His first taste of Lakeland
Part One – Blencathra Sunset
He’d heard my many tales of the unique and romantic charm of Lakeland but Nobz is a realist and required solid proof that I was not just waffling in hyperbolic rapture again. An indication that I may actually be onto something came on the A66 as the Cumbrian Mountains burst into view. His reaction is not fit for those of genteel sensibilities so I will offer my take on his outburst, “Cripes man, those yonder hills have fairly tickled my wotsits. Jigger me with a jiggering stick”. I was pleased that he was coming around to my way of thinking and even more so at his eagerness to engage with “the big one on the right” at the first given opportunity.
It wasn’t long before the big one on the right became the big one in front, towering over our luxurious abode in Threlkeld. Blencathra is a compulsive object, an independent and muscular brute of a hill so after a bellyful of Keswick’s finest chips and gravy we concurred that an expedition to take in the sunset from its top was the order of the day.
With no time to lose we parked up at Scales and hit the narrow bracken fringed path greeting walkers on their way down. I love going into the hills later in the day and it is always a source of amusement when fellow walkers warn of the perils of nightfall and ask as to my experience and often my sanity. Of course they are talking nonsense and often seem oblivious to the fact that the hours up to and including sunset are amongst the finest on any mountain; a moonlit descent is one of life’s sweetest pleasures. One invariably gets the hill to themselves and what’s more they get to witness unrepeatable once in a lifetime dramas painted on the ancient stone, the lakes below and the very sky itself.
With the last of the stragglers long gone we entered the valley of the Glenderamakin River, a secluded retreat where the sights and sounds of modern living are forgotten and that blissful state of carefree gladness takes hold of even the most world weary of curmudgeons. Life is good there. Nobz was visibly thrilled and already I felt he had fallen under the enchanting spell of Lakeland as I had all those years ago.
At Scales Tarn we rested awhile beneath the exposed rock arête of Sharp Edge, the most slender ridge in Lakeland. I spoke of other parts of the district and Nobz listened intently, filing away names of places that one day he hoped to visit…Wasdale, Langdale, Buttermere and Borrowdale. We surveyed the head wall of the corrie and speculated on winter routes up its gaunt and shattered face. We could have and wanted to stay there all night but the westering sun had dipped below Scales Fell and if we were to watch it slip into the Irish Sea we would have to get a move on. Above and beyond, Sharp Edge beckoned.
For his inaugural crossing I urged Nobz to go forth rather than follow, to make the ridge his very own and relish every step for Sharp Edge is like the finest of loves…intense, always too short and ultimately unreciprocated. One will take away precious memories and yearn for more but the edge remains cold and indifferent. Other suitors come and go, the spurned live in exile. Savour the ridge and cherish each moment, knowing that it doesn’t last forever. Of course I voiced these sentiments to my good friend but my naïve romanticism made no impression on him. He was preoccupied with the task of carefully balancing along the apex while a Wordsworthian ghost whispered in my ear.
All too soon the edge was but a memory and we scrambled up the polished slate of Foule Crag before emerging on the Blencathra’s summit ridge. The panorama had suddenly grown and upon reaching Hall’s Fell Top it would do so again. We perambulated urgently on as it was nearing showtime; we didn’t want to be late. Before long we reached the tumbledown cairn marking the highest point of the mountain and I took great pleasure in Nobz’s incredulity. “I can’t believe my eyes. Look at ‘that’ view; I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It’s amazing, awesome, just gorgeous”.
We had arrived just in time as our life giver began its magic. We were riding on Blencathra’s broad back and as she slowly turned away from the sun we were bathed in celestial brilliance until we were left with the dying embers of the day. I gazed across the Solway Firth into Dumfries and Galloway and wondered about all sorts of things and wished a wish as would a child on blowing out the candles. There was nothing more to be done. It was time to go and meet the gloaming head on. Tomorrow would bring another day in the mountains, and for tomorrow we could hardly wait.