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Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick


Postby dav2930 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:03 am

Wainwrights included on this walk: Blencathra

Hewitts included on this walk: Blencathra

Date walked: 16/12/2017

Time taken: 4.5

Distance: 8.2 km

Ascent: 771m

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It's not often that Blencathra gets a really good covering of snow, and on those rare occasions that it does, it isn't usually there for long. But the past couple of weeks have been an exception. On the morning of Saturday 9th December, Blencathra looked resplendent in its white mantle, as we drove past it on the way to Buttermere to do the High Stile ridge. 'Why don't we do Sharp Edge?', I said to Karl as I looked up at it longingly. 'I haven't got my ice axe', was the terminal reply. At the time I thought we'd probably missed a golden opportunity. Surely it couldn't stay that good for another week?

But as the week wore on it stayed cold and even more snow accumulated on the fells. And, to set the seal on it, the forecast for Saturday was very good - sunshine and light winds. So on Saturday 16th we met up in Penrith all set for a wintery jaunt up Sharp Edge and down Halls Fell. But the sky was grey, the fells were invisible and a sleety drizzle filled the air. We went in the Red Rooster Café for a coffee, just to see if things were going to improve. After about forty minutes it hadn't really improved, but we were getting bored so we decided to set off anyway. As luck would have it the sky soon started to brighten as we drove west. Blencathra was beginning to emerge from its shroud of mist, and by the time we reached Scales things looked quite promising. It was about 9.45 by the time we started walking out of the new car park near the White Horse Inn.


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On reaching the col at the top of Mousthwaite Combe, Sharp Edge was doing a sort of dance of the seven veils behind layers of mist which came and went, but was quite obviously plastered with a decent covering of snow. It looked positively alpine. The snow we walked on was frozen firm from a clear, cold night. It had been a good few years since I'd been up this way in full winter conditions, and it was to be Karl's first winter ascent of Sharp Edge.

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Mist clearing from a snowy Sharp Edge, from the Mousthwaite col.






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Sharp Edge looms closer


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Looking back down the Glenderamackin


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Scales Tarn


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Sharp Edge above Scales Tarn


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At the foot of Sharp Edge


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View south-east over Brunt Knott


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Scales Tarn


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On the crest of Sharp Edge


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Bannerdale Crags


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Scales Tarn below


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Karl on one of the flatter bits


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Foule Crag from the slabby bit


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Karl coming up the slab leading to the final slopes


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A last view of Scales Tarn


During our traverse of the ridge and the climb up beside Foule Crag, we had been treated to blue skies, sunshine and clear views. But the summit itself, at the other end of the saddle, was shrouded in mist. It was a shame to miss the summit views.

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Karl on the summit, disappointed by the absence of views.


We found a sheltered ledge just below the summit on Halls Fell and parked ourselves for refreshments. Quite a few folk were coming up the ridge.

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Our way down - Halls Fell aka Narrow Edge


We didn't think we'd have to go far down to get out of the clag...

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Having fun on the snowy rocks - note the tiny tot on the rope!


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Down through the mist


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Looking back up Halls Fell


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Valley appears below the clag


...but we stayed in it right until the bottom of the rocky part of Halls Fell.

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At the bottom of Narrow Edge


The sky was now completely overcast and the weather clearly on the turn. But no complaints; we'd made the most of the day and had a great time on a very satisfying winter traverse. It felt like a good start to the winter; let's hope the rest of it lives up to its early promise!
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:40 am

Great to see the ridge in those conditions! Amazing place.


Please, please, please let the snow last till NY, when we're in Buttermere...
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby prog99 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:55 am

I know the wee boy and his folks. He had a great day out.

No incidents on the ridge then, its definitely an awkward one at times for its grade.
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:53 am

Great stuff Dav, looked like you picked a perfect moment for this ascent, some fabulous pics :clap:
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby Guinessman » Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:42 pm

Nice one dav, looked a great day.
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby NeepNeep » Tue Dec 19, 2017 2:53 pm

Did this exact route last year in slightly leaner conditions. Such a wonderful place and the return ridge is equally as enjoyable. :clap:
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby trailmasher » Tue Dec 19, 2017 5:27 pm

Another great walk, pics, and report dav :clap: Sharp Edge plus Halls Fell a great way to go :) Being local to Blencathra makes it one of my fav mountains if not the fav one 8) It looks great at any time of year but especially the conditions that you were out and on it were, great stuff :clap:
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby dav2930 » Tue Dec 19, 2017 8:40 pm

Mal Grey wrote:Great to see the ridge in those conditions! Amazing place.


Please, please, please let the snow last till NY, when we're in Buttermere...

Thanks Mal, it certainly is an amazing place. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for you. Buttermere is such a glorious valley with so much to go at. I hope there's loads of lovely, consolidated snow on the fells when you arrive! :wink:

prog99 wrote:I know the wee boy and his folks. He had a great day out.

No incidents on the ridge then, its definitely an awkward one at times for its grade.


Glad the wee boy enjoyed his day - quite an adventure for a lad of his age! What a coincidence that you know the family 8) !

Yes Sharp Edge is definitely more difficult and serious than Striding Edge. We remarked as much when crossing the crux bit - balancing along a particularly narrow and exposed section right on the crest. But it all went smoothly and without incident; conditions were pretty good I think. There were only one or two others on it at the time and they all seemed to know what they were doing. Cheers! :)

johnkaysleftleg wrote:Great stuff Dav, looked like you picked a perfect moment for this ascent, some fabulous pics :clap:

Thanks JK. We were certainly lucky with our timing on Sharp Edge, though the forecast didn't say anything about deterioration from mid-day :? Glad you liked the pics! :D

Guinessman wrote:Nice one dav, looked a great day.

Cheers GM, it sure was a great day; one the best winter outings I've had in a while! 8)

NeepNeep wrote:Did this exact route last year in slightly leaner conditions. Such a wonderful place and the return ridge is equally as enjoyable. :clap:

Yeah it's great isn't it? I agree that the descent by Halls Fell is highly enjoyable and a fitting continuation of the fun! Makes a fine traverse and I'm beginning to think now that it's actually better than the Striding/Swirral circuit, as well as being that bit harder. :)

trailmasher wrote:Another great walk, pics, and report dav :clap: Sharp Edge plus Halls Fell a great way to go :) Being local to Blencathra makes it one of my fav mountains if not the fav one 8) It looks great at any time of year but especially the conditions that you were out and on it were, great stuff :clap:


Thanks TM. Blencathra is definitely one of my favourite fells. I love its complexity and, as you say, it looks great whatever the season. I'd always considered the Striding/Swirral circuit of Helvellyn to be the finest winter traverse in the Lakes, but as I said to NeepNeep, given the conditions on this occasion, I now think the traverse of Blencathra by Sharp Edge and Halls Fell to be even better. :D
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby Alteknacker » Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:08 am

I missed this one when I walked Blencathra - but it looks fantastic "... in full winter nick" - with plenty of alternative minor diversions if one is so minded. Just a bit of a pity about the mist at the end.

I'm amazed that you could stop for refreshments on the top - it must have been warmer than it was for me in the Highlands on the Friday and Saturday. It was absolutely perishing :roll: !

But chill notwithstanding, isn't it just so uplifting to get out when it's like this?
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby malky_c » Thu Dec 21, 2017 5:21 pm

Nice one - would love to have a go at this in these conditions sometime 8) . Probably best that you had to wait a week - I can't imagine an axe and crampons would've helped a great deal the previous Saturday, but it would still have been as slippery as feck! Worst of both worlds...
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby dav2930 » Thu Dec 21, 2017 8:50 pm

Alteknacker wrote:I missed this one when I walked Blencathra - but it looks fantastic "... in full winter nick" - with plenty of alternative minor diversions if one is so minded. Just a bit of a pity about the mist at the end.

I'm amazed that you could stop for refreshments on the top - it must have been warmer than it was for me in the Highlands on the Friday and Saturday. It was absolutely perishing :roll: !

But chill notwithstanding, isn't it just so uplifting to get out when it's like this?

Yes it really is a boost to the spirits to be out in these conditions, especially when the sun's shining and you can see the views! It was a pity it didn't last until the summit but hey ho.

It probably was colder up in the Highlands that weekend; didn't seem all that cold even on the summit in the light wind, though there was plenty of ice about lower down. There's a nice flat ledge a few yards below the summit overlooking Doddick Gill that always seems to be sheltered from the wind; I've used it for lunch stops many times including this one. I kept my gloves on though! :D

malky_c wrote:Nice one - would love to have a go at this in these conditions sometime 8) . Probably best that you had to wait a week - I can't imagine an axe and crampons would've helped a great deal the previous Saturday, but it would still have been as slippery as feck! Worst of both worlds...

Cheers malky. I hope you get the chance to do this in decent conditions - fingers crossed for a proper winter! You're probably right about the previous Saturday - a bit of serendipity there perhaps. Unconsolidated powder is, as you say, the worst of both worlds. High winds are also definitely to be avoided on Sharp Edge as it's quite balancy in places. But on this occasion it was just about perfect and a real joy. :D
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby past my sell by date » Mon Dec 25, 2017 4:36 pm

Hi Dave
great trip. my first attempt on Sharp edge was at New year ca 1961. it was cold and clear, but incredibly windy and we decided the edge was too risky so we headed across Left and went up easy slopes to the summit plateau, As I climbed/crawled thru the mini- cornice, the wind was trying to rip my anorak off over my head, and when I stood up on top, It picked me up and carried me about ten feet in the air. This is nothing said my companion - who I'd just met and knew nothing about - It's always like this in South Georgia :shock: It turned out he was Gerge Spencely a surveyor who has a glacier named after him in the Salvesen range :lol: :lol: :lol: Katabatic winds there can reach 150mph!
The extraordinary thing is that when we descended only about 15m down to the North it was completely calm - but I think I've only been out in such a strong wind a couple of times since and then I've had to crawl :lol:
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Re: Sharp Edge in Full Winter Nick

Postby dav2930 » Tue Dec 26, 2017 11:53 am

past my sell by date wrote:Hi Dave
great trip. my first attempt on Sharp edge was at New year ca 1961. it was cold and clear, but incredibly windy and we decided the edge was too risky so we headed across Left and went up easy slopes to the summit plateau, As I climbed/crawled thru the mini- cornice, the wind was trying to rip my anorak off over my head, and when I stood up on top, It picked me up and carried me about ten feet in the air. This is nothing said my companion - who I'd just met and knew nothing about - It's always like this in South Georgia :shock: It turned out he was Gerge Spencely a surveyor who has a glacier named after him in the Salvesen range :lol: :lol: :lol: Katabatic winds there can reach 150mph!
The extraordinary thing is that when we descended only about 15m down to the North it was completely calm - but I think I've only been out in such a strong wind a couple of times since and then I've had to crawl :lol:

Hi Tony and thanks.
I've just googled George Spenceley and read a bit about him including his obituary in the guardian; a rather distinguished gentleman. RAF pilot in the war, shot down, pow for 3 years etc., Himalayan veteran, and at age 84 the oldest person to reach the Annapurna Sanctuary...blimey! Mal Grey might have heard of him as he also seems to have been a keen paddler, having canoed the entire lengths of the Danube and Mississippi with his second wife, Sylvie. What an honour to have been up Blencathra with such a fellow! Shame it was way too windy for the ridge - quite something when you literally take off in it :shock: - but nice to know that even George Spenceley thought it too risky 8) . I once had a similar lift-off experience on the way up to Striding edge; I just thought 'Right, bugger this' and turned back! :lol:
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