In 2021 I was lucky enough to visit the Lake District not once, but twice, in just as many months. Whilst both were equally as beautiful, they were worlds apart when it came to satisfaction and enjoyment.
The Lake District Ultra Challenge
The first of these two trips took place back in June, taking on the Ultra Challenge distance of 50km. Whilst I have walked many challenges before, some reaching the same distance, some a little more, this particular weekend was somewhat personal to me. I was raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society after my Grandad was taken into care with late stage dementia.
This walk was about business, about doing something he would be proud of and to raise money for such a cruel disease. And, whilst I trained hard and didn’t expect it to be easy – I didn’t imagine it would be the hardest walking challenge I would face.
I took on the “scenic and tough half challenge” alone, starting from the town of Kendal. Immediately I headed into a competitive spirit, enjoying overtaking those that were in an earlier wave than mine. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day with blue skies and a lovely breeze to boot. I started the first 10km incredibly strong and in good spirits.
However, the tough part was yet to come, as shortly after the first rest stop, the only way was up, and up, and up. Despite my training, nothing could prepare me for the incline and terrain of the Kentmere Horseshoe – rocky, uphill and relentless – it was knocking the stuffing out of the most seasoned hikers, myself included. Heading into the midday heat too, the lovely breeze we were experiencing was non-existent.
From here on out, the views were splendid, all the way to Troutbeck, up to Jenkyn’s Grag and following the downward path into Ambleside and the half way (29km) rest point.
After a brief rest, not wanting to stop for too long, I was back on my way again following the River Brathay, up to Wray Castle and then following the winding path around Lake Windemere, followed by a further climb towards Scale Head, before dropping back down to Lake Windermere for a final stretch to the finish line across the Lake at Bowness-on-Windermere. I had reached the 50km before nightfall, a little tearful and broken. However, overjoyed that I had completed over 31 miles in undulating conditions, alone!
Helvellyn, Striding Edge and Elterwater
A few months later I was back in the Lake District with a group of friends. As we drove to our cottage, through Ambleside, all the emotions came flooding back. Though, there were no worries this time round. I was in a group, our purpose was to have an adventure, but not to go crazy in regards to miles – just tick of some scenic routes and, if weather allowed, a mountain or two.
Luck was on our side as the first day saw perfect weather conditions to attempt Helvellyn and Striding Edge. If the weather was on point at the top of Helvellyn (950m elevation) then we would be able to attempt Striding Edge, a Grade 1 scramble.
On the way up, at every point the view was to die for, and the higher we climbed the better it became. Striding Edge was something I was nervous about, and for those that do feel a little shaky, there are options. You can either scramble over the rough ridges or follow the lower ridge path walk, before a further short scramble to the summit.
As I was feeling nervous I did take the lower path, to avoid the sheer knife edges, to then join the others for the final scramble. Then after a brief lunch stop enjoying our surroundings we started our descent, which was another scramble down Swirral Edge.
The route is not for the faint hearted, if heights get your knees knocking then perhaps seek an alternative path. However, the reward, the adventure, the view and the sense of accomplishment is something out of this world. Something I would recommend in a heartbeat.
On day two of our adventures we picked a 8 mile circular route from Elterwater, that took in numerous waterfalls (Skelwith and Colwith Force) and the Cathedral Quarry. The Cathedral quarries are a small network of interlinked quarries above Little Langdale.
The main chamber stands at forty feet high and for use required a little scrambling to get to further tunnels to continue our hike. Whilst rather spooky, the area is spectacular and worth a visit whilst in the area.
After a short time exploring the caves and tunnels we were on our way, looping back downhill to Elterwater.
The time surrounding these two epic hikes was spent cruising around Lake Windermere and even a spot of rowing for some.
A far cry from my previous trip and so much more enjoyable, with company to boot.
In 2022 I am already planning a further trip to the Lake District in the hope that I can take on Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England at 978m, should weather be so kind.
Do you have any recommended hikes for our beautiful Lake District?
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