Tuesday, 19 June 2012

High Spy with my little eye...

Skelgill Bank with Bassenthwaite Lake behind.
Oh come on - I couldn't write a blog about an ascent of High Spy without going for the obvious pun now could I?  Last weekend had been booked in the diary for a couple of months; my cousin Esther was visiting Keswick and had asked if I'd take her on a proper fell walk and I was, of course, only too happy to oblige.  It tied in perfectly with some friends who were also visiting Keswick and so it was all agreed; hiking on Saturday followed by lunch with friends on Sunday.  And then the weather intervened...

We'd decided to take Delores up and camp for a few nights to save us the one hour each way drive but as we drove through the biblical downpour on Friday evening the plan seemed rather less brilliant.  We found the site and parked up easily enough, but as we sat huddled in the van listening to the rain drilling holes in the roof we couldn't help remembering that there was a perfectly good house fewer than 60 minutes drive away. I poured myself a large glass of wine to rule out any possibility of a break for the south.  The next morning didn't so much dawn as bubble to the surface, with the pouring rain now being given a little more "oomph" by the prevailing gale.  I called Esther and agreed to postpone the maiden hike until Sunday and we instead spent the afternoon tucked up snug and dry eating cake and drinking tea (or "carbo loading" as I like to think of it) with our good friends Caz & Ian.
On the top of Catbells

I'd like to tell you that Sunday arrived a little more quietly than Saturday did, but the thing is we'd camped on a working farm.  Now this may sound very "Famous Five" but the reality is our hardworking farmers are up bright and early 7 days a week and the combined chorus of dogs, chickens, cows and sheep had Steve convinced we were in the middle of a real time re-enactment of "Old MacDonald had a farm".  There was a definite "swear, swear here" coming from Steve's side of the bed at 5am.

Having stuffed the rucksack with just about every available foodstuff we owned we headed off to collect Esther.  I was very mindful of the fact that on this walk I wouldn't have the luxury of bickering with Steve about which path we should take; I was going to have to be responsible for an inexperienced hiker so, mindful of this fact, I packed an extra pack of peanut M&Ms in case of emergencies.  Steve deposited us at the foot of Catbells and we were off!

Views back up the valley to Dale Head
I would say it's pretty much impossible to get lost on the ascent of Catbells, but I'm sure someone will have managed it.  There was a steady stream of people pouring up the hill and, despite her concerns, Esther was keeping up a cracking pace and we were soon getting our breath back as we sauntered along Skelgill Bank. The last push up onto Catbells is a pleasing scramble.  Well it is if you follow me.  If you follow my rather more sensible cousin you'll find there's a good path up through most of the rocks.  We reached the top where we were greeted with a lively breeze and a little heavy "mountain dew" (I refused to concede it was raining) so we layered up and headed for Maiden Moor.  By now Esther was smitten and as each new peak or ridge came into view she added it to her list of "must climbs".  Don't blame me, blame the fells.

video
We fair roared up Maiden Moor propelled by a fine lunch and a couple of Snickers.  As it was Esther's first proper hike I was trying not to overdo things, but we're clearly bred from the same stock; once she spotted the path to High Spy there was no stopping her, and I hadn't entirely ruled out Dale Head and Hindscarth as our return route.  As we breezed over the top of High Spy however we settled on a return trek along the valley, following the Gill from Dalehead Tarn all the way back to Skelgill.  It's a wonderful route with an easy descent and spectacular crags and waterfalls along the way - looking all the more impressive following the previous day's deluge.

As we made our way through Little Town we encountered a couple of very friendly horses who were keen to say hello.  I never mind them when they're the other side of a nice big wall, but generally give them a wide berth if I have to cross their field.  The path from there to Skelgill is very pretty and I noted several houses I planned on buying when I next win the lottery.  At least when I next win more than £10 anyway.  I have to confess that by now we were tiring and, despite shoveling in a few handfuls of M&Ms, we were very glad when Steve found us along the road in Portinscale, thus saving us the final 1 1/2 miles back into Keswick.

By the end of the hike the skies had cleared and the weather was on its very best behaviour with the nearby fells all clamouring for our attention.  All around us tired hikers were making their way back to their digs with full cameras, empty stomachs and heavy legs, but none of us was too tired to re-tell the tales of the days adventures, accompanied by a cold pint, a hot dinner and a great big grin.