moonsheen: (into the great unknown)
[personal profile] moonsheen
So, as some of you may know I am hiking in England right now. More specifically I am presently in a town called Boot, having walked there from Coniston today. Coniston is more commonly known as Ruskin land, where once there was Ruskin and now there is Ruskin's home and a corresponding museum. We visited his grave, there was nothing written on it, just Hindu iconography carved on on one side and Christian iconography on the other. We walked to Coniston from Ambleside, which was ten miles and ridiculously beautiful.

But today's was 15 miles. I was ready to die horribly.



Today we climbed our first proper fell (bigger than a hill, not quite a mountain), The Old Man of Coniston, and we started going vertical nearly as soon as we left town. The Old Man of Coniston is about 800 meters. We climbed about 600 of those meters. Now, I pretty much worked out daily in the two months leading up to this trip, and the (relatively flat) trip from Ambleside hadn't murdered me, but BOY nothing in the gym really prepares you for those inclines. We kept sort of winding higher, and higher, and every time I saw my brother and dad (who were a bit ahead of me and my mum), go over a slope, we thought "oh, this must be the top" but then we went over the same slope and saw the fell kept going UP UP UP. Towards the end I had to stop every ten feet or so to catch my breath and guzzle water, but I was still able to hold conversation, which at least proves I was sort-of in shape, but not really NOW YOU WILL WALK STRAIGHT UP ON LOOSE STONE WITH WIND BLOWING IN YOUR FAAACE in shape.

The pay off was more than worth it. The top was the pass (Waila Scar? It was called something like that) between the Old Man Coniston and the White Maiden, two of the big fells overlooking lake Coniston (which is the third largest lake in the lake district) and the view was pretty much amazing, with the clouds not quite reaching the lake and the town sort of a dot over our shoulders. After climbing about 600 meters, the 200 meters extra to getto the top of the Old Man seemed like nearly nothing, but we didn't go, mostly because by then we had ten more miles to go and we weren't about to push our luck on the second day. (We did actually do the White Maiden peak though, since it was basically right next to us. The wind could've blown me off the damn fell). We worked our way down on the other side ("...did we seriously just climb that thing?") and hit up a pub for some tea (it was around noon) girly beer, and more water in our bottles.

We were just setting out through the woods and across a moderate ridge(about another 200 meter climb, but again...the climbs are really awesome because once you're up there you sort of walk along the spine of the Lake District, and you could nearly map your destination out ahead of you from above if you wanted, you just sort of want to die on your way up) when it began to really rain. It rained for about an hour. With our wet weather gear and the warm temperature, we weren't too bothered. It had let up by the time we had lunch by a little waterfall, but after crossing a tiny bridge made from railway planks we crossed what the maps referred to as a 'slightly boggy' area.

Note when these maps note anything is boggy, what they actually mean is "YOU WILL SINK IN ABOUT TWO FEET HERE. IT WILL BE MUDDY. YOU MAY LOSE YOUR SHOES. ALSO YOUR EARTHTLY POSSESSIONS"

So yeah, it was a bit boggy. ("ARTAAAAAAAAAAAAX")

We hit solid ground again, and forced our way for another few miles through a brambly, rocky patch of path which felt like heaven after nearly falling into the Swamp of Sadness, but after that we finally reached the next fell and came upon what our map referenced as 'an increasingly impressive view".

Children of the nineties, you know that moment at the end of The Land Before Time where Littlefoot is crying because he's lost the way and tried to do what his mother told him but then all of the sudden he comes through a tunnel and the clouds sort of roll back to show sudden sunlight appearing across the valley he's been searching for the whole movie and suddenly all the baby dinosaurs are running through the tunnel to watch as land just appears before them?

It was a little like that.

(what we'd really found was the Scalfell pike, the highest fell in England. The dark clouds of the rain we'd walked through were pretty much sitting on them, and there was just enough sun slanting between them that when you turned a corner to see it you began to understand why guys like Wordsworth and Coleridge might have gotten a bit fired up about it-- granted, I'd also like to know what Wordsworth and Coleridge would've had to say to each other when THEY were trudging through the bog to get to the view, in whatever passed as 19th century hiking gear, but still. Inspiring!)

We worked our way down off the ridge, through a pair of grassy knolls, climbing down into one of the stretches of the walk which essentially amounted to us trudging through nice people's farms (which is allowed so long as you lock the gates behind you so their sheep don't get out). Somewhere close to the bottom of the slope my dad stops a few steps ahead of us and goes "....there's an obstruction up ahead."

The obstruction is a Wall of white cows. A wall of fat white cows and calves that was rapidly coming towards us at as high a speed as being a cow generally allows. (note: this is pretty fast)

We gathered into a square near one of the half collapsed slate walls in the center of the pen. The cows, like most cows, are confused and vaguely terrified to see a group of humans who may possibly milk them in the pen and obligingly part to run past us on either side. One or two stop and stare. (Cows, I am beginning to realize, are giant babies who sort of freeze and stare at things while sheep are sort of like lawn decoration that just does not give a crap) Most of them switch into GET THE HECK AWAAY!!!! mode. They reconverged behind us and end up pressed against the gate we'd just walked through, staring at us like each of us had two heads.

We sort of just shrugged and moved on.

Now I am sore and out of my wet hiking gear. Hopefully once we have a more reliable connection I can start getting some pictures up. For now, I must go to enjoy Italian night at the nice Cumbrian farmhouse/hotel where we will be staying tonight. In the name of authenticity, the people in the attached pub are playing La Bamba.

The end.
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March 2012

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