Most of us described this as the toughest day of our lives. The word to describe the photos was “real.” It took us 9.5 hours to hike the 15.5 miles from Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite, and Mother Nature made sure that we would remember this day for a long, long time. Everyone faced tremendous physical and mental challenges, yet showed remarkable determination.
The day started well after a great night’s sleep, being lulled to sleep by lamb bleating! After about a mile, the path took us along the south side of Ennerdale Water for 3.5 miles. The scenery was fantastic and the surrounding fells got bigger and bigger, and their shrouding in cloud ever more ominous. The previous day’s weather forecast had evolved to a dry and windy morning but wet afternoon, so we made the most of the morning! A rock formation known as Robin Hood’s Chair was the main challenge in this section, though the path varied from awkward rocks to a river bed. After leaving the lake, the Ennerdale Youth Hostel provided the perfect place to eat our lunch in their break room, while also helping ourselves to tea and snacks, courtesy of an honesty box. Well refreshed, we were ready to head out into the promised rain. It didn’t look too bad so Samuel headed off to tackle the “high route” while the rest of us took the low route.
The low route took us along a forest road about 4 miles to Black Sail Youth Hostel. The rain was getting harder with stronger winds so we just kept going, hoping it wouldn’t get worse. The valley opened up to an amazing scene of multiple rivers merging together with waterfalls. Unfortunately, the rain got harder, the wind got stronger, and the trail steeper. It was like the hurricanes we get in the Texas when you are told to shelter – but we were in the middle of it in mountains. The rain stung our faces and the wind would have blown us off our feet if we did not have hiking poles. We made it to the bottom of Loft Beck and then it was one mile straight up the hill. It took strong concentration and one step at a time to keep going in the torrential rain and gale force winds. We finally made it to the top, helped by Peter shoving chocolate into everyone’s mouth halfway up, but it was still 3 miles to the Honister Mine cafe and her famous sausage rolls. The path remained relentless. While the rain eased, the wind seemed to get stronger. The last mile was down an old tramway’s path, but it was slippery rocks which made it worse. Bailey went ahead to order what was possible before they closed at 5pm, and managed to get some hot chocolate and a couple of snacks, but we were devastated that they had sold out of sausage rolls! Just as Tracy and Peter were approaching Honister, Samuel appeared out of the mist. While we thought we’d been drowned rats, Samuel defined what one looked like!
Samuel’s high route had been more than demanding. The initial climb to the ridge had been a tough start, and the subsequent ridge walk with multiple peaks, including some climbing, would be difficult on a nice day. But with the torrential rain and what felt like 100 mph winds, it stretched Samuel to his limit. “No regrets” but “I probably wouldn’t do it again in those conditions” were his summary. Even though his experience was different, he joined others with the “toughest day of my life” remark.
With Team Sloth together again, and everyone feeling cold, wet, and hungry, it was a 4-mile march down the road from Honister Pass into the Borrowdale Valley. Were we glad to see the Langstrath Country Inn! And after a day like that, I need to publish this post before I fall asleep… Tomorrow is a shorter 9-mile day, but there is a steep climb and the weather forecast is uncertain. But after today, it will take a lot to stop this lot. And after tomorrow, We have a well-earned rest day in beautiful Grasmere.
Relive video at https://www.relive.cc/view/v36AP4zEWGO
This page is linked to from my England’s Coast to Coast home page.
Please follow us on this journey by subscribing below, and we would love to hear your encouraging feedback.