Adventure. This last weekend (February 17-19) I climbed two mountains in England with a friend. This was the first time I have ever climbed besides indoor rock gyms. I was one of the satisfying, exhilarating things I have done here thus far.
We took a train to Carlisle on Thursday night and stayed at the County Inn which was right next to the rail station and had a great English breakfast. We took a bus from Carlisle to Keswick (pronounced Kes-ick) in the morning and dropped our stuff at the Squirrel Lodge, a B&B. The owner was very kind letting us in at 10:00 a.m. and gave us some very helpful hiking books. Getting to the base of Blencathera (the first mountain we climbed) was easy. We took a bus the x50 from Keswick to Scales (a very, very small town) and we hiked up to the “trail” that would take us up. The route that we took was not the usual path for tourist, it was a bit more challenging and about 9 mile hike. We also went when the weather was not at its best, but it was manageable with 4 layers, and water proof boots, jackets, and pants. Once we arrived at the summit we could not see a thing, but you could hear the wind and feel the silence. The climb down was crazy, but it was well worth it.
On Saturday we decided to give our muscles a break and only take a 5 mile hike to Castlerigg stone circle, which is about 4500 years old. The walk was lovely, and exemplified UK weather as the weather changed every hour from sunny to rainy to snowing to sunny.
Our biggest day was on Sunday when we climbed Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England. The weather was sunny and a bit chilly. We took a bus to a town about 2 miles outside of the path and walked to the start of the path. We started walking at 10:30 A.M. and went a bit off path for the first 2 miles to enjoy the scenery. This of course got us stuck between our path and a raging river. Instead of going back we took off our shoes and socks and crossed the freezing water, trying not to slip. We started hiking up the valley at 12:00 P.M. and ran into a lot of ice patches. The whole mountain was covered in ice, but was doable with a walking cane and waterproof shoes. There were about 3 scrambles that were particularly dangerous, but we kept an eye on each other. When we got to the top there were a few other people that came up various paths. It was a spectacular view. You could see the Isle of Man, Windermere, Keswick, and every other beautiful mountain in the lake district. As soon as we got off the top, the mist and clouds came in and blocked the view we saw only 10 minutes earlier. The climb down was very steep, and required you to slide on your bum, or slide off the mountain completely. It was particular dangerous near the crags, where people have sadly died. We got down to the valley and realized that it was 5:00 P.M. and the last bus leaving to Keswick was at 6:10 P.M. We started sprinting down the mountain as carefully as possible avoiding ice, rigid stones, and streams for about 4 miles. We were also racing against the darkness as 6 approached making it very dangerous. We finally got to the road but it was already 6:00 P.M. and we still have 2 miles to go till we would reach the town. We figured it a loss until we saw two chaps walking back to their car. So I put on a smile and asked politely if they were heading to Keswick and if maybe they could drop us off at the end of the road so we could call a cab. The elder man replied “Nonsense, we will take you into town”. They were both from Oxford and very chatty. It is good to know that people are still trusting of strangers. We got back to the B&B and grabbed some food and a hot shower and called it a night. Called it a weekend as well.
A Few Tips:
1) Stay in a B&B when in the Lake District, there are hundreds of them and they are reasonably priced. Staying in a hotel or an American accommodation will take away the adventure and magic of the Lake District.
2) Buy all of your climbing gear is Keswick. There were about 10-12 outdoor shops in the town centre all with continuous sales. We got another layer of clothing and walking canes (the most helpful thing in the world).
3) Go by the tourist information centre to find maps of the Lake District and climbs. They had dozens on books with suggested detailed maps of suggested routes.
Clicking on the link below will allow you to see the path we took in detail and the time we took to get to Scafell Pike.