Tuesday, 26 August 2014

C2C Day 3: Borrowdale to Patterdale

We arose to a new day, this one hotter and sunnier than the one before.  This weather!  The locals we encountered expressed bewilderment, and most homes here have windows meant to keep the heat in and the windows don't fully open.  I was just glad to not have been in our fishbowl flat in London with floor-to ceiling windows that only open about four inches.  

The hostel was wonderful, and got us out the door early with a packed lunch and all.  We were a bit apprehensive as this was going to be our toughest day of hiking.  It was only 14 miles, but there were two 2000 foot climbs to negotiate.  A lot of people choose to split the hike in two days because of this, and spend the night at the halfway point in Grasmere.  Due to our time constraint, we had to do the whole thing if we wanted to make it to the train station in Krikby Stephens in time.  Plus, a seven mile day seemed paltry.  14 it will be!  

Oh, the other thing...our packs.  They were getting heavy.  I knew that there were lots of companies operating baggage forwarding services along the trail when I was initially researching, but paid it no mind.  It turns out that aside from a handful of people who were rough-camping, absolutely everyone we met was using ground support and getting their heavy bags forwarded from inn to inn, and only carrying small day packs with food and water.  

Wow, I'm going to have to think about this.  It might be worth the money as even the lightest pack feel heavy at the end of the day, and we had all of our rain gear, clothes for the week, much more water then we usually have to carry and a good amount of dried fruit and nuts and granola bars to see us through the week.  We've done hiking with big packs before, but never in this kind of heat- it was near 30 on this day, and we had already broken a sweat just getting our packs on.   

Borrowdale YHA was lovely though, and we started down the trail into the lovely village of Rosthwaite.

I couldn't dream up better beach weather, but it was a tad too hot to really be comfortable hiking, even in early morning.

It seemed like every hamlet the trail runs through embraces walkers wholeheartedly, with lots of tea rooms and cafes and pubs along the way.  I'm sure a healthy trade in overnight accommodation is why these towns are thriving, as a lot of people run a one or two bedroom B&B out of their homes.  

This inn was quite posh, I remember it being a couple hundred quid a night but just a lovely slate Victorian set on the loveliest lawns.

We began to climb up the valley and we were once again surrounded by high fells and relentless sun.

We would have gone for a dip but there was no way to get down there!

We started the steep climb up Greenup Edge.  The ground was basically a peat bog, and I don't think I would have been able to find the trail if it wasn't as dry as it was.  There were lots of cairns to spot on this one.  It would have been the definition of misery to have to do this fell in spring- like wading through an ice swamp.

Ah, the views though.  Looking back the way we came...

Even with the relatively dry ground, we would occasionally sink to near-knee levels in bog.

 It made for a surprise yalp and slow going as we hopped our way from dry patch to somewhat dry patch.

We did pass a group of 8 surly teenagers with their bedrolls on their big packs.  They were sitting at the foot of the mountain.  When we reached the top of the fell, they hadn't budged from their spot.  We stopped for lunch and bumped into their handler, a woman who was supervising (but not helping) them get their rough camping badge.  She said they were all unenthusiastic about this hike and camp business and the group yesterday had just flat-out refused to hike anymore, and she was afraid that this group was about to do the same.  Best to them, I'm sure they are horrified that some people actually do this for fun.

 Down the other side of the fell, where we hit more bog and a really lovely waterfall that cut through the slate.

We also bumped into  a wonderful man we had seen on the trail every day walking the opposite direction.  He was providing car support for his wife and teenage son, and he would drive the car to the next inn and then take off up the trail to meet them halfway.

The day more than half over, we hit Grasmere but did not linger.  We did find a teahouse that let us fill up our water bottles as we had drunk every bit of water that we set out with.  It made our packs lighter!  But after drinking at least a liter each while breaking at the tea house and feeling unwell, I started getting a nagging thought of being way over my head.

We took off down the trail for the second 2000 foot climb of the day as the time was edging close to 3pm.

The view looking back:

 This was a tough climb.  While it wasn't technical at all and the trail was in good shape, the heat was really starting to effect me.  OH and not to TMI you or anything, but I was totally having my period this entire week.  The few days a month where I'm most comfortable curled up with a hot water bottle on my tum and I'm out climbing in the wilderness.  I strive to impress myself.

I started to really suffer in the heat though.  Not only was I sweating more than I ever have before (in ENGLAND no less), but I started getting terrible leg cramps along with an occasional lightheadedness.  We stopped a lot to rest and snack- we had brought a couple bottles of coconut water and some bananas to deal with that, and a lot of salty snacks to keep the sodium levels up.  Overall, it was much slower going than I had hoped to do, but it was just so darn pretty I didn't really care.

Oh, and Mint cakes.  These things are legendary.  They are simply glucose, sugar and mint, they are indestructible and kind of slowly melt in your mouth in a way that makes your teeth start to ache before you surge forward with crazy minty energy.  They are my new favorite trail staple.

We finally reached what we thought would be the top, only to find that we needed to go up and over another ridge...

and then surprise!  Grisdale Tarn, a lake at the very top of the fell.  It was fantastically beautiful up here, and nothing but the wind rushing by to please your ears.

A scout troop at set up camp at the edge of the lake and I was almost enraged with jealously at this idea if I wasn't so exhausted and blissed out from so much fresh air.

 The rest of the hike cooled off quickly as we hoofed it down the hill with lengthening shadows engulfing the landscape.

 We finally stumbled into the village of Patterdale after 8:30.  I don't mind hiking late in the day, but the fact that there were only two places to get food in town and they both stopped serving at 9 weighed heavily on those last miles.  We barreled into the pub with our packs and mud and stench and smartly ordered dinner right then and there before checking into our rooms upstairs and taking a blissful shower.  Somehow, it was still warm enough to sit outside in the fading light and be comfortable (as the pub was as cozy as a sauna), so we did so while fending off midges and listening to the crickets chirp.

This had been a really hard day of hiking.

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