On the Sharp Edge

The second full day of my camping trip started rather wet. I’d had a very disturbed night’s sleep because of the noise of heavy showers on the tent. The one thing I’d forgotten to do when I bought my lovely red Inov8 shoes in Kendal a couple of days earlier was buy more gas. The still-showery weather at breakfast made my mind up to drive to Keswick to buy it before I ran out and also to have two canisters so I could use both stoves at the same time. One of the walks I wanted to do was Blencathra via Sharp Edge (a grade 1 scramble), returning via Hall’s Fell (a low-end grade 1). A trip to Keswick would take me that way, so I kept my fingers crossed for an improvement in the weather (which was forecast), although I was going to do it, come what may.

I bought the gas, plus a super-light, showerproof EDZ Pertex jacket, which I really don’t need, but is great as an emergency stow-away item! Also, most fell/hill races have a minimum emergency kit requirement, which includes a jacket that is windproof and has a hood as a minimum: if it looks like the weather will be bad, I’d take my Haglofs smock, but the new top will save weight and bulk when the forecast allows. I also enjoyed a lovely Belgian pastry and coffee. The showers did indeed die away during my shopping trip, so I headed off to Blencathra with a smile on my face.

I didn’t take my ‘proper’ camera, which is a bit big when you’re using all four limbs! Until I can work out how to get pictures off my stupid mobile onto my infallible MacBook, I can’t illustrate the walk/scramble with photos. I sneakily pulled a picture of Sharp Edge off the web for the banner picture to this entry. *UPDATE photo album here*

Sharp Edge has a similar form to the very popular Striding Edge on Helvellyn; a sharp arete which merges into steep rocky summit slopes. Striding Edge is a low end grade 1 scramble with a couple of awkward bits to be avoided; the climb up the summit slope is probably the hardest part. Sharp Edge is a ‘proper’ grade 1 and felt more consistent to me, although the arete is shorter. The air was clear and there was plenty of sunshine between the clouds, which added to the atmosphere. One part of the arete was pretty exposed, with a view down a very steep, smooth, rocky sweep on my left: it was technically easy, so no adrenaline rush for me, just pleasure at impressive ‘rock scenery’.

I romped over the summit plateau, carrying on past Blencathra’s summit along the escarpment edge to summit of Blease Fell: no point in getting off the high ground too early in good weather. Hall’s Fell was very straightforward, even in descent: a mild grade 1 for sure, but good fun.

As an aside, I’ve recently noticed that there are some impressive, mountainous southern slopes in the Lakes, including the one I’d just come down. I had a plan to climb Sphinx Ridge on Great Gable before I went home, which has a SW aspect and is one of four superb mountaineering ridges closely lined up on that side of the mountain. The ‘lumpy’ mountains I can think of in Scotland often have a mountainous northern aspect, but gentle slopes to the south. This may well be, as the statisticians say, ‘anecdotal evidence’: I’d be interested to know if there is truly a general difference.

Once I got to the edge of the open country, I followed the boundary back to my car at Scales. To make things more interesting, I ran this section as fast as I could (I was wearing my new Inov8s) and measured it on my Garmin watch. I’d assumed it would be fairly level, which it mostly was, but there were a couple of vicious dip-and-climbs crossing the becks (the name for streams in the Lakes) that drain that side of the mountain. It was less than 2 kilometres; just a dash. Have a look at the run on the Garmin website; Bing satellite view shows the terrain off wonderfully! You can also zoom out and spot Sharp Edge on the other side of the mountain.

I got back to the campsite and found the cooking easier with two stoves and no worries about the flames going out! I really enjoyed my tuna pasta.

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