Blencathra By Moonlight - A Hike Up Halls Fell Ridge For Charity.

June 07, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Evening readers,
I was browsing Facebook on Monday evening and noticed a charity event had been created in aid of the Nepal disaster. It initially sparked my interest with its name "Blencathra By Moonlight For Nepal" as I love hiking after dark and have yet to visit Blencathra. The event was the following Friday and the plan was simple, pay your donations to help send aid for Nepal and then just turn up on the night and join them for the hike which starts at 8pm.

A text message was fired out to a couple of pals and one of them fancied it too so a quick Paypal donation from us both to justgiving was sent and a plan was born! The descent path wasnt set in stone, but the ascent was... it was up the quite scrambly route of Halls Fell Ridge. A ridge route thats on my bucket list so I mocked up a few route options just in case we got split up and got the torches charged up. (I always carry two.. my main one is the Awesome LED Lenser H7R.2 headtorch)

The group was gathering at the Horse & Farrier pub in Threlkeld village and there were around 200 people listed as attending. Seeing that many people hiking a ridge will be awesome!

The route after the event converted to Google earth KML from my Sunnto Ambit 3 Peak looks like this:
(we didnt do "exactly" the same route as the group, as you will read later)

Steve and I figured the only way we would get parked up anywhere close was to go early and have our tea there, so with that in mind we left Blackpool at 4pm and arrived at the pub at around 5:45pm. We dont believe in parking in business car parks without paying patronage so we went in to have a drink and some food, and while there we asked if it was ok to park there until about 1am. The staff were very friendly and said they were absolutely fine with that.

We sat out in the beer garden and enjoyed a shandy and a nice little meal. I have to note here that the pub, staff and surroundings were wonderful. We will definately be calling in here again. Fabulous views of Blencathra are available right from the beer garden too.

The problem is, these views caused us to change our plans significantly. We were sat there looking up at Halls Fell Ridge in this amazing weather and we discussed what a shame it was going to be to miss the views from up there by going up in the dark... and then we figured "So why not just head up now?"

A zoomed in view of the ridge itself up to the summit. This just excited us more... and that was that, we set off!

The route takes you out of the car park to the left and follows a very simple road route through the village and then onto a public right of way through a farm to the foot of the fells. I took this image just before the ascent started to get steep.

This is the point where Gategill Fell meets Halls fell at the foot of Blencathra. Our route was up Halls fell, which is the fell to the right. Halls fell ridge and the summit are visible here and it looks very exciting. The problem is, now we are a bit more exposed it becomes apparent that the wind is VERY strong!

Not far up the path we meet a couple of walkers and get chatting! It transpires that they had been right up to near the end of the ridge and then chose to turn back on the final steep section and come back down due to the cross winds. Not very inspiring news this early on in the hike but I applaud people who have the sense to adhere to their own limits and call time on a hike before putting themselves in danger. Blencathra is an old girl but she will be here for a very long time to come and can be explored another day.

Looking back, you can see the wind is bending these large trees, it was pretty strong. But the view back to Clough head is wonderful.

However - we had to see what it was like up on the ridge for ourselves, so onwards we went... and it was very steep. The following images show a bit of the ascent path.

Looking back now and the view is opening up across to Threlkeld where we parked up. its such a beautiful area. Derwentwater and its surrounding ranges are now coming into view too and just look incredible. That said, as you may have noticed, the weather has declined significantly since we were sat in the pub car park with a drink, looking up to this ridge!

From here onwards it starts to become more of a scramble, just the kind of terrain Steve and I love. Plenty of hands on but with lots of safe options to go round it if you so wish. Fabulous.

Steve and I stopped here for a breather and to enjoy the views... and the wind. We are both fans of harsh weather and were discussing how much we miss the snow and crampons just an hour or so earlier. Strong wind is a nice second best to snow in our books.

As always, no matter where you go in the lake district, you will be joined by a few sheep. I love how they just wander around up here, seemingly immune to the effort needed to reach this nice fresh grass.

The route gets a little more scrambly as you press on upwards.

As I was taking this image, Steve stopped for a breather and to enjoy the view of what was to come. A view I had yet to see but I could tell by the look on his face it was going to be good...

The ridge itself... And it just looks awesome!

The view backwards wasnt bad either!

And it was around here I took a quick video...

This was undoubtably the most enjoyable section of the walk. Almost all the ascent from here can be done a little hands on, and I always find that much easier than walking as it gives my faulty calves a nice break and transfers the work to my quads and shoulders.

At the top of this section we took a breather and waited (hoped?) for a break in the wind as it was pretty strong.

Steve kept popping his head up to see what it was like while I ate a nice protein bar in peace and took a few images. It was pretty strong most of the time as you can see by Steve clinging on here after the wind denied his request to stand up. LOL

When it finally died off, we got across that exposed section to somewhere with a bit more footing and I took a great image of Steve surveying the path we had travelled up.

And then I stood in the same place he was stood and got some of the ridge with a better perspective.

While Steve took a rest just after the next slippery section which was behind me. I suspect if its wet, you would have to take an alternative path up here as there was very little footing available.

           

This was probably the trickiest section of the ridge in my opinion, very steep with very few hand holds.

Regardless, every time we stopped, the views backwards were amazing. Steve commented that he is often asked "Why do you bother climbing mountains?" And he said "They just dont understand unless they have done it... This view is why" and I totally agree.

 

That bad weather was still en route. We commented that we hoped the main group following us up about now were not going to get soaked as that looked like potential rain. But it wasnt, it was just cloud and wind. It stayed dry thankfully.

We make the final scramble up to the summit of Blencathra, or "Hallsfell Top" as its technically known.

And just beat the cloud! Here is Steve at the very windy 2850ft summit a few seconds before cloud washed over him and ruined my chance of my own summit selfie!

So... with at least an hour and a half to kill before the main group catch us up, we need to decide what to do. Well, we had already decided that back in the car park! We are heading across to take a look at Scales Tarn and the famous Sharp Edge. We had agreed that if conditions were right we would cross it and either come back across again, or drop down to Scales tarn and come back up the other side. As luck would have it, the higher summit behind us was diverting a lot of the cloud in the wind, so we got the occasional nice clear view.

We headed down to Sharp Edge for a closer look and maybe a crossing. We had of course also agreed that if either of us didnt fancy it, then we werent doing it.

And I dont mind admitting, the closer we got, the less I fancied doing it! Steve however, as you can see, was getting more and more excited about the prospect!

The scramble down to it was enough to put me off in this wind. Its very steep, and the terrain is just very sharp rock and very loose scree. Here is Steve stood vertical to give an idea of the angle this exit from sharp edge onto Blencathra is. And we were going down it, so we would have to come back up again of course.

It really is beautiful though, such a dramatic location, and the scene of a great many incidents (86) and deaths (11) since the 1940's according to the Keswick MRT website sadly.

    Ultimately, this is as close as we got. I made the decision that it wasnt going to happen today. It was just too windy, and not a head or tail wind but a strong cross wind, the wind you really dont want on a ridge like this. So we sat here and ate our tea. :)

After tea, feeling rejuvenated and warmed up with coffee, we headed back up to Blencathra in the hope of meeting the other group coming up to the summit. It was bleak up there at best. 

But in a few minutes, the head torches all came into view. We had timed it to perfection.

The leaders had chosen the route down Doddick fell. We had never been up here before so it didnt matter to us, it was all new and exciting. The group paused on the entrance to Doddick fell and I got a few images of the group coming down off Blencathra in the dark. It was excellent to be a part of this.

As everyone regrouped, the last light of the day faded away and I whipped my tripod out to grab one final image to remember the trip by. The wind and darkness conspired against my little Canon G7X to produce anything decent handheld after this sadly.

The rest were too blurry as I couldnt stop and set up a tripod with people behind me because a pair of the team leaders were staying at the back to ensure nobody was left behind and I wasnt about to be the idiot who held them up. They did a sterling job and were in contact with other members via radio at all times.

However, blurry or not, these images are a great memory of the team of 150+ fell walkers descending Blencathra by torchlight for charity. Amazing.

 

And that was it - another summit done, a brilliant hike and my first experience of what I think is now one of my favourite ridge walks. Halls Fell Ridge. We got down to the car park at about 12:30am I think and I was climbing into my nice warm bed by about 2:45am

 

 

**NOTE**
All images in this blog were taken with my Canon G7X point and shoot pocket camera. My camera of choice when hiking any distance. The Canon 5D3 SLR stays at home and only comes back with me if I come across any location really worth coming back for with time on my hands to make the best of it.

 

Here is a little Suunto movie of the trip, showing the route via Google earth.

And some data aquired by the Suunto Ambit 3 peak watch too. Interesting for ascent, descent and mileage etc. (calories are pretty accurate as I wear the Suunto Smart HR monitor too.)   

 

Here is some data from my Viewranger Account.  (This is active and you can change the maps used to OS maps etc instead)
 

A little about me:

For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about landscape photography. I love nothing more than leaving the house at 4am and heading to some distant landscape with a view to capturing an awesome sunrise during golden hour and then staying out shooting all day until night falls and trying to capture an incredible sunset... this escalated into a love of hiking.

Sometimes it's very successful, as you will see from this website, but other times its extremely frustrating and I just spend 12hrs getting cold, wet and downhearted with the weather, but that comes with the British climate and makes the great captures all the more satisfying.

My equipment centres around the incredible Canon 5D MK3 Body which is a fantastic camera by any standard and with a resolution of 22mp allows me to create very large prints with no loss of detail, and I have the amazing 18mp high speed Canon EOS 7D as my backup body... just in case of disaster! If hiking any distance, or with long, hard ascents I often just take the awesome Canon G7X, a 21mp pocket camera that is almost as capable as my 5D MK3.

I hope you enjoy reading my trip reports and looking at my images. If you would like to hang any on your wall and its not part of my main gallery (A trip report image for example), please feel free to drop me a line and I will upload a high resolution version to the main gallery for purchase.


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