After a week of storms and a dismal journey through torrential rain on Good Friday the weather prospects for our climb were pretty dire. The forecast had changed daily but never to anything promising. So it was with some trepidation that I opened the curtains of our room in Rydal, near Lake Windermere, on Saturday morning, and couldn’t have been more surprised to see blue sky and sunshine!
Our plan was to climb Pike O’ Blisco, a nearby Lakeland Fell, to raise money for the animal refuge Wildlives (more details about our campaign here). A short drive to Old Dungeon Ghyll and we were at the start of our climb, with our goal in sight.
At 705m tall, Pike O’ Blisco is a pretty energetic hike. We began by following the road, a steep but pleasant stroll.
Before long, however, we left the road and started to ascend the lower slopes. As these got steeper the path became like a staircase – a seemingly endless one!
The Lakeland Fells are generally quite gentle in climbing terms, and there’s not a huge amount of technicality involved. The main things to remember are to take a few provisions, especially water, as even on a cooler day you sweat a lot and could easily become dehydrated, and – crucially – be sure to wear the right footwear. If you only buy one piece of technical outdoor clothing make it a pair of walking boots, or at least boots with a good grip. We witnessed the perils of inappropriate footwear the next day when we climbed another fell called Red Screes and passed someone who was completely stuck and unable to get down – a distressing situation to be in! You should also, if you’re being really sensible, take an OS map and a compass (we had them although the day was so clear we didn’t actually use them).
By now, to our great amazement, the weather was warm, and we were shedding layers at every stop. But all the exertion was certainly rewarded by some incredible views across the Langdale valley.
As we neared the top the terrain became more rocky and some scrambling was called for – not easy with quivering legs from the effort of an hour of walking upstairs! However, for an 11 year old this part of the day was simply an adventure playground writ large. Look at her go!
It took me a little while longer to scramble my way to the top but I made it! We were all triumphant, although if this photo’s anything to go by, too weary to actually look it.
We chose Pike O’ Blisco for our climb because it’s perfect for novice climbers – not too difficult, but varied and demanding enough to make it a challenge. I think it’s wonderful how almost every part of this rugged landscape – not just the fells, but also the valleys, waterfalls, tarns, crags and becks – have acquired names, presumably over the centuries and passed down by people who needed them to navigate the terrain. If you look at the OS map this area is a mass of intriguing, romantic, poetic names – Crinkle Crags, Thunacar Knott, Adam-a-Cove, Hell Gill Pike, Great Horse Crag. Just like the dry stone walls that weave everywhere, they’re like an echo of past inhabitants that help give the landscape its unique character.
Of course, getting to the top of a mountain is only half the story. The descent can be the most difficult part; you’re already tired, and it’s an effort to stop your weight from propelling you wildly down the slope. It also doesn’t help if, like me, you’re cursed with poor balance! With a sense that almost every step could end in calamity I found the mental effort of just trying to stay upright exhausting. Whereas my two climbing buddies, each of whom has a hobby where a key feature is balance, (windsurfing and roller skating respectively), practically ran down the mountain. I’d never thought before about balance as a skill that can be cultivated – there’s not much call for it in knitting!
So, It took longer and was harder (and hotter!) than expected but by mid-afternoon we’d completed our Climb for Chequers challenge. Here we are enjoying another essential part of any climb – refreshments in the pub at the end. This is the Hiker’s Bar at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, the start and end of many a good adventure. Thanks so much to everyone who sponsored us!