Seeing that it’s now been nearly a month since my boyfriend and I went on our annual walking holiday, I thought I’d better get a move on and actually write a post about it before I forget. Like last year, we decided to complete the three-hour journey up to the Lake District, to a small market town nestled in the northwest of the Lakes called Keswick. Due to it being a bit of a last-minute trip, we decided three days would be a suitable stopover to walk a couple of hills, see the area and obviously hit the pubs after a long day of walking. With the exception of geography trips, I’d only ever walked a couple of mountains for pleasure that were around 400-600m in height, so when my boyfriend stated we’d be walking the third highest mountain in England, Skiddaw, which has a summit of 931m, I certainly doubted my capabilities of being able to reach the top.
With the expectation that Skiddaw would be a rather difficult climb that would take the majority of the day, we set off at 9am to grab our sandwiches and make the ten-minute car journey to the car park. I’m not usually one to be up and about at this time, but it’s always a good idea in places like the Lakes, or Peak District, if you want to grab a parking space, because by 11am they’re pretty much packed full. Arriving at the car park with Skiddaw towering over you was certainly intimidating, and not to mention being surrounded by pro-mountaineers with all the top gear and equipment – it almost felt like we were about to climb Ben Nevis. The route we decided to take began from the car park nestled next to Latrigg which would eventually take us past Lonscale Fell, over or past Little Man and up to the top of Skiddaw.
Walking pole in hand, we began the ascent and as it turned out, the initial 60 minutes of the walk turned out to be the most difficult. The walk was steep in the beginning. Not steep enough to consider crawling up, but I definitely appreciated having the walking pole and a light rucksack. The pathway up is fairly friendly, it’s well-trodden loose stones which admittedly did become a little slippy following the rain on the way down, but was otherwise a bliss compared to our Red Pike climb the next day (hopefully I will actually get around to writing about this too). Skiddaw lacks the crags, edges and rocky faces that many larger fells experience, making the walk up fairly pleasurable. I think there is an element of good fitness required, but if you take it slowly, it’s easily doable. By the time you pass Lonscale Fell, the slope begins to even out a little on the way towards Little Man, and although you’re still ascending, it almost feels like you’re walking on flat ground compared to the slope you just tackled.
Eventually you will reach somewhat of a crossroads, left will take you up and over Little Man, and straight on bypasses Little Man. Both paths eventually meet around 20/30 minutes later. We noticed quite a commonly-occurring rookie error at this point later on. Despite it being August, on the day we walked Skiddaw we were greeted with clouds, cold and bitter winds. This meant that by the time we reached Little Man, we were entering the cloud cover, and all that could really be seen was Little Man on your left or a long path straight on which didn’t appear to be going upwards. Without the help of a map, we would have definitely assumed Little Man was Skiddaw, and on the way back down we noticed this happening a lot, unfortunately Skiddaw was another hour’s walk from the bottom of Little Man. We chose not to walk Little Man, and instead bypassed it as we were unsure how much longer or what the path was like up to Skiddaw. By now we were fully in cloud cover in which you couldn’t see anything beyond 10 metres ahead.
The walk up to the summit of Skiddaw was a little steeper than the middle section of the route, but nothing too strenuous. We reached an area which we thought was the summit, as the path on-wards only appeared to go downwards, but luckily we had talked to a few people returning from the summit, in which they said “when you think you’ve reached the top, you haven’t”. So we walked on-wards and downwards for a while before finding another ascent, realising this was the summit of Skiddaw due to the marker. With the cloud cover and being at a summit of 931m, it certainly was freezing cold (we estimated around 5/6 degrees) and the winds seemed to be around 60mph, so thank you to all those who have kindly constructed the stone shelters on the top. It’s a shame the cloud cover limited the views on the top as you can see from the photos, as normally there is plenty to see from the flate vale of Keswick and Derwent Water to Newlands Valley and Bassenthwaite.
All in all, the route was actually much easier and took a lot less time than expected. With a couple of breaks going up it took us around two hours to reach the summit, coming back down added another hour, and with us being of average fitness levels, I’d say this can definitely be achieved within four hours. It is a walk I’d recommend doing in the Lakes, because although it looks like a monster from a distance, it’s a pleasant walk up and by the end of it you’ve summit-ed one of the highest mountains in England, and of course, you then have an excuse for a pub lunch and a quick pint in Keswick afterwards (maybe even treat yourself to some fudge from the sweet shop too)!
Hopefully I will soon get round to writing my post about day two because it was an unexpectedly strenuous day action-packed with adventure and interesting routes up waterfalls that I’d love to share, but until then I’ll just keep telling myself to get into gear!