Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blencathra via Sharp Edge - A Winter Assault

Date : 8th February 2011
Start/Finish : Scales
Wainwrights : Blencathra (2848 feet)
Distance : 5 Miles
Height Gained : 2189 feet

The Route : anticlockwise from Scales

 It had been a tame winter overall but never-the-less this was a challenging route in challenging conditions so no chances were taken. I even wore gaiters, a very rare occurrence for me. Ice axe and crampons were also getting their first outing of the year. The route up to Sharp Edge is fairly easy going on good paths and is overall a thoroughly enjoyable amble. There wasn't much snow around, just a smattering which didn't impede progress. 

First view of Sharp Edge from the upwards path

Sharp Edge & Foule Crag zoomed in : A single hiker about to cross the arete

The path up to Scales Tarn

Scales Tarn
The whole glacial corrie into which Scales Tarn sits

It was now decision time. As the picture above shows, there are route options up to the summit. The bale-out path is shown ascending on the left of the tarn and is an easy prospect. The path on the right leads up to Sharp Edge and then Foule Crag and is a much more challenging proposition. However, the edge looked in good condition and I had watched 2 hikers make their way across it with apparent ease. Mind made up, I headed right.

The onwards path

A tiny hiker can be seen about to take the plunge ...

... and he crosses confidently ...

... without the use of hands ..... yet ?

Looking back down to Scales Tarn

A last glance back eastwards over to Bannerdale Crags

I didn't take any photos while on the ridge, mainly because it was icy and being on my own required all of my limited attention. Once across however I relaxed a little and took a few snaps of what I'd just crossed.

A couple of hikers behind me who chose a lower route

A particularly sharp bit of Sharp Edge

Looking back along the route taken

I then turned my attention to the next challenge; Foule Crag. This turned out to be appropriately named. In fact it was far more difficult than Sharp Edge itself. This may be because of the line I took as there was no obvious path to follow and I didn't see the route the hiker ahead of me chose. It was hands & feet scrambling up some steep icy rock and I do admit to being a bit unsettled at some points!

Foule Crag looking Foul

Once at the top of Foule Crag you find yourself on the summit plateau and it's then an easy walk across the 'saddle' up to the summit. Unfortunately the cloud descended at this point and I couldn't see anything further than about 30 feet. After waiting for 20 minutes on the summit for a break in the cloud that didn't come, I headed back down via the Scales Fell path.

Descending through the cloud layer

The other side of Scales Tarn: Foule Crag now in cloud

Looking back up to the summit, now could free - typical eh!
Views down to Threlkeld

A last glance of Blencathra from the road

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