A taste of things to come
After two nights at the farm at Little Town, it was time to move on and the plan tonight was for a B&B in Keswick. But the day dawned cloudy and grey and so the joy of yesterday wasn’t looking to be on the cards. But it wasn’t until I was outside putting on my boots that I realised that it was drizzling too.
Now I can cope with rain kicking off while I’m out on the fells, but it’s another thing entirely to start the walk in the rain. At that point you’ve still got the whole walk in front of you and it’s a bit depressing. So it’s fair to say that the prospect of struggling over the fells in the rain and, most likely, wind and mist too, didn’t fill me with delight – especially as I’d be fully laden today.
In the end I reasoned that I’d be getting wet today whatever I did, so I might as well press on with my planned walk up to Dalehead Tarn. From there I could either continue over High Spy, Maiden Moor and Catbells to Keswick, or bail out and head straight down to Rosthwaite and catch a bus to Keswick.
I set off and headed south along the road, through a gate and onto a track that would take me up to the tarn. As I gained height, inevitably the rain increased in force as did the wind. Twice I stopped on the path, spun around in a circle looking around and questioned whether to carry on. But each time I resumed my course and my slow trudge up to the waterfalls at the head of the valley. As the first waterfall came into sight, I thought the tarn must be just above, and eagerly clambered up the rocks, alternating between careful and considered movements, and big heaves to get the combined weight of me and my elephantine pack up.
Of course, once I’d reached the top, there was a further patch to negotiate followed by another waterfall. And as I gained height, the weather worsened – or at least I became more exposed to it. But now it seemed easier to continue than to try to get back down the slippery, near vertical sections by the falls and I was rewarded soon after with the sight of people on a ridge ahead and to the left – clearly that was High Spy. So it couldn’t be much further.
I reached the environs of the tarn, but couldn’t see it in the mist and with the wind and rain in my face. So I turned left and headed up the path, skirting a few patches of dodgy rocks and in the process heading offline for a while to take a direct upwards route. This was a mistake, and I soon realised that I was in danger of another “Grasmere incident”. So I cut back left to the path and regained it just below the summit.
Somehow during this time, my boots seemed to have leaked massively and my feet were soaked. At the summit I sat down and paused to decide whether to continue through the wind, mist and rain onto the subsidiary summit (a Nuttall) or to turn around and head down to Rosthwaite.
Reasoning that as I was so close it would be a shame not to at least try, I carried on, but within 50m I stopped again and re-thought it. I had another wet, poor visibility trudge over unfamiliar terrain for no significant gain – after all at some point I would need to come back to get Maiden Moor and Catbells, as there was no question of them today.
Common sense took over, and I retraced my steps back to the summit of High Spy and then stuck to the path as I returned down to the tarn. Even so it was a difficult descent with the rain making it impossible to see through my glasses. So I took them off and accepted that I would make do with short range vision. This felt a lot safer but I still took it easy as I headed down to the tarn, which I reached soon after.
The next problem was finding the path down to Rosthwaite and I recrossed the beck several times before I simply opted to head east for the lowest point I could see. This meant crossing some boggy ground ahead, which by now I was too wet and bedraggled to care about – I just squelched my way through.
Ahead a fence running across my course loomed through the murk and I knew I was ok. I walked along the fence to find the stile and then I was on the path down through the old mine workings. This was slow going because of the wet slate, and starting to feel cold now I just wanted to get down. I slipped on the wet slate a few times, but picked myself up and made it through. Despite the slate I actually seemed to lose height quite quickly and visibility returned.
Below I could see my goal, which was good, but which also made it frustrating due to the seeming slow and careful progress. But within an hour I was in the valley and walked across to the bus stop. I was snug in my B&B by 6pm. And best of all I had a bath – my first for at least 6 years (not because I’m dirty, but because I take showers instead!).
But looking out of the window, the rain persisted and pelted down on the building, which boded badly for tomorrow.