High Raise (Langdale)

Published 25 June 2014

Approaching the summit of High Raise

The date is 3 April 2014. The place is Langdale. And the plan is to do four of Langdale’s lesser known fells, walking from Silver How and ending at High Raise. A plan? Yes, without a doubt.

It seems to be compulsory for me to end a Langdale trip with some mad rush down the paths in order to get the bus back out of there. The previous summer I’d had to the 200m sprint through the beer garden of the Sticklebarn Tavern, water bottles flying off as I lept over fences in order to get the 516 bus back to Ambleside.

The bus had just shut its doors as I reached the front of the New Dungeon Ghyll, and I thought it was all lost. Either the driver or a kindly passenger spotted me from afar, and the doors re-opened once more as I pegged it on board, before collapsing in an exhausted heap on a nearby seat. And then there was the time I’d been up Esk Pike where my timing was so off that I was required to whole up in the Old Dungeon Ghyll for several hours, eating food and drinking copious amounts of beer, before calling for a taxi. True, I could have called the taxi earlier, but then I wouldn’t have been able to sup quite so many pints of Old Peculiar.

With this visit to Langdale I was determined I’d get back down in plenty of time for the 5pm bus; the last 516 of the day. Down in so much time that I’d be able to celebrate a further set of Wainwrights with a pint before casually strolling to the end of the road with minutes to spare.

As I stood at the top of Sergeant Man, I peered at my watch. Twenty past one. Yep, I think I had enough time to meet that goal. And some more. It would take at least an hour to get to the valley, but there was clearly no need to head down quite so soon. And besides, there was one more fell to do.

Heading towards High Raise from Sergeant Man

It’s not as if I was far from High Raise. Sergeant Man is, after all, a secondary summit of the fell. The proper top was a mere half a mile away. It would be easily bagged, and enable me to get down to the valley floor and have so much free time for that pint that it would be embarrassing. I’d probably have to order two…

There seemed to be some kind of convoy heading in High Raise’s direction. Even on a quiet Thursday in April, the fells were busy. I made a guess – rightly as it turned out – that most would be heading off back to Grasmere afterwards, but still I was a little non-plused to be in such a crowd. Such is the problem with Langdale. Whilst I love it to bits, so do many others, and it is necessary to share. I didn’t want to share. I resented having to share all this. I wanted High Raise to myself. Actually, I tell a lie. I wanted the whole area to myself.

Trig point at the summit of High Raise

We can’t always have what we want. And I didn’t even get to go directly to the stone built trig point on High Raise’s summit; instead having to queue whilst some other people quietly admired it first.

I tried to take in the tranquil beauty of it all; admiring the nearby fells, partially hidden by the clouds. Off over there was, well goodness knows what. It was all slightly ghostly outlines. On a good day you can see Morecambe Bay and the Three Peaks in Yorkshire from High Raise, but that wasn’t happening here.

No matter. It’s not the view that counts. Well, that’s what I tried to tell myself as I looked over my shoulder to see the large party I’d been trying to avoid since Silver How had caught up with me. How they’d done that when they must have spent most of their time standing still whilst one of them rooted in their rucksack, well I don’t know, but they had.

And as they chatted, and rooted around some more, the tranquil moment disappeared. They seemed to be settling in for a rest stop, so reluctantly I teared myself away and headed off. The path down the valley would take me over one more Wainwright, but it would be a re-visit. Thunacar Knott was simply I fell I needed to pass over the way down.

A visit past the Langdale Pikes followed, and some time later I found myself sat outside the Sticklebarn Tavern holding a pint of ale and a packet of crisps, admiring a fine view of Langdale and musing how I would make my beer last the required hour and fifteen before the bus arrived. And naturally I came to the only, quite terrible, conclusion. It wouldn’t. I’d have to buy another.

Two days later I was back in London, wishing I’d had time for a third.

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