Monday June 20 – Grasmere to Patterdale
Nobody was in too much of a hurry in the morning. The weather looked nice, with no sign of the previous days’ rains, save for a few puddles. Breakfast, like dinner, was a significant affair. I had conventional fare, but most of the group decided to try haddock. When we set off a little before 10AM, the sky overhead was clear and blue and it was actually feeling a touch on the warm side.
We followed the main road out of Grasmere for about half a mile before turning off. The road was full of cars on their way to or from Grasmere. The trail took us up through hillsides covered in bracken and to the right of the valley that led to Griesdale Tarn. As we climbed, our view of Grasmere and the surrounding valleys expanded, but so did the tiny clouds overhead. It took nearly 2 hours to reach the tarn, by which point the blue skies had largely been replaced by gray.
At the tarn, the group split up, with Bridget, Michelle and Sassan taking the southern route and Chris, Mark, Bob and I heading to the north side of the source of Goldrill Beck. After the tarn, our trail immediately turned into a series of steep switchbacks. At the top of Dollywagon Pike, the ridge broadened as did our views. We could see Helvellyn, England’s third highest peak, just up the ridge ahead of us. The trail there was a gentle traverse with a small ascent near the end.
From Helvellyn, we had an excellent view of the Lakes District. Below and before us were the Ullswater, Patterdale, and the sharp edge of the Striding Edge (ridge). Behind us were Grasmere and numerous other little towns, as well as several lakes. To the west we could just make out the coast. To the northwest, we could even see a long cape of land that Mark indicated was part of Scotland. It was quite a sight.
We ate our quick lunch on the eastern edge of the peak, staring down at Striding Edge, and admiring as people seemed to climb straight up the near-vertical hillside to the top of Helvellyn.
The immediate after-lunch descent was precipitous. The trail did switchback, but it was still a steep and rocky way down. Once we were down the top 100m, we were at the beginning of Striding Edge. There one had a choice to climb along the ridge, a mass of class 2 and 3 rocks and boulders with considerable exposure, or to follow the narrow trail that yoyod up and down between gullies and cliffs. I tried the ridge for a bit, then opted for the trail. The rest of the group stuck to the ridge.
After ¼ mile the ridge slowly began to broaden. We all took the trail from that point. The clouds in the sky had ceased to grow and the sun actually returned when we crossed the ridge for the last time to get our view of Patterdale. Getting down to Patterdale took a decent amount of time, and as Chris and I were stopping for photos, Mark and Bob zoomed ahead. When we reached the bottom, flower-filled pastures had replaced the steep hillsides and boulders we had seen above. The sun was also out again, and the air was warm and full of insects.
The last stretch to Patterdale took us in and out of a small wood, across a bog and finally down onto the main road. It wasn’t hard to find Mark and Bob – they were seated at an outdoor table next to the White Lion Pub & Inn enjoying a few pints of the local ‘Black Sheep’ ale. I explored Patterdale a bit, before joining them to wait for the others.
Patterdale proved yet another small town, with one pub, one hotel, one general store and a youth hostel, but not much else. It was situated on a hillside slightly above the Ullswater, with views down and across that lake. When the others arrived after a pleasant but uneventful trip via the other ridge, Bob, Sassan and I left to go to the Youth Hostel where we were to spend the night. This was a much larger affair than the place we’d stayed 2 nights before, and we were lodged in a large common room with a dozen beds. While we were unpacking and organizing two gentleman we’d seen before came in, and we learned they were doing the hike east-to-west (opposite us), but doing the legs from west to east, using two cars to transport themselves and their gear. A complicated arrangement.
For dinner, we rejoined the others at the White Lion. The place was almost completely full and after a few pints, everybody seemed quite lively. Having not quite learned my lesson, I had vegetable lasagna which seemed biased heavily against the vegetables and in favor of the cheese. We walked back to the hostel around 10PM and I had no difficulty falling asleep.