Weekly Route - Sharp Edge, Blencathra

Following last week's Blencathra walking route, here's a scramble up the same mountain that takes you away from the crowds...

Posted: 18 April 2006
by Dave Mycroft

Sharp Edge, Blencathra

Grade: 1

Sharp Edge takes you away from the crowds on Blencathra, one of the Lake District's most popular mountains, and serves as an ideal introduction to scrambling.

Equipment: Rope and protection is normally not necessary, but take into account the experience of the party, the wind and the ground conditions (eg snow makes it an entirely different proposition).

Online Map link

Views: 3
Technicality: 1
Exposure: 2

out of five.

Another in our series of classic lakeland scrambles. Sharp Edge is up there with Jack's Rake as a starting point for the move up from hillwalking to scrambling, and it's set in a superb location on one of the Lake District's most popular mountains - Blencathra. This makes it not only an ideal step up from Striding Edge, but a great way of avoiding the throngs heading up the normal Blencathra routes from the south (covered in our recent Blencathra walking route). To complete the day a descent of Hall's Fell Ridge makes a great route.

Sharp Edge, from the OM Gallery by Jamie Bassnett - album

Approach The ideal approach starts from the bottom of Mousthwaite Comb, and if you're early you can park by Comb Beck, beyond the White Horse. If not then park at Scales and walk up to where a footpath heads off North West from the road. Initially start off through fields before joining a steep track to the col between Scales Fell and Souther Fell. Contour above the Glederamackin River to Scales Beck, and cross the stream before moving upwards and right to reach Scales Tarn. The path now heads North to the start of Sharp Edge, which is well marked by the commencement of the rock ridge.

Route - Sharp Edge: The ridge is best taken head on, keeping to the crest all the way. Although alternatives do exist on the North side, they add nothing to the experience whilst losing little of the exposure factor. Start up an obvious groove and continue onto the crest itself which gets continuously narrower but never uncomfortably so. The crest is constantly changing - it's a metre wide in places but confined to narrow spikes and pinnacles in others. At times move either left or right around the pinnacles but remain as close to the crest throughout as possible. A final pinnacle leads to the most difficult, but still easy, move to cross the gap where the ridge joins the main hillside. Most people move 30 feet to the right here to take an obvious groove, but it's equally possible to take the more intimidating looking route up the slabs to its left. Despite appearances the rock is good and solid and the handholds well defined and reliable. The crest now takes on a more horizontal nature as it abuts the main fell, and an easy walk leads to the summit of Atkinson Pike. From here turn left over Tarn Crags to climb up to the summit of Blencathra and superb views of the Helvellyn Range and the whole of central Lakeland.

Sharp Edge, from the OM Gallery by Andy Wallace - album

Hall's Fell Ridge: From Blencathra's summit turn South East onto the obvious ridge. This is easier ground than Sharp Edge, but is still steep and slippy in places. The best line is to stick as close to the ridge crest as possible, though a walking path is always available to your right if you don't fancy the exposure. The rock of the ridge turns to a steep walk as you approach the end to join the walking route. From here cross Gate Gill, Doddick Gill and Scaley Beck before reaching Scales Farm and the White Horse. Either continue to your start point at Comb Beck or, if you were a later starter, return directly to your car at Scales.

Caution Scrambling is potentially dangerous and, particularly at the higher grades, requires technical skills and equipment to minimise the risk. We suggest that you take professional instruction or climb with an experienced partner.

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Scramble Route - Ledges Route, Ben Nevis
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Scramble Route -Crib Lem, Carneddau

Discuss this story

Sharp edge is a great scramble for any hill walker but be warned its lethal in the wet, the rock has been polished with thousands of pairs of boots and resembles Ice in places when its wet. So try and do it on a dry day and don't take any beginners up there if there is any possibility of it being wet.
Most people fall from the so-called chicken path trying to regain the ridge so stick to Dave's advice and avoid the bypass path.

Posted: 18/04/2006 at 22:44

Wise words.
I have done a few ridges and a bit of via ferrata, but the only time I have had a real panic was on the 'bad step' near the beginning of sharp edge. The rock was wet and my foot skimmed off easily everytime I tried to progress up the step.
In the end I had to rely on my one good hand hold and blind faith to hoist me up!

Very dangerous!

Posted: 19/04/2006 at 00:02

I've only done it once, and the 'bad step' scared me half to death!


Posted: 19/04/2006 at 00:10

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