In the furtherance of our get-fit campaign, we went up to the Lakes to meet up with Martin, Mike and Graham to take part in a horseshoe walk around the Little Dale Horseshoe. The event was organised by Martin and it seemed opportune to travel up a day early and combine the walk with our kit ‘habit’ and peruse a few shops in Keswick.
After a relaxing night in a Keswick B&B, we arrived at the car park rendezvous with 10 minutes to spare and Mike (with his dog Bruno) was next. We introduced ourselves (never having met Mike in person before, knowing him only through his blog) and awaited the arrival of our expedition leader Martin and Graham. After a short wait we espied them walking down the road towards us: they had had to park the other side of a nearby road closure and walk half a mile or so to the meeting place.
After brief greetings we set off under the glorious azure sky. The route would see us walk from Little Town up Scope End to Hindscarth, along Littledale Edge to Robinson and then descend High Snab Bank and back to the car park.
Now, when Gayle and I plan a walk it invariably rains, snow, blows a gale, becomes fog-bound or combinations thereof. Today there was hardly a cloud in the sky and a gentle breeze wafted up the valley: this is known as the Phreerunner factor – a guarantee (almost) of fine conditions.
It was chilly in the shade of Maiden Moor but it soon warmed up as we emerged into the sunshine and the climb found us stripping off jackets as the pull up the hill began. The pace was nice and steady as we paused often to drink in the views and to ponder whether or not we had made the right decision to give up work. The pondering didn’t last long!
Before long we had crossed the snow line and entered into a winter wonderland. Bruno, who had been towing Mike up the hill was let off the leash and ran around like a dog possessed. His favourite pastime was catching snowballs and snapping at the spindrift being kicked up as we made our way to Hindscarth.
I don’t have a dog, despite a yearning to be owned by one for several years now – our working life has always precluded it and our long-walking plans don’t quite fit in with dog-ownership but I think that the time is nigh. It’s a dog or children: I shall consult with Gayle.
Lunch was taken at the top behind a rocky windbreak sitting in the snow and comparing my new Kahtoola Microspikes with Martin’s lightweight Yak Trax. I briefly thought about wearing mine for a while but the conditions were too good with fluffy snow underfoot to warrant it: that and Gayle warning that they may be ruined on the rocks. Obviously I need to start going out in some poorer walking conditions.
The views from the top kept improving as we traversed Littledale Edge with stunning views across to Honister Pass and the fells to the to the South and West. The climb up to Robinson raised the pulse somewhat and as we broached the skyline we had views of the sea to the North – complete with the multitude of windfarms. Another group of walkers were resting on the top and Martin offered to take a group photo for them; however, all they actually wanted was a photograph of them with Bruno!
I always find the descent much more difficult than the ascent and today was no exception. As we left the top the other group warned us of the icy rocks before High Snab Bank and they were certainly not wrong – it was quite treacherous. Great care had to be taken as one slip could have spelt disaster (as Ben Fogle would have it in his over-dramatised Extreme Dreams style of voice-over ) and at one point Mike did find one the ledges somewhat tricky. Bruno merely raced down: it does help with built-in crampons and natural 4X4 steering. After much sliding and stretching, we were off the crags and sauntering down the steep hillside to the walk back into the car park.
We then met for a quick pint, a review of the day and to schedule our next meeting. It was a wonderful day’s outing: the weather was picture perfect, the views were excellent and, last but not least, the company wonderful – especially Bruno. I’m now off for a chat with Gayle to see if it going to be a dog or kids!