Post 122: The Staveley-Foxfield Horseshoe – The Underpant Trail
8 April 1995: Day 1 – Staveley to Windermere Youth Hostel – 9 miles
We proceeded along the lush green Kentmere Valley to reach the Garburn Pass, which we climbed in earnest. We then descended the Garburn Road, a track, to the bottom of Troutbeck where Windermere Youth Hostel was located.
In the evening we decided to walk to the pub only to discover it was a round trip of three miles; walkers are certainly dedicated, especially when, having got there, we couldn’t find a seat on which to rest our weary limbs.
9 April 1995: Day 2 – Windermere Youth Hostel to Patterdale Youth Hostel – 13 miles
In warm sunshine we left the hostel at 9.15am to ascend Yoke, Ill Bell, Frostick, and High Street, all covered in mist. There was quite a lot of snow on the northeast side of the ridge and one step too far and it would be a case of a rapid descent down a snow slope to eternity. Descending to Angle Tarn the mist cleared to reveal Patterdale below us, where we eventually arrived at 4.30pm.
The evening meal was excellent consisting of tomato soup, chicken casserole, spicy bread and butter pudding or fruit and apple pie. We were famished and had no trouble eating two helpings of each course. Living up to his reputation, Dan even begged some left over bread and butter pudding to supplement the next day’s packed lunch.
10 April 1995: Day 3 – Patterdale Youth Hostel to Keswick Youth Hostel – 13½ miles
In the morning, I went to the bathroom to find Dan was shaving.
‘What’s that?’ I said in astonishment. ‘It’s huge.’
‘Yes, it is a big one. It’s my shaving foam.’
Dan was immediately awarded booby prize in the equipment of the walk award. No one in their right mind brings a foot-long shaving foam container on a long-distance walk.
At breakfast we contemplated following the route over Striding Edge. However, someone at our table mentioned that a walker had died on the Edge during the previous week. This was not very encouraging, especially as we had heavy packs to carry and if we slipped or fell off we would drop like lead. The forecast was for sunshine and I enquired of the warden whether the Edge was clear of snow. He confirmed it was and we therefore decided to go along it. As we passed through Patterdale there seemed to be a considerable amount of cloud and snow towards the top of the Edge and Helvellyn; I started to get a bit anxious. Climbing towards the Hole-in-the-Wall, below Striding Edge, the mist cleared and we stopped for snacks to summon up enough courage to attempt the ridge. At the far end of the ridge there was a snowfield acting as a barrier to the ascent of Helvellyn.
The Edge offers two routes, one along the very crest and a second lower-level alternative just below the ridge; it was decision time. Alan immediately went for the crest route as, being an adrenalin junkie, he desperately wanted to experience the sense of exposure. Dan followed him thinking there would be a café on the top as there is on Snowdon. Archie thought twice about the high-level route as, firstly, he has difficulties in seeing where he is putting his feet, secondly, he is scared stiff of heights. I also decided to take the low-level route on the basis that I could get better photographs. Actually I am petrified of exposed ridges as well. Not for me heroics, I enjoy living and have no inclination to scare myself. Neither will you get me on Nemesis or Oblivion at Alton Towers or the Pepsi Max at Blackpool.
We pressed on over the Edge in perfect weather with stupendous views.
The route passed an iron monument, the Dixon Memorial, erected in 1858 to indicate the scene of a fatal fall during a fox-hunt; a sober reminder of the dangers of the ridge. Arriving at the snow line, my heart started to thump as, with the warm weather, I was convinced that with our weight on the snow it might avalanche. However, Dan appeared to have no fears and climbed up through it. I shot up next, so relieved to get out of the snow at the top without it giving way underneath me.
Alan and Archie followed and we were home and dry.
The summit of Helvellyn was a disappointment after the excitement of Striding Edge; there were too many people and it is a rather broad plateau. There were even children up there which put our exploits into perspective, but perhaps they had come up by one of the easier routes.
Striding Edge can be dangerous if the rock is slippery or the wind strong. In dry conditions it is fairly straightforward, other than for a little scrambling at the far end.
As we descended from Helvellyn, one of the most memorable sights was of a snow corrie adjacent to Low Man with layer upon layer of snow exposed at the top in distinctive lines. A fine ridge walk to Whiteside, Raise and Sticks Pass was followed by a steep descent to St John’s in The Vale
and that little church; the one where Dan on a previous walk had scoffed loads of hard boiled eggs? On this occasion, not finding a source of food, we scurried onto Keswick to arrive at 5.00pm, with prospects of pubs, grub and fish and chip shops.
However, essential chores had to be carried out; with only three pairs of pants it was essential to do some washing.
‘When are you going to wash your Y-fronts?’ I asked Dan.
‘Oh, I don’t bother,’ he replied.
‘Don’t bother? Don’t they smell if you don’t wash them?’ I said somewhat surprised.
‘I bring my old ones and just throw them away once they are dirty.’
‘In that case we’ll have to call this walk the Underpant Trail,’ I said having visions of underpants strewn along the route.