Back Door to Blencathra

We hadn’t intended going up Blencathra at all. We were just going to have a little walk out from Mungrisedale to Mungrisdale Common, that long bowl of fell that Wainwright despised so much.

On Blencathra

But it was a glorious warm day as we came to the Glenderamackin – and there’s a mouthful for a beck. Apologies to the chap we disturbed skinny-dipping, amazed there was enough water after these weeks without rain. Even the very vocal cuckoo above Mungrisedale seemed to be urging us on.

On the Edge

And it all looked so splendid as we climbed the long track up the side of The Tongue, with its great views across to Bannerdale Crags. We never see that rocky cliff without thinking of the miners of old times who worked its interior.

Back Door to Blencathra

So we came past Bannerdale Crags and saw the wonderful rocky slopes of Blencathra ahead – Foule Crag and Atkinson Pike. And it was, as I’ve said, a beautiful day, so it would have been awful not to go up.

Knocking on the Back Door

We crossed the Glendaramackin Col and went up the rocky slope – and, while they might have been queueing up on the south side of Blencathra, they certainly weren’t on this lovely line of ascent. We chatted to just one fell-runner and saw another in the far distance. I just hate queuing!

Summit Fever

The Foule Crag route is actually quite an easy way up Blencathra, with enough dramatic scenery to make it worthwhile. It took us very little time to get to the top. And there were a few dozen folk on the top who had come up the more conventional ways. But all nicely spaced out.

So next time you do this grand mountain, I commend the back-door route to you.

Bannerdale Crags, peeping from behind The Tongue

We wandered up and down the ridge, looking down on Naddle Fell, where we wandered the other day. It looked positively flat from this great height.

And such superb views across northern Lakeland and the Forest of Skiddaw. And the whole long line of the Solway, with the much-missed Scottish hills beyond. We watched, for a time, the long procession struggling up Sharp Edge.

It was hard to tear ourselves away, as we made our way below Atkinson Pike and across Mungrisedale Common.

Mungrisedale Common

For anyone who hasn’t been there, its like one of those broad and relatively flat bits of southern Dartmoor. Not dramatic, but nowhere near as bad as Wainwright makes out in The Northern Fells. There are lovely views over to Skiddaw and back down to Derwent Water.

Wainwright writes it off as all bog and peat-hag and advises that you don’t even bother to go there. A bit unfair! And when Lakeland walkers claim something as a bog, I’m always tempted to remark “come down to Dartmoor and I’ll show you what a bloody bog looks like!”

Bannerdale Crags

We strolled back to the Glenderamackin Col and returned much the way we had come via Bannerdale Crags.

A memorable day out on the fells, all the more special because so much of it was unplanned.

A nice bit of stravaiging.

(c) Text and Pictures J and A Bainbridge

By John Bainbridge

Rambler, hillwalker, stravaiger and trespasser, access campaigner. Novelist writing historical and period crime fiction.


  1. I think I’ll take your advice and try the backdoor route. It’s certainly a great view of Atkinson Pike from the Glenderamackin col, but I’ve never walked up the ridge.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I took Richard on one of my regular rounds last week (Wed I think) and we came down Blencathra that way. I generally do the rake up onto Souther Fell, continue up Scales Fell onto Blencathra, then onto Bannerdale Crags, a quick visit to Bowscale and back down The Tongue track. It was an easy walk for Richard as his legs still aren’t fit yet and he enjoyed it. It was superb weather that day too.

    I don’t mind descending over Mungrisedale Common (as it’s the opposite side of Blencathra to Mungrisedale, I’m always surprised it’s called that) but I didn’t like the first time I did the fell. That time I did it specially on it’s own without Blencathra – it really seemed like a waste of time from below!

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  3. I often find that the impromptu, unplanned trips and routes turn out to be the best, and they always have that extra element of exciting discovery too. This one looks no exception, and I’m green with envy looking at those breathtaking panoramic views. As a southern-dwelling walker who didn’t know a great deal about Wainwright, I’m learning a bit about him and his works through your blogs too. And I always thought he was the fount of all knowledge and wisdom, but clearly there were holes in his knowledge: for one thing he obviously didn’t know a decent bog when he saw one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He’s interesting – probably the first to really hand write his whole manuscripts since the medieval monks, even justifying the end of each line (and how do you do that by hand?)

      Liked by 1 person

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