Walking can be unpredictable. Weather conditions can change. We need to be able to change itinerary; to take advantage of opportunities to experience the exciting beauty of the Lake District. Last night I finished planning today’s walk over Lingmoor Fell. We didn’t go over Lingmoor; it was sidelined for another day.

Yesterday, Twitter was flooded with images of amazing views of the mountains. It was the Easter Bank Holiday. Hundreds of people were walking the hills, above the clouds. I wished we had been out with them, but circumstances dictated otherwise.

Walkers on Pike Howe, Langdale

Walkers on Pike Howe, Langdale

Temperature inversion

Last night, in hope, I read the weather forecast and noticed that there was a chance of a further temperature inversion today. Lingmoor Fell was just not going to cut it, it was not high enough. We needed to be higher, much higher.

A mountain temperature inversion occurs on the rare occasions when the cool air in the valleys is overlain by a layer of warmer air. It results in the formation of clouds in the valleys, while mountain peaks jut above into the clear blue sky, creating outstanding panoramas.

Hannah is bringing her friend Georgia out on another walk. Where could I take them that would bring us quickly above the clouds and not be too serious a walk? We also need another Wainwright, so it was no use repeating one that we had already done. We also need to move fast before the clouds disperse as the air heats up. We need a fast ascent, high, and not too far away. I knew that the Langdale Pikes were favourite.

Our best option is the summit of Harrison Stickle. It is steep, quick, and not too far away. We drive into Langdale through thick mist. The hills are hidden and the New Dungeon Ghyll is just a shadowy outline.

Through thick cloud we find the path and start our ascent by the side of Dungeon Ghyll. People are already coming down. Hannah and Georgia can’t understand why – it is just after 9am – but I know: they have seen all they need to see.

I speak to a walker, he tells me that we will climb above the cloud quite soon. He also mentions that it is beginning to lift. The air is getting warmer, and soon the cloud will be gone. I try to impute a sense of urgency to the girls, but without much success.

Summit of Pike O'Stickle

Looking to Bowfell and Scafell from the summit of Pike O’Stickle

No stop till the top

If they are to witness this temperature inversion; to realise one of those rare and exciting moments as you emerge above the cloud and stand in brilliant sunshine, gazing over a sea of white to distant mountains, then we will need to be quick and keep going. I walk ahead, ignoring the constant pleas for a snack stop, or a rest. Time is of the essence, and I am not going to give in.

They soon drop behind. Their voices distant, lost in the mist. I keep going, trying to drag them up, to keep them walking. I hear their voices, occasionally I reply, to let them know that I am still here. Always replying with the standard call to hurry up, keep going. I wasn’t popular.

Some things are worth fighting for, and this is certainly one of them. The hue of the clouds is changing, and I know that the prize is within our grasp. I look back, the girls are nowhere to be seen, although I can hear them talking. I reckon that if they cannot see me it might spur them on. It is all I can do, apart from pushing them up the hill. I have explained to them the rare opportunity to witness this phenomena. I have tried to instil a sense of urgency in them. I can do no more. I feel like someone trying to drag a rock up a hill. The more I pull the further back it falls.

Above the clouds, Langdale

Hannah and Georgia emerge above the clouds on Pike Howe, Langdale

Keep going

Clouds are beginning to break. I see the blue sky. It is tantalisingly close. I call back to the girls, “I can see the sky.”
My cries fall on deaf ears. The echo comes back as, “Can we have a snack stop?”
A snack stop! How can you stop, now, when this is so close. I am screaming. I carry on, ignoring them.

Moments later, I emerge from the cloud. The sun blazes down. Banks of cloud float around the peaks. Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and Scafell jut into a deep-blue sky. Pavey Ark sits on top of a bank of cloud. The up-for-sale Stickle Tarn is hidden underneath.

I sit on a rock and wait. This is a good spot for any pictures as they emerge from the cloud. Their voices grow louder. Shadowy outlines flit behind the veil of drifting mist. Then they emerge into the sunlight.

Moments of delight

Hannah’s face lights up. Click.
“Wow, this is so fantastic. This is so awesome.” Click, click.

Damn! The camera won’t focus. It’s not easy to focus on mist. Switch to manual.

Georgia follows seconds later. Click.

They both stand in wonder, gazing over the clouds to distant peaks. Click.

They wave their arms and shout with excitement. Click, click, click.

To them this is so unreal – pictures they will treasure forever.


On Pike O’Stickle we have lunch and sunbathe. Then do a rapid descent from Loft Crag. What a day! Two Wainwrights and a temperature inversion. So glad we didn’t go over Lingmoor Fell.

It is 2.30pm, we reach the car. Fantastic timing, better than I expected. For the two girls to march to the summit of Pike O’Stickle and back again, with lunch stops, etc, in just over five hours is an achievement to be proud of. Well done. Ice cream stops on the way home. This is what the mountains are all about.

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