Blencathra: Narrow Paths, Steep Drops

Last week, PS and climbed Blencathra, sometimes called Saddleback, that heavy brooding mass close by Keswick. It’s one of the greats of Cumbria, a box well ticked. Unlike other mountains we’ve climbed, this one was unusual for its paths: they kept disappearing. In one regard, this doesn’t matter; so long as one keeps going up, the top will be reached. We walked along Halls Fell Ridge, a fairly sharp, narrow path with steep drops either side. A wrongly placed foot or simple stumble might have serious consequences, so it behoved one to admire the views less and one’s footwork more. Once up in the clouds, this became much easier. Several times, however, the path petered out and nothing but rock lay before us. We would scramble up, but the surface was wet and slippery, and the general direction was not always clear. At one point, we seriously considered giving up. Was it better to drive home with the summit unreached, or to risk tumbling to the bottom, going home by helicopter or hearse? We agreed to keep going, and a good thing too, for we were but a hundred yards from the trig.


Above: My feet (bottom, left); the drop (right)

This was the hardest walk I’ve done, not for its length nor steepness, but its disappearing path and the need to climb using both hands and feet, while a thousand feet drop was but two yards to our side. Having made one mistake, I had to climb down on my bottom, not daring to stand up and walk down. A couple of times my foot slipped, and visions of a long fall were enthusiastically generated by my brain.


Above: the disappearing path (foreground)

The psalmist writes

You enlarged my path under me, So my feet did not slip Psalm 18:36, and

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. Psalm 73:2

I do not think these verses describe mountain hikes in autumnal conditions. No, they refer to something far more hazardous- the godly life. The world, the flesh and the devil would have us leave the narrow way, with its rough and steep path, the course of which cannot always be discerned. The broad path to destruction offers walkers no such difficulties, and a gentle stroll is promised to all, though its destination be hell. Occasionally, we users of the narrow path may stumble or place a foot in a groove too small, but the God whom we serve will not have us fall, no matter how steep the drop nor close its precipice.

"Narrow is the way that leads to life"