You leave Threlkeld and head up to Gategill (where the Blencathra foxhounds used to be kennelled – and might still be, for all I know; it’s been a long time). You keep going till you reach the last drystone wall, with a sheepfold on the left. At this point you bear right up the fairly steep slope of Halls Fell. Suddenly the path veers to the left and heads towards a narrow rocky ridge with a steep drop down to Gate Gill on the left and Doddick Gill on the right. Now it’s an exhilarating walk – at times a bit of a scramble, but nothing taxing and certainly not scary – straight towards Blencathra summit, with impressive close up views of the gills and enclosing ridges to right and left and a wide vista of Lakeland behind.
Once we walked that route through thick cloud – when you’ve only got a week you cram in as much as you can, regardless of the weather – and picked our way very carefully along the wet and slippery rocky ridge.
Suddenly we were out of the cloud and in bright sunshine, the sky a brilliant blue from horizon to horizon. We turned, looked back the way we’d come and below us lay a white carpet of cloud, totally unlike the grey, clinging, soaking fog we’d been walking through.
We sat down to take it all in. There to the south east across all of this whiteness was Helvellyn, and as we scanned westwards we could see Bowfell and Scafell Pike, then Gable, all just emerging from the cloud. We walked the remaining few hundred yards to the cairn on Blencathra top and, as far as we could see, we were the only people on the hill that morning. We certainly didn’t see a soul as we dropped down to the Glenderaterra valley via Roughten Gill and walked back to Threlkeld, then drove along to The White Horse in Scales. There were, however, quite a few people in the pub shaking their heads and saying, “Oh no. Not going on the hill in this.”
A wonderful memory, the most outstanding among many from the Lakes, the Highlands, the Isle of Arran, Preseli in West Wales, Northumberland, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorks Moors. Memories, because COPD (the legacy of 55 years of smoking), knackered legs and – quite simply – age mean that I will never be able to walk the hills again and my battered and stained by frequent dampness, annotated copies of Wainwright’s invaluable Guides to the Lake District’s mountains – bought in the sixties, so now more than fifty years old – are just armchair reading.
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
Aye, all very romantic and sweet and sad and Wordsworthy, but why don’t you tell them about the time you decided to break in a new pair of boots by traversing Blencathra up Blease Fell and down Scales Fell and ended up walking back to Threlkeld in your stocking feet with blisters on your blisters? Whimpering, you were, like a bairn.
Radgie! Shut up!
Or the time you froze up when you were climbing that crack on an exposed slab at Crag Lough and it was only when your second started hoying rocks at you that you got moving again?
Radgie! Watch it!
Radgie! Foxtrot Oscar!