Climbing Catbells and High Spy

Just before going down to London in preparation for flying out of the country, I went further north to the Lake District. As the name suggests, this bit of England is full of lakes, as well as large hills rising up all around these lakes. The area is of course very touristy, but for good reason: the scenery is gorgeous and there are paths everywhere so that you can fulfill all your hiking dreams.

When Rob and I arrived, early in the evening, it was—of course—raining. Nevertheless, we were optimistic and made plans for the next day to wander along the tops of some of the hills that we could see from our hotel room. I was enthusiastic. The hills were green and didn’t look like they’d be too hard to climb. Even the threat of having to walk ten miles didn’t bother me.

The next morning, however, it was raining again, making us much less interested in climbing any mountains or hills. Instead, we went into town to look around and buy some supplies in the hope that the rain would eventually stop. Equipped with a map and Kendal mint cakes, we returned to our hotel as the sky began to clear. From there we set out on our walk.

We decided to start off with the fell known as Catbells, mainly because it seemed like the obvious choice from our hotel window, but also partially because Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle lives there. Though I was still in good spirits, when the path forked early on I opted to go left—the part that looked like it went around the hill instead of immediately up. This turned out to be a very easy path with a nice view of Bassenthwaite Lake.

However, eventually the path sloped up to the back of Catbells. I made it to the top, but not without stopping several times to catch my breath. To make matters worse, we encountered no other people going up, only lots of people going down. Did I inadvertently end up choosing the harder path up Catbells? I can’t say, since we didn’t go down the other path, but it did make me feel a bit justified in slowly dragging my feet up to the top.

Despite my dramatics, it turned out that the top of Catbells wasn’t actually that hard to reach. After a brief snack break, I was ready to set out for High Spy, a larger hill/mountain that we could reach without having to descend and then climb up again.

We stopped a few times on this leg of the journey, mainly because I wanted to rest from time to time, but also to sample the Kendal mint cakes. Kendal mint cakes, if you haven’t yet encountered them, are shaped like candy bars and taste as if they are pure sugar with some mint flavoring. The experience of biting into one for the first time was much more intense than I thought it would be and after the first bite I was ready to swear off of them forever. Except that I kept eating them. Every now and then I would feel tired and then I’d take a bite of Kendal mint cake and regain some of my enthusiasm.

After following a path that veered very close to the edge of a cliff, we thought that we had reached the top of High Spy. I sat down for a celebratory ginger nut while Rob looked for the path down. As it turned out, there was no path. Which meant that we weren’t on High Spy at all, but were still somewhere on Maiden Moor, still trying to make our way to High Spy. This was not a pleasant revelation, as by this point I was ready to start heading back to the hotel.

Of course, the only thing to do was keep going. We continued on, still passing people every now and then who were going in one direction or the other. As I said earlier, the Lake District is very touristy and walking on these trails is very popular. We even passed one group coming up High Spy accompanied by several small-ish dogs.

Soon after we passed the dog group, we found the path down off of High Spy. Our timing could not have been better, because a thick fog had just started to roll in. While there were cairns here and there on the trail and a large one to mark the top of High Spy, I would not have wanted to still be on top of the mountains in the fog.

I was quite tired by this point, but the descent off of High Spy was very easy, taking us past many sheep ambling around in the grass, seemingly unconcerned by the sloping terrain. After passing beside a small stream, the path turned and wound through yet another picturesque landscape before, some time later, connecting with the road.

Though it took longer than I had anticipated, the hike was definitely worth it. However, I would suggest bringing more than a few ginger nuts and two packets of Kendal mint cakes.


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