Walking: the most ancient exercise and still the best modern exercise.
There are five good reasons to hike in mist:
1. You get the fell all to yourself
2. It’s cooler (well that’s debatable; the day actually started out humid)
3. The birds sing louder
4. It’s intimate with every footstep a surprise
5. You get to test your navigation skills
On the steep path out of Seatollar, the stillness of the mist was magical. I only ran into one older walker striding at a good trot and obviously pleased with the day having just finished his final Wainwright, at least from one particular book, Castle Crag. This was Alfred Wainwright’s plan all along, to organize the hills so people could organize their walking. Most people I met proudly ticked off the fells on their list before they asked where I was from.
In the mist, the Lakeland Fells look as they usually look, poetic, hidden, mysterious. At the junction, I pushed up a steep section littered with slate. The low fog added atmosphere to ruins of walls, buildings and mines along the hillside.
Soon I reached the ridge completely hidden in cloud. My plan was to do a circular route that would find me eventually in the bustling village of Keswick, a tourist destination filled with shops and pubs. But with the weather, I decided to shoot across the moor towards High Spy, Cat Bells and eventually work my way around Derwent Water.
What is a fell, you might be wondering. It’s likely from old English or perhaps Norse, another word for hill. In the Lake District, fell and hill are interchangeable, even though Sca Fell is over 3000 feet high. The term mountain is reserved for Scotland, higher – by 1000 feet or more – and craggier.
And a peak? That’s reserved for a completely different district, unless you’re referring to just one particular top. And the term for the fells in North Yorkshire that I’ll hit next week? Those are called moors, high tussocky and wet flat areas on top of fells. It’s really all quite confusing with the most important thing of all knowing where I am when I’m there.
As I approached the pointy lookout of Cat Fell, the number of hikers increased 100-fold. Lots of “hiya”s and “allright, mate”s as we passed. I loved the speed I was getting even with my home on my back, so flew up to find a little rest stop for lunch. It didn’t take long before my overconfidence was deflated coming down on rock stacked like bread slices, and needing to slither slowly, inch by inch on my bum.
Once I reached the lake, it was only a few miles to town and I was overjoyed that a public foot path was organized through the forest and gardens. You really can walk anywhere in this country and people do.
By this time, it was raining full on, but no one seemed to mind too much including me, the temperature is so lovely and the air fragrant. Today is market day in Keswick and I arrived just in time for half price on fruit and vegetables, the stall minders loudly selling their wares like carnival barkers.
Tomorrow proves to be better weather and I hope to find a little tarn near Blencathra for the alicoop whose seen only campgounds for the last few days. But for now, it’s window shopping and pub crawling. Cheers!