2 Mountains, 1 Day: Blencathra and Skiddaw (Lake District)

Sunday 5th May 2019

Woke up in the Lake District expecting to do one mountain, fell asleep after two and a pint (or two). *Borat voice* Great success!

Blencathra circuit via Sharp Edge

We parked at the White Horse Inn at Scales and set off up Blencathra. The start was quite steep and we had de-layered in a few minutes, laughing about our frailty. The gradient eased and we followed the curve of the hill round to Sharp Edge, a rocky arête that flanks the north side of the smooth, black Scales Tarn. The scramble was quite easy, apart from the odd bit of slippery rock, and we were soon on the “spine” of Blencathra which we followed round to the summit.

There’s an Ordnance Survey Trigonometrical Station at the top, a big concrete doughnut which – according to some fell runners – replaced the previous doughnut, which got stolen. Annoying but a solid beer trophy. The summit overlooks a lush, cultivated valley to the south and a sandy-yellow moor to the north. Rolling hills spread to the horizon in the east and layers of jagged, hazy blue mountains loom over Derwentwater to the west. It’s pretty.59885520_412628992908174_6610435511607623680_n

We walked along the saddleback and descended down the steep path to the flat farmland at the base of the ridge. The walk back was very tranquil; we stopped for a picnic on a rock, petted a couple of curious cows, scrambled over Blease Gill, Gate Gill, Doddick Gill and Scaley Beck and enjoyed the sound of nothing but running water, birds  and silence.

We popped into the White Horse for an early afternoon drink while I persuaded Bertie that we should do Skiddaw via Longside Edge/Ullock Pike, supposedly the “best” approach. Persuasion successful, we drove the short distance and parked by the Ravenstone Manor Hotel, near Bassenthwaite Lake.

Skiddaw via Longside Edge

The first half hour or so was a killer. A relentless, steep incline, first through woods then over heathery moor. It eased a little as we made our way along the long, undulating Longside Edge, covered in rocks and heather, and I could see why Wainwright recommended this way.

The landscape opened up ahead and on our right hand side, stretching from dark Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwentwater out over open, green fields to the great blue fells towering over each other on the horizon. On our left was Skiddaw, a great, grey lump that looked intimidatingly steep and distant as it loomed over the coarse, scrubby valley cradled by Longside Edge. Behind us the ridge sloped down to a flat, open expanse of farmland that stretched out to the calm shores of the north west coast, and it must have been the south west tip of Scotland that emerged invitingly through the sea haze.

We followed the curve of the Edge round and eventually reached Skiddaw. The climb was long, steep and loose, untouched by vegetation and surfaced by loose plates of slatey mudstone that made it feel like some desolate, alien planet. We pushed on up (Bert managed despite bad hips, knees, ankles etc, poor old thing), basked in the glorious air that surrounds every trig point, and half walked, half skidded down the steep slope and back the same way we came.

Unusually (but perhaps unsurprisingly, given the distance/altitude covered and hunger/thirst worked up) Longside Edge seemed longer on the way back. Fortunately it was still stunning. Eventually we made it back to the van, somehow without killing each other, peeled off the sweaty layers and made our desperate way to some unknown Keswick pub.

Pub

True to form, classy old me resorted to Wetherspoons for cheap, greasy food and cheap, alcoholey drink. It was so busy that we couldn’t get a table, so we stumbled into the cosy, unpretentious, also-busy Golden Lion on the high street and indulged in the tastiest average pizzas I’ve ever come across. I was drunk after half a cider but I had two anyway, so Bertie drove us across to the Yorkshire Dales in preparation for day two’s mountain – Ingleborough. More to follow…

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