An Overnighter in the Lakes
Low routes and lunch stops.
A mainly photographic report of a Lakeland overnighter.
A late-in-the-year overnighter has become a sort of ritual for Tom and I. We grew up in Cumbria, taking for granted having the Lakes as our backyard, but now find ourselves living in different cities, talking about how nice the Lakes are. So we make the effort to pick a November weekend to get back, see our Mums and get amongst it for 24hours or so. Nothing ‘epic’, just enjoyable, mostly. The forecast is usually bad, the weather is never as bad as the forecast, we faff around looking for kit and we usually set off late.
Walk, pub, camp, walk back is the general theme. Back in the day, we used to pedal from our house all the way to where we wanted to ride or walk, then do the ride or walk. That kind of effort seems unimaginable now, so we drive, right into the heart of the Lakes and park in little Langdale. With one of Tom’s Dad’s walking poles each, we set off up Wetherlam, the top of which is shrouded in cloud.
Cars toil up Wrynose below us and behind, as we’re stopping for regular breathers, gives expansive views back to the higher peaks of Helvellyn and Fairfield. Being right in the middle of the Lakes means you can piece the whole area together from previous trips, what links to where, where leads to what. Not that Wetherlam is a low peak, it tops out at 762m and from where we’re parked is a fairly direct schelp up Wetherlam edge, scrambly at times with rapid height gain.
Choosing a lesser-known peak (often overlooked in favour of its higher-profile neighbour Old Man of Coniston) was a conscious attempt to avoid any Saturday crowds. The Lakes barely seem to have an offseason now. Today though, in late November, with the bad forecast was as close as it gets and we don’t see a soul until we’re well over the top, down to Swirl How, alongside Levers Water and through the remnants of the old copper mines.
The YHA looks pretty busy - it’s the old mine managers building. Some smug people have rented part of the big house at the top of the valley and are splashing about in hot tub as we walk by. We wonder if they leave it on overnight as we wouldn’t mind a quick wash a bit later. In the last of the light, we eye a place for a stealthy camp and make for Coniston below us.
The fire is on in the Black Bull and couples with dogs occupy most tables. NO PACKS INSIDE reads the sign. They must have a tough time enforcing that. It’s only 17h30, we’ve walked about 8 miles, which is more than enough to make the ale, brewed just behind where we’re sitting, taste lovely. A ‘few’ ales and main course later we call it and it’s time to head out to find a place to camp.
I’d managed to borrow an extremely light Tarptent (cheers Christian) and managed a commendable pitch in the dark and oncoming rain, as forecasted. We’d forgotten to check the hot tub on our way up but did wake up perfectly sheltered from the wind in a little dry stone walled sheep pen.
Brew up, pack up and head out, leaving no trace. Old Man of Coniston is shrouded in mist again and we’re not too fussed about climbing it today. We scope out a lower route that stays beneath the clag, up past Lad Stones, and along Tilbertwaite Gill. We bimble along, messing with Tom’s 35mm film camera that seems to pick out these overcast days beautifully until we find a perfect (early) lunch spot.
There is disused mining furniture all over this part of the Lakes and we come across a piece that's a perfect kitchen workbench. Fine dining boil in the bags are on the menu, for another blast from the past Duke of Edinburgh memory. Stood in the deep, stepped mine at Tilberthwaite I have vague memories of coming climbing here when much younger, too.
From here, it’s back along the green lane to Langdale, Hodge Close Quarry to our right, darkness falling. In the low light, we make it back to the van, a whole 28hours after leaving it. Fully caught up with each other's goings-on and with some new bits of the Lakes pieced together, some hazy memories jogged.
Here’s to taking the lower routes once in a while, to stopping to make lunch and to honouring rituals.