It was Christmas morning and Debbie and I decided that we would climb Cat Bells. We were staying in the Mouse House at Rowling End in the shadow of Cat Bells and within walking distance of a starting point at Hawse End, so it would have been wrong not to have taken advantage of the good weather to get out onto the mountain.
It was a lovely, clear morning as we set off from the Mouse House at 0900 and walked down across the field below the cottage to cross Newlands Beck and walk up the slope on the other side. We did not turn right down the lane as I had done the previous day when I went up to High Spy (which you can read about here) but instead crossed over to the field on the other side of the road and followed the footpath across it, passing through Ghyll Bank to take us to Skelgill. We came to a farm and walked through to the road, following it round to the right to take us to the foot of a path which led up on to Cat Bells. As we began to follow that path we could see a farmer with his sheepdog working the sheep in a field below so we stopped a while to watch, until he appeared to just leave them to find their own way along the lane and was back in his vehicle and driving away. We started our ascent, almost immediately enjoying some splendid views across Derwent Water as we wound round the edge of the route which was taking us up to the first step.
We passed by a plaque to Thomas Arthur Leonard which was up amongst the rocks as we continued our climb, and the weather was staying fine for us to the extent that Debbie took off her big jacket. She does not come on all my walks so I was delighted that this one was turning out so well for her.
We had reached the top of the first part and the path was clear ahead of us, both in terms of the how we could see it and how many people were on it. We were alone, at least for the moment because we could see a few people following our way up. We pushed on as the wind began to grow, though thankfully it was still nothing in terms of what I had experienced the day before, and in almost no time at all we had reached Skelgill Bank, the top of the second step.
I was beginning to wonder if Debbie might be thinking that this climbing mountains lark was a lot easier than I had been making it out to be. We carried on along the track, still enjoying the splendid views, including that of our cottage, and we were very soon at the base of the final climb. Which is where the very clear track started to disappear. Debbie was mostly leading at this point as my knees were feeling the effects of wandering around for six and a half hours the previous days, and I was going with the route she was taking. We wound one way and then the other as the wind picked up, the route going out to the edge at one point and making me think back to the previous evening and appreciate how dangerous a quite simple path could be in the wrong conditions. We were taking things carefully and spending our time picking the route, scrambling where necessary before we reached something of a plateau and easier ground. Just before we reached the summit we were caught by a couple of other walkers, who told us they lived in the area and knew the way up like the back of their hand, so that made us feel better about being caught. We talked with them awhile before we decided to push on through the wind to get to the summit.
So here we were, on top of Debbie’s first Wainwright and my second. It was all rock and it really was very windy standing at 451 metres. The views were clear all around and spectacular. We could not have asked for better conditions and as the lady in the couple took our photograph at the top we were pleased to have had the company.
This was not the end of our walk, though, even it it was the height of it, and we walked carefully down the other side of the summit to regain the obvious track, leading us on towards Hause Gate. Before we got there we turned right, following something of a track down into a valley which was heading towards Little Town. I recognised this as the way I should have come the previous evening, although again I was struck by how more difficult it would have been in the dark. It took us down under Brunt Crag and through some disused works before we reached a little waterfall and stopped for some action shots.
The track was much clearer from there, making it an easy walk into Little Town, and as we walked down we could see so many other people out walking along various paths over and around the mountain.
The sun was shining on the snowcapped Skiddaw and we could see our cottage from here, so we knew we were almost home. We got to Little Town and followed the road to the right until we reached the footpath to take us back to Newlands Beck and from there to the warmth and comfort of the Mouse House for our Christmas Dinner.
You can see more photographs from our walk here.