I read a lot about Skiddaw, like I was going to sit an exam on the topic. It’s the fourth highest in the Lake District; it’s the oldest, according to the evidence of its rocks; Skiddaw itself and the surrounding fells look like a family photograph without a mother (the reason being “the old lady having perished in the Ice Age – she couldn’t stand the cold” – The Northern Fells, AW). Most deceitfully, so much about how a friendly giant Skiddaw is, how gentle his paths are, how easily one can get to the top, “toddlers and grandmas alike”. But for whatever reason, we decided to go up Carl Side instead, which was a complete shock – it was so steep! After all, as it is said by my wise husband “this is still the fourth highest mountain in the Lakes!”
We took the X4 Bus from Keswick bus station to Millbeck. We like the friendly bus drivers in the Lake District.
The thought was: we’ll go up the difficult path and come down the easy one. According to AW’s the Northern Fell, we should go along Slades Beck and reach Carlside Tarn, which is between Carl Side and Skiddaw south top. But somehow, we ended up on a path leading us to Carl Side summit.
The view changed with every step we took upwards.
Carl Side is supposed to be “a splendid climb… with a glorious view south”, which was true at the beginning (photos above). The path was clear but really steep. As we ascended, a cloud enveloped us and the glorious view south, north, west or east. There was nothing except an endless path ahead of me, which disappeared into the mist. I got really bored…
Walking uphill is never a good time to talk – I have no spare breath for that kind of luxury. So our journeys are often quite quiet. It’s usually a mixture of me mumbling “I can’t walk anymore”, “are we there yet”, my husband checking “are you OK”, “do you want XYZ” and long silence in between.
And suddenly, there was the summit. To be honest, it could be anywhere…
We found the Carlside Tarn pretty quickly. It must have rained. Because there was a pond right next to the Tarn. We couldn’t really tell which was which – they were the same size. After Carlside Tarn, the path to Skiddaw was definitely toilsome and difficult unlike what AW thought! We were still in the middle of a cloud at this point, misty and windy – just made the steep climb even less enjoyable. The thin and small stones were very slippery. The sound of little stones jumping off the side of the mountain and disappearing forever underneath the cloud made me a bit nervous too.
And finally we saw the cairn of Skiddaw – I could only see it when my hair was not whipping my eyeballs. The wind speed on top of Skiddaw was a bit like a Boeing 747 taking off – I imagine. However, a person walked calmly out of the cloud towards us when we were leaning and balancing awkwardly against the cairn, trying not to get blown away. So unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy the “glorious promenade high in the sky”. Sorry I didn’t take any photos either. I feared I would never see my camera again.
Why do the walking magazine articles always get good weather? Did Wainwright always get good weather? Surely that’s not possible. Then how did he draw all of the panoramic views?
Then, with the wind behind us, we hurried down the touristy path towards Keswick. I really regret that we didn’t have a detour to the Little Man. That would be one more box to tick! But more importantly – as I said in the last entry – there are so many fells and lakes in the Lake District, there are equally beautiful sceneries in Wales and Scotland, in Europe, in Japan and all over the world. Will we go back to Skiddaw ever again?
We have to, because Skiddaw didn’t lift his veil at all, but who knows when it will be.
I could see why this was a great path for a family walk. Not as popular as Striding Edge surprisingly.
The mist cleared up gradually and here was the first glimpse of Bassenthwaite! I looked at the skyline of the west side of the lake, and wondering which one was Barf, where we were going the next day.
Keswick from Latrigg.
A long time ago, a friend stubbornly lead a whole group of uninterested people (including me) to Latriagg as a detour. We walked and walked against the wind and got lost a little bit. Suddenly the foreground dropped and millions of warm orange lights popped into my eyes – some lined the streets, some spilled out of kitchen windows, some reflected on the water. I was stunned and speechless. This friend then appeared quietly and suggested – a good place for propose, isn’t it?
Looking back on the path we went up in the morning.
As AW said, the hills will wait. We might come back one day. We couldn’t see much on top of Skiddaw, which made us look forward even more to the next day. We would go to the west bank of Basenthwaite and see Skiddaw across the water (at least, that was the plan…)!