I walked the Cumbria Way with one of my sons in 1988. It follows a mainly low-level route for 70 miles through the Lake District from Ulverston to Carlisle. We had enjoyed a traditional, comfortable night in the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and then the next day walked over the Stake Pass down into Borrowdale and on to Keswick. The route passes from what was Westmorland into Cumberland and that is what we had in store for today, albeit only as far as Rosthwaite. The clocks have gone back and day light is getting short. Add to that we have created for ourselves an awkward drive for two cars – one at either end of Borrowdale and Langdale. Sir Hugh loves to be up and away before light but I’m a night owl and like my mornings to start slowly, preferably after a cup of coffee at 9am. So it was a shock for my system to be getting out of bed at 5am and on the road 30minutes later.
The last time we were both here was the sad occasion of scattering our friend Tony’s ashes. A little ‘ceremony’ involving flasks of tea and muesli bars with family and friends in the valley bottom below Gimmer Crag had some of his ashes duly scattered. This was followed by myself and Sir Hugh taking Tony’s son, Robert, with the remaining ashes in his rucksack, up a climb on Gimmer, Tony’s favourite Lakeland crag. I chose what I thought was an easy route for the occasion, a three-star VD, Oliverson’s Variation and Lyon’s Crawl. A long rising traverse in a superb position. We placed Robert in the middle and set off on what turned out to be an exciting exposed and in parts tricky climb right across the West Face. To help progress Sir Hugh says he had to pretend he wasn’t frightened as we coaxed an ashen-faced Robert across and up. Nevertheless, we accomplished our mission, and Tony is up on the top of Gimmer looking down upon us today.
Our route continues along the valley floor for about two miles and then starts a zigzagging ascent alongside the beck on a well-reconstructed stone path, Stake Pass.
We reached what we thought was the top just as clouds piled in from the west. There followed a strange endless hummocky plateau before we finally crested the pass and looked down into Langstrath. Down we went on a series of superb zigzags taking us right into the valley bottom. I have no recollection from the Cumbria Way of this unique path.
Sitting on rocks, enjoying lunch, we tried to make out features across the valley, there were crags everywhere but we only identified Cam Crag Ridge correctly. The track down the valley was rough and we made slow progress, enjoying the scenery and reminiscing. I had forgotten how much of a slog up the hillside on the right it was to reach Seargent Crag Slabs and lower in the valley BleakHow Buttress seemed to be disappearing under vegetation.
Another enjoyable day on our Wainwright Way, not so many AW connections today but he would have appreciated those zigzags.