2017 (yay) and what a fantastic hike it was! Not only was the weather absolutely perfect, I also ticked off a mountain I've been meaning to do for ages - Blencathra...
Blencathra, also known as Saddleback, lies on the northern side of the A66 in between Penrith and Kewsick. This beautiful mountain has always intrigued me with it's distinctive summit visible from miles around and the infamous Sharp Edge lining one side of the 'saddle'. It's been a goal of mine to hike Blencathra for some time now but something always gets in the way - mainly the weather! The closest I have got to doing it was back in August when I got all the way to the base of Sharp Edge before being forced to run around due to thick fog - you can read that blog post here. This time, after seeing a very good forecast for the weekend, I was determined to reach the top but not just by any old path - if I was summitting Blencathra then it had to be via Sharp Edge!
Parking in the same layby as last time on the A66 near Scales, we joined the footpath that leads up and over to Scales Tarn at the foot of Sharp Edge. On reaching the tarn the weather was still glorious - blue skies and sunshine with a bit of a chilly breeze but nothing to put us off the knife-edge ridge we were about to climb up! I took one look at the sharp rocks jutting up towards the skies and thought 'This is it!'. If there was ever a perfect time to do this climb then here it was, so onwards we hiked to begin the scramble...
The start of the climb wasn't too bad with a clear path winding through the rocks, but the higher we climbed the steeper and sharper the rocks became until the path finally disappeared. Pulling ourselves up onto the ridge we had spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and Scales Tarn down below us. There were times that were a bit scary, like when my foot slipped or I lost my balance for a split second but there weren't any moments where I feared for my life and I actually really enjoyed the scramble! We had the ridge to ourselves for the first half of the climb and then a few people overtook us while we sat to take in the views for a bit, but apart from that we didn't bump into anyone else and had no issues with meeting people coming the other way which I had been a bit concerned about beforehand.
The climb up Sharp Edge took us roughly an hour - it was quite tough going in some places but not as difficult as I had expected. It is certainly not a climb for everyone though, and I would say you need a relative level of fitness before attempting something like this as it's sometimes not that easy to just turn around and go back down if you decide it's beyond your abilities! You also need to be good with heights as the ridge has sharp, rocky slopes on either side which could be difficult for anyone who fears being up high. If you decide to take this route you need to be aware as well that it is a climb and not a normal hike! I usually hike with poles but they were packed away for this section as probably 90% of Sharp Edge involves using your hands to pull yourself up and over rocks, and steady yourself as you edge along the ridge. There were also times where it was easier to crawl or sit down and shuffle along small sections of the rock, so be prepared for a bit of a challenge compared to your usual Sunday afternoon stroll on the fells! However, all the hard work is well worth it when you stop to admire the views - especially on a day like we had!
After an hour of scrambling up the ridge, being pulled up the steepest parts by Greg, and taking a million photos of the views we finally made it to the top of Sharp Edge! It felt amazing looking back on the route we had just climbed - it just goes to show that you can do anything if you really put your mind to it and push yourself! After a mini celebration we soon carried on towards the top of Blencathra so we could officially tick off another Wainwright. Not only was Sharp Edge a fantastic experience and we reached the top of yet another Wainwright, but it was also my number 100! After setting myself that goal in January this year it felt incredible to have finally got there and for once I actually felt proud of myself!
After celebrating on the summit and stopping for a well deserved picnic, we soon moved on and made our way back down. Although Sharp Edge had been relatively quiet, Blencathra itself was really busy with fellow hikers so we didn't stick around too long and decided to get away from the crowds. We took a different route down over Scales Fell which was a gently sloping walk, offering great views across Scales Tarn to Sharp Edge on the other side. Eventually we joined back up with the path we had started on and headed down to Scales Farm where the car was parked.
Overall this walk was probably one of my favourites so far and was one of the best days out I've had in the Lakes for a long time! The exciting challenge of Sharp Edge, the beautiful views, and the sense of achievement on reaching the top of my 100th Wainwright all made for one very memorable day!
If you'd like to give this walk a go then my route is below:
Watch this space for a short GoPro video of our climb up Sharp Edge, coming soon!