Chapter 4 – Grasmere to Patterdale
Like being at sea, or on any water really, when you are walking in the hills the weather dominates, at least in the UK. If I was walking in Spain or Catalonia I would only be mentioning the weather in terms of how hot it was or how blue the sky made the pictures of the hills stand out so well. If only that was the case here.
Before I left the forecast for the area around Grasmere was reasonably good and getting better as we came in to the weekend. Unfortunately the forecast bore little resemblance to reality in the hills, and Saturday 21st September was no different. The problem is that it’s almost there but not quite. I’ve not had horrendous weather, from what I understand the week before I arrived the weather was atrocious. I haven’t had stair rods rain and the temperatures have been surprisingly high, It’s the greyness, the blandness of the British weather that I find so depressing. That’s why when you do get a really good day it’s such a bonus.
Anyway, this stage, from Grasmere to Patterdale was another of the ones I had walked in May and only hoped that the weather wouldn’t be as bad as it was then. Going up was bad enough but going down was worse. I had come up here in May to test out, among other things, the new poles. I had been set against them in the past but realised (too late) that that was a mistake. But to get the best advantage of them you have to know how to use them, and I didn’t – and no-one really tells you. It’s now only after four days serious walking with them (following a few outings over the course of the last 3 months) that I am starting to get the best from them, I think.
In May I was foolish. I came prepared for what I thought I could expect but got it wrong in the sense that I didn’t bring gloves. Coming down from Grisedale Tarn I was walking into a wind that had all that the Steppes of Russia could throw at you after such a long journey. Holding the poles my thumbs were getting the full force of those winds and I took too long to decide to abandon the poles so that I could stick my hands in my pockets. Then I came across another unforeseen (and unforeseeable?) problem.
The rucksack was a new one (I needed something more modern as the Hadrian’s Wall walk had shown the blaring inadequacies of my old one) and the day I walked from Grasmere to Patterdale was only the second day I had had it on my back. Newer rucksacks have this clip that goes across the chest and pulls the shoulder straps closer to each other and it definitely makes for a more comfortable experience. The problem was that this clip had only been opened and closed a few times and was very tight and my fingers and thumbs were very numb. I could have had every comfort and life saving piece of equipment invented by mankind in that bag yet I couldn’t get to it. Fortunately there was a hut part way down which was normally closed but for some inexplicable reason on that day was open. I was able to go in there and in ten minutes or so there was enough feeling in my fingers to get this load off my back and ensure that the rest of the trip down was a bit more comfortable. Not quite like Jack London’s short story ‘To Light a Fire’ – but almost.
And it took weeks before both those thumbs felt, or didn’t feel if you know what I mean, normal.
So as long as it wasn’t as bad as that then I would be ‘happy’.
It was grey and miserable. You couldn’t see where you were going or where you had been but the wind wasn’t that cold (apart from at the passes where the wind always whips through). I caught up with the 2 Canadians that I had met on my first day of walking and spent the next few hours with them as we walked past the tarn – not seeing it until we were almost in it and then heading down to what was a better looking valley bottom weather wise.
As I’ve said before I had already decided that I wouldn’t be taking any optional high routes on the Coast to Coast Trek. If I want to have a go at them I’ll attempt them when I have less on my back. But with the weather conditions it would have been no point and bordering on the foolish – although there are always some who will take those routes.
The route up was relatively easy and I’m sure that I’m getting fitter. The load on my back which I thought would have been a problem is, to tell the truth, the least of my problems. It even has provided me with some protection as I have been so keen to fall down the big pack has protected my back.
Here I can proudly say that today I didn’t fall over once. Nearly, a couple of times, but never touched the ground with parts of my body that wasn’t plan and controlled.
My problems are becoming those related to decay and decrepitude. I was better prepared with the feet and they didn’t get significantly worse during the course of the day, didn’t get worse but neither were they on the road to recovery – I’ll have to see what happens when I’m next out as that won’t be tomorrow. Tomorrow, Sunday 22nd is my first scheduled rest day so I don’t have any intention of walking further than the pub to use the Internet – and to have a pint or two.
The problems are creeping up my body.
Especially the left knee, which has become the weaker of the two.
When I’ve had a shower and start to relax at the end of the day my body has gone into shut down mode. Any adrenalin that has kept the aches and pains at bay gets shut off then and it has been an effort to move around. A good night’s sleep and after 10 or so minutes back on the road all is back to ‘normal’. But up to this evening I wasn’t aware that the knee was an issue in its own right.
In the morning I’d been concentrating on the feet, although there were twinges from the knee the day before. I just forgot to put on the supporting bandage. Whether that would have made any difference I don’t know but I’ll find out on Monday as there’s quite a steep descent at the beginning of the day. Despite these minor problems one thing that I am happy about is that I’m still getting up the hills, often quicker than I had reckoned on the route card, but coming down I’m losing that time advantage.
But I got down in one piece, very early, just after two. Patterdale YHA is open all day (though you can’t book in until 17.00) and I was able to shower and then went on a walk searching for a possible solution to my feet problem.
In my first aid kit was a tubular ankle support bandage. Quite old and wouldn’t have given much support but was ideal – I thought – for my needs as I used it as a toe-less sock. Not perfect but better than the bandage used on the other foot, which didn’t give as much cover. So now, at the time of writing on the afternoon of Sunday) I think I am on the way to a solution. I was able to get a length of this tubular bandage and will test it out tomorrow (Monday). This means I can genuinely say that I don’t wear socks with sandals. If I do that I’ll be putting a knotted handkerchief on my head next to keep off the sun.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but after having a full breakfast first thing I haven’t eaten anything whilst walking – apart from a chocolate bar. And then I haven’t even felt hungry in the evening. That’s been the case for the last three nights where in place of a meal I’ve been content with a liquid supper – not a lot, just a couple of bottles – but that’s been sufficient. Because tomorrow was to be a free day (free from walking but I’m expecting to be spending quite some time at the computer) I decided on a meal at the hostel. Not a good choice. A little bit unimaginative and overpriced, I thought. This was the special, if I do so again I’ll stick to their basic, standard. I’ve done so before and it’s probably a better bet.
But by 21.30 after a meal and only two pints (the first in the afternoon at the Ramblers Bar – which is part of the Inn on the Lake Hotel at Glenridding, the second in the hostel) that’s was me for the day.
Let’s see if the good weather of the evening will stick around for the next day. As it’s the day I won’t be walking I’m sure the sun will be cracking the flags.
So at 14.05 on the afternoon of Saturday 21st September it was 47.5 miles down, 152.5 to go.
One of the hostels which are open even though there may be no staff in attendance. This is especially welcomed in bad weather as it’s even possible to have a shower before booking in officially. There is also access to the self-catering kitchen and the lounge. Found the meal, fish cakes from the special menu a little bit overdone and the meal as a whole a bit indifferent and lacking in imagination. There is a good breakfast.
White Lion Inn
This is a few minutes towards Ullswater, from the hostel. Always had my doubts about their cask beer. Wasn’t too good the first time I tried it and have been wary ever since. If you have doubts cask beer is safer and the cider isn’t bad.
Has wifi – password = lionwifi Reasonably fast but better down the bottom end of the bar, towards the kitchen and TV.
As to the food perhaps wiser to stick to the basic menu there’s not a lot that can be messed up. I tried a Chicken Tikka Masala from the special board and it;s nothing like I recognise as a Tikka. The sauce was much to liquid and seemed to have been watered down. Not unpleasant but certainly not that thick, spicy sauce I was expecting.
Takes your credit/debit card from you in return for a house card if you want to run up a tab, thereby saving cash for when there’s no alternative.
Shop and Post Office
The shop is supposed to offer cash back if you are running short of money but I didn’t need to do so. I see no reason why matters might have changed since others wrote about this.