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A walk behind Blencathra.

A walk behind Blencathra.

Postby trailmasher » Sun May 20, 2018 4:07 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Bowscale Fell, Souther Fell

Hewitts included on this walk: Bowscale Fell

Date walked: 07/05/2018

Time taken: 4.33

Distance: 15.8 km

Ascent: 886m

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It was Monday, it was a Bank Holiday and the Lake District was overflowing with visitors, many of them walking the fells and mountains of this fair and pleasant part of the UK, a day when sense says 'stay at home until they've all gone', but when the sun is shining and I can see Blencathra from where I live, it's nonsense that prevails. E quickly knocked up some sarnies and a drink or two and we set off to face the clatter of boots and walking poles of the throng that we just knew would be heading for the same destination as us, but maybe not the same route as us. We were hopefully going to choose a quieter way of doing a round of the fells behind the mighty Blencathra, leaving the summit and buttock clinching Sharp Edge scramble to those intrepid visitors who were on a mission to put another couple of ticks in their lists of to do's on this visit to the LD.

We arrived at Mousthwaite Comb to find the small car park full at the relatively early time - for Bank Holidayer's anyway - of 9am so about turned and went to the car park by the White Horse down by the A66 to find just one available space, not a problem parking here really, it just means a little more walking on tarmac. The accommodation units, camping barn, etc were all full with a posse of hairy bikers sat around outside the pub looking as they were ready for battle with anyone who tried to pass through their ranks.

By the time that we had got ready it was 9:30 as we set off for the short walk along the metalled lane that would take us back to Mousthwaite Comb and the gateway to the fells following an ancient packhorse route to the col between Souther Fell and Scales Fell the most easterly one of Blencathra.

ImageThe old packhorse route to the foot of Souther Fell

The walk up through the Comb is pleasant enough and sheltered from any invasive winds and looking back there are decent views across the green pastures of the fells and mountains to the south.

As to be expected there was a large number of walkers of all ages strung out along the path that is steeper in its lower reaches before it turns itself around to the northeast when the going is a tad easier with some exposed rocky areas near the top that are very slippery when wet but that wasn't going to be a problem on this scorcher of a day. We soon reached the col from where a good view is seen along both the slopes of Scales Fell and Souther Fell to the west and east respectively whilst to the north a great view of the massive bulk of White Horse Bent and the fell of Bannerdale Crags is to be seen separated from Blencathra by the River Glenderamackin. The site of an old lead mine can only be recognised by the loose grey scar that sits on the lower southern slopes of this fell but when walking along the River Glenderamackin and more or less opposite the collapsed mine there is to be seen an old opening cut into the south bank of the river. Oblong in shape and now level with the river bed it is almost certainly flooded and it was only after walking along this way for quite a few times that I noticed the opening, which of course I have never ventured into.

Now walking roughly south for a short while along the near level ground there was a great view of Sharp Edge and the summit ridge of Blencathra sitting behind Scales Fell, a view in which Sharp Edge would dominate for most of the walk to Scales Beck, the outlet of Scales Tarn, that delectable stretch of water that sits in the bowl below Tarn Crags and Sharp Edge. This is a good spot to gird the loins and refortify the body before tackling the approach and heights of the ridge to Atkinson Pike.

ImageScales Fell with Sharp Edge and Blencathra summit in the background

Instead of taking the path up Scales Fell we turned off to the northwest following the good path that runs above and adjacent to the River Glenderamackin below to the north, a path that rises imperceptively around 110 metres - 360 feet - from the col to the pitched stone steps that climbs alongside Scales Beck to Scales Tarn. The view along the valley is - in my opinion - amazing with the river running down the centre of the valley with the massive green and shale grey slopes of Bannerdale Crags opposite the green slopes and the black of Brunt Knott, Sharp Edge and Foule Crag that protects the large grassy bowl that lies beneath it. There's quite a good path that runs across this bowl and saves some energy and distance as it arrives around a third of the way along the Foule Crag ridge, a lot better and more exciting option than walking to the head of the valley if making Blencathra your target for the day.

ImageThe path to Scales Beck and Mungrisdale Common

ImageThe Sharp Edge ridge behind Brunt Knott

Halfway along the path we sat awhile enjoying the view and the sunshine when a gang of youths passed us as though out for a day on Penrith's high street and as they turned up by Scales Beck we could only hope that they weren't going to attempt the 'Edge' dressed as they were, but sometimes the bravado of youth overtakes the sensible option.

As we arrived at Scales Beck ourselves a posse of fell runners turned up, a group of mixed ages and gender with around 6 dogs in attendance that appeared to be enjoying the day out on the fells more than the runners as they hurled themselves into the beck for a drink and a cool down. Whilst some of the runners seemed to be flagging a bit the dogs were full of life and raring to get on with it.

ImageFell runners with dogs below Brunt Knott

We climbed part way up the beck to reach the next part of our path that lay not to the tarn but continues on below Brunt Knott and the bowl below Foule Crag continuing on a northwest course to the head of the valley and Mungrisdale Common. If you haven't been this way before take care and make sure that you keep to the higher path all the way because if the lower one is inadvertently taken it will be found to go to nowhere and a climb up the rough fellside is a requirement to pick up what had been lost, the higher and proper path. As we walked on a look back gave us a view of the Sharp Edge ridge and Atkinson Pike with quite a few people lined up and waiting to move on as some of them faltered at the large block of stone where a long step down is required before moving on to make the climb out.

ImageSharp Edge and Foule Crag

Leaving this exciting scramble behind we continued on and after a while a look back gave us a view of Great Mell Fell and the hazy line of the Eastern Fells on the skyline.

ImageFollowing the course of the River Glenderamackin

Passing below Foule Crag the path takes a swerve to the north from where we soon arrived at the head of the valley and River Glenderamackin, a good spot to sit and linger awhile if not in a hurry. Although we weren't in a rush to get anywhere today we continued on north along a now wide and grassy path with a good view behind us of the infamous ridge with Atkinson Pike and Foule Crag towering over the comb below them.

ImageA view back to Atkinson Pike and Foule Crag

We soon reached a tumbledown cairn where we decided to stop for a quick drink and with Bannerdale Crags to our back we were in an ideal position to cast an eye over to the west and the fells of Great Calva, Skiddaw and Bakestall. The wide track leading over to that non mountain of Mungrisdale Common is also plain to see.

ImageGreat Calva - Skiddaw - Bakestall

Break over we set off for Bowscale Fell that lay directly ahead of us, a great mound of brown fell grass covering its slopes with the wide path showing strangely green amongst the brown.

ImageBowscale Fell

I have been this way many times and have never known some of the low parts of the path to dry out and today was no exception with large areas consisting of nothing but bright green moss covering ankle deep water making for long detours around the quagmires, detours made longer over the years as the ground is trampled and broken down allowing it to get softer as the water seeps into it.

No matter, we got around it without any great mishap and continued to now climb the long easy slope to the summit and shelter that was too busy for us to use…

ImageA busy old top today

so we walked on to the summit cairn where we parked up to enjoy a bite to eat and another quick drink but after only a couple of minutes we were joined by two other walkers sporting beards that would have put Sea Sick Steve's to shame.

Good views are to be enjoyed in all directions but the slight haze spoilt the clarity of the distant mountains with an exceptionally good view of Bannerdale Crags.

ImageA southern view from Bowscale Fell

ImageWest to Skiddaw and beyond

Great Calva, Knott, High Pike, Carrock Fell, etc.

ImageSome northern fells

ImageBack to Blencathra

The top of Bowscale is large and rounded, almost flat with plenty of rough grass and an area of stony ground as we left the summit cairn behind to now descend and then climb again along this very long wide ridge, something that we would have to do again as we arrived at the third grassy and 604 metre high dome of Bowscale Fell

From the summit our intention was to walk down the east ridge…

ImageThe long east ridge of Bowscale Fell

to Mungrisdale but with the main purpose of taking a photograph of Bowscale Tarn from a place recommended by the late and great AW, a place from which - he said - the only full photo of the tarn can be taken, from below the cairn at the top of the north ridge - Slatestone Rigg - marked as a 'Pile of Stones' on the OS map, the 660 metre high secondary summit. Ha.

ImageThe 660 metre high subsiduary summit of Bowscale Fell east ridge

ImageBowscale Fell and Blencathra

From this summit the north ridge drops down to a small cairn and into the valley below the south slopes of Carrock Fell and it was down this I walked losing around 60 metres in height - 200 feet - before I got a decent view of the tarn, and although I didn't just get a complete shot of it I wasn't game to descend any further as the climb back was bad enough from where I took the picture.

ImageBowscale Tarn from the north ridge

This is the best view of the tarn that I have had, from above with its ring of crags and the grassy parade opposite the crags today playing host to people having picnics and there were at least three dinghy's sailing about on its dark waters. The sky was a wonderful shade of blue with just a few wispy clouds floating about, not large enough to cast a shadow and with the only sound being of a curlew and the skylarks above it was quite idyllic as I looked over the green fields below me spreading out from Mungrisdale into the far distance towards the hazy Pennines…

ImageHazy Pennines on the skyline

and then I remembered that I had to climb back up the pathless ridge to gain the main path once again, in this heat.

We dropped off this first rise in the east ridge and after a while we had a good view of the north ridge and the point where the small cairn sits.

ImageThe view back to the north ridge on the right

Carrock Fell to the north looms brown and grey with a small hem of yellow gorse at its foot whilst the ridge runs into light brown as it recedes into the distance towards Miton Hill and High Pike.

ImageCarrock Fell to High Pike view

A hazy skyline of the Far Eastern Fells is fronted by the two smaller hills of Great Mell Fell and Little Mell Fell.

ImageThe Mells and the distant Far Eastern Fells

After wandering a little lower along this ridge of lovely views the rising fields before us play host to the wet area of the Eyecot Hills, two rocky islands that are named Birkett's and now reside in a relatively new nature reserve that was championed by the BBC DJ, Stuart Maconi.

ImageLooking down on Mungrisdale and across to the Eyecot Hills

Descending lower still we could almost see the village of Mungrisdale but to the south there is a great view of the valley containing the River Glenderamackin, Souther Fell and the ever present Blencathra with Sharp Edge and Atkinson Pike never really out of view along the whole of this walk.

ImageSouther Fell and the River Glenderamackin from Raven Crags

The eastern nose of Bowscale Fell goes by the name of Raven Crags and it is down the path of these that we had to leave this fell behind. The way to the crags proper is approached along a grassy gully coated with yellow flowering gorse, a lovely bright patch of colour on the landscape that proves difficult to pass through at close quarters with their many sharp pointed 'leaves' scratching bare skin and penetrating the thin material of tops and trousers alike. Mungrisdale now lay below us, its tranquil country charm spoilt by the dozens of cars that are parked in any and every available space.

ImageDesending the crags

ImageNorth ridge of Souther Fell

The path is quite steep and slippery with bone dry dust and grit underfoot making for a steady descent, the temptation to grab the ever enclosing gorse for balance always there but knowing that if you fell into that particular trap the painful experience would not be enjoyed.

ImageThe gorse on Raven Crags

After a bit of screeching and squealing from E - no chance of a nature watch when out with her - we arrived unscathed at the metalled road below, somewhat outside of the village that meant a few hundred metres of blacktop walking to get to the village but as the road was relatively quiet and it was a glorious day it meant little or no hardship whatsoever, and E had a chance to settle down from her trials of the Raven Crag descent.

ImageRaven Crags

We arrived in the village to find that the Village Hall was hosting an exhibition of local interest and that they were also serving refreshments of which we gladly partook of, tea and cake to give us energy whilst climbing back out of the village by taking the grassy path that climbs not up the northeast ridge but rises easily along the eastern slopes of Souther Fell, a lovely green path that arrives at a point just below the main summit. The start of the path begins directly on the right as the first road gate from the village is reached.

ImageAn alternative route to Souther Fell summit

The path passes across the Hang Gliding Site, is easily graded with just a couple of soft spots near the top. This good path stops abruptly before reaching the summit but is taken over by a faint path through the grass that veers off to the northwest from this point taking you directly to the Souther Fell ridge path and just south of the main summit.

ImageThe view southeast from Souther Fell

ImageSouther Fell summit

As we had been on this fell numerous times before we ignored the summit this time around and turned to the southwest towards the small currick that stands on the western edge of the fell giving good views across to the Bannerdale Crags and the ridge where the remains of old mine/quarry workings are to be found. It must have been a hell of a mission getting to work in a mornings, especially in bad weather.

ImageBlencathra behind Bannerdale Crags

We returned to the ridge path and followed it to a point where it broke off to drop down into Mousthwaite Comb and then walked on pathless ground over the 495 metre high hump…

ImagePathless walk to Knotts on the south end of Souther Fell

ImageAcross the valley to Great Dodd and Clough Head

ImageAcross Mousthwaite Comb to Blencathra

to then walk down the easy slopes of the south end of the fell, over Knotts and down to the metalled lane once again to have an easy walk back to the car.

Although we had walked these fells many times the east ridge of Bowscale Fell and the path across the eastern slopes of Souther Fell were ways that we were going to try but had never got around to, we thought that it would be a quiet way to go and so it proved on this busy Bank Holiday in the LD. Once we had left Scales Beck behind and the adventures above it we had a quiet walk over to Bowscale where the top was quite busy, but from there - apart from Mungisdale - back to the car was quiet walking apart from a lone fell runner on Souther Fell, so these paths are definitely not part of the usual tourist paths and good for a walk away from the mad rushing crowds. Apart from the path down Raven Crags where the feet need to be firmly spoken to all of the way round is easy going, mostly over grass and easily graded that made a nice change from steep slopes, rugged paths, scrambling and boulder hopping.
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Re: A walk behind Blencathra.

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Tue Jun 05, 2018 1:00 pm

A fine idea to head for these fells on a sunny bank holiday if you ask me, Certainly knocks the crowds back a bit. I quite like the ridge down from Bowscale Fell, even with the deadly gorse ready to strike :wink: . Bowscale Tarn looks a lovely spot however I've only ever enjoyed the same view as you got from this walk, I'll have to pay it a visit some time. :think:
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Re: A walk behind Blencathra.

Postby trailmasher » Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:05 am

johnkaysleftleg wrote:A fine idea to head for these fells on a sunny bank holiday if you ask me, Certainly knocks the crowds back a bit. I quite like the ridge down from Bowscale Fell, even with the deadly gorse ready to strike :wink: . Bowscale Tarn looks a lovely spot however I've only ever enjoyed the same view as you got from this walk, I'll have to pay it a visit some time. :think:

Thanks JK :D and it is a very fine ridge indeed and if you get the chance the tarn is worth a look at close up 8) If you like a decent ridge walk and if you haven't yet done it a walk down the northeast ridge of Bannerdale Crags is an interesting experience with the old mine workings and alternative views, although it is a bit rougher underfoot in the higher reaches :wink:
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