Monday 25th October.
It was a gorgeous start, sharp and fresh. After breakfast Eleanor and I set off into Lakeland proper; firstly hugging the south side of Ennerdale water, perfectly still in the early light. Like yesterday we were pretty much on our own, only occasionally overtaking fellow travellers and again the morning miles scrolled by easily.
Eventually the lake ended and we turned onto a forest road, running parallel to the fast flowing river Liza, following it for a few miles at the foot of some impressive fells: Pillar to the South, High Stile, High Crag and Wainwright's favourite Haystacks to the North, until we arrived at the Black Sail youth hostel, a reclaimed shepherd's hut, sheltered underneath Great Gable. Everybody checks out by 9.30am and the place was deserted by the time we arrived - but still an open door led into a beamed room with long tables, board games, maps and a little kitchen with a microwave and a serious silver kettle for the stove. It's lonely, romantic and takes an effort to reach. In summer light I imagined, twenty three miles as we were from St.Bees, it might make a triumphant and very welcome first base. Tea and dominoes before bed.
We turned towards the mountains and made our first proper climb of the journey up Loft Beck to a breathtaking plateau with views back down the Ennerdale valley and over towards Buttermere. We rewarded ourselves by sharing a bar of Dairy Milk, the only food on us, and looked back towards the coast now far out of sight. Reset, we headed off along a cairn marked path towards the old tramway which in turn guided us towards Honister and a very welcome cafe. Suddenly the fell was filled with a procession of people all heading for a warm cup of tea and chunky sandwich. It felt strange after twenty five miles of solitude to suddenly be in a queue of day trippers, kitted out in Millets finest gear, Nordic sticks at the ready and I was pleased when we refound the quietness of the old toll road that took us on to Seatoller. Chilled out and contemplative, it wouldn't take much to become a curmudgeon. From here we followed the meandering course of the Derwent through a beautiful dappled wood arriving, as the sun sank, at our Borrowdale destination and a welcome pint in the impossibly picturesque Rosthwaite, the first part of our adventure successfully completed.