Monday, 17 January 2011


More than a year ago, I visited the Lake District with 'she who must be obeyed' with the intention of getting her involved in fell walking. My wife loves the Lake District but, at that time, detested effort of any kind (ooh, I'm in trouble now...). Anyway, on this particular occasion, a Sunday, I persuaded her she would be able to manage Catbells as it's a modestly sized and popular hill that many a be-sandalled tourist has romped up in the past. However, this particular day was very breezy indeed, and it really only became apparent when we got up to the saddle of Skellgill bank just above the mine - we had started from the lake side of the fell and come up the grass track to the old fenced off mine workings - a surprisingly steep route near the top. so heading on after a rest, and only about 20 metres into the final rocky section leading to the summit she decided she couldn't get up fearing the wind, the wet rock and being very nervous of heights anyway, so she gave up and returned to the car while I bounded up the last bit and descended over the other side of the summit and down towards the lake.

Since that day, she has vowed she would one day return and conquer her first Wainwright. This vow has been hollow for some time as we strolled to Hard Knott one day from Hard Knott pass - hardly mountaineering I know but her first tick technically.

Well, this weekend just gone, we decided last minute to go up to the lakes staying in a B&B in Portinscale and of course suffered one of the most miserable niggardly sullen Saturdays imaginable and thus turned to shopping in Keswick, then visited my Brother in Lowca, followed by a very nice evening meal and a few drinks in the pub. We'd kind of given up on walking after Saturday's weather but Sunday morning saw the wife in stubborn determination to walk upon something. I was going to suggest perhaps a round of the water in Buttermere, but a madness took her, and even though the rain was falling fairly hard she demanded I take her to the Catbells car park to see if other walkers were braving the elements. They were.

So, against all common sense we were donning boots and water proofs, packing rucksacks and heading off up the engineered path toward Skellgill bank. I say common sense, but I don't mean it was in any way hazardous - just dreck and miserable. Surprisingly, after about 20 minutes, the rain stopped and a bit of a breeze blew up, which by the time we arrived at the scene of last years failed attempt, was giving me déjà vu, but her attitude seemed different. Goat-like, she scampered up the steep rocky section mainly ignoring my directions and picking her way resolutely up through the crag. She had very quickly realised that walking poles were as much use as tits on a bull, and tossed them at me to collapse and put away. And off she went, gloves off, grasping the scenery as she went. Ten minutes later we were standing on the summit with me proudly snapping her on the Blackberry. It was a bit windy by this time so we decided to descend via the Newlands side paths along by all the old mines - a new route down for me and for anyone wanting a gentle stroll up Catbells I think the easiest route to the top. Of course, now she's done this she's suddenly Sherpa Tensing and wants to scale all the lofty heights as soon as. I doubt with her experience she will be rising to Sharp Edge any time soon, but blimey, it's a start, and I can only congratulate her. I thought I'd be at 214 before she got to 2, but as I'm only at 67 ticks so far there's a good chance she will be at the same number before I get to 214. Roll on our next walk I say. Well done Leigh. My only gripe about the whole episode is that after this little triumph, and with the weather fine, she dragged me into a bit more light shopping and levered a new Goretex coat out of me. I'm hoping she doesn't think she's getting that treatment for every Wainwright she does!

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