Day 3 – Skiddaw from Keswick via South Top, Skiddaw Little Man, Middle top, High Man
This one was not in the initial plan, but I’m so damn glad I changed my mind on it. I’ve heard about Skiddaw but I had never really read up on it, partly due to it being so far up North that I’ve avoided it due to travel time which turns out to be a bit daft…
After reading up on it the night before, Skiddaw towers over the north of the lakes and has views on a clear day of the north western fells including Scafell Pike to the right and then the Helvellyn range to the left with Blencathra behind. I couldn’t really resist it and the drive from here was only 45 minutes. So I committed and locked it in, the only decision I had to make was which route to take up this fine mountain.
I had another leisurely morning enjoying breakfast, coffee and a read and then set off for Skiddaw around 11am. I decided I would take the route up Jenkins Hill which includes summiting some other interesting peaks on the journey towards Skiddaw. The roads were much more favourable than the previous outing and still provided fantastic scenery driving past the Helvellyn range on the right hand side as I progressed towards Keswick in the north of the lakes.
The route itself is doable from Gale Road Car Park however this was described on the internet as cheating as you have to climb fairly substantially in the car to get to the car park and so me being me and not wanting to do things by half, decided I would park in Keswick (right in front of the pub) which would set me up with a 2 mile walk just to get to the car park where everyone else begins their hike.
What I didn’t really anticipate was how tough those 2 miles would be, the road was flat however had quite a serious elevation and with the sun beaming I found myself feeling quite fatigued before I had got to the car park, I even questioned if I had gone the right way!
However after 2 miles of hiking, a little breathless and a fairly sweaty I arrived at the car park where most begin their climb. I took great pleasure at this point already that I was more committed than everyone else parked here, in fact, I only saw two other hikers (a couple) walking the route I did (the longer one).
My personal pride however quickly took a hit when I realised how steep the climb was from here. The path was fairly smooth especially in comparison to Scafell Pike which was very rugged but the nicely laid path still provided a big challenge on a warm day. It seemed that the people who took the ‘easier’ route had a distinct advantage that they hadn’t already walked 2 miles and possibly had not climbed the highest peak in England the day prior.
As me and the hound slowly made our way up, there was no reprieve, the path winded straight up the mountain with serious elevation and as I began to see people on their way down, it challenged me somewhat! I could feel my legs fatigued, I was out of breath and even Nala was panting somewhat and we hadn’t even made it half way.
Then I saw an older gentleman on his way down and I thought to myself, well if he can do it, I shouldn’t be struggling, so on I went. The path continued to ascend us higher and higher with the views of the lake district behind us which were once more truly breath-taking. I had the few short stoppages to allow me to catch my breath and hydrate for a minute or so but then continued to plough on.
I then had a conversation with myself and remembered what David Goggins said in his book about ‘taking souls’. Taking souls is where you put yourself in competition with someone without them knowing it, and you do whatever it takes to beat them.
I decided that everyone on the mountain was my competition, even though they didn’t know it, I wanted to summit as fast as I could and descend even quicker. I would not allow one person to overtake me the whole time – I committed to it in my mind.
Before I knew it I had reached the first peak – South Top. The view alone here was worth a climb, I stopped briefly to admire it before pushing on hard again to take some more souls. Between each top there is a small descent before you ascend far greater onto the next one.
Next came Skiddaw Little Man, Middle Top and High Man. I spotted a group of people pushing their mountain bikes up the mountain somewhere between these peaks, this pushed me on some more, if they had done that, then I can do it and I can do it faster than them. I had a brief interaction with them then I took their soul and went on past.
When the summit eventually came into view I found a second wind and it was absolutely worth it. With views of the Helvellyn range to the east and Scafell Pike to the West, it was truly amazing. The wind was blustery and so I didn’t stop for too long. I had summitted in 2 hours which was well under the estimated time to complete this, I was happy I had surpassed the ‘norm’. After asking a fellow hiker to take a photo of me and the hound at the top, I showed my gratitude but I also decided, his soul would be next.
I set off and on my descent I set a target to get down in 90 minutes, 30 minutes quicker than the ascent. I took soul after soul, overtaking everyone in my path and not one person overtook me, not once. I wouldn’t allow it. I saw someone ahead of my in the distance and I would hunt them down until I overtook them.
When everyone else could get back in their cars, again I had 2 miles to go back down the road into Keswick. I hit my target with just one second to spare, would you believe it!?
The feeling of satisfaction was incredible, in my head, I overcame the fatigue and I defeated not only the mountain, but everyone on it too, not in a malicious way but that was the task I set in my mind, they didn’t have to know they lost my game.
The hike finished at the pub with a well-earned pint followed by a coffee and some crisps. Nala was shattered falling asleep at the pub as I watched the world go by before finished the day back at the Sun Inn again with Black Pudding to start followed by a fantastic Steak & Ale Pie accompanied with 3 pints of Guinness.
The mind is a powerful thing if you use it to your advantage…
I’d highly recommend Skiddaw, it’s both challenging and equally rewarding in so many views with panoramic views of the Lake District and even as far as Scotland on a clear day.
If you’d like to make a donation to my charity quest in April where I will take on Machu Picchu in aid of Mental Health, you can do so below.