This iconic location has been on my imaginary bucket list (which includes skydiving and seeing the Northern Lights) for a while! I'm not sure how I heard of it, maybe one of those Secret London articles? But I was obsessed over the crystalline lakes and the panoramic views from the top of the peaks in the Lake District. I'd tried many times to convince my friends to join me on this trip but to no avail. Until now.. and in the most unexpected yet perfectly fitting way too.
At the dinner table last night in Lancaster, I expressed my love of the outdoors to my new mathematician friends and that being so far up north, how I wished I could have seen the Lake District. And who was to be on the table but a Lake District veteran and climbing enthusiast who had been bagging peaks from a tender age. And without much of my convincing, surprisingly, he changed his train tickets and we had a plan ready to take on a couple mountains the next day!
Our day began with a chilly morning and sneaking out fruits and croissant from the breakfast to save for lunch. With our bags packed, we headed to the bus stop and took the earliest one into the city. Our destination was only 40miles away and would take less than an hour in a car but the bus route went through all the little towns along the way and with a break in Kendal, we finally reached Windermere at around 11am; after over 3 hours on buses. We dropped off our bags at the Tourist Information Centre and were informed by the slightly condescending dude there that it would be impossible for us to cover the 3 peaks we were planning to do. With a rucksack between us, we got on yet another bus and headed to Rydal, the start of our hiking.
I quickly warmed up as I climbed and the thermal top was soon off as the sun came out from behind the clouds. The paved road turned into a slight trail and before one of the gates, a box of homemade flapjacks was placed on the side and a small tin to donate towards a cancer foundation. Coin in and flapjack in hand, I brimmed with pride for being a part of mankind. And this was further enhanced when we start going past other climbers who almost always greeted us and vice versa. Not knowing each others name or even the reason for being there, there was a sense camaraderie among us as we each tackled mother nature's creations. The uphill, as you can imagine, was pretty touch on the muscles but we made very good time and I got my first Wainwright, the Nab Scar peak at 455m.
What is a Wainwright? Well, its almost like a unit for the 214 peaks in the Lake District named after Alfred Wainwright, a man who fell in love with this area and wrote a seven-volume pictorial guide to the Lakeland Fells, published between 1955-1966. It is a classic much revered by the climbers of the Lake District mountains, with the books describing each one of the fells and the area with beautiful hand-drawn pictures.
Our hike continue from this peak and onto the next. We were still not very high yet so with more uphill climbing through grassier paths, we reached Heron Pike at 612m and then its parent peak, the Great Rigg at 766m. Still going pretty fast, we were sure to move onto our planned and highest peak, the Fairfield at 873m.
Now at the top, the winds were pretty strong as Fairfield famously had a large and pretty flat one. We wolfed down an apple and decided our next route as we had several options. We went with a pretty daring one and decided to do the Fairfield horseshoe. This entailed walking along a ridge, going past a few other peaks and finally heading down to a point behind where we had started from. Off again!
A few more Wainwrights bagged, we went past Hart Crag (822m), Dove Crag (792m) and High Pike (658m), where we stopped to have our lunch of the stolen croissants. Re-energised, I decided I was not going to get a more beautiful running route and so I was off, hopping on stones and unsuccessfully avoiding the mud to reach our final Wainwright, the Low Pike (508m). Our return journey took us onto a literal "road less traveled" - we saw only 2 others walking on it. Having already jarred both my ankles doing some dumb stuff along the way, I was slightly more careful and slower.
Near the bottom, we crossed a fast stream called the Scandale Beck. The thorns and branches we had to get past to fill our water bottles was definitely worth it for the cool and refreshing water.
A final bus back to the station and feeling pretty good about surprising the guy at the information centre with the route we did in that time - apparently it normally takes around 6 hours and we did in 3 and a bit. With muddy shoes and the hiking clothes still on, the train journey felt long (even with the nap) but I somehow made it back home to crash asleep.