Saturday 29 August 2015

Photo Essay: Day Five of the Coast to Coast Walk

"My father considered a walk among the mountains
 as the equivalent of churchgoing."
- Aldous Huxley

Day Five: from Patterdale to Shap (16 miles/26 km)

Summary of Route: By the end of this stage, you will beyond the eastern border of the Lake District National Park. The first-third of today's hike features a continuous climb up to Kidsty Pike. You begin walking up a ramp on the eastern end of Patterdale. You rise steadily to a platform called Boredale Hause. Then you continue climbing south-east to Angletarn Pike. From here you descend to Angle Tarn and Satura Crag. Another climb upwards takes you to The Knott and, finally, to Kidsty Pike, the high point of the day. 

Climbing out of Patterdale
Kidsty Pike (784 m) was the highest point on the original Coast to Coast Walk, before several alternate high-routes were added later. From here, if you look back to the west, you can see Ennerdale Water, Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and St Sunday Crag.

Looking back going up to Boredale Hause
Now you face a steep descent to the Haweswater Reservoir. Haweswater was originally a rather small lake, but in 1929 a large reservoir was established — by building a large concrete dam at the northern end of the lake — in order to provide fresh water for the residents of Manchester.

The trail is now level, and it follows the western side of Haweswater to the village of Burnbanks, which sits at the head of the Reservoir. From here it is an easy walk for about five miles along level ground and soft grass to the village of Shap. On the outskirts of the village, you pass Shap Abbey (founded in 1195, and dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540) which is located right on the eastern edge of Lake District National Park.

Today's hike turned into the longest and most gruelling hike of the Walk so far. It was supposed to be about the same length as Day Two — sixteen miles — but because we took a wrong turn on the trail, near Kidsty Pike, we added about three miles and roughly two hours to the day's walk. We arrived in Shap at 6:45 p.m. — almost ten hours after leaving Patterdale. On top of that unforeseen problem with the route, we also encountered some really bad weather.

Michael and Tony approach Angle Tarn - we soon faced howling wind and driving rain

Football, as the cliché would have it, is a "game of two halves"; the second half of a match is often dramatically different to the first 45 minutes. The daily hikes of the Coast to Coast Walk have been like that too. Half of each hike has been on fairly level ground; half has involved a steep climb up to the high-point of the day, followed by an often steeper descent. For the first four days, the high walking has come in the second part of the trail; but on this fifth day, the tough climb came first, followed by a fairly level walk for the rest of the day.
In his Coast to Coast guide, Henry Steadman points out that this final stage of the Walk inside the Lake District is no easy farewell to the land of fells and valleys. It is just as challenging as the previous stages; you may be fitter and more fully-adapted now to the rigors of Lakeland, but — partly because of its sheer length —it is still a hard slog.

Captain Robert Scott and Captain Titus Oates? At the highest point on the eastern fells: High Street

Like the walk yesterday, today's hike began with rain. We walked out of Patterdale in full rain-gear. After about fifteen minutes, we realised we had taken the wrong road. We retraced out steps, adding about 20 minutes to the day's effort right off the bat. Back on the correct route we made another minor error, but soon found ourselves beginning a long, sustained climb up to the moorland of Patterdale Common. 

Looking down from High Street north towards Haweswater

The rain stopped for a while after about an hour. Then began a long climb around the east side of Angletarn Pike to Angle Tarn. Here the weather turned nasty. For about an hour we were buffeted by howling wind and lashing rain. It was grim. I began to obsess on creating a formula: total discomfort = heavy blowing wind + driving rain + wet trail + slippery rocks + sore feet + aching legs. You might call it The Full Monty of hiking woes. All it took was the removal of a couple of elements for the formula to improve your mood and outlook.

Looking north: Small Water in the foreground; Haweswater behind

Quote of the Day:
"If you find a job that you love, you'll never have to work again."
- Lyn, the proprietor of the Old Schoolhouse B&B in Patterdale

Small Water

It was when we got to The Knott that we missed a key turn north-east towards Kidsty Pike. We were influenced, I suppose, by a couple of other hikers we had conferred with earlier. They had good topographic maps with them. We saw them marching ahead of us up a steep incline. We followed them and began the long climb — again in heavy wind and rain — up to High Street. I was beginning to feel the cold, and was not sure of where we were. 

Water flowing out of Small Water to Haweswater

Once at the top, we consulted our map and guide book, trying to verify our location. For the first time on the Coast to Coast Walk, we seemed to be lost. We stopped for lunch, taking shelter behind a small mound of rocks. Feeling better for the sustenance, we moved on, and finally identified a large body of water to our left (north). It was Haweswater. But we realised that we were a long way east of where we should have been. We had to find a trail that would take us in a long, northerly descent to Haweswater. 

Long and difficult climb down to Haweswater

We met a few hikers coming up to where we were; one of them gave us precise directions on the path we needed. The way down was an arduous journey. The path was strewn with large boulders and rocks the entire way. It seemed to go on forever. After about 80 minutes, we finally rejoined the Coast to Coast path at the southern end of Haweswater — a long lake running north-east. We hiked along the entire western side of the lake (about an hour). And after that there was still about five miles over muddy and boggy fields to the village of Shap. By the end we totally knackered.

Crossing a bridge near the southern end of Haweswater

The problem with these long and physically gruelling walks is that they bring on mental fatigue. When you are climbing up, or down, steep trails that are a "mine-field" of rocks and boulders you have to be constantly alert, and consider each step that you make. A careless footfall can mean a twisted ankle, or worse. You stumble and slip more in the last couple of hours of the walking-day.

Gorse - a common wild shrub in England

When we reached the northern tip of Haweswater, we could sense the change in landscape. The fells were quickly coming to an end; and ahead of us was low-lying filed and meadows. As we walked through the hamlet of Burnbanks, and moved on towards the village of Shap we were leaving the Lake District behind us. I was sorry to see the end of its dramatic and spectacular scenery; but, truth be told, also glad to have these four days of steep ascents and descents behind us. Let's see what the rest of the Walk has to offer. We are ready for it. Physically and mentally adjusted now to the continuing demands of long-distance hiking.

Just outside Burnbanks: a young lad's initiative to help hikers with cold drinks and snacks

An "honesty box" to serve Coast to Coast hikers

"After a day's walk everything has twice its usual value."
- George Macauley Trevelyan

From fells to fields and meadows: on the way to Shap

Cows in field on the way to Shap

This hike is dedicated to Bill and Barb Cannon.
(see the end of my blog post for Day One for details)

Shap Abbey: last abbey founded in England (1199); last to be dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540

Coast to Coast Path (Sixth Edition - 2014) by Henry Stedman;
Coast to Coast: West - Harvey Map XT40

Walking down the road to Shap -- late afternoon shadows

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