Blencathra

Some of the pleasure of a good walk is in the anticipation: the poring over maps, packing of bags, consulting guide books, considering and rejecting various options. This beano was a short notice affair, decided upon the day before when the weather forecast seemed to show that this was the best opportunity for a good day on the hill during what was left of the week. Because I’ve been getting out for more hill-walks over the last couple of years, I have a host of ideas reconnaissanced on previous walks, stored up and waiting for the right moment: the horseshoe around Greenburn in the Coniston Fells, Dollywagon Pike and Nethermost Pike by their lonely eastern ridges, an exploration of the Rydal Beck, or the Grasmere Greenburn, or the higher reaches of the River Kent. I’d been going over all of the these, and a few more besides, on the maps and in my head. The mountain weather forecast had thrown up another possibility: 

Weather: Sunshine and scattered showers, these most frequent over the western fells with the best of the dry weather in the northeast across Blencathra. During the afternoon the showers are expected to turn heavier especially over the western fells they may well spawn the occasional thunderstorm. It will continue to be very wet underfoot after the recent rain and the rivers and streams will be swollen and fast flowing due to runoff from this rain.
Visibility: Generally good, with hills in the middle to far distance clearly seen although it will be a little hazy. Visibility falling poor in showers in the west.
Hill Fog: Occasional patches down to 500m in showers.

This seemed ridiculously specific, but when I was last walking in the Lakes the forecast had been for the best of the weather to be in the north, and when we were on Steel Fell we could see that Blencathra was steeped in sunshine. Maybe this time I shouldn’t be so pigheaded, should take the advise and head for Blencathra?

I still wasn’t decided the next morning when I stumbled out to the car. I’d woken early and it was still dark. The sky was clear and I could pick out all of the familiar constellations: the Plough, Orion’s Belt, …er the Plough, the Erratic Scribble…(I have at least one book on the night sky, and one day, I’ve promised myself, I really will get to grips with it!)

So far, so good. But as I drove past Kendal on the bypass a thin strip of eastern sky was lightening; a thin strip because above that was a heavy band of cloud. Where was I going? I still hadn’t decided, but not Kentmere because it would still be too dark to comfortably set-off for a while. Perhaps Grasmere – I had a theory about climbing up Raise Beck and sneaking round to Ruthwaite Cove from the east. But no: I could see the hills on my right had a cap of cloud and I want to save those ridges for a clear day. So: plan Z it is then – Blencathra.

Pre-dawn clouds

I parked in a layby by the A66 and was soon enjoying the pre-dawn cloudscape over Great Mell Fell.

Clough Head - almost free of cloud 

Across the valley, Clough Head was clear of cloud. A good sign surely: Blencathra above me was enveloped in cloud, but if Clough Head was clear then Blencathra would surely clear too fairly soon?

Sun rising behind Great Mell Fell 

Sunrise.

Souther Fell 

Souther Fell was also free of cloud and for a while I dithered again – perhaps I should head that way? But a logical continuation from there wasn’t easy to see, so I decided to head on up Blencathra. I’d also been vacillating over whether or not I would go via Sharp Edge. The stones on the path had already reminded me of just how slippery Skiddaw Slate can be, not very encouraging with the prospect of a precipitous arête in prospect, and if any enthusiasm was left it was soon cooled by the view in that direction…

Looking up the valley of the Glenderamackin 

So finally I had a decision: Blencathra by Scales Fell.

Scales Fell may be the least interesting of Blencathra’s many east facing ridges, but it’s still a fine route. Especially if there’s a view to be had.

Scales Fell - looking back 

Nort today sadly. This is the view down the ridge. And…

Scales Fell - looking ahead. 

…this is the view up. Or perhaps the other way around.

It was soon raining, Then raining a little harder. Then a cold wind arrived to carry the rain into every nook and cranny. Not much to report then of my traverse along the spine of Blencathra: no views, no company, but I was enjoying it none-the-less. Sometimes it’s just good to be out there.

Eventually I dropped out of the cloud. The first thing that came into view through the thinning mist was was the snaking silvery ribbon of the River Glenderamackin. The second was a smug looking Clough Head, still annoyingly free of cloud. I knew it! I should have gone up there instead!…..Sadly I had nobody but myself to blame for the error. Oh yes:…and those damned weather forecast people.

Clough Head - still pretty much cloud free. 

There’s a path which skirts above the intake walls along the base of Blencathra which would take me back to my car, but my recollection of a previous visit was that that path was purgatorial, and I planned a route along the River Glenderamackin instead. A glorious path beside Kilnhow Beck brought me down to the outskirts Threlkeld. where I sat on a bench in sunshine to drink a cup of tea and marvel at the incredible contrast between the lovely autumn sunshine down here in the valley and the spiteful weather which had taken sway on the hill.

Sun shining, but Blencathra is not coming out to play. 

The sunshine accompanied me for my walk along the Glenderamackin which despite being a little soggy underfoot was delightful.

Sycamore leaves 

I entertained myself by trying to capture the autumn colours….

North-western fells - also free of cloud 

…and the views.

River Glenderamackin 

,,,and elusive long-tailed tits and moths in the river-side scrub. (Not here: just too elusive!)

Backlit bramble leaf 

A back-lit bramble leaf.

Final view - Blencathra still in cloud

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Blencathra

9 thoughts on “Blencathra

  1. Blimey, you keep strange hours.
    😎
    Posting gone midnight and up well before the dawn. Does this blogger ever sleep?

    A fine write-up. The Lakes do that. So much promise of fine views, always dashed by the Atlantic weather.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Sleep’s for wimps – if I started to want luxuries like sleep, I’d never have time for blogging. As to the weather – at times last year it began to feel like I could do no wrong – I had several glorious days, including one on Pike o’ Blisco when just about everything else seemed to be in cloud, but we weren’t. This year payback seems to have occured and I’ve had several soakings, but I suppose it’ll all come out in the wash. (Substitute your own feeble homily here if it fits better).

  2. It’s not just the Lakes mate. Sometimes you have to just make a plan and see what happens. The amazing fickleness of UK mountain weather never ceases to amaze me. I went out a few weeks back on the basis of a top forecast. It was completely clear about 2 miles from where I was but for 80% of the walk I was under a blanket of grey cloud with a cold wind – I even had shorts on.

    Blencathra is a top mountain though – good decision to avoid Sharp Edge – from what I’ve read it’s become extremely slipperly over the last few years in anything but the driest of conditions.

    I’ve walked the eastern ridges of Dolywaggon and Nethermost years ago and they are superb.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Yes – I’ve had worse examples of disappointing weather or localised bad weather. Didn’t we backpack in snow south of the Caringoms one May when other people were getting much better weather nearby? (Or am I making that up?)
      I did those ridges once years ago – visited the little tarn, Hard Tarn which is high in Ruthwaite Cove. I have a hankering to go back there.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Thanks David – I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with backlit leaves, and we are now firmly in ‘backlit leaves’ season.

  3. beatingthebounds says:

    Thanks Sheila – I’ve been thinking about the fact that I’m decidely a fair weather photographer and I’m trying to capture the atmosphere of less photogenic conditions. It will be interesting to see how I do because usually if it’s wet my camera doesn’t leave my rucksack.

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