Day Four: Patterdale to Shap

Despite feeling quite broken the night before, I woke up energised and ready for the day. Undoubtedly the youth hostel and it’s comfortable bed had a lot to do with this. My knee was still twinging whenever I went down the stairs, but I dug into my first aid bag and pulled out a compression strap which appeared to do the job. My clothes were clean and I had a good breakfast, balancing healthy stuff (weetabix and a fruit yoghurt) with a little bit of unhealthy stuff (just a single sauage and bacon strip with hash browns, lots of beans and no egg).

I set off feeling good, and in direct contrast to the previous day my blisters were giving me no trouble. My Heath Robinson blister care solution – compeed covered by moleskin covered by zinc oxide tape to keep everything in place – seemed to be working. The climb out of Paterdale was hard but not too hard, a steady slope that was never murder. At the top we had a fantastic view into one valley I couldn’t name, followed by another fantastic looking valley (boardale) that myself and my two companions went a little way down before looking back and seeing the two girls who had been behind us taking a higher route the opposite direction. We suddenly realised we’d gone the wrong way and did an about face. The irony was they had done exactly the same thing 10 minutes earlier, and turned back partly because they’d seen where we were.

We continued on past Angle Tarn and started the ascent up to The Knott. Even from a distance you could see the tops were covered in mist, which was a shame because the weather wasn’t too horrible (no rain – that’s balmy by lakes’ standards!). Despite (or because) of being so high up the entire area was crawling with walkers – you could see them above and below scampering along in lines like ants.

I was on my own and I climbed higher, but I could see the path clearly. I keep climbing as the mists drew in around me, confident that if I was climbing up I was going in the right way. I looked back at one point and saw somebody following me through the mist, so I knew I must be ok.

Finally I reached a set of cairns. I decided now was the time to check my map. Within seconds I realised that I didn’t have a clue where I was, and I couldn’t see anything further than 10 metres away to get my bearings. This could be serious I though-lost, on a mountain, covered in mist, a gail vlowig around me.

My solution was simple. Sit on the cairn and wait for somebody to come. If nobody came in ten minutes then I’d have to come up with another plan, but I’d wait for that eventuality before working out what the plan would be.

Luckily very soon a group of about 20-30 people arrived at the cairn. My openig gambit was “do you know where we are?” – the classic greeting of hill walkers the world over. Even more luckily this group had a couple of GPS gadgets. Within minutes we had our co-ordinates and worked out on my map where we where, where we went wrong and how we could find the right path. We stuck together until we found the path (and it really looked like a path) and then separated. This one event convinced me (understandably so) that a GPS is essential on big hills, because of not despite a lack of experience.

Later on at Kidsty Pike (still in mist) I bumped back into the guys I’d been walking with before, and they two and all the people they were with (and by the sounds of it others in the pub where I’m writing this at the end of the day) made exactly th same mistake, got to exactly the same point whereby somebodies GPS came to the rescue. I am now truly converted.

As we came down the hill the mists clears to reveal Haweswater reservoir. It was quite a cool sight, but it was definitely a shame that we hadn’t had any views while at the very top. However, when you dance with the devil etc. – weather is part and parcel of the british landscape, the lakes especially, and one really has to accept the risk of it being awful.

At the bottom I started a long trudge around the resevoir. It was goodbye to the lakes, and already the surrounding hills were starting to lose their prettiness and look quite ordinary (albeit big). In a sense I wasn’t sorry to see them go as they’d been so bloody hard to cross, but I’d love to go back and do a couple of the days again as they were really specular – today and roswaithe-grasmere being highlights.

Getting round the reservoir really took it out of me, and after that I still has miles to go before Shap. It was at this point my body started to break down. The soles of my feet became red raw. My knee started seriously twinging again, and I lost all my pace. A group of people overtook me, and I could see them disappearing into the distance ahead of me as I struggled to keep up. Just before getting into shap I was almost hitting the ground with the end of my poles in an attempt to vent my pain.

Luckily the pub where I was camping was situated pretty early on up the high street, and when I got there I collapsed on a heap in the garden. Unfortunately they didn’t have a shower, so I had to conduct my first wet wipe wash of my backpacking career, which actually seemed quite successful, although I gave myself an extra squirt of deoderant just incase. The pub was adjacent to a co-op, backbone of Britain, so I treated my self to a can of macaroni cheese mixed with half a tin of seeetcorn, followed by a large tin of fruit cocktail. You might laugh or shudder, but it was cheesy tasty, filled me up and delivered 3 of my 5 a day. You can’t sniff at that!

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