Highs and Lows
Highs and Lows – 214 summits in 214 days
Mist hung over the valleys around Derwentwater, prickly thistles marking the rounded summit of Latrigg, my first of the morning. I’d set off very early, before 5am, driving from my home in Kendal to Latrigg car park, surprising a proud roe deer stag, deep red in colour, who looked up from the lane and bounded off into the wood.
Higher up the tarmac chewed away at the verge by recent floods, nature reclaiming her territory. There wasn’t a breath of wind. I ran back past my van and up the climb towards the high Skiddaw fells, already getting too warm.
Climbing steeply opened up the view, a family of four ravens sitting on the fence, croaking their encouragement, or worse, as they took off into the still air. I veered off the main path, along a faint trod heading for my second summit of Lonscale Fell, mist arriving as the air warmed from below.
Skiddaw Little Man next, a newly made gravel path to the twisted iron fence posts marking the summit. The trig point on Skiddaw itself, worn and eroded like a rotten tooth, mist washing up like a tide against the ridge.
I took a line contouring across the scree, marvelling at the arrangement of all the slate stones, lined up like an army, all facing north west. A small climb to the summit of Carl Side, then along the lovely ridge, one of the best short ridges in the lakes, rolling as it does first to Long Side, then to Ullock Pike. A tiny black lamb, bleating and running off with it’s mother.
Steeply down plunging in heather and bilberry, finding the old ride that slices nicely through the plantation trees down to the forest road, climbing again up to the final summit of Dodd, a memorial cairn to a Scout master on the summit, giving me an idea that Latrigg would be a good place to remember Bob Graham, sitting as it does with views over Keswick and almost the entire BG round.
On the way down my first cuckoo sighting of the year. It was calling by the path, perched in a rowan tree, taking off and fluttering with it’s sparrowhawk long-tailed profile, no doubt to trick meadow pipits into flying off their well hidden nests in alarm, inadvertently giving their location away. The thief returning when no-one’s at home to lay it’s own egg for them to adopt.
A dilemma on the back road at Millbeck with the bridge being closed, blocked with security fences. I had a close look at the map and found a small path further back, coming out on the other side of the beck by the village hall. The long drag along the warm tarmac back to the car park, foxgloves and fragrant elderflowers breaking up the monotony. After changing, I drove into Keswick for a strong Costalot coffee and croissant, two of my running club mates just setting off to recce the first leg of the “Bob”
My morning’s work wasn’t over, I wasn’t even half way through it yet. I drove through Whinlatter, parking up by Scawgill Bridge, my legs taking their time to loosen up again on the steep climb to Greystones. I love these low, grassy, mounded Wainwrights, and followed the winding trod through bogland with the wailing call of curlews.
Climbing up amongst heather, a male whinchat calling in alarm, more beautiful than his brighter, gowdier cousin, reaching the summit of Ling Fell. Another path to follow, the short grass yellowing with the dry weather, down through bright green bracken. The trail to the summit of Sale Fell like a well kept lawn.
After so much easy running, I took a downhill line through the rough tussocks, wet with cuckoo spit, joining up with the footpath again at Kelswick Farm, across fields, before climbing by a big badger sett onto rough pasture, cotton grass white like snow as far as the eye could see.
Flies were starting to gather around my head, eager for salt from my sweaty brow. The backdrop of the Skiddaw fells, dark and huge, a wonder I was running over them only a couple of hours ago.
From Broom Fell, a roller coaster to Lord’s Seat, and some company on the way to Barf, Jackie, a sprightly, tough looking 64 year old fell runner from Ellenborough AC, the uppers on his studs worn and knackered. We shook hands as we went our separate ways, me doubling back up towards Lord’s Seat, before contouring through deep, wet bog and heather, finding the path down to the forest road, taking me up to the mountain bike trail.
A short cut over fallen conifer trunks, onto leg sapping tussocks again. There’s something deeply rewarding about keeping going when you’re spent, and I was now running on empty. Whinlatter summit, the high cairn, then the lower, and a vertical plunge downhill through knee high heather, grabbing at my shoes. A red grouse shot out from under my feet and I stopped in my tracks, looking for it’s nest. As I gently pulled the heather apart, a meadow pipit flew out, it’s camouflaged nest with a full clutch of four eggs.
The stream in the valley bottom had washed away the path, wanting to meander, as it surely will at some point. I washed in the clear, cool water, and looked forward to well earned late lunch in Keswick after my morning of Wainwrights. First the highs, then the lows.
15 Wainwright summits today, that’s 177 down, 37 to go.
© Graham Patten
Wednesday 15th June 2016