Hills: Steel Knotts (Pikeawassa)
Classification: Wainwright – no.100!
When: Monday 28 May
Weather: Strong sunshine, not much of a breeze. Roasting hot at times.
Time: 2 hours 15 minutes, including breaks
Conditions underfoot: Generally good. One very minor boggy bit.
Who: me and the mountaineering minion
Post walk drink: Hawkshead Gold then various pale ales
Post walk watering hole: Ullswater Steamers bar, then various Pooley Bridge hostelries
Mishaps: Does sunburn count?
After the big push to get four hills done the day before, I wasn’t totally sure if I would be walking the following day. The weather forecast was good – indeed meant to be so for at least the next couple of days – but it was fair to say that after the big walk I was a bit wrecked. Not in terms of alcohol but my back and feet were both killing me after the walk and I didn’t really have much of an idea what I would be up to doing. One of the things about walking with a spinal problem is that you need to listen to your body and plan accordingly; some days I can do a big hill walk and be up for more of the same the day afterwards, some days I am up for a shorter walk but not an epic and other days I know that any sort of hill walk is just not going to work. I thought the likelihood was that I wouldn’t be up to much, but had an early night anyway after a long bath which is generally not a bad way to get rid of post hill walking aches and pains.
I had never had any specific plan as to what to do for my 100th Wainwright. I vaguely toyed with the idea of making it something relatively impressive such as Blencathra or possibly, given we were in the area, Catstycam which I had missed out after doing Helvellyn as it took me ages to get down Swirral Edge (with multiple uses of the arse crampon involved). It was clear to me anything with a significant amount of ascent would be out, though. What I wanted to do was a nice hill with a good view and there are plenty of candidates for that. It would just have to be driven by what I felt like on the day.
As it happened, I woke up feeling a lot better. My back was still a bit grumpy but nothing that couldn’t be managed by taking some paracetamol and my feet seemed ok. However a big hill was clearly still not an option. After a bit of consideration, the plan was that I would get the Ullswater Steamer to Howtown and do Steel Knotts, which looked a nice hill and crucially had decent paths and not much ascent as well as the promise of good views. The hill also has the cracking alternative name of Pikeawassa, whatever that means, and an interesting summit outcrop. Having somewhat gone into faff mode I missed the first boat and ended up on the 10.50, which for whatever reason got into Howtown slightly late meaning I didn’t start walking until about 11.40.
It was baking hot at low level and having somehow missed the path that bypasses the road I just ended up slogging up the zigzags on the road. To be honest I prefer hairpin bends on roads when I am walking rather than in the car as I hate driving that sort of thing – which is going to give me some issues with a number of hills not least those accessed from the Hardknott or Newlands Pass – at least with Honister you can get a bus in the summer months. I was quickly up at the church on the Hause (at the bottom of Hallin Fell) where I picked up a path which follows a wall round the side of Steel Knotts before eventually joining another path from the old church.
The path was a bit scrappy and eroded in places but once it joins the other path it becomes much better. It traverses the side of the hill, rising at a gentle angle towards the ridge. I was very glad of a gentle angle as the sun was beating down and I was roasting – and very glad I had brought plenty of water. The views however were excellent. I wasn’t making particularly good time, but it didn’t look as though there would be any issue with missing the 14.25 boat back which was the one I had told Stuart I was likely to be on.
On hitting the ridge, there is a slightly awkward stone stile to get over a wall, which my back didn’t like particularly. After that the rest was easy going, another gentle rise then a steeper pull up to the very scenic summit. I scrambled up the summit rocks and sat down on them just taking in the great views and feeling very pleased to be there – and a bit tearful; 14 years to the day previously I was still in the acute ward of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital following my spinal operation and had anyone told me then that 14 years later I would have climbed 100 of not one, but two of the major UK hill lists I think I would have laughed them out of the ward. I felt very lucky at that moment that I am able to do what I do.
I probably sat there for about 15 minutes; I had the place completely to myself. I didn’t want to miss the ferry though so it was time to get going. I picked up the path back to the stile then took the traverse path again, though this time I descended to the old church on a rather better path, where I picked up the road and wandered back down the zigzags to the jetty – and a waiting Stuart who had decided to come to meet me. This was a lovely surprise and I felt a bit tearful again; 14 years previously when we were just friends he had turned up at the hospital to visit me with a cuddly soft toy dog and now we’ve been married for nearly 11 years.
The Pooley Bridge boat turned up 10 minutes later and we decided that rather than head back to Glenridding we would go to Pooley Bridge – where I had never been but Stuart had the previous day before doing a stretch of the Ullswater Way – and have some celebratory drinks there. The first post walk drink was a beer on the boat, then 4 Pooley Bridge hostelries and 4 more beers later it was back to Glenridding feeling mildly sloshed but very happy.
A lovely little walk for the ton up. I may still never finish the Wainwrights, and I’ll definitely never finish the Munros. But I’m so glad I can get out there and enjoy those wonderful views.