Cat Bells “It is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved. Its popularity is well deserved, its shapely topknott attracts the eye offering a steep but obviously simple scramble.”
So described by Alfred Wainwright, when writing about Cats Bells, a 450 metre knot of rock that towers above Derwent Water. I suspect his ears might have been burning today, five minutes after starting our walk from Borrowdale CC I knew it was going to be painful. I’d spent the previous 4 months hibernating, living off my body fat. All of a sudden, without so much as a “By your leave” I was pushing my very middle-aged body up the steepest of paths. No pain no gain…all the cliches rolled through my mind along with the defeatist devil perched on my shoulder…“Go on Al, jack it, get back on the truck son!”… But we persevered and within 50 minutes reached Hawes Gate, and the final ridge which approaches Cats Bells.
The views from here were stunning in all directions. I have to say, Wainwrights “grandmothers and Infants” were lacking on this route, at least on the way up. Probably for good reason, I can well imagine hordes of “lemmin” kids throwing themselves over the sides of the steep banks…“Daaaad I can’t go on” Harry Enfield style. Most walkers elect to approach from the north picking up the path from Hawes End Outdoor Centre, which is gentler, but does involve quite a bit of scrambling as you close with the summit. Our route was steeper, but with less scrambling at the top. You takes yer choice!
The summit was heaving with family’s so we decided to get to lower ground, descending the north side. This initially involved picking our way down the rocks and crags, whilst an influx of trekkers made their way up. All this whilst trying to manage a dog bigger than me. In the end I cried “Release The Hounds” and thus I did…I apologise now for those bowled over by the mutts!, I really do, but my needs must. Meanwhile I studiously applied the “3 Points of Contact” rule, one of which included my backside, as I shuffled down the crag! Eventually it eased of and we were able to start enjoying the descent. This is what it looks like, as we glanced back over our shoulders……..
What about the Mutts I hear you cry! Well, he’d been mainly on the lead throughout so far. On the downhill stage we had a good look around and decided to let him off-lead. No problem, all went tickety-boo for the first half hour, then he disappeared over a bank and for the next 10 minutes we suffered our very own “Fenton” moment (search on youtube), as the little monkey hurled himself down a very steep slope in hot pursuit of a sheep to play with. I really thought we were going to hear the sound of a farmers gun! and of course we were concerned for the sheep. Eventually I caught up with him. After a quick check of the sheep and time spent getting my heart-rate back to barely human levels, we continued, but this time the mutts was firmly under lock and key…
The walk took about 3.3 hours, with 20 mins for lunch. If you’ve not walked the lakes before, this is a great place to start. Stunning views and it’s easily navigable. One final view, which is of Bassenthwaite Lake and the peak of Skiddaw from Cats Bells. How good is that?
Feet now up…tea and medals…..and a tot of rum! Tomorrow we up sticks and head to Conniston Water That is all.