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back to Book Reviews

Blencathra – Portrait of a Mountain
by Ronald Turnbull
ISBN: 978-0-7112-2986-0
Frances Lincoln

BlencathraThis book encompasses not only Blencathra (or Saddleback as it is often known) but also ‘Back o’Blencathra’, thus including Souther Fell, Bowscale Fell, Bannerdale Crags, Carrock Fell, High Pike and Mungrisdale Common (the latter fell the object of some fun and described as ‘The Worst Wainwright’).

The glory of the book is, of course, Blencathra itself, described by the author (with considerable justification) as ‘The Fell with Everything’. Ronald Turnbull refers to as many as twenty different routes up Blencathra, including the grade 1 scrambles of Hall’s Fell and Sharp Edge, considered to be two of the finest ascents to be found anywhere in the Lake District. Five of the twenty routes are via Bannerdale Crags and Bowscale Fell.

Although the book contains much interesting information, it remains the case that this is essentially a coffee table book, with the text comprising not more than about a quarter of the 170 pages. There are numerous excellent photographs, with many double-page spreads, that do full justice to this fine mountain.

The text itself is well written – wittily so at times – and clearly set out, briefly covering the topics of geological formation and mining history, in addition to descriptions of the excellent and varied fellwalking to be found in this northern area of the Lake District.

I enjoyed the reference to our esteemed chairman, Eric Robson, as being the archbishop to the deity of AW. Chris Jesty is likened to St Paul, in his role as ‘the interpreter for today, the revisionist of the Wainwright guides’.

While not being amongst the top ten highest of the Wainwright fells, Blencathra is often regarded as the connoisseur’s mountain. It secured a place amongst AW’s half-dozen finest fells and was described by him as ‘one of the grandest objects in Lakeland’. Ronald Turnbull has done it full justice in this affectionate portrait. Although not cheap, this is a book that will sit impressively in any Lake District lover’s collection.

reviewed by Kevin Whalley - Member No. 743