Post 45: 30 March 1992: Day 3 – LongthwaiteYouth Hostel to Keswick Youth Hostel – 12 miles
Emerging from the hostel in the morning, we were surprised to find that snow covered the mountain tops. However, the sun was shining, the forecast was good, so we decided to do a high-level route along High Spy, Maiden Moor and Cat Bells
The names inspired my imagination so that my enthusiasm grew as we started the climb from Rosthwaite. Gary was less enthusiastic as he had sore feet from the long previous day’s walking; well what can you expect if you walk with boots with no soles? I persuaded him we should go for the high-level route, but it was the first time we had attempted one with a pack on.
Before climbing there was some delightful lower level walking in the Rosthwaite and Castle Crag area. Photographs taken later, some with my family, show that this became and still is one of my favourite parts of the country. It deserves its title as the Golden Mile.
Ascending steeply we arrived at Rigghead quarries where we stopped for refreshments. This was just as well as Gary collapsed onto his back, gasping for breath. The ‘nightmare’ of hills had returned to him as he was little fitter than when walking the ‘Three-Peaks’. I was beginning to have doubts whether my decision to do the high-level route was the right one. The pack on my back felt like I was carrying a sack of coal; my thoughts went back to my childhood days when coal men, bent double, delivered sacks to my parents house. My job was to count that the correct number was delivered.
As we climbed higher and higher, the views got better and better, as the whole Helvellyn range appeared in the distance like a white-backed whale. The views back to Eagle Crag were magnificent as bright sun filtered though white clouds and reflected back off the gleaming snow. Yes, the decision to do the high-level route was the right one. Eventually we reached the top of High Spy at over 2,000 feet and stopped for yet another refreshment break; the sense of achievement was overwhelming. We were ‘New Men’, fit, refreshed, on top of the world; at least it felt like it!
Continuing along Maiden Moor, the expansive views of the Derwent Fells and Borrowdale changed gradually but delightfully and, on reaching the top of Cat Bells, we stopped in a grass hollow for our final refreshment stop of the day’s walk. There was not a finer dining place, with views of snow-capped Skiddaw, the Coledale Horseshoe, as well as the lakes of Bassenthwaite and Derwent Water. A marauding sheep kept trying to grab our sandwiches, but, when presented with a walking boot, it took the hint and left us alone.
Cat Bells is a favourite amongst the very young and elderly as it gives magnificent views without too much climbing.
Arriving at Keswick at 3.30pm, the weather changed to rain, just the excuse we needed to spend the rest of the afternoon in my favourite Keswick pub, the Dog and Gun. The Hungarian Goulash is legendary and comes in two sizes. The big size is big but was needed on this occasion after all our exertions. Gary had his newspaper and I had my Guinness and, with an hour and a half to spare, this was long-distance walking at its best.
Keswick is noted for making pencils, which had never occurred to me when I used to chew on their ‘Cumberland’ends at school. They teach you all sorts of things at school, but never basic knowledge such as this. For walkers, the highlight of an evening in Keswick are slide shows in the Moot Hall where a ranger delights in telling you about the tourists who go to Surprise View looking towards Derwent Water then, when it is icy, slip over the 1,000 foot drop to get the surprise of their life; be warned.
In the daytime there are loads of outdoor shops where you can wander for hours, dreaming about all the expensive equipment you wish you had but can’t afford. In particular George Fisher’s shop, especially as, a few years later, it had my book, On Foot from Coast to Coast: The North of England Way, displayed in the window.
I only found this out because my teenage children were staying at Keswick Youth Hostel at the time and happened to come across ‘Dads’ book. This meant I had achieved something as when I used to wander round Keswick in the evenings whilst on holiday with my family, I would never have dreamt that I could write a walking book which would be displayed there. How this book came about is featured later in the diaries.