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Blencathra / 2 days / 13 miles (21km)

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Gategill Fell partial pan > Pan

Date: 19 Nov 2004
Start / Finish: Threlkeld. Good roadside parking, also a small free car park.
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 5: English Lakes North East.

Day 1Blencathra & Bowscale Fell6 miles / 3025 feet (9.7km / 922m)
Day 2Bannerdale Crags & Scales Tarn7 miles / 940 feet (11.3km / 286m)

A tour of Blencathra starting by the Gategill Fell route, rapidly designed for the first significant snow forecast of the winter and full winter-weight packs. This included crampons but we didn't need to use them. On the first day, the snow-covered mountains coincided with breathtaking clarity and stupendous views.

Day 1

Taking the minor road up to the car park, a footpath leads on beside Blease Gill and crosses at a footbridge by a small waterfall. Higher up at a gate, we turned L and followed a path to the open hillside and the snow line. Taking the easiest discernible lines in the virgin snow, we gradually curved up northwards to meet the main path from the Blencathra Centre. This was a long, slow and tiring climb with the heavy packs and the snow, but all that effort was instantly forgotten when the views really opened out at the minor top of Knowe Crags to give a splendid vista of Lakeland fells and the Skiddaw group closer to hand.

Climbing on to Gategill Fell, the extent of the views became apparent: Criffel looked really close, and we could very clearly see several groups of hills far beyond receding into the distance. A short walk further, the main top of Blencathra was deserted for the first time on our visits and we drank in the views, while the snowy ridges converging from below were emphasized in bold relief. On very rare days like this, it is almost mandatory to pinpoint and identify as many mountains as possible, which was quite a task as we could easily see peaks right down to the Coniston fells, not to mention the mountains of the North Pennines and Yorkshire Dales, which although very distant were just as clear!.

Blencathra summit and Gategill Fell
Blencathra summit and Gategill Fell (19 Nov 2004__10:34:24)
Halls Fell Ridge
Halls Fell Ridge (19 Nov 2004__10:34:43)
Knowe Crags with Derwentwater fells behind
Knowe Crags with Derwentwater fells behind (19 Nov 2004__11:10:56)
Lonscale Fell and Skiddaw
Lonscale Fell and Skiddaw (19 Nov 2004__11:11:07)
Gategill Fell
Gategill Fell (19 Nov 2004__11:42:14)
Doddick Fell ridge
Doddick Fell ridge (19 Nov 2004__11:44:55)

The edge path along Tarn Crags gave a good aerial view of the very black Scales Tarn and Sharp Edge, where a few figures could be seen scrambling up. Turning W to the shallow col, an attractive frozen tarn provides a pleasing foreground to the Skiddaw group and a short walk N is the third summit Atkinson Pike. A steep descent along the rim of Foule Crag leads to the col, and we detoured L a short way to collect water at the reedy head of Blackhazel Beck, where it was a case of using our ears rather than eyes and listening for the sound of running water.

Scales Tarn
Scales Tarn (19 Nov 2004__12:10:42)
Skiddaw over frozen tarn on Blencathra
Skiddaw over frozen tarn on Blencathra (19 Nov 2004__12:16:16)
Atkinson Pike from Foule Crag
Atkinson Pike from Foule Crag (19 Nov 2004__12:54:58)

Returning to the col, a path climbs gently NE to the windshelter on Bowscale Fell. The ridge continues to a small rise where Bowscale Tarn can be seen below another Tarn Crags. Returning to Bowscale Fell, we made our pitch on the flat top and braved the cold northerly wind to enjoy a fine artistic sunset.

Bowscale Tarn
Bowscale Tarn (19 Nov 2004__14:45:04)
Caldbeck Fells from Bowscale Fell
Caldbeck Fells from Bowscale Fell (19 Nov 2004__15:16:17)
Evening sky from pitch on Bowscale Fell
Evening sky from pitch on Bowscale Fell (19 Nov 2004__15:36:53)
Blencathra & evening sky from pitch on Bowscale Fell
Blencathra & evening sky from pitch on Bowscale Fell (19 Nov 2004__15:53:04)

Day 2

At dawn the sky was overcast with grey but high cloud, leaving the tops well clear and the stark outline of Blencathra almost monochrome in appearance. Rather than retracing our steps SW, we descended SSE to join the rising path around the rim of Bannerdale, which is a better route that follows the edge and gives a grand view of the valley and Bannerdale Crags. An easy climb gains the summit where the saddleback face of Blencathra is well seen.

Dawn sky from pitch on Bowscale Fell
Dawn sky from pitch on Bowscale Fell (20 Nov 2004__07:58:33)
Early view of Blencathra from pitch on Bowscale Fell
Early view of Blencathra from pitch on Bowscale Fell (20 Nov 2004__08:19:43)
Bannerdale Crags
Bannerdale Crags (20 Nov 2004__08:40:02)
Bowscale Fell
Bowscale Fell (20 Nov 2004__09:12:41)
Eastern fells from Bannerdale Crags
Eastern fells from Bannerdale Crags (20 Nov 2004__09:13:07)
Blencathra from Bannerdale Crags
Blencathra from Bannerdale Crags (20 Nov 2004__09:15:54)

A path descends W to the head of the Glenderamackin, where we followed the thin icy contouring path beneath the buttresses to the foot of the Scales Tarn path. Climbing beside Scales Beck and the abundant attractive icicle formations, we reached the tarn which still looked very black. By now, dozens of people were snaking up towards Sharp Edge, but we didn't have time to wait for any ensuing entertainment as they tackled the (presumably) icy rock. There are usually some ill-prepared folk in these hoardes!.

The Glenderamackin valley
The Glenderamackin valley (20 Nov 2004__10:02:50)
Scales Tarn
Scales Tarn (20 Nov 2004__11:04:49)

Resuming the valley path, we continued until just before the ground starts to rise to Souther Fell, then we followed the path S that descends steeply to Scales. Just before a stile at the bottom, we climbed R on a thin side path to join the footpath that descends SW along the intake wall above Scales farm. A path leads on to cross a steep rocky ravine at Scaley Beck, with a great view upwards to the ridge. Climbing out the other side, a good path continues alongside the wall, but where the ground levels out, it must be abandoned to climb up R to join another path above the next wall level (GR335267) (the first path terminates at 'Private: Keep Out' signs now).

The path is now clear, crossing the ravine of Doddick Gill and passing the old lead mine at Gate Gill, to arrive at the outward route by Blease Gill.