A Matter Of Attitude
Trail UK|March 2017

The Lakes can’t match the Alps for sheer scale, but occasionally our comparatively diminutive fells serve up an offering with more than a hint of Alpine about it...

Ben Weeks

There are places for which the adjective ‘Alpine’ is regularly used and perfectly apt: the Cuillin of Skye; the ridges of Torridon; high and narrow parts of north Wales; and, naturally, the Alps. But it’s not often applied to the Lake District. Perhaps we need to establish what we mean by ‘Alpine’. If used solely to describe mountainous landscapes whose upper reaches pierce the 4000m ceiling, then nothing on our elevationally mediocre islands is going to measure up. But if being ‘Alpine’ is a matter of attitude rather than altitude, the UK’s peaks have much to offer. Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis is a classic Alpine-style route. Cyfrwy Arête on Cadair Idris too. And in the Lakes, though it may lack the scale or rarefied air of an equivalent Alpine ridge, Blencathra’s Sharp Edge has every right to claim that distinction; and never more so than in winter.

Tom and I parked the car and began the familiar journey up onto Scales Fell in a far-from-familiar Lake District. Cumulative dumps of snow had transformed the Glenderamackin Valley. Powdered slopes flowed down to the verges of the tarmac ribbons threading the pristine whitescape. Beneath a bright sun unfettered by the usual accompaniment of cloud, it was a scene of Christmas card perfection. A hefty covering of snow is beautiful to regard. Its delicate muting of the landscape’s volume, blissful. Battling through it is significantly less serene. Scales Tarn and the start of Sharp Edge is, under more typical circumstances, an hour’s walk; 45 minutes if you’re moving fast and light. Packs weighed down by winter accoutrements no doubt reduced our speed, but it was wading through armpit-deep drifts and clambering over cascading banks of snow that doubled the journey time. A little over two hours after leaving the car, we slumped by the shore of Scales Tarn and eyed our objective.

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