I woke up at around five, with an urgent need to get out out of my bivvy and sleeping bags. Once out, despite the many layers I was wearing, I began to shiver quite violently. I decided that the best thing to do would be to get moving, so hastily packed up.
Sleeping on the ground on a hilltop might not lead to a perfect, restful night, but it does have its compensations, chief among them being a hilltop view when the sun rises.
It was spitting with rain, and still a bit breezy, but I didn’t get far before I was thoroughly warmed-up and needed to stop and rethink my layers. It felt a bit odd to be stripping-down when it was raining on me, albeit only in a very half-hearted fashion.
Having already abandoned my ambitious plans to romp home over the Dodds, Helvellyn, Fairfield etc, it seemed logical to continue upwards from Latrigg and climb Skiddaw and its satellites. After all, I could just as well catch the 555 from Keswick as from Grasmere or Ambleside.
These days, I’m generally happy to be going uphill. I’ve long since rid myself of the illusion that I can climb hills quickly, so I just settle into a steady plod which feels comfortable. On the broad motorway which sweeps up the slopes of Skiddaw, I just couldn’t seem to find that tempo, however many rest stops I threw in. I shouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that Purgatory consists of an endless slope on just such a broad, stony featureless track. Or perhaps I was just tired after the exertions of the day before? I half contemplated turning back, but fortunately, I eventually reached the point where the angle eased and I could strike-off the main path for Lonscale Fell.
There was still plenty of climbing to do, but the gradient was more conducive, or I’d had a second-wind, or both, or something else; whatever it was, the slow-plod mode was working just fine again. It was still very early, but I had seen a couple of other walkers, both of whom had a ‘steady-plod mode’ which was at least twice the speed of mine.
On my unhurried ascent of Skiddaw, I met a guy coming the other way who was wrapped up in winter gear: big down jacket, cagoule, warm hat as well as hoods, many layers etc. It was pretty windy at this point, but his attire seemed completely over the top.
“You’ll be the second person up there today”, he greeted me, with a broad grin.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the two people who had overtaken me on my way up, or the couple I’d just seen coming down ahead of him, since he seemed inordinately chuffed with his supposed status as ‘first summiteer of the day’.
When I reached the long summit ridge it became immediately clear why the down jacket, cagoule etc had been necessary – it was ridiculously windy up there. I was soon fighting with my own cag, trying to get my arm into a wildly flapping second sleeve. I even put my balaclava back on. It was the kind of wind which has you staggering about and leaning onto the wind at a weird angle in an effort to stay upright.
These perhaps weren’t the windiest conditions I’d encountered this year, but they were the most striking, because as soon as I left the top, the wind abated considerably, leaving off just as suddenly as it had started when I reached the ridge.
On the way down the very steep and loose path towards Carl Side, I met a couple of ladies going the other way.
“Is it very windy up there?”
This question was presumably prompted by the fact that I was, in my turn, now wearing far too many clothes for the immediate conditions. When I confirmed that it was extremely windy on the ridge, the reply was:
“Yes, always seems to have its own wind.”
I’ve heard this said of Cross Fell in the Pennines, but never of any hill in the Lakes before.
The ability of my phone camera to take close-ups seems to have improved enormously. Updates to the software I suppose?
From Carl Side I took the path heading down to the south, heading for Dodd.
It’s now that I have to confess to a bit of utter muppetry. On my way up Dodd, I’d seen no sign of the right-of-way I needed which follows Scalebeck Gill and which I ought to have passed. So when I saw a footpath sign saying something like ‘Dodd Route’, I optimistically followed it. I think I was attracted by its very easy gradient: it descended very gently, or contoured around the western slopes of Dodd. I hoped that it was a very lengthy zig and that eventually there would be an equally long zag taking me back in the direction I needed. When I finally had to admit that this wasn’t going to happen, I felt like I’d come too far to turn back. Unfortunately, the path, good though it was, was heading for the car park to the north-west of Dodd, in completely the wrong direction for Keswick.
It was a long walk on the permission path beside the main road, then through Dancing Gate (what a terrific name for a hamlet!), Millbeck, Applethwaite and Thrushwood back to Skiddaw. In complete contrast to earlier it was hot. I was very conscious of the fact that I was already a bit sunburned from the previous day, and so stuck to the shade wherever I could.
When I arrived in Keswick, it was early afternoon, but I’d just missed a bus, so, with an hour to kill, I stocked up on refreshments and waited in the sun. I didn’t get the seats at the front on the top deck – I couldn’t compete with the sharpened elbows of the bus-pass brigade. I shall be happy to join their ranks in the not too distant future, if using the buses yields trips like this one.
Some stats: MapMyWalk gives 14 miles and just a little over 3000′ of ascent.
Wainwrights ticked-off: Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw Little Man, Skiddaw, Carl Side and Dodd. Can I count Latrigg again?