Saturday, November 26, 2011

Going rock-climbing in the Lakes

By Benny Holes

The Lake District is the largest of England's national parks and, due to its rugged mountainous terrain; it is also the most spectacular. Named after the lakes left by receding glaciers at the end of the last ice age, its mountainscapes have inspired many writers and artists over the centuries. Typically staying in holiday cottages Lake District mountain enthusiast come to experience high fells and crags along with quaint towns such as Cockermouth and Keswick cottages and shops blending seamlessly with their surroundings.

If you plan on 'bashing' the hills and mountains, you will need to come prepared at all times of the year. The high places of this National Park are exposed and conditions can become wicked very quickly. Sturdy footwear, good thermals and waterproofs are a must and you will need good maps and a compass too.

There is a wide range of places to stay and shop in the Lake District. Keswick cottages are readily available but the towns are often very crowded during the summer.

If you are stationed at one of the Keswick cottages, Cotswold Outdoor, nearby, is a safe bet for any kit that you may have forgotten to bring. As one of the UK's largest outdoor retailers, it has a large array of gear on sale and can order in stock for you quickly. The sales assistants are usually quite knowledgeable for such a large company.

However, if you are looking for a specialist shop, the Climber's Shop in Ambleside is a good option. This shop has long been lauded because of its friendly atmosphere and the unselfish advice given by its staff. It also provides the best equipment for climbing.

The Lake District is full of walks and hikes of outstanding natural beauty, which is why this area is so famous and has inspired so many. Climb Scafell Pike for the quintessential Lakes hardcore hiking experience. This mountain is England's tallest at 978 meters and is not to be taken lightly, so take necessary safety precautions like extra layers, plenty of energy food and navigation equipment. It is steep, broody and imposing; like something out of Lord of the Rings.

One of the best routes winds to the summit of the mountain from Wasedale Head, via the Brown Tongue trail and Lingmell Coil. You will pass under tall crags, negotiate giant boulders and traverse high ridges along the way. Be sure to allow plenty of time for breaks and the summit will be in the reach of most reasonably fit individuals. Then, be careful on the way down and back home for tea and medals! Oddly enough, a good lashing of rain can sometimes enhance the Scafell experience. The mountain becomes a giant waterfall park and there are few things so beautiful.

Elsewhere on Wasedale, rock climbers head for the infamous Pinnacle Rock, where the sport of rock climbing was, it is said, first invented, over a century ago. Modern climbers come to pay homage to the pioneers of yesterday and enjoy the first class intermediate climbs that are on offer. There are hundreds of lengthy routes of grades between E4 and Diff. It is a fabulous setting and a sun trap on a clear afternoon, with Ennerdale spread out before you.

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