Blencathra

Blencathra

Hello again humans. It’s Joe the Cocker here reporting on another one of my hikes with my human dad or hudad as I call him behind his back. I have been wondering when we would be getting back into the mountains and this was our first attempt since November when we had to turn back on the Glyderau. The big feller is still not healthy and he wasn’t sure if he could get back into the hills just yet. I offered to drag him up the steeper sections so, we decided to nip to the Lake District. When I say nip, I mean drive for two hours. Admittedly, I would be sleeping while he was driving. It was still dark outside when we set off at 0745 and we are usually still snoring at that time of day. Thankfully, the motorways weren’t too busy and we arrived at our destination at 10 o’clock. We stopped on the way for my dad to grab a bacon butty and a coffee. We also stopped for a few seconds in a layby on the A66 while he spied our challenge for the day. According to my dad the Lakeland fells seemed to have grown in size since he was last there.

Above the Blencathra Centre

Our target was Blencathra from Threlkeld via Blease Fell. We were either going to attempt a route that took us to the summit and then to retrace our steps or to tackle a loop that brought us off the fell and descended via Scales Fell on the way back to the car. We would decide later which route we would take, assuming that he could make it to the top. We parked the car in a small car park in Threlkeld and chose to walk towards the Blencathra Centre along Blease Road. We don’t usually walk along roads if it isn’t necessary but it was only a mile along a seldom used lane. My dad wanted to judge how he was feeling by gently strolling along an easy surface. The road has a slight uphill gradient but it affords good views of the surrounding fells without having to concentrate on where you place your feet. The Horse and Farrier looks like a tempting Jennings pub that has a dog friendly bar for a post hike meal. I didn’t expect that we would try it on our way back though. Maybe if we were camping in the area we would. The Blencathra Centre soon appeared and just inside it’s small public car park we spotted our path leading up the fell to our target for the day. I had a quick pee on the signpost that indicated two miles to Blencathra.

Lonscale Fell

It seemed to be all uphill from this point. I suppose that is the nature of mountains! The surface under foot was slippery due to it being grassy and clayey mud thanks to all the rain that we have been having. We immediately turned left to ascend Blease Fell which is supposedly one of the easier routes up the fell. I was running ahead along the narrow path cut into the hillside that was covered in dead ferns. I had a staring competition with three Herdwick sheep that were grazing twenty yards away. I think that I won. It wasn’t long before we had to have a short break while my dad tried to control his breathing. I took the opportunity to rip chunks of turf out of the ground and shake them. Don’t ask me why but, I love doing this. The view in the bright sunshine of Lonscale Fell with it’s footpath contouring the fellside was stunning. The deep valley emphasised by Glenderaterra Beck snaking along its bottom emphasised the height of the surrounding fells. Skiddaw looked beautiful and majestic behind Lonscale Peak in the bright sunshine.  Behind us we were treated to views over Keswick and Derwent Water in the dazzling rays of the sun. So, from that moment onwards, obviously inspired by our surroundings, it was ‘Into the Valley’ by the Skids that polluted the air. My big floppy ears were assaulted by my dad’s singing yet again for the next few hours.

Selfie with Derwentwater background
Tongue out!

After my dad had recovered a wee bit he plodded on uphill. I managed to do some exploring while he took his time on the steady but slippery incline. I was on my retractable lead but it didn’t stop me from jumping from rock to rock and sprinting through the tussocks of grass. The slope was still a grassy steady climb until we reached a zig zagging section that was on a stony surface. My dad had a few stops on the grassy fellside and I know that he was unsure about whether to proceed. But, he is stubborn and seemed to get a new lease of life when we reached the stony path. I also know that he was bluffing when he stopped to take photographs. He was actually taking a breather and deciding if this was a good idea. We had climbed approximately five hundred metres from the Blencathra Centre car park when we reached the summit of Blease Fell.

The ridge path
Blencathra summit

It had been windy as we climbed the hill but now that we had reached the top of the first climb the gusts hit us with a vengeance. It was bitterly cold but the views were stunning for a full 360 degrees. The clouds were starting to gather and were only just above our heads. It looked like rain for later. The ridge walk to Hallsfell Top and Blencathra summit was well worth the previous struggle for my dad. The hardest part of the day’s hike was over. The river and becks in the valley to the south glistened in the sun and looked like lines of mercury leading to Thirlmere (my dad thinks!) Halls Fell Ridge looked very tempting but maybe for another day. There wasn’t a great amount of people on the top but everyone seemed to have a dog. Or the dogs had people! It seems that there are two Cocker Spaniels for every one human on these fells.

Loving the snow
On the way back down

Several large patches of snow remained from heavy snowfall recently. They tempted me to run through them and to chomp on them. But this place was not for lingering on that day. The wind howled and the black clouds looked menacing as they rapidly scudded overhead. We were shortly engulfed in clouds and the views disappeared. The summit of Blencathra was soon reached and the obligatory photographs taken. Due to the deteriorating conditions and my dad not feeling too good he decided that we would retrace our steps rather than descend via Scales Fell. The ridge was blanketted in cloud by this point and the beautiful views sadly disappeared. It was a battle against the wind until we reached the summit of Blease Fell and started our descent. Even then my dad struggled as his trekking poles were blown sideways in the gusts.  He sniggered to himself as two people chased a wind borne glove. That was until one of his blew away as he fumbled for his mobile phone. He speared it with his trekking pole. So, all was good and his cursing didn’t last too long.

Lunchbreak

My dad had hoped to find some shelter from the wind at this point so that we could have our lunch break. There was little chance of that until we reached the grassy slopes above the Blencathra Centre. I had to be on my best behaviour as we descended because I was on my lead and my dad found the going quite difficult as he slipped a few times. We arrived at a conveniently situated rock on the path for my dad to sit down. It was lunch time at last. We had a rest and ate our food and drank our drinks. The viewpoint overlooked Keswick and Derwent Water under an awesome sky. Fast moving dark clouds punctuated by streams of sun light were our entertainment for our brief stoppage. We didn’t linger too long because it was chilly and rain was obviously on it’s way.

Back in Threlkeld

Shortly we arrived at the centre’s car park and joined the road that would lead us back to Threlkeld. It was an easy walk, downhill obviously, and only took twenty minutes. Sure enough the rain arrived but, thankfully, only as we reached the car. So, it was quickly into the car and a welcome snack before we set off for home. My dad was so pleased that he had pushed on and fulfilled our plans for the day. I had another great day in the hills. I hadn’t chased one bird so, my dad was pleased with me. I had looked after him when he didn’t feel too good. I hadn’t pulled on my lead so my dad gave me ten out of ten for the day. I’ll take that! To next time.

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