I’d been in the lakes a few days with the constant thought of running Catbells. It’s by far my favourite fell though in saying that you’d think I’m an expert. I’m not, I know the Keswick area well and the hills that enclose Derwent Water but further afield I can only reel off names that I’ve heard being discussed or written by others.
I know this area as I spent summer camps near Portinscale and due to this I’d ventured back once or twice when I managed to take charge of my own transport.
Catbells is a lovely fell, seen from Keswick it has a ridge that mimics a sleeping dragon with steep sides coming out from the lake with two bumps that reach toward the sky. It’s easy to navigate up, you need to find the trail head and the path follows the ridge giving 360 degree views over Derwent Water, Keswick, Bassinthwaite and toward Borrowdale. You can also see the fells south of the Whinlatter Pass such as Grisedale Pike.
These views are superb and what better way to see them than a quick fell run? Well maybe a nice fell walk but I prefer the quicker way!
Before getting to the Lakes I’d already planned the route from the guest house door to the foot of the fell. There I found a nice off road path (from the map) that lead straight there. Brilliant! A real off road adventure from 100m from my digs.
We arrived in the lakes in a deluge of rain and wind. This was to be a theme of the break. The next day, unperturbed by the continuous rain we donned our waterproofs as did a half days hike up Coledale towards the pike. We arrived back to our digs saturated after hiking through bog, path and road in thunderstorms. We decided to retire the hiking boots for the holiday. At least we got out I thought and in the back of my mind I had Catbells milling away.
The next day we opted for a more indoor theme and visited the museums Keswick has to offer. Pencil museum and Mystery Museum done we headed back to the digs early afternoon in what turned out to be a fairly decent day if a little windy. The rain had held against the wishes of the forecaster. So I bit the bullet and proclaimed I was going for a run.
Running down the road I was looking for a signed footpath just after the turn and there it was. It begin steep uphill and muddy from the rain. I passed someone and asked if I was headed toward Hawes Pier to reassure me that this hill wasn’t in vain.
The path was easy to follow from here. It was a direct line almost to Catbells which I could see rising above the tree line when there was space. Arriving at the bottom of the fell I passed a couple of walkers. The familiar look donned their faces, one of shock and horror that someone would consider running up a hill. I like this look, makes me feel like I’m doing something out of the ordinary where in reality lots of people do it and are much better at it than me.
Nevertheless these guys thought I was a pro and I couldn’t break into a run/walk strategy just yet, not until theyre out of view anyway!
Catbells rises sharply on a switchback path and before you know it you can turn around and see a great view. My back had started to ache. First it’s like it’s going numb but then a dull ache ensues. I first felt it running up Sheihallion and now again. I very rarely feel it when running in the pentlands or up arthurs seat so I’m wondering what it is.
Not wanting to make do with the current view I continued up running through the pain in my back. Sometime breaking into spurts of walking when it got really steep. There are a few rocky bits that need scrambled up using arms and sure foot holds.
I arrive at the first bump and peak this where I’m confronted with a strong wind that makes me lean into it in fear I was going to get blown off the top. The fell had thus far sheltered me which was good.
The path kind of levels off following the ridge until it rises more sharply than before with a lot of scrambling involved.
I’m walking this bit and pass a group of lads who also gave me that look. The wind now behind the fell so I’m afforded a nice easy climb. I’m tired so I’m making sure my feet are secure when climbing.
I reach the top an the wind is even more crazy. I struggle to stand up on top. I move to the edge of the peak that faces the wind so if i do get knocked down I’m not going to fall off the cliff.
It’s at this point I wonder if Andy had listened to me when I told him I was going up here!
I get my phone out and take some pictures and a video as this is the only medium that could show what it was really like on top.
The views are just as amazing as I remember. I sit and watch for a while and then head back following the same route. It’s slow going down the rocky bits and the wind seems to be on my back pushing me down. This makes me nervous and cautiously I meander down to the first peak.
I eventually catch up with the group of lads who I’d passed going up. I don’t slow down and plough past them giving the one at the back a bit of a scare. Not sure what he thought.
Back on the ground I pass a fell runner looking fit and running easy and I wonder if he is amazing as he looks or if he’s like me, an amateur with a lot of enthusiasm for hills.