“Who Needs the Alps?”

That’s what Alfred Wainwright says about his beloved Lakeland fells, and the past two days certainly proved to us that England is not wanting in dramatic scenery and very thrilling high climbs. I hadn’t actually realized how intense the climbs would be on this part of the journey: I might have prepared for it more seriously had I known. Our ascents (and, even worse) our descents have left me shaken and a bit overwhelmed. Today I fell five times, and sobbed for about twenty minutes after the last one, descending into Easedale. But eventually I got back on my feet, having managed to break one of my poles, and continued on down into Grasmere. The way up to Lining Crag had been up “a steep stony gully.” Of course water was flowing down that gully, making the rocks quite slippery; as we climbed, it started to rain, making things only that much more worse. A few moments earlier the sun had been out and we were sweating; soon we were chilled and–I for one–completely exhausted. Water was everywhere: creating huge boggy patches on the peaks, making the rocks of the path completely slippery, in fact transforming the path at numerous moments into just another stream.

When we had talked about our plans to walk in the Lake District with Bob Richardson near St. Bees, he had said, “I hope you have good weather.” “Oh, I don’t care about the rain,” I said cavalierly. “It’s beautiful when it’s sunny,” Bob said, “but when it storms, it can be menacing.” I didn’t understand, but now I do.

And I had thought that yesterday’s 14.5 miles would make it the hardest day! Today was just 8, but I think it was much more strenuous, as Rachel Dunckley, the proprietor of our wonderful bed and breakfast, the Gillercombe in Stonethwaite, had tried to tell us. “Where ha’ ye been?!” she exclaimed when we stumbled in last night around 8:30. “Take off your boots and your wet things and get yourself settled.” She had a no-nonsense way about her that immediately put us at our ease. “Take your baths before the next crew come in. They got lost and will be here soon wanting to use the bathroom.” Indeed, the next crew came in completely exhausted. They had come down off the high peaks too soon, and had had to go back up again, getting caught in a lightning storm with hail; the woman said, “I lost the will to live today!”

But in the morning, she was fine. We all sat around a long table and chatted about our journeys. Rachel, who specializes in walkers, has seen and heard it all. I’d go back to stay with her again, in that valley that was beyond exquisite.

Tonight we are settling into Banerigg, a B & B in Grasmere, overlooking the mere, in the outskirts of the village, just a quarter of a mile or so from Dove Cottage. This house too is wonderfully comfortable — and it has WiFi! We’ll be here for two nights; I’m hoping I will be restored enough to continue onward to Patterdale on Tuesday. I’ll be posting new photos tomorrow.


9 comments on ““Who Needs the Alps?”

  1. MMcG says:

    Oh dear, do take care. The walking stick broke?!?. It sounds challenging but rewarding! All good thoughts!

    • joycezonana says:

      Happily I had two, so the other one served quite well for the rest of the descent. When I fell I heard a big crack; I thought it might have been my glasses; that it was the pole was actually a relief.

      Resting today in Grasmere is just the thing! I’m off to Dove Cottage now, and then to a laundromat in Ambleside.


  2. Barney says:

    I’m really impressed by your resilience in the face of steep climbs and adverse weather. I spent some time on Saturday tracing your route from Ennerdale to Borrowdale with the aid of Bing Maps and Google Earth – how’s that for armchair walking!

    My wife and I did a six mile loop in the benign countryside of Hertfordshire (our home county in the south east of England) on Saturday afternoon and were exhausted at the end of it and I marveled at your willpower and fitness for 14.5 miles across some of England’s most challenging walking country.

    We have walked in the Lake District and know how steep it can be – but we haven’t done any long distance walking. So I’m full of admiration – even more so because you are only a year or two younger than my wife and I!

    I’d be interested to know how things were once you got to the top of Loft Beck? From the Google Earth pictures it looked pretty wild.

    • joycezonana says:

      Thanks for the comment, Barney. It’s interesting, your companionship (and that of others) during the journey makes it easier and more fun! The top of Loft Beck was exquisite, though since it was about to storm, we didn’t really pause to enjoy the view. More dramatic, actually, was looking back down into the valley after climbing up yesterday: a beautiful bowl of “drumlins,” those anthill-like bumps left by the glaciers. I didn’t get a good picture because, again, I was exhausted, it was raining, and we needed to move on!

    • joycezonana says:

      It’s Loft Crag we ascended yesterday! The photos I have will be up later today! Thanks again for following along.

  3. Joni says:

    Wow such an amazing aventure!

  4. Gerry says:

    Intense! Not exactly what the phrase “walking in England” brings to mind. Glad you’re getting a day of rest..and hot baths at the end of each day. Beautiful photos!

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