And in summing this could be defined as my laziest walking year so far!
Marching up Whernside. For my first walk of the year I had arranged a walking forum meetup to take in four peaks at Chapel le Dale and Ribblehead, the mighty Whernside, Ingleborough, Park Fell and Simon Fell. In total ten of us arrived at Ribblehead for the walk, a mightily impressive turnup. The weather was actually quite good in the valley but bitingly cold at the 2,415′ summit of Whernside – did you know that the top of modern day North Yorkshire’s tallest mountain is actually in Cumbria – stepping through the little stone passage atop Whernside was like opening the door to Ice World! What this walk taught me was that you have to keep on walking, it’s no good saying “Ah I can do anything now that I’ve been up Scafell Pike”…nonsense! If the gap between your current and last walk is great enough then you’ll feel the burn all that much quicker and it’ll drag your spirits down, and the last walk that I did was in September 2013! By the time I had fallen down the tricky drop down to Chapel le Dale my legs told me that they just didn’t have it in them to do the imposing Ingleborough – in truth I couldn’t have got up Park Fell – the smallest peak of the route. I was happy to have been up Whernside for a second time in five years…but felt that I had heard enough of my own puffing and panting for one day!
It wasn’t until mid May before Karl and I were scaling the dizzy heights of England’s second highest – Sca Fell on the 17th. The memory that I want to take forward for this was the simply stunning, timeless image of Pikes Crag as seen from Wasdale Head – just gorgeous. I again struggled up the mountain, taking many breaks, however, in my defence we did take an extremely steep route. I hated the walk up over grass, grass and more grass to the summit of such a prestigious mountain – I just felt like we should have gone via Brown Tongue..once we had finally ascended the mountain (and the last few hundred yards were deliciously more rocky than grassy) I would change my mind about the Brown Tongue route as it appeared to be ridiculously steep. This could have been my low point of the year with regards to walking as my carbohydrates bottomed out and on the way down the hill I transformed into something of a grumpy brat who just wants to get back to the car and back home as soon as possible.
Fortunately I didn’t have long to wait for my next walk…a little over two weeks later saw me putting up a “meet” on the walking forum and I was lucky enough to have the company of four others including Sue and Karl, John – who had slid down Whernside with me and Colin – the hero that had only the day before walked over the Yorkshire Three Peaks! Cross Fell was the next of my on-going tep ten of England check-list. This was a very fulfilling walk for me – I had experienced dreams of traversing Cross Fell since 2009 and it in no way failed to live up to them. We were very lucky with the weather – no traces of rain in the sky but not so hot that one’s reserves are depleted well before the scheduled end of the walk. The North Pennines are stunning, it’s very tempting to be somewhat controversial here and say that I prefer them to the Lake District Mountains…they are easier on the feet, there can be no denying that. We took in the adjacent summits of Great Dun Fell and Little Dun Fell making an eleven and an half miles walk over the roof of the Pennines, all in all a great day out.
A return to the Pike: On Saturday the 30th of August I made a last minute decision to favour Rivington Pike over Pendle to go for a short walk. Again the weather was glorious, no rain and the sun stayed with me all day long. This was my only trip to the West Pennines this year…2015 will rectify this.
And so the final hill walk of the year – not that I would know this at the time…Great Gable was simply fantastic. This was another walk set up on the Walking Forum by yours truly – maybe next year someone else can do a few? We met up at Honister Slate Mine, attendees were myself and Karl and Sue, Glyn with whom I had the pleasure of walking up Pendle Hill the previous Autumn, Graham and Colin once more. The first half a mile up our first mountain – Grey Knotts, was phenomenally steep – maybe not as bad as Sca Fell but still not to be taken lightly. Next came a gentle stroll to Brandreth which lulled me into a false sense of “all the hard work for the day is done” – was it heck as like! From Brandreth to the summit of Green Gable is not the hardest walk in the world – it’s a bit of a slog, but then it looks far worse than it is …which further lulled me into a comfort zone which would be completely yanked out from under me as we dropped down Windy Gap and began the assault of Great Gable’s Northern face. This finally put to bed all memories of just how steep Sca Fell had been. This was pretty much mountaineering, each step would take about ten seconds – the walking pole I had with me on the day really did not help. I hope to remember the views from Westmorland Cairn for ever, the aspect across to the mighty Sca Fell and its’ larger sibling Scafell Pike were just out of this world and the knowledge that I had already “done” them filled me with elation. If the way up Great Gable was hard, the way down was the stuff of nightmares! I have simply never been in a place with such sheer drops…and moving boulders all around. Not that I didn’t enjoy the experience – adrenaline can be an addictive substance! After the excitement of the descent the route back along the legendary Moses Trod was sheer bliss and a definite ‘must repeat’.
Along with these mountains I have twice completed the Coastal Stretch along Southport’s Coast Road – the first time at the beginning of Summer was on a searingly hot day and involved 18.5 miles worth of walking. My next visit was in Autumn on an highly windy day which worked out at 16.5 miles – I caught the bus home before the rain dropped on me…and then it never rained! In October I was scheduled to do Great End (number 5 in the top ten) but this was postponed for bad weather (which again never turned up) and a really bad bout of backache (which sadly did turn up!). So that’s it, all in all a pretty bad showing, although the walks that I have done this year have been classics in their own right, I loved the kind route up Whernside – the way down was a pain (quite litterally). Being atop Sca Fell was wonderful (and it’s outcrop Slight Side) and it’s always a joy to be at Rivington Pike. The Coastal Road still beckons – it’s louder now than ever before and I will definitely be tackling it again in Spring. So how do I decide which has been my stand-out, favourite walk of the year?
The answer is quite simple…I can’t! Great Gable is just nineteen feet in altitude than Cross Fell – and a million times harder to get up and down…but Cross Fell has the most commanding aspect over a beautiful and expansive terrain. I can’t pick one of these walks over the other, so I guess this year I’ve been lucky to have two fantastic walks to remember…consolation for not doing Pendle I suppose!
Next year I am going to return to the Ramblers…I can’t have another pretty much inactive year, and my walking year will start in January with a trip to Longridge on the 4th and Foulridge on the 11th of January. There should also be a chance for a long trek over the Forest of Bowland to take in Parlick and the Bleasedale Fells starting off from Longridge Fell at the end of March and I still have Nethermost Pike, Pillar, Bowfell and Great End to tackle in order to complete my English top ten.
See you in the new year folks…and I promise to be out there walking so much more than this lazy year!