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Sharp Edge – (Slippery As A Snake)

By Phil on 2014.10.06 In Lake District

Last weekend I headed over to the Lake District for an impromptu hike with my mate Julian who is manager of Nordic Outdoor in Keswick.

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The weather wasn’t great first thing Saturday morning as I drove over to the North West following heavy rainfall during the night, though it was forecast to clear around lunchtime.

I had left the choice of hike up to Julian, but was hoping he would choose Blencathra, as I had yet to ascend Blencathra despite it being one the first great summits I see every time I drive there. I always see Blencathra as the first sign of arriving in the Lake District.

Julian said I could stay at his on sofa bed in spare room rather than book a B&B. After arriving at his house, which he shares with his friend Zoe, he showed me to my room with a massive sofa bed. Great. Or so I thought! Until I turned around a saw a large glass tank, like a fish tank but with patio doors, with its doors wide open and a branch leading out of it to the floor.

“What’s that Julian?” As I pointed at glass tank, half guessing what it was. “That’s Alex’s glass house. Alex is Zoe’s pet snake.” He replied. Well you might be able to guess my response. I’m not the best of sleepers to start with, and with the thought of sharing a room with a snake roaming around was certainly not going to help. Despite Julian reassuring me that Alex the snake would be far more scared of me than what I should be of him or her (they haven’t been able to determine the sex of Alex yet), I told him I have seen YouTube videos of snakes eating a crocodile and a human being whole, so I was pretty sure I knew who would be more scared.

Julian reassured me that we would find him when we got back from hike and he would put him away in his box for the night.

After the shock of spending the night with Alex the snake, we discussed our possible hike for the day. We were also being joined by Nigel who used to be the manager at Nordic Outdoor before leaving to setup his own adventure company Trek Tipi.

I was very happy that they both suggested doing Blencathra via Sharp Edge. Not only would I finally get to do Blencathra but we would be doing it via the classic Sharp Edge scramble route I had heard so much about.

We arrived at our starting point, which was a secret little parking spot which Nigel knew about. As we started out ascent from the car park the skies started to clear as the rain clouds headed east. Perfect weather conditions for tackling the stunning Blencathra.

Nigel was a trained mountain leader and after reading some of my past blog posts, he noticed a common theme of often getting lost on many of my hikes and offered to give me some additional map reading and navigation lessons throughout the day. Although my navigational skills have improved slightly over recent months, mainly thanks to my GPS, its great getting advice from someone who knows how to use a map and compass. I was quite pleased with myself that I managed to pass all of Nigel’s tests of getting bearings and setting compass to follow route he ask for. All without my GPS. Does this mean I can sell my GPS on eBay now! Probably best not. Small steps Phil, small steps…

The ascent up Blencathra is a steep one. No gradual walk in, its steep ascent from the start. As we headed towards Scales Tarn we had to cross a very heavy flowing stream, this was due to the heavy rainfall the day before. Nigel and Julian had never seen it this fast and flowing in all their previous trips up Blencathra.

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We arrived at Scales Tarn just in time for a spot of lunch before tackling Sharp Edge. It was a great spot to stop and admire Sharp Edge and Blencathra. It was stunning.

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As we started to tackle Sharp Edge, you could soon see how easy it would be to slip and fall in the wrong conditions. Despite the now clear blue skies and very little wind, it was still very wet underfoot due the previous night’s heavy rainfall and we had to watch carefully as we made our ascent. After about 10 minutes a lady headed towards us who had turned back due to how slippy the rocks were. After a brief chat with her we carried on. Then 5 minutes later we met a couple who had also decided to turn back due to wet rocks. Again we decided to carry on. As we got about 3/4’s of the way up, about 70 metres from the summit, the weather changed. From clear blue skies to dark skies and hailstone for 10 minutes. That’s the Lake District weather for you. The hailstone on top of already wet slippy rocks made if even more difficult than it already was. At this point I was stuck on one side of Sharp Edge. I was really struggling to get any higher up to where Nigel was and I couldn’t see behind me or where I had come from.

At this point Nigel made the wise decision for us to abort the ascent up Sharp Edge and return to Scales Tarn and head up Blencathra via alternative route. However there was still the issue of getting me away from my current position of clinging on to the side of Sharp Edge. Eventually Nigel managed to get hold of the top of my rucksack and guide me up. I must admit it was probably one of the scariest moment I have had while been out on the hills. After getting me to a safe position, Nigel had to go and help Julian return from his position a little further on from us. Once all three of us were back to a safe position we slowly made our way back down Sharp Edge, mostly on our backsides to avoid slipping as we headed to the path.

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We finally returned to Scales Tarn for a short rest before heading up the alternative path to the summit of Blencathra where we were greeted with stunning views and clear blue skies. It was hard to imagine that it had been hailstoning not so long ago.

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As we headed back down to the car park, Julian and Nigel mention about a guy being rescued from Sharp Edge the previous week. I then realise I knew who they were talking about. It was fellow Outdrr blogger Jethro Withers who recently joined Outdrr and his first blog post which was about his fall from Sharp Edge, which you can read all about here, where he had to be airlifted from Sharp Edge following his fall and is now hopefully recovering well.

After our eventful trip up Sharp Edge and Blencathra it was back to Keswick for some well-deserved beers. Just as I was starting to relax after what had happened during the day, my mind then turned to Alex the snake. I had forgot all about the fact I could be sharing a room with a free roaming snake back at Julian’s house. We headed back to Julian’s house to try and find Alex and put him in his box for the night, but it seemed he didn’t want to move from his comfy position behind the TV. Thankfully Julian said I could stay in other room while he spent the night with Alex. Panic over.

It was a cracking day and so glad I finally got to summit Blencathra. Although we never managed it via Sharp Edge due to weather conditions, it was still a great experience and now know what to expect next time I attempt the same route. I’m not sure which was the scarier of the two. Attempting Sharp Edge in wet conditions or nearly having to spend the night with a snake. The fact I can’t wait to do Blencathra again should give you the answer on that one.

Before heading home on Sunday I had arranged to go and visit my friend Lindsay who is the owner of The Sporting Lodge, and who had kindly offered to open their stunning showroom for me so I could view the new Fjällräven winter collection and have a coffee and chat. And what a showroom it is. Stunning views overlooking a sandy bay with the hills of the Lakes District in the distance. We had a great chat as Lindsay showed me their latest additions to the collection, before giving me a Fjällräven mini Kanken as a present for my nephew Evan. Just the right size for his packed lunch and other stuff he needs for first year of school. Thank you so much Lindsay.

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Well this weekend I’m off to Morocco to do the Toubkal Two Valley trek in the Atlas Mountains, which I will be posting about here when I return.

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog about hiking, trekking, Fjällräven Polar 2014, in fact anything where you require boots and the outdoors.

My name is Phil, and following my outdoor epiphany which started in the summer of 2012 I’m now hooked on everything outdoors. So far my biggest treks have included the 250km Cathar Way, the 170km Tour du Mont Blanc and best of all, winning 1st place to take part in the Fjällräven Polar in April 2014.

I plan to use this blog to write about all my adventures, which will include my personal goal of becoming a Munroist (completing all 282 Scottish Munro mountains), summer treks, weekends in the Lakes and many more.

I like to try and make my blog posts humorous so I hope you enjoy reading and that I can put a smile on people’s faces while showing you some amazing places.

If you have any questions about the blog or the places I'm writing about, don't hesitate to contact me on: phil@philyourboots.com

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