Making a decision on a walk for our trip to the Lake District this year, was a little more difficult than I had found it last year. Last year, the bikers were doing Hellvelyn and so it seemed an obvious choice for Emma and myself to go up the same mountain via a different route. However this year, I had no idea where the bikers were going to be and so I started looking for and researching routes. There are so many beautiful walks in that part of the world that I kept looking at them and thinking ‘oooh yes, that might be nice’ but nothing was gripping me to make it a decision. Eventually, I found a route that instantly gripped me with excitement and I knew from that second that nothing else was going to compare this year. Myself and Emma love a good ridge walk and scramble and according to a lot of other blogs, Sharp Edge is not an easy feat in bad weather conditions, we were ready for the challenge. Shortly after making the route decision, Caroline decided that she would also be joining us walking this year as last years biking experience in the wind was certainly not her idea of fun. This added a whole other dimension into my decision as although knowing that she is a lot fitter than I, this was going to be her first ridge and scramble and I certainly didn’t want any accidents.
In the couple of weeks leading up to the walk, I did some extra research, looked at videos of others getting across sharp edge and made the decision to take a small amount of climbing gear, just in case ‘the bad step’ proved to be as difficult as I had read. Not only that, I had to put Caroline’s other half at rest a little as he was pretty worried about her safety and rightly so, even with my experiences of Crib Goch and Striding Edge, I was (mainly excited) nervous.
30th August – The big day
I woke up with an extremely bad head. Apparently I had decided that seeing as we were away for the weekend, a few drinks (plus a few more) was a good idea. It was not! My advice here to anyone wanting to take this route is DON’T GO WITH AN EXTREME HANGOVER. This aside and quite a few coffees later, I assured Chris and Chris that I would look after their girlfriends and keep them safe and we set off. We parked in one of the many lay-bys near scales and headed into the for the footpath between a farm and a house. We headed up the path to our right through the bracken towards Mousthwaite Comb. The route instructions I had taken with us told us to take the path that wasn’t as defined when it splits however here Emma and I were slightly confused (we are female after all). There were 3 paths and according to the map, and instructions, there were only 2. One went left. We knew instantly that this was not the right one, 2 went in the north easterly direction that we needed to take. One was grass and one was stone and so we set off up the grass path which in my opinion was practically vertical and an extremely difficult climb on legs that hadn’t quite warmed up yet. Shortly after ascending here, we realised our mistake, cut through the fern and got ourselves onto the correct path where we could see Souther fell to our right and we had a beautiful view of River Glenderamackin Valley down below. The path here is pretty much on the edge and Caroline decided to tell us that she had a fear of heights. Knowing what we had coming up, I started to feel somewhat queasy for her and a little bit more nervous about taking her over Sharp Edge however I still had a lot of confidence in her and was determined to do it. The weather was perfect and it was dry so there wouldn’t be another perfect opportunity for it.
We continued along the path until we had to walk along and then cross Scales beck. The running water was making me really need a wee and I decided that I would soon have to find a place to use my handy shewee. I knew that the Scales Tarn was not far away and that we would be stopping there for lunch and decided to hold off until we were there. Knowing what was just around the corner, I picked up pace and ran over the hill so that I could get that magnificent view of the tarn and of Sharp Edge! The wind was picking up and using my shewee proved pretty tricky much to the amusement of Emma and Caroline, luckily Emma had some wipes so that I could clean myself up. We took up position by the tarn and had lunch whilst soaking in the view. Caroline seemed pretty enthusiastic about doing the edge so I decided not to give her the option of going up the other path which I described to her as ‘that boring looking one over there’. Lunch done and energy restored, we headed up the path that leads to the ridge. When on the rock, Caroline kept asking ‘is this scrambling?’ I said a couple of times, ‘no, this is still walking’ until eventually, she did need to use her hands and so I said yes. I didn’t let on that this wasn’t the scramble I had told her about. Crossing the ridge, for the first time ever, I kept feeling queasy (probably last nights mistake) and so I traversed a fair bit however Emma was amazing, she walked across the ridge at every opportunity like a dainty little ballerina. High Five Emma, you were fantastic. From the beginning of the ridge, I was keeping my eye out for the bad step. I had chosen not to tell the others about it and just to ensure their safety when it was reached. I told them that the rock was polished and to ensure they held on. It was dry and we crossed with no issues between us. After crossing, I told them about what I’d read and Caroline asked me to stop speaking. Little did I know that she had just spotted the actual scramble. ‘Have we got to climb up that?’ she asked. Me being as excited as I was at theis point had the biggest grin and said ‘yes, you know when I said you were scrambling, well that is scrambling’. She seemed ok about it though and raring to get onto her next challenge. We took the wide gully route up the scramble with no issues between us, just lots of rocky fun and fairly soon we were on the top at Atkinson Pike. From here, we followed the path to the summit of Blencathra and I was certainly feeling elated. We had done it!
A few photos later, we decided to continue on our way. We could only see one path and decided that must be the way to go however Emma checked her app (I must find out which one it is) and we knew instantly that the path we could see was not the one we wanted. We were stumped. Where exactly were we supposed to be going? The compass was pointing to nothingness. We asked another group of walkers who showed us which way. We went over to it and I instantly felt ill. It didn’t look like a path to me. I said to the girls that I felt really wobbly and they encouraged me to keep going. Again, hangover walking will never again be a go go for me. The kind of route and rocks which I normally bounce down had me nervous and shaky. We continued though down Halls Fell ridge which had some of the most amazing views of the day. We stuck to the top of the ridge as much as possible. Not quite as much as Emma though who again made me feel extremely inferior but I knew how I was feeling and decided that I would stick within today’s limitations.
Knowing that the end of the ridge was near, me and Caroline did join Emma across the top when by chance, I looked down to the path on the left hand side. What I saw at that moment was scary. There was what looked like an elderly gentleman on his bottom struggling in the wind to stand up. I alerted the others to it and we ran down off the rock to the path where he was. We asked him if he was okay and he told us that he hadn’t realised how far he come up the mountain and that his legs had nothing left in them. Whilst me and Caroline helped him to his feet and supported him some of the way, Emma was checking the route and gradient of the slope. After 10 minutes we had a stop to allow him to rest some more and Emma told me that the slope was about to get steeper. The man was insisting that he would be ok and didn’t want to slow us down however we obviously wouldn’t leave him. We spoke to him about our thoughts on the path and told him that we didn’t think that we were able to continue down much further without help and that we thought calling mountain rescue out would perhaps be the best thing. The man was initially dubious about it as he didn’t want to put anyone out. We reassured him that that was why they were there and he agreed to us phoning for help. We noticed that he had a cut on his hand and so out came the first aid kit and we cleaned him up. Caroline kept him talking, I got out my spare hat snood and gloves to keep him warm and Emma dialled 999. The wind was really picking up and there were grey clouds coming. After not hearing anything back from the local mountain rescue team, Emma rang back to update them on the change in weather. The app that she had on her phone gave us a definate grid reference which she checked against my map so that we were sure and we moved the man off the path into some heather so that we could keep him a bit warmer and out of the wind a little. At this point we decided to phone the rest of our group to let them know that we were going to be back later than expected and that we were okay. Caroline kept the most amazing conversation going with our new friend and between us we tried to act like a windbreak for him. We got the call back to say that the team would be approximately half an hour and we waited. I was beginning to get really cold and Caroline could tell. I had a snickers to replenish my energy and it perked me back up. Caroline had noticed that I wasn’t right but I reassured her that I would be fine. We kept popping back to the path to keep an eye out and nearer the time, I got my whistle out and blew it 6 times every minute for 5 minutes until I saw the team appear just in case they had missed us or taken another route. I’m not sure if the whistle did any good but I felt better knowing I had it. Donald from mountain rescue was the first to appear and he quickly checked over the man (Peter) to ensure his health status, shortly after, there was another 3 members of the team there, all with different equipment. I advised one of them that Peter had refused to eat anything and so they quickly made sure that he did have something. They wrapped him in warm clothes and my spares were returned to me. I always felt like I was a little over the top with my spares until this happened and I am reassured that carrying spares is a requirement at all times. The rescue team asked us if we were okay and if we were cold. I was and I told them that I was cold and that I was anxious to get going as I knew I needed to warm back up. I hadn’t told anyone quite how badly I was feeling but I knew that I needed to go really soon or it would be me being rescued too. They assured us that they would take over from there and that we had done the right thing, we said our goodbyes and continued on our way approximately an hour and a half after discovering Peter. Five minutes afterwards, I slipped on a rock and cut my hand, out came the first aid kit again and another short stop and we got going again. It wasn’t a big cut but it hurt.
We reached the bottom fairly quickly from here and decided rather than heading to the A66 and walking along there, we would walk back via the path through the bracken. I had lost the route info in the wind whilst we were looking after Peter but the map and app showed us the way. The route back to Scales was not the easiest. The path was fairly simple, however there were 2 stream crossings and a rocky descent to Scaley Beck. This proved to be the toughest rock crossing of the day, the rock was polished and slippery and we had to take our time. Around this time, I realised that I didn’t know where my car keys were, we emptied my rucksack and pockets and they were no where to be seen. I couldn’t at this point remember locking my car or where I had put them. Needless to say at this point, we really picked up pace back to the car where we found my keys in the boot where I had sat to put my boots on. I was feeling very silly and very lucky at this point that my car was still there.
The day had been amazing, trying but amazing. I have every respect for the members of mountain rescue and the work they did. The short time that it took for them to reach us was beyond all of my expectations. I have since emailed them with my thanks and gratitude.
For anyone else wanting to take this route, I would say that with previous ridge walking experience, normal cautionary measures should be fine. The slab at the bad spot would have been a lot more dangerous if wet and that was obvious. However in dry conditions, it was a great first ridge and scramble for Caroline and not a patch on Crib Goch which was mine and Emma’s first thanks to Mr Chris who had us well prepared. We did however find great joy in telling him that we had now done 5 ridge walks whereas he had only done Crib Goch just many many times. I am hoping that we can get him out walking on a similar route soon though.