Sharp Edge Blencathra is a knife-edge ridge requiring nerves of steel. Halls Fell Ridge is a succession of challenging low crags. Together they make the walk up Blencathra one of the finest in the Lake District.

By: Mark | Last Updated: 21 Nov 2023 | Jump to Comments & Questions

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The walk up Blencathra is one of the best hikes in the Lake District. Not only because of the sensational views over the northern lakes or the short ascent that allows you to reach the summit in under 2 hours, but also because of the two thrilling ridges dropping from the flanks of the mountain.

Halls Fell Ridge is a succession of low crags that gradually rise to the summit, while Sharp Edge is the most exposed grade 1 scramble in the Lake District.

Climbing Sharp Edge requires nerves of steel, a head for heights, and steady hands and feet. It is not to be undertaken lightly, but you can still enjoy a great hike by avoiding the worst of the scrambling with a beautiful detour.

Here’s how to hike Blencathra.

Sharp Edge, Blencathra

IN THIS GUIDE

BLENCATHRA VIA SHARP EDGE AND HALLS FELL


SUMMARY

A thrilling scramble over two ridges with great views

DISTANCE

8.5 kilometres

TIME

4 hours 15 minutes

ELEVATION

+/- 730 metres

DIFFICULTY

Challenging because of the thin vertiginous ridges

SHARP EDGE, BLENCATHRA

Alfred Wainwright, the famous writer of the Lakeland Fells, described Sharp Edge as “a rising crest of naked rock, of sensational and spectacular appearance, a breaking wave carved in stone.”

Crossing it – the narrowest ridge in the Lake District that can be traversed by a walker – requires a sturdy head for heights and nerves of steel.

The exposed ridge with vertical drops on either side is only a couple of hundred meters long, but traversing it can feel like a lifetime.

There is a “bad” step around two-thirds of the way along that requires shuffling on your backside along a sloping slab of rock and down onto a narrow edge.

Sharp Edge Blencathra
Sharp Edge Blencathra

HALLS FELL RIDGE, BLENCATHRA

Compared to Sharp Edge, Halls Fell Ridge is wider and less exposed, making it a great place to enjoy scrambling without carefully considering every step.

The ridge consists of low crags that can be easily clambered over and between, with only a couple of places requiring hand support. With a width of a couple of meters, it’s an ideal spot for beginners to try scrambling.

The climb up Blencathra via Halls Fell Ridge is one of the best and most enjoyable mountain ascents in the Lake District.

The steady climb offers stunning views and will come as a pleasant surprise when you reach the summit.

VIEWS FROM BLENCATHRA SUMMIT

Although ascending Blencathra via Sharp Edge or Halls Fell Ridge feels like an adventure in the rugged mountains, the summit is surprisingly flat and expansive, offering an excellent opportunity for exploration.

On the western side, Blease Fell provides a spectacular viewpoint over the highest mountains of the Lake District as they rise around the waters of the River Derwent. Heading north, Foule Crag offers a commanding view of Sharp Edge, where you can cheer on the walkers still making their way along the ridge.

After the strenuous effort required to reach the summit, nothing beats sitting down with a mug of coffee and taking in the never-ending rolling green hills of the Pennines.

Halls Fell Ridge, Blencathra
Halls Fell Ridge, Blencathra

If you are after adventure in the mountains, then walking up Blencathra via either Sharp Edge or Halls Fell Ridge (or both) is an excellent day out. But there are two things to be aware of:

01Both ridges are exposed and require some scrambling (the use of hands as well as feet)

02Sharp Edge is significantly more difficult. You need a good head for heights and should have some experience of scrambling. Furthermore, don’t attempt it in wet or windy conditions as the edge is exposed and slippery. To get an idea of the challenge watch this.

VIA SHARP EDGE

If you have some scrambling experience, are comfortable with heights and the conditions are good then we recommend you ascend Blencathra via Sharp Edge and descend via Halls Fell Ridge. It’s a thrilling 8.5-kilometre hike that will take about 4 hours.

AVOIDING SHARP EDGE

If you are new to scrambling, we recommend you ascend Blencathra via Halls Fell Ridge. It’s a safer introduction to scrambling where you’ll still need to use your hands on a narrow ridge, but it’s not too narrow. This is a fun strenuous hike in the Lake District.

Decision Point — Once at the summit you can have a look at Sharp Edge and decide if it is for you. However, if you think you can handle it, we would not recommend going down via Sharp Edge which is against the usual flow of traffic and far more difficult. Instead, take the gentler path down to Scales Tarn at the bottom of the ridge and then scramble back up using Sharp Edge.

Whichever you choose, climbing Blencathra is an adventurous day out in the Lake District.

DETAILED HIKE INSTRUCTIONS

OPTION 1 – ASCEND VIA SHARP EDGE & DESCEND VIA HALLS FELL RIDGE

Start at Scales. Head west along the road towards Keswick, and at a layby follow the footpath sign turning right between two houses and right again after going through a wall.

The path winds its way up a grassy bank and then along a pretty ledge with views on the right.

After a while the path crosses another track and traverses the contours of the hill until it approaches Scales Tarn. Turn right just before the tarn and take the path over the crest of Sharp Edge. Then scramble up the loose rock of Foule Crag turning left at the top to the summit.

Now take the descent down Halls Fell following the path as it crests over and between a series of rocky towers and small crags.

The first twenty minutes is on a steep narrow ridge. Soon the path gradually widens before it follows a grassy hill descending to meet a beck (small river) on your right.

Turn left and follow the path along a wall, negotiating a couple of short ascents and descents to get over Doddick Gill and Scaley Beck. Turn right to drop onto the main road and into Scales.

Sharp Edge, Blencathra

OPTION 2 – ASCEND VIA HALLS FELL RIDGE THEN DESCEND VIA SCALES FELL

Start at Scales Farm. Head west along the road towards Keswick, and at a layby follow the footpath sign turning right between two houses and left after going through a wall.

Follow the path along the wall, negotiating a couple of short ascents and descents to get over Scaley Beck and Doddick Gill.

Turn right on a path that rises up a grassy bank just before the next stream.

Continue up the bank, which slowly narrows and narrows and gets rockier and rockier until you are clambering over a ridge no wider than a couple of meters. From this point you are around 20 minutes from the summit. 

Descend via the beautiful Scales Fell path (keeping right) that gently returns to Scales.

Important Note — If having ascended Halls Fell Ridge you want to give Sharp Edge a go, it’s better to come up it than go down. So take the gentler path to the southern edge of Scales tarn and then ascend Sharp Edge.   

All the route details are available in our below map.

Sharp Edge, Blencathra
Sharp Edge, Blencathra

MAP / BLENCATHRA WALK VIA SHARPE EDGE AND HALLS FELL RIDGE

Our map shows the different paths you can follow to walk up Blencathra as well as parking spots, the bus stops and a couple of pubs.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


TIPS FOR SCRAMBLING IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

01 – Be aware that unlike most hill walking, scrambling comes with a bit of risk. Take your time, be careful and don’t attempt these walks if you’re unsure.

02 – For grade one scrambles you do not need any special equipment, but make sure you wear walking boots or shoes with good grip.

03Many scrambles are exposed, if you do not have a head for heights, then it may not be for you.

04 – Build up your experience by attempting easier scrambles first. Halls Fell Ridge is an excellent place to start. Only move onto Sharp Edge after you have had some practice, feel comfortable with heights and got used to forming solid foot and handholds.

05 – If you are not particularly experienced do not attempt rocky exposed scrambles in wet or windy conditions. Clouds also carry considerable moisture, so aim for sunny clear day.

06 – Take a good map and a guidebook. Sharp Edge is covered in Brian Evans’ book: Scrambles in the Lake District: Northern edition.

HOW TO GET TO THE BLENCATHRA WALK

Blencathra is just north of the main road between Keswick and Penrith, making it an easy mountain to get to.

By Car — If you have a car, start the walk at Scales. There is a small free car park next to the White Horse Inn, a few spots on the lane in the village and more in a layby on the main road.

By Bus — There is no bus stop at Scales but the X4 and X5 running between Keswick and Penrith stop at the Horse and Farrier pub in Threlkeld. The walk described above can be easily amended to begin and end at Threlkeld – see our map above. Buses run about hourly until the early evening – timetables.

WHERE TO STAY

Both Keswick and Threlkeld are excellent places to stay when attempting this Blencathra walk. Check out our recommendations below or we have lots more options for where to stay in the Lake District.

BUDGET

BUNGALOWS GUEST HOUSE

Just a few miles out of Keswick in Threlkeld, The Bungalows Guesthouse is an excellent budget option in the area. The location at the foot of Blencathra is superb.


MID-MARKET

KESWICK COUNTRY HOUSE HOTEL

Set in the centre of Keswick, Lakeside House is contemporary luxury accommodation with all the modern amenities you could ask for. Breakfast is served in front of a stunning view.


SPLURGE

LAKESIDE HOUSE

Set in the centre of Keswick, Lakeside House is contemporary luxury accommodation with all the modern amenities you could ask for. Breakfast is served in front of a stunning view.


Blencathra Sharp Edge, Lake District

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