Lake District Day 3

Pensive - or annoyed by wet boots?
Tuesday April 24
We are SORE.

Breakfast at these places is only between 8 and 9:30. Seems late for walkers, but whatever. We wanted to make the most of today - we had to go back, so Agnes could work. More reasonable portions here, you could choose what you wanted with your eggs. We’re demanding about more toast and butter - but those are the best things!
Much more confident in our compass and map reading abilities today. We wanted to use the new map Agnes had bought - a waterproof one, that she worked hard to also download onto her phone last night. Bonus GPS! Is that cheating, or just using the best available technology?
We figured out a new loop to try. Up to Stickle Tarn, across to another little bit of civilization - Easdale - then back across and down to the road/Cumbrian Way. The goal was to get back around 2 or so. We set out just after 9 AM. How could we up the ante from yesterday?

Agnes retrieves our clothes from the drying shed - still wet. She’s been dreading wet boots, and I don’t blame her at all. We kit up, and one of the New Dungeon staff points us in the right direction - the path to Stickle Tarn starts right behind the hotel.

It feels like we’re in totally new countryside once again. Delicate yellow flowers on spiky stalks, more trees than we’re used to - even some pines! - and this lively ghyll. We start to climb again, and for once, it feels actually warm. I’m walking in a t-shirt.

At the top - Stickle Tarn! There’s someone wild camping on the far side, just set up by the edge of the water.  For the first time, the idea of wild camping seems really appealing - the sunshine helps.
Just around the tarn, our path splits off to the east. Agnes takes the compass today, and after a few false starts gets the bearing.

We still don’t fully understand the logic of the map. Sometimes you’ll see the word ‘cairn’, in an area with lots of cairns. Sometimes - like here - it’ll just say ‘pile of stones’. I’ve been hoping to see a pile of stones! But how is that different than a cairn, exactly? Right at the fork, we think we see a pile (though still not sure) and set out east.

Like yesterday, we are now freestyle walking. Dead dry grass, peaty bits, clahhhty bits, sheep shit, and huge rocky crags. It is very steep - toe touching shins steep - and there is definitely no sign of a path. Up, up in to the wind, but no cloud today! We get to the top of the crag and — just want to start running. Fuck boot bruises and sore knees, this is insane. You have to fling your arms out and yell.

We take a break from yelling in the shelter of a small cliff. Apples and nuts, excellent combo.
Now we can see what must be our target. There’s a tarn, irregular shape - it’s not the one that’s closest though. My hypothesis - that one’s hidden behind the crags.

And soon, somehow, we find something that resembles a path. A groove in the dry grass, a footprint, a few stones that might be a pile - it is a path! Both tarns come into view. We are definitely on the right track.

As we climb down, the landscape changes again. We’re in the land of red sticks. Dry and dead and rusty coloured now, they cover the hills. What’s it look like in summer? And why don’t the sheep eat them all?

There are more people on this path now. It seems well-established, broad flagstones paving the way. Agnes’s challenge: can we say ‘y’alright?’ In a believable way? The first guy beats her to it. New strategy: let them say hi, then go for it.

Pretty sure this sheep is peeing.
It starts to rain again, as we trudge into the grid of sheepfolds. We are on the new map now - waterproof! - and use the GPS to pinpoint our exact location, just for fun - not because we NEED to. This is our turning point - we need to do almost a U-y to head back. But of course the path isn’t obvious. Across this sheep fold? Or up by that house? The compass points us to the house, and sure enough, it’s the right way. Up through the spiky gorse and juniper (I think that’s what it is) and more red sticks, through some very clahhty bits. Once again, not much of a path.

We decide to have lunch, on a mossy ledge under some trees - a bit of protection from the rain (straight down today, not sideways), but no protection from the sheep poo, which is everywhere. Agnes’ food planning has worked out brilliantly. We’re down to one sandwich, and one leftover toast and jam from the day before. A sausage and some ham from Wasdale Head. The last of the carrots and hummus. Then a new invention: a ‘nut pool’ with the tail end of the chocolate bar. Salt, chocolate, so good!

We try to switch boots - Agnes’s ankles are destroyed - but my orthotics are just too much. So we slog on, following the compass and what might be a path.

We’ve been following a pack of sheep trotting single file along a very mucky path by a stone wall. It’s the right direction - the trouble is just getting down to the road/Cumbrian Way. It’s close - we can see the odd car whizzing along (way too fast!) but there are many fences between us and the road —- and there is just no path at all, even on the map.  We’re going to have to jump at least one ancient wall. Is it trespassing, when we’re already walking in a crowd of sheep?

We start to pick our way down - the hills are still steep, and very slippery. I fall hard on my right hip, on a rock. We are sopping wet by now, cold and sore and a bit cranky. There are actual trees ahead, behind a rocky outcrop. I scramble down first. Turns out we’re still fairly high up - on a ledge above a series of little pale green portable homes (possibly cottages? Trailers?) We’re above the roofs - way too high to jump, even if we could get close enough to the ledge. As it is, there’s a wall in our way. I climb up first, careful on the moss-covered rocks, holding on to a nearby tree. It’s not nearly as bad as I was worried it might be - no slips, and it didn’t crumble under me. (Thank you, whoever built these things so strong!) Agnes clambers over after me, I can tell she’s not impressed.

On to the next challenge: getting down. Of course, it’s harder than it seemed from way up the hill. One way seems promising, down a little gully - but up close, I see thick thorn bushes covering everything. Not that way. I edge along, hanging on to trees, desperately trying not to slip again. So far, I don't see any signs of life in the portables below. But there is a blue car, parked on the driveway … I run through what to say, if someone asks what the hell we’re doing … but nothing seems particularly convincing.

I think I see a way down. Agnes is definitely not into this. I edge out along the cliff, right next to a very old, very mossy bit of wall. Hang on to the living tree branches - not the dead ones. Step on stones, not rotting plants. Gingerly, I make it down - hurrah!! But Agnes is still up at the top, not at all convinced this is a good idea. Face the wall, and just keep moving - she puts her feet in just the right spots - and makes it down. Quickly, we hustle out to the road - we didn’t get caught!

Only then does she reveal her big fear. Falling, sure. But more than that: what if someone finds us trespassing, and she somehow loses her position at Cambridge?

Vacation still to come!
Thank god, we’ve avoided that fate. And even better, we’re closer to New Dungeon Ghyll than we could have hoped.  Very soon, we’re in the Stickle Barn by the fire, resting our aching feet and drinking ale and lager with delicious lamb stew on the way. (Dessert too!) Just a few hours behind schedule - but another adventure accomplished.

Finally, after 11, we make it. It feels a bit sad - that part of the vacation is over. But tomorrow is only Wednesday!

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