Country diary: Great Langdale, Lake District: Lakeland walkers in a tight spot

Great Langdale, Lake District: Seven people and a labrador had already squeezed through Fat Man’s Agony. But not this poor soul

The commotion on the fellside could be heard down to the road at the top of the hairpins en route from Great Langdale to Little Langdale.

“You should never have brought me here,” said a voice. “You can still make a detour,” said another. “That looks worse,” replied the aggrieved. “I’m going back.” And so this person retreated, a stiffly built woman in her 50s, her face clouded with frustration as she made her way down the bracken and rocks back to the roadside where a minibus was parked.

Seven people and a labrador had already squeezed through Fat Man’s Agony before the path strikes out along the ridge. Only this poor soul had failed.

This was not, incidentally, the Fat Man’s Agony on Scafell, said to be the first recreational rock climb. Pioneered by Samuel Coleridge Taylor in 1802 as he unwittingly climbed down Broad Stand, where the lower part is also called Fat Man’s Agony.

“I had only two more [steps] to drop down,” the poet recounted, “but of these two the first was tremendous. It was twice my own height, and the ledge at the bottom was so exceedingly narrow, that if I dropped down upon it I must of necessity have fallen backwards and of course killed myself.”

Rather than being on Scafell, a long-standing Lakeland accident black-spot, however, the mini drama I witnessed took place on Side Pike, the sugar-loaf peak above the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Great Langdale.

The crags that give this little hill its distinctive shape force the walker to bypass them by retracing their steps down from the summit and squeezing through the “crevasse” below. Lingmoor’s heather-clad crest can then be traversed to Chapel Stile – at least for those slim enough to pass by.

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