Blencathra: Still Sharp

The crowds were out in force when we visited Blencathra after Christmas Day. Its allure was magnified by dazzling slopes and clear skies and I was ready to be captured within its grasp, having never climbed it before. Previous encounters with the mountain had been through the window of a car, neck strained, peering awkwardly at its many facets, or wistful backward glances at the end of a trip, the crags and fells melting away morosely to gentle lowlands.

My brother and I were with John and his family, but we took the most demanding route for walkers: Sharp Edge on ascent and Hall’s Fell Ridge on descent. The weather was nigh-on perfect: excellent visibility and barely a breathe of wind.

However, I was new to winter walking in such snowy conditions and quickly frustrated by the need to follow in others’ footsteps, even though this was the most economical method. British mountaineers are lucky in that their wanderlust can be nourished by open access in national parks, although perhaps complacent with that gift at times. Today I would enjoy the outdoors from a piste trod by footsteps.

Away from the intrusion of the A66, a childish spirit within me yearned to frolic in the pristine snow and explore the untouched routes. Scales Tarn, nestling below Sharp Edge, and its steep headwall were literally buried beneath snowfall that had been preserved by calm and cold conditions. The pure white and smooth surface of the snow concealed the deep, vertical rock gashes torn by ancient glaciers. As we traversed Sharp Edge, I secretly longed to throw myself off and be enveloped in a sea of white.

The ridge quickly broadened out into the norther shoulder of Blencathra and the summit soon appeared in sight. Unfortunately, this also meant joining the hordes which had congregated there. We took lunch swiftly and the obligatory pictures and then set off down Hall’s Fell Ridge, the central bastion in the triple rampart that overlooked Threkeld.

By this time, the day was drawing to a close, so we savoured the last of the sun and the views before the shadows engulfed the scene. It was a day to remember, and I wondered how long I might have to wait to experience similar conditions again in the Lakes. For now, though, I enjoyed the finish of my initiation into winter mountaineering: I had wielded my ice axe and, although I had not worn them, my crampons had been ready at the top of my rucksack for deployment.

Next time the fells would not look so kindly on us…


One Response to Blencathra: Still Sharp

  1. Pingback: A time for war, and a time for peace « When Men And Mountains Meet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: