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]

Wednesday 31 December 2008

The Lakes For A Day

The bonus of having had a house full of guests for Christmas was that it forced a serious tidy-up. That meant that when, on Monday night, we belatedly decided to pop up to the Lakes for a couple of days, all of the kit was exactly where it should have been. We were packed in record time.

Early yesterday morning the kit was stowed in the car and in we had got too before I noticed that contrary to the crisp, frosty, clear skied morning I expected, based on the forecast that had led to this quick trip away, it was mild and cloudy. But, we were on our way by then so all I could do was hope that the forecast was holding true ‘up North’.

Sure enough, as we approached the Lakes the misty-gloom started to thin and finally blue sky was seen.

Into the half empty NT car park at Rosthwaite we pulled at just gone 10am, where we sat for twenty minutes sharing a cup of tea and watching the occupants of the fast-filling car park faff around their cars before setting out for their own walks.

After much car boot faffing ourselves, out of the car park we headed and for reasons unknown decided to cross the River Derwent on the perilously icy stepping stones rather than via the bridge a short distance further along.

Up Tongue Gill we headed, already feeling like we were in a procession as a group of five followed us over the stile. The cold weather was enough to entice me into a fast walk up the initial part of the hill, so we soon got ahead of them. In fact, for much of the walk up, as long as we didn’t look back, we could have kidded ourselves that we were almost alone.

Great swathes of ice on the path demanded attention, but in between them we were able to look around to the frosty valley and the clear tops around – exactly what we had come for.

Once up on the ridge we could see lots and lots of people were making their way up High Spy, using the path immediately above Eel Crags. That seemed like a good reason for us to use the path slightly to the east, which, somewhat inexplicably was being universally shunned by others.

By the time we got to the top of High Spy people were sitting all around, reaching for their Thermos Flasks. How was it lunchtime already? I’m not accustomed to these late starts. We didn’t pause for sustenance at this point, although we did dig out the Stickpic for its first proper trial.

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By the time we got to just before Maiden Moor a slight breeze had picked up and the already cold temperature felt even colder. As we stopped in a sheltered spot of sunshine for our soup I was cool even with my down jacket thrown over my Paramo, and with two hats atop my head.


The walk up the last stretch of Maiden Moor soon got the blood pumping again, and it was as we started down the other side that an ‘Oh my goodness’ escaped me – I had just spotted the spectacle of the top of Catbells, and as I observed yesterday I have never seen so many people on one hilltop.

Fortunately, by the time we got there, many of those people had headed off, and we just had a couple of dozen people with whom to share it. It didn’t make for a desire to tarry there.

The views were spectacular and the ridge ahead did look enticing, but by this point I wasn’t inclined to complete it. It was the length of the valley walk back to the car that was putting me off, so, we retraced our steps a short distance and headed down the stone staircase that has been built there in the name of anti-erosion.

We made it back to Rosthwaite before the Flock-In Tearoom closed and it seemed rude to pass by without popping in for a mug of tea, some of their tasty food and a leg of lamb for Sunday.

The plan had been to camp the night, finally testing out the new tent. But that meant making our way to one of the few campsites open at this time of year, pitching a new tent in the dark, contending with frozen ground, and spending a night in the cold, purely so that we could drive home in the morning – all of which was weighed against the option of a nice warm bed at home. The warm bed won and so the new tent remains untested.

The stats were 8.75 miles and 2500 feet of ascent. Six hours driving for five hours of walking – but worthwhile given the spectacularly good conditions.

Here’s the day in pictures:


  1. What a great way to finish your walking year. We hope your knee soon recovers and that you both have a great 2009.
    Martin and Sue

  2. What a fantastic day, but it sounds as busy as we thought it would be. Never let the thought of a warm bed dissuade you from a high level pitch: all those crowds will have disappeared!.