For Rufus’ first proper backpack we kept the route short and the plan simple; an amble and a scramble up and over the knobbled summit of Causey Pike following the ridge to Sail before dropping down to the valley to camp. It was a still and balmy afternoon in late September, warm enough to make the ascent a bit of a sweaty clamber under a clear sky promised a cooler night. I carried the bulk of our gear in a large pack crammed tight with two lots of sleeping bags, mats, food and in hindsight a ridiculous excess of warm clothes. Rufus on the other hand carried a small batman rucksack full of sweets and biscuits. We’d arrived at an opportune time as the heather was in full bloom, signalling the end of Summer by carpeting the slopes of the north western fells with an almost fluorescent pink. The conditions were sublime, I tried to explain to him that this was an exception and that many of the walks I’d done here had ended up with heads down in cold heavy rain with summits smothered in cloud, though I’m not sure he believed me. We made our way up and out of thick bracken which was busy with insects and stopped for the first of many rests and snack stops. The idea of pacing slowly and saving energy wasn’t fully appreciated by Rufus, though his plan of running to the top as fast as he could was also short lived and after he had run out of sight I soon found him laying with arms and legs outstretched on a patch of grass with red cheeks and pretending to sleep. We passed the summit and paused for a few minutes, the temptation to head further into the hills was more tempting than sitting in and taking in the view, the steady undulating course of the ridge gave us some easy miles; a reward from the uphill slog that had dominated the afternoon. The approaching evening light prompted us to find a place to stop and call home for the night, we settled on the valley that served as a watershed between Derwent Water and Crummock Water. We left the paths behind and found our own way down through a hillside of tall grass and tussocks, stopping off to fill our cups and bottles with icy stream water before pitching. The sunlight had passed beyond the valley and left our pitch cool and dark, not quite ready for our day to end we decided to climb higher and find the last of the evening light on the ridge past Ard Crags. That final climb of the day was made worthwhile as we filled our bellies with dehydrated pouch meals and hot chocolate and watched the sun set behind the silhouette of Grasmoor. I tried again to convince him that there are days up here when you can’t see much more than your hands in front of your face for the mist, but he wasn’t having any of it, Cumbria is in a permanent tropical state. Well fed with tired legs we left the golden light of the hill for the cool darkness of the valley and the refuge of then tent. He didn’t stay awake long enough to see the first stars of the night, so I had that experience without him but I could at least share it with his gentle snoring coming from deep inside a sleeping bag. Sleep was deep and uninterrupted for both of us.
We waited until the morning sunlight met the green canvas of the tent and made it glow before we unzipped the door to be greeted by another blue sky. It was a Sunday and the summer holidays had finished a few weeks ago which regrettably made tonight a school night and had us packing up early to slowly make our way back to the road. As far as return journeys go though, this wasn’t a bad one. We walked through pink heather hillsides, dunked our heads into freezing streams and let the sunshine dry us off and warm us through.