“If I can walk up this hill each day, I know I’m still alive,” declared a salt and pepper haired lady who had paused to catch her breath as we passed.
Her similarly coloured elderly Border Collie appeared to be taking it all in its stride.
I smiled back as she grinned at me. I knew that feeling of pounding heart and crisp packet lungs and a mind that ponders “Why?” on ascents. But the unveiling views and sense of relieved life affirming satisfaction, as the top is gained, answer that question every time.
We, however, were on the gravity helped version, following the path down from the Blencathra Centre that weaves steeply to Derwentfolds Farm. Having just left the car, we were still warming up and focussing on feet and boots on slippery ground before we remembered the view. And it was still glorious even in the low cloud.
The weather forecast for much of the north of England, within reasonable travelling distance, was substantially wet. We had spotted a microwindow in the weather near Keswick which coincided with Latrigg. A well-known hill near the town, it is regularly climbed by the vast majority of residents, dog walkers and visitors.
Except me. I have successfully and inadvertently avoided it in all the decades I have lived in Cumbria. I’ve walked alongside it but never gained the summit. Linda and Christine, seasoned Latriggers, kindly agreed to tolerate my request to break with tradition and, for a change, go to the top.
Our route from Brundholme was a straightforward stroll onto the small ridge which had cleverly hidden the view from our path. A perfect reveal as we hit the top, Keswick, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite arrayed themselves before our feet, a muted collection of greys, greens and white, carpeting the valley below. The fells sat camouflaged grey in the low cloud alongside the subtle patchwork colours; giant walls holding up the sky.
We followed a well worn track along the flanks of Lonscale Fell, three of many brightly waterproofed walkers punctuating the brown garlanded Cumbria Way into the Glenderaterra valley.
Deep copper bracken decorated the hillsides as the beck tumbled south. Lonscale Fell and Blease Fell rise steeply either side here, the path pulled along the steep slopes to the shallow col below Burnt Horse ridge.
“I’m expecting to see auks,” said one chap sitting on the path bank munching through a sandwich. I looked up at the thick mist inching its way towards us, transforming the view into a soft grey opaque haze. Tolkein could have brought any of his characters out of it.
“Well, actually, I did think you looked like gnomes,” I replied cheerfully. His walking colleague laughed.
“Yes,” he interjected, “a bit like you three did when we passed you earlier eating your lunch.”
“We just needed fishing rods and it would have been perfect,” added Christine grinning.
We did the usual exchange of walking notes, route choice and comments about the weather and then left the gentlemen to finish their food. We marched on into the white, our past swallowed neatly behind by the cloud sinking softly to the valley floor. The car wasn’t far ahead. It felt good to remove wet layers and relax dry as the rain swept the road home.
For a short walk, there was still a delicious sense of wellbeing. Of mind and body exercised muscles, wind flushed faces and a sense of remarkable privacy that walking with the clouds brings. We saw just who and what the sky allowed us to and we were seen in the same way.
Clouds cover and quieten, replacing that of the long distance and wide open with the intimate immediate and close up. Our conversation was similar; shielded from the unknowns of the future we talked of the here and now. The fells and tomorrow would appear when they were good and ready
Today, however, this was our path and our chat, shared with just a few. And it was lovely, just perfect.