5 Dangerous Mistakes I made Walking in the Lake District England
The Beautiful Lake District
A Cautionary Tale
I remember my first proper hiking adventure well because it was a total disaster from start to finish! I was up high in the fells and I was lucky that I was wearing a Helly Hansen vest next to my skin because I think that saved my life!
I set off on a hike, or fell walk as we call it in England, in the Lake District and even though I had a Wainwright guide book in my back pocket I somehow managed to break every rule in every book!
You must understand that this was the first time I’d ever been to the Lake District and I’d certainly never been fell walking before. I was a very young inexperienced student, and I had no idea that this was to be an adventure of a kind I would never wish to repeat.
I learned a great deal about myself on that walk. For example, before then I had no idea that I was so stupid! When I think about it now I feel engulfed with embarrassment!
Please Vote Before You Go On
Have you been fell walking in the Lake District?
Make sure you know your own capabilities. Tell someone where you’re going and don’t change your plan. If it goes wrong turn back! Save your strength and energy for the walk back.
Mistake Number 1
I set off in the morning with a plan to get to the top of a fell. It was a challenge and that’s what excited me! I was going to get to the top of the infamous Great Gable, an imposing mountain that looks down on the Lake District challenging every fell walker!
The walk was 8 miles long and ascended at a steady rate to 1,207 meters, but Wainwright made it sound doable, although he did say it involved some scrambling!!
My mistake was that I set off far too late, totally underestimating how long it would take me. Why? Because I had no idea what my pace was. I’d never been further than walks on Hampstead Health in London. I kid you not! I was a complete beginner.
It took much, much longer than I’d anticipated, so I got nowhere near the top and just walked myself into heaps of trouble and danger!
The weather is very, very changeable in the Lake District especially when you go up high on the fells. Always check the forecast, and never ever go up high unless it’s going to be a clear day.
Mistake Number 2:
This was March, which is a cold month in the Lake District England but I did not bother to check the weather forecast.
The morning was lovely. I set off at about 10 am and it was bright and even sunny. I did notice that at a certain height the green grass turned into white snow, but somehow that didn’t seem to register. The sun was shining and I was happy.
After a long ascent of about 4 hours, the weather suddenly changed. I saw an enormous weather front racing towards me and the wind was ferocious! In a matter of seconds the snow was hitting me hard on the face – it felt like needles in my eyes. It was freezing and I soon got very wet. All I could do was sit and wait for it to pass. I was terrified!
Buy yourself good quality gear – or at least borrow some – jacket and trousers are essential. The best, in my opinion is Gore-Tex but there are other materials that are brilliant too. Never go walking in jeans!
Mistake Number 3
I had inadequate clothing. But as I said earlier my Helly Hensen vest worked wonderfully because it kept my body dry and warm. I now swear by them! I also had a hat and gloves and scarf - I wasn’t quite that foolish. Ha!
Apart from that I had the cheapest (I was a student!) clothing money could buy.
My jacket wasn’t waterproof or windproof. It got wet and soaked up the water instead of repelling it. Before the weather changed it had made me sweat because it wasn’t properly breathable and walking uphill was so hard that the jacket was drenched on the inside too!
I was wearing jeans, too!! They were cold and sodden and did not dry out at all.
Invest in the best walking boots that you can afford. Do not skimp on this. They must have good grip and ankle support and be completely waterproof. You can get some really lightweight ones too. Make sure they are broken in before you set off, but have ‘mole skins’ (special soft sticking plasters) with you in case they rub on your toes and ankles. Buy them big enough so you can wear thick walking socks. Don’t buy cotton socks – they make your feet sweat – yes - that’s true!
Mistake Number 4
I had inadequate walking boots – in fact I had no walking boots at all! Do you remember those things called Monkey Boots? They were made of very thin leather and had laces. They looked a bit like walking boots, but they were certainly not fit for purpose. They did not support my ankles, they slipped dangerously on every sort of terrain, grass, rock, scree, you name it! My feet were wet and cold – they were hopeless.
I was in danger. It was now about 2 in the afternoon and I was at least 4 hours away from civilization.
Make sure you have a map and compass with you and that you know how to use it! A whistle is an essential piece of equipment as is a torch. You need plenty of drinking water, or better still a water bottle that filters water making it safe to drink, and sweet things like Kendal Mint Cake too.
Mistake Number 5
I got lost! The horrendous snowstorm went on for only about 10 minutes, however that was long enough. I was already feeling desperately alone and then I discovered that I was lost. The paths vanish when the weather changes, so check the views and all points of reference. I couldn’t find which direction I’d come from or where the path down was.
So, I did the only thing I could think of doing I panicked. I cannot deny it! And I started to move fast in the first direction that came to mind until I almost went over a cliff! I was seriously lost and I knew I would never survive a night out there.
I remembered reading that water was a dangerous thing to follow because of waterfalls, so I kept away from that and just continued picking my way downhill slowly, slowly as the night set in. It wasn’t until I saw the glowing headlamps of a car in the far distance that I knew I was heading for the road. It took me a long time to get to it, but at least the panic subsided – a bit!
This video will give you a real taste of what I attempted. When I think of it now I really do believe what I did was seriously bonkers!!
Experts fell walking. Notice the snow - oh my - I remember it well!
I did get to the top of Great Gable about ten years later. It was one of the most amazing walks I've ever been on in the beautiful in the Lake District in England.
Have you ever been to the Lake District, England? Please leave a comment. Thanks very much indeed for your visit.
© 2014 Giovanna Sanguinetti