A week with Wainwright

I have missed the outdoors. It’s not that the outdoors had gone missing but I haven’t really felt like going out. So when I had the opportunity of an easy week at work, I made the most of it and headed to the hills on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Tuesday I had promised to take out the dogs, so I packed them in my car and headed to Askham and parked on the fell. It’s such a good place to have a shorter or longer walks and with views to Ullswater, it’s a great place for a stroll. As I had taken a beasting from Wiz a couple of hours earlier, I didn’t fancy a particularly hilly walk. However, it did offer me an opportunity to tick off a new Wainwright. If you’re not familiar with that name then once upon a time (in the last century), there was a man called Alfred Wainwright who loved the Lake District and wrote and drew pictorial guides for the Lakeland fells, altogether 7 books that describe 214 hills. So these hills are called Wainwrights and many people challenge themselves to walk up every one of them.

I haven’t been particularly bothered about ticking them off vigorously but as Scott and Leigh-ann gave me all of his books for my birthday, I have been looking more into it as an inspiration to get out. So last Tuesday (13th of April) I decided to walk up to one just on my doorstep that I had never done before – Arthur’s Pike (533 m).

It was a rather gentle stroll on the various tracks on the fell to join the High Street, an old Roman road that runs across the tops, and a bit of cross-country contouring to avoid going back and forth the same track. The view from the tops towards Ullswater and the Helvellyn range was gorgeous! The dogs were enjoying a good run around so much so that Tia was a bit stiff the next day. A nice 12-kilometre round in the afternoon.

On Thursday, my legs had recovered from the PT session and Scott asked if I wanted to take a ginger nut out. So I took my good pal Tia and we headed down to Haweswater. It being a sunny afternoon in Easter half term, the car park was busy. But as luck would have it, there was exactly one place for my car which saved me from having to park further down the road. I have been wanting to go up Riggendale, a nice ridge leading to High Street, for a while now. The first and only time I did that walk was with Scott only couple of weeks after I had moved here. As it is a lovely walk, I have kept meaning to do it again but never got round to it. So on Thursday (15th of April), Tia and I (aka #teamgingernut) headed up.

I was going at my own comfortable pace and I was pleased to find that I wasn’t feeling really out of breath or struggling. We kept a steady pace and I genuinely enjoyed the ascent (which I rarely do as it’s often a bit of a struggle). Mid-way, Tia found the tiniest, muddiest bog pool and dived in head first. I’m not even exaggerating, she did take a proper dive in and came out looking not so ginger. I guess the wasn’t that happy with being part of team ginger nut.

When we reached the top, I decided to walk over to the OS trig point at the top of High Street and have a quick sit down and enjoy the sunny afternoon. I then went over Mardale Ill Bell and down to Nan Bield pass. I’m pretty sure that that is where I also left Tia’s lead but by the time I discovered it down by Small Water, I wasn’t willing to climb back up again to retrieve it. So instead I ordered two new dog leads on Amazon as soon as I got back.

I made Tia go for a swim in Small Water because she was still pretty muddy from her previous dive and I didn’t particularly want her in my car like that. When we got back after a 3-hour walk, the car park was almost completely empty.

As I was feeling good after a few nice walks, I fancied a big walk on Saturday before my newly found enthusiasm died down. I was thinking about maybe doing the Kentmere Horseshoe, which would have allowed me to tick off quite a few new Wainwrights but when Scott messaged me that he was planning on heading to Langdales for a run and offer a lift, I decided to go that way instead. I love that valley – it’s so beautiful and there’s always enough to do there! This time I decided to tick off a few new fells as I was feeling confident enough to navigate on new tracks on my own for the first time in a while. I decided on Bowfell (902 m) and Crinkle Crags (859 m) and Cold Pike (701 m) – three new Wainwrights for me.

Once again I felt good and strong going up Bowfell and even overtook quite a few walkers. I didn’t feel out of breath or like I needed to stop for a breather, I just kept going. I decided to take a little climbers trod instead of the footpath that looked like it faded out on the map but I thought by looking at the hill, I would be able to still pick a way to the top. The trod turned right and at one point there looked like there was a path going up covered in scree but I decided continue on the path. I met another walker shortly who asked if I had seen his mates coming down on my way but I hadn’t passed anyone. He told me that the path leads to a few slabs after which you can scramble your way up. I didn’t quite fancy that and I also didn’t think it was a good idea with Tia, who was accompanying me again. So I headed back for a few hundred yards and went up the scree and joined the main footpath.

As I was nearing the top, I could feel the icy wind really picking up and trying to blow me over. The wind stayed with me all the way until I started descending. I quickly scrambled up the pile of boulders that’s the summit of Bowfell and headed back down the footpath towards Crinkle Crags. I was keeping warm in my new Mountain Equiment soft shell jacket as long as I kept moving. I quickly downed a sandwich and a piece of brownie on the ridge that is Crinkle Crags but it was only a few minutes’ stop before I had to get moving again.

I made it to the top and started to head down by following the cairns but they led me to an about 8 foot step that I might have been able to climb down on my own but I wasn’t even going to try it with Tia. She’s quite the mountain goat even as a nine-year-old labrador but that was way too much for her. So we headed back up for a few hundred yards and took the path that went around it instead.

On the track between Crinkle Crags and Pike O’Blisco, there were loads of people coming up. As Tia was being her stubborn self, I had to put her on her (new) lead just so I wouldn’t spend the whole way shouting her in (which didn’t work). She was just too keen on saying hello to every single person. I missed the path that went to Cold Pike, so I decided to beeline to it. I ended up picking up quite a clear path leading to the top that wasn’t marked on the map. I messaged Scott at the top that I was starting to descend and should be back at the car in an hour.

In reality it took me an hour and a half to get back to the car park. The descent was quite steep and the stones laid by Fix the Fells were so uncomfortable for downhill, so I ended up being slower than I expected. Also, I had underestimated how long the walk in had been from the car. I opened a gate to the farmer on a quadbike at the bottom and had a quick chat with him about the weather and spring in general.

Somewhere between Old and New Dungeon Ghyll, two young lads stopped me to ask whether the way to Scafell Pike (or Scayfell Pike as they called it) was signposted or whether they should take a map. It took me a good couple of moments to get my words out – the question seemed so unbelievably stupid. I told them to definitely, DEFINITELY take a map with them. “This is the Lake District,” I said, “There’s no signposts!” And that’s the truth, Lakes are notoriously protective about having signposts up, you do actually need to know what you’re doing. Just in case I also pointed out the way they needed to head because I wasn’t sure they’d be able to work that out by themselves. I just hope they weren’t another statistic for the Langdale Mountain Rescue…

I was back at the car park by 2.30pm – 5.5 hours after starting off. Down in the valley the wind was much, much gentler and it didn’t feel as cold, so I managed to sit down and have quick bite to eat before Scott arrived back about 15 minutes after me.

Those three days of being out gave me the energy to deal with what was quite a long and stressful week at work. I felt so stuck between being either at home or at work that on Wednesday I just needed to get outside, so I borrowed the dogs and headed down to the river for an hour just to save some little sanity I had left. I just hope that I somehow managed to retain some of that enthusiasm for being outside in the next couple of weeks that seemed be pretty stressful again…