Let us not forget the gentler fells of Cumberland. In the north of the Lake District are the Uldale Fells and the Caldbeck Fells, together providing a beauteous finale to the sweep of the mountains. Here there are no silvery lakes and the dark, foreboding hillsides are less vicious in their aspect. You may forget these places if you scale mighty Skiddaw to the south, rearing its head over Bassenthwaite (although the last time I climbed Skiddaw was in a storm; the cloud descended upon the hill like a biblical portent and the lake was quite invisible).
Is that not the point though? There is enjoyment to be had from the open walk, the man on the fellside alone with his own thoughts. There need not be the challenge, which is no challenge when you know you can do it, nor the threatening peril to life and limb: the walk and the emptiness are all.
Therefore on occasion look away from the massive massif, cross the Dash Beck and make for the hills which do not throw you off but which are welcoming. There is none there like Great Cockup, the most famed of them, and one which has the modesty to be named after its own valley. It is only 1,726 feet; a bairn could climb it. There then, you may look out at Longthwaite Fell, Meal Fell and the amusingly ill-named Great Sca Fell, Burnt Todd and Knott.
Actually, the latter is 2,329 feet and the highest of the Uldale Fells, so if you are walking above Uldale, is you ambition to achieve a Great Cockup or Knott?
I cannot add much to the article, and I am not any kind of expert in the field (read Simon Baron-Cohen’s studies for that) but I can appreciate the raw therapy of the mountain.
In all the classical books on fellwalking a prominent theme is how wonderful it is to be alone. The crowds and noise and oppressive babble of voices and all those spoken and unspoken needs and expectations crowding in on a man are gone when he walks out alone on the ridge of a far peak. There it is man not against the mountain, which is timeless and undefeatable, but man alone being the best he can be and achieving. There are no critical chatterers, no cruel comparisons, no slowing him down to conform with a crowd, and no confinement in a dull, man-made world shaped and defined by other hands – it is just a man out of dinning society, in the natural state in a landscape carved by the greatest artist who man the mountain and the man. Yes, I understand.
The Llanberis Path is the classic path up Snowdon, and by far the most popular. It is the gentlest route and consequently the longest of the paths to the summit, though no route up the mountain is easy.
I first walked the Llanberis Path in my school days, as a family walk, and it is popular with individual walkers and with families in season, if they are families of a rugged persuasion. Even so, it should not be underestimated and particularly in poor weather in its topmost section it has deadly hazards.
The path begins at Llanberis at the foot of the northern slope of Snowdon. There are capacious car parks here and the compulsory visitor centre and attractions: as Llanberis is also the base station of the Snowdon Mountain Railway it attracts more visitors than it would were it just catering for fell walkers. It is pretty village to visit in any case.
The path is some 4½ miles long, with an ascent of 3,100 feet. Guidebooks estimate that it will take 3-4 hours, though this may be an underestimate, depending on your fitness and tendency to stop for photographs. It climbs at a fairly even gradient up the south slope of the mountain (pursued doggedly by the mountain railway).
Following the path from the hotel, it runs south-west above the River Arddu close to a little waterfall on the river, and follows the road for just a short while before heading south up onto the rough pasture. Then it is a long haul up what is effectively a broad ridge.
Below Garnedd Ugain (‘the Peak of the Twenty’; no, don’t ask me but I do not follow the romantic frame of mind among of those who claim it was named after the Legio XX whose fort was at Segontium where Caernarfon now stands) – here the path runs over the narrow between crags and becomes much steeper until the final push to the summit.
Here at the summit it wild beauty and isolation to be found, if you can ignore a hundred other visitors and the café in Hafod Eyri just below the summit itself.
Maps for the walk:
The best maps for Snowdon are of course the Ordnance Survey maps; the ‘Explorer’ at 1:25 000 and the ‘Landranger’ at 1:50 000:
The Ordnance Survey have published a list of the top twenty places for walking, by grid square, all calculated scientifically, apparently. It strikes me then ,shouldn’t we here have a set of walks for each of these? It’s a big task to be completed over a time, but worth starting soon.
These are worthy places with many of which I am familiar. Five of the are Edale though, which is a fine place with great walking, packed in season- but can’t somewhere else have a go too?
Anyway, while I look at the walks, what do you think of the list? –
He shot off like a comet, the glee showing in every pore – this in a boy of nine just learning to cycle was a reminder of what a bicycle is all about: it is about the sudden realisation of freedom. Where once you could go nowhere faster than your little legs would take you, and soon be caught up with, the bicycle gives you wings, and all by your own strength. Suddenly the horizon is within reach and you can dream of what lies beyond.
I followed on and felt the rush too. Yes, we only hared around the village and the lanes about it, and explored paths nearly forgotten, but knowing that anything beyond it is just a question of not turning round and going back to finish that homework. The glimpse of freedom is there, and should never be lost.
With that in mind I will do what I always intended, and add some cycle routes and pages about cycling to WildþingUK, starting today with the Alban Way, a cycle route between St Albans and Hatfield.
I can be more ambitious though, now I can see the horizon.