BLENCATHRA from SCALES

Little Eric completes Wainwright Book 5 Northern Fells


Summary

Date - 8th June 2014 Distance - 7.75 miles
Ascent -
3045ft
Map - OL5 Start point - Lay-by on A66 near White Horse Inn (NY 3391 2671)

 

Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Scales Fell 2238 682 NY 3319 2787
Doddick Fell Top 2434 742 NY 3284 2772
Hallsfell Top on Blencathra 2847 868 NY 3234 2770
Atkinson Pike (Foule Crag) 2772 845 NY 3243 2829
Gategill Fell Top 2792 851 NY 3177 2735
Blease Fell 2638 804 NY 3119 2702

 

Preface

It was Friday, and Tetley and Southey were sitting quietly looking at the listing of walks on the laptop. "I can hardly believe the number of walks that I have been on since Dad adopted me in July last year, and since the start of this year I now come on every one", said Southey. "Only yesterday we were walking with Uncle Eric, in the Simpson Ground and Cartmel Fell area, which was quite delightful."

"It was funny the comment that Kim made, when we saw her for the last time at the Wordsworth Hotel", replied Tetley. "When Dad said how much you were enjoying the walks and that it was because she had come to work here that Dad had seen and adopted you, she replied that you could have been being thrown about by a three year old!"

"Oh heck yes. That would have been terrible. Instead I am going on exciting adventures", replied Southey.

Just then Shaun with Little Eric riding on his back and Grizzly arrived with the flasks and cake.

"I'll get the plates and mugs", called out Southey, dashing off.

"I've had a rest from making scones, and instead have done chocolate brownie, while Little Eric has made the carrot cake", said Grizzly.

"That's lovely", replied Tetley, taking the plate that Southey handed him, and then taking a slice of each cake. "Mmm, the brownie is quite delicious, Grizzly."

As Shaun finished filling the mugs, he then took a bite of carrot cake. "Scrumptious pal. Thanks so much for making it and you too Grizzly.

You're welcome", said Little Eric, who then suddenly stopped with a piece of chocolate brownie half way to his mouth. "Where's Allen? It is just not like him to miss out on tea."

"Not sure", said Tetley. The letting out a laugh, "he will not be long I am sure, as he can smell tea a mile off. He is just so like Dad. A real tea belly!"

How right he was too, as just minutes later the whirlwind that was Allen, burst into the room. "I bring news of the next walk", he managed to get out breathlessly.

"Now just calm down", said Tetley, patting him on the shoulder. "Have your tea and cake first."

"Oh yes, I'm.."

"Gasping for a cuppa." interrupted Grizzly, rolling about laughing.

"You lot certainly have me down to a tee." Then after a moment, Allen went on, "oh that was an awful pun. It was not really intentional."

After a few minutes he drained his mug and Shaun refilled it for him. "Thanks pal, and Grizzly, Little Eric, the cakes were absolutely delicious. Right, the reason for all my excitement is that you Little Eric are going to be a very happy bear. Earlier in the week it had looked like the weather was going to be poor this weekend, but now Sunday looks to be OK, apart from the odd shower. So Dad has resolved to take us up Blencathra."

"Fantastic", cried Little Eric, jumping up and down with glee. "That means I will have also then completed Wainwright Book 5 Northern Fells. Dad is certainly delivering on his promise to do the walks that mean I will finish books 3, 5 and 6."

Shaun said, "that's right pal, and with those walks above Borrowdale done earlier, there is only one walk for you to finish Book 6."

"We will need a good day and a time when Dad has not got any commitments the day before or after, as it is quite a tough walk, and a long drive to the start at Crummock Water", added Tetley.

"Well roll on Sunday, for now", called out Southey raising his mug in salute.

 

The Walk

Dad had told us that he planned to start the walk about 09:30, which meant we would be setting off from home soon after 08:00. So we made sure we were up early and all lent a paw to get the picnic ready and packed in Allen's rucksack.

The drive was uneventful up the M6 to Penrith then once again west on the A66. Little Eric was unsurprisingly very excited, and called out, "there it is", as the massive bulk of Blencathra came into view.

"There's cloud on the top", said Southey, a little worriedly.

"It will be fine", replied Tetley, "By the time we get to the summit it will have long cleared off."

Dad parked in the layby just beyond the White Horse Inn, doing a U-turn, so that we were facing the right way, back towards the M6, for the journey home, later.

When we had left Uncle Brian had been still been fast asleep, and Dad had been loathe to waken him. So Dad now gave him a call to check that Uncle Brian was alright. Then he made ready for the off, shouldering the rucksack that we had settled ourselves in. Walking the few yards back along the footpath beside the A66, it was left on the signed path between the houses. This led up to the gate through the fell wall, where we went right on the path seen behind..

This climbed steadily the slopes of Scales Fell in an easterly direction.

"That is a fine view looking south across the valley", remarked Southey. Anxious too, to expand his knowledge, he asked, "what are those fells called?"

Grizzly was quickest with the reply, saying, "Clough Head (2381ft) with behind Great Dodd (2812ft). Clough Head is the northerly end of the Helvellyn Ridge that starts above Grisedale Tarn with Dollywagon Pike. There is a subsidiary summit below Clough Head to the right, which is Threlkeld Knotts (1686ft)."

"Thanks pal. However do you remember all this information."

"It just comes with time, as you will find out", replied Grizzly.

Reaching a junction, Shaun instructed, "we should go left here."

The path was straight as an arrow, climbing steadily, to then suddenly turn at right angles, where the gradient steepened.

It then drifted left again reaching a brow, where the mountain was revealed. Beyond the foreground the next ridge is Doddick Fell, then Hallsfell the actual summit of Blencathra. More distantly then can be seen the pointed top of Gategill Fell with Blease Fell the furthest, which would be our last summit today.

Some walkers had passed us while Dad had been taking pictures, one remarking that the weather forecast was sunny periods with an odd shower. In the picture of the path, there are blue skies, but just here dark cloud came over and it rained. Dad already had his coat on, but we dived for cover in the rucksack. It soon passed over and we popped out again. The walkers had stopped for a coffee break and Dad remarked "let's hope that was the odd shower." It was too, as it was now dry all the day but the wind was cool at times.

Walking on Shaun said, "there is the ridge of Scales Fell, our first summit."

We passed over one rise, to crest the next and reach the summit. "Come on Lads", cried Little Eric, "let's get settled for our picture."

There is no cairn, so Tetley said, "will you get the flag out, Dad."

Two groups of walkers passed by commenting on us as Dad was taking our picture. Not for what was to be the only time today, Dad explained and one lady kindly took Dad's picture with us.

So off we went descending to then climb towards Doddick Fell Top, with Sharp Edge to the right. Nearing Doddick Fell, Tetley said, "at Scales Fell we should have walked over the grass a bit towards Sharp Edge, as we would have got a fine view of Scales Tarn."

Allen said, "it was August 2006, when we last did this walk, and if I remember the day was dry with pretty cloudless blue skies. If we check when we get home perhaps Dad took a picture we can include."

Well he did, and here it is. The fellside behind Sharp Edge is Bannerdale Crags, one of the summits we had climbed just a week earlier.

Now just a couple of minutes later we reached Doddick Fell Top, the highest point being the grassy rise just to the left of the path.

It was Southey this time that urged, "come on pals, picture time again."

Looking ahead Little Eric said excitedly, "it's not far now to Hallsfell and the summit."

The clear path led straight for a while, and then continued up an number of zig-zags, that can just about be made out in the picture, to finally attain the summit at 2847ft, precisely at the point of the top of Hallsfell ridge. It took just about 15 minutes after leaving Doddick Fell Top.

"Yippee", called out Little Eric, "I've done it. I am so happy and thanks Dad for re-doing all the summits so I could reach this milestone.".

As we jumped out of the rucksack, we all gave him a hug in congratulation.

Now being a true mountain, one might expect that there would be a substantial cairn to mark the summit, but this could not be further from the truth, there being only a modest Ordnance Survey Trigonometrical ring embedded in the ground. We gathered by this for our group shot.

As Dad was taking this shot, three gentlemen arrived. From their accent Dad deduced they were from the north-east, and indeed on asking they said Newcastle. Seeing us Dad once again had to explain, and about Little Eric's achievement.

One gentleman said, "would you like me to take your picture."

"Yes please", replied Dad. He held Little Eric is his hand too.

Dad then returned the favour taking a group shot of them. There was some chat, Dad saying how much he and Uncle Brian love Northumberland. Then they all shook hands with Dad, as they headed off.

Finally Dad took this shot of Little Eric with the book open at Blencathra, to complete the record of his achievement.

"Do we go on along the ridge now?", asked Southey.

"Well yes, eventually, replied Shaun, "but first we have to visit the summit of Atkinson Pike where Sharp Edge comes up. This involves going across the saddle in the opposite direction to Hallsfell."

"Oh I see", said Southey. "We must descend passing that small tarn in the depression."

A gentle walk across level ground after the short descent and passing this large stone cross formed from a collection of white crystallised stones of high quartz content.

Turning to the Northern Fells book originally published in 1962, Grizzly quoted from page 33 of the Blencathra chapter to explain this -

"This cross owes its existence to the industry of Harold Robinson of Threlkeld. Formerly there was a very small cross of stones here (locally ascribed as a memorial to a walker who lost his life on a rough slope adjacent) and Mr Robinson, an enthusiastic lone hill wanderer who has climbed his favourite Blencathra hundreds of times, collected more stones (veins of quartzite occur in the native slate nearby) and extended the cross to its present size of 16ft by 10ft during a succession of visits from 1945 onwards."

"Fascinating", said Allen, "thanks pal"

Tetley said, "our Dad is not that different from Mr Robinson, being mostly a lone hill wanderer."

"True I suppose", Dad replied, "but I am never alone as I always have you Lads for company."

We strolled on and after a short gentle climb passing the first cairn, it was just yards to the next marking the summit of Atkinson Pike on Foule Crag. "Come on pals picture time again", cried Little Eric.

The rough path leads on in the background leading to the steep descent via Sharp Edge. "This is the way I must have come in the mist by mistake the time I first climbed this mountain back in May 1986 with my sister Elaine and her son Roger", said Dad. "Our intention had been to go down via Doddick Fell. I was not experienced then and probably did not have a compass. Not a mistake I would make these days."

Looking the opposite way across the huge flatish expanse, Southey had said, "that is Mungrisedale Common, where we were last week."

Whilst acknowledging that this was correct Dad did not turn the camera on the scene today, but we have looked back to the pictures taken in 2006, and here is that view.

Clearly the crest furthest away is the summit, but peer as we might we could not make out the cairn.

"Right we now retrace our way to Hallsfell", said Shaun.

We paused again at the summit looking down to the valley along which runs the main A66. Just off this is the pretty village of Threlkeld, forever dominated by the mountain. In the rear are the disused Threlkeld Quarries that are now a mining museum.

"OK Southey, we now follow the route you suggested earlier", instructed Shaun.

However our progress was arrested after just a few minutes, as Dad could not resist snapping this shot of a blackfaced lamb with its mother.

"Ahh", said Grizzly, "so cute."

"Humph", growled Allen. "I guess Dad will insist that that is included, so there goes another sheep picture free story!"

Within minutes Gategill Fell Top was reached. This like all the ridges is one of the many ways to climb this mountain, and here is the dramatic shot looking down the fell. "Phew", said Allen, "there would be some considerable effort required to ascend that way."

The highest point was like on Doddick Fell, just to the left of the path. We jumped out again and quickly settled for our picture. As Dad was lining up this shot, we heard a passerby comment, "look teddies on a photo shoot." Lovely.

"That just leaves Blease Fell to go", cried Little Eric in glee, the onwards path to it being in no doubt.

Dad strode off, but Tetley's comment, "what a fine view of St John's in the Vale with Thirlmere beyond", brought Dad to a halt, as he hauled the camera out of the bag. Little Tewit Tarn can be seen on Low Rigg. Behind, on that same side of the valley, runs Naddle Fell and High Rigg, which we had climbed, not for the first time last year.

Striding on we completed the short descent, followed then after a level section by a further climb to the final summit Blease Fell, a small cairn making the top. Here another gentleman commented on us and before he headed off, kindly took our picture here with Dad.

Although a bit hazy and with the cloud, not as clear as we would have liked, there had nevertheless been wonderful views, like this to Derwent Water and Keswick.

As we surveyed the scene, with the backdrop of the many fells, Allen said, "we have had some fantastic days climbing them all."

"Right", said Shaun, "all that remains is to make our way down Blease Fell, to pick up the path above the fell wall and follow it back to the start."

"That's it", replied Dad. "Get settled in the rucksack, and we will be off."

The view ahead was of Lonscale Fell backed by Skiddaw Lesser Man, Skiddaw Lower Man and Skiddaw. After about ten minutes, Dad stopped at what he thought was the best place to get a picture of this scene.

"There are two summits on Lonscale Fell, the pointed east peak known as Lonscale Pike, and the actual fell summit rising slightly higher behind", said Tetley.

"What a steep climb that was to the east peak", remarked Allen. "The gradient never slackened all the way to the summit."

"It certainly was", agreed Dad. "That day I needed a quite a few stops to catch my breath. I do not plan that we make that ascent ever again!"

The stony path was wide and clear, with a succession of sweeping zigzags for a while. "I don't remember these from the last time", remarked Tetley, "and do look like they are a more recent improvement to the path."

"It seems such a shame that Lord Lonsdale has to sell the mountain to pay some of the death duties", said Grizzly. "To me it would seem better for the Government to waive that part, and so allow him to keep this important part of the National Park in such good order.

"Can't say I disagree", replied Southey.

Some of our lovely Herdwick sheep were grazing the fell as we made this part of the descent, and Dad was able to get this shot of one of the cute lambs. All black, apart from some lighter markings on its face. Ahh!

As can be seen we were still well above the valley. Beyond the zig-zags the path was more grassy and less steep for a little while, before it steepened again. This brought us to a another path that went left and east diagonally across the fell. We followed this, which eventually brought us to a wall, where it then finally descended steeply down to the fell wall.

"That's the first part done", called out Little Eric, with some relief in his voice.

Now on the path immediately above the fell wall, it was left through the gate. "Time for lunch don't you think", said Allen, rubbing his tummy.

"Yes it is", replied Dad. "Let's look out for a suitable place to sit."

After a little while, Southey called out, "how about that rock over there to the left of the path."

"Fine", replied Dad.

We quickly scrambled up, then settled companionably in a circle to enjoy our salmon sandwiches, cheese and tomato sandwiches, fruit scones, chocolate caramel shortbread and tea.

All refreshed, and Dad too of course, it was on along the good path crossing a stile and then on again with Gategill Fell and the Hallsfell rising to the left. The whole path was mostly level until we reached Doddick Fell. This protrudes further out from the mountain, necessitating us having to make a short steep climb over its lower slopes.

Then Scaley Gill had to be crossed the descent into the ravine being very awkward over steep rocks worn smooth by the passage of thousands of feet.

Dad made it down the shiny rocks, but it was far from elegant!

"Wow that's quite dramatic looking up the ravine of the beck to Doddick Fell Top, where we sat and had our picture taken this morning", remarked Southey.

After a short climb out of the ravine the path levelled once again and fairly soon we were at the gate in the wall we had taken this morning. Going right through this it was then just the short walk to the car.

"Thank you, thank you thank you, Dad", cried Little Eric. "I have finished another Wainwright book, which I had never expected I would."

We settled in the car, while Dad got changed. "Are you going for some refreshment?", asked Tetley.

"Yes", replied Dad. "I am going to the cafe at Cocklakes."

It was a few miles east along the A66, to make the right turn on the track. As we came to the parking area, there were cars everywhere, and the place looked really busy. "I think I will give it a miss on second thoughts, and go to Greystone House at Stainton", said Dad.

Dad had not been here for some time, so it made a nice change. It was quiet, a lady and gentleman being the only other customers. He had a nice pot of tea and two cakes. Chocolate caramel shortbread and toffee and marshmallow crispie. Well he deserved it after all the effort, and we had had our cakes for lunch.

Then a quick trip down the M6 and home. A great day, and we were all a very happy band, especially Little Eric.

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