I knew today was going to be a toughie, but it was only after speaking to fellow walkers in the pub yesterday that I realised most people did this section over two days. It involves two steep ascents and descents, going up and down twice, and most people seemed to be stopping at the village inbetween. Now that I realised my walking powers had be reduced to human levels, i wondered whether I should do the same.
The first hour or so involved walking up an increasingly picturesque steep sided valley. At times it felt so magical I expected to bump into a hobbit or an elf. At the back of this imagination was a sense of looming fear as I realised that I would be required to climb over the crinkly furry walls of the surrounding hills. This was amplified by the lack of power in my legs and bite of the blisters which held me back walking any faster.
As soon as I started climbing these feelings were all overtaken by the sheer effort required to continuously use my legs to life myself and my rucksac up step after step. I kept reminding myself of what I had learned over the past few days – that this pain was fleeting and would disappear as soon as I got to the top and stopped, to be replace by the blissful euphoria of the view and lack of strain on my lower body. Behind me I could see a trail of people following who any moment now were going to overtake me, which would have been a blow. I felt like the first on the trail that morning, and I wanted to be the first to the top. The intensity was compounded by the constant contemplation of the logitistical and emotional nightmare of not being able to do this section on one go.
All of this meant that when I did get to the top first I almost started blubbing such was the sense of emotional release. People started joining me almost immediately, so I tried to man it out. The view was spectacular, a panorama of furry green folds and bumps rising up to a series of peaks, ridges and plateaus. It was like somebody had laid a sheet of wet green velveteen over a buch of randomly arranged chairs, and then stuck miniature sheep on it.
This gave me the burst of energy I needed. I piled on down the other side, avoiding the high route because however nice it was it would stop me reaching my overall goal. Once I reached the mid-point, a youth hostel in grasmere, I threw my pack off my back and laid on the floor for half an hour to ‘have a moment’, relax and ready myself for the next part. I was exhausted by I knew the energy was in me.
The next bit involved another steep climb up to Grisedale Tarn. I could see from a distance that the top was covered in white mist, spilling over the edges of the moutain tops in wraith-like tendrils. I could also not see anybody on the route in sharp contrast to the convoy earlier on. This wasn’t going to stop me, although it probably would in any other circumstance, even if I were with other people.
Once again the climb was a slog, starting at being a noticeable slope to becoming amazingly steep. I found it all diffcult, even just the slope, but didn’t let myself dwell on my lack of abilities. I just needed to male my destination, a youth hostel, for 6pm, giving me time and space to recover and prepare in a relaxed fashion. I hadn’t booked a bed, which given the popularity of hostels in the lakes was a major problem, and could result in an exhausted tent putting up and dinner locating situation.
I got to the misty top. I could hear the sound of children chattering and wondered whether these we’re the ghosts of local kids taken before their time. Then for a second the mist cleared and I could see a school group absailing up a mountain top above me. As well as dispelling my supernatural fears, it also reassured that I wasn’t being too foolhardy being up there.
The mists also cleared enough to show me the tarn, a silver disc of water being rippled by the almost gail force winds up there. It wasn’t as spectatcular as before, but it was still an achievement and had been done on reasonable time.
Then the long, at times boring descent into Patterdale. It wasent that the valley wasn’t pretty-it was average pretty for the lakes which meant very pretty for anywhere else. But when you’re tired and the soles of your feet sting a little with every step, everthing pales into insignificance compared with warmth, space and cleanliness. This was one of the reasons why in retrospect I wish I’d been able to split it over two days as I would have enjoyed each bit far more.
I finally got to the hostel, 6pm on the dot, and they had a spare bed. I was so ecstatic but way to worn out to show it. Within the space of two hours I was washed and fed (a very lovely and filling chilli con carne – I recommend!) with breakfast and packed lunch sorted and my clothes on the washing machine. All without moving more than 50 meters from my (warm, soft) bed.
The reality of whether I survived the day will only be felt tomorrow morning. If I seize up immediately then it was too much for me handle. If I keep going then it was an achievement, but not something I’d like to repeat. I will be back to do at least the roswaithe ( in borrowdale) to grasmere walk again as was fantastic, walking between two very special places. But at this moment the only destination I am going to is bed.