The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 14 September 2007

Weekend in Keswick - Saturday

Last year we found some of my father’s old maps which he had marked with routes that we had walked and the dates upon which we had walked them. From one of those maps, I know that I walked up Blencathra on 28 May 1985.

Of all the hills up which we walked on family holidays in the Lakes, there are only two that I remember: Helvellyn and Blencathra. I do recall little snippets of other days out walking, but those are the only hills of which I have any detailed recollection.

Blencathra holds a particular place in my memory as there was one particular shiny slab on Sharp Edge, across which my short legs could not stretch and on which my trainers could find no purchase, which caused my mother to finally relent against the ‘but her feet will grow out of them within a few weeks’ argument and buy me my first pair of walking boots.

By way of a nostalgia trip, I wanted to go back to Blencathra to see if it was as I remembered. It having been a fine day the first time I went up there, I wanted to replicate the conditions too. With the forecast being good and the early morning sky showing promise, Saturday was the chosen day.

The early morning cloud was well into the burning off process as we set out from Scales. By the time we got over the first rise, revealing the view of Sharp Edge and the summit, the cloud was gone completely. It was a blue skied day and glorious.

Sharp Edge viewed from Scales Tarn, and Scales Tarn itself were exactly as I recalled (sad as it is, I can even remember the conversation we had as a family at Scales Tarn 22 years ago!).

We had been playing leapfrog with a group of three people all the way up to this point (we were walking more slowly but they kept stopping), and as we dallied by the tarn to don windproofs (there may have been blue skies, but there was a bit of a stiff breeze) more people trooped on up to the area and it looked like we were going to be in the middle of a whole line of people once we got onto Sharp Edge.

As it went, everyone else hung back, as if waiting for someone else to go first, and we were more than willing to be at the front of the queue.

Positively scampering up, I did nearly scare myself when I looked down from one of the more exposed areas, but a quick mental talking-to calmed the jitters and I was soon distracted when we reached the shiny slab that caused the purchase of my first pair of boots. I recognised it immediately and quickly grabbed a photo of it (a photo that would make sense to no-one but me).

Climbing up the final, steeper part, of the ridge, I just managed to get a good photo looking back before the cloud blew back in, completely obscuring the summit.

The summit ridge was somewhat breezy (in a staggering around sort of way) and in the newly collected cloud pretty parky too, so no-one was staying for too long on the summit (particularly the fell runner who ran up, touched the cairn and ran off again).

The entire ridge was walked, with not a single view to be seen. We finally dropped below the cloud half way back down to Threlkeld (and what a lovely day it still was in the valley), then just as we were about to branch off the path that led down to Threlkeld, to cut back across towards Scales, a man whose sandwiches were under threat from the local sheep population pointed out that the top was again clear. Not a cloud was seen obscuring the summit for the rest of the walk. Sod’s law eh? Glorious on the way up, glorious again once down, but not a thing to be seen whilst up there.

Hey ho. Maybe we’ll pop back up there again one day, and get to see the views. In the meantime, I'm happy enough that I saw, in good conditions, all of the bits of the hill that I remembered ... and not only did my boots find purchase on the 'bad slab' but my legs are now long enough to step over it too!

[Photos to follow next week when I have time to upload them.]

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