Many may already know from tweets that our C2C trip ended in Grasmere on day 3. In those 3 days there are so many memories that will no doubt linger far longer than much harder, more successful trips.
Wainwrights C2C was a trip that I could do with my dad, who has just got into backpacking this year after years of day walks. We did a test trip over Cross Fell a few weeks ago without any incident which is surprising with us two.
Apologies for the post being so long, but wanted to keep it as one post.
Fast forward to the the start of the trip and after a pleasant train journey we disembarked at the tiny station of St Bees and headed down towards the beach. Before we got to the beach (the start) I was guided to a cafe for tea and something to eat, not the nicest place in the world and was more like a truck stop. We already had a short day time wise, because of the train journey, so I was slightly worried about delaying further with 15 miles ahead of us.
We collected shells on the beach or at least I did, my dad picked up a bloody big rock to carry across the trip. Clearly he hadn't quite got his head around this lightweight thing.
The walk along the cliffs towards Whitehaven was far nicer than the screaming families and melted bins of St Bees, the only things to be heard was the wind and the sea. I feasted on the blackberries that grew in abundance along the cliffs. The next few miles passed without incident, walking country lanes and passing by small villages.
Shortly after leaving Cleator the first hill of the trip was ahead, Dent. Its only just over 500ft but it was a reminder to me that most people don't race up a hill. We made it to the top and were greeted with views of the mountains of the lake district that we were heading towards. The descent was steeper than the ascent and by the time we reached Nannycatch Beck at the bottom my dads legs were like jelly. Luckily we didn't have far to go to the first camp site.
The camp site at Low Cock How is basically someones lawn. We waited while the owner finished is phone call and then he showed us around, a bait room, a shower room that he told us he was waiting for the electrician to fix and an outside toilet. On the second time of asking we were told the price of £8 each and I was stunned into silence.
My dad was quite happy with the bait room, which had a microwave, gas rings and a kettle. Not exactly the wild camping I was thinking of for the trip. There were 5 other tents there most of which I think were doing the C2C.
Day 2 started with breakfast in the bait room, a sausage roll for me and some noodles and soup for my dad on the gas burner. I enjoyed a few cups of loose leaf Assam tea from my MSR Mug Mate before we set off towards Ennerdale Bridge a mile down the road.
It was almost 9:30 by the time we reached Ennerdale Bridge and it quickly became apparent to me how many people were doing the C2C. There were people everywhere and lines more people on the road to the lake, I could feel my heart sinking. It reminded me of the North Yorkshire 3 peaks with lines up people going up the hills. Everyone was stopping in B&Bs; and having their luggage transfered by couriers. I would guess there must of been 70+ people doing this way.
We passed quite a lot of walkers and many were milling around Ennerdale Bridge waiting, for what I'm not quite sure. We turned off the road to Ennerdale Water and headed down a lane to the Mill. I managed to catch my pack on a narrow gate and tear the side pocket. Note to people who make gates, especially kissing gates please allow enough space for a person and a pack. God knows how those with much larger packs get through them.
A few times I intentionally took a slightly different route than what is marked on the C2C maps to avoid a road and everyone following us just kept following, just as well we were actually doing the C2C or they could of ended up anywhere.
The path along the side of Ennerdale Water has nice views of the mountains seperating the Ennerdale valley from Buttermere . I have walked this a couple of times before and new it was a bit rocky, but easy going. Before I knew it we had joined onto the track that leads past Ennerdale YH and on to Black Sail Hut. There are fantastic views up to Pillar which looks far more imposing from the North side (another route to add to the list). We sat down for some lunch leaning against a pile of logs, enjoying the sun, the views and the peace. Fifteen minutes later and dozens of other people arrived, several with the same idea. It was time to move on.
As you near Black Sail Hut most of the trees have been cut and the area is being allowed to return to a more natural habitat, but it does appear messy with lots of dead trees laid everywhere. We walked over a brow of a hill and Black Sail Hut came into view, along with 40 or so people sat outside. I have always wanted to visit Black Sail, today probably wasn't the best day, because of the number of C2C walkers (note: don't visit on a Sunday). I knew it was small, but it really is tiny, smaller than Alltbiethe in Glen Affric, but prettier. "They could make a fortune if they sold cups of tea" my dad noted. If you hadn't already realised from Day 1, he likes a cuppa.
We sat outside the Youth Hostel relaxing in the sun, listening to a guy talking to a group of Irish lads who were backpacking. The guy seamed strangely familiar, but I couldn't quite place him. Several of us watched in amusement as a mountain biker went over is handle bars while descending down a small hill, only his pride was hurt.
Next was a steep ascent up Loft Beck, a couple who were on the same camp site the night before were ascending on the wrong side of the beck. Their packs were large and the lady was struggling to lift her feet, they crossed over and the guy complained about his GPS. The going was steep and my dad was struggling like the lady to walk up what was in effect steps, which had been put in to protect the hill side. If you are not used to walking up hills with a pack steps are a killer. We would only make it a few feet at a time, I kept asking to carry my dads pack to make it easier for him. Eventually he gave in and let me carry it.
I managed to put both our packs on my back and set off, he said he would catch me up if I waited somewhere. Surprisingly doubling the weight didn't effect me, I was expecting my legs or knees to complain, but they didn't. I sat off at a quick pace, passing everybody pretty much how I'd normally walk when on my own. I got to a flattish part of the hill and the couple who had been struggling earlier where there, I decided to stop here. This was my big mistake, some may know I've had problems with my heart. After much experimenting myself (NHS has been useless) I found that if I do any hard strenuous exercise and stop abruptly my heart rate sky rockets and sometimes gets stuck at this high bpm. My decision to stop suddenly caused this to happen, I should of known better. My dad caught me up a few minutes later, unfortunately he then felt guilty because I'd carried his pack. I tried to explain it was nothing to do with the weight, but not sure he believed me. It would of happened with just my pack.
I tried to walk a bit further but my heart was still racing and I only got a few feet before I had to sit down, eventually I was sick a couple of times. This helped and made my heart slow back to normal. The whole incident lasted about 30 minutes, the longest since I ended up in hospital 3 years ago and found I had a problem, also the first time I've been sick due to it since then too. My dad was clearly worried, I must admit I was for a few minutes because normally they don't last so long, but I knew once it slowed, I would feel as if nothing had happened. That was exactly the case, if anything it often leaves me with more energy I can only guess this is due to adrenaline.
We carried on, my dad clearly relieved and surprised that I still had plenty of energy after being sick. Soon after we descended to Honister slate mine, which gave my dad an excuse to take part in his favourite activity, drinking a cuppa. I knew that Honister was expensive so didn't really want to buy anything, I sat outside while my dad went in. He returned with tea and a cornish pasty, he then realised that he had paid £3.50 for the pasty. As he bit into it, a cap on one of his teeth came out. So not only did they take his eyes out with the prices, but his tooth too (Tea was only £1).
The descent from Honister to Seatoller was quick, the pub was open as we passed but we decided to pitch before returning a bit later. The nearest campsite is a couple of hundred yards down the Seathwaite road. It's basically a field with some toilets. There was a notice to pitch and someone would be around in the morning for the money. I had been hoping to wildcamp as much as possible, this was slightly wilder than the previous nights. We decided to wait until 6pm before heading the pub in the hope of some food, we wandered in and were told they were closing for the night. Which seamed nuts to us, the main day C2C walkers come through and they close?
My dad sounded annoyed with the lady and he suggested walking to the next one, which would be a 3 mile round trip. Clearly he wanted some proper food. Checking the map on the iPhone, it was the same distance to either Rosthwaite or Stonethwaite. I decided on Rosthwaite which was a good decision, the pub was open and served food. We both ordered a pint and burger and chips. A burger has never tasted so good after the events of the day. There were several other C2C walkers, who were staying in either the hotel or B&Bs; in the area. We returned to the campsite for the night just after 8. During the night the wind was strong, I was slightly worried about the Trailstar blowing away. Normally I wouldn't worry, but I'd barely managed to get the pegs into the ground due to it being so rocky. I need not of worried, only one peg had come loose and the Trailstar barely moved. There was none of the flapping you suffer with a tent. The only thing that did blow away was one of my dads socks, he had spare ones luckily.
We never did see the person who was supposed to come and collect the money and noticed that the temporary sign had gone, possibly blown away in the night. As we approached Stonethwaite we could see groups of people milling around like the day before. We were asked if we'd seen a group of 8 or so heading this direction, we hadn't. I looked along the valley at the incline ahead and became slightly worried knowing how much my dad had struggled yesterday.
As we started to climb higher, the rest stops became more frequent and my dad started to become more and more fed up and started to talk about giving up. I hoped he'd be fine once we got to Grasmere, with another good meal inside him but it became apparent how tired he was. I could see him losing balance slightly as we descended down the other side but didn't want to mention it. I thought about taking his pack again but knew there was no way he'd let me after the day before. Each time we stopped he talked about giving up again, he knew the next 2 days until out of the lakes would be harder than the last.
We stopped for a final rest stop before Grasmere and spoke to an elderly couple for several minutes. They had met lots of people walking the C2C, but the others has been stopping in B&Bs; and said one lady was taking 3 weeks to walk it.
As we walked closer to Grasmere it sounded like my dad has made his mind up about stopping. I mentioned about taking a day off or not going as far the following day. When we got into Grasmere and sat on a seat, he'd made his mind up, he wasn't going any further. Part of the reason was he knew my mam could pick him up today, but couldn't the following day when she'd be at work.
My dad expected I would continue on my own, but I made my decision to stop far quicker than it had taken him to make his decision. The C2C was about walking somewhere with my him, I like walking what I call "pointy bits" (mountains). If I carried on I would be out of the lakes at my pace, within a day and then I would very quickly lose interest in the surroundings and find myself on a race for the coast. Before I came to the decision of stopping I had started thinking if I walk through the night I could get to this point and then finish by this day. Whats the point in that, any trip should be about the journey, not the end. I knew on my my own, this particular route wasn't for me, its a route to walk with friends or family.
I tweeted that we were stopping and Joe Newtons reply sums it up perfectly:
sometimes it's best to change plans rather than battle on because you said you would do something. Live to hike another day!
I received several tweets very quickly of encouragement for my dad, which I knew wouldn't make any difference once he'd made up his mind and also a possible replacement plan for the weekend from Phil Turner to sail to Arran and in his words:
Goatfell on Saturday, wild camp and Three Beinns on Sunday (maybe). Otherwise low level and Arran Brewery.
The trip ended with a phone call to my mam to ask if she would pick us up from Keswick, we caught a bus (£6.15 cough) and waited in a pub. I didn't even go in a gear shop the first time ever this has happened in the dozens of times I've been to Keswick.
The following day I ended up shivering fully clothed in bed (a bug I never completely got rid of), so it was probably just as well we stopped. My dad also spent most of the day in bed asleep he tells me.
If I ever do the C2C again I would set off on a different day to avoid the trains of people and would carry dehydrated meals, posting others ahead. In the 3 days I walked I spent far more than I planned, dehydrated would be cheaper. I would also wildcamp, at least in the lakes.