Pavey Ark – Blencathra – Scafell Pike

Sharp Edge – Blencathra

Supine on the floorboards – between convulsive, Mr. Bill face-making spasms hypocentered in my lumbar spine (that’ll teach me not to write prematurely about doing a 50K at 50!) – I’ve been giving some thought to the highlights of my year thus far – trying to keep my spirit buoyed beyond the clutches of Davy Jones. 

Whether I ever attempt to summarize 2022 the way I used to per annum on Facebook from 2013-2017, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention how much fun I had in the Lake District this late March with my friend Jared Rogers – the partner with whom I have climbed/hiked/run the most peaks (as well as made a 2,020-foot-deep dive in a homemade submarine) – to belatedly celebrate my 49th birthday among the most charismatic mountains in Blighty. 

Armed with a hire car (+ total coverage), a copy of William Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes gifted to me by Harriet Hawkins, a flask of Lagavulin 16 whisky (strictly for medicinal purposes – I was heading out with a damaged ankle and, as it turns out, a torn calf), and our duffel bags of soon-to-be-bog-dank equipment, we set off for the Lakes from central London listening to the audiobook of Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind (which includes a wonderful description of Samuel Johnson – “Six feet tall and some sixteen stone heavy, the formidable body of Dr. Johnson was itself almost a sublime presence.” – among a great many other attractions).

We arrived at the precipice of evening and hoofed straight uphill – directly into a headwind of jet lag for Jared – to scramble a line called Jack’s Rake to the summit of Pavey Ark with the last of the light. An instant classic.

The route:

En route:

And atop, before descending via the summit of Harrison Stickle and returning to the Britannia Inn in Elterwater (our logic = a base camp with hot showers + local ales on draft + full English breakfast > backpacking in rain):

Shearing season!

We spent the first full day in the Lakes as one does: aslosh, ambling the sinusoid of fell and dale in a cold pissing rain. We stood atop eight or nine bigger hills such as Lang How and Heron Pike, plus loads of cairned small fry. We also took the opportunity to visit the graves of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and, finally, down among the slate mouths (inside one of which, I shit you not, a curled dragon and a rock scratched, “Wayne Was Tasty” are being slowly masticated), Rydal Cave.

The next morning, we raced the rain up another all-timer: Sharp Edge – the dragon spine of Blencathra.

Honestly, on this occasion, Jared was a cooler cucumber about the exposure than yours truly.

After grabbing the summit, and two of the sub peaks chained to it (Foule Crag and Gategill Fell Top), we quick-stepped down as the rain resumed, duck-puttered back to Elterwater, and talked our way into Kurt Schwitters’ Merz Barn, despite the site being officially closed, by professing an abnormal – but well-received – appreciation for the rhododendrons. 

Leaving, we were tasked with shepherding a bunch of unruly sheep out of the compound and down a stretch of narrow country road against traffic. A fair trade.

We had one more day. Time enough for a last classic: up Scafell Pike (the tallest mountain in England) by way of Wasdale Head. In a goshdurn blizzard. 

Beard ice!

The third weirdest thing to happen that day: 

To an extent we’d never seen before, and can’t really explain, the trail down remained clearly visible even when everything else was swallowed by white. Like the Lord’s own runway. So, despite rapidly worsening conditions (being lashed in the eyes with horizontally blowing ice pellets, for instance), there were no navigation issues as we descended.

The second weirdest thing to happen:

Shortly after Jared and I had settled into our first pints before the fire of the Brittania Inn’s cozy bar, a middle-aged man blatantly, resoundingly, began hitting on me in front of his wife and kids. I’ve still got it, I guess!

The weirdest thing:

At 3 AM that night, I was robbed by a paranormal entity. It stole the indestructible plastic I ❤️ LIQUOR bag I had used to transport my smelly kit in since holing up on the wrong end of Miami Beach to wait out a flash flood with bad beer and an audiobook of Hemingway short stories after clearing out of the Versace mansion in the autumn of 2020*. The story of its invasion of my room seemed to scare the shit out of the inn’s proprietors, who claimed nothing like it had ever happened there before, but looked like they might have been lying. 

I realize this sounds weird. It was.

Anyhow, that was it. We decided to leave Striding Edge on Helvellyn for a hypothetical future return to the Lakes (one must always sacrifice something, some surplus, when venturing forth if one hopes to return), packed it back in, and set off for the M6 south by southeast again. 

*My room at the Versace mansion:

Just saying.

4 Responses to “Pavey Ark – Blencathra – Scafell Pike”

  1. prudenceinhell Says:

    You made it to the Merz Barn! That’s amazing.

  2. wchambliss Says:

    It was pretty cool. I’ll text a few more photos of it if you’re interested.

  3. Steen Says:

    I too would like to see the photos of the Merz Barn, please and thank you,

  4. wchambliss Says:

    Incoming.

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