Sunday, April 30, 2006

AS USUAL

Albert Camus:

As usual I finish the day before the sea, sumptuous this evening beneath the moon, which writes Arab symbols with phosphorescent streaks on the slow swells. There is no end to the sky and the waters. How well they accompany sadness!


ULLSWATER, APRIL 2006

The colours one sees on the ground or in the water depend on the colour of the sky. This is especially true in the Lake District, where the sky is usually somewhere on a journey from cotton-wool white to threatening grey. But while greens and browns and reds are more vibrant under a blue sky, the ubiquitous Cumbrian clouds do not deaden colour like their urban counterparts do in London. Cumbria is never quite grey.


PATTERDALE, APRIL 2006

During my four days there last week, the weather was kind to me. The evening of my arrival was gorgeous - Ullswater was perfectly still (see the reflection above) and there was not a cloud in the sky.

Day two was murky, but I walked up Place Fell undeterred. Anybody who has walked in the Lake District will be familiar with Alfred Wainwright; he wrote seven guidebooks on the fells, each one a testament to his love for the area. 200-odd fells are covered in his books, each with a handwritten and handdrawn chapter describing its natural features, routes of ascent and descent, ridge routes and description of the view. They are all masterpieces, but they are of more use to the armchair walker (who can absorb Wainwright's poetry and dream in comfort) than to the actual hiker (who has to slog his way up footpaths which no longer exist). Wainwright's description of the ascent of Place Fell is a fine eulogy ("One cannot sojourn at Patterdale without looking at Place Fell and one cannot look long at Place Fell without duly setting forth to climb it"), but unfortunately his ascent via Grey Crag is an absolute bastard.

Nevermind: days three and four were spent doing Helvellyn and the High Street range. Helvellyn is most famous for Striding Edge. Although sheer drops descend from either side of it, the vast majority of Striding Edge is easy even for the most vertiginous walker. The only problem arises at the end, where a steep chimney of rock has to be negotiated. Unfortunately, my fellow walker had a funny turn in the middle of the ridge and his legs turned to jelly. After much coaxing and calming, however, we completed the ridge and climbed to Helvellyn's summit. After some sandwiches and a look back at the ridge which nearly killed him, he walked down to Grasmere and I walked back to Patterdale.


STRIDING EDGE FROM NEAR THE TOP OF HELVELLYN, APRIL 2006

High Street is so named because a Roman road once ran across it. More recently, it was also the scene of a racecourse. If one was being unkind to High Street (and its surrounding fells), one might accuse them of being a little dull, and imagining gee-gees hurtling across it certainly adds interest. Actually I prefer their serenity and wildness to the likes of Helvellyn and Scafell Pike, which turn into motorways in the summer. Situated on the far eastern side of the national park, its scenery is closer to the North Yorkshire Moors than the rest of the Lake District. I walked 13.5 miles in about seven hours and did not pass more than 15 walkers (though plenty of sheep, and even one particular obstructive miniature horse, which tried to stop me climbing over a gate).

Am back in London now, so no more bucolia for a while. Here are a few more shots of my rambles:


TROUTBECK VALLEY FROM THORNTHWAITE MOUTH, APRIL 2006


ANGLE TARN, APRIL 2006


FAIRFIELD AND DEEPDALE FROM ANGLETARN PIKES, APRIL 2006


PADDINGTON'S NEW FRIEND, APRIL 2006

3 Comments:

Blogger Comandante Gringo said...

Man, you english are so coddled and soft. Over here we have to fight off polar bears and grizzlies when we step out the door just to go to the outhouse.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus fucking Christ! Did you take the picture of ULLSWATER, APRIL 2006? You're my fucking hero all of a sudden!!

9:22 PM  
Blogger paddington said...

I did indeed - a little bit of luck that I happened to be on the shore as the sun was beginning to set. But thank you - I don't think I have ever been anyone's hero before...

9:27 PM  

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