My introduction to hill walking was in the Lake District more than 27 years ago. My husband was a climber and on a short visit to the Lake District suggested I walk up a mountain so it was off to the mountain shops in Keswick to be kitted out with a nylon cagoule, etc. Walking gear was not so high tech. in those days! We climbed Skiddaw which is under 3,000 feet and I don't remember it being particularly hard work but I was a good bit younger. It was to be another 17 years before I would climb another mountain and as you will know from these articles, I have hardly stopped since that time.
This year, I returned to the Lake District to walk there for the first time in 27 years and I was delighted to have a good social and walking weekend. 10 of us stayed at Glaramara Outdoor Centre and were spoiled with cooked breakfasts, nice rooms and a bar with a log fire. The Centre had beautiful views of Glaramara Mountain and the surrounding woody countryside. The Lake District is small but beautifully formed and much softer than the Scottish Mountain areas. The little villages are chocolate box with interesting links such as the poet William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter famous for inventing Winnie the Pooh.
The Wordsworth Dove Cottage at Grasmere is well worth a visit and is a haven of tranquillity with a lovely gaden and an interesting insight into the way people lived in that area 200 years ago. Dorothy Wordsworth's Diary is of particular interest as it graphically describes their daily activities including long walks. They thought nothing of walking 15 miles over the Fells in a day with the women dressed in long skirts, which must have been very muddy as the ares has the highest rainfall in England. However, even the Lake District cannot compete with the volume of Scottish rain!
On the first day, we walked up Green Gable and over to Great Cable and on to the Westmoreland Cairn where we could look down to the rocks which are a climber's paradise. These are serious climbs and not for a humble hill walker like me. The mountains and valleys are criss crossed by excellent paths which are mostly sign posted. All very civilised but the paths are much busier than Scotland as this is a small area but with a large catchment population.
On the second day, we headed towards Skiddaw to the village of Threlkeld to walk to Blencathra. Blencathra is also known as Saddleback and stands in splendid isolation on the northern boundaries of the Lake District. The five great spurs of the mountain rise from the road and culminate in a summit ridge almost three miles long gained on good paths to Scales Tarn, which is deeply hidden in the eastern folds of this great mountain. On reaching Scales Tarn (tarn is a small lake), there was a decision to be made - would we all attempt the scramble or take the easy path to the summit ridge? The weather was fine and dry and we were all feeling good so it was on to Sharp Edge, an arÃªte, which looked formidable from below but was exhilarating and straightforward when on it. Provided you don't suffer from vertigo and are with experienced scramblers in dry settled weather, the scramble is fine although I did find myself on all fours more often that I should have been but I am not good at scrambling and usually need to take advice regularly on where the next hand and footholds are. The scramble was of short duration and not nearly as sustained as the Aonach Eagadh or Curved Ridge.
We scrambled up to the broken Foule Crag at the north end of the summit ridge and walked along over the five tops. Descending, we could see the gleaming surface of Derwentwater in the distance and we completed the circular route back to Threlkeld and a well earned pint in the local pub. Congratulations to Aileen who had been worried about the scramble but swallowed her fear and just got on with it. There will be no holding her back now and she will head for the rocks at every available opportunity!
When you read this, I will be hospitalised for some surgery but hope to be back in action in the hills by the Spring
You can contact me on [email protected] with news and views.
Thanks to Tom Addie for photos.