Keywords to this walk are: lockdown unfitness, agonising ascent, nightmare decent, time pressure, planned route unfinished.
This was a trip we planned and booked before COVID and miraculously didn’t automatically get cancelled. This walking route is also a bit unusual if you’ve been reading about my walking trips over the years. We travelled by car to the starting point this time rather than the usual public transport, which widened our choices and reduced the amount of stuff we had to carry extensively. But the flip side of the freedom a car offers is its own set of headaches: driving on unfamiliar winding narrow lanes, having to stop and breathe in for every car/camper van coming the opposite direction, (politely) fighting for very limited parking spaces, doing the actual parking challenges etc. These were all quite new to us.
A bit different to my usual walking posts, I’m giving you the OS map with our route highlighted in red and blue first. The numbers on the map correspond to the numbers on the top left corner of the photos below – those are roughly where the photos were taken. I wrote names of certain landmarks on the photos so I won’t repeat them all in the text – I figured this might be easier to follow. Hope the hand-drawn arrows help you identify the route too. The walk is 8 miles / 13 kilometres. It took us about seven hours.
Parking in a farmyard, a young woman comes over and asks if we are joining the alpaca tour. I guess these are the alpacas waiting to be toured?
Here’s the first glimpse of our route today. It’s always exciting to see the 2D orange contour lines on the OS map materialise into green humps under the sky (most of the time, different to what I expect, always a delightful surprise).
Find the cross symbol on the map: A small white church under scaffolding. There is no one in. But there is a bottle of hand sanitizer.
After a few minutes huffing and puffing and a loo break, we look back and see the starting point and small white church we passed. Realising how much height we have gained and how much distance we have covered in a short period of time is always a small comfort to my huffing and puffing.
One merit of this ridge is the meandering path. It leans to the right slope to reveal something like this (NO.5), and to the left to reveal something completely different (NO.6). There is a wide variety in the scenery which probably stops me way too often for my own good.
Looking north-west. I look over to the ridge that leads towards Robinson and keep looking covetously the whole way. Is it just me? That ridge looks a lot flatter! Two days later, we’ll be looking back at this point from Causey Pike (marked on the photo below).
Looking south-east, the direction we’re heading. I look admiringly over to the ridge linking High Spy and Maiden Moor and entertain in my mind the easy cruise on the way back down while feeling the breeze on my face and watching the glimmery Derwent Water drawing near (that retrospectively speaking, never happened).
Looking back again. The fact that I’m looking back so much makes me think that maybe we’re walking this the wrong way round? Skiddaw and Blencathra are really clear now. And I can see in my mind’s eye the razor-sharp Sharp Edge, remembering Becky’s Fitbit celebrating her steps that day with digital fireworks and hearing Dan say, ‘if I died today I’d be very annoyed with Nicole in heaven.’ Ahh good memory.
Lunch break. The last leg of ascent is particularly agonising. The summit looks formidable. All my blood is hiding in my stomach. I hardly have enough energy to lift my legs and breathe in and out, so I keep my head low, eyes glued to the ground.
I perk up the instant we’re on the summit of Hindscarth. On towards Dale Head!
I hope Pearl remembers this scene, especially the lake she had her maiden lake-swim in :)
Image NO.6 in reverse.
Going down two hundred metres altitude in the space of half a mile is painful and it takes me almost an hour. Have a look at the timestamps on the map to fully realise the ridiculousness of my descending speed. After a slip and a bruise trying to catch up with Andy, here’s Dalehead Tarn.
Crossing the rushing stream that comes out of Dalehead Tarn and we have a choice. Not really a choice. I hereby reluctantly confess to you that the blue arrows you’ve been seeing are the second half of the ridge walk that was supposed to lead us back to Keswick / Little Town but we had to give up because of time and my shaky knees.
So down we go. Again, descending three hundred metres in the space of a mile and a half is a form of torture. My feet are forever getting jammed between rocks and my legs are so weak by this point I have to use two walking sticks because I don’t trust them alone will hold my weight and the force of gravity. One day I’ll either break my ankle or my teeth and you’ll be the first to know…
I would definitely recommend walking onto High Spy, and cruise down Maiden Moor and Catbells to finish the loop, feeling the breeze on your face and seeing the glimmery Derwent Water drawing near.
Lastly, the Lake District is very busy at the moment, probably more so than usual. Please enjoy it responsibly :)