Map Memory – 214 summits in 214 days
I knew I must have had one beer too many last night, as when I arrived in Borrowdale I’d brought the wrong map with me. We’d been away for a few days cycle touring with our little boy Ash, camping at night and being kept up by the Bank Holiday party crowds. This morning when I woke I had no idea where I was. It was only when I remembered an early Wainwright bagging session, that I jumped out of bed and got the coffee on.
The higher summits were still in cloud, a fresh north easterly wind, the promised sunshine still yet to appear. I set off along the road from Stonethwaite, wearing my comfortable “slipper” trail shoes. With no map to guide me, I could pick my own routes through the landscape, and I started the game immediately, going straight up Eagle Crag from the bridge over Greenup Gill, bluebells still in flower in the dampness.
As it got steeper, I scrambled up rock steps, grabbing at handfuls of heather. A bird shot into the air with a clatter of wings, as it wheeled around it stared at me long and hard, the masked face of an angry peregrine falcon, caught by surprise on sentry duty. Bands of vertical rock near the smooth stone of the summit.
Easy running through the heather along dried up peat, and as I looked up at the incline to the next peak, a ring ouzel flew across my path, the mottled white arc on his chest clearly visible. As I started the climb, I could first hear, then see, his browner mate down below amongst the boulders. Fantastic, a breeding pair.
On Sargeant’s Crag, the sun broke through, bright with shadows and it looked as though the cloud was breaking up across the valley on Rosthwaite Fell. Last year this route was my last day of Wainwright bagging, with Base Brown the final summit, thick with cloud and the rivers swollen in spate.
Today it was getting warm, already feeling like summer. I picked my way carefully down to Langstrath Beck, stepping across boulders by the gash of Black Moss Pot. Hands on knees climb through tussock grass, then following a worn trod to the top of Rosthwaite Fell.
I could see another good looking route skirting Comb Gill, a scramble climb up jumbled boulders, opening out onto the summit plateau, with the cairns of Glaramara lined up ahead.
I’ve already been up Allen Crags this year, so looked down on the steep valley of Ruddy Gill, searching for a line. It looked steep, wild and remote, ticking all my boxes. A slash in the hillside that I couldn’t cross, sheer cliffs either side. Without a map, I didn’t know this was Allen Gill, and I had to lose a lot of height to get around it, making the climb of Seathwaite Fell more of an effort. A raven flew off a rotting carcass of a sheep at the edge of a tarn, no doubt stuck in mud earlier in the year. Great views of the Borrowdale valley from the cairn.
A traverse down a grassy ramp to Styhead Gill, and a steep contouring climb all the way to Base Brown, my legs starting to feel tired, my feet aching and sore. A hot climb up the exposed path to Green Gable, passing the first walker of the morning, views of Ennerdale my reward.
Fast along the well worn trod to the next Wainwright, smiling at it’s name, like someone from a posh public school. “Good morning, Brandreth” A family from the Peak District on the summit of Grey Knotts, on their way to climb Great Gable.
Running down to Honister Pass, remembering my Bob Graham round last year, my feet now very sore, the damp skin must be shedding off my old blisters inside my shoes, the wounds raw and bleeding. Along the bridleway for a while before joining the steep road, admiring the light on the oak trees in the ravine. An army of poled pensioners at Seatoller, making their way up the side of the road from their coach, house martins like flies, in and out of the eaves.
Wild poppies along the roadside, yellow in the sunshine, then I’m back at my van and the sheer luxury of taking off wet shoes and socks, fresh air on bare feet. I changed and joined the holiday traffic back to Keswick, fuelling up on coffee and a pork burger outside in the sunshine at the Museum Cafe, before the slow drive home.
I felt strangely liberated by my run today, making me think I should use map memory more often.
9 Wainwright summits today, that’s 153 down, 61 to go.
© Graham Patten