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Blencathra Southern Ridges

Blencathra Southern Ridges


Postby mountain coward » Sat Sep 05, 2009 2:29 am

Wainwrights included on this walk: Blencathra

Hewitts included on this walk: Blencathra

Date walked: 05/09/2009

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Blencathra South Ridges.jpg
(L-R) Gategill Fell, Gate Gill, Hallsfell, Doddick Gill, Doddick Fell, Scaley Beck, Scales Fell
Parking is available under the south face on Blencathra in many places on the A66 so, even on a weekend, you can usually find a place if you get there reasonably early. The southern ridges are definitely very popular routes up the fell, especially Hallsfell.
Blencathra Ridges.jpg
Doddick Ridge in front of Hallsfell (from Scales Fell)
The Hallsfell route can be combined in a great round with Doddick Fell, although Doddick is getting rather eroded for a pleasant descent unfortunately. Hallsfell is quite scrambly, especially across the section called ‘Narrow Edge’ but there is a bypass path one side or the other of the rocky sections if desired.

The first time I tackled Hallsfell was, as usual for me, alone and late in the day and I picked a bad day as it was damp, drizzly and misty – with Blencathra being a slate mountain the craggy areas are very greasy in the wet. I managed to get up to Narrow Edge and took the bypass paths to avoid the rock. There was a section where I had to make a long descent down under some crags and re-ascend some steep grass back to the ridge. Unfortunately, just short of the top there is an easy crag (in normal conditions) but with no way round it. I found even my hands couldn’t get a grip on the rock and it was by now thinking of getting dark and so reluctantly I had to turn back.

The second time I took Richard with me on a dry day and attempted all the rocky bits. In those days I was even more of a mountain coward and had lots of difficulties and found it rather exposed, especially a narrow ledge round the top of a chimney. This ledge was followed by a section of very steep crag which I was determined to get up. There was a guy quite a way below us on the ridge – by the time I gave up on this section, he was on the summit eating his sandwiches! I sent Richard up it three times but still couldn’t figure out how to get up as, at one point, I was swinging about with only one handhold! In the end I had to give in and go round on the path. I’ve since managed that section by using the one handhold and a friction hold for the other hand and now enjoy the ridge. By the time I got to the summit the first time I was a nervous and swearing wreck!
Hallsfell looking menacing!.jpg
Hallsfell Knob.jpg
Hallsfell.jpg


A good descent route after ascending Hallsfell is down Doddick Ridge. This is an extremely pretty ridge which sets off from partway down Scales Fell – the start isn’t obvious and there are 2 variations of it – the first one you reach starts down some steep rocks and the second rakes across on a scree path to join it. The top of the ridge is getting steep and loose and can feel a bit exposed although there is no crag below you. As you get further down the ridge it becomes heathery and very pretty.
Doddick.jpg
Doddick Ridge heather.jpg
Doddick lumps.jpg
Looks like Led Zep's Houses of the Holy album cover to me!


There is one difficulty at the foot of the mountain when you’re walking between the foot of the various fells and that is the crossing of Scaley Beck. Going westwards the descent to the beck is fine but the ascent at the other side is sloping slippery slabs and quite awkward. Richard fell back down this section once and hurt himself so it’s not totally straightforward. It is better in ascent though...
Scaley Beckgill easier side.jpg
Scaley Beck Gillbank scramble.jpg
The bit Richard fell off!


The other ridge on the south of Blencathra is Gategill Fell – a very steep ascent onto the end of the Gategill Ridge indeed! In fact, the only time I did this ascent, it was so steep up (on a hot day) and the peak at the end of the ridge seemed so small and the surroundings so vertical, I felt sick! The ridge is very easy across to the main fell but then looks intimidating. The first time I got to this area (from another route) I was put off by the sight of the steep rocks ahead and took a slanting rake on a little path across very steep grass to the area to the right of Gategill summit. The second time (when I’d actually come up Gategill ridge) I was feeling a little braver and went up the gully through the crags – it was perfectly safe and great fun – it didn’t look exposed either when you looked back down.
Gategill Fell(portrait).jpg
The top of 'The Gulch' route is the very steep scree on the left just below the exit gully!
Gategill Fell fm above.jpg
Gategill Fell fm gully.jpg


The alternative route to Gategill Fell was called by Wainwright ‘The Gulch’ and ascends Blease Beck to the left of Gategill ridge. The Gulch is huge fun and a very novel route taken by virtually no one but it is quite rough in the gill. At one point the craggy sides of the beck seem to overhang you! A very wild place and pretty rough walking (no path). The only problem with the route is the huge area of extremely loose and steep scree near the top (when you’re already tired out) to join the point where Gategill Ridge abuts the summit rocks. (see portrait pic above)

One of my friends had an energetic day once when he ascended Blencathra 3 times in one walk utilising all the ridges on the front and the 2 end fells - mad!
Attachments
Gategill Falls.jpg
Gategill.jpg
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby Paul Webster » Sat Sep 05, 2009 8:46 pm

Some cracking pics there. Blencathra was my favourite hill in the Lakes, but I've never done the Doddick or Gategill Fell routes.
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby mountain coward » Sun Sep 06, 2009 12:07 am

You'd better get to Doddick soon then before it completely disintegrates!
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby colgregg » Sun Sep 06, 2009 8:18 am

Good report and pics. "I really need to do Blencathra", I've lost count how many times I've said that over the years when I've driven to or from Keswick. I still have not got round to it, opting to head for the big rounds, but as it's only an hours drive from Richmond I'm determined to get it done this year.
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby Iangoldsmith » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:14 pm

You lucky barsteward :lol: !!!!! ... I was in Cloud all day on Helvellyn and St Sunday Crag :( on the 5th and it looks like you had great weather and views!! - Nice report!
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby mountain coward » Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:12 am

It wasn't recently - they are a collection of my pics of the Southern Ridges with some info about them for people planning to do them! :) Having said that, I've just come back from South Lakes and had 2 great days on the Coniston Range with a day of absolutely getting drowned in between!
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby Iangoldsmith » Fri Sep 11, 2009 10:45 am

Ahh that explains it !
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby mountain coward » Sat Sep 12, 2009 12:34 am

You really wouldn't want to do any scrambling on Blencathra on a wet day as all the (slate) rock is horrifically slippery and even hands can't get a grip! It's infamous for that...
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby Iangoldsmith » Mon Sep 14, 2009 3:54 pm

Yeah .. I went up Sharp Edge in a really wet day !!!..... and couldn't get any grip from my boots at all!... lets say it wasn't elegant but I made it with the sarcastic comment to my brother at the top .. `that was nice !' :D
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby mountain coward » Tue Sep 15, 2009 12:22 am

To be honest, watching people on those sloping slabs on Sharp Edge, it seems there's no grip in the dry either!! The people who seem to have the least trouble are the ones who march bravely across the top of the edge and don't go to the sides at all. I got partway along once and then let Richard continue on his own - even he didn't like it much as it was too shiny and polished - and he likes that kind of thing normally!
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby monty » Tue Sep 15, 2009 11:59 am

Tremendous pictures. Looks like a great walk. Must pop down and do this one day :D
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby mountain coward » Fri Sep 18, 2009 10:22 pm

There are some pretty good mountains south of Scotland, honest! :D
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Re: Blencathra Southern Ridges

Postby yokehead » Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:11 pm

Great descriptive report mc, looks like you've had great fun there.
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