Snow yesterday evening and overnight and an anticipated thaw later today, meant that there was no point in waiting for better conditions if I wanted to get a snow walk done. So, 9am saw me parking the car in the carpark at the top of Blease Road, Threlkeld. It was still clear on the summit ridge but it didn't look as if that would last long. I decided against Halls Fell Ridge as I had no idea what conditions would be like and headed for the foot of Doddick Fell, a slightly easier ridge. As the ridge came in sight I could see a party of two about half an hour ahead of me.
Once I crossed Doddick Gill (in spate, tricky to keep my feet dry!) and gained a foothold on the foot of the fell, I met the snow almost immediately. As I reached the point where the ridge narrowed, I noticed that the party ahead were retreating. My heart sank. If they were properly equipped then it looked as if the ridge wasn't in a safe condition. When we met I was relieved to see that they were not wearing crampons and had turned back when they reached water ice. They said I should have no problems with crampons - hooray! After another hundred yards or so I put my crampons on at the top of a rock tower on the ridge. As Frances says, time spent practising putting these infernal things on is never time wasted but, in this case, I found a nice rock to sit on to make the job easy.
Then it was walking like John Wayne all the way to the top of the ridge - mostly on frozen scree and water ice with a thin covering of snow but with the odd deeper patch of snow in depressions. Just before I entered the cloud I looked across and saw one other walker ascending Halls Fell Ridge and that was the only other person I saw until the easier path from Scales came into view - that had a few more people on it. Near Blencathra summit I met the chap who had climbed Halls Fell. We swapped reports on the conditions on our ridges. I had no problem in telling him that Doddick Fell would be okay in descent but he said that Halls Fell might be a bit "iffy" to descend, with a lot of loose snow over ice at the top of the ridge. That made up my mind - I would head along the summit ridge and descend Blease Fell!
I could have eaten on the summit, it wasn't too cold or windy and I DID have a bothy sac. But there was no view and it was early (11.30) so I didn't eat until I reached the Blease Fell Zig Zags and got below the cloud. I was able to keep the crampons on to within 20 minutes of the car as there was a lot of ice on the track down to Threlkeld.
All day, as far as I could see only two of us climbed the ridges of Blencathra. All the other footprints led from Scales, over Scales Fell, along the summit ridge and over Blease Fell to Threlkeld or the Blencathra Centre. Whether anyone risked Sharp Edge, I don't know.
Enjoy the pics - I fear all the snow will be gone tomorrow!
A full album is available on Webshots http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/562223356PfWqzy.