Two days before we left Keswick I had an attack of the sads and felt like I hadn’t done enough while I’d been there. I know Luke isn’t obsessed with walking like I am and while he was with me I didn’t want to torture him with huge days of walking. I ended up feeling a bit resentful, which was obviously unfair but I knew I wouldn’t be back for years and there was so much left to do! It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I’d bought a Wainwright map and realised I’d only bagged seven peaks.
Not that it’s all about ticking things off, but the days I had climbed high I’d been rewarded with amazing views and feelings of accomplishment and I was jonesing for more.
Luke very kindly and generously agreed that our last day, if the weather was decent, would be spent attacking Skiddaw, the fourth highest peak in Cumbria and the closest major mountain to Keswick.
I was both pleased and daunted so I planned a route that was longer but not so steep, as I’d tried to attempt the climb on my last visit but was scared off by the loose gravel.
We took a taxi to the Latrigg car park then headed around between Lonscale Fell and Blencathra and walked along the valley to Skiddaw House YHA.
This way is mostly flat and mostly dry until the walk up behind Skiddaw House which then is a fairly steady, grassy gradient to the saddle between Skiddaw Little Man and Skiddaw.
As we climbed higher it seemed that the whole of the northern fells were visible and I think I could see as far as Scotland!
We reached the saddle and at this point the wind, which had been picking up gradually, became a freezing arctic gale. We each put on a jumper and what few layers we had, astonished at the ferocity of it. Still, the view was excellent. It felt almost like we were standing over Keswick. The photo doesn’t do it justice.
We walked up to the cairns, quickly admired the view and then decided to head down via the steep path to Latrigg car park. We both felt very accomplished for making it to the top, even though it had been a pretty easy walk. Little did we realise that the worst was to come!
We started down and at first the track was a wide bridleway but it narrowed and became steep loose gravel. I genuinely cannot comprehend how people run this track, even though I saw people doing it. I don’t understand how people can manage it either going up or down.
We crept down the path at at snail’s pace and it took us almost as long to travel the one kilometre down as it took us to travel the five or so kilometres up. We had to stop to rest several times because of pain in our knees – and I never get pain in my knees. I was very, very glad I’d bought replacement hiking poles and that Luke had one as well.
The soles of my feet stung from sliding in my shoes and at one point we found a grassy stretch and attempted to slide down it using my plastic-coated map as a toboggan but it didn’t really work. We did have a laugh though!
Despite the pain it was certainly an achievement. As Luke said afterwards: I’ve done something I thought I couldn’t do so now I can be more confident with other things. He was right!
My weeks of walking in the Lakes have shown me that I have no problems with camping alone in the wild (if you can consider anywhere in England ‘wild’), that I can walk a fair way carrying all my gear, that I actually enjoy scrambling over rock faces (as long as they’re not too steep) and that I enjoy my own company for days on end. These are all good things of know!
When I get home I will start planning some Tasmanian walks and finally do the Great Ocean Walk in Victoria. Maybe one day I could even aim for something really huge!
Have you ever conquered a physical challenge? Have you done something you thought was not possible? I’d love to hear about other’s achievements!