I hadn’t intended to post yet more holiday snaps. Honestly, I hadn’t. Afterall, it was only recently that I walked, and posted about, the Dales Way and a Lakeland walk. But, on my return to the Lake District, Jim and I experienced something quite special, even awesome (if that word can still mean what it should mean) when climbing a mountain called Blencathra. But more of that in a moment.
Once again, the Lake District was in show-off mode. Blue skies, playful cloud, far-reaching views and unabashed sunshine. OK, so on some days the cloud didn’t lift and our friend Tracy, Jim and I would peer though swirling mist in the hope of getting a glimpse of something other than the tips of our noses.
An ascent of Great Gable revealed little other than views of about fifty feet; another climb to the summit of Haystacks was similar. Though on the latter the cloud thinned as we got lower. At least we got a peek down at gorgeous Buttermere;
a valley, we hadn’t visited before.
But on other days, the sun shone, the cloud romped and billowed and we had views!
Even on a steep, un-remitting climb up Grisedale Pike (as part of a horseshoe walk called the Coledale Round) …
… the sunshine and playful clouds acted as a hook, pulling us on and up.
Well, they did for me. Jim and Tracy lagged behind; chatting.
The view from the summit of the Pike was ever-changing as banks of cloud broke over the fells and washed down into the valley of Coledale.
The following day, Jim and I set out to climb Blencathra. I hadn’t trod upon its steep slopes for twenty-five years but as excited as I was, the day didn’t hold much promise. Dull and grey cloud lay heavy over Keswick as (leaving Tracy behind to have some girly time; manicure, pedicure, that sort of curious thing), Jim and I set off. But as we climbed up on to the ridge of Hall’s Fell (one of many possible paths to the summit), the cloud grew whiter and lighter and slowly the sun fought through the mist.
And then with a slight puff of wind - all was revealed; vast blue skies and an infinite, unbroken duvet of white cloud. We had climbed through, and were now above, the cloud layer.
Because the day had had such an unprepossessing start, no one else had bothered to climb Blencathra at the same time as us; during the hour or so we were at the summit …
… we didn’t see a soul. Not one.
I have never experienced a cloud inversion (formed by warm air trapping and holding cooler air below) quite like this. We have climbed above cloud before; most notably on the summit of Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) in Sri Lanka, but that was much, much higher at 2243 metres – Blencathra is only 868m. In Sri Lanka, I think, the height alone was sufficient to take us far above the cloud; here in the Lakes, the inversion did most of the work for us.
To have a view usually reserved for the passengers of air-liners high above and with only the very tallest mountains in Cumbria peaking above the blinding cloud, this day, this moment was, dare I say, awesome.
Out of a six-day break, we were up on the fells for five – clambering up a mountain or two on each. On our final day we huffed and puffed and grimaced to the top of Skiddaw. There was no panorama to be had from the summit cairn (despite us waiting patiently for the cloud to lift) …
… but then that gives us an excuse to re-climb on a day when the view will extend to the Solway Firth in the north, westwards to the Isle of Man, south to the central and Coniston fells and over to the east, the Pennines. Not that I really need an excuse to continue travelling to the Lakes and to continue climbing and re-climbing the fells. But it is always nice, having struggled to reach a lofty peak, to have a view. A view and a sandwich. Yes, that is always nice.