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Drenched on Scafell Pike

September 18, 2012

The morning after climbing Snowdon we had to complete the long drive North to Carlisle, England. We got up early and took a detour to Conwy, a town on the Welsh-English border with an impressive castle built by Edward I. The castle is one of the most perfect defenses of the numerous castles that Edward I built, and it looms over the town and the mouth of the River Conwy.

After visiting the castle we drove the rest of the day to make it to Carlisle, near the Scottish border. Carlisle may have been founded by the Romans, for it was through here that Hadrian’s Wall was built. After getting to the hotel we took a walk through the city to where the wall used to be. Since the time of Hadrian the wall was used for building material, so none of it remains but a marked path. Another feature of Carlisle is Carlisle Castle, one of the many castles in which Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned. Surrounded by a huge moat, the castle is in contrast with the rest of the crowded city.

It was 1 July, the night of the Euro Cup 2012 Final, and as we walked to grab some dinner we saw a little of that famous English football spirit. Walking out of the hotel we saw about ten guys on the left, some of them fighting, some of them watching; all of them in the middle of main drag, halting traffic. The fight went on, and about five women standing around were getting angry, hitting the men and each other with handbags and screaming. The fight still blocked the road, and cars were honking and a couple cabbies started revving their engines. With the sound of the screams and honks, people in the pubs starting pouring outside. Some of them began to break up the fight, and a few began brawling on their own. After a few minutes of this a few cops passed us, jogging towards the fight. We decided that it was okay to leave. If that was Italy and Spain, I’d like to see England play…

The next morning we woke up early to drive 90 minutes to Wasdale Head for an attempt on Scafell Pike. It was pouring at the trailhead, and we headed off with the aim of climbing this peak quickly. The trail crossed a stream, but with the recent rains what one could usually jump across had swollen to ten meters. We took the long way around, over a bridge. On the trail we hiked with a group who were attempting the Three Peaks Challenge in 36 hours (climbing the English, Welsh and Scottish highpoints).

Eventually I got warmed up, and passed them to make good time. My dad followed. The fog rolled in and I could not always see my dad, even though he was only a minute behind me. I continued hiking through a faint fork in the trail as we planned from the start, but when I looked back I could not see him. I turned around, waited for him at the fork, then decided that he must have missed taken the wrong way. They both end up at the summit, so I climbed the peak and waited for him. I had a chat with a couple on the summit, until dad arrived a couple minutes later, having taken a tougher route with scrambling unintentionally, but we descended the easier way together.

A few breaks in the fog.

Summit of Scafell Pike.

We descended quickly, but by the end of the hike we were soaking wet. Even my mountaineering boots were waterlogged.

The next morning we decided to take a little bit of a break; instead of driving straight to Fort William to climb Ben Nevis we took an easier day to see some of the sights and drive to Airth, Scotland. We took a detour to go see a couple sections of Hadrian’s Wall, and as we left the first one spotted a church on the right. It turned out to be Lanercost Priory, a beautiful site that was nowhere to be found in our guidebook or map. This area was a battleground for centuries between the English and Scots, and the priory would go back and forth between English and Scottish control. William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Edward I took control of  it during the Scottish War of Independence. It was eventually dissolved with the foundation of the Anglican Church by Henry VIII in 1538, and its roofs were torn from the buildings.

A popular walking route along Hadrian’s Wall, across England.

My dad and I got chatting with the attendant, who advised us a new route to drive to Scotland. We drove on small roads through farmland, sheep paddocks. Along the way we visited Bewcastle Cross, one of the two best examples of 7th to 8th Century Northern English art, along with the Ruthwell Cross. The Bewcastle Cross’ head is missing, but it still stands more than 14 feet tall, towering over the churchyard. It contains pictures, designs, and Runic inscriptions.

Peculiar “belted” cows near Bewcastle.

We crossed into Scotland, and found our way to Airth.

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