ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
[personal profile] ilanarama
As this was a cheatin' c2c, instead of rolling out of bed and starting our walk, the bus took us to the parking lot at Ennerdale Water and the beginning of our sojurn in the Lake District. Now, I personally would call Ennerdale Water a 'lake', but - as Barry, one of the local hikers we were with corrected me - it is a water. So are most other so-called 'lakes' in the Lake District; they are either waters (e.g. Ennerdale Water, Ullswater), or meres (Buttermere, Grasmere) or tarns (used only for the high lakes and ponds formed in mountain cirques, like Grisdale Tarn, which we would pass the next day). The only actual 'lake' is Bassenthwaite Lake - which is why, according to Barry, it's the Lake district, not the Lakes District.

Whatever. Looks like a lake to me.

Ennerdale Water

The standard Wainwright route for the C2C (Wainwright's the guy who invented this route) goes along the south shore of the lake water and the River Liza, which flows into it, until a bridge crossing a few miles up, but the dirt road on the north side is an alternate recommended for use in heavy rain. It wasn't raining (a welcome surprise; this is the wettest part of England, with annual average precipitation of 80 inches), but that's the way we went, and though probably not quite as nice as a narrow trail it was still a scenic walk.

Along the dirt road above Ennerdale Along the path

After about five miles we came to the head of the valley and the Black Sail youth hostel, which is one of the more remote hostels in the UK. (The name has nothing to do with the kind of sails on boats but is derived from a Gaelic or Norse word for willow or bog, depending on who you ask.) Bill (who'd hiked with us the day before) met us there, along with his friends Barry (his brother-in-law) and Tony (from the Wainwright Society); they'd continue with us over the pass to Honnister Quarry. Bill had made hot tea in the hostel and brought cups out to us to drink with our packed lunches - a nice treat!

Nearing Black Sail YH Leaving Black Sail YH

During our lunch, we chatted quite a bit with Bill and his friends. Despite the language barrier (I found his Cumbrian accent/dialect difficult to understand, and I'm sure he found my American accent likewise a challenge) and the age gap (he's in his 70s, though fitter than most of our group) Bill and I bonded over marathoning and trail running; he was a 3:12 marathoner in his 40s, and the following weekend he was manning a check-in point/aid station (he does this every year) at the 23-mile Ennerdale Horseshoe 'fell race' around the tops of the mountains encircling the valley.

On hearing that Britt and I live in Colorado, the local runners commented that these fells (as they call them) aren't nearly as impressive as our mountains back home. But really, once we climbed out of the trees, the scenery reminded me very strongly of the Colorado mountains above treeline. There were just two major differences: First, since the elevation is lower the air is not as thin, so it doesn't feel nearly as difficult to hike up even steep trails. And second, there are sheep everywhere.

Of course, we have sheep too; local ranchers run their flocks up in the wilderness during the summer, and when we hike in their permit areas, we can't help but see them. But Colorado sheep are thicker on the ground and therefore stinkier and more obnoxious to run across - the latter also partly due to the aggressive sheepdogs that are always out with the hired Basque shepherds who do the actual work. By contrast, the sheep in England are generally spread out across larger areas, and since they are resident, not transient, they are not actively overseen by men and dogs. The Lake District sheep are primarily Herdwick, a heritage breed that dates to the 12th century, probably brought by Norse settlers. Their thick fleece makes them suited for the harsh climate of the treeless high country, though it's too coarse for anything other than rug-making - they are mostly raised for meat, and for tradition's sake. But they're cute, especially the lambs which are solid black in their first year. (As they grow, their heads turn white and their bodies grey.)

Herdwick sheep Herdwick ewe and lamb

Britt, [ profile] zebra363, and I zoomed on ahead with Barry as we followed the trail to the skyline and the broad ridges above. We'd agreed to regroup and rest before descending on the other side, but we had plenty of time to explore the high ridges and look off the sides in various directions.

On the ridge above Ennerdale Looking back down to Ennerdale Water

The last part of the day was a descent to the Honister Quarry visitor's center (and the road, where our bus waited). This historic slate mine (it's been quarried since at least the late 17th century, though it's been closed and re-opened many times since) is now a tourist attraction as well as a working quarry, and although we had no time for a tour we enjoyed the displays (and the views of enormous slate-working tools) in the visitor's center. We even bought our one permanent souvenir of the trip here, a set of square slate coasters. (But not a coast-to-coast coaster! :-) Good thing our luggage was being carried by bus this trip - those things are heavy!

Destination in sight

The bus took us to the Langstrath Country Inn in the tiny village of Stonethwaite. Here we had one of the nicer rooms we stayed in on the whole trip, as well as a really excellent dinner - I had smoked trout and avocado salad as a starter and it was amazing. It felt well-earned, too, after our first real mountain-hiking day. With the extra bits of walking on the ridge-tops, we'd done 9.75 miles by my GPS, with an elevation gain (by the guidebook) of about 1700 feet.

These plus more photos, 14 in all, at Flickr


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

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My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


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