A Lakeland Adventure – Days 5 and 6

Published 30 June 2011

Clouds over Langdale

In my final instalment of my Lake District hike/walk frenzy, the weather finally gets me beat… It’s Day 5, Thursday…

Planned version: Leaving my wild camp spot at Coledale Tarn or Easdale Tarn, I’d head over towards Grasmere and then up to Grizedale Tarn and camp there, ready to do some more fells the next day…

The night before I’d come up with two plans. If the forecast looked right and the weather would be reasonable, I’d stay at the campsite another night and go for Bow Fell. If not, I’d pack up and head to Silver How and then Grasmere – potentially going up Blea Rigg.

This seemed like quite a good plan as I settled into my tent only to hear the rain start pouring. It didn’t stop all night and I awoke to find a huge puddle of mud outside my tent as the rain poured down. Down at the valley end, low level cloud hung closely to the hills meaning most of the fells weren’t visible at all. I sighed, and tried to pack up my tent only to find that I couldn’t find the stuff bag for my sleeping bag. Given I was in a small tent, this seemed ridiculous beyond belief and it took twenty minutes to find it had somehow got wrapped up with my towel stuff sack.

Having finally got most of my pack filled and ready, it fell over and I noticed a huge puddle on the tent floor. The front of my pack was soaked, the tent half flooded. Worrying about the weather capabilities of my tent, I found the culprit – my water bottle whose top hadn’t been screwed on properly.

With the rain coming down heavily I tried to get the tent down as quickly as possible, later realising I’d managed to lose a peg. It was getting on for 10am when I was finally ready to go, only to notice a lot of the clouds had cleared. But going up Bow Fell still seemed like a bad idea so I headed along to the New Dungeon Ghyll pub. The path up to Blea Rigg looked quite well made, the weather reasonable. Blea Rigg was slightly above my “500m and no higher” fell rule for bad weather, but it looked doable and I headed up passing a party of school kids who were up to their waists in water ghyll scrambling.

Ghyll scramblers in Langdale

The rain kept coming and going but the path was a series of rocky steps and looked doable so I kept on up, taking it slowly due to the weight of the rucksack. A little way up I came to a path junction and I left the side of the ghyll thinking that this new path looked easier.

This proved to be a big mistake. Whilst the stone steps continued next to the ghyll, I was soon scrambling over large slippery rocks, many at 45 angles.

Now I’m a 15 stone man carrying a 3 stone rucksack and with size 10 feet. Even with a light pack, I’m not the most nimble of people on rocks that are bone dry. In wet conditions, I frankly get nervy. Very nervy. But somehow I managed to carry on, until I eventually came round some crags and found a huge gust of wind and the rain suddenly getting extremely heavy.

If the weather got even worse the higher up I went, I would have no quick and easy escape route. The main path with its steps stood near the ghyll, taunting me with its closeness yet completely inaccessible. After studying the map I knew I only had one sensible option. With the pack weighing me down, and the weather potentially awful, I had little choice to come down. Come down over those very wet, sloped and slippery rocks I’d just spent ages scrambling over.

Coming down was even worse, and a painfully slow process – all the time my willpower decreasing, my worry levels increasing. I was soggy, wet and very fed up. I was this close to just getting down, jumping on the first bus and heading home straight away. I was due home the next day anyway, but with the weather conditions I’d had, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do anything I wanted to do. I had no motivation to go on. I just wanted to go home and escape it all.

Chapel Stile in Langdale in the cloud

When I finally met the decent path once more, I began to feel a little better and stood outside the New Dungeon Ghyll pub. The bus wasn’t due to 40 minutes anyway and there was a path down to Chapel Stile where I could pick it up if I still wanted to go home. I’d take my decision based on whether I caught the bus or not.

Walking down the flat track on the valley floor, I brought my calm levels back to “normal” and decided, stuff it. I’d head to Grasmere as planned. Stuff the fells, but look at this – Wainwright had mentioned a path from Chapel Stile that he said would be as easy as the road. Lets go for it.

Near Harry Place Farm I headed back up the hills. The path was relatively easy but I knew my heart wasn’t in it. The weather was still infuriating – heavy rain showers followed by bright sun followed by heavy rain again. Arriving at a junction at Meg’s Ghyll, I saw a path down to Chapel Stile and gave up. I’d have a pint, wait for the 516 bus and go home.

Defeatist? Probably. But sometimes you have to accept that you’re beat. I was tired, wet and had no motivation any more. I had no real plans for the next day; nothing I particularly wanted to do. I had an open return ticket and no real reason to stay another day. At Chapel Stile I rejoined the Cumbria Way until it took me to Elterwater. The rain carried on its heavy showers.

Two bus journeys later and I was on a train heading home. As I left Lakeland behind, the sun began to appear. The clouds parted. And I mused on something profound. Unlike the Lakes, I’d never really got that wet in the Yorkshire Dales… Maybe I should go there next time instead…

Day 6 (Friday)

Planned version: wander around doing something like Helvellyn or somet, before heading home.

In real life I sat at home, trying to dry out camping gear… oh well…

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