A few years ago I took a few days holiday and decided to spend the first two days in the fells of Cumbria, in the heart of the Lake District.
I set off from home at about 8 in the morning, stopped for lunch and was pleased to find that by 1330 I had parked at Scales, put my boots on and set off to climb Blencathra, also known as Saddleback. (As you drive from the M6 along the A66 towards Keswick, it’s easy to see why it got the second name.)
I have to say, I was very excited as I set off on the walk past the White Horse Inn and along the path towards Comb Beck, then up the slopes and along the valley of the River Glenderamackin. The sky was a clear blue, and there wasn’t a breath of wind: I couldn’t have hoped for a better day.
When I reached Scales Beck, I turned left and carried on uphill, with Blencathra rising steeply above me, across the tarn. My heart quickened as my chosen route up, Sharp Edge, came into view along the horizon, just to the right of the tarn. I’d read a lot about it, heard tales of the Bad Step and Foule Crag, and how walkers have been injured or died on that route.
Having braced myself with coffee on the shores of the tarn, I set off up the path onto Sharp Edge itself. It was steep, but the ground underfoot was dry and everything felt very solid. In next to no time I was walking along the Edge, which is way shorter than it looks from afar, and before I knew it I had scrambled up Foule Crag and was on my way to the summit. After a brief pause at the top to celebrate with a nip of whisky and to take in the views of the fells all around, but particularly to the south, I started my descent.
I’d heard a lot about Hall’s Fell Ridge, and was looking forward to tackling it on the way down. It starts pretty much right next to the summit, and there are well worn paths which wend their way past the craggy bits. However, I didn’t take them: if I was going to walk down the ridge, I was going to do it “properly”!
I was actually laughing and smiling pretty much all the way down. The weather conditions were perfect and I was practically skipping across rocks and boulders, being careful where to place my feet but enjoying the challenge of choosing the route immensely.
In next to no time I was back at my car, the whole circuit up, down and round having taken less than four hours. It was one of the best days walking in the hills I’d ever had, and was great fun.
The following day, another route on my bucket list, Striding Edge, lay in wait…