Sharp Edge Scramble up Blencathra
Sharp Edge, a Lakeland legend, is tackled in this route to Blencathra’s summit. It is one of the Lake District’s most famous Grade 1 scrambles and best saved for a fine day.
|4.4 km||623 m||2 hours|
Activivity Type: Scrambling, Scrambling Grade 1
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Summits and Places on this Route
The White Horse Inn & Bunkhouse can be found in Scales. Otherwise, plenty of pubs are located in Threlkeld
Sharp Edge is an exposed scramble that should only be attempted if you’re confident in your abilities and have a head for heights. The scramble up Foule Crag can provide a little challenging to some also.
Parking : CA12 4SY - Scales
Depending on how far you wish to walk, there are numerous free laybys along the A66, including one at Scales, though they can fill up on busy days. The local pub (the White Horse Inn) do allow use of its car park. Further parking is available in Threlkeld at the Cricket Club (who operate an honesty box) or on the streets in the village.
Buses patrol the A66 – the X4 and X5 buses from Keswick will stop at the Horse & Farrier Inn in Threlkeld
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Sharp Edge Scramble up Blencathra
Blencathra is a Lake District icon and the approach to the summit via the scramble up Sharp Edge is one of the most famed ascents in the National Park.
How Difficult is Sharp Edge? Sharp Edge is a knife-edged ridge, requiring a head for heights. This route needs to be respected, especially in poor weather – it is composed of Skiddaw Slate, which becomes very slippery in the wet. Over the years there have been a number of accidents, including fatalities with the “bad step” being a particular blackspot. In the winter Sharp Edge becomes a grade I/II winter climb and you’ll need crampons, an ice axe and plenty of winter hill walking experience.
Confident hill walkers with a head for heights won’t be disappointed by Sharp Edge or its parent, the mighty Blencathra.
Blencathra Sharp Edge Route Description
1 – Assuming you have parked at Scales, head west along the A66 a short distance to reach a low cottage. Between the cottage and a large house with a barn, a stony track rises up the fellside to the intake wall. Pass through the wall and turn right, following the path as it starts to climb up the lower slopes of Scales Fell.
2 – The path becomes steeper, eventually turning to climb directly up the fellside, along the rim of Mousthwaite Comb, a curious bowl that is the source of Comb Beck. Ignore any paths that turn off the main path. As the gradient begins to ease, you will reach a grassy saddle that separates Souther Fell from Scales Fell. From the saddle, head northwest along a path that remains broadly level as it follows the valley of the River Glenderamackin. You will begin to see Sharp Edge looming up ahead above Brunt Knott.
3 – The path will reach Scales Beck. Leave it here to climb a set of stone steps to reach Scales Tarn. Upon reaching Scales Tarn, you will be faced with a magnificent mountain panorama with Tarn Crags directly ahead and Sharp Edge forming the skyline to the right. It’s a worthy place for a quick pause.
4 – From the Tarn, an obvious path climbs up to the footings of Sharp Edge where a series of short, rocky steps need to be negotiated before reaching the ridge itself.
5 – Eventually, you will emerge and be faced with a classic view of Sharp Edge as it curves up towards Foule Crag. Short but extremely narrow, care should be taken when crossing the edge. Though many will take their own routes, remaining on the crest will give the best scrambling and there are places where it is unavoidable.
6 – Step out onto the edge.
7 – You will first cross a combination of narrow crests interspersed by relatively flat sections. After these, the ridge crosses a fairly long, flat slab to approach some large, blocky rocks. You can go over or around these to continue along the ridge.
8 – The next point of note is a wide, flat slab which offers a brief respite from the exposure. It leads towards another tall rock which is best passed to the right hand side. Pause here and get a good look at the next section.
9 – This is Sharp Edge’s ‘Bad Step’. A jutting piece of rock above a short drop into a gully. Though there are plenty of hand and foot holds, the rock here has been worn particularly smooth and it is the location of most accidents on Sharp Edge. Extra care should be taken if the rock is wet as it becomes extremely slippery.
10 – After successfully negotiating the rocky groove, the scramble takes on a more blocky, step like character again as you make the final scramble up to the base of Foule Crag. What may have seemed an impenetrable wall of rock now offers a plethora of routes to gain the main ridge of the fell. The easiest by far is a noticeable gully, the base of which can be reached by a short traverse across a slanted slab. Again, care should be taken here as wet slate can be very slippery.
11 – Climb the gully which will emerge onto less-rocky territory but easier climbing. Remember to glance back to Sharp Edge as the view is stunning.
12 – Eventually you will reach the rim of Blencathra and the exhilaration of Sharp Edge will be at an end. Again, views down into Scales Tarn are impressive from here. A stony path follows the edge of the fell and makes the final, short climb up to Blencathra’s summit, marked by an unusual stone ring set in the ground. Views from the summit are sensational.
13 – From the summit there are numerous ways off the fell – the easiest being a descent of Scale Fell or a longer walk along the spine of the fell to Blease Fell. Scramblers will want to take Hall’s Fell Ridge and enjoy some more superb rock (this is another Grade 1 scramble) while it is also possible to retrace your steps and descend Sharp Edge, though scrambling down Foule Crag can tricky.
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