Sunday, 2 October 2011

Blencathra and the art of patience.

Before I get to the many virtues of patience, let me tell you about my new favourite fell - Blencathra.  It's only an hour away (according to Google Maps) so we set off bright and early(ish) and arrived 90 minutes later owing to a white Toyota RAV4 deciding that 25mph was the correct speed to drive along the entire length of Windermere.

Blencathra from the A66
Part of the beauty of Blencathra is that it's not lost in a sea of other peaks and can be seen away in the distance as you head north along Thirlmere Reservoir.  We completed a circular route starting at Threlkeld, heading over towards Scales Farm and up onto the summit via Sharp Edge; we then walked the ridge route and dropped back down to Blencathra Centre before staggering back into Threlkeld.  Part of the challenge was that we tackled it on one of the hottest days of the year, so we made the most of the many gills to top up the water bottles, alternating between pouring water down our throats and down our backs.

It's a wonderfully interesting fell to walk up with constantly changing views and a massive variety of routes.  Our route was fairly straightforward with the various steep sections thankfully interspersed with longer more level sections where we could get our breath back.  I was particularly looking forward to Sharp Edge and it didn't disappoint.  We ate lunch at Scales Tarn and watched various people heading up and along the ridge and figured that if they could do it, then so could we.  Replete, we headed upwards.  Sharp Edge is narrower but shorter than Striding Edge and is perfectly achievable so long as you take your time.  The rock climb at the end is a bit more of a challenge but with decent boots and a sensible head it shouldn't prove too much of a problem for most folks.  Not sure I'd tackle it in the ice and snow but the many scratch marks on the rocks showed where people had, hopefully successfully.

Scales Tarn
Blencathra is rumoured to be one of Wainright's favourtie fells as it's the fell he wrote the most about.  Not sure about that as he cited Haystacks as his favourite fell, but I can understand why he wrote so much about Blencathra, it's a wonderful place to be and has so many interesting routes that it will certainly require many future visits.

And so to the issue of patience.  There are a lot fewer roads up here than there are down south, mainly due to the fells getting in the way, and what roads there are tend to be single carriageway and rather twisty.  They take a bit of getting used to and clearly are a little daunting to those unfamiliar with the area.  The upshot of this is that main routes through the county can take rather longer than anticipated as demonstrated by our experiences earlier.  Winderemere is 10.5 miles in length and that's about as long as the convoy of traffic was by the time we reached Ambleside at the top. 

It's dead easy to get wildly impatient in these situations, as I amply demonstrated yesterday, but, at the end of the day, what's the rush?  The lake was stunning, the weather was stunning and the fells were stunning so, even if it does actually take you until the end of the day to reach your destination, at least you'll have had a chance to enjoy the view along the route.