Climbing Blencathra & Skiddaw

Route up Blencathra

Route up Blencathra

A few days off and Debbie was up for a challenge. Checking the weather it looked like a couple of days staying at the excellent and very accessible Irton House on the northern banks of Bassenthwaite would give us the opportunity to climb both Blencathra and Skiddaw. Separately of course but in reality it could be done in one as the crossing near Skiddaw House is relatively straightforward for the Terrain Hopper.

Day 1. Blencathra

Descending Mungrisedale Common

Descending Mungrisedale Common

My favourite mountain and I was always going to enjoy this one! From the back road out of Threlkeld heading for the Blencathra Centre there is a bridlepath climbing the broad shoulder of Blease Fell on the western flank of Blencathra. A dodgy set of myself, Andy, Jane and Sue started up the steep slopes, Debbie in her hopper and Mist leading the way (neither having a clue which way they were going). The track up the fell was good and the height gained reasonable quickly. Soon(ish) we reached the broad summit ridge of Blencthra, a quite superb 1 mile of walking. It feels airy and the sharp cliffs to the right contrast well with the broad featureless land to the north (that’s where we would be heading).

Summit of Blencathra

Summit of Blencathra

The summit is a strange place, you could land a plane nearby but the strangest thing is the trig point has been removed. On reaching the summit Debbie had one of her emotional moments, in many ways I don’t blame her, the summit is a very special place. If anything should serve as an inspiration for what can be achieved it is the photo of Debbie and Andy on the summit. Very good!

An Interesting descent

However troubles lay ahead as the guide (me!) made a unanimous decision that we would head off to the uninspired lump of Mungrisedale Common and an alternative route down . Circular walks being the best..obviously. Mungrisedale Common is the least inspired Wainwright and surely one of the least visited. It is only visited at all because it is a Wainwright. The problem for us was its summit lay down a steep descent from the broad ridge. Oh hell lets try it. Without going to full details it was really too steep and we ended up hanging on to the hopper with an uncomfortable Debbie upright with a fixed grimace on her face. Between us we managed it and the ‘wonderful’ summit of Mungrisedale Common was the reward.

Summit of Mungrisedale Common

Summit of Mungrisedale Common

From here things improved as we made use of the Access Land to take a mainly pathless descent west towards Skiddaw House. The land was not steep and the Hopper sailed down, soon meeting the main track linking Threlkeld to Bassenthwaite. The van was in Threlkeld so we returned that way.

Day 2. Skiddaw

The next day we were up in good time for a cooler and windy climb of Skiddaw. I felt the only feasible route up Skiddaw for the Hopper was the traditional popular route from the high level car park at the back of Latrigg. It may be possible to get up direct from Skiddaw House, a walk for another day. Getting the van up the slippy eroded road was probably the biggest challenge of the day.

We headed off up the steep zig zag track which was just about within the Hoppers capabilities. Myself and Andy kept close in case of any trouble but there was not, Debbie sailed up and soon her and Mist disappeared in to the cloud. I assumed she was on the correct track…after all she did get some dodgy award on an Orienteering Course as she kept telling us. The route up Skiddaw flattens after the zig zags and would have had very pleasant views.

Colder weather

The track skirts Little Man and takes to the final steeper slopes of Skiddaw. It was becoming pretty cold, so cold even Jane (who always walks in just a T shirt) deigned to put on an albeit light jacket. The rest of us were in full winter weather gear. Debbie who’s main exercise is her thumb on the accelerator must have been freezing but she was the only one not to moan, at least to me. The summit of Skiddaw is usually an inspiring place but only Debbie was inspired with a quick tear before we turned round and headed quickly downhill.

In this case we did return the same way, I did not fancy any off routing but I am sure there are some alternatives. The slopes of Skiddaw are steep but the excellent bedrock of Skiddaw Slates are definitely the best for a Hopper. It provides a much smoother ride than the rougher volcanic rock further south.

All in all an excellent 2 days on some of the Lake District’s best mountains.