Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Wainwright's Coast to Coast - Day 2

Please click on the photographs to increase their size. 

Sunday 13 September 2015

Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite - 25km suggested day
                                                     - 20kms covered in 11 hours -ugh!

We woke to a patchy blue sky and having had a good night's sleep we were feeling quite positive about the day ahead. Our large hearty breakfast fuelled us with energy and we managed to depart by 8am. Alas the patches of blue had quickly been consumed by rain clouds and we set off in full rain gear again.

It wasn't long before we found our 1st signpost, but it was not C2C, so the maps and directions had to be quickly consulted.

A right turn was in order, taking us along a narrow road bordered by grassy fields, ripening for hay making, to the edge of Ennerdale Water.

Our narrow path snaked along the lakeside. It was relative flat except for one steep section, but it was difficult to get our stride into a rhythm, as there were puddles, mud, rocks and uneven ground. Still, as the rain eased we were glad to be hiking here. The purple heather, autumn bracken, curious sheep, mossy rocks, tiny gurgling rivulets, birdsong and views across the lake were just delightful.

Slow going as we clambered around the bend of the lake.

Looking back to the steep, rocky bend of the lake, known as Robin Hood's Chair. Is that sunshine appearing?

The sky was clearing quickly as we left the head of Ennerdale Water behind. How lucky were we. Seathwaite, notable for having the highest rainfall in England, a phenomenal 4.7 metres, was just ahead. We were to be even luckier, but we didn't realise it at this point, as we only had to bother with wet gear for one more morning. Thank you to the weather Gods. You looked after us so well. The temperatures mostly hovered around 15 C which was perfect for hiking. A couple of layers to start
the day and by afternoon these were off and we were sweating.

                View behind us
                 View in front of us

The sounds of disgruntled cows bellowing echoed across the valley, as they were moved to a new field. It was a relief to have a soft, flat surface to walk on as we crossed these fields. Soon we crossed a bridge over the wide, crystal clear, boulder filled River Liza and found ourselves on a dirt road, which gently increased in elevation, through a forest of green.

On arrival at this section below, we spent quite some time discussing whether we should continue along the valley road or, turn left, climb to the top of the green section and then turn right and make our way to Black Sales YHA. There was no C2C signage and the notes weren't terribly helpful.

After much deliberation, the decision to climb through the bracken was made. It was deceptively steep and on approaching yet another stile, we decided to break for a snack. It also gave us time to appreciate the views across the valley and the vast swathes of heather on the fell behind. From the distance, the heather appeared to be bare rock. 

 I loved the colouring of this flowering grass with a pretty purple vine hiding beneath it.

We were discussing the route again, when two middle aged, English hikers stopped for a chat. Yes, we should have continued along on the road, but don't worry,

 "it would be silly to to retrace your steps when you have come this far. It's only a bit of a scramble up onto that ridge line that you can see behind you, and then you just follow it along to the slate mines." 

We questioned them quite fully, before making the decision to continue on up.

Our 'helpful' guide disappearing over the ridge. Was it really the top of the ridge?

Feeling rested we set off at a fair pace, which rapidly diminished to snail's pace, as the climb became steeper and steeper, rockier and rockier and too often disappearing into the thickness of the heather. The expansive vista was magnificent, but each time we stopped to catch our breathe, we had little energy to turn and enjoy them.

                    1st mistake was loosing the trail along this cascading,  little stream. We needed to be further right.

View back to the lake we had hiked along.

Each time we thought we were nearing the ridge line, it just laughed at us and disappeared even higher.

On reaching this point [above] I became relieved and excited. What a magnificent ridge line! It can't be far to the summit. Finally one more hard slog and we were there and mortification set in. What we saw made us want to lay down and die.

The view from Red Pike - 756m

Thankfully another special ingredient of the C2C, came into play. Strangers came to our rescue, calmed us down, encouraged us and then took time to share their maps and give us directions.

The English hikers had said,"JUST FOLLOW THE RIDGE LINE,!" OMG, now the really hard work was about to begin, with ascent after descent, after ascent. 

Unbelievably steep, uneven, rocky, slippery and interminable, but again magnificent views. 

It was a steep climb here to an open ridge and the cairn where you traditionally leave one of the pebbles collected at St Bees beach. As we weren't really meant to be at this high level, I wonder where the lower level hikers left theirs.

View at the top of High Stile, 806m looking back to Red Pike. Progress? 

In the photo below, we looked back from Great Gable to High Crag. We were astounded that we had actually descended this peak and it wasn't all a bad dream.
The descent!

The view from High Crag. 

The white crosses show the lower route most people take. The green cross designates Black Sale YHA, where we would have been able to make a more than welcome hot coffee. The yellow crosses mark the path we took off the ridge at 6.30pm.

After descending through the boulders of Great Gable, our energy, knees and enthusiasm were all but shattered and there confronting us was Wainwright's beloved Haystacks, where his ashes are scattered. Our good Samaritans of Red Pike came to our rescue again and pointed to a route down to Buttermere Lake. They suggested we might be able to phone our accommodation from there and transport would be organised for us. Music to our ears.
                    The Haystacks

The new route was still a challenge, but with relief flooding through our bodies, new reserves of energy kicked in. 

Looking back to the Haystacks

Thankfully, with English 'summer time' [I love it] daylight wasn't an issue and although the hour was late, I made time to take deep breaths and soak up the tranquil beauty of the valley.

There was no phone box at the end of the track, but yet again, the generosity of strangers saw that we were not stranded. A couple on holiday in the Lake District, had just returned to their car after hiking near by and offered to take Margot and Gail the 5km to Buttermere village, so they could phone our hotel. There was no room for all of us, so Joc and I were going to wait patiently until our rescue. About 20 mins had passed, when this kind hearted couple returned for us, as they couldn't bare to have us sitting in the middle of nowhere. When they dropped us off in Buttermere, they still had 
about 20 kms to drive to their accommodation. Meanwhile, the owner of The Bridge Arms Hotel, Buttermere, had liaised with the owner of Rosthwaite's Scafell Hotel and it was arranged that we would have dinner at The Bridge Arms and then a taxi would be booked for 8.15pm to take us to Rosthwaite at a cost of only 10 pounds. We were so grateful for everyones concern and organisation.

Another feature of the C2C that we were astonished by, was the bodies ability to bounce back. On arriving at our hotel at day's end, we would usually flop onto our bed all but ready to die. 30 mins rest, a good hot shower and we were ready to reward ourselves with a cold beer. On this occasion it was having a chair to sit on and  relief that we had made it, that made our recovery swift.
 View up to the ridge we had hiked, from The Bridge Arms.

It had been a long, hard day - 11hours with one rest stop and snack, but I loved it and couldn't believe my good fortune to be able to spend such a challenging day amidst such unbelievably stark, natural beauty. My body may have been complaining, but it was filled to overflowing, with happiness.

I hope my day hasn't discouraged you from considering this hike. The immense sense of achievement, makes the hard work worthwhile. I would love to read your comment.


  1. We did the first half of the C2C last year and will be returning to do the whole thing next year. Your post was so familiar sounding! We also did the high route, and had pretty much the same reactions--especially the part about feeling like it would be easy once we reached the ridge. Ha!! It was also so windy we had to crawl at one point to stay on our feet. Ever since, we've called that day "The Death Hike"! Looking forward to following your blog in the days ahead.

    1. lizch, thank you for your comment. I can't imagine having to contend with wind as well. I think I would have freaked out on some of those narrow sections with the drop to the valley below. We were so totally grateful for the weather we had. Also it is lovely to know that someone else loved but hated it.

  2. I needed to put a sweatshirt on.... brrrrrrrr. What a wonderful hike!

  3. Helen - What you have achieved is just mind boggling!!!! courage, confidence and determination - you are my inspiration.....
    As usual your pictures are just magnificent. I cannot believe that you walked that distance. Enjoy the China trip. Take care.

  4. What the body can do! I'd say the experience was worth the hard work. Love the photos.

  5. I'm still finding it hard to accept that the stunning views were fair compensation for that near death experience But the kindness of strangers was

  6. Wow your second day was quite the adventure! So wonderful that all those people were so kind to help you and your friends. And the scenery was gorgeous! Not a bad place to wander.

  7. I love the reward once you reach those high places! The views are outstanding! You covered a great distance with loads of elevation gain over many hours, you would be just fine hiking the rocky mountains are here,

  8. What a beautiful hike, albeit with all its issues!

  9. Ah ha, now I know about the pebbles (well, one of them!). What a day! So glad you met with such good Samaritans. I love the lake views and the heather. Walking through those ferms is always arduous. We often find them when we go mushroom gathering.