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How I Nearly Hopped From Peak to Peak to Skiddaw

Oh, how I wanted to climb Skiddaw! I really did!

I studied diligently the writings of Wainwright, that Lakeland genius, and others, of course. For days (of my two week holiday) I walked the roads and paths of the Ellen River Valley, reaching as far as I possibly could on my day’s journey from sunrise to sunset. I climbed Binsey (across the valley from Skiddaw) a few times (twice before sunrise and a few times before sunset), to get a better view.

Skiddaw always looked distant, although rather innocuous; very charming when bathed in the light of dawn, and alluring when kissed by the sun breaking through; and certainly dull and boring beneath a grey blanket of clouds.

One day I hiked as far as Bassenthwaite Lake to look at Skiddaw, to see what it’s like from close up. It’s only that while at Bassenthwaite I could not see it, which is obvious – you can hardly expect to sea the mountaintop while standing at its foot.

(But what I did see at closer quarters was the gorgeous Longside Edge that had been attracting my eye from the slopes of Binsey. It had something so feminine about it, it’s shape curvaceous and gentle; a real beauty!)

Oh yes, I knew there was an easy access to the peak of Skiddaw, except that I did not want it the easy way. I felt that if you wanted the mountain to reveal itself in full splendour you must earn it.

And I wanted my trek to be romantic. Yes, especially romantic! When the winds beat you from all sides; when a passing cloud showers your unexpectedly with ice cold rain or needle sharp hail; when you to take out your woollen hat and gloves from the rucksack even in mid summer, sit by a cairn on a mountaintop to rest your feet and sip hot coffee.

I wanted to go the longer, the harder way, starting from the hamlet of Longlands, across the lovely rounded peaks of fells: Longlands, Lowthwaite, Little and Great Sca fells and the rest. I imagined myself hopping from peak to peak all the way to Skiddaw.

And I nearly did, walking as far as the Great Sca Fell, exploring, discovering and gasping with awe at the views that opened up before me. It was like a rehearsal for the Big Day.

I knew I had to start early to have enough time to walk back to my cottage. It was June, when the days are long, the longest of the year, and the nights never get dark – a perfect time for a long trip.

I admit I was procrastinating. I was putting the Big Day off and off and off again. The sight of Skiddaw, as it loomed in the distance during my walks, made me feel uneasy. It looked foreboding every time I came near it through the Longlands Fell. I knew, however, that once I started walking, I would be alright. All I had to do was to choose a day with suitable weather conditions, prepare my lunch box and coffee flask the night before and start off early, - with all my hopping from peak to peak, stop-overs for coffee and gaping, I would certainly need a whole day.

And of course I would not take the tripod, just my Olympus camera and my favourite Lumix 45-200 mm. I did not expect to do much of a photography on such an arduous journey, but just in case...

And then the heat wave began, then the rains came, and after that it was time for me to leave. I felt disappointed. With myself, perhaps, but blamed it on the weather and on the uneasy feeling which Skiddaw was giving me. I was leaving with an unpleasant feeling of nearly a failure, a job left undone, as if I owed the place something. I feel I have to return the debt.

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