The path wound up a long ascent and through a scree field that was predestined for breaking ankles.

Grasmere had long since disappeared from my sight.

Instead, the Grisedale Tarn lay in front of me, a particularly beautiful mountain lake over 30 meters deep.

According to legend, it is home to the crown of King Dunmail, the last king of Cumbria.

The wind was blowing over the tarn and was significantly cooler than before.

The lake lies in a lowland, surmounted by the peaks of Seat Sandal, Fairfield and Dollywaggon Pike.

On the other bank of the lake a path screwed its way up the uninviting wall of the Pike dolly car as a steep, jagged line, which in turn was only the preparation for further ascents.

The narrow zigzag course looked straight from over here.

I climbed over the outflow of the lake, the Grisedale Beck creek, which had the same goal as me with the town of Patterdale, but took a different route.

I started the climb.

In front of and above me I saw nothing but slope: a huge slope that seemed to grow into the sky.

I climbed the steep stone steps.

With every step I climbed, the view of the area behind and below became more spectacular.


Gibson Knott and Helms Crag, who had bothered me before, looked like ridiculous dwarfs.

And it was still going up.

The wind tore at me, hit my trouser legs and blew them open, tugged at the backpack, the straps of which waved wildly, and dried my sweat.

He blew the air under my nose with a force that made it feel thin and made it feel like I was in the high mountains - a persistent illusion on this tour.

In England it feels like being on Mount Everest

A few days earlier, after another long climb on the summit of Lining Crag, I had met two men: one gentleman - he carried a clipboard under his arm, on which he was diligently taking notes - belonged to the Lake District National Park Authority, the other worked for the National Trust.

They had come up to check that part of the way for damage.

So: local people!

Lake Ullswater is framed by the Helvellyn mountain range with the town of Glenridding at its feet

Source: Loop Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

I asked her how high we were here.

The National Trust man puffed his cheeks, frowned, paused for a moment, and finally pulled out a GPS device.

I was sure we were insanely high.

If they had been able to, my tired legs would have nodded vigorously and agreed with me.

I estimated this summit at 800 meters - as a conservative guess.

A zero more would not have surprised me either.

I felt like I was on Mount Everest.


"Sir," said the man, "we are proud 539 meters above sea level." I laughed politely and looked at him expectantly.

He smiled back.

"How high are we really?" I asked.

Now he looked at me expectantly.

Then he smiled encouragingly.

“539 meters, no kidding.

You have done good work!

Among the highest peaks in England, this one is number 484. "

"In fourth place ..." I snorted.

“Are you sure?

It seemed to me as if I had climbed a huge mountain! ”“ And so did you, ”he said,“ in a way. ”“ In a way? ”“ You started the ascent at a very low altitude in the valley.

Many who hike up much higher mountains cover fewer meters because their starting point is at a considerable height.

You worked your way through most of these 539 meters. "

An atlas says nothing about the character of the Lake District

Slowly I felt how the 30 kilogram backpack tugged on my shoulders and asked me to sit down or move on.

"Wonderful," I said.

“Also, the soil up here is acidic because of the constant moisture.

Therefore - and because of the centuries of use as sheep pasture - no trees grow on the hills.

First it was cleared, then the sheep ate everything bald.

The unprotected soil can hardly counteract erosion.

While cow dung does fertilize it, sheep dung contains almost no minerals.

The sheep utilize the minerals in the grass for wool, which is sent all over the world in the form of sweaters and hats.

What remains is earth that was once rich enough for oaks, but which is now only clung to underbrush.

And because there are no trees growing here, everything looks as rough and barren as it usually only looks at very great heights. "


Now I understood what Chris Barringer was talking about in his book "The Lake District" in 1984, when he remarked that with a look at an atlas one could see that the local peaks were mere pimples compared to the Alps, not to mention the Himalaya, that atlases could not tell us anything about the character and appearance of the area.

"The Lake District has an aura of grandeur that defies cartographic facts," he wrote.

"The lakes seem wider, the gray peaks higher and the cliffs steeper than they really are." And Michael Dunn, like Barringer in 1984, described the "majestic proportions of the mountains" around Lining Crag, which rose proudly from the ground and firing up the imagination in a way that few larger mountains can.

View from Helvellyn to countless peaks

It went up to the dolly wagon Pike and on to the Nethermost Pike.

It was getting colder.

In addition to my T-shirt, I put on an undershirt and my thin jacket.

At 950 meters, the Helvellyn is the third highest mountain in England - and one of the most popular.

On a humid Tuesday in 1966, the Brathay Exploration Group, a charity that runs excursions for young people, counted 614 hikers at the summit.

Even today a lot of other people braced themselves against the wind up here and strode across the vast summit plateau.

With a length of 500 meters, it is so large that the British entrepreneur John Leeming and the Australian aviation pioneer Bert Hinkler managed to land and take off again with an airplane in 1926.

My eyes floated in all directions.

Far to the west, just below the clouds, crouched peaks that I had walked through on my way to the Honister Mine: Red Pike, Pillar, High Stile, Great Gable, and others.

To the northeast was Catstye Cam and, well beyond, Great Mell Fell, to the east Arthur's Pike, to the south Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike.

Countless peaks in all directions.

A steep wall leads to the beginning of Striding Edge

Grasmere was hidden behind Fairfield, Rydal Fell, and other mountains whose names I didn't know.

Further down, lakes nestled in the valleys.

So wherever I wanted to go.

The Ullswater wound like a broad snake through the valley.

In reality, it's a nine-mile long lake, the second largest in the Lake District.

Perhaps 200 meters below me, in a valley basin, lay the Red Tarn lake, framed by two ridges.

Evening mood at Lake Ullswater with a view towards the village of Patterdale

Source: Getty Images


The ridge that rose to the right of it was probably the most famous mountain ridge in the Lake District: Striding Edge, an elongated ridge from Helvellyn to Birkhouse Moor, on which a narrow row of sharp-edged rocks reminded of the back of a Stegosaurus covered with bony plates.

The ridge rose aggressively with its gray spines and scales.

This was my way.

I headed for the edge of the plateau.

The feeling of running towards an abyss grew in me.

In fact, the jagged wall I had to descend to get to the start of Striding Edge was almost vertical.

I stared down in disbelief.

If the map hadn't pointed to this point, the very thought of descending here would have struck me as insane as a parachute jump without a parachute.

I couldn't make out a path, just steep porous rock.

"That can't be right," I thought and looked at the map.

Then I heard murmurs and groans.

A married couple climbed up to me and proved that it was right here.

Climbing becomes a tough challenge

I needed strong nerves for the next 20 minutes.

I felt my way down the eroded mountain edge step by step, my gaze inevitably directed towards the abyss below and into the expanse in front of me.

I took the trekking poles in one hand and clutched the rock with the other.

My legs were soft, this time less from exhaustion than from fear, as if they knew that every step had to be right.

I fought against a dizziness.

The rucksack threatened to throw me off balance: again and again it scratched the stone behind me and got caught on protrusions that I had just overcome.

The wind shook me.

Finally there was a respite: for a few meters a level path wound around a small rock outcrop.

Then the beginning of Striding Edge was waiting.

In front of me there was a steep step about ten meters high, a rock complex that formed the beginning of the ridge.

Like the descent I'd just completed, it looked awe inspiring, but was technically easy to climb because of the rugged rock.

But the surrounding area, the steep slopes on both sides, the valley depressions, the mountains rising behind, all of this made this little climb a spectacular challenge.

A whole group was just descending from the rock.

The English mind from the perspective of a foreigner

The hikers patiently and perfectly practiced English


, which the writer George Mikes had described as a “national passion”, although the English were rather shy and consequently denied that they loved it.

But Mikes wasn't being fooled.

He had found that an Englishman forms an orderly snake even when he is alone.


Mikes was a writer who, in many of his 44 books, dealt with countries and their peculiarities with fantastic powers of observation.

The most successful, "How to be an Alien", was published in 1946 and sold several hundred thousand times.

Subject: The English mind from the perspective of a foreigner.

According to Mikes, the favorite occupation of an Englishman on a Sunday is to queue for a bus early to take him to the Thames, to queue for a boat trip, to join the queue at the tea counter on the boat, Back on land to look for more queues just for refreshment and finally, after a successful day, to queue up at the bus stop to make the way home.

Some hikers seem to enjoy the tour on the Striding Edge without any fear

Source: Getty Images / Michael Roberts

It didn't go that far here, but it was the busiest part of the hike so far.

I made slow progress.

The wind whistled sometimes from the left, sometimes from the right, and the slope fell steeply on both sides.

The rock was strangely weathered: the layers lined up vertically next to each other.

These volcanic rock slabs were often so narrow that I didn't step on them but had to find a gap between them.

A dramatic crash is puzzling

But overall the rock offered many good holds and kicks.

Only the rucksack and sticks that I was carrying made the crossing difficult.

This is where Charles Gough, a young man from Manchester, also wandered in 1805.

He was an artist of the English romantic movement, but did not achieve great fame in his life, which lasted only twenty years.

With him was his terrier Foxie.

The two ran in the opposite direction to me: when they set off on April 17, 1805, their destination was Grasmere.

But they never reached the village of the poets.

The two remained missing for three months.


It was not until July 27 that a shepherd heard a strange bark on the bank of the Red Tarn, which lay on my left.

He followed the bark and found Foxie on a ledge next to her master's body.

Apparently he had crashed while trying to climb the icy rocks of Striding Edge.

Out and about on a mountain range: In winter, hikers shouldn't underestimate snow and ice

Source: picture alliance / Global Warming Images

The body was decayed but untouched by animals.

Foxie had kept watch by his side all this time, chasing away any creature that tried to please him.

At least that's how a story goes.

According to other reports, Foxie had himself filled his stomach with her master, and others claim that ravens cleaned the skeleton spick and span.

In any case, people liked the version best in which Foxie showed untiring loyalty to her nature-loving master - apparently also to the artists of the Lake District, thanks to whom Gough became a symbol of romanticism.

William Wordsworth paid tribute to the incident in the poem "Fidelity" - in German Treue, the last stanza of which reads in free translation:

“It was probably the case that since the day / when it tore him down, / his dog held the wake, / he did not leave his side: / He alone knows how it went, / the more faithful could well not to be, / was still connected to the dead, / as we can hardly imagine! "

Snow and ice make hiking dangerous

There are still more accidents on the Helvellyn than on any other mountain in the Lake District - mainly because of the Striding Edge.

In the spring of 2008 alone, a total of three hikers were killed, in the first half of 2018 there were five - most of them snow and ice were fatal.

To help hikers assess the risk and plan routes, the Lake District National Park Authority employs three

fell top assessors


You climb the Helvellyn daily during the winter months from December to March and record the weather conditions in a report.

This report on temperature, wind speed, snow depth, icing and other hazards can be obtained via the Internet, by telephone, in shops and tourist information centers.

Today there was neither ice nor snow.

So I had a good chance of surviving.

The text is an abbreviated excerpt from the recently published book “Reading trip to England, from coast to coast” by Erik Lorenz, Picus Verlag, 132 pages, 16 euros.

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Source: WELT, Stefan Wittmann