26th February Coniston to Eskdale 12 miles
What a day. A superb walk. The most ascending of any day so far. I have enjoyed the hilly days the most. Mountains make my spirits soar. Even little mountains.
It tipped it down last night. Yet more rain to add to the deluges of the last few days. So today’s walk has also been exceedingly wet underfoot. Many paths simply had to be waded along.
A few years ago my dear friend Bob and I sat looking at a sea chart of the Baltic Sea off the coast of Finland. Planning our route, we felt intimidated by the complexity of navigation due to the sheer number of islands. Bob exclaimed “Goodness Flora, there’s more land than sea!” Today, if all the flooded streams, bogs, fields, and engorged rivers had been marked on my Ordance Survey map, I’d have said “Lordy me, there’s more water than land!” That’s how it seemed today.
At one point I needed to cross the River Duddon at a place where stepping stones were marked on the map. But this was a foolish idea. The stepping stones were submerged under a couple of feet of water. And the current was rushing, angrily, so strong. A river in spate is not something to be taken lightly. Especially on ones own, with no rope. People drown in surprisingly shallow rivers. In fact, they are one of the biggest hazards for hillgoers. So I looked at my map and figured out a longer way around.
My route today took me up out of Coniston village, and over the shoulder of Coniston Old Man, on the track called ‘Walna Scar Road’.
Just before I reached the highest point of the path, 620 metres, I stopped to batten down all the hatches – mittens, buff pulled over my face like a balaclava, jacket fully zipped, wrapped in all 3 hoods of my various layers. Boy was I glad of these precautions. All of a sudden the skies grew dark and the strong wind accelerated to gale force, hail hitting me in the face. I descended as quickly as I could into the Duddon Valley, where my river in spate awaited me.
I made my little detour and started another ascent, this time up the side of Harter Fell. Treat of treats, the skies cleared and all of a sudden it was nothing but pure blue above. It was wonderful to see. Sunshine!
Finally I could see green Eskdale far below. A steep rush downhill and I was on smooth tarmac. Fifteen minutes later, I was esconsed in the Woolpack Inn. And an hour later, I spied a blue pickup truck, and there was Ian. It’s great to see him.
Last day tomorrow!