Blencathra Wainwrights – a late afternoon circuit from Scales via Souther Fell, Bowscale Fell, Bannerdale Crags and Mungrisdale Common

Another chance of a Sunday Lakes trip and another poor Sunday forecast hinting at a possible late improvement. My mate Alan was working so I took the weather gamble & headed off Lakesbound alone planning to start around 1pm. Plan A was the Blencathra Wainwrights, normally done anti clockwise from Mungrisdale however I fancied trying them from Scales on the A66 which would leave the higher stuff till last, hopefully taking advantage of any clearer weather.

Conditions driving down the A66 weren’t encouraging with Blencathra engulfed in dark grey cloud and raindrops on the windscreen. With the longer daylight hours I could be a little more flexible with the start time so diverted off northwards to suss out a possible evening meal stop, the Boot & Shoe at Greystoke. Verdict was unimpressive, as was the weather which inconveniently showed no sight of improvement with even lowly Souther Fell still firmly greyed out. I drove up the back of the Sportmans Inn considering maybe some alternatives further south, then drove down to Scales then to Threlkeld to see if there was any clear weather beyond. If anything it was getting worse all around with the rain and greyness seemingly settling in, next a Mountain Rescue Land Rover flashed by which didn’t inspire confidence.

Car park at Threkeld looking up to Blencathra 1.20pm

Car park at Threlkeld looking up to Blencathra 1.20pm

I’d had views on Blencathra before so was ok with a cloudy day up there but was really hoping for some views on the lower hills as they were all new Wainwrights for me. I started driving west even considering heading back to Hexham and coming back on Monday. It was already 2pm which was past my start time window but decided to turn round for one last look, drove back to Scales, saw a small improvement & noticed it had finally stopped raining. That was all the encouragement I needed and was immediately out lacing my boots – whilst others were coming down having finished their wet gloomy day. Leaving the car at a very late 2.40pm meant a very late finish so I’d have to keep moving. Ascending Mousthwaite Comb the Mountain Rescue Land Rover could be seen parked below then a Sea King appeared overhead. A couple coming down explained someone had fallen on Sharp Edge breaking their ankle. They said it was like polished glass so had turned back and gone up Scales Fell.

After a 2.40pm start from Scales heading up Mousthwaite Comb 3pm

After a 2.40pm start from Scales heading up Mousthwaite Comb 3pm

More people came into view however I was off east to the much quieter Souther Fell soon reaching a cairn which I assumed was the Wainwright. Suddenly the gloom lifted ahead and I realised despite the cloud behind me there was blue sky to the east. Then I was in cloud again, then out, then blue sky – it was definitely improving and I began to think this route and late start was beginning to look a good idea after all.

Souther Fell Cairn looking back to cloudy Scales Fell on Blencathra - 3.20pm

1st Wainwright, Souther Fell Cairn looking back to cloudy Scales Fell on Blencathra – 3.20pm

From Souther Fell south east across A66 to Great Mell Fell

From Souther Fell south east across A66 to Great Mell Fell

Reaching the end of Souther Fell looking north over Carrick Fell - 3.35pm

Reaching the end of Souther Fell looking north – 3.35pm

Carrick Fell across the River Glenderamackin - 3.40pm

Across the River Glenderamackin – 3.40pm, will be down there shortly

Descending Souther Fell to the Mill Inn Mungrisdale (eventually) - 3.45pm

Descending Souther Fell to the Mill Inn Mungrisdale (eventually) – 3.45pm

Souther Fell was enjoyable once the cloud lifted, and soon Mungrisdale appeared below, however 100 yards before the pub there’s a really stupid 10min diversion south around forbidden farm fields which has to be done if you want to avoid an angry farmer. I joined a side road then took a tiny footbridge over the river before turning left onto the main road but with hindsight should have stayed on the side road straight to the Mill Inn (now my new planned evening food stop). Once past the pub swing west following the river out into the open below.

Initial route along River Glenderamackin path, Bannerdale Crags left, The Tongue right - 4.15pm

Initial route along River Glenderamackin path, Bannerdale Crags left, The Tongue right – 4.15pm

The weather was definitely on the mend with cloud still shrouding Blencathra but at least improving at last, dry and actually getting something called warm! Chuffed!!

Straight line path angling west up to Bowscale Fell - 4.50pm

Straight line path angling west up to Bowscale Fell – 4.50pm

Looking back at the ascent, with Souther Fell top - 5.05pm

Looking back at the ascent, with Souther Fell top – 5.05pm

Cloud had dropped down up ahead again & was also racing across the sky so I stuck an extra layer on then the Windshirt & gloves before reaching the top & the short diversion across to Bowscale.

Bowscale Fell Summit Cairn in the cloud - 5.25pm

2nd Wainwright, Bowscale Fell Summit Cairn back in the cloud – 5.25pm

Walking up to Bannerdale Crags ahead, clear but for how long

Walking up to Bannerdale Crags ahead, back out of the cloud, this time for good

View down east over the ascent path & Souther on path between Bowsale & Bannerdale - 6pm

View from the path from Bowscale to Bannerdale down east over the ascent route & Souther – 6pm

Top of Bannerdale Crags looking east with Mungrisdale beyond the dip - 6.05pm

3rd Wainwright, top of Bannerdale Crags looking east, Mungrisdale village beyond the dip – 6.05pm

Bannerdale Crags looking south to Sharp Edge still in cloud

Bannerdale Crags looking south to Sharp Edge still in cloud

I spied 2 tiny figures walking up to Bowscale, I never saw them again, in fact I never saw anyone again, one of the favoured Lakeland playgrounds was now exclusively mine to enjoy alone. From Bannerdale a fairly level walk follows westwards out behind Blencathra to Mungrisdale Common, it’s a bit of a dampish grassy trek and I relied on my GPS to find the ‘top’ after my first target turned out to be a sheep. Supposedly this is some sort of joke by Mr Wainwright and having now visited I tend to concur, bet he’s up there smiling every time another mug arrives. They should’ve put his ashes here, that would’ve taught him 🙂

Mungrisdale Common - 6.55pm, I know not why!

4th Wainwright, Mungrisdale Common – 6.55pm, I know not why!

The most excellent news was that at last Blencathra was clear, in fact Skiddaw was clear.

Mungrisdale Common looking up to clear Blencathra, route straight up left bit - 6.55pm

Mungrisdale Common looking up to clear Blencathra, route straight up to Foule Crag on left – 6.55pm

On the way to Blencathra, views west just to Derwent - 7.15pm

On the way to Blencathra, views west over Derwent Water – 7.15pm

Ascending with views back over Mungrisey thingy to Skiddaw beautifully clear - 7.25pm

Ascending with views back over Mungrisey thingy to Skiddaw now beautifully clear – 7.25pm

From above Foule Crag NE over Bowscale Fell centre, (Carrock Fell above) - 7.30pm

From above Foule Crag north east over Bowscale Fell centre, (Carrock Fell above) – 7.30pm

To the right of previous pic, views over Bannerdale Crags & Souther Fell

To the right of previous pic, views over Bannerdale Crags & Souther Fell

Skiddaw across from Blencathra - 7.40pm

Skiddaw across from Blencathra – 7.40pm

There were many great things about strolling across to Blencathras Hallsfell Top, for a start this was the day’s ascent over, secondly the views were exceptional, thirdly dinner & beer were getting nearer and lastly the whole mountain was completely deserted – this was my mountain, mine I tell you!! Listen to my commentary on this quick video cresting the top to share the joy (unfortunately cut short my maxing the phone memory). I walked to the edge for pictures and was promptly blown over backwards by a freak gust, finding my phone undamaged 10ft behind.

Brilliant Blencathra Summit View - 7'50pm

Brilliant Blencathra Summit View – 7.50pm

Blencathra Summit View

Blencathra Summit View west

Blencathra Summit View South East with Flowers - 7.50pm

Blencathra Summit View South East with flowers – 7.50pm

Descent east down Scales Fell - 8.55pm

Descent east down Scales Fell – 8.55pm

Sharp Edge stands alone - 8.05pm

Sharp Edge stands alone – 8.05pm

Last views west up the A66 with Clough Head & Great Dodd above - 8.15pm

Last views west up the A66 with Clough Head & Great Dodd above – 8.15pm

Nearly down to Mousthwaite Comb again - 8.15pm

Nearly down to Mousthwaite Comb again – 8.15pm

Reaching the car on the A66 at Scales at 8.40pm I phoned the pub to check they were still doing food, got quickly changed and drove off to Mungrisdale. I walked up to the bar, ordered beer and food, had a look around the pub, sat down to relax then nipped to wash my hands discovering I’d had my fly open the whole time. Class.

Beer & Food at Mill Iinn, Mungrisdale - 9pm

Beer & Food at Mill Iinn, Mungrisdale – 9pm

I asked the chatty Landlord about the barred descent path off Souther and he explained that the farmer just couldn’t be persuaded to allow access, something to do with previously unlocked gates & losing sheep. The Landlord himself had even been shouted at for nipping over to grab some holly at Xmas. Crazy situation when a simple path fenced both sides would solve iit and provide even more business for the amiable little pub & village.

Via Twitter I discovered the flowers on Blencathra had been left earlier the same day by @helsbels1960 in memory of her late father whose ashes were spread there 1yr ago. Nice touch and a terrific view!!

In conclusion a super afternoon & evening illustrating some benefits of a late start, very few people would’ve had such a fine day as most of them were already home. This sort of approach to hiking also means I can be a right lazy bugger and have a good lie in 🙂

  • Sunday 5th May 2013,
  • Start/Finish Scales on A66 – go up through White Horse pub beer garden over stile
  • 6 hrs (starting at 2.40pm, finishing 8.40pm), mostly into the wind
  • 12.2 miles (19.63 km)
  • 3,940ft (1,2015m) of ascent
  • Beer & Food – Mill Inn, Mungrisdale tel 017687 79632 , food Sun till 9pm
  • Thanks for reading

Click on the map below for the interactive Route on Social Hiking

Blencathra Wainwrights Route from Scales

Blencathra Wainwrights – the route from Scales

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About MART IN THE HILLS

Hillwalker with dodgy knees and dodgier sense of humour. Lover of the outdoors, Lakes, Highlands, Cheviots, nature, good food, real ale and leaf tea.
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