The Kentmere Horseshoe, Harter Fell, and High Street

Hayeswater

Hayeswater

A few weeks ago, I visited Heather and Alan Rhodes of Pacerpole who live near Windermere in the Lake District, one of the most popular places for hiking in the United Kingdom. It was my first visit to the Lakes and they were eager to take me hill walking so I could experience the lovely countryside and views there.

I’d arrived at the start of several days of great weather, but on a bank holiday (three-day weekend) and the end of term break when the Lake District fills up with children and their parents for a week long vacation. Determined to find a less crowded but still spectacular walk, Heather and I poured over Harvey’s BMC Map of the Lake District and several volumes of Wainwright’s Pictoral Walking Guides looking for a loop hike that didn’t require a lot of driving and where we could be dropped off and picked up later in the day by Heather’s husband Alan. The Kentmere Horseshoe (also known as the Kentmere 7 and the Kentmere Round) seemed like a perfect 12 mile walk with plenty of big hills and excellent views.

The Kentmere Horseshoe

The Kentmere Horseshoe, Harter Fell, and High Street

Having just backpacked aross Scotland in the TGO Challenge, I had low expectations that hiking in the Lake District would exceed the splendor of my latest ramble. I didn’t know anything about the Lake District before I arrived or about its history, but now I can’t wait to go back!

Climbing Past Shipman Knotts

Climbing Past Shipman Knotts

Once on the hills, I was instantly captivated by the color of the land, the hills, ridges, stone walls and the lakes. With gently rounded mountains and high level moorland, the views are vast and unobstructed by trees, but can become disorienting when the mist comes down and landmarks are hidden from sight.

Harter Fell and Haweswater Reservoir

Harter Fell and Haweswater Reservoir

In addition to walking the seven hills that make up the Kentmere Horseshoe, Heather wanted to show me Harter Fell, Haweswater Reservoir, and another peak called High Street which is named after the old Roman road that runs over it.

Heather points out High Street in the distance

Heather points out High Street in the distance

Though not a technically difficult hike, I had problems keeping up with Heather who is a very strong and fast hillwalker. Not that this should come as a surprise – she is the inventor of Pacerpoles - a trained physiotherapist and their most experienced user.

I’ve been using Pacerpoles for over two years and they helped eliminate the years of ITB (illiotibial-band syndrome) that I used to suffer from when I hiked. I think Heather is a genius and so do a lot of other long distance hikers and mountaineers who swear by Pacerpoles.

Helvellyn on a parallel ridge

Helvellyn on a parallel ridge

Once we’d climbed up to the hill called Kentmere Pike, the remaining peaks on the eastern side of the horseshoe form a nearly uniform plateau interspersed with the inevitable boggy bits that one encounters on moorland. Once past The Knowe, we walked a ways down Harter Fell to get a view of Hawaeswater Reservoir before turning to take in two tarns called Small Water and Blea Water.

Small Water and Blea Water (partially obstructed)

Small Water and Blea Water (partially obstructed)

Backtracking to the ridge that joins the eastern and western ridges of the horseshoe, we stopped for lunch in the sunshine amongst the crags of Nan Bield Pass. Heather had packed us a hearty lunch of free range eggs (raised in their backyard) on spelt bread with fruit cake and apples which we tucked into as she gave me pointers on my pacerpole technique and form.

Nan Bield Pass

Nan Bield Pass

I’d been placing the tips of my pacerpoles a bit too forward on the climbs, effectively pushing myself backward as I ascended, a very common problem that is also experienced by regular trekking pole users who try to climb hills hunched over their poles. Pacerpoles unique angled handgrips make it possible to break this bad habbit while standing up straight with your shoulders back, making it easier to hike uphill with far less fatigue.

After lunch we climbed up Mardale Ill Bell and walked over to the trig point at High Street. By then, more people had arrived to walk the peaks, but we had chosen well because the walk wasn’t as crowded as other popular walks probably were on the sunny holiday weekend.

Heather passes Thornwaite Beacon

Heather passes Thornwaite Beacon

Heading south by a large stone cairn named Thornwaite Beacon, we headed toward the most dramatic peaks on the route, three distinct hills overlooking the Kentmere Reservoir named Frostwick, Ill Bell and the Yoke. At 700+ meters, these hills weren’t as high or as difficult to climb as the ones I’d been on in Scotland, but their arrangement along such a beautiful ridge was no less spectacular.

The Yoke, Ill Bell, and Frostwick (left to right)

The Yoke, Ill Bell, and Frostwick  overlooking Kentmere Reservoir (left to right)

Descending from the Yoke, we headed back east via the Garburn Pass down to a church that Alan, an architect, had restored years before. This had been a lovely walk, my first in the Lake District, and I will alwys have fond memories of walking with Heather on that beautiful sunny day.

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8 Responses to The Kentmere Horseshoe, Harter Fell, and High Street

  1. alan.sloman June 13, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    What a splendid post!
    I met Heather & Alan a few years back and spent a happy time being instructed by Heather on how to use their ingenious poles.
    Experienced hikers I know well swear by them. A great product.

    • Earlylite June 13, 2013 at 7:35 am #

      Really enjoyed my visit with Alan and Heather and can’t wait to go back for another visit to do more walking with Heather and some fly fishing with Alan. They are both such kind and lovely people who made me feel very welcome and at home during my visit.

  2. Amanda June 13, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    Slightly off topic. Are you able to use the Pacerpoles as vertical support with your MLD Duomid?

  3. Liz June 13, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    Beautiful photos! Looks like the Prezzie range with way more above-treeline parts. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Grandpa June 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    I heard about PacerPoles on this blog and purchased a pair a couple years ago. They are far and away the best poles I’ve ever used. I have severe arthritis in my hands and wrists and the only time they don’t hurt is when they are resting in those incredible grips. Two and a half months ago, I shattered my right wrist when I fell descending a mountain in Oklahoma in a sudden violent storm (I kind of speeded up the descent a bit). The ergonomic grip kept my wrist in exactly the right position so that I could make my way back to the trailhead with a minimal amount of pain. I didn’t let the fractures cut short the camping trip. At the bottom, we splinted my wrist with a SAM splint and I finished my intended vacation with the grandkids.

    Two weeks earlier, I’d taken the grandkids up that mountain and my granddaughter stopped to pet a cactus that looked to her like a puppy–a mistake she won’t make again! We had to cut short our ascent as I used duct tape and tweezers to pluck innumerable needles out of her hand.

    Earlier this week, I took the grandkids back to the same place and we attempted Elk Mountain for the third time in three months. When we finished, my seven year old granddaughter exclaimed, “We finally climbed Elk Mountain and nothing happened!”

  5. Steve M June 13, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    I only recently adopted using trekking poles while hiking. Based on your positive review I ordered a pair of aluminum Pacer Poles this spring. I took them out for the first time three weeks ago for a day hike to the top of Mt Monadnock. The trail is fairly unrelenting in its 1,900 foot ascent over about 1.9 miles. Trying to find the right technique with these poles, both up and down the rocky trail, was a head scratcher at times. When the trail was more of a traverse, the pole placement at my heel and maintaining a quiet upper arm ( hinging at the elbow) was definitely a different but positive improvement over my traditional poles. I would likely benefit from some additional pointers on how to maximize their utility on steeper terrain, as I found myself reverting to using them like traditional poles, i.e. reaching out ahead of me instead of placing the tip by my heel. ( I have watched all the online vids.). BTW I did lengthen the poles for the downhill route, but not for the uphill.

    • Earlylite June 13, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      The thing to remember when going uphill is to keep you chest open and your shoulders back – as heather would say – feel the wrinkles between your shoulder blades. Try taking smaller steps – which will save your quads – and try to break the bad habit of reaching ahead. When you reach ahead you roll your shoulders closed, reduce lung capacity, and actually need to exert more energy to move forward. Maximum efficiency occurs when the pole top is next to your foot. If it’s forward of it, you are actually braking (increasing the) resistance of a forward step.I flew up Mt Tremont yesterday using proper form (1000 feet per mile) and it makes a huge difference.

      Also I don’t bother lengthing the poles for downhills – but try to keep the tips even or just slightly ahead of my toes. This really helps prevent accidental slips on scree or wet rock.

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