Stolen Mountains: the Lakes, Derwentwater, Catbells & icy rain.

While I’m still not the biggest fan of Manchester (cue ORLY owl here), I have started to fall in love with this country, or at least, some parts of it. Mainly the green ones. Pair beautiful nature, lakes, some woods and breathtaking views with a slightly pathological passion for outdoor activities* and you’re guaranteed some amazing weekends walking up and down hills, almost necessarily followed by yet another popular activity: pub.

For exactly this purpose, and to escape the only mildly appealing February weather in Manchester, I went on a rather spontaneous trip to the north western part of the Lake District. Due to a BBC documentary on Wainwright walks, I was intrigued by a fell named Catbells, situated on the shores of Derwentwater near Keswick, which the presenter was walking up in her perfectly shiny and neat hiking outfit. I only ever managed to watch that one episode, so I wasn’t particularly adventurous when planning the trip and decided to go for the obvious: up Catbells. Conveniently, there’s a YHA situated just on the opposite site of Derwentwater, which promised charming bunk beds, a waterfall at the rear of the building, and local ales. I booked instantly.

Highlights of the drive to Keswick included me gradually realising I had left walking boots, compass, spare socks, the camera battery as well as the SD card, and my phone charger at home, stumbling across a tiny little red book with  walks ‘from the easy to the adventurous’ in the Northern Lakes, buying Kendal mint cake (novelty!) and Borrowdale tea cake, and listening to Therapy. After a short detour to one of the many hiking shops in Keswick to replace equipment, we found the YHA and walked back along the lake into town for Saturday night entertainment: pies and pints. Veggie for me and giant ‘cow pie’ for my companion. Awesome!

8.30 on Sunday morning, pies and pints suddenly didn’t seem like such an awesome idea anymore. My head was hosting a samba party, the rain was pouring down outside, and the sofas in the lounge had actually been very comfortable the previous night. Nonetheless, we were there for walking, so we did what we had to do: walk. The little red book from the service station had told us about an ‘alternative Catbells‘ that promised a ‘satisfying’ 4 hour walk from the south west shores of Derwentwater, over Maiden Moor and Bull Crag up to Catbells.

Thanks to my excellent map reading skills, the missing compass and zero visibility we only got lost twice on the route, which caused me to first panic quite a bit, then feel like kissing the path once we found it after an hour of dragging ourselves up a hill. As we got to the top at Maiden Moor, the clouds cleared all of a sudden and we got some amazing views over the valley west of the fells. The last part of the walk was downhill apart from the short ascend to Catbells, which offered some good views over the lake, but felt much less spectacular and heroic than our previous odyssey through the mist.

On the drive home, we took the scenic route down the A road to Windermere rather than the motorway, past majestic fells, flooded lakes and through adorable little towns. Back in Manchester, it was raining.

When in doubt, eat. (Ancient German proverb.)

* I have observed that every British citizen needs to have a minimum of three pairs of special occasion shoes in their possession: wellies (for festivals, farming or simply crap weather), football boots (because everyone plays football… or ultimate frisbee), and a pair of hiking boots (for the odd trip to Wales, the Peaks or the Lakes).