Fell Walking in The Lake District. Part Two.
Rosthwaite to Patterdale. 17 miles
Ok, I do say it a lot, but at the time of writing this post - which incidentally was originally in April 2019 - was without question the hardest days walking I have ever done. So many components that individually would present a challenge but when amalgamated together, led to an increasingly hard day of only seventeen miles, but which contained numerous summit climbs, steep descents, slippy and rocky tracks, scorching heat, sweaty backs and hunger and thirst. A day we’d probably enjoy more in hindsight. But, despite the hardship, the payoffs were numerous and from the high places we climbed to we were left with picturesque views of the beautiful Lake District.
The day didn't get off to an ideal start being as we didn’t arrive at Rosthwaite until gone 11:30, and despite it being a beautifully sunny day and knowing the days were drawing out, we knew we’d be probably pushing it time-wise because of the challenges that we knew would be presented to us today. And so it was that no sooner had we pulled up in the carpark of Rosthwaite YHA we stayed at back in august, we donned our boots and was on the trail within minutes. Through the lanes to get out of Borrowdale and then into a slow but gentle walk up Stonethwaite Beck, the rocky path adjacent to a lovely stream and surrounding us were imposing mountains as we continued for a while on a low level route. But, it wasn’t long before the path started to climb, though we accidentally found ourselves in the middle of a bog down from Lining Crag and the climb back to rejoin the path to Greenup Edge was more of a slog than it would have been had we gone the right way in the first place. However, the views back down the valley to Borrowdale were lovely, though we didn’t linger, knowing there’d be many more to come.
We finally reached the top of Greenup Edge, at nearly 2000 feet, meaning we’d climbed around three quarters of that ascent inside just four miles - nearly 500 feet an hour - which is hard going at any time and more so when we’d been cooped up in a car for nearly four hours and then found ourselves walking in clear sunshine of nigh on 25 degrees. Thankfully, some new gear made life more bearable on the trail. In light of this walk, and many more thereafter I'd bought a new daypack in the shape of a 30 litre Osprey Skarab and in addition to this a rather pricey hydropack by the same brand, which was filled with two and a half litres of water and added some considerable weight to the already full pack, though the reserves from there were being quickly depleted with the hot weather we were experiencing. Nevertheless, the bag fitted cosily around my body, but without the separated air ventilator it made the back of my short sleeved base layer soaked with sweat quite quickly. Also, after my boots had fallen apart during the previous High Stile Ridge walk, I'd invested in a new pair, namely some North Face GTX Hedgehogs which needed no breaking in and in fact were like walking around the mountains in carpet slippers.
We moved swiftly on, taking a ninety degree turn to head to the Easedale Valley where the path would split into high and low routes. The lower, went via Easedale Beck and was potentially a bogfest which we both agreed we wished to avoid though even if the land were dry Alex and I both wanted to take the high road. Onwards, we steeply climbed to Calf Crag, sitting at 1762 feet, and then traversed Moment Crag and Gibson Knott. Lastly, with spectacular views overlooking Easedale and Grasmere, we reached Helm Crag at 1328 feet. It took a lot longer than expected to traverse all these rocky summits, but the climbing in between each one wasn’t too problematic and as ever, the pay off at the end were the views that stretched for miles. Less than ideal was the rocky descent down to Easedale, but at ground level we found a shortcut through a gate at Poets Walk and shaved off a few minutes, which we decided to spend at the Lancrigg Hotel and enjoyed a break, where we sat outside to cool down with ice-cool orange cordials and to reflect on being thrown somewhat back into the deep end. It was still, however, to get a lot harder on the climb back out of Easedale, whereby we decided to bypass the road down to Grasmere, which wasn’t on the trail anyway and also being bank holiday, was most likely to be overrun with tourists. Wainwright was quoted as saying he avoided the area in high summer, and we followed suit without hesitation.
Despite this, when I take on this walk again I’d split the stage by camping somewhere either side of Grasmere and therefore head to Patterdale in the morning when freshly awake and newly fed and of clear mind. Tired and baking hot, the walk up to Grisedale Tarn after leaving the pub nearly finished us off. Alex and I had already completed nine miles inside around four hours from Rosthwaite when we then had to compete over 1500 feet of ascent in little over two miles on the way to the tarn. Steep, in other words. The path up to the tarn can be taken two ways, steeply up Great Tongue, or gradually around it. I can’t imagine the outcome would have been any different whichever option we’d have chosen, but in any case we went for the gradual. The climb took forever and the heat hadn’t at all relented, in fact, it seemed to be getting hotter. It had felt like we'd been on the path for an age when speaking to a father and son coming from the opposite direction, they informed us it was a further forty minutes to the tarn, which I could have wept at. I wasn’t at all close to dehydration as there was still water left, and some joy to be had was the simple pleasure of filling my cap with ice cold water from the fresh water streams emerging down the hills, and pouring it straight over my head. The feeling of it pouring down my back was incredible. However, the Kendal Mint Cake I had tasted as dry as a bone in my mouth, and didn’t seem to act as any kind of booster at all. At one point, when stepping up and then slipping on a boggy piece of earth, I simply perched myself on a rock and pathetically announced to Alex that I couldn’t go on, and the feeling was compounded by the thought that we still had a choice of two even steeper climbs to choose from once at Grisedale, to take us over to Patterdale.
Alex led the way, and finally, after seeing him reach the top of another little summit, he wearily nodded to my exasperated query as to whether we’d reached Grisedale Tarn. And more than just the fact we’d reached our target, it was a really beautiful target to hit. Being quite late in the day, the sun had started to set and reflect itself in the lake which was surrounded by Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, and St.Sunday Crag. The latter two were the options to climb to take us down to Patterdale, with, thankfully, the added third option of an easier descent down Grisedale Valley. At the start of the day we’d earmarked Helvellyn as the one with the added joy of a vertigo-inducing scramble along Strident Edge. As the day progressed we thought Sunday Crag would be better; spectacular views with less of the drama scaling it. Now, as we sat exhausted by the beautiful tarn and personally, wishing I was staying in one of the three tents at the far side of the lake that wild campers had pitched there, we made the decision to take the low level valley route, and return for a weekend climbing the mountains. We were exhausted and going by how late in the day it had suddenly become, taking either of the high routes would likely lead to us finishing in the dark and that thought alone made us plump for the low path down the valley to Patterdale.
And so it was that the last hour and a half of the day was, to be fair, a beautiful walk down the valley and Ruthwaite Beck, with the sun behind us casting shadows along the path. We eventually reached some farmland and then the final part of the day was through some woodland until we popped out behind the Patterdale Hotel at 7:55. No sooner had we emerged onto the main road than we headed straight into the White Lion Inn. We wearily took a table in a comfortable booth and though the food took a while to arrive, we really didn't mind as it was freshly cooked and absolutely delicious. I enjoyed my tasty chicken curry, before we headed round the corner to our digs at the YHA. Final stats from our day were a 17 mile walk with 368 climbs and nearly 38000 steps. No wonder we slept well.