Hurrying along with all the other traffic on the A66, looking up at Blencathra one cannot help but be moved by its shear scale, and those slender fingers of rock running southwards from its high ridge line must either frighten, or excite. Likely both, in equal measure, when contemplating walking any of them!
Hall's Fell Ridge, topping out at the highest point of Blencathra, is as Wainwright describes: "For active walkers and scramblers, this route is positively the finest way to any mountain top in the district" - a very high accolade indeed.
Once on the ridge there are many bypass paths which avoid some of the difficult sections, but much is still required. Even bypasses require good judgment, confidence, and movement skills to mitigate the risk of a simple slip ending over a precipice, or tumbling down steep grass and scree.
People have slipped from this ridge and died. The risk is very real!
Also consider if you take a dog, does it too have the skills and temperament to tackle the ridge? The mountain will be there another day, perhaps after some shorter less intense scrambles have been successfully tried by handler and hound.
Starting in the pretty village of Threlkeld where although there there is quite a bit of car parking, getting there early is certainly recommended, especially at holiday times. Parking is available above Blencathra Centre, within the village there are two car parks: one behind the houses on the old main road with toilets. And a small upper car park on the road to the Centre. For the purposes of where to start the walk we will use this one, it has an honesty box for donations to village funds. Further parking is also available lower down on the other side of the A66, and on the approach road to the village. Wherever you park, please do so considerately, and put some money in the honesty box.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
From the car park bear right away from the road onto the grass area behind the honesty box. The area narrows to a small path between a wall and Kilnhow Beck. Follow the beck above its ravine to a footbridge and steps up the other side. Cross over here and continue climbing with a wall now on your right. Go through the gate. Stand still and look up to your left at the hillside at about 10 o'clock. Note two paths coming down: one is an eroded scar on the steep face, and if you look carefully to its right you'll see a better path zigzagging down alongside the wall. It's this latter path we'll pick up on the way down. For now turn right beside the sheep pens, and go through the gate. There is a sign here to Gate Ghyll. Handrail the wall to your right across the field. The stile has large dog gate beside it, however on the other side the bottom two rungs of the stile are currently (June 2012) broken and look like they have been for some time. So just beware! Across the next field the path rises slightly to a gate above Gate Ghyll farm and the Blencathra hunt kennels.
Cross the gill and immediately bear left onto the rough path climbing through bracken up the hillside. Ignore the path going directly ahead from the gill. The climbing now starts in earnest. Continue zigzagging up the hillside onto the ridge.
As the first real scrambly bit is encountered you may find you naturally head onto the bypass path on the right hand side of the ridge. Eventually you return to the crest of the ridge, where the fun really starts. As the crest narrows a large crack runs from one side to the other necessitating some careful footwork above a shear drop of fatal proportions.
Further bypass paths veer off to the left hand side, if you choose any of them return to the crest of the ridge as soon as practical. As tempting as it may be to continue along the side there are rivers of loose slate scree in places which may more dangerous than the crest.
Eventually Hall's Fell Top is gained which is also the summit of Blencathra, and has a simple OS trig station - so much effort for such an understated summit marker. Before continuing, you may wish to visit the bottom of the saddle (from which this mountain was once named) where there is a small tarn - handy source of water if you have a dog with you. In which case bear slightly right across the grass, after 100m the tarn will be in view. Afterwards, return to the trig station.
From the top of the ridge, turn left and follow round the head of the crags, over the 851m (936 yards) top to Knowe Crags and on to Blease Fell.
Continue on the wide gravel path beyond the cairn, descending southwest. The path drops down some well engineered zigzags, and then splits marked by a small cairn. Take the left fork. This meanders gently across grass before turning slightly east of south and then drops relatively steeply. Encountering another path coming in from the right, you may notice it is a cross-roads with a very minor path continuing ahead. Here, turn left and traverse across the fellside gently descending. After approx 200m (220 yards) bear left on a path above the bracken. This appears to be an older path not used so much in recent years but now Fix The Fells are trying to repair the eroded 'short-cut' of recent times. It continues a gently descending traverse before meeting an enclosure wall and zigzagging down. Ending at the kissing gate, turn left and go through. This is a permissive path above the enclosed fields and brings you back to the gate at Kilnhow Beck and Blease Gill. Cross the gill and bear right to go through the gate to follow the path back into the village.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Castlerigg Stone Circle||3.3km (2.0 miles) away|
|A Walker's Blencathra||3.5km (2.2 miles) away|
|Souther Fell||3.5km (2.2 miles) away|
|Latrigg: a short stroll||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|Lonscale Fell via Burnt Horse Ridge||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|Skiddaw Shepherd's Memorial||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|A longer walk over Bakestall and Skiddaw||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|Misty Skiddaw||3.7km (2.3 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