At the end of A Story of Mountains pt. I we left our protagonists in their prime. The mountain range called the Caledonides once stood as high as the Alps, perhaps as high as the Himalayas. Now all that remains are the comparatively smaller ranges of the Highlands, the Lakeland Fells and Snowdonia.
This part of the story is about the forces that reduced this range of mountains to a quarter of its former self and left us with today’s beautifully carved and coloured landscape. In essence it is about ice and what came after. For reasons that will be explained, this story revolves upon Scafell Pike and Wasdale.
Since the height of the Caledonides there were several ice ages and the final (ending roughly 10,000 years ago) left visible marks upon the landscape. As the earth was plunged into the depths of an endless winter the ice advanced from the poles. The earliest human inhabitants of the British Isles; hunter-foragers who had chased herds on the plain and fish upon the coastline were driven out and the ice descended.
I remember camping near Angle Tarn, maybe I was 7 or 8, my Grandpa spread out his hand and told me that all the valleys of the Western and Central Fells spread out from where the rain hammered on our tent. With the other hand he traced his outstretched fingers and thumb; Langdale eastwards, Borrowdale northwards, Buttermere to the north-west, Ennerdale westwards, Wasdale to the south-west. Spokes, he called them, and looking on a map you can see the wheel he described.
Following the lichens came ferns and mosses. Clubmoss are of my favourite mountain flora and as a species are over 400 million years old. These beautiful spore-producers have now been out-competed by seed-bearing plants in the lower ecological zones, but their succulent leaves have made them well adapted to the arid winds found high in the mountains and Stag’s Horn, Alpine and Fir Clubmosses are a sign you have left the low valleys and are among the mountains.
As before if you’ve enjoyed this brief enthusiast’s article you may wish to hear the story told in more detail by experts. Regarding geology Paul Gannon’s Rock Trails Lakeland was an invaluable resource during the consolidation for my Mountain Leader’s award and you may also wish to read Neil Oliver’s History of Ancient Britain for an account of humankind’s earliest activities on these isles. I sincerely hope you enjoy both of these texts as much as I did but more importantly I hope you go and see the point upon which the ice and all that came after it centred - Scafell Pike.
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All articles are written from a humble and deeply personal perspective. Where facts or recommendations are given these are taken from research and experience. We hope these articles help you in your quest to enjoy the mountains and that they portray our passion for what EA Mountain Skills does.