“It’s Knott Ard,” Hannah told Georgia as we left our home in Kendal heading for Keswick and the Newlands Valley.
Georgia turned back to Hannah looking puzzled. “It doesn’t matter, I’m getting used to the hills now.”
“No, NOT HARD!” emphasised Hannah. “Knott Ard, we’re going up Knott Rigg and Ard Crags, it’s a ridge near Buttermere, and then we’re going to go and have ice creams that you can only dream about. Dad said.”
“Did I?” Oh yes I remember now. There always needs to be an incentive. Sometimes the beauty of the Lake District mountains, the grandeur of the countryside, and the wild outdoors just isn’t enough. I must admit though, that the ice creams at Sykes Farm Tea Room are something special. My favourite is the cherry in a chocolate waffle . . . but I’m waffling, back to the journey.
This will be Georgia’s third walk with us. Last time she witnessed the temperature inversion over the Langdale Pikes. The car filled with laughter as they made jokes about road signs and threw bombs at cars . . . mmmm!
Under this barrage of exploding bombs and jokes we make our way through St John’s in the Vale, over into Keswick, pass by the best campsite in the Lake District at Braithwaite – which has a toilet block that any hotel would be proud of – and into the amazing Newlands Valley.
We have the weather for the morning, after that it leaves us and we are left with low cloud and rain. I have been looking at this ridge for a few weeks now, and today seems like the ideal time to do it. It shouldn’t take long, just a morning stroll and back home to get a few jobs done before a couple more days this weekend.
The good news is that our rope has arrived; so either Sharp Edge or Jack’s Rake is planned for Saturday. All I have to do is remember how to belay and tie knots – just a minor worry – otherwise, what use is a rope if I cannot use it. I think I still have an old rope-work book at home from 1978!
I can remember a figure of eight from my days of mountaineering, at least that’s a start. Not sure about a bowline though, something about a rabbit poking its head out of a hole, running around a tree, then running back down before it gets shot. Still, I am sure it’ll all come back, just like riding a bike, isn’t it.
After racing up the climb onto Newlands Hause (the word ‘hause’ means mountain pass, in case you were wondering) we pull into the car park. There are only two cars here. The first occupants are just waking up, and the other two are already pounding up the path onto Robinson. I watch them and wish . . . but instead we get our gear.
The girls dash up the hill to my right, and I follow them after getting everything ready. It’s always annoying to sling my rucksack on my shoulders, and then look at the car keys dangling in my hand – off comes the rucksack! I’ll catch them up.
I am looking forward to this route, although I keep taking longing glances back towards Robinson – but that’s another day. The climb is steep, straight up from 330m to 554m and before long we have reached the ridge and are heading for the summit.
Mighty mountains and steep valleys
There is something quite inspiring about walking this ridge. The views are tremendous. We walk under the shadow of mighty mountains, impressively steep valleys, and sensationally sliding drops into streams that look like threads of blue cotton. Once again the grandeur of the Western fells is captivating me.
Hannah and Georgia are quite happy walking along behind, talking and enjoying this great day out, leaving me free to meander in my own thoughts, a privilege I rarely get on these walks. I soak up the atmosphere, the feeling of solitude and wilderness, and relish the familiarity of the fells. Fantastic.
After posing for the statutory picture on the just barely perceivable summit of The Knott, we continue along to Ard Crags, our 61st Wainwright. The summit of Knott is just a tiny pile of stones – appropriate for this setting. A large cairn would spoil the ambience of this splendid ridge. Let’s just hope nobody decides to start adding to the pile. It doesn’t need any, and why do it, there is only a ridge to walk along, you can’t get lost. In fact, although the OS map indicates cairns, there aren’t any, thankfully.
Ard Crags is going to be a lunch stop I am forcefully informed. I look at my watch. It is only 10am! Lunch! Are you sure? I suppose, in their vocabulary the word lunch is really a euphemism for food.
Squiggly caterpillars join us for lunch
In what seems only minutes, we are standing on the part of the ridge that is marked on the map as the summit of Ard Crag. I know it is, because after this the ground drops into the valley.
So, we are definitely on the summit. Another tiny pile of stones. I take a picture of them jumping in the air and laughing. Then we eat. Squiggly black caterpillars cause screams, and they jump about trying to find somewhere else to sit; Hannah and Georgia that is, not the caterpillars. Really!
On both sides the mountains thrust into the sky. Tiny figures walk along the ridge to Whiteless Pike and Wandope. Grasmoor peeps over their shoulder, dark and broody against the grey sky. While the mighty bulk of Crag Hill or Eel Crags – depending how you feel – dominates the terminus of the ridge that leads up from Causey Pike. I point out the ridge to Hannah, it reminds her of our long day on the Coledale Horseshoe a few weeks ago. She rubs her knee and scowls at me.
“Let’s go.” They both look up from their empty lunch boxes. Like locusts, they have demolished everything. It is 10.30am. I hang back as they walk ahead, looking at the mountains and planning walks for the weeks to come. Maybe, I think, we could start along this ridge, go over Robinson, then Hindscarth, Dale Head, and head down the ridge over Cat Bells. That will be a great route.
I wonder if Hannah is up for that? I’ll ask her later. I am the eternal optimist. I wonder if we could carry her off should her knees play-up again. I wonder if we will even do it?
Snow, sleet and hail again at weekend. There may be a spring in the weather, but it’s two steps forwards, three steps back.
In the distance I hear the cries of The Lion King. Strange. I can’t see anything. Maybe just someone’s phone. Then, perched on an outcrop of rock above the steep sided valley wall, I see Georgia and Hannah pointing skyward and shouting their heads off like Simba and Mufasa. I just have to film this. I wonder what it sounds like to those walking on the ridge above.
I want to scream it out . . .
The fruit of walking is to savour the mountains, and exploring the fells without recognising their serenity is an oxymoron. Mountains create moments of reflection and recollection, and I always thank God for the amazing freedom I have to wander among them, remembering others who are suffering in lands without freedom and for who the opportunity to experience what I am seeing today is just inconceivable.
At times like this the lyrics of one of my favourite worship songs comes to mind. It just fits snugly into today’s walk. Into all that we are doing for Tearfund, and to stop children being trafficked.
“I want to scream it out, from every mountain top . . . ” I watch Hannah and Georgia doing just that. Mountains can have this effect on us.