Saturday, 16 July 2016

Blencathra via Hall's Fell Ridge

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Route: Threlkeld, Gategill, Hall's Fell, Hall's Fell Ridge, Blencathra (Hallsfell Top), Gategill Fell Top, Knowe Crags, Blease Fell, Blease Farm, Threlkeld

Date: 16/07/2016
From: Thelkeld

Parking: Threlkeld
Start Point: Threlkeld
Region: Northern Fells

Route length: 5.3 miles (8.52 km)
Time taken : 02:33
Average speed: 2.0 mph
Ascent: 784m
Descent: 807m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Blencathra (868m)

Additional summits: Gategill Fell Top (851m), Knowe Crags (804m)

Other points of interest: Hall's Fell Ridge

The time had finally arrived to climb the 214th and final Wainwright and what a day we had planned. A few years ago I had been recommended to leave something good until the end which would make that triumphant feeling all the more special. I'm not sure many people would be impressed by my claim that I finished on Mungrisdale Common. For many years I have driven in and out of the Lake District along the A66, passing beneath the inviting crags and ridges of Blencathra, promising one day to finally stake my claim on the summit. That day was today.

I chose Blencathra for no personal or sentimental reasons other than it is a fine looking mountain with a number of interesting and exciting approaches and, ultimately, it stands has a huge isolated lump on the north eastern fringe of the National Park rather than the crowning glory of a round or horseshoe. 

You may think that I would have chosen Sharp Edge to make my triumphant ascent to the summit but with a few well wishers in tow, we decided on the slightly less intimidating Hall's Fell Ridge (though only less-so). Wainwright was very complimentary about this ridge "positively the finest way up to any mountain-top in the district" were his words and, from the roadside in Threlkeld, it certainly looks like it means business. 

The day could not have been better for tackling such an exciting route, fluffy white clouds filled the blue sky though a strong breeze did have me slightly concerned for a while. As I mentioned, we started in Thelkeld, which sits in the shadow of the fell, making our way along farm tracks fields to the foot of the ridge. After crossing Gate Gill, the steep climb begins.
Blencathra seen from Thelkeld
The Hall's Fell Ridge leads directly to the summit
Crossing Gate Gill
The first third of the ridge is a fairly tiring slog up a steep but easy to follow path. In fact, once on the ridge you can't really go wrong in terms of navigation. The steepness does lead to ever increasing views across the Vale of Keswick and down the steep valleys of Gate Gill and Doddick Gill.
Blencathra's summit over Gate Gill
Gategill Fell
The Vale of Keswick
Clough Head and High Rigg
Blencathra and Gategill Fell
Eventually the steep path rounds a heathery shoulder and reveals the superb Hall's Fell Ridge. The ridge shares many similarities to Striding Edge and requires just as much respect to negotiate it safely. The most interesting route is directly along the crest which climbs directly to Blencathra's summit. There is an element of exposure so a good head for heights is required.
Rounding the shoulder to reveal Hall's Fell Ridge
Hall's Fell Ridge

The crest of Hall's Fell Ridge
Looking up Hall's Fell Ridge
Hall's Fell Ridge and Gate Gill
While the first part of Hall's Fell is very good, it gets even better as the ridge makes a subtle curve on its way up. Here there are some seriously narrow parts, evidenced below, which make for an exhilarating few minutes. If you so please, these parts can be bypassed but where's the fun in that?
Sara gets on to the scramble
Hall's Fell Ridge
Hall's Fell Ridge and the Vale of Keswick
Looking over the curve towards the summit
Sara negotiates the crest
The curve in the ridge
On Hall's Fell Ridge
The final pull to the summit still involves a little scrambling but is perhaps the easiest part of the ridge, reaching the top just yards from the small concrete ring that marks Blencathra's summit.
Gate Gill and Gategill Fell
Knowe Crags
Looking down Hall's Fell Ridge
Blencathra's summit
Ordnance Survey triangulation station
At the summit of Wainwright number 214
It was pretty special finally completing the Wainwrights, so much so that we brought a bottle of fizz all the way up with us (courtesy of Coppermines Cottages). We enjoyed a few mugs in the sunshine while we ate our lunch, admiring the tremendous view from the mountain.
A modest bottle to celebrate
214 Wainwrights complete
It would be rude not to have a quick look at Sharp Edge while we were up here, no doubt the most famous way up Blencathra and definitely the next way I'll be heading up. You can see it my heading a short distance north towards Atkinson Pike. Having got the measure of it, we turned back to walk along Blencathra's ridge to Knowe Crags - the western top.
Scales Tarn and Sharp Edge
Sharp Edge

Hall's Fell Ridge and Gate Gill
Panorama from Gategill Fell
Gategill Fell top
Heading for Knowe Crags
High Rigg
It's an easy descent down Blease Fell where the path has been engineered into a series of zigzags - the view from here over Keswick are tremendous. To return to Thelkeld requires a  detour from the main path, following a much fainter route south and then turning east towards the village.
The path down Blease Fell
Blease Fell
Looking south towards Dunmail Raise
Keswick and the north western fells
The return to Thelkeld is just as straightforward and it wasn't long before we were concluding a very satisfying half day.
Great Mell Fell and Little Mell Fell
Blease Gill
Clough Head
Blease Gill
Climbing the Wainwrights has been thoroughly enjoyable experience and has taken me to areas of the Lake District I had never dreamt of visiting. While many will be content by scaling the giants, there is an immense satisfaction in being able to scan the horizon and be able to claim 'I've climbed all of those'. Since I started paying attention a few years ago I've walked over 800 miles, spent 15 days on the move and climbed over 88,000m - the equivalent of climbing Everest over 10 times. Would I do it again? Absolutely. 

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