Early doors. We are up to Great Dodd just after 9am, on top of the world without another soul. The rolling Northern hills of the great Easter(n) ridge maybe less dramatic than the middle, but wonderfully empty and provide a spectacular view of the path ahead. A brief snack in the fierce cycling wind and then off, that way. One by one we check in, touch, then go.
Quickly they fall to us, ridge walking is easy when the weather is this good and with an early start. Watson's Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd, down to Sticks Pass and up to Raise and White Side where we rested again. There's a few other walkers up by now.
The push up Helvellyn Lower Man is more taxing in mounting heat, but views of Swirral Edge are worth it. Last time we were here we missed this scramble in the clag entirely, walking round the long way down to Glenridding after Striding Edge.
Helvellyn is busy as a high street by lunchtime, not helped by a 1 man climbing team having set up a big tent on the summit selling teas and bacon butties to raise money for a private expedition to Peru. Public-school boy-scouts, tssk. We move on, stopping for our lunch down the other side of Striding Edge. Its fun to watch the walkers negotiating the chimney, away from the crowds.
We head off to Dollywagon Pike, giving great views of St. Sunday Crag and the southern Fells, and then down to Grisedale Tarn by 3pm. We were making better time than expected, which left us with a conundrum. We had planned to camp here this evening, but it was too early and too hot to wait. Instead we let the winds dancing on the water hypnotise us for a little while, before refilling water bottles and moving off.
Avoiding the steep scree covered climb to Fairfield on the west, we aim up the side of St. Sunday Crag. This is a beautiful alpine style path that takes you high above the lake and allows us to look back at the ground covered today. I remember seeing similar views from a bitterly cold Fairfield in October 2007 and thinking these mountains looked impossibly unreachable and unknowable - we are getting a bit better at this walking thing, after all. More importantly, we are beginning to understand how these hills join up with one another - to see the lie of the land.
We head sharp right and into a steep high pull up Cofa Pike, which is a stunning little scramble. By the time we get to Fairfield though, our legs are wobbling and we are sorely in need of sugary calories - its tough in the heat with bags.
Fairfield is quiet, most others have already gone down for today. We stop awhile and recoup, the sheep are cheeky in these parts and approach for feeding! A good spot for navigation practice (successful) and head off for Dove crag and the walk out. We've a vague idea that we'll aim for Ambleside this evening but will see how we go - Cofa Pike turned our legs to jelly!
The walk from Fairfield to high Pike and Low Pike is long as the shadows mount, a grand ceremony of a ridge line. We spy over into Dovedale and as the ground turns from spikey boulders to grassy slopes, enjoy the sloping scoops of the Pikes, and the artfully made wall we are following down to the town in the distance. We haven't come this way before.
We pull up about half an hour outside of the town, near High Sweden Bridge, and hang the tarp high from a tree, hidden near the river. When we stop walking, our bodies continue on, generating huge amounts of heat - so we both go in for a quick bath. Its late, but we make a wood fire and eat cous cous before the rain comes in the early hours. A good Good Friday.
distance: 12.5m or 20.3 kms
elevation range: 710ms
Day 8 - the Langdale Pikes
We wake early as usual by now and pack up for the half hour into Ambleside. We have completed the circuit a day early which leaves us with a leisurely morning eating breakfast in the town, before catching the bus into Langdale. This means we can squeeze in some more hills. Meanwhile the walk out is pretty enough, though Ambleside seems insanely busy after the airy headspace of the last 2 days. Am I turning into a hermit?
After depositing our kit and eating lunch at the lovely NT campsite in Langdale, we aim for Stickle Tarn and the Langdale Pikes. The path up to the tarn is in full sunday stroller spate. The climb above Parvey Ark the path to the east takes us up through a gully to the top, before the cloud comes in. The crowds thin out, now only those determined are here. Parvey Ark is a brooding reptilian monster.
Next, Harrison Stickle, and the summer service of the last week is temporarily suspended and normal Lake District weather is resumed. This means there is no problem with heat haze, and we both enjoyed the next couple of hours in moderate rain, and colours begin to show themselves again.
It is great to be in this huge central area of the Fells for the first time, and I'm now thinking of another trip to explore it properly over a few days of high camps. After donning the waterproofs, we aim for the nipple shaped mini mountain of Stickle Pike.
On top here after a wee scramble on oily wet rock, we have 360 views of the cloud moving in fast and furious, over Sargents crag and Glaramara and other tops we've yet to identify. Oh, to the weather, without which the territory is nothing at all. On the way down via the dramatic Dungeon Gyll path, the rain slowly starts to clear. We see this behind...
and this across...
and this when we hit the valley floor.
Langdale is awereet by us and no mistake. Repair to the pub for great food and a beer and back for a shower and bed.
distance: 5.9m or 9.4kms
elevation range: 680ms approx
Day 9 - threading the eye of the needle: Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Pike of Blisco.
Our last full day, we walk out along the Cumbria Way for about an hour, and then cut left high up to Angle Tarn via Rossett Gyll. Today its hot by 9am and promises to be much clearer after the rain yesterday, we are tired early. I fantasise about pasties as we climb to the Tarn.
After a brief pause we hang left and left again, around the back of the bulk of Bowfell. Once at the top of the col, its left again, up to the summit and a growing crowd. A Search and Rescue Helicopter practices maneuvers on the Pikes across the valley but its strangely tranquil despite the crowds and the noise of distant engines. The view back to Mickleden and Langdale is impressive, but the heat haze still loiters a little.
After lunch out of the biting wind off the sea, we walk up and over to Crinkle Crags. These have always eluded us despite several trips so its great to finally see what the fuss is about. Its Easter Sunday so a busy path is inevitable, but there are still magic moments to be found if sought out. Bowfell is some mountain.
We stop and lie down in the lee of a sheltering rock for a while, to warm up like basking snakes away from the wind. I stop by a small tarn and record the sound of the wind in the grasses, whilst T walks on a little. We sit often, then clamber up the fissured slabs away from the path, to the top of each crinkle. We take our time and survey hills we have walked up on previous trips, but from previously unseen angles.
Later, I think on the 3rd crag but I wasn't counting, we encounter a lady sitting with greyhound. She's obviously had enough, if not quite cragfast. There's a bad step, apparently. We help one couple down and then the lady, finally the dog. The dog is frightened and wees on me and another guy who by this time has come to help - not what I'd planned exactly, still the other guy got the lions (dog's?) share. Hopefully she and her husband will take note and get a full dog harness a la Reuben on BBB, so they can do their own lifting in the future. We saw them later and they were very gracious, whilst the poor mutt had a stress relieving snooze by a stream! It was interesting though, helping out - I sort of enjoyed it, despite the dog wee, and did OK talking her down. Instinct kicked into play, seemed to know what to say and where to place hands and feet, both mine and hers.
But the best was for last. Coming off the Crinkle crags we descend onto an other worldly plateau-like mountain, Cold Pike. This rises only slightly to its peak, a quiet, broad monolithic pedestal from which to view the Coniston Fells before us. Then down to the stream near Red Tarn for a paddle of hot toes.
And finally, the last Pike. Blisco is reached late, and its quiet, being separated from the crags and frequented much less at a guess. Our walk accompanied by one of the couples from earlier - Swiss and Sri Lankan, both living in Hull. Nice pair. We chat as we walk up.
It was the last proper hill of the trip, the shadows were deep and long, and we could see over to Dow Crag and Eskdale, where we had begun our walk a week or so ago. The hills, as they mostly do, had welcomed us despite almost hammy levels of world weariness on our part at the beginning, and seeing it laid out now made some sort of finale to our trip. A few moments of bliss on Blisco, yeah I'm mindful of the gap.
distance: 9.4m or 15.4 km
elevation range: 700ms approx
Day 10 - home again, via the Cumbria way to Ambleside
We thought we'd walk out, since we had time for that but not for a big hill. We went via Chapel Stile, Elterwater, Skelworth Bridge and finally up to Loughrigg Fell top, and saw lots of prams, cotton clothing and wild garlic before reaching town.
"I can't walk and think at the same time"
|Sit up and beg - the shop at Chapel Stile is an old school beauty|
|Tasty wild garlic at Elterwater edge|
|We survey the new Kirkstone range of UL sitmats|
|Shop at Skelworth bridge....or don't! Philippe, really, I ask ya.....|
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Thanks as always, for tuning in.