Today was hard, very hard. I’m sore and exhausted. I estimate that burned about 6,000 calories over 18 difficult miles.
It started pleasantly at 8 am in Ennerdale Bridge. The first mile was easy. Then I arrived at Ennerdale Water, a moderate sized lake that was the scene of Bill Clinton’s first (of many) marriage proposals to Hillary. Not unlike that first handful of those proposals, the trail on the edge of Ennerdale is rocky. For four miles, I stared at little else than my feet, trying not to get tripped up or roll an ankle. It was slow going,
The lake trail gave way to a half mile of gloriously flat and grassy pastoral path. It would be the last bit of pleasant path I would walk for the remainder of the 18-mile day.
Shortly after the pastoral path, I opted to take an alternative route over the fells. I had one mission: get to Haystacks and visit Innominate Tarn, a small tranquil incongruent pond hidden at the top of rocky fell. Arthur Wainwright, the trailblazer of the Coast to Coast path was so fond of the tarn that he requested his ashes be spread there.
The alternative route started with a very steep ascent, which only got steeper as it went on. About a mile long and 2,100 feet of ascent, it took me an hour or huffing and puffing dripping sweat climb, so steep that if were any steeper, it would be unclimbable.
I underestimated how much extra work the fell route would become but once I was at the top of the first peak, there was no way to turn back. There’s no way I could safely get back down that hill. I quickly realized that not only was the second peak higher than the first but that there was a bit of a valley between the two. Down, knees knees knees. Up, quads quads quads.
The following two peaks were a blur of setting small goals and trying not to stop moving for fear that pain and fatigue would set in. After two hours, Haystacks was in view.
Scaling Haystacks required a few minor rock climbing scrambles and quite a few bad words. The top of Haystacks was unlike the previous peaks. There was a plateau with the occasional small pond. The largest of the small ponds, Innominate Tarn, defies description. Peaceful and pristine. A fitting resting place for a soft-spoken nature lover.
Unfortunately, if began to rain once I finally reached the tarn. I became worried about my descent so I left sooner than I would have liked. Thankfully, the descent, while no walk in the park (still very rocky), was much more manageable that previous ascents and descents.
The last few hours of the trail consisted of focused determination to get to by B&B, and more importantly, the pub next to the B&B.
And then, like that, I was sitting at a wonderful village pub sipping on a delicious beer staring blankly at the wall. Went back to the B&B, took a shower, and went right back to the pub for an enormous meal and a few pints.
My plan was to go up another, even more challenging, alternative route tomorrow. Regardless of the fact that I don’t think I’ll be up for it, it’s not feasible. Wind will be too strong it will be far too dangerous. I’m a little disappointed but mostly relieved.