The second day was certainly the toughest day in terms of the weather. I’d never walked anywhere in the conditions I experienced today, mostly because I would just stay inside. But there I was, nearly 2,000 feet up on the ridge, desperately trying to stay upright and follow the path when visibility was incredibly poor.
The morning has started off so well. I had staying overnight in Cleator Moor because I couldn’t get a room in Ennerdale, but after a short taxi ride I was back on the track. The walk around the southern edge of Ennerdale was testing. I was just not used to walking on this type of path, where you have to pay attention to every single step because the angles of the rocky path are constantly jutting and changing. Later that day, I discovered that many people walking the Coast to Coast has decided to take the dirt road to the north of the lake, and whilst this is no doubt flatter and easier going, it doesn’t offer the same views over the water.
The lake seemed to go on forever! And once that is done, you have another nearly five miles on the forest track. I desperately needed the loo, but the youth hostel was all locked up. I must admit that I think I inadvertently used a toilet that wasn’t plumbed. Fortunately, the flatness of the forest track allowed for a speedy getaway.
Approach Black Sail Youth Hostel (which is in the middle of nowhere), the weather started to get much worse. There is probably an art to putting on waterproof over-trousers in gale force winds, unfortunately it’s not something that I’d mastered at the time.
I wolfed down my lunch at the hostel, and used a proper toilet this time. The next part of the walk was the toughest of the day, and inexplicably I decided to rush to do it in the worse possible conditions. Important lesson: just give the weather 30 minutes and see if it clears up.
I’d read in various guidebooks that this section up Loft Beck could be tough to navigate. So given the conditions, I thought I’d just follow someone else who looked like they knew where they were going. Important lesson: no one knows where they are going, especially in strong rain and winds. I ended up chasing after this person, and it gradually drawn on me that they were lost. I say gradually, but the lightbulb moment was when I was stood knee deep in a bog. I finally caught up with my unknowing navigating, only to find out that it was Kevin – the chap I’d met on the top of Dent Hill the day before. Fortunately, I knew exactly how to get to get us back to the path – we were only about 50 feet off it, but that’s a long way in these type of conditions. We agreed to stick together; for safety.
The walk up Loft Beck, especially, after having lunch about 20 minutes before and having been chasing Kevin through the bog, was brutal. I would guess it’s equivalent of maybe 20 flights of stairs in one go. There was nowhere to stop. I had people behind me. I was trying to keep up with Kevin. The rain was pouring. The wind was howling. I didn’t even have a chance to worry about the sheer drop down the waterfall to my left.
Getting to the top didn’t offer any relief. The higher elevation made the wind and rain even worse. People, including me, were struggling to stay upright. Thankfully the cairns gave some encouragement that we were heading in the right direction. We were not walking in a group of maybe 10 people, all staying reasonably close to make sure that everyone made it back safely.
It was sweet, sweet relief to reach the old slate mine path to Honister. The descent was OK, especially with my “five points of contact” approach to certain sections, using my ample aris. At the bottom, there is a lovely place for refreshments. I stopped a while, the puddle around my sodden possessions slowly growing.
I am sure the final walk to Borrowdale is pleasant enough, but wasn’t in the best place to enjoy it. Everything was soaked. And that night I was headed to a youth hostel to share a room with nine other men.