Silver How

Published 4 June 2014

The summit of Silver How, with views of Elterwater and Windemere

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.

“I can imagine that there’s a certain mopping up job to be done when you’re doing all the Wainwrights,” I commented, flicking through a copy of Trail magazine which featured photographs of several people celebrating with champagne at their “final” summit.

“What do you mean?” asked Catherine.

“Well, towards the end you’ll inevitably end up with a set of fells that you’ve missed, or which you’ve put off because they’re awkward to get to. Like Hardknott. I’ve done all the fells in Eskdale except Hardknott. And it’s tiny. I’m going to have to go all the way back there just to do a half hour walk.”

“Oh, so you’re doing all the Wainwrights now are you?”

Had she not been paying attention?

True, I’d never actually really admitted publicly that I would be doing them all. But I’d done thirty six. That was 16.8% of them all. After doing so much, just how on earth could I not do them all?

Another day of walking would raise that percentage even further. By how much, I wasn’t sure. The forecast for the day wasn’t amazing, with some forecasts predicting heavy rain. Pouring over my maps and, of course, my trusty Wainwrights, I tried to come up with a route with options; where if the weather held, I could keep on going. But if the cloud descended, it would be a route where I could get down quickly.

For some reason Blea Rigg was calling me; one of the few fells I’d yet to conquer in Langdale, and if the weather held I told myself that I could bag Sergeant Man and High Raise too. But at the far end of the ridge was a fell that could so easily end up as one of those lose ends; a mop-up job. Silver How.

Now this isn’t to say anything bad about Silver How. It’s just that I had – for some reason – a vision of Blea Rigg being my first fell of the day. There was no good reason for this. None at all. Silver How wasn’t part of my grand vision, but if I did include it, it would make all so much more sense in the long run.

Group of walkers admiring the view of Grasmere from part way up Silver How

Part of the reason why I hadn’t really considered Silver How originally was all due to its ascent routes. Wainwright lists three: one from Elterwater, another from Chapel Stile and a third from Grasmere. And he’s not exactly complimentary about the first two. The Grasmere route on the other hand…

Although I was more inclined to start my walk in Langdale, the benefits of the Grasmere route were swiftly sold. And one bus ride later I was climbing up a path past Allen Bank, a large house once occupied by the mighty William Wordsworth (he of “I wandered lonely as a cloud” fame) for a whole whopping two years.

Slowly but surely I headed up the hill, up narrow lanes and tracks. One in particular brought joy to my heart. Lined by trees yet to regrow their leaves for spring, a line of cobbles led me up; each side of the path then surrounded by moss covered rocks. Despite the dull day, the moss was an amazingly vivid green, and I stopped to dutifully photograph it prosperity, knowing full well that the resulting picture would never, ever do the view I saw now, any justice at all.

Out of the farmland, a grand view of the Grasmere area unfolded before me; haze and mist swirling through the valley. Great Rigg and Fairfield were over there somewhere, and even nearby Helm Crag looked rather ghostly.

A large group of fifteen, were coming up behind me, and I quickened my pace to escape them for there’s nothing worse than getting stuck near a large group. The logistics of such a walking enterprise are that they stop and start frequently, walking at whatever pace set by the slowest of the walkers. Then if one person wants to riffle through their rucksack to obtain a flapjack or Eccles cake, the whole body must suddenly rest, lest they get split up. Then five minutes down the path, it’s all stop again as someone then decides they’re too hot, and ten minutes further whilst someone swigs some water.

It was clear that they were all heading off towards Blea Rigg as well. And presumably then to Sergeant Man, High Raise and then probably back to Grasmere. But they weren’t interested in bagging the fells. At least, not Silver How. For whilst I darted off on the detour to catch my first Wainwright, they stayed resolutely on the main path. Which made my racing ahead rather a folly. By the time I’d got to the fell top and down again, I’d be tailing them. No doubt I’d overtake once more, but if I stopped for lunch before they did, I’d be back behind them again. I quietly sighed, resigning myself to my fate.

Puddles on Silver How

Still, I’d get to enjoy a fell top; one which they’d casually ignored. And it would be their loss, even if Silver How was a bit of a wet, slightly boggy fell. Wearing, as I was, a pair of walking boots that had needed replacing two years previously, and were by now absolutely falling to bits and way beyond caring about repelling water, my feet were soon sodden as I tramped through the wet grass to find the rocky fell top.

A simple cairn marked the spot most adequately, but the view was the real reward. Elterwater and Windermere lakes shimmered brightly amongst the gloom of the neighbouring fells, all swaddled in cloud. And to the west, Langdale was just about coming into view. Even better, the weather was looking good. Well as good as it could look with clouds everywhere.

I sat on some rocks and soaked up the view. Before I’d left that morning, Catherine had declared Silver How to be “lovely”. And even when not seen at its best, it really did match up with that description. I could only hope the rest of the day would live up to the way it had started. It may not have been part of my original plan, but I was more than glad to be there.

Next fell: Blea Rigg

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