Blencathra via Halls Fell & Doddick – in record time!

16 08 2020

Sat 11 July 20
Well it was record time for me anyway… this was after work – I was feeling very fit and wanted to be back down in time for my tea at the Scales pub! I was up and back in exactly 2.5 hours…

All photos:
my Zenith manual film SLR

The Lakes were now open again after lockdown so I was glad I was doing this after work. But still, when I parked up at Scales at around 1700, there was only room in the carpark as two cars left as I arrived! Both the Lakes and the fells were completely thronged – and continue to be so after ‘lockdown’. It’s completely crazy up here now – way busier than a normal summer…

I’d been doing Blencathra quite a bit over the last couple of months but always from Mungrisedale via Souther Fell (and generally back via Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell). I decided it was past time that I did the magnificent Halls Fell route again as I hadn’t done it for years. I used to be quite scared of this route but suspected I’d find it fine nowadays…

My route up and back is as described on the photo below for those who don’t know the ‘front’ of Blencathra…

Blencathra’s Southern Ridges


A ‘full-frontal’ of Blencathra’s Southern Ridges – Hallsfell is the middle one and Doddick is the right-hand one as you look at the photo

It was so long since I’d been on this route that, as I left the carpark, I wasn’t sure how to get to the path running above the fell wall. I correctly chose left back down the A66 for a couple of hundred yards. A signpost pointed up the hill just by a house…

I shot along the path at great speed but went wrong on one section and ended up with a very steep slog up the side of the wall. I’d seen a path slanting up earlier but erroneously thought it was the one coming down from Scales Fell – the one which doesn’t go via Mousethwaite Col.

The path wasn’t too busy until I reached the infamous crossing of Scaley Beck. This has a slightly clambery route down into the gill and is followed by a quite scrambly bit up the other side. There are several routes up this section but all are polished and slippery with quite sloping shelves in places. This was where Richard fell back down once and hurt himself!

Scaley Beck – easy side

Scaley Beck – tricky side – the side Richard fell down once!

It was very lucky that there were several routes up this section as there was a massive queue of folk trying to get down it at the end of their day. I was lucky no-one was trying the route I had my eye on and so I could just shoot up it without losing any speed. I later came down using the route everyone else had and had to use my bum quite a bit as it really was polished!

Back on the level, I sped along the next section – it was much further than I remembered to get to Gategill where the path takes off up the end of Hallsfell. The ascent of the end of the fell was much longer than I remembered too but I fairly powered up it – I was very pleased with how fit I was feeling and how well I was going.

I had my eye on my watch all the way as, don’t forget, I was going to try to get my tea in the pub at Scales where I was parked.

Eventually, I finished with the long ascent onto the fell end thinking there would be a flat section. Well, there isn’t really – it pretty much starts with the rocky section and rises all the way to the summit. It does get considerably steeper as you near the summit though…

I determined to keep to the rocky crest the whole way up the ridge. The weather was nothing like the below photo which I took on a previous visit – it was very hot and very sunny. Luckily, there was also a very cool breeze now I’d reached the ridge proper…

Hallsfell’s Narrow Edge looking menacing on a misty day

The rocky spine went very well indeed – I didn’t find any difficulties (which I once certainly would have) and, for a section, the ridge was very narrow indeed. I didn’t touch any of the paths below the ridgeline – just stuck to the top all the way. The narrow section was great fun – there wasn’t really a big drop off as there was always the path ten feet or so below on one side or the other.

I found I was scrambling excellently – only using my hands very slightly for balance and powering up with my legs. All the photos of this post were taken on other days as, coming from work, I didn’t have my camera. There is some spectacular scenery on the ridge!

As I started up the final very steep rocks to the summit, I could see a group of lads who didn’t seem to be able to decide whether to descend or not. They didn’t make their decision and finally start their descent proper until I was on Doddick!

I didn’t stop at the summit but just continued on down the start of Scales Fell – initially a zig-zag. You soon reach the top of Doddick Fell and the path sets off down just after that. It’s very steep to start and a bit narrow but quite safe. It’s good steps at this point but soon disintegrates into scree for a while a bit further down. Below is a photo of Doddick Fell in front of Hallsfell – you can see from the photo that the top of Doddick is much steeper.


Doddick in front of Hallsfell

a much younger Richard looking down Doddick Ridge on our first descent of it

I used to think no-one really used Doddick Fell at all for either ascent or descent but the amount of path deterioration showed that it is actually being used quite a lot. A couple of folk had just gone up it as I descended (one was a fell runner – must have been fit!) I then met a father and his sons coming up with really big packs – obviously intending to camp high. I wouldn’t fancy heaving that lot up such a steep fell in hot weather!

Looking back up Doddick gives some interesting scenery. You don’t really see it as you descend as you’re too busy watching your footing…

My legs were still feeling great for the whole descent and I made great time – it just took me an hour from the summit to the pub! So, at only 1930, I was sat in the bar with a lovely lime and soda and my food on order. Definitely the way to finish a working day after standing around in a shop all day! 🙂

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22 responses

29 08 2020
tessapark1969

Knackered just reading that!! My parents still call the evening meal ‘tea’ (they are from Stoke originally)

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30 08 2020
mountaincoward

yep – breakfast, dinner and then tea. I’m always correcting people when they say ‘lunch’!

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18 08 2020
Stuart Templeton

Another stunning walk and as Alli said, you must be fit to do that in a few hours!

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19 08 2020
mountaincoward

I was certainly fit that day but I’m definitely not as fit now. I seem to vary a lot!

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20 08 2020
Stuart Templeton

Lol! Don’t we all. Still not a bad but of walking though!

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21 08 2020
mountaincoward

There’s not much can beat that feeling of feeling really fit when you’re out walking – wish I could be like that all the time…

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18 08 2020
Alli Templeton

You did well to do all that in two-and-a-half hours! Some of it looks particularly scary – like that tricky side of Scaley Beck. Looking at that, I’m not surprised poor Richard came a cropper! Fabulous views and photos, as always, so it must have been fantastic to actually be there, getting such a sense of space, freedom and some fresh air after being cooped up inside all day. Mind you, the promise of a good pub and supper at the end would make anyone step up their pace. I hope the reward met your expectations. :-).

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19 08 2020
mountaincoward

the food was very tasty but not a bit enough portion for me – perhaps I was extra hungry after dashing up the hill and back?!

That beck crossing is awkward – it’s the fact it’s so polished which is the bad thing. Wouldn’t be so bad but the farmer could really have let you cross the beck slightly lower down in his fields and that would cut out all the difficulties! But I suppose the fell wall has taken that course long before walkers became a thing…

Liked by 1 person

22 08 2020
Alli Templeton

I’m not surprised you’d worked up an appetite!
And take care on those tricky crossings.

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22 08 2020
mountaincoward

I had a tricky gill to explore today – it beat me – I had to make an escape – pretty scary. May be a post sometime in the future! I’m going to have another go now I know what I’m up against but I need dry weather and dry ground!

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25 08 2020
Alli Templeton

I’d be interested to see a post on your great escape. It’d be a good cautionary tale for people trying to bite off more than they can chew. Just be careful if you do go back, even in dry weather.

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28 08 2020
mountaincoward

I’ll be doing one when I get my photos developed and scanned. I have 4 films to get developed now. I’m going to go back and have a look at the other side of the waterfall I couldn’t get up – the side I picked initially was unpleasant – I’m not sure the other side is better but people have been above it and taken photos somehow…

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17 08 2020
Blue Sky Scotland

That’s what I’ve been thinking as well- seems like 5 times the amount of outdoor folk around post Covid 19 lockdown and according to the news recently more people than ever are considering a move away from cities to rural living, especially those without a garden but earning big money that have found they can work from home. I was always too knackered to contemplate a hill after work as that was hard enough already, working outside or in houses, usually grafting like a beast with sweat pouring off me. Watching TV, then a meal, then bed was my top priority after work but well done you..

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19 08 2020
mountaincoward

Yeah – but I’m stood around a lot. Actually, I do run up and down stairs a lot on my first day re-stocking but the second day there’s not as much of that to do as I’ve done it all!

What an awful thought all those people wanting to move to the country – that will turn it into an urban area!

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17 08 2020
underswansea

That’s quite a sprint! Good looking ridge. I enjoyed, like always, the photos and report. Just for the record, if you asked for a cup of tea in a boozer in Canada you’d be asked to move along. 🙂 Take care.

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17 08 2020
mountaincoward

Ah – ‘tea’ up north here is our evening meal not a drink – we have: breakfast, dinner, tea. Having said that, people do drink both tea and coffee in pubs and bars nowadays.

I seem to be much more lively when I’ve been at work all day – perhaps it’s more a feeling of release from standing around?!

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22 08 2020
underswansea

Ah okay! Now I know what ‘tea’ means now. Thanks for that. A pub in Canada is a bar, and traditionally, only for drinking. However due to many restrictions on drinking they are now serving food and even letting minors in during early hours. It can be complicated because the restrictions and licensing is controlled by the government.

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23 08 2020
mountaincoward

Our pubs do far more trade in food nowadays (and tea and coffee) – partly because I live in a walking area I suppose…

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17 08 2020
John Bainbridge

You must be fitter than I am!

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17 08 2020
mountaincoward

I went like a bomb that day. I’ve had a few other days on the hills where I’ve been super-fast and super-fit this year. Sadly, they’ve been interspersed with days where I just feel like a big, fat slug! I do seem to do better after a day at work though…

Liked by 1 person

18 08 2020
John Bainbridge

I think I’ve had an energy bypass.

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19 08 2020
mountaincoward

I was a lot more sluggish last week when it was very hot and humid – humidity does for me, that’s for sure!

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