We have spent many years exploring the Lakeland Fells. Green valleys, lakes of all sizes and the mountains, what’s not to love.
People have said to me “doesn’t it always rain?”. Well maybe we’ve been lucky or maybe we’ve just got on with it and ended up enjoying ourselves whatever the weather. I tend to remember lots and lots of sunny days with only the odd wet or windy one. As this blog grows I hope to prove that the weather up north is, believe it or not, often very nice indeed.
This post is all about a ridge. The sorts of thing that struck fear into our hearts when we first ventured out onto the footpaths of the Lakeland fells. The sort of place that we would never have dreamed we would explore.
Now the thing is that I’ve always been a bit short of those vital triggers that tell any normal brain that certain activities might be a bit dangerous, ever since I could stand or possibly before that! Tim, on the other hand, has always made sure that he (and now we) ‘live to see another day’ – he has a sensible survival instinct. For that I thank him.
Our first proper ridge walk – September 1999
September 1999 – Tims 40th year. As long as the weather was good we would do Striding Edge and so we did.
From Glenridding village the path takes a gentle but continuous path upwards to a place called ‘Hole in the wall’ – which is now a stile over the wall. Once there (after about 1 1/2 hours walking) you get a glimpse of the ridge and the top of Helvellyn, the third highest mountain (fell) in the Lake District.
The photo below was taken close to the hole in March 2010. I’m sat on ‘the wall’ and the wall leads right onto the ridge and up onto Helvellyn which is the plateau beyond that.
Its decision time at this point. People stand and stare at the scene trying to take it all in if it’s clear, trying to imagine it if it isn’t ! As you can see the weather in March 2010 was perfect but we didn’t have crampons with us and Tims survival instinct told us that it would be far too dangerous to attempt – the rock being thick with ice, so we took a snowy route up onto another nearby fell that day.
Back to September 1999. It was also clear and with dry rock and no wind it was safe to proceed. It’s no fun in mist, fog or rain and we had actually turned away from this very point earlier in the year to save it for another day. Oh my goodness were we disappointed.
So up we went. Now this airy ridge has a bit of a reputation for being quite scary and when you come across a plaque ‘In memory of Robert Rooking of Patterdale who was killed on this spot on 28th day of November 1858 following the Patterdale Foxhounds’ it might not help your nerves if you’re feeling a bit jittery.
However, even though there are fairly long drops on both sides there is a rough track just below the crest if it all gets a bit much.
This is the view we had back in 1999. A photo of a photo – no digital back then.
We were up early to do this walk and I can’t see anyone in this photo but as we were making our steady way across we were joined by other intrepid explorers – all of us heading for ‘the top’.
Now right at the end there’s a down climb of about 10 feet on a bit of rock known as a Chimney. It’s here that a small crowd can often be seen waiting in a bottleneck. Thankfully not too busy when we were there – we crouched down and climbed, facing into the rock. It’s a shame we didn’t take any photos at this point because it was quite a moment.
Finally we had a scramble up the head wall of Helvellyn to the top. It was here, where there is another memorial, that my legs went to jelly. Even so I think we practically skipped to the cairn and trig point on the summit and enjoyed the view. You can see the ridge over my shoulder on the right.
The first of several thrilling ridges for us. Here we are – fashions come and go but mountains generally stay the same!