Sharp Edge and the Blencathra Group

Route Summary:

A delightful walk in the Lake District Northern Fells that covers the Blencathra range of Wainwrights. The walk starts at Mungrisdale and ascends Souther Fell before moving on to Blencathra via the grade 1 Sharp Edge scramble, Mungrisdale Common, Bannerdale Crags, and Bowscale Fell.

Route Information

  • Start: 1 Smithy Cottages, Mungrisdale, Penrith CA11 0XR, UK
  • Date:26-06-2018
  • GPX File: Download

Other POI: Mungrisdale, Souther Fell, River Glendermackin, Scales Fell, Scales Beck, Scales Tarn, Sharp Edge, Tarn Crags, Hall's Fell Ridge, Blue Screes, Quarry

Route Description:

This was the first of 2 walks that I’d planned to do over two days in the Lake District. The goal for these 2 days was to bag the majority of the main northern fells as well as the well known Sharp Edge scramble. This first route covered the scramble and the Blencathra group of Wainwrights. I didn’t set off from Nottingham until lunchtime and so by the time I’d arrived in Mungrisdale, parked by the river, and got my gear sorted for the walk, it was already somewhere between 3.30pm and 4pm.

There was no time to warm up before I was ascending the first Wainwright of the day. From Mungrisdale, I followed a path that skirted up the side of Souther Fell. It was a very hot sunny day and so my bag was suitably filled with 5 bottles of water, which I was confident would see me through the walk. The views on the way up Souther Fell were gorgeous – an expanse of low level farmland with a backdrop of high fells around Ullswater, and the distinctive dome of Great Mell Fell sitting in between; A lonely fell that clearly didn’t want to mingle with the rest of them.

The bottom of Souther Fell
The bottom of Souther Fell
Looking out towards Great Mell Fell
Looking out towards Great Mell Fell

For the majority of the ascent, there was a barricade of tall ferns to the right which blocked me off from attempting the direct approach up to the summit of the Wainwright. There’s one small section where there’s a gap and if this is missed, it will most likely mean following the path to its conclusion and then backtracking to the summit. Through the gap I went and up the steep slope to obtain the first Wainwright of the day – Souther Fell.

On Souther Fell, Blencathra in the background
On Souther Fell, Blencathra in the background
Walking along Souther Fell
Walking along Souther Fell

As I progressed south along Souther Fell, I was treated to some magnificent views towards Blencathra, Sharp Edge, and the valley of Glenderamackin that sits between Bannerdale Crags and Scales Fell. Eventually I descended and made my way towards Scales Fell. There is a path that leads along the highest point of this fell all the way up to Blencathra, but that would mean missing Sharp Edge.

Looking down into Glenderamackin valley
Looking down into Glenderamackin valley

I followed a lower level path that contoured along the base of Scales Fell, eventually ascending a steep steppy path to my left which led up to Scales Tarn. I stopped to refuel here whilst enjoying the tranquility and scenery on offer. Scales Tarn has a backdrop of huge crags (named Tarn Crags) that lead up to the bulk of Blencathra. These crags curve around the tarn, eventually narrowing into a rocky ridge which sat up to my right. This is Sharp Edge. The area was swarming with midges but, luckily, I’m one of those people that midges don’t like to bite.

The path alongside Scales Fell
The path alongside Scales Fell
Looking back whilst ascending to Scales Tarn
Looking back whilst ascending to Scales Tarn
Scales Tarn
Scales Tarn

I made my way up to the beginning of the Sharp Edge ridge proper. This is classified as a grade 1 scramble however, due to the slate, it can be tricky when it’s wet as it becomes quite slippery. I had worn my Scarpa Crux shoes for this one, and the rock was a dry as a bone so I wasn’t expecting any difficulties. The ridge was very atmospheric and enjoyable but, in my opinion, wasn’t in the least bit difficult. Obviously it would present more of a challenge to those afraid of heights or not very sure footed, but I was across it in no time at all. It’s not a very long scramble at all unfortunately.

Looking ahead along Sharp Edge
Looking ahead along Sharp Edge
And looking back along Sharp Edge
And looking back along Sharp Edge
Scales Tarn and Sharp Edge
Scales Tarn and Sharp Edge

I continued scrambling up the slope to Atkinson Pike and once up, I followed the path south, following the edge of Tarn Crags, until I arrived at the official summit of Blencathra. There’s no trig pillar here, but there is a trig point in the form of a concrete ring. I’ve never seen one of these before. I loved the views looking south down Hall’s Fell Ridge and towards Glenridding and Helvellyn.

The strange trig ring on Blencathra
The strange trig ring on Blencathra
Looking down Hall's Fell Ridge
Looking down Hall’s Fell Ridge

Next on the agenda was Mungrisdale Common. From the trig point, I headed roughly North North-west, gradually descending the slopes on the western side of Tarn Crags whilst circling around Roughten Gill. As a guide, I headed to a point just beneath the scree on the slopes of Atkinson Pike. Once past here, I began to veer to the west, sticking with the highest ground which is Mungrisdale Common.

Heading to Mungrisdale Common
Heading to Mungrisdale Common
Looking back to Atkinson Pike
Looking back to Atkinson Pike

Mungrisdale Common didn’t feel like a Wainwright at all. It was more of a moorland walk – and one that I suspect would have been very boggy if we weren’t in the middle of a heatwave. The cottongrass was in bloom which added a little more interest to the surrounding scenery. This section of the walk reminded me of my usual haunt in the Dark Peak.

Cottongrass on Mungrisdale Common
Cottongrass on Mungrisdale Common
The summit of Mungrisdale Common
I think this marks the summit…

Once I’d achieved the official highest point of this unspectacular but tranquil wainwright, I set of back roughly eastwards towards the col that sits between the sources of River Glenderamackin and Blackhazel Beck. Quite a number of paths converge at this point as its the only place to cross without dropping down into the valleys. It’s also a good place to view the opposite side of Sharp Edge.

Heading towards Bannerdale
Heading towards Bannerdale
Looking towards Sharp Edge
Looking towards Sharp Edge

From the col, I headed east up to the summit of Bannerdale Crags where there are splendid views across Bannerdale, and also across Glenderamackin valley towards Souther Fell where I started this walk. As the name suggests, the eastern side of this Wainwright is made up of steep crags overlooking the valley below.

Bannerdale Crags
Bannerdale Crags
Bannerdale
And Bannerdale I presume

I followed the edge path northwards, eventually arriving at the next Wainwright on the list, Bowscale Fell. Again, this Wainwright isn’t the most spectacular in terms of looks or height, but it does have great views. I suppose it does get a bit repetitive saying that as just about every Wainwright in the Lake District has outstanding views from the summit. It’s a wonderful place. Bowscale Fell has 2 eastern protrusions separated by Bullfell Beck. It was the most northerly of these that I used to descend back to Mungrisdale. It was a pleasant descent route and, until the very last section, nice and gradual. The last section though was an extremely steep and loose track down towards the disused quarry below. Good footing and balance is needed here and I can imagine it would be difficult for anyone who doesn’t have that. A walking pole would have definitely be useful, especially as my knees were starting to feel rather creaky. It was a perfect time to finish as I strolled back to the car through Mungrisdale – perfect because I was out of water! A fantastic walk and I was looking forward to the next days planned outing up to Skiddaw.

Bowscale Fell - Blencathra in the background
Bowscale Fell – Blencathra in the background
Heading back to Mungrisdale
Heading back to Mungrisdale
Route Map
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