Latrigg – The Northern Fells 1,203′ (47)
Date: 9 September 1986/31 October 1989/14 June 1992/24 August 2003
From: The Latrigg Road End
Latrigg is easy. It’s so easy that the view from its grave little summit can make you feel guilty that you haven’t had to try harder, sweat some more, or even at all, to get here and be rewarded by it. Of course, you can, if you choose, make it a much longer and harder expedition by starting the ascent from Keswick itself, but I’ve never been inclined to make it that hard, though a former friend to whom I’d described the superb view, went up once with her then-husband and two children, and showed me some videotape of their heading uphill amongst trees, doing just that. Actually, I have a bit of an excuse for not ascending the fell that way for all but the first of my four visits. The first was just a knock-off, a quiet day, not wanting anything too strenuous, so I navigated my way up by the Underskiddaw road, and then straight up the back of Latrigg, doing as I had done on Binsey, to save the spectacular view until the very last minute. This was a scene of great embarrassment: I had brought my Dad’s binoculars with me, for once intent on using them to examine the vista in more detail, except that to bring them to my eyes, to home in on some distant sector of the view, brought on instant and unmanageable vertigo. I tried again, this time stood behind the crest: same result. I even tried lying full-length on my stomach, my body uphill, my elbows on the crest and it made no difference. The moment I took away the foreground, I felt as if I was falling – not just falling but dream-falling, which is worse – through the binoculars, into that far below scene. It was ghastly, and made more ghastly by happening on Latrigg, which is almost as low as you can get. The second was during an impromptu, late-October holiday, with the skies dark and drained, too cold and late for higher fells, and I nipped up and down Latrigg again, because I could do so easily, before driving off to Matterdale and doing both Mell Fells, in lieu of anything better. It was a happier and more pleasant occasion on my next visit. I had no thought of Latrigg, I was there to climb Skiddaw by the Tourist Route, and return over Little Man and Lonscale Fell, but it was not much more than four o’clock when I got back to the car, and I wasn’t exhausted by any means and the sun would go on for a long time yet. I’d happened to park at the bottom of the Road End, from where I could see a gate, and a broad, well-made path descending to curve around the flank of Latrigg. Intrigued, notwithstanding the fact I still had to drive back to Manchester that evening, I followed it, round and out of sight, before doubling back on a zig-zag grassy ride, to a path across the flank, rising eventually to a park bench, beautifully positioned to overlook Derwent Water. Unfortunately, it was occupied, so I turned left to follow the escarpment up onto Latrigg’s top, before taking the straight line descent back to the Road End. That one, late-in-the-day visit convinced me that the direct ascent is only good as a speedy descent. It has no walking appeal, being no more than an uphill trudge, and you feel very shut in, between Latrigg before and Skiddaw behind, whereas the flank route is delightful underfoot and very easy. Years later, married with stepchildren, I brought my wife and her two sons by that way, easy, trainer-walking stuff. They loved every minute of it, and so did I, especially as the park bench was free, so we got to sit down, arm around shoulders, and drink in the delights of a perfect stroll.