Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Lake District 2012 - Holiday recap and photos

For the past five years or so our main family summer holiday has been spent in the Lake District.  My late mother in law passed on her love for this amazingly beautiful part of England.  In addition to the beauty of the area, she also introduced me to the writings of Alfred Wainwright.  For those not familiar with Wainwright, he was a gifted author and artist who literally devoted his life to painstakingly map every fell in the Lake District.  All of his guides were handwritten and beautifully illustrated.  He had a wicked sense of humour to boot - so reading his books has become a favourite pastime of mine.  So well known are his writings that the fells in the Lake District have affectionately become known as "Wainwrights".  I've added a new page to the blog, listing my summits thus far!  There are 214 in total - we'll see if I can climb all of them!

We were pleased to add four new summits to our list of accomplishments - we actually climbed five, but the fifth (The Dodd), we've climbed at least ten times previously!  At just over 1600 feet, we tend to "warm up" with this one every year as it's such a pleasant walk (albeit steep) and the views from the summit are some of the best to be seen in Lakeland.  So, this is where we started on Sunday.  But before I tell you about what we climbed, etc, I wanted to just take a little step back to this time last year... While we were away I happened to find a video on my husband's phone of us climbing Blencathra (alt 2848 ft) last year - I was the last one up, huffing and puffing and nearly ready to die when I reached the summit (it's very windy at the top, so apologies about the sound - and I haven't figured out how to edit, so you get to see everyone else reach the summit too!):

I got to the top through pure determination alone, but I think you can see how unfit I was.  This year was a different story altogether!  Unfortunately we didn't take any videos of me bounding up the summits, but suffice to say, though they were all hard work, I didn't struggle to get up one!

Back to the recap: On Sunday, we went to a lovely little restaurant out in the back of beyond for lunch and reckoned we would climb the Dodd to burn off our lunch!  On Sunday's, Mae's Tearoom (in a beautiful old converted school in Uldale) serves a roast dinner - it was roast beef with Yorkshire Puddings the size of my head!  I was smitten from the moment we walked in the door - and the food was delicious too!

At Mae's Tearoom

The initial stiff climb up the Dodd

Me at the Summit of the Dodd
The forecast for the week was dire - rain nearly every day.  On Monday, however, like seasoned fellwalkers - we were out the door with sandwiches packed on our way to climb Great Gable!  Great Gable is one of the higher fells in the Lake District (alt 2949ft), and would also serve as our highest summit of the week.  Our walk began at the tiny little village of Seathwaite - about 20 minutes drive from Keswick.  I wish I had taken a photograph, but there is actually a plaque as you drive into the village that says it is officially the wettest place in England - with the most rainfall each year!  And yes, it did rain while we were there!

We had a bit of a walk to even get to the "start" of our walk to the summit, but there was lots of interest along the way.  I hadn't realised, but this was also a frequently used path to get to the tallest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, and sadly we met a couple on the summit of Great Gable who believed they had climbed the Pike only to realise when they met us (and another couple who had just come from Green Gable) they were on the wrong mountain!

It's a long way to the top!

On the final path up the side of Great Gable

Me at the summit of Great Gable

Descending Gable in the mist...
Tuesday was deservedly a rest day, so we drove down to Ambleside and took a short cruise on Lake Windermere.  This was a very busy place - lots of young families and people who come to the Lakes not for walking (how they could possibly visit the Lake District and not go for even a short walk is beyond me!).  I happened to snap this cheeky picture (pun intended):
Say "no" to crack
Now, it's very breezy on these boats as the sides are open, so I reckon this dude knew what he was doing - in any case, it did make me laugh - a lot.

Wednesday came and the chosen mountain(s) were Red Pike with a possibility of going on to ridge walk the High Stile range next to it.  Again, the weather was not cooperating and as we drove into Buttermere - the village where our walk would start - the tops of the mountains were all in mist.  Our walk started by the lake and ascended steeply to a tarn (a pond) where we would climb again.  We decided to just get up there and see what it was like before making a decision to continue with the ridge walk.  Now I should start this by saying that I can read a map, but I can't use a compass - so navigating in the mist is not going to happen and Red Pike does have some sheer drops from the summit, so I wasn't about to hike off in one direction, kids in tow, trying to find a ridge!

I love Buttermere - it's easily my favourite place in the Lakes.  The mountains there have a sort of fairy tale beauty - tall, black, majestic and inspiring.  But, Red Pike seems to be the odd man out.  The summit is covered with thick red clay and scree (loose rock) - giving it its name.  This would be our very first encounter with scree and with a summit that required a scramble.  I should have known when my father in law recounted his summit with my mother in law quite a few years ago - she sat down and refused to go up.  On her third separate attempt, she made it to the top.

The scrambling described on the route description was "easy" - if that's easy scrambling, I would seriously hate to encounter "hard"! I do not have a head for heights - hard to believe for someone who enjoys climbing mountains, but most of the time when heights are involved, I just take it really slow, keep my head down, swear profusely (because my kids are usually a mile ahead of me!) and get on with it!  Due to the tricky nature of this summit, we all had to stay very close together.  I went up first, followed by both kids and then my husband.  I made it - but it was not an experience I would like to repeat and for once I think going up a mountain in mist was beneficial as I couldn't see the drops around me!

Looking back down the Buttermere valley

The start of the steep scramble - the summit is in mist

At the summit of Red Pike

A particularly tricky bit - about the only time I smiled! (over that ledge is a sheer drop!)

Guess what mountain we've just come down?!
Needless to say, I was happy to get that one in the bag and get the heck off the summit!  The mist was getting thicker on the summit, so we decided to pass on the ridge walk.  The Dodd (separate Dodd than the one mentioned earlier) was literally a leisurely walk next door - so we went to the summit to tick another one off the list.  Sadly, it's not a Wainwright, but it's little more than a hill and unfortunately was shrouded in mist so the amazing views we would have had from the summit were blocked :(.

Thursday again was another "rest" day and we decided to take another lake cruise - but this time at Ullswater.  My father in law came with us and we even had lunch at a pub he used to go to when he was a young man!  It's at the top of a hill in Glenridding and is called The Travellers Rest.  Easily one of the smallest pubs I've ever been to - but what they lack in size of the building, they make up for in abundance on your plate!  HUGE portions!  Thankfully, I just ordered a sandwich, but even that was big!

Friday, we were toying until the very last minute about which fell to climb.  My daughter was pretty exhausted and protested at climbing anything, so we settled on a small climb - little more than a hill just north of Bassenthwaite called "Binsey".  Binsey is pretty much just a grass and heather covered hill - but I was intrigued to climb it because Wainwright says that the views from the summit are some of the finest in Lakeland and I would be inclined to agree.  It took us about 45 minutes to reach the summit and a grand total of about 15 minutes to get down again!  Quite possibly the quickest climb ever - but I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has a spare hour in the lakes!

Binsey 1467 ft

The beautiful tree lined avenue at the start of our walk

Old stone gate


The view of lakeland from Binsey summit

You can see why I love it!

And here I am with one of my handy Wainwright guide books! (By the way, I'm talking here which is why my mouth looks weird!)
We drove back yesterday and the rain was seriously heavy!  I hate driving (or even being a passenger!) in the rain!  Thankfully we made it home safely.  All total, we walked 23.5 miles.  I tracked all of my food - even though internet access was sketchy, hopefully all of my logins on MFP will still count!  I haven't weighed myself yet, but will wait until tomorrow.  I did eat more than I normally would, but even if there is a weight gain, I know it will come off as quickly as it went on.  And the best thing is that my leg muscles got a serious workout last week!


  1. ABSOLUTELY gorgeous! I'm jealous!! One day...

    1. Thanks Linda! I love the lakes - my whole spirit lifts when I'm there!

  2. Gorgeous looks like so much fun. How awesome that you get to do stuff like that with your family!
    Your kids look like loads of fun.

    1. Thanks Abby! My kids are my little motivators! Every morning, my son would come into our bedroom asking "what mountain are we going to climb today?" - even on days when I didn't feel like climbing anything, he wouldn't give me a minutes peace until we were climbing!