Blencathra in the snow

December 24th, 2009 by Simon C

After much dithering, Will and I decided to head for the Lakes yesterday. In typical British style we chose to ignore the "A66 closed" signs on the A1, as the roads were clear and there was no sign of falling snow. They must have been left on after earlier problems, mustn't they. Er, no actually. The snow gates were closed at Bowes.

We decided it would be quicker to wait for the road to re-open than to try to find an alternative route. 90 minutes later we were off, and arrived at the layby near Blencathra some 4 hours after leaving York. So much for the early start, by the time we were walking it was almost midday!

At least the late start meant that a trench of sorts had been worn through the deep powder (up to a foot deep even in the valley, knee-deep higher up). A series of mini-avalanches could be seen below the path, triggered by passing walkers. As we slogged up, we passed 2 guys descending on skis and one on a snowboard, who had skied all the way from the summit to the road. In the Lake District, in December!

Without much hope of finding anything climbable due to the powder, we nevertheless traversed under Sharp Edge through thigh-deep powder to the foot of Foule Crag. It was clear that most of the normal lines were going to be difficult, unpleasant, and possibly dangerous due to the snow. But at the left end of the crag we saw an obvious turfy buttress, immediately to the left of Blunt Gully. It's not in the guide but it looked a reasonable option so we decided to give it a go, we didn't fancy yet another day carrying climbing kit for a walk!

Up close, it looked a lot steeper, and appearances weren't deceptive. Will took the first pitch, with excellent turf to start. An overhanging wall could probably be taken direct by someone competent, so we went round it. There seemed to be an easy option on the left, so Will went right, swimming up the totally unconsolidated start of Blunt Gully, before moving back onto the ridge. I took the next pitch, much more pleasant up well frozen turf with a few rocky steps. Total gear for the 80m route consisted of a very dodgy nut backed up by an even dodgier bulldog. Blunt Gully Buttress, grade II/III.

We topped out at the start of Sharp Edge, so finished up this (grade I/II) – easy enough as it was all snow rather than ice, with a well trodden path – just a couple of short but awkward and exposed descents, involving strategic use of buttocks.

We arrived at the summit shortly after sunset, and had the place to ourselves (apart from a cold looking mouse). Glorious views in all directions, with the whole of the Lake District visible, and everything covered by snow. A quick descent down the Scales Fell ridge returned us to the car at 5pm.

Lots more photos here.

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2 Responses to “Blencathra in the snow”

  1. pebbles says:

    I was up there on the 29th with simon lambert and chris gooder and saw the same mouse! (we know it was the same one coz it said it knew you) active little thing it was, hopping and leaping all over the place. didnt get to climb anything as it was blowing a hoolie and completely whited out on top, but a grand day out anyway.

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