A out-and-return circular walk of High Raise starting from Stonethwaite and taking in Langstrath Valley, The Stake Pass and the Langdale Pikes. This long walk takes you through some amazing scenery without the strenuous activity needed to climb a mountain.
The whole point of my website is to help people understand the benefits of nature and with hope of providing a positive coping mechanism towards dealing with mental ill health, or preventing it. I do not hide the fact I struggle with my mental health and although everything I do is positive, I still struggle.
In early October I became very unwell for no reason other than that is the way mental illness operates, there is no reasoning or logic, you wake up and you are at the mercy of a feeling that I can only describe as somatic (of the body). When I feel like this, I can’t stand it and will do anything to get rid of the uneasy irritable sensation it brings, I do not become sad or think bad things I just feel rotten and unable to enjoy my existence during its presence. Working within a recovery college brings the understanding that everybody feels the symptoms differently but similar in some respects.
So, what happens when you start to dip as we call it? There are two options, you can become overwhelmed and isolate which prolongs the dip, or you can make a conscious decision to note how you feel and know it may not go and then change your attitude towards it. An example would be one I use myself which goes a little something like this.
“I cannot change how I feel, but I can change my reaction to how I feel”
It is not often I will talk in-depth about my own struggles but sometimes I have to do to advocate getting out into nature. Now the next two walks that will appear on my website will guide you through six weeks of unwellness that lasted until mid-December 2019. What I did to get through it and maybe encourage people to think differently about how they manage themselves during dips.
Everybody is different and some people find solace in writing, painting and other occupational distractions. It is about finding what works best for you when things get difficult. Community and social interaction help tremendously, but what about nature? nature is ecotheraphy, a place where we belong is in nature, it is our natural habitat that we are getting further away from as technology evolves and changes pressures of Western life. Nobody talks anymore and if they do, you can bet it is through social media channels. We have become a nation of isolated people under self-imposed house arrest. Everybody feels the social pressure of being successful and having that fast car, nice home and a relationship and body to die for. But we are not all capable for whatever reason of achieving these things and it is ok to know that it is acceptable.
I have started to accept that good job i once had and that nice car i once had are far removed from what i need today. Some people have to go through a difficult time to understand what it is that really makes us happy, and for most they will never find out, always chasing the next thing they think they need, only to find out they still need more. Chasing happiness in success and money is fruitless, finding happiness first and adding to that is much more rewarding and brings a sense of fulfilment.
Once you enter Depression and Anxiety it is much more difficult to get out of it, than it is to prevent it happening in the first place. That is why nature is important and why it has so many healing properties, but how many of us take time out for ourselves to forest bath or swim in rivers, tarns and lakes? These things are part of our DNA and what we once did to keep equilibrium in a mental capacity. That is why i encourage everybody at some point to make time for our natural environment that we seem so far removed from modern day.
Waking up and feeling unwell, I knew I had to get away to the mountains to help break a cycle I know only too well of the last three years. I instinctively know its time to take action through learned experience now. So, I booked myself into YHA Borrowdale for four days. I know if I go to the mountain’s nature will help me. The weather was not very good and there was gale force winds and snow above 600 meters.
I decided I would hike to High Raise as I had not completed this peak. But I wanted to do a fairly long walk of around 15 Kilometres. So, I planned the route to set off from Stonethwaite and walk through the Langstrath Valley and up the Stake Pass (Cumbria Way) before heading towards Pike o’ Stickle from Martcrag Moor. Once reaching the Pike I would then head North traversing Thunacar Knott before a nice gradual ascent to the summit of High Raise. From there I made my way past Low White Stones before heading NNW towards Lining Crag from Greenup Edge. The final part of the route would descent into Stonethwaite Valley past Eagle Crag and back to the village where I started.
I set off around 7:45am and the weather was cold and damp but not raining. As I walked through Langstrath Valley it I felt isolated and had the place to myself. Unfortunately, that did not last long as above me to the left on Lamper Knotts I heard the whistling and shouting of the local farmer and his dogs bringing the sheep down off the tops. This is normally due to a forecast of snow. I kept watching the farmer go about his work and how the dogs were rounding up the sheep and making a descent of steep ground. These farmers are possibly the best fell walkers in Lakeland and have to go out in all weathers and a ridiculous time of day, my hat goes off to them.
Langstrath Valley is pretty flat and the path is defined but not the best in all honesty. I have walked this valley in the summer and it is much more appeasing than winter, but it is still a beautiful Valley at any time of year. Eventually you will come to the Stake Pass which is just past the cascading waterfall, you cannot miss it, given the way it meanders up the fell. This is the hardest part of the walk as you ascend the well-maintained path upwards of around 250 meters.
Once you reach the top of the Stake Pass the land opens up to reveal barren moorland of Martcrag Moor. Here you will leave the Cumbria Way and follow the path towards the centre plateau Martcrag Moor rather than heading West towards Rossett Pike. You should have Pike o’ Sticke in view in front of you and Bowfell in the distance to the right.
The path up to Pike o’ Stickle is elevated and it is a mix of path, scree and boulders but not too strenuous. The weather was turning by time I was reaching the pike and the wind had picked up and I guess it can be a frightening place to be left without experience of the fells in winter. The drop down into Mickleden is a good 700 meters and can have you being cautious as you make your final ascent up to the pike.
Once at the pike there is as path you can just make out of trodden grass heading NNE uphill towards Thunacar Knott which you should be able to see even in poor weather. I was getting battered by the elements at this point and was surprised I had still not seen a single person on my travels. During the summer months there is nothing to stop you taking a detour to Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark before re-joining the path at Thunacar. For me the weather was too harsh to mess about on peaks I have frequented many times previously.
From Thunacar Knotts, the path heads slightly East of North up to High Raise which was completely invisible on my walk due to low cloud. The path is grass for most of the way and then it opens up to more of a dirt and scree track. In the 50 metres or so of ascent From Thunacar Knott to High Raise I felt the temperature drop dramatically and that was evident by the frozen cairns and Trig at the summit. My hands started to get cold even though I had decent gloves on, so decided not to hang around too long, and made my descent towards Low White Stones. I still had no visibility until I reached Greenup Edge.
I saw the first walkers of the day at Greenup Edge as they were wondering around the fells with their dogs. From here you need to be vigilant of the marker cairns heading NNW as they are not easy to see and it can be a little confusing as which way you need to head next. The route is rocky and boggy and involves a few little scrambles in places until the path become clear again at the top of Stonethwaite Valley looking down towards Lining Crag.
The path down to Lining Crag can be boggy and a little difficult to follow so look out for the cairns given they are not very big. At the top of Lining Crag, you will have an amazing viewpoint of the valley and the very distinct shape of the land to your left. The stone steps down to the right-hand side of Lining Crag are difficult to say the least so caution is needed and it is a case of taking your time. In winter these steps become either frozen with ice or turn into a water run.
Once you reach Greenup Gill the path is fairly straight forwards and will lead you back to the bridge at Stonethwaite which you will cross and back to the village. If you are staying at the YHA you can just carry on and cross the main road and down the lane. If you are parking, there are plenty of places to park in Stonethwaite which are free.
This walk is nearly 18k so in winter you need to be pretty quick on the fells, and in summer you can just take your time. Saying that I was still back at the hostel for around 2pm, so I had made good ground considering the weather.
As always, my mental health had improved whilst out in the mountains and this is what makes me able to continue my journey to either recovery or a more meaningful life. In my next blog post I will talk about returning from Lakeland back home and how my mental health returned to a struggle and what I did to combat that.