|Lake District Walk 2006|
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Lake District Walk 2006After quite a few months planning, mainly about how we could leave the business able to function without any of our involvement, we finally set off on part one of our first 2 week holiday in over 4 years. A 6 day tour of the Lake District, walking (almost) from our front door and making a circuit of many of the famous walking and climbing mountains and valleys of the Lake District. Kiah came with us, having made arrangements in advance with each hotel to order in supplies of dog food! Amazingly all the arrangements went virtually without a hitch.
Day 1 - Duddon Valley to Langdale (13 Dec)Oblivious to the ominous start date of our walk, this was the first occasion on the trip when Lisa said I tried to kill her. We should have picked up on the early warning signs. This photo is very early on in the day, walking up Little Stand. Very low visibility and Lisa had just managed to get back on her feet again, after being blown over by a gust of wind.
It took quite a few hours before we were relieved to reach the top of The Band, having fought our way over the Crinkle Crags in what we later learned were 65+ mph winds. Kiah was being blown sideways almost as fast as she was running forwards, and Lisa seemed to spend most of the ridge crossing on her backside often with her legs in the air.
Poor visibility didn't help either. 20 feet above this point, it wasn't at all clear we'd reached the path, but I'd programmed the GPS with every major grid reference on our trip, and this was one of the occasions I resigned myself to use it. The trudge down The Band was still quite blowy and it seemed only lead boots would have prevented Lisa being launched off the path and onto the grassy slope every few minutes. Fortunately our accommodation at the ODG was excellent, and after they lit an open fire in the lounge just for us, we were blissfully happy. Lisa even forgot about the pain of her bumps and grazes including the golf ball sized bruise extending from her left elbow.
Day 2 - Langdale to BorrowdaleAfter a highly refreshing stop at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, we set off on day 2 armed with a weather forecast. It emerged that the winds would be just as bad today as yesterday, so we changed the route completely, having planned to tackle the Langdale Pikes. Instead we kept low and took the Stile Head path to Borrowdale, which we thought should be easy navigation being part of the Cumbria Way. In my overconfidence, we actually missed the turn and took a rather more roundabout route. Still a much easier day, with skin drenching rain being the main feature, and a fairly extreme sheep chasing incident coming a close second (Kiah, if you were wondering). A bit of a slog really, but it was nice to feel safe, and our accomodation at The Scafell Hotel was even better than the previous night's. Great food/wine and a very comfy residents lounge. We even had dry clothes thanks to a technique learned from Mr McGolpin - double wrapping your stuff in a strong bin liner.
Day 3 - Walks around BorrowdaleWe'd planned to stay 2 nights at The Scafell, to enjoy a break from carrying our stuff. With a lighter pack and improved conditions, day 3 turned out to be a cracker. Much less rain and wind, and a nice ascent of Dale Head and Hindscarth. The feature of day 3 was snow, with plenty on the tops though visibility was lacking there too.
Day 4 - Borrowdale to WasdaleThe weather continued to improve, so we stuck with our original plan of crossing over to Wasdale via Green Gable and Great Gable. We were starting to feel a bit pleased with ourselves now, declaring every hour or so that "who dares wins". This turned out to be another of those days when Lisa would accuse me of trying to kill her.
After passing through "the other Seathwaite" which wasn't much to write home about (though it is the wettest place in England), we got up to Green Gable without much trouble. On the tops there was no shortage of snow, and there was even some visibility. It could disappear in a second though, so you had to make the most of the gaps. The crossing to Great Gable looked fun, and (as they always do) was quite a bit steeper than I'd imagined from the map. With all the snow it also wasn't clear where the path went, but as two people had gone ahead of us we just followed their footprints.
Lisa was quite relieved by the time we got to the descent. The problem had been that the path we took involved a steep snow covered scramble. A couple of times I'd reached up to get a good hand hold on a rock, to suddenly find that a boulder the size of small TV had come away in my hands. I had to hang on tight otherwise it would have gone crashing down on top of Kiah who was right behind me, and probably taken out a few walkers further down the slope as well.
Quite a few piccies today. After we descended to Styhead Pass and made our descent into Wasdale the afternoon turned glorious.
(Click the photo to see an enlargement)
Although the walks weren't that long, given the time of year, we were often cutting it fine to get to our destination before darkness. On this afternoon/evening though we were at our most westerly point, and enjoyed a great sunset as a reward for our efforts.
We spent the night at the Wasdale Head, which completely surprised us in terms of the standard of accomodation. We'd been prepared for hearty food and solid/clean accomodation. In fact it was fine dining in an oak panelled dining room, and everything else to a much higher standard than we'd expected. A lot of this was down to the fact that the Wasdale Head is considered pretty much the base for English climbing, being the natural starting point for an ascent of Scafell and Scafell Pike (highest mountain in England). The hotel was crammed with old photos and memorabilia.
It was on this evening, that after reading various guides in the residents lounge, I started to deliberate about whether we should really ascend Scafell via "The Lords Rake".
Day 5 - Wasdale to EskdaleFeeling rested and very well fed again, we set off from the Wasdale Head to ascend Scafell via an infamous route called the Lords Rake. Day 5 was a Sunday, the Lord's Day, but we were quite keen not to meet him.
At this point on the path you get the option to bear left and take the relatively easy "A road" which snakes its way up to Scafell Pike. Scafell Pike is higher than Scafell, but on most warm days in the Summer you could expect to see the odd granny taking photos on the top amongst the throngs.
"The Lords Rake"This was the day when both Lisa and the dog were close to tears. I believe Lisa's words were "I can't believe you made me do this". Actually it was on a loose scree slope trying to find the hidden entrance to the Lord's Rake that Lisa was more scared. It wasn't excessively steep, but if you aren't used to scree, it can be very unsettling when you can't put a foot down and be sure it will stay in one place. Once we found the entrance, the rake actually looked quite simple. It was steep but the loose rocks covering the gully were large and generally stayed still when you stood on them. However, as Wainwright says, "there are 3 ups and 2 downs". Kiah didn't like the first "down" and had to be carried whining, and both Lisa and I were feeling a bit wobbly on the 3rd up. It was more exposed than I expected, and with a snowy covering it seemed all too easy to miss a footing and go tumbling. Wainright had said "the Lords Rake is not dangerous", but I suspect that it has suffered a lot of erosion since he wrote that.
We were all relieved to get to the end of the rake, at which point the going became very simple. We were very grateful for all the cairns though, as the path was hidden by snow. In fact there were parts around the summit where I found myself up to my thighs in deep snow.
Visibility was patchy again, but when we did get a gap in the clouds the view could be quite spectacular, looking down into Wasdale as this photo shows or into Eskdale or out to sea.
We spent this last night at The Boot Inn in Eskdale, where Lillian and Jeff joined us for dinner.
Day 6 - Eskdale to Duddon ValleyOn our final day we enjoyed the best weather of the week. Clear skies and a warm sun (and the fact that Lillian and Jeff had taken all our excess baggage back home for us) turned the ascent of Harter Fell into an enjoyable stroll.
This is a photo of Scafell (white top) taken from the Eskdale side of Harter Fell.
Safely "back in the shires" life was calm and tranquil, and the river Duddon flowed gently down to the sea.
We stopped in the Newfield for a quick drink, to complete my goal of drinking a pint in each "important" pub in every valley we had visited.