Hello people and pooches. Back in October 2018 I was one and a half years old and my dad had just started to take me hiking. I had built up my mileage steadily unto this time. I am difficult to tire out according to my dad. We had done plenty of flat walks during the summer with, latterly some larger and larger hills thrown in. We had failed on one attempt and then, on our second attempt, summited Snowdon recently. So, it was time for another adventure and another big hill. The Lake District had seen a light dusting of snow on the tops in the past few days so a trip to Skiddaw was planned for a sunny but chilly Monday morning. We didn’t set off to drive to the Latrigg carpark at the end of Gale Road. My dad had chosen the ‘easy’ route to ascend this 931 metre mountain. The carpark is 300 metres above sea level which gives the hiker a good start at climbing a 3000 foot peak.
We arrived late in the morning and were greeted by glorious sunny weather. The breeze had a cold bite to it but, it looked like my dad had chosen a good day for us. The path is signposted at the head of the carpark and follows the Cumbria Way for a short distance. After a short stretch uphill along a well-trodden path we came to a stone memorial to the Howell family who herded sheep on Lonscale Fell.
My dad always sings when we are hiking when there is nobody within earshot. He was singing ‘Sugar Mountain’ by Neil Young. He was showing his age with that choice. When I say that he was singing the song I actually mean was he was murdering the chorus. Over and over he sang the six lines that he knew. OK, it mentions a mountain but, I don’t think that the ‘barkers’ in the song are dogs. He is not very bright and definitely not a good singer. Hey ho!
Ahead we climbed the stony zigzags up Jenkin Hill along the line of Whit Beck. I loved this section as I could run around, always on my long lead, and sniff out birds and sheep on the fellside. The big feller took his time and used the excuse that he wanted to admire the views behind us when he stopped a few times. The view looking over Keswick and Derwent Water was spectacular but, I think that he was ‘puffed out’ really. I think that he needs to work on his fitness and his weight. I learned quickly that I needed to wait for him when he told me to ‘wait’.
When we eventually reached the top of Jenkin Hill we chose the path that would take us to the summit of Skiddaw Little Man. Firstly, after a climb we came to Lesser Man, which we crested, then we continued along the well worn path to the summit of Little Man. The path drops from the summit cairn into the col and then uphill to the ridge walk to Skiddaw. This path is almost as wide as the M6 motorway. After a few undulations we reached the frozen summit of Skiddaw.
The trig point sits on a relatively flat plateau that left us cold and unprotected from the bitter wind. My dad was excited that he could see Scotland over the Solway Firth from our viewpoint. He was rattling off the names of mountains that he thought that he could see. Helvellyn, Blencathra and other such mysteriously named mountains. I could see choughs that I wanted to chase and sheep further down the fellsides that I could play with. I can’t understand his obsession with walking up big hills when there is such chaseable wildlife in the valleys. This wasn’t a place to linger on a cold, windy day so, rather than sit on the summit admiring the views while we had our lunch, we decided to descend to a more sheltered spot.
We headed back along the ridge and down to the col between Skiddaw and Little Man. At this point we chose the left path that was in the shadow of Little Man. This was an easier path to hike along as it contoured the side of the fell until we met the path junction where we earlier ascended Little Man from. Once we were through the gate at this path junction, we simply had to follow the route that we had ascended from the carpark.
Although my dad had to be aware of his footing on the steep descent he stopped frequently as he waffled on about the views. He was telling me that we would be visiting the Lake District more often because there were so many fells that he had never visited. Snowdonia had always been his hillwalking area and he had neglected the Lake District’s fells.
At a point on the zigzags he found a perfectly formed rock to park his big butt on while we stopped for our lunch. After all we had been on the fell for three hours at this point. I had to put up with him saying how amazing the view from that place over Keswick and Derwent Water. He burned his tongue on his coffee and then cursed because he couldn’t enjoy his soup because of his latest injury. Serves him right for not checking the temperature of his drink.
We didn’t stay too long after we had eaten our food as the wind was turning my dad’s cheeks bright red. He can be a bit of a wimp at times. I was fine because I always stay on the move. There is always something to sniff. I think that there had been sheep on this hillside at some stage. I could smell them and my dad had trodden in something that I think that a sheep had left behind. I was keen to descend the fell but my dad was taking his time as usual. I waited for him as he dawdled along and kept an eye on him. I pull on my lead sometimes on the downhill sections and he shouts ‘wait!’. So, I do. He always praises me for this. I am getting used to this hillwalking malarkey.
We were soon off the zigzags and onto the easier path. My dad turned back to take photographs of the path that we had descended. The fellside was still bathed in sunshine and the autumnal colours glowed in the afternoon light. It had been an easy walk for a young, handsome Cocker Spaniel and I had loved being in the hills. I think that my old, not so handsome dad will be taking me on these little trips more often. That is assuming that he can up his game and get a bit fitter. Till next time.