Preparation is key
We knew it’d be wet. Abigail was scheduled to hit and Barney to follow, but we would not change our plans and back out last minute because of some drizzle. Instead, we got a lot of waterproof gear. That in itself was a mission because most practical clothing for women have bin bag appearance. I’m not crazy girly but there are limits. H&M came to rescue surprising me with a pair of water-resistant, decent-looking trousers. Win. They were not waterproof but water resistant, which I thought was good enough.
Barney would prove that nope, that would not be good enough.
Red hills of the White Moss walk
All geared-up, we set off on our first walk near Rydal, where we stayed the first night. There is a number of hiking routes in the White Moss Common, and we took the one recommended by a local couple we had met the night before. It run from the lodge we stayed in, down by the lake at the feet of the maroon hills. It was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever done, even though it was grey and cloudy.
“It’s gorgeous in any weather,” told us the local couple and it was true – overcast and gloomy, the landscape was still picturesque.
Copper hills, dark lake, fluffy sheep. Following a random path, we walked through a forest, then down the hills near the water. We strolled past a herd of smelly cows and spotted mini waterfalls hiding in the thicket. It was early morning and there was no other soul in sight. It was so pretty.
Waterproof in Threlkeld
Threlkeld was a friend’s recommendation. It’s a lovely little village, so little, in fact, that when you drive in, the only sign welcoming you is the one for public telephone. The nearest shop is in Keswick, about ten minutes away by car.
Threlkeld is not located near any lake – it’s right at the feet of some smaller mountains and makes for a good starting point for hikes. As soon as we arrived, we headed out for a quick stroll to catch some good views before sunset. After about 20 minutes of deep mud and damp meadows, we were stopped by a small stream/waterfall running across our path. Although waterproof, our boots were not tall enough to survive this.
We watched the water go, wondering whether we should turn around and find another path or just go for it and keep walking with wet feet. Then another hiking couple appeared on the other side and without hesitation crossed the stream in a military pace. We soon realised what their secret was. Gaiters. The couple approached us and looking at them, I felt like the biggest hiking amateur ever.
Apart from the essentials, they had laminated maps, torches, waterproof backpack covers and those wonderful gaiters. The paced they moved with was almost stressful, they walked as if on a mission. And I thought we were fast walkers. We reached the bottom of the hill together (well, by the time we got to the bottom they were packing up their practical, pothole-friendly car) and they offered us a lift but we wanted to walk a little bit more. A little slower.
Soaked on Blencathra
Our big hike was going to be Blencathra, a reasonable target of 868 metres and one of the most northerly mountains in the Lake District. It was pretty clear outside in the morning and we decided to ignore pessimistic weather forecasts. You don’t really go to the lakes for the weather anyway.
The first hour and a half were a bliss. We followed a path up the mountain and with every step we could see more and more of the valley, neighbouring hills and the lakes. It was stunning and refreshing, and we stopped a lot just to take in the views. It was everything we hoped for.
I’m not sure at what point exactly we realised we could see less and less, and the path got steeper and steeper, but first doubts startled when we could no longer spot any hill edges, only the path and a few feet of the ground around. We still hoped it would clear up and we’d be rewarded with awesome views, so, a bit slower, we kept climbing up.
It was somewhat colder and more humid, and we had no idea how much longer it would take to reach the top as our preparations did not include bringing a map. To our surprise, the feeble path was marked on GoogleMaps. We had one mile left to the top and Google reckoned it’d take 54 minutes.
We took a few more stops as the wind picked up, the fog thickened and it started to rain before we decided to call it a day (and the top), and head back. We could barely even see each other and for the first time I realised how worryingly unprepared we were. Unprepared and alone high up the mountain. A bit scary and thrilling at the same time.
By the time we were halfway down the mountain, the rain got real and my water-resistant trousers held on until we reached the bottom of the hill. Then I just got soaked but it was worth it. And it definitely granted me the right to devour a massive chicken burger and chips in the local pub.
Perhaps November is not the perfect month if you want to hit the Lake District. Maybe water resistant really is inferior to waterproof. And maybe printing out a map before heading into the unknown is a good idea.
Where we stayed:
Rydal: Rydal Lodge is a traditional B&B, very comfortable and the hosts are lovely. We had a great breakfast there and it’s near the lakes and many beautiful walks.
Threlkeld: Cherry Pip Cottage is a cosy, self-catered little house with one bedroom. For payment prepare cash (the nearest ATM is in Keswick).