Discovering Budget Backpackers Nirvana
Keswick Travel Blog› entry 5 of 9 › view all entries
I was treated to another gorgeous morning when I awoke, although there were some black clouds obviously heavy with rain drifting by, the air felt so clear and the sun burst through at every opportunity, simply perfect.
I took my time having breakfast and clearing up my stuff, taking the opportunity for another shower as I was not sure when I would get the next. My clothes had not quite dried out yet as there was not any heating on in the shelter, this meant putting on a couple of items of damp clothing, but this was not a problem, they would soon be dry.
I set off towards Keswick hoping that the cafe might be open so that I could buy a filled roll to take with me for lunch, but no such luck. Quickly finding the path I wanted I headed up onto Whiteless Pike, following along the ridge to Wandhope and Eel Crag, it was here that I made a change to my planned route. I had intended to travel towards Causey Pike and then onto Keswick, but Grizedale Pike and the ridge that could be seen leading into Braithwaite caught my imagination, looking totally majestic in the distance.
Grizedale Pike was pretty busy on the summit, a walking group was out and about I am not sure where they were heading but they seemed to have a plan and they were sticking to it. The descent into Braithwaite was a little quieter and I was happy with that. It was pretty warm so I was looking for a place to get an ice cream, I stopped off at the village store, although they sold ‘yummy’ ice cream, their words not mine, they also had Cumberland sausage sandwich advertised, and that sounded even yummier. I did not have much cash until I managed to find a dispenser, so unfortunately it was one or the other, I went for the sandwich.
The owner had moved up here from Croydon seven years ago for the sake of her kids, she was very chatty and friendly and we enjoyed a good chinwag, she even made me a free coffee while the sausage was grilling. It was well worth waiting for too, all done on a famous ex-heavyweight champion boxer’s lean mean grilling machine, delicious and very cheap. I doubt if the filled rolls from the Buttermere cafe could have competed with this and they were more expensive!
I was heading to Keswick, but I was not sure where to after that, I did not want another night in a commercial campsite, but another wild campsite within a short walking distance was proving difficult to find. The beauty of carrying all your equipment on your back though is the flexibility you have, and I remembered that there was a small tarn high up on Skiddaw.
I took the footpaths to Keswick keeping off the dreaded tarmac as much as possible and just outside the town found some car keys on a bench. I debated whether to leave them there but decided that if they were found by some kids they might be thrown into the river or something. A gentleman suggested leaving them at a nearby hotel, but this did not seem to make much sense so I decided to drop them off at the police station in Keswick, which I then made my first stopping off point in the market town.
I purchased some sun lotion at last and another large gas cannister, I am throwing that stove away as soon as I return home! The map was throughly scrutinised, the easiest and quickest way was a path directly out of the back of Keswick, but this meant I would be retracing my footsteps to get to Blencathra in the morning, not really my first choice. It was already after 5pm so I stopped at a fish and chip shop for a little sustenance before I set off, this had the added advantage of I would not need to cook a meal this evening. Confession; I had an ice cream too.
I took to the footpaths leading out of town again heading to the track leading up Skiddaw near Millbeck. Taking a look at the path on arrival, I started to doubt my sanity, this did not seem such a good idea now. It looked steep on the map, but it looked decidedly steeper at 6.30pm from my starting point. I calculated that it would take me about an hour and a half to reach Carlside Tarn, so nothing for it, I had better get started right away.
There were a couple of guys there too, one had decided to go onto the summit, but his friend was heading down. The tarn was a little disappointing, not quite as remembered, really just a large dirty puddle, and the water would need some serious boiling. It also took me awhile to find a spot to pitch my tent, this was on a high mountain pass, it was getting windy and the ground was not very level, this idea was totally beginning to lose its attraction.
By the time the summiteer had descended my tent was pitched and I had some water boiling. I always carry some stocking material, not for robbing banks but for sieving debris from water which then after boiling is usable and drinkable, if a little discoloured. I could hear Bear Grylls voice in my head;
“Tastes a bit gritty!”
There was not a lot left to do, so an early night was on the cards, I took a few photographs in the disappearing light and listened to a little music and then crashed out.
It started to rain heavily during the night and the wind picked up, so my little shelter was bombarded with wind driven raindrops. Waking at 7am and things had not changed, I risked boiling some more water just inside my tent, not really recommended and I had to take a great deal of care, but one bonus I found that the gas burned more efficiently and economically.
The rain continued unabated for most of the day and like a mountaineer waiting out a storm high in the Himalaya I decided to remain in my tent.
When it did finally stop raining it was already too late to complete my plan to head over Blencathra and I had therefore decided I might as well wander back to Braithwaite and stop at the campsite there. This gives me the chance to return to the village store and give the full breakfast that was advertised a try.
I was debating whether I should head up to the summit of Skiddaw or straight down to Braithwaite. By the time I had packed up I had convinced myself that the sensible decision was to head directly to the village. So I began up the path to the summit, it was not such a bad idea, I was already two-thirds of the way up and I would be up and back down within an hour. It was still quite clagged out but did clear momentarily once or twice although the mountain gods did not choose to reward my determination with a view from the top, I did feel pretty good however when I reached the cairn all the same.
On returning to my starting position, I chose the shortest possible route I descended quickly, the footpaths leading through the woods on Dodd proved a little awkward, as a number of them were closed off due to nesting ospreys! I have not really got any problem with this, but earlier warnings would have been nice, I had to turn back twice because the footpath I had planned to take was prohibited.
I got caught in another heavy shower as I weaved my way along the system of public footpaths and bridleways to Braithwaite. Arriving at a campsite just outside the village, the office was closed and a sign advised that I needed to report to another site in the actual village .......... a bit of a pain.
The campsite was called Scotsdale , the offices here were also closed and there was not any answer at the warden’s residence, so I got on with settling in. There was a couple and their parents camped near my chosen spot and the mother seemed a little worried that I would be cold in my little tent. I assured her that I would be fine and not to worry too much. In the end she and her husband decided the tent they were sharing with their daughter and son-in-law was too cold and retired to their nearby caravan!
The shower block was awesome, probably the coolest I have ever seen on a campsite, it would put many so called ‘classy’ hotels to shame. I also chatted to a guy before having a shower, he was charging his laptop and seemed a bit self-conscious that he was not doing any ‘real’ camping or had walked anywhere, only driving from village to village.
I have to admit that I have to catch myself sometimes, it is too easy to feel a little superior when you are carrying everything on your back and wild camping most evenings. Looking around this and other campsites there are many four, six or even eight man tents with just two people in them and four man tents with only one occupant. They have tables, large gas hobs with two or even four rings, camp beds or inflatable mattresses and all the comforts of home, including the kitchen sink in some cases.
This campsite is really geared towards the ‘base’ style camper, and I doubt if they see many people arriving carrying all their equipment and without a vehicle. There seems to be quite a large number of motorhomes and caravans, and the tariffs probably discourage most individuals without a car. The facilities were excellent though, despite there not being a drying room, but this only reinforces my opinion that it is not designed for the likes of me.
It was very quiet that night though and I enjoyed a completely undisturbed night’s sleep, and no need to worry I was plenty warm enough too.