Blencathra

Length 11 Kilometres | Highest point 868 metres

Blencathra (Saddleback) 868m, 2847ft, GR 323277


Blencathra lies above the village of Threlkeld and derives its alternative name of Saddleback from its profile when approaching along the A66 from Penrith. The magnificent, deeply cut ridges on the southern side contrast sharply with the hidden, rounded slopes to the north. This route encompasses good paths, a fine scrambling arête and wonderful views.

Park on the minor road below Mousthwaite Comb or, if full, in a lay-by near Scales Inn. Ascend into Mousthwaite Comb alongside Comb Beck across wooden tread boards to keep feet dry and prevent erosion. The path ahead rakes up from left to right to a col between Souther and Scales Fells. At the col cross the ridge and follow the path west as it contours along the side of Scales Fell and up towards Scales Tarn. This moody little tarn is reached after 2km: sunshine seems to make it happy but shadow brings out its dour look.

Blencathra's ridges
Blencathra’s ridges

A further short climb to the north brings you to Sharp Edge. This excellent scramble can be followed on the crest itself. (Avoid the lower path which can be dangerous, loose and slippery: this has led to accidents). The ridge is exposed in places and should not be attempted in bad weather. The final, steeper headwall leads up corrugated rocks and particular care is needed here in the wet.

From the top of Sharp Edge the path leads left around the top of the corrie, past a distinctive memorial cross laid out on the ground in white Quartz stones, to reach the main summit shown on the map as Hallsfell Top (4km, 650m, 2hr 5min). The views over Scales Tarn towards Cross Fell, High Street and Helvellyn are particularly fine, whilst from the summit there are excellent views south and west over St John’s in the Vale and Borrowdale. The summit ridge continues gently south west around the deeply cut corries above Threlkeld to Knowe Crags. Excellent alternative ascents are possible up any of these fine ridges from Threlkeld.

Returning to the main summit, there is a choice of descents. The shortest routes lie east down the easy ridge of Scales Fell or southwards down the more attractive ridges of Hall’s Fell or Doddick Fell.

For a longer circuit revealing different aspects of this complex mountain, return northwards towards the top of Sharp Edge, crossing Atkinson Pike above Foule Crag. The path avoids this obstacle on its north-west side by descending Blue Screes before continuing round to the north and offering a different profile view of rocky Sharp Edge. From the Col, two paths descend the Glendermackin valley: the path on the right rejoins the approach route below Scales Tarn whilst that on the left follows the stream to a bridge at White Horse Bent from where a short ascent may be made back to the col and Mousthwaite Comb (11km, 4hr 15min).