Striding Edge: I had heard my Dad read Wainwright’s descriptions of it ever since we arrived in England, but now I actually got to experience it. This section of the Coast to Coast, from Grasmere to Patterdale, has two different routes: a low, valley route and a high, upland route. The upland route, which is not traditionally part of the Coast to Coast, carries you over Helvellyn, the highest peak that we will summit on our hike. After Helvellyn, the trail drops onto Striding Edge, a sawtooth, knife-edge trail overlooking Red Tarn. Then, off to Patterdale. A relatively low mileage day that promised more than its fair share of excitement.
Leaving Grasmere was tough. That poetic town really does grow on you. We marched off down country lanes lined with stone fences, heading North towards a rising valley. A steady climb eventually brought us to Grisdale Tarn that marked a decision for all Coast to Coasters: Do I take the high road? or the low road? As we began our ascent, we saw a large group enter the valley, dropping out of sight as we climbed higher. A clear path of crudely lain stones paved our way to the ridge line where we were once more welcomed by valleys, lakes, and peaks in all directions. The Lake District does not disappoint. With Helvellyn on our minds, we headed of along the ridge, met by the occasional hiker, a trail runner, and even a mountain biker. Finally, when we arrived at the summit, we saw Striding Edge, cutting through the valley below us.
The descent to Striding Edge was not trivial, especially with the gusts of wind that continued to grow in frequency and intensity. Despite the winds, the sun was sneaking past the clouds every so often and we moved with purpose. Soon enough, the Edge was before us. Having hiked Katahdin in Baxter State Park multiple times, it definitely reminded me of the infamous The Knife Edge trail up to the summit. Although the geology of the two trails feels wildly different, they tug at the same nerves. Striding Edge is skinnier than The Knife Edge, so much so that your field of vision as you walked over the crest was confused by the different depths of field that your eyes took in. The thin sheets of rock passed directly in front of your eyes, while rocks slightly lower moved more slowly, and rocks hundreds of feet below moved much, much slower. It was as disconcerting as it was beautiful to feel the world around you playing tricks on your brain.
My Dad and I crossed the edge together, pushing ourselves to navigate the most difficult route. I am glad we did. The softer paths on either side seemed to dull the visceral reaction that we should feel when we come face-to-face with nature’s rougher side. On the Edge, the elements control your fate as much as you do.
Note: As soon as I got to our B&B, I started editing some of the footage from today’s hike on my iPad. I pieced together a relatively crude montage of our day that should be available soon, assuming any of our B&Bs can supply the bandwidth it needs to make it on the internet! As a result, I haven’t even gotten to look at any of my pictures yet! So stay tuned for more of those soon.