Bannerdale Crags

Published 12 April 2017

Bannerdale Crags

The crags themselves, complete with an excellent cairn

On 25 October 2016 I headed up to explore the five fells in the Blencathra range: Souther Fell, Blencathra, Mungrisdale Common, Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell. Things could only look up as I visited my fourth fell of the day.

The sensible person standing at Blencathra takes heed of Wainwright’s instructions and walks the ridge route from Blencathra to Bannerdale Crags. Although, if I’m brutally honest, his opening gambit on describing the walk does rather seem like he’s damming it with faint praise.

“This is the best walk available from Blencathra to a neighbouring summit within easy reach,” he says. Hardly a glowing endorsement in my book, although it’s better than his words of praise for the walk to Souther Fell, which is described as “poor fare after Blencathra and the scenery deteriorates all the way.”

Either option is, of course, preferable to that of the walk from Mungrisdale Common. But as we have previously established, only an utter nut-job would want to walk to that fell from Blencathra, and then go on to Bannerdale Crags.

Anyway, let’s not get into this whole “what is a sensible person?” thing? Besides, being sensible is so boring. If I was sensible I’d be living in the uber practical and well maintained 1980s semi-detached house in a cul-de-sac on a housing estate, instead of a money-pit Victorian semi on a main road with decking in the garden that looks like it’s going to collapse every time I walk on it.

The grassy, uninteresting path from Mungrisedale Common to Bannerdale Crags

The grassy, uninteresting path from Mungrisedale Common to Bannerdale Crags

Enough! This is straying so far off the point that I’m not even particularly sure where the point in the first place. And before you accuse me of wittering on about any old rubbish because there was just nothing to say about the journey between Mungrisdale Common and Bannerdale Crags, well let me tell you that you were just so very wrong. For starters there was the fine view of the back of Blencathra. No, actually scrub that, for if we’re totally honest, the back of Blencathra looks rather dull in comparison to the front of the fell.

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. There really wasn’t much to say. The path I followed was just a grassy track on a waterlogged hill. Were it not for the constant threat of finding myself up to my knees in cold fell-top water, I would have completely switched off. It was only as I began to approach Bannerdale Crag’s summit that I began to properly pay attention. Which is probably a good thing, as if I hadn’t, I would probably have walked straight over the edge of the crags themselves.

At one time the name Bannerdale Crags was used only to describe the craggy flank on the north eastern side of the fell, that I now walked along on my way to the summit. But over time, that changed and the name eventually began to be applied to the whole fell. That does mean though that the summit isn’t really the star of the show. And the summit cairn knows it; just a squat pile of rocks mark the fact that you’re 683m above sea level.

Flat summit cairn on Bannerdale Crags

The rather flat summit cairn of Bannerdale Crags

Lacklustre? Yes. It was rather. Whenever I get to a summit I like to pause for a moment. Give it the respect it deserves. The bagging of every fell is, after all, an occasion to be celebrated. It’s another step completed on a 214 fell journey, and that deserves a mini-celebration. It just feels wrong to arrive at a fell top and instantly move on. So I drag my trusty Wainwright guide out of my bag, give it a good read, and then take in the view.

But the best view at Bannerdale Crags is, as Wainwright will tell you, not at the summit, but a short distance away near the edge, and at a far finer looking cairn. So no sooner had I reached the highest point of Bannerdale Crags, and I was off again.

This non-summit cairn itself was perhaps one of the best I’ve seen in Lakeland, and believe me, I’ve seen a lot of cairns. It wasn’t particularly arty or intricate; no rocks precariously balancing on top of each other, here. This was a far simpler structure, but there was something fantastic about its simplicity. It consisted of a tall, pretty flat rock stood, jutting out of the ground at an angle. In a way it looked like someone had taken a large, thick piece of slate, shoved it in the ground at a rakish angle, and surrounded it by smaller rocks.

Cairn on Bannerdale Crags

A mighty fine looking cairn on Bannerdale Crags

I’m not really sure that’s a description that really does it justice. Let’s try again. It was man-made, yet gave the aura of being natural; like the world had created it for its own amusement for no other reason than that it wanted something on the fell top that looked rather lovely.

Is it possible for a mere cairn to steal the show at the top of a fell? Yes, but not at Bannerdale Crags, for the view was certainly very pleasing. Like the top of Souther Fell, I could stare off lovingly towards the Eden Valley, and I was pretty sure that lump in the far distance was Cross Fell. Would there be any Pennine Way walkers stood on top of that looking towards me, I wondered? Closer to home was the village of Mungrisdale (pronounced Mun-grize-dl I am reliably informed), and a splendid view of Sharp Edge at the side of Blencathra, set against the bright afternoon sunlight.

Ending on Bannerdale Crags would have been a fine way to wrap up the day. However there was still one more fell on my list to do. My plan for the day would see me take in all five of the fells in the Blencathra area, and was time to go off and to the last one. And so with a hop, skip and a jump – but not too close to the edge of the crags of course – I headed off to Bowscale Fell.

View from Bannerdale Crags towards the Eden Valley

Looking towards the Eden Valley from Bannerdale Crags

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