Carer climbs fell 500 times in five years

Date: Tuesday 5th February 2019

A FULL-time carer who has been up Carrock Fell 500 times in the last five years says hill walking gives him the emotional space to look after his wife.

Steve Hartley (pictured), aged 65, moved with his wife, Jan, to the Caldbeck area from Southampton in early 2002 when multiple sclerosis prevented her from working.

An earlier career as a land surveyor in Africa involved a great deal of walking for Steve, so he was particularly happy to be living near the Cumbrian fells.

“During the first few years here, I was able to climb all the highest fells multiple times while working full-time and caring for Jan. It was during this time I discovered Carrock Fell, which dominates the northern part of the Northern Fells near Caldbeck,” he said.

As his caring role increased, Steve found himself less able to travel far and wide to walk and also less able to hold down a full-time job, so climbing the fell became increasingly attractive to him.

He has explored most paths, and a lot of off-piste routes, on numerous occasions. He usually climbs the path from the east side, under craggy cliffs. A round route is normally completed within an hour, although as the years have progressed he has found it takes a little longer.

In his 20s, he could generally climb 1,000ft in 20 minutes, and now, in his 60s, he is still able to do it in under 25 minutes. “I’m now retired and very much a full-time carer but can often find a couple of hours on many days to do a round of Carrock. The exercise is good for me and my mind comes along for the ride. Like they say in running — which I don’t do — I invariably feel re-energised afterwards and feel it easier to do the caring, cooking and other household chores,” said Steve.

The only conditions which prevent or limit his walking are icy roads stopping him from getting to the base of the hill, and also storm force winds. If the weather is fair, however, his wife will come too and sit in the car, reading or people watching while Steve walks.

In 2013, Steve started recording his ascents and he has climbed Carrock Fell at least 100 times since then. He is already on target for 2019. He believes he must have climbed it around 1,000 times over the last 17 years.

“Although repetitive, it is never boring. The changes in weather, the seasons, the vegetation and the people I meet along the way always makes it interesting,” he said.

Steve remains as competitive as he has ever been. “Someone walking ahead of me has to be overtaken, someone walking behind me has to be left further behind. Little do these other walkers realise that they are in a race,” he said.