Thursday 15th OctoberMy slumbers were suddenly rendered at 4.15am when an owl directly above me on a low branchstarted an earnest mornings revele of screeching. This took many forms of short and long blasts butwith no soothing hooting sounds in between. "My territory, what the hell are you doing here type ofthing!" I could see its shape above me but could not see whether it was a tawny or barn owl, probablythe former. It was literally about 4-5 feet away and my concern was one of those nuclear explosion likeowl deposits, as a final passing shot, straight down onto my position. It eventually flew off without asound from its flapping wings. It was a clear demonstration of its deadly stealth qualities.Night Time Visitor - Bless Him At 7am I awoke and packed up feeling really sad that I was leaving. I left eleven hazel nuts on a rockfurther into the woods as a gesture of goodwill to the squirrel and set off again west towards GrisedaleTarn. It had been an extraordinary night, one that I will never forget.At about 9am I reached Grisedale Beck in heavy mist quite alone, and listened to the cascadingwaterfalls below and beside me, shrouded but insistent. There was a chill in the air and heavy dew onthe ground. The fells and rocks were dripping. I padded up the steep track past Rowthwaite Lodge which was used by the Outward Bound Trust as anovernight shelter, and on up to the Tarn. Just before reaching it I detoured to an unusual looking objectsticking up from a rock face. I found a metallic sign with an inscription celebrating "The partingbrothers". Below on the stone was a half hidden extract from Wordsworths poem to the same,chiselled into the rock face.
I walked up to the eastern end of the tarn and was pleased to note no one about although there was asingle tent pitched. A row of empty beer cans lay outside the porch which I earnestly hoped was goingto be cleared up. The waters of the tarn were lapping onto the shingle and I noticed that there was alarge quantity of foamy suds in the water and along the shoreline. Again , I hoped this was not manmade from people washing and if so it was bio-degradable. I feared the worst and felt angry aboutthese supposed nature lovers camping out. Some were clearly not fit to be here, exporting their selfishhabits from home into this pristine environment.Grisedale Tarn in the cloudsI carried on westwards up the fell side above the tarn looking back at its breathtaking beauty in theswirling mists. I took a few photographs and then girded my loins for a very steep climb up to Fairfield.It took me 45 minutes of leg breaking ascent up a 1:2 type gradient, wherein I was constantly totteringfor balance on my toes. I reached the top exhausted at 11.15am just as the mist broke to reveal awondrous landscape around me with deep gullies, a wide plateau and a ridge to my left below me.It was then that things started to go wrong to a degree that I have named the following event as "TheFairfield Incident"Feeling somewhat cocky from my surefooted navigation so far I struck out on the cairn marked pathwayahead towards my destination St Sunday Crag. I was intrigued by the ridge below me but read this onmy map as being a secondary path up from Grisedale tarn. Therein lied disaster, as I should have taken acompass reading at this point, which would have revealed the truth that this ridge was in fact DeepdaleHause leading to St Sunday Crag. After recovering I strode off confidently on a route which I was to laterre name as "The Highway to Hell" slowly descending what was in reality Hart Crag and Dove Crag. Themist and cloud closed in again and the ground was initially very rough with great shoals of loose rock
and slate to cross carefully. This then gave way to fields of peat bog of varying depths forcing me to hugthe dry stone wall to avoid being sucked down. My progress was slow but determined although myknees were beginning to complain again. Several groups of walkers passed me in either direction. Where the hell am I?It was only when the cloud broke at about 2pm that I realised my folly. Before me in the distance was agreat stretch of water with a narrowing waist in the middle. There was what could only be described asa multiple decked ship slowly making way into mid channel. This certainly was not Ullswater and couldonly be one thing. Lake Windermere. I had been walking due south instead of north east. I could see thelarge town of Ambleside stretched beside the lake at its northern tip. I stopped feeling a little desperateand considered re tracing my path, but the descent had been so difficult I resolved to press on. Irepeatedly swore at myself for being so stupid. The ground got no better and I slowly trundled my waydown several difficult crags having to scramble down in places with my heavy pack. In between thesecrags were further dangerous fields of deep bog, one of which was actually fenced off with danger signs.I managed to keep my sense of humour as I was joined by a large swarm of midges above my head whofollowed me thereon. "Blood tonight boys. Hell be dead by dusk" I kept ranting breaking into hystericallaughter. I consoled myself that this was not a life threatening situation as I had food, water and shelterbut sensed that if I had been navigating Napoleons army, a portable guillotine would have been erectedand my head taken swiftly. What made matters worse I was no longer on the map, having disappearedoff the southern edge, so I could not plan a contingency route out of my predicament.My right knee was now screaming at me and repeatedly giving way. It clearly indicated that I had a torncartilage . I went into endurance mode and resolved to carry on regardless thinking about Joe Simpsonscrawl back to his Andean base camp with multiple injuries in "Touching the Void". It was funny but I feltsupremely fit apart from my knee. However, I began to make mistakes and fell at one small cragscrambling, cutting my fingers as I braked. I thought to myself that this is how disasters can happen witha catalogue of incidents running together to cause a situation to develop.On the Highway to Hell!
Several fell runners passed me in the opposite direction with no equipment at all just shorts and a thinsinglet. One of them was bloodied down his head and arms like a gladiator leaving the ring. He hadevidently fallen but was undeterred. Perhaps it was Joss Naylor himself, the local hero of fell runningfolklore.Joss Naylor in his elementI limped down the final fell side into the outskirts of Ambleside at 4.30 walking down luxury villa linedlanes dreaming of a hot bath. I reached the centre bloody, sweaty , bog covered and exhausted . Divinginto the nearest newsagent for two cans of ice cold coke, I think the female assistant thought I was avagrant and almost threw the cans at me hoping I would leave asap. I limped over to a bench and drankboth in quick succession. As I came to, I realised the shoppers were looking at me strangely, as though Iwas an alien. They were all well dressed and around me was a succession of very trendy outdoorclothing stores and cream tea shops. Evidently no one had seen a real walker before and most hadclambered from their 4x4s in Gucci moleskin clothes into these twee retail stores before returning totheir hotels and luxury villas. I left my bench and gave the onlookers a 21 gun coke belch salute!I briefly considered getting a taxi but decided to punish myself and really test my endurance capabilities.I adjusted my equipment and walked out of town heading for the Kirkstone pass. The road was narrow,1:3 gradient and very busy. I had to constantly dodge into the ditch to avoid oncoming traffic whothought I was fair game. I eventually reached Kirkstone Inn at 6pm and then came off the road followingthe fell side track down the valley. It went on and on. In the growing dark I momentarily mistookBrothers Water for Ullswater and gave myself false hope. I crossed the swiftly flowing Kirkstone Beck at7pm at the safest point I could find but still found the water coming up to my thighs. The gradient downthankfully slowed and my knees calmed down. In the pitch black I walked around Brothers Water on atwisting path and then rejoined the road, alternating between each side depending on the direction ofoncoming traffic. Eventually, at Hartsop, a footpath started which reduced my risk of sudden death byabout 80%.I staggered back into camp at 8pm after 12 hours continuous walking covering approximately 25 milesof rough extreme terrain!