Back on Blencathra
Lucie’s favourite mountain
I pulled back the curtain and surveyed a disappointing scene. Where Blencathra usually stood was a wall of opaque and impenetrable clag extending it seemed from up high right down to the front door. Oh well, the bloke on telly had got it right again. Or had he? Was it a trick of the light or could I detect a hint of blue as I craned my neck skywards? I rubbed my eyes and looked again. There was no doubt about it, that opaque and impenetrable wall was in fact just valley mist; the man on telly was a clueless goon and we were in for a treat. There was no time to lose.
Twenty minutes later we were parked at Scales where tired legs hauled us onto the open fell. In no time at all we were high above the busy A66 enjoying an immaculate view. Great Mell Fell was a whale surfacing from a sea of cloud while south and west a vaporous ribbon wended its way over to the Vale of Keswick. Up we went until at last we entered the valley of the River Glenderamakin. At once silence was upon us and the noisy road below all but forgotten. In that lonely defile we strode without impediment, spurred on by our first tantalising glimpse of Sharp Edge, Lakeland’s finest ridge scramble. And where were the crowds on a morning of such unadulterated glory? It felt as though the mountain was made for just we two and I secretly thanked the author of creation for furnishing me with riches immeasurable.
There is something about old Blencathra that inspires the romantic in me and when upon Scales Tarn we came I was lost in a reverie. Thoughts raced through my mind and images past my eyes; the Abraham Brothers climbing on the side of Sharp Edge…my first visit with friends and a short legged mutt which quivered fearfully in my arms…a fine October evening tracing future winter lines on the gaunt head wall and now, here with my future bride knowing that nowhere would I rather be. We could have been the only people on earth but of course we weren’t! Three capable looking interlopers had invaded the combe, shattering the calm with their excited chattering. “Nice one folks, couldn’t you have left it an hour”!
It was time to leave so off we went accompanied by the musical tinkling of slate under our boots until beneath them we put solid rock, up the polished groove and then onto Sharp Edge, a ridge of two halves. To the left, sun baked and dry, to the right, cold and verglassed. With great care we pushed on, at times balancing upright on the very crest while at others using our hands in exploratory manoeuvres to outflank the ice. The hideously polished crux, which Wainwright called the ‘awkward place’, was in a treacherous mood but fell easily enough to a few measured moves. Above lay the slabby buttress of Foule Crag and a quick inspection of the usual route revealed that another line would be favourable so, flirting with considerable exposure we picked a line up the left edge until there was no more up.
On Blencathra’s saddle back we spent a good half hour watching the interlopers crossing Sharp Edge. Compulsive viewing indeed for at the awkward place they appeared to be having a torrid time. One of their number had surmounted the step but his companions seemed unable to find a way over or around it. Their encounter with the crux had coincided with a change in atmosphere. We witnessed cloud forming over the tarn and rising rapidly up the head wall and swirling around the ridge as a bracing wind started to blow.
Cooling rapidly we set off for Hall’s Fell Top, Blencathra’s summit and on our return our friends were still in situ puzzling out a way past their nemesis. Alas it wasn’t to be and after a time one continued up Foule Crag and two retreated back from whence they came. With nothing more to see we walked on across Scales Fell and back to the car ecstatic with our grand half day and singing the praises of incompetent meteorologists. I wonder if Lucie knows how lucky we were to have had the classic Lakeland Ridges to ourselves. One thing I do know though is that she now has a new favourite mountain.