The Great Lakes District

Quick Facts

  • Title: The Great Lakes District Multi-Day Hike and Camp
  • Status: Completed
  • Dates: 18th April 2019 to 22nd April 2019
  • Objective: To trek the most popular mountains and gorgeous Lakes District over the Easter long weekend.
  • Route: Self-determined involving Inland, mountainous terrain, lakes and river systems.
  • Approx Distance: 100+ Kilometers
  • Approx Hiking Time: 35+ Hours in Total
  • Accommodation: 4 Nights Camping

Facts and Insights

  • Two of the highest peaks in England were tackled during this endeavor. Scafell Pike (978m) and Helvellyn (950m).
  • England’s longest lake was an incredibly popular destination, Windermere stretching over 16km long!
  • Weather; a low of 5 degrees and surprising tops of 19 degrees! Windy but not enough to close off any trails. Weather took the surprise of all who visited over the weekend, sunny everyday, an incredibly rare sight for all.
  • This was a personal challenge. Climbing almost a dozen mountain tops including the two highest in England has inspired me to undertake other great endeavors throughout the United Kingdom, Europe and in time, no doubt mountain ranges of the world.
  • A colleague said that this was more like an expedition! haha makes me feel like Indiana Jones, exploring and discovering hidden treasures. Although it was only 4 days, the fact that it was a unique and personal path made it the more special.
  • During the hike, I pondered over many thoughts, one of which was the reason why I chose to do this. I think for me, it’s not just a hike up the mountain. It’s not about all the incredible sights that you set your eyes upon nor is it predominantly for my own physical fitness. The journey to me is a mental challenge I choose to face, it is continuing to walk even when your whole body is shaking and aching for you to stop. It is making it to the top, to the finish line without doubt in your mind that you have stuck to your own word. I think everything else, the lakeside views, mountaintops, sleeping under the stars and moon, the physical fitness it brings…they’re all bonuses, incredible and amazing bonuses that come with all great achievements in life.
  • Also, dogs climb mountains too, so many of them! so cute!

Introduction

The Lakes District is an incredibly popular destination for the English not only for it’s natural beauty but also for it’s challenging hikes and mountainous ranges. Over the past few months I have taken my time to plan a personal route (made up of many others whom have come before me) to experience a one of a kind trek through the district. From the early morning’s and till sunset, I spent hiking and during the evening’s I set down my tent and gear and prepared for a night under the stars in the mountain tops! Before you think I’m crazy, I’ve done this before! and with each and every adventure I become better equipped both mentally and physically.

I’ve missed home sweet home Australia for all of her natural beauty. I hope for my friends out there whom are home, they never take it for granted. In so many ways, I will always return home to finish my round trip along her beautiful coast. This to me, is just a little detour.

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The planned route including major checkpoints. But all plans are never solid, charged with my trusty map and compass, I crossed areas with no tracks but just my own.

Day 1 – Friday

What a great idea it was to spend the first night at a bed and breakfast. Arriving at Windermere quite late into the night, there was no time nor the light to hike to the first random checkpoint; plus, the time was spent well making preparations for the long journey ahead. I loved the whole homey feel of the place; an old wooden charm and the warm and inviting fireplace and lighting made me feel right at home. She also had a great history to tell, with photo’s, artworks and decorations dating back to the old days. Bed and breakfast’s are a big thing out here in England, they’re in-between air-bnb’s and hotels because the owners are usually also living in the home, retired and invite guests along to enjoy their home, they also cook you breakfast to top it off. There is also no doubt in the world that the traditional English breakfast that was served that morning was delicious and aided in my survival throughout the first day.

How nice it was to follow the beautiful walls of stone that climb the sides of these mountains. Often would I think about how and who had the job of placing each and every one of them, perfectly in a position that looks as if it has held for decades.

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It was not long after the beginning that I stumbled upon a bunch of young travellers, taken aback on the hillside inhaling what I could clearly tell was a joint. In fact, this wasn’t only a singular occurrence, I saw this numerous times during the hike and furthermore there were groups of people hiking whilst half drunk! How this was achieved is beyond me, I was more worried about not twisting my ankle on the first day of the trip and asking for them to take photo’s of me hah! If it wasn’t for them, all I had was my non-steady Go-Pro to rely on which took longer to set up than I’d liked.

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Day 2 – Saturday

Who knew that after today Scafell would be conquered?! I should of known that, but really, it was hard to know where you would end up by the end of the day. The plans and tracks that had been made, the checkpoints were only a guide, it would take me a few more great hikes to be able to predict how long it would take me to climb any one mountain; and so the sights were set to go as far as one could along the planned route.

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It was an incredibly rocky road to Scafell Pike, and I don’t say that figuratively! Three paths to take up the peak and the toughest of them all had to be taken, but I guess I’d say, for have we really conquered a mountain if we did not take on her greatest challenge?

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Scafell was busy. Like really busy! Forget about a peaceful climb to the top with nature and the birds and bees following you around. Dozens of hikers arrived at any one time, small and large tour groups made it to the top with cheers and clapping heard all around. When I’d finally overcome the rocky pass, my arms were in the air, a big smile could be seen and an aura of one who had just made a great achievement came over me. From a distance, the peak looked really cool, a pile of rocks stacked on the top allowed visitors to stand and sit up there in unison to enjoy a 360 panorama of the entirety of the lakes. It was beautiful, the energy up there was a high and so there I sat and let time pass me by for hours on end.

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The “easy” way down the mountain was towards the lake of Wast Water. It was a long way down which felt like forever but what made it all the worthwhile was the sun setting down against the lake, probably one of the biggest highlights of the entire trip. A warm orange glow encompassed everyone going down that mountain and after achieving such great heights, it was the best way for most to end their day.

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I on the other hand had taken a slight detour shortly before arriving down at the lake. Making my way down to a super small town called Wasdale in search for a place to camp. As luck would have it, the tiny town had a little campsite with food and drinks to be served along with all the amenities required by those who hadn’t showered for days!

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Day 3 – Sunday

I would say that Sunday was the most relaxing of all the days. Despite a slow start to the day (slow because of an alternate far tougher path up a hill), the day was spent mostly on the lower ground or shall I say, on the lower levels of the mountains.

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There was a moment of real peace when I stopped by the riverside, between two adjacent trees that gave off a perfect shade beside the rapids. There I kicked up my feet in the water and took a much needed break from the sun as by then parts of me were as red as tomatoes! (And FYI, if you’re wondering, of course I used sunscreen and wore a hat!).

Another mountain top later we were overlooking yet another gorgeous lake right off the small town of Buttermere. More tourists flocked here to walk around the lake on footpaths meant for child strollers and bicycles. The one ice cream parlor was overrun by eager children hoping for something sweet and cold. I was definitely one of those children and couldn’t resist one myself; with chocolate icing of course!

Close by was the nice town of Keswick. Keswick is a must visit local town in the Lakes District if you do come up here, it’s a really beautiful old town with some great spots to take photos of the streets and town square. I have to also mention how great it was to meet two locals travelling in for the weekend with their dogs, it made for such a great conversation about the Lakes and other hikes to be done. They’d told me how in all their years they’ve been here, they’ve never seen it so sunny all weekend around because of all the mountains and all. I guess I was lucky! or I’d just brought the sunshine with me haha lame joke*

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To end the day, I made my way up as high as I could towards Helvellyn, this was an exciting part of the trip and couldn’t stop thinking about the “scramble” across the Striding Edge, you’ll know what I mean by that soon. An hour into the hike I’d completely lost the pathway but with my trusty compass I was never too far away from one I’d make myself. I put in the extra effort to climb till the sun set further before I pitched my tent, by then and because of the constant upward battle for over 2 hours, I was sweating a heap and there I was, shirtless half way up the mountain without a town in sight as the sun set in the distance.

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Day 4 – Monday

I woke up this morning with the wind rocking the tent side to side. It was 6:30am, cold outside but surprisingly warm on the inside. It really pays to know what is required in a good tent! Despite this, I found it hard to fall back asleep till the sun rose above the mountains. I made the decision right there and then that I was to have my breakfast consisting of some tuna, nuts, a carrot, an apple and some sweets to top up that sugar level. I cuddled back into the sleeping bag to let the food warm me up before I lept out there into the cold, damp and slightly foggy morning to unpack it all.

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Today, I made an incredible head start on the track towards Helvellyn. As the night before I had put in some extra effort to get as high as I could, I was almost at the top before 7am. From up there, the suns warm glow was a sight for sore eyes and so I sat there basking in her delight. Pillars of rock were all around me and as for those who are experience hikers knew, the pillars are a piece of each person who’d made it up there with a rock of their own to place on the mountain. It was a beautiful sight when I added yet another one to the pile. Would you call these checkpoints? I think you would, they’re checkpoints for the individual to be proud of, to have made it so far.

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At the top it was quiet, peaceful and calm. Because I had made it up there so early, there was no one else there. Oddly enough and don’t tell my parents, there were some sweets in a goodie bag stuffed at the peak of a pillar, they looked fresh so I took it upon myself to have some and say thanks to the kind mountain gods, I in turn added some of my own goodies to the bag to pay it forward. Shortly after, I’d basked in the sunlight some more, a couple arrived at the top and we sat against the wall and talked of mountainsides around Europe and the way ahead. For ahead me was yet another challenge known as the Striding Edge!

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Now, the English have a saying for walks like this, they call it scrambling, I’ve not actually heard the term before so I’m not sure if it’s entirely an English thing but it pretty much was rock climbing on the peaks of the mountains ranges! Most people do so monkey-like but not holding 10kg of baggage as I was so I made sure that I climbed on slow and steady, for one slip meant falling hundreds of meters down below. To be honest, I’m not sure why this is even allowed and again to be honest, it was the first time I’ve actually been scared for my life in a long time. Sadly many people actually die from this very scramble (20 deaths in fact and many more injured in 2017 alone!) I won’t be taking on any more challenges like this for now, no thank you! Looking back it was fun and thrilling but I love life too much to risk that again haha

Did I also mention there is a gravestone with a touching story of a life lost because of this edge? In summary, a man climbing these edges fell to his death, his dog was found wandering around his corpse in incredible sadness and distress. The plaque is to remind us all of the strength and enduring love of our companions during great endeavors. And then a tear fell from my eyes.

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The final stretch of the hike proved to be quite merciful and with gorgeous views of Lake Ullswater, there was nothing more that could have ended this trip on a high…

Except, a really pretty town and lamb shanks by the lake!!! Seriously was well deserved after conquering such a beast in which was The Lakes District.

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Thanks for reading my friends. What challenges do you choose to face in life to help you prepare for the worst?

Author: Jason Li

Jason Li (born 17th October 1992) grew up in the big bad city of Sydney. After all these years, he’s still growing up; or at least trying to. Sometimes he writes. Sometimes he gets lucky and writes something good. Most of the time, however, he has no idea where life is taking him, living life just one single day at a time.

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