Friday, 10 August 2012

Nine Standards Rigg

Nine Standards Rigg


Nine Standards Rigg - a name engraved in the memories of 'Coast to Coasters'. It's situated some 4.5 miles from the small market town of Kirkby Stephen, and on a good day the cairns that give it it's name can be clearly seen from the town.

Its summit marks the Pennine watershed. On the Kirkby Stephen side, all watercourses flow to the west. As the summit is crossed, the walker soon finds themselves in Yorkshire, the watercourses flowing east to the North Sea.

Nine Standards is often the subject of conversation on walking forums as it has the reputation of being boggy. AW (Wainwright), in his Pictorial Guide, details three potential routes for the walker heading to Keld from Kirkby Stephen, according to the time of year. In 2010 we took the 'blue August to November' route which heads east before dropping down into Whitsundale. It was indeed boggy as we traversed peat hags. Before our 'crossing' in 2010, the subject of which route to take was very much to the fore amongst fellow walkers, as the weather was not promising.
Cloud finally revealing the Nine Standards - August 2010

That first climb of Nine Standards was shrouded in mystery. It rained. Clouds hung low. Our objective was elusive as mist swirled around and the 'up' seemed interminable. We weren't alone, as it seemed many were making the journey that day. It wasn't until we were within the last 100m or so that we finally saw them - the stone cairns - as the mist lifted and the rain ceased. We'd seen pictures of the standards, but nothing had quite prepared us for the sheer size of them. Many theories abound about why they're there. But if they were to feign  an army encampment, a better situation they could not command.

What we had not appreciated, on that first climb of Nine Standards Rigg, was the view from the top. There had been none. Fast forward to April 2012. A beautiful, clear day with blue sky and sunshine. As we climbed higher the views grew more expansive. The path took us through pure white snow, which looked stunning against the unsullied sky. We had sat on a ledge on one of the cairns to drink coffee and eat our lunch. We were in no rush - we weren't heading to Keld on this occasion. The objective was to enjoy the view that had elluded us nearly two years previously.
Nine Standards Rigg - April 2012

Today our climb of Nine Standards Rigg was but a part of a circular route. A blue sky and broken white cloud cheered us as we made our way up. The path was dry in all but a few places and visibility was good. The legs didn't seem to ache as much this time. Coffee and our packed lunch were eagerly awaited. Others were at the top today, but we still managed to find a 'perch' on one of the cairns. 
Wild Boar Fell from Nine Standards Rigg

Below us, the Upper Eden Valley, spotted with trees, lay before us like a blanket. To the north, the Northern Pennines stretched out into the distance and 'toy' lorries made their way along the A66. To the south, stood the Mallerstang Ridge and Wild Boar Fell. To the south-west, the Howgills. We picked out the fell that we had climbed earlier in the week. In front of us, the Lake District fells provided the backdrop. Little had we realised, on that rainy August day two years ago, what we had missed. We could return to this spot again and again and it would always refresh the soul. Facing east lay miles and miles of empty moorland - not our objective today.
High Seat from Nine Standards Rigg

'It was a fairly gentle climb up', said one walker at the summit into his mobile phone. 
'We've got the boggy bit now.'
He was walking east.

Approach to the summit of Nine Standards Rigg - 10th August 2012


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