I climbed my first mountain in Japan with my father and, as I was doing so, I talked to my dad about mountain climbing in the UK and somehow got him to agree to taking me to the lake district to climb something there. Of course, I didn’t think this would actually happen. I thought it highly likely my father was just saying that to appease me. But this week he informed me he’d taken Friday off work and he would be taking me to the Lake District to climb Helvellyn, the third highest peak in England and one of the most popular. I googled it and was apprehensive upon seeing photos of people balancing atop the narrow striding edge, but my father assured me that we’d be going another way that should be easier than that. I trusted him-imagining something like Mt Tarumae that we climbed in Japan- pathways and steps to the top.
On Friday I dragged myself out of bed just before 6.10am. Blearily I showered and washed my hair and pulled on my hiking gear- plain cotton pants, a t shirt, thick socks. I have nothing fancy. I’d gotten up so early in order to avoid my father shouting at me that I’d made us late by taking too long in the bathroom- we had plans to leave at 7.30am. Of course it was my father who only woke at 7am, and in the end we only left at 8am. Which actually wasn’t so bad. We were starting our walk from Glenridding, so basically we just had to take the motorway straight up north, then turn off to go to Windermere, and from there turn up to Glenridding. That drive from Windermere to Glenridding was very scenic. I had been to the lake district when I was younger, too young to really remember it. So it was like seeing it all new and with all the excitement and wonder that comes with that. The lake district is similar to the peak district, but grander. Blue skies, narrow country roads, winding stacked stone walls, sheep dotted about everywhere, large glimmering lakes.
We arrived at Glenridding around 10.30am and began our walk, taking a wrong turn and ending up halfway on the wrong route and having to turn around before setting off on the right path. The first part of the journey proper was a hellish slog upwards, upwards, upwards, always thinking that soon it’d flatten out, and always finding that it did not. It was hot, I was sweating and panting and flushed. I was miserable. My father was also miserably hot. We had to stop quite frequently for water and just to get our breath back, and just to try and cool down. Every cool breeze was met with a welcome sigh of relief. Eventually we had to stop after around an hour for a good 10 minutes to have a little to eat before carrying on up. The scenery was lovely though, and turning back revealed the path we’d taken snaking away behind us and Ullswater cradled between the hills. Eventually I spotted the peak of Catstye Cam poking out in the distance and soon after the path did even out. At this point, I threw my hands in the air and cried out in sheer joy. We’d made it! Well, we’d at least completed the hellish slog upwards to gain height. The view ahead of us showed Helvellyn clearly, and Catstye Cam and the valley where Red Tarn – the large lake below Helvellyn- lay.
We carried on walking, much easier now that the breeze had picked up and the path had become flatter, to arrive at Hole in the Wall, which we walked past and down to Red Tarn. We found ourselves a spot on the rocks near Red Tarn and ate lunch. That was nice. We then packed up again and headed up towards Helvellyn, turning off to go up Catstye Cam. From there we had some spectacular views of Ullswater. We didn’t linger too long there, and turned back to head along the top towards Helvellyn and oh, I was a fool to expect just a sloping path. The dirt path turned to steep rock- and that was the way we’d have to scramble up. I was not pleased- my father had promised me no scrambling. I did not want to scramble. But having little choice, I started the harrowing climb up, clinging on to rocks and desperately trying not to look down. It felt never-ending, and I hated every moment, so when I finally pulled myself up to Helvellyn I was more than relieved. I stood and looked about the flat top of the mountain. My father asked my opinion, and I was still grouchy from the climb and declared loudly “THIS IS NOT WORTH THAT.” Nearby, a man laughed. I glared at my father and followed him along the top. And OK, I was wrong, and I admitted to my father as such. Once up on Helvellyn it was more than worth it. The view was: the path we’d come on and Catstye Cam, Red Tarn and Ullswater in the distance, nearby peaks, and the shadows of other mountains. Of course there were sheep right up there too, having no trouble navigating the steep slopes of the mountain. My father and I found a spot to sit to gaze out over Red Tarn and gulp down some more water, and eat some sweets. Eventually my father lay down and promptly fell asleep, whilst I read my book. There was a very cooling breeze up there and I was no longer so stiflingly hot, and it was quiet and peaceful all the way up there, with spectacular views as a bonus. It was very enjoyable just to chill up there- about 850m above where we’d started.
My father woke up after a 10 minute power nap and we set out across the top of Helvellyn towards the adjoining peak of Lower Man. I’m not sure if we ever made it exactly there, but we did make it to some nearby peak, which gave us views of the next valley along, Ullswater still in the distance, and the back of Striding Edge. Behind us, the shadows of more mountains and lakes. Gorgeous.
The views of Striding Edge gave us hope that there would be a path we could take to avoid the rough scramble over the top. Though I was still nervous about getting down. We contemplated carrying along the top to the next peak, which seemed to have a gentler way down, but as it was unknown we decided to go with the devil we knew. We started back up to Helvellyn and had another sit down on the top close to where we’d been earlier. More sweets, more admiring the scenery. Then we had little choice but to go over to Striding Edge and try to get down. By this point it was about 5pm already. The first part of striding edge was all right but then we were met with a challenge, in order to get to the path we’d have to scramble down a sleep stope, littered with loose stones. Nearby was a grassier slope so we gingerly made our way down there instead, me whining the whole time as anxiety gripped me. I did not like this. Striding edge proved to be just as harrowing as getting up to Helvellyn had been. Yes, there was a path…but a loose definition of one. There was much scrambling to be done even after we made it to the path. And it was very exposed. Worse, anxiety started to make me feel slightly light-headed and disoriented…which was obviously not good. Still, there was nowhere to go but down and I persevered, once again concentrating hard and trying not to look down. My dad was wonderful here- guiding me along, holding my hand when necessary, and constantly reassuring me (even it was often in a teasing way.) It carried on for ages- edging along the narrow path and climbing over rocks, before we got to the end and to the Hole in the Wall. We passed through and then had a very lovely walk along nice even grass before we reached the junction to the path that would take us back to Red Tarn. We had to walk back on ourselves a bit but this was perfectly pleasant compared to all that desperate scrambling. Once at Red Tarn we took off our shoes and socks and plunged our feet into the cool water. And so we sat, as the sun begun to slip down towards the edge of Helvellyn, casting a stream of light across the water, our feet dangling in the water, eating chocolate cookies in companionable silence.
After a bit we dried off and put our shoes back on and set out on the path back- a long, twisty gravel affair. It was a bit slippy due to the loose stones, but manageable. The sun was definitely setting by then and it was beautiful. We were following a stream that had several small waterfalls. Eventually we came to a bridge across a low sloping waterfall and there we spotted a heron hunting for fish amongst the rapid flow of water. How lucky! We lingered and watched in amazement.
By that point, it was coming up to 8pm. My thighs were aching, and my fathers feet were killing him. But we had to get back to Glenridding, so on we persevered. My father was eager to get back, worried about my mother being worried about him as there was no signal to call her there, and he set us a rapid pace. Eventually we could cross over to paved road which was easier to walk on, but strangely more painful, but still we slogged on as the sun continued to set and got back to Glenridding just after 9pm, and then we were off home. We got back at 11.30pm, tired and aching but feeling very pleased with ourselves.
Yesterday I had a lovely lie in and woke up stiff and aching. Fun.
We had our first braai of the summer yesterday, in order to celebrate my birthday. It was nice, but my sister was moaning the whole day and I could not help but feel peeved at her stealing my thunder, just a little. My Mom baked me a dairy free chocolate cake whilst I was off with my father on Friday. and a few hours after the braai they brought it out for me- my family did. My Mom had put candles on that read “Happy birthday” and underneath she’d put those alphabet letter magnets to spell out my name. I got sung to and blew out my candles. My Mom pulled the candles out and then I cut into the cake and well, this could be classed as a pinterest fail. yeah, I did not find the recipe on pinterest. but I found it on a random blog and the cake was no where near as delicious as the photos promised, nor as the description made it sound. Shame, my poor mother was crushed. She had tried so hard but sadly the cake was greasy and no where near as rich and chocolatey as expected. I tried to reassure her- the frosting was nice at least! and I badly wanted to say something about the cake too but no.. it was not so great. Really, I do think it is the recipe though. Its the nature of the internet after all- it’s not reliable. and that recipe was definitely off. my poor, poor mother. I ate a slice this morning after breakfast, hoping to reassure her that it was at least edible, but I don’t think I managed to convince her. I feel so bad …I gave her the recipe after all!
Despite a few little things though, this has been an enjoyable weekend.