Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Winter camp on Blencathra

Due to the death of my car alternator what had been planned as a four day loop of the Northern Fells turned in to an overnight wander and camp centred around Blencathra and its neighbouring fells.

Looking SW from above Scales Farm

The Forecast was pretty good, some high winds early morning but then mostly clear with hardly any breeze again until around midnight. I parked near Scales around 8am and was away by about 8:30 heading up Blencathra via Scales Fell. 

Blencathra view

It was a nice fresh morning with a few strong gusts, looking down over Scales Tarn I took a short break where I measured the temperature as -16°C with windchill. I didn't stop for long and was soon on my way and at the summit of Blencathra where I took a few photo's before continuing to Knowe Crags. 

Looking back to Blencathra

From Knowe Crags I doubled back and headed over Blencathra again and on to Foule Crag before descending to the col and heading East to Mungrisdale Common. There were some nice looking cornices on the descent to the col, with some footprints in the snow which went worryingly close to the edge. 

Cornice - Foule Crag

From Mungrisdale Common I made my way to Bowscale Fell where I stopped for a bite to eat. It was still pretty chilly but the wind had died down so I had a leisurely early lunch sat in the sunshine enjoying the views towards Blencathra. Once fed and watered I headed over to Bannerdale Crags then back to the Col between there and Foule Crag. I'd planned to camp near the summit of Blencathra so when I was up there earlier I took note of the snow conditions at the summit, as everything was frozen solid I decided rather than spend an age melting ice/snow I'd dump my pack at the col and drop down and find some water from the upper River Glendermackin. Thankfully I didn't have to drop far before I found some running water and I was soon back at my pack with enough water for the night ahead.

Summit view - Blencathra

The extra couple of kilos did make the route back up Foule Crag feel like a bit of a slog, either that or my legs were getting a little tired but it didn't take too long to get to the top. I did consider using my crampons as I neared the top as it was pretty icy but in the end I managed fine without them. 

My home for the night - Tramplite shelter

After another stop and mooch around on at the top of Foule Crag I found a suitable pitch for the night. It was still fairly early so I took my time pitching, had a brew, then took the short walk to Blencathra summit to enjoy the sunset. There was a winter skills group not far from the summit so I stopped and watched them for a while, practicing their self arrests looked like great fun in what was now a perfectly still evening.  

Sunset from camp

With the sun setting the temperature started to drop rapidly so I headed back to camp and got changed in to lots and lots of lovely down. I spent the next couple of hours under my MLD Spirit quilt, drinking tea, taking a few photo's, rehydrating something to eat and reading/listening to podcasts. I think the coldest temperature I recorded was around -7 (not inc wind chill). 

Goosefeet Gear down trousers - Toasty

It was a nice clear evening with hardly any breeze so once it was dark enough I spent an hour or so wandering around taking night shots of the Tramplite Shelter. It was a little tricky to pick up any stars as there was some light pollution and the moon was quite bright but I managed to get a few photo's I'm semi happy with. Once I'd finished messing about with the camera it was back in to the shelter and I was soon fast asleep.

Tramplite shelter 

I woke around 2 am, the wind had picked up and was gusting pretty heavily, it seemed to be swirling and coming from different directions so I closed down the Tramplite Shelter and soon dozed off for a few more hours sleep. Come morning the wind had increased further and it was pretty much white out conditions, I measured a gust at 80km/h just before packing up. I needed to be back at the car and home my mid day so after a quick breakfast I struck camp and made my way back to the summit of Blencathra before descending via Scales Fell. 

Breaking camp

Visibility didn't improve until I got to around 600m where I got my first glimpse of the sun. By the time I made it back to the car it had cleared further and looked like it was going to be another good day to be in the hills. 

Sunrise from Sclaes Fell

As usual the Gopro came along so I'll cobble together a video in the next few days :-)


Peaks/Fells Inc: Scales Fell, Blencathra, Saddleback, Knowe Crags, Foule Crag, Mungrisdale Common, Bannerdale Crags, Bowscale Fell.


  1. even the short trips can be good

  2. Some cracking pictures there Matt. Looked like a great overnighter.

    1. Cheers Steve, yeah a quick trip but a cracker of an evening