Posted in Fitness challenges, Walks

Bow Fell and the Good Samaritans

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Back in October 2012, I have an entry in my diary saying ‘Lake District Mountain’ and ‘sunny’. Wainwright would have been horrified at such scant details. Thankfully at a later point, I had penned the name of this mystery mountain in a different colour of ink.

Bow Fell. My first ‘proper’ mountain (excluding Pen y Gwent in the Yorkshire Dales) and my first ever Wainwright. I actually can’t remember my first time that well, maybe I was too focused on breathing while going steadily upwards! I seem to remember a river while going down though…

So it is now May 2019, with about 12 Wainwrights completed, Snowdon, the three Yorkshire peaks (not all at once), Mam Tor and Kinder Scout, I may be a few years older but surely more experienced at hill walking?

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Sundew spotted en route to Bow Fell

Bow Fell Part 2 must surely be easier than Part 1…

No.

It was a bad start when we realised that we didn’t have the map we actually needed. It was left in the house and instead we had an older, less defined map which would just have to do.

There were a few flattened out plateaus, but it felt mostly uphill and heavy going. Strangely, for a bank holiday, there were not many hikers until nearer the top.

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We passed three tarns and walked and scrambled up many peaks, each time I thought, is this it?

And each time my hopes were shattered. We finally reached the top and decided, instead of going back the way we came, we would take a shortcut down and walk along the river. We followed the river the last time so it must be the right route.

By this time, the rain had got heavier and it was getting more difficult to see with the increasing mist.

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Wearing glasses ironically makes it even harder to see when the water lashes down onto the lenses and smears the vision.

So there was poor visibility, poor weather, and the steep downhill section had, what looked to me, slippery rocks, ready to trip me up.

Here’s the truth – I’m not scared of heights. I am scared of falling, slipping, sliding and doing myself an injury.

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At the top of Bow Fell

I did it on Skiddaw (skid by name, skid by nature). I ended up with a sprained ankle, not a nice experience but it could have been worse. Much worse.

So our wet, slippery journey down the mountain was not fun. Hence why there are not many photos of this particular walk, I gave up taking photos fairly early on.

Finally we reached the bottom and continued along the river, where we passed a tent, feeling envious of the dry person or persons inside while we traipsed on what seemed a never-ending trail, sogging wet.

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Eventually we got to a farmhouse and a road, not quite a main one, but a road nevertheless.

But it was bad news. We didn’t have a clue where we were. The river was not our river, not the stream we walked along the previous time. This watercourse was some random one that had no connection with where we wanted to be.

We were tempted to ring the bell at the farmhouse. Instead, we looked at the location in the red phone box, tried to locate it on the vague 1972 map, which isn’t much good, and eventually we two luddites tried to get Google directions on our phones.

We hovered at the side of the road, soaking wet and miserable, awaiting unsuspecting passer-bys.

A cyclist came around the corner, he was in no mood to stop but Simon waved him down and asked about directions. The cyclist was annoyed, he was actually in a race but he reluctantly – though helpfully –  told us we were eight miles away from our car park and two miles away from the nearest village in the opposite direction.

This was not good news.

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We grovelled our thanks to the cyclist, feeling bad about interrupting his race, and feeling even worse about our location. If it was not wet, if we were not tired or exhausted, we could walk to the nearest village and hopefully there would be a pub to dry off and a number to ring for a local taxi to take us where we wanted to be.

It was our only option.

Later, Simon told me he didn’t think I would be able to walk those two miles – that even he would have found it hard. It’s amazing to think how little two miles sound when you’re not soaked, exhausted, chilled and hungry.

Despite this, we started to head in the direction of the village despondently.

There may not have been a pub, or even any taxi service nearby. But we will not have been able to walk eight miles, that was for sure.

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And then two angels (that is how it felt for me!) arrived, in the form of a young couple driving a large blue van.

Simon asked about directions again and…

Words to my ears…

‘Do you want a lift back to your car? We’re going in that direction anyway.’

They even apologised about us having to sit down on the floor of their van! They chatted throughout the journey, putting us at our ease and after about 20 minutes or half an hour, we arrived at our car.

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They wouldn’t even take any payment!

There are two ways to see this particular and memorable day.

We should have had a proper map, I shouldn’t be so reliant on Simon, we both should have paid more attention. If I was fitter, I wouldn’t have been so exhausted at a point that could have been more worrying had we not received such kind help.

So a lot of lessons to learn.

On the other hand, it’s when you fall on hard times, even as temporarily as this, that is when you do encounter kind, generous people, such as Phil and his partner, who restore one’s faith in humans.

Thank you.

Posted in Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures

Trek Diary: April – Scafell Pike (height: 3,210ft/978m)

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When I was a teenager, the Big One was a rollercoaster in Blackpool. Incredibly high (was it the highest in England at the time?) and rather scary, the views over the Blackpool coast – if you hadn’t closed your eyes in sheer terror – were wonderful.

I loved it.

Go forward a few (and then some!) years later and wanting to go up the Big One has a very different connotation to way back then. This time the Big One is in the Lake District and is Scafell Pike.

High, tick. Scary, tick. Views (weather permitting), tick.

Simon and I were going on a walking weekend to the Lake District. And as it was a ‘big’ birthday, (21st since you’re asking 😉), I decided I wanted to do what any normal person would want to do to mark a significant date.

Climb the highest mountain in England, of course! ☺️⛰️

So with trepidation, I awoke sluggishly at 5.45am one Saturday morning and by 7am, we were off. We headed past Wast Water, a tranquil lake overlooked by steep mountains, and parked in the National Trust car park, complete with wooden refreshments stall, information board on Scafell Pike conditions (cold in a word) and festival-style portaloos.

There were many walkers on our distinct stony path leading uphill and seeing them resting en route made me feel happier, as if I was given permission to rest too. But we kept going mostly. It was hard, as there appeared to be very few flat sections – so when there was one I felt as if it were the equivalent of a good afternoon nap compared to the uphill trudge! Compared to Pendle Hill, it was more gradual, not as steep, but much longer. And still onwards and upwards… And upwards…

I was grateful then that we had trekked up that bewitched Pendle Hill twice as this felt, definitely not easy, but more tolerable than I was expecting. And I was glad I had tried to become fitter by swimming and walking. I wasn’t fit at this point, but more so than a few months ago and it made a difference.

 

Looking back was the stunning sight of Wast Water.

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Wainwright says the usual route from Wasdale Head (near where we started from) was via Brown Tongue – the shortest way but ‘also the dullest unless the opportunity is taken to visit Mickledore by a deviation from the path’.

Do we take the nice easier option to the top (my choice!) or go the, what Wainwright calls, ‘magnificent’ journey into Hollow Stones and along the Mickledore Ridge? 🤔

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Mickledore it was. Its name reminded me of Mordor in Lord of the Rings. What would Frodo do?

I thought it was tough walking up the path. It was nothing compared to what was ahead. A steep scree gully called Lord’s Rake.

At first, it was not so steep and the scree not so loose, it was manageable. But it got narrower, steeper, and the rocks I placed my feet on seemed to collapse on contact.

Falling, sliding and slipping all seemed viable options… And the bottom seemed to get further and further away with each foothold.

I was not enjoying this. Concentration was key and so was bravery. A young woman in front of me was crying, her courage having left her. I knew the feeling. Along with her boyfriend, they let us go in front. As Simon told me the safest places to climb up, I felt sure that, behind us, his advice would help her too. And once we got up, they weren’t too far behind.

Like me, she too had conquered her fears.

At the top, on Mickledore, we followed the ridge – once again full of rocks and stones – past a mountain kit store, mentioned in my 1979 map, up a more gradual path to the top.

The final hurdle was a rocky barren landscape, there was even a patch of snow. We had to be careful we didn’t fall through the cracks of this makeshift pavement. Onwards and upwards, passing various cairns but not the real deal until…

 

There it was – the summit. A huge cairn and a trig point. Many fellow achievers were there, celebrating having made it, including two Yorkshire terriers – in mini-rucksacks adorned by their humans. It was misty so no wondrous views although there was a lake – Buttermere we were told – in the distance as we climbed down.

 

As Wainwright says, the paths are distinct but uneasy to walk on, because of the boulders. We headed back to Wasdale Head via Brown Tongue and Lingmell Col. Wainwright says this tourist route is ‘a tiring and uninteresting grind, designed to preserve users from falls’.

But at that moment, that suited me fine. We passed various hikers and they passed us. A couple of weary travellers asked us hopefully, ‘How long to the top?’  ‘About half an hour’, Simon said honestly. Faces fell. A man in a group on the way down clutched a can of lager, perhaps to celebrate reaching the top?

Instead of venturing left to the car park, we went right, heading to the little village itself. The mile stretched itself as far as it could. Once there, a quick visit to the gift/hiking shop – you can buy a certificate marking your achievement for a pound  – and an evening meal in the pub before wearily traipsing back to the car and to our B&B.