Knee Injury on Blencathra

Knee Injury on Blencathra

A story of self reliance. A walker with vertigo attempts Blencathra but comes away injured

Knee Injury on Blencathra 

Knee Injury on Blencathra

A story of self reliance. A walker with vertigo attempts Blencathra but comes away injured

By Alan Taylor

It was August Bank Holiday Monday 2011. It was the day I was due to travel home from the Lakes to Bolton after the last day of my week's holiday. The weather was great though! Clear blue skies and hardly a breath of wind, so I needed to head to the hills for one last time.

I suffer from mild vertigo. A condition that has gotten better over time as I have become more and more familiar with high ground, so I decided to tackle a walk that I had been considering for some time…..Blencathra via Halls Fell Ridge, then descend to Scales Tarn before summiting Blencathra again via Sharp Edge….an epic!

Halls Fell Ridge and I have history. On my first attempt of Blencathra I headed along the ridge but turned back as I just didn’t fancy it….but that was ages ago and today I was feeling confident!

All started well…..I was following the crest of the ridge without difficulty….then I came across a gash in the rock. There was a gap of around 2-3 feet to be crossed, and the ground ahead was slightly higher that where I was. There was quite a fall either side and a felt really exposed. To matters worse, the rock ahead was covered in black moss that was wet and pretty slippery after the previous weeks rainfall.

I stopped and thought about it for a minute, but decided to give it a go!

I managed to edge down the gap and keep a decent hand hold of the rock ahead, so I was feeling pretty good. I proceeded. I had just one last manoeuvre to make it safely to the higher ground ahead. This involved getting my right foot onto a footing above waist height onto exposed ground, but the hand holds were good so “no problem” I thought!

What happened next was a disaster! I brought my right leg up and in doing so my bent knee cap cracked against a protruding rock and there was an explosion of blood! My hand hold remained firm and I managed to climb to the higher ground and find safety.

I was shaking and there was blood pouring from my knee. My first thought was to try and clean the cut and stop the bleeding. I always carry a small first aid kit and so sat down and took an antiseptic wipe out and cleaned the cut. I next took out a bandage and wrapped round my knee. This stopped the blood and I stopped for a while and had something to eat whilst I calmed down.


As I started walking again, the cut on my knee opened immediately! It was right on the tip of the kneecap so every time I bent my knee it opened up. The bandage was now covered In blood and all but useless. I had a genius idea! I had a Buff with me!! I wrapped the Buff around my knee over the top of the bandage. This was much tighter and gave me the confidence to the get to the top of Blencathra.

As I reached the summit, I was pretty shattered and must have looked a mess as a visiting party to the summit came over to me to see if I was ok and if I needed some help (thank you whoever you were). I declined and made my way off the summit in the direction of Scales Tarn.

After a short distance I decided to stop again for a break. Sat on the grass, overlooking Scales Tarn towards Sharp Edge, I was feeling much better. Over a cup of coffee I decided to have a crack at Sharp Edge. I was sat for around 15 minutes before I tried to stand up again. It was apparent immediately that I was not going to tackle Sharp Edge! My knee had stiffened and would not bend at all!

My confidence had vanished and I began to become concerned that I was not going to get down!!

“Walking poles….i have walking poles strapped to my rucksack I thought!”

I limped down with the use of walking poles to my car via Doddick Fell Ridge. It was a slow, awkward and painful process, but I managed it. I had a better first aid kit back at the car, so took off my makeshift dressing and had another go at cleaning the wound, and dressed it with a clean bandage.

Home & Hospital

I managed to get into the car and drove the 1 and ½ hours back to my Bolton home. As I pulled up on the drive, ready to tell the wife about my epic adventure, I froze. My knee had become that stiff, I was unable to get out of the car!

I phone the wife inside the house, and explained what had happened. I decided to drive directly to the Hospital!! She came with me and assisted me into Accident and Emergency.

I was see very quickly and was given pain killers. I went I for an examination. This involved a nurse cleaning my cut with what can only be described as sulphuric acid!

Next….and x-ray. The x-ray was not clear due to the amount of swelling and fluid on the knee so I was asked to go back the next day. Another x-ray 24 hours later showed that the knee cap had shattered on the top…..brilliant! There was still lots of fluid and I was asked to rest and avoid any movement for a couple of days.

I returned to hospital 48 hours later for a further x-ray. This was much clearer. It confirmed that the knee cap had shattered, but luckily (that’s what they said….luckily!) there was no damage to the joint. The advice changed…..”do as much exercise as you can to build up the muscles” they said!

I walked on it as much as I could, but it was still bloody painful!

Royal Bolton Hospital were amazing throughout the process. I must have had 5 x-rays over the space of 2 weeks and I was reassured throughout the heeling process that things were going well.

The heeling process went well, and a mere 3 weeks after the injury, I summited Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete (well it was booked and I didn’t want to lose my hotel deposit).

I still have some knee issues. In particular, it aches and stiffens when I’m still for any period of time. The bone has heeled to form a solid lump on the tip of the knee, but the doctors say that it is “within normal tolerances”.

Alan's Lessons Learnt

1. Mountains are dangerous
2. Always carry a first aid kit
3. Always carry walking poles
4. Always carry a buff

Connect with Alan on Twitter @Vertigo_Alan

Comment from MountainSafety

First of all; a big than you to Alan for sharing this real life story here. And what a story!

Alan had the correct kit, patched himself up and got home without the need to call for mountain rescue, which, given the situation would have been a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Great self reliance and well done!