NEW WEBSITE COMING SOON!
Author Tanya Oliver recounts a perfect day on Loughrigg, one of Lakeland’s lowest and most accessible fells, but a firm favourite with many visitors to the National Park. Words and photographs by Tanya Oliver.
Sometimes, unexpectedly, you catch the perfect day for hiking when you see views that take your breath away. A day in early January was just that for me. At ground level it was an uninspiring day with low grey cloud and mist without a view to be seen but I set off up Loughrigg for an early morning walk to blow the cobwebs away with enthusiasm nonetheless. I am not just a fair-weather walker.
With a cheery hello to a few sheep scattered on the lower slopes, I made my way up the steep initial ascent as the mist enveloped me like a scene from Wuthering Heights and all that was visible were the occasional tree and nearby crag. Even that was beautiful as it looked so eerie and mystical. The mist thinned a little as I got higher and after a short scramble up a rocky part of the path, I emerged on the grassy ledge and the word “Wow!” escaped my lips.
Below me was the start of the most amazing cloud inversion I have ever seen. I was looking across to the start of the Fairfield Horseshoe with brilliant blue skies behind and above but below me was an expanse of white cloud that looked like someone had spilt a giant bowl of whipped cream in the valley. It covered the whole valley and then went rolling on forever into the distance. A spectacular sight, that made my heart race a little faster just looking at it.
I knew that the views further on would be even more wonderful as in spite of being a low fell, Loughrigg has some of the best views around so resisting stopping for too long taking photos, I hurried to the ridge to see into the neighbouring valley.
It did not disappoint. Wetherlam and the Langdale Pikes were standing proudly above a carpet of white that filled the valley and snaked over Wrynose Pass. The best view for me though was of Black Crag. Another low fell and like its name, looking very black in the morning light but it was completely surrounded by cloud with only the summit showing above – a brooding island in a white sea.
Pressing on towards the summit I started to pay more attention to my immediate surroundings. I had been so focused on the cloud inversion that I had not noticed until then just how pretty the frosty grass and crags were. Each blade of grass was covered so evenly with ice and the frosty slopes shimmered in the morning sunlight – even without the cloud inversion it would have been memorable.
Not being the fastest walker in the world (view stops were invented for me) I was surprised just how quickly I managed the last final ascent to the summit, but I was spurred on by the thought of what else there was to see and worried the cloud would rise or disappear before I got there. I need not have worried. The view to Seat Sandal, Steel Fell and over Dunmail Raise was, if not quite as inspirational as the Langdale Pikes and Wetherlam, still superb to see and Helm Crag was just keeping its summit above the cloud as well – the Lion and the Lamb peeking through.
I sat on the summit for ages that morning watching the cloud meander through the valley – changing all the time. Not a soul appeared. It was a silent wonderland. Mesmerising, and hard to drag myself away from in case I missed something else.
The cloud was rising however as when I did start to descend, I was very quickly in mist. I spent more time admiring the frozen tarns and plants on the way down – it was hard to believe the misty grey tarn was from the same day. However, possibly my favourite photo from the day (in spite of how much I love cloud inversions) was a plant I found that was covered in perfect ice crystals. Nature’s chandelier perhaps?
A fantastic day on Loughrigg.
You can read more about Tanya’s wanderings in the Lakeland Fells on her blog (you can also follow her on Twitter). When she’s not wearing Vibram soles, she’s probably wearing killer heels. Her book, From High Heels to High Hills: One Woman Walking the Lake District – In Her Own Style, is available now.