Sunday, 9 September 2012

Blencathra and Skiddaw (with Lonscale Fell, Little Man and Carlside)

I was staying at Keswick this week and on the Sunday I caught the 8.15am Penrith bus out of Keswick alighting in Threlkeld. My planned route was to climb Blencathra via Hall's Fell ridge and then drop down to Blencathra centre via the Blease Fell path. From there I planned to walk round to the Latrigg car park at the bottom of the Skiddaw tourist path which I intended to use to climb Skiddaw.  In actual fact as I descended Blease Fell I could not resist the temptation to revisit Lonscale Fell so I made a detour up the bridleway leading to Skiddaw House.  Here is my route, which ended at the cottage we were staying at in Crosthwaite, near to The Pheasant pub on the outskirts of Keswick:

Threlkeld - Blencathra - Lonscale Fell - Little Man - Skiddaw - Carlside - Crosthwaite
I left Threlkeld at 0830am and took the Hall's Fell ridge route to the summit.  When you see the southern front of Blencathra in full sun on such a beautiful morning you realise why A. Wainwright devoted 36 pages to it in his Northern Fells pictorial guide. This route to the summit, which is one of twelve routes detailed in the book, is not the easiest but does not expose you to as much risk as the Sharp Edge route. I found that some scrambling was needed above the 700m point, indeed AW said in his book "For active walkers and scramblers this route is positively the finest way to any mountain top in the district".  I can vouch for that. 

View from the top of Blencathra down the Hall's Fell ridge route
I reached Blencathra summit at 0945am, the climb taking 75 minutes. After making 14 contacts with fixed amateur radio stations I left the summit on the Blease Fell path at 10.10am. On my way down Blease Fell one or two fellwalkers were making their way up, I realised as he approached that one of them had some sort of antenna on his back. As he neared I realised it was fellow radio ham Andy MM0FMF who was on a cross border activation on his way up to Blencathra for a full days activation in the SOTA UHF "Fun Day". We had a good natter - I hadn't seen Andy face to face for several years having previously met at the Friedrichshafen Hamfest on Lake Constance, although in between we had spoken on the radio many times.

Andy MM0FMF/P on his way up Blencathra with his 14 Kg rucksack on his back
After leaving Andy as usual I lifted my eyes to the higher ground, as we fellwalkers always do and my gaze caught the north east ridge of Lonscale Fell. After studying the map I decided to adjust my route from Blencathra Centre and proceed north to ascend Lonscale Fell via the north east ridge beyond the Ford at the bottom of Sinen Gill.


Lonscale Fell (left) as I approached along the bridleway to Skiddaw House
On my way I contacted Andy who was now operating as M0FMF/P on 2 metres from Blencathra.  When I reached the bridge at 296278 I couldn't see an obvious route up Lonscale so I followed the easiest contour slightly north of an old quarry which avoided the scree. It was still a hard climb before I reached the summit at 12.50pm.  On my previous visit here I operated from the highest point. This time I set up on the top of the north east ridge, the sharp point which is so clearly visible from the A66 road when passing by.  This is 12m down from the highest point on LDW-080.  The weather had now changed, the wind was getting up to some strength and rain was starting to threaten. Time to batten down the hatches and put my coat on. I proceeded to the remains of a stone wall nearby to eat my lunch and to make a few last contacts as I was still within the activation zone.

The end of Lonscale Fell with Blencathra in the background
When I reached the busy tourist path up to Skiddaw the weather was starting to look ugly, I proceeded as quickly as I could reaching Little Man for more contacts and finally reached the summit of Skiddaw at 3.05pm.
My penultimate summit of Skiddaw with an angry sky threatening
This was my 3rd ever visit to Skiddaw and I was as brief as I could completing 20 contacts on 2m FM before departing down the slant path towards Carlside for my final radio activation of the day.
The operators on other summits were also having a hard time of it with the rain and wind - there were a great many radio hams out fellwalking that Sunday. It seemed that the first station to get rain had been Mark G0VOF, who was putting out a good signal from an all day sitting on Pendle Hill.
After some final contacts for Wainwrights On The Air I left Carlside via the Allerdale Ramble long distance path. This is a steep descent into Millbeck via White Stones and I was glad of my walking poles. The lanes and a lovely footpath took me back through Applethwaite and to the Crosthwaite roundabout which was next door to the cottage in which we were staying.  I finished walking at 5.45pm.  
I can't recommend this exact route - I had made the walk more difficult due to my late decision making. I should have decided to climb Lonscale Fell as I left Blencathra, rather than later on.  Then I could have followed Roughten Gill down to the bridleway and saved myself a 1.5 mile walk and 450 feet of ascent.  Indeed, when I read my Wainwright guide (Blencathra page 36) on  my return, AW had said: "Go down anywhere over this 'edge' (easy grass slope) to Roughten Gill for Skiddaw House". 
The writer on the day

Distance walked: 13.2 miles
Total ascent: 5315 feet

Summit stations contacted:

Blencathra M0FMF
Seat Sandal - Nethermost Pike - Dollywagon Pike GO0VWP
Pendle Hill GO0VOF
Pen-y-ghent 2O0YYY & M0TUB
Crag Fell MO6EPW
Pike o'Blisco GO0OOO
Scafell - Slight Side 2E0MIX & G4UXH & M6UXH
Brandreth - Green Gable - Great Gable 2E0XYL & 2E0TDX
Red Pike - High Crag M0AYB

Total contacts completed: 77 (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)

Equipment used: Yaesu VX-170 2m handheld 5 watts output
Antenna: Rucksack special half wave vertical

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