This is a stunning walk of really outstanding contrasts. A walker's journey to rival the scrambler's exhilaration of Sharp Edge. It starts at a small parking area above the tiny village of Scales. After climbing Blencathra by way of the wide grassy ridge of Scales Fell, which requires no scrambling or head for heights, it crosses the mossy expanse of Mungrisdale Common. Then taking a sweep over Bannerdale Crags and following for a short while close to the edge it returns via the splendid Glenderamackin river valley.
It is not recommended in poor weather or low visibility as you need to navigate the relatively featureless expanse of the Common, and of course the truly stunning views of the surrounding mountains would be lost. Even if you never want to climb Sharp Edge missing its dramatic setting would be a great shame.
The name Blencathra, popularised by Wainwright over the Ordnance Survey's Saddleback, is thought to derive from the old Cumbria words for hill top and chair, in reference to its shape.
The white cross on the saddle, which you pass on the walk, is a memorial to an unknown walker who died nearby.
This walk takes you to the top of the following hills: Mungrisdale Common, Scales Fell, Blencathra - Hallsfell Top, Atkinson Pike, and Bannerdale Crags; and includes 3 Wainwrights, 4 Birketts, 1 Marilyn, 2 Hewitts, 3 Nuttalls, and 1 HuMP.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
From the small parking area above Scales return over the bridge to the signpost on the right and take the gravel path into Mousthwaite Comb. At the corner of the fence, an old path used to climb the hillside on your left but it is rightly being discouraged out of use, continue another 150m (165 yards) to the new path. Turn sharp left and climb steeply up, the path rejoins the fence line. Bear right, and continue across a number of paths heading for the edge of the Comb, our path zigzags up the face of the fell-side. It is steep and in places a little loose but not desperately so. There are great views worth taking a short breather for.
At the top of the zigzags bear left to keep to the path along the top of the crags. Eventually the sights of Blencathra's south face come into view. Our wide ridge ahead should now be clear too. Keep left, and along the top of the crags, though not too close! The path is engineered zigzags and although rough in places presents no difficulties, unlike the other ridges. Follow the top of the crags, and bear left to Halls Fell Top, which is also the summit of Blencathra. There is an uninspiring Trig Station set in to the ground here.
From the summit turn back right and over the saddle, from which the mountain was once named. There is a small tarn, and a white stone cross set into the ground. Continue to Atkinson Pike. Beside the second cairn, not the summit cairn the next one, is the top of the path dropping down Blue Screes. Turn left on to it taking great care on its steep, loose, and slippery slate gravel.
At the bottom of the screes, do not bear right, but continue straight ahead to pick up the path heading in the general direction of the highest ground of Mungrisdale Common. The 'summit' cairn is not yet in sight, but will become more obvious later. Once on the Common there are many paths across the bogs. Care will be needed to keep heading towards the highest ground.
The summit cairn is a small pile of rocks. Having found it, turn sharp right, almost back on yourself on an initially wide, sometimes faint, grass path heading for the col, junction of the paths joining the three hills.
Cross the col at a bit of an oblique angle, first turning left and then right onto the eroded path to the right of the Bannerdale Crags' high point. The first cairn reached is the summit. Bear left to the second cairn, and left again at the cairn to traverse across the tops of the crags. The views down are superb. Either bear left and tramp across the grass and moss slopes to the lower top, or continue and turn sharply left onto the path, but whichever way you go return to the col.
At the col turn left and, keeping the River Glenderamackin on your right, follow the path down the valley. As the path turns left across the nose of White Horse Bent bear right and cross the river by the bridge. Ascend up the other side to the col, go across, bearing right slightly to locate the top the path down into Mousthwaite Comb. This you will recognise from the way up. Follow it back to the car park.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Souther Fell||same start point|
|Bowscale Fell||3.4km (2.1 miles) away|
|Blencathra via Hall's Fell Ridge||3.5km (2.2 miles) away|
|Bowscale Tarn - Tarn of the Immortal Fish||4.5km (2.8 miles) away|
Unless otherwise stated the text in this walk is the copyright of Hug Solutions Ltd trading as The Hug and the photographs are the copyright of Elizabeth Oldham. Hill data is derived from Database of British and Irish hills which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Maps contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011 and paths © OpenStreetMap Contributors,CC-BY-SA, 2011