Post 26: Just then, a couple, having also followed Bill’s instructions, arrived. The young man was ‘miles away’, listening cheerfully to his walkman and oblivious to the fact he was lost. His girlfriend looked totally exhausted and fed up. I looked carefully at my Wainwright guide and realised that Will had missed a crucial segment of text out when quoting from the guide. He should have read: ‘Go past the hut but instead of turning down to the river contour the slope for half a mile to Loft Beck.’ It was so clear now. We had crossed the wrong river/beck and headed completely in the wrong direction. Bill had realised his mistake and had tried to whistle us to get our attention.
One of the walkers from the group already at the Black Sail Pass said he had walked from Borrowdale, would be going back the same way and we could join him. By skirting Kirk Fell we would be able to pick up the Moses Trod path, below Great Gable. I had visions of Moses’ being there, opening up his arms and making a corridor through the mist for us to follow; our deliverance from this misty confusion. The reality was somewhat different and involved some quite rough walking, including crossing the River Liza. Fortunately, I had some barley sugars (in later walks, dried apricots replaced them) to restore energy to aching limbs and gave them out to the small band of despairing and tired walkers. We looked up in the direction of Great Gable, hidden in the mist; it was ironic that, on the previous day, I had joked to Archie that we could always do a quick run up Great Gable. It now seemed a pretty poor joke. However, one of the characteristics of Archie is that he merges into his surroundings; with his head bowed and deathly silence he seemed to become part of the mist. I suspect, under his breath, he was saying what a stupid idiot I was for leading him up here to some 2,000 feet.
Moses Trod was originally a commercial route used by a quarryman, Moses Rigg, to transport his loads of slate by pony from Honister to Wasdale or Ravenglass. He also distilled his own brand of whisky from the bog water on Fleetwith and smuggled the whisky amongst the slate. I could have done with a stiff whisky there and then.
The young man with the walkman was more interested in the football results than his girlfriend’s exhausted state. I suspected their relationship would end either on the walk or soon after it. I think it is probably best not to take your girlfriend or for that matter wife on such long walks, which do ‘test’ friendships and relationships and could lead to arguments when tired.
Our ‘guide’ seemed more uncertain of the route than me but, after a never ending slog, some compass readings and disappointing football results, we arrived at the bottom of Grey Knotts, back on the Coast to Coast route. Then Bill appeared out of the mist on the correct route. We held our breath declining to say anything about their mistake. The foundations of Drum House of Honister Quarry were passed and then the ‘old tramway’ path led down to Honister Youth Hostel. At this point the young lad took off his walkman to at last speak to his girlfriend.
‘We could put up the tent and camp at the youth hostel for the night.’
I butted in. ‘Why don’t you stop in the hostel? You don’t want to have to put a tent up now. Your girlfriend looks exhausted. It’s quite cheap to stay in the hostel and you can get a warm meal and have a comfortable bed.’ For being so cruel he was verbally ‘savaged’ by Archie, his girlfriend and myself. We eventually persuaded him to check whether the hostel had any vacancies, but he clearly didn’t want to spend any money. His luck was in as there were no vacancies.
Archie and myself telephoned Longthwaite Youth Hostel, the next hostel, where we already had a booking and advised them we would be arriving late. Without more ado we carried on to the hostel, leaving the couple to sort out their relationship and a bed for the night.
After a muscle aching descent along the B5289 (we decided not to take the off-road path for fear of getting lost again), we arrived at the youth hostel at 6.30pm. A long day.
Theresa arrived at 7.00pm, but, in case I couldn’t control my temper, I avoided her like the plague. Talking to other walkers in the hostel we quickly discovered that other coast to coasters had ended up lost in the mist all over the Lake District, including in the next valley near Buttermere.
I vowed that day, never to listen to the advice of other walkers and instead improve my own map reading skills.
‘Today’s walk was a piece of cake?’ I joked, as Archie patched up innumerable blisters. He gave me a filthy look. My own feet were throbbing and I had two ‘hard-skin’ blisters on my toes, one of which I had to pierce in the middle of the night with my sewing needle, so easing the ‘pressure’.
Views from the alternative high level route over Haystacks, which would have been fabulous to follow in good weather. Here are photographs taken on better days.