August 2017 and we had finished our city break in Lisbon when Maureen wanted to go to Stickle Tarn. Well, we had planned to go on the day after we had returned from our holiday, but why was she so keen on doing a walk that we had done plenty of times before? The answer is that in August 1976 we went on our first holiday together, and Stickle Tarn was the first mountain walk that we did as a couple. She was nineteen and I twenty six. So let's go back in time to the summer of 1976.
We had been staying at the Achille Ratti climbing club, a Catholic organization, which I had joined a couple of years earlier, as I had been less than impressed with the behaviour of some of my club mates on climbing trips; and I wanted to take my girlfriend to a civilized place. The summer had been hot and dry, but the weather had begun to break and we were getting occasional showers, but the day was hot and clear, so we ascended the fifteen hundred feet or so to the tarn.
The climb consists of a walk interspersed by occasional scrambles and a river crossing on large, well placed stepping stones.Soon we came to the first waterfall, where people were sitting to take picnics, but we moved upwards on the west side of the beck [stream.] The second waterfall, a much larger one, hove into view, and above that we did our first river crossing to reach the east side, where we continued walking upwards, scrambling over rocks before we took the second crossing on the large boulders, which were dry because the summer had been hot and water levels were low, but we were young and nimble on the rocks and confident.
The route is steep at this point and towers over you but not dauntingly, as the steepest bit is not long, but there is a section where you scramble up rocks. Then the climb evens out over land that is boggy in Winter, but then was dry as a bone. We came to the lip of the tarn and looked over the ever-chilly water, whose surface can be warm, but which has cold and dangerous depths.We rested and took in the view of the towering might of Pavey Ark behind the tarn. Then we picknicked and descended the way we came, for this is not a circular route.
That night we dined in the newly opened Stickle Barn restaurant, which was crowded because upstairs the elite of British mountaineering were meeting. She had scampi, I had steak. Then we walked back to the hostel through the warm night. Why is this so special in her mind? It was at the end of that holiday that I asked her to marry me and she accepted.
We have revisited the walk many a time, always at her behest, and we have known it in many moods.There have been icy days and watery days, and sometime the sun has blazed. Once we walked up to the narrow summit of Pavey Ark. Another time Andrew raced all the way round the tarn just for the love of cross country running.
The picture below is taken from the rocky end just below Pavey Ark.You can see the narrow lip of the tarn at the rear of the picture.