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Dangerous Mistakes I made Walking in the Lake District England

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Giovanna is passionate about adventure travel and leaving no footprint. She is hopeful, but a few years seems too short to save our planet!

The Beautiful Lake District

Langdale Pikes

Langdale Pikes

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 and inexperienced walker, 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

TIP

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 Great Gable, an imposing mountain that looks down on the Lake District challenging for a beginner but doable in a day for an experienced 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 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!

Great Gable

Great Gable

Tip

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 English Lake District but I did not carefully check the weather forecast. I listened to it but I didn't really understand the implications of what was being said.

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 weatherfront 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!

Tip

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

My clothing was not up to the job and the only thing that I was wearing that was up to the job was my Helly Hansen vest. It kept my body dry and warm and helped wick the moisture from my body. 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 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, they just became heavier and heavier as the soaked up water.

I really was in big trouble!

St John's In The Vale

St John's In The Vale

Tip

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 too – 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.

Tip

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 5

I got lost! The horrendous snowstorm lasted 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!

Tip

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.

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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Giovanna

Comments

Giovanna (author) from UK on October 22, 2015:

You are so right a lot of us have been lucky - but we should not be relying on luck! Thanks for your advice.

Giovanna (author) from UK on October 17, 2014:

Thanks very much indeed for your visit. I really appreciate your comments.

RaintreeAnnie from UK on October 16, 2014:

The Lakes are so very beautiful I think people can be caught unawares walking there sometimes. The weather can change very quickly. It is so important to have the correct clothing and really fit for purpose walking boots. Also as you say all the safety things like telling people where you are heading and whistle, water and Kendal Mint cake is a must! I think its great you are sharing this as will be so useful to anyone considering hiking. A really lovely place to visit though and as long as well prepared can be wonderful.

Giovanna (author) from UK on September 26, 2014:

My friend has recently bought a holiday cottage up there - and guess what - I can use it whenever I wish!! I know I'm very lucky but I can't help wishing was mine lol! I'm looking forward to a trip up there very soon. Thanks for your visit.

Aquamarine18 on September 26, 2014:

Fun, informative and well written. I love your hubs about the Lake District, it's a beautiful area. I spent a few years studying in York and the Lake District was one of my favorite get-aways!

Giovanna (author) from UK on September 11, 2014:

Thanks very much! I did learn a lot that day! Thanks very much for your visit.

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on September 10, 2014:

Beautiful scenery, but I can see why you were so frightened to be up there by yourself in that kind of weather. I'm glad you made it back. Someone was looking out for you.

Giovanna (author) from UK on June 29, 2014:

@Namsak: My goodness your words send shivers up my spine. I cannot believe I was so stupid. But I was! Yes the right walking shoes are essential. The UK can be very dangerous because of the sudden weather changes. I walked up Langdale Pike last year and the rescue team were called out because a group of climbers were stuck on a cliff edge and the rain was torrential. It is scary. Thanks for your visit and comment. I love Scotland BTW - I make no bones about that!

Namsak on June 29, 2014:

You were very lucky. The most dangerous thing about any hill or 'mountain' in the UK is the fact that globally speaking they are not very high. This can lull the unwary into a sense of false security in thinking that it's 'doable' and won't be a problem. As you found out this isn't the case. Many people die on the UK's hills for precisely the reasons you give here. Any walk in any remote area - be it up a mountain or not - should be treated seriously. I once came across a party of Japanese tourists on the top of Ben Lomond (3195 ft), just north of Glasgow. They were wearing ordinary street shoes and clothing. Fortunately, the weather stayed good that day and they all descended safely - one sharp rainstorm and it could all have been so very different.

Giovanna (author) from UK on June 07, 2014:

@Merrci: i learned a lot on that hike. For example, I've never gone on another one on my own! Thnaks for your visit.

Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on June 07, 2014:

What an adventure! It's scary to realize we're a bit out of control. So glad you made the hike another time successfully. The hike looks beautiful, and the gear invaluable. Thanks for sharing this!

Giovanna (author) from UK on February 02, 2014:

@favored: I was very silly. It's such a beautiful part of the UK. Thanks for your visit.

Fay Favored from USA on February 02, 2014:

Yes, it is beautiful, and yes, we got lost. The good thing was that we were in a car and not hiking.