Wasdale has the hardest, most masculine profile of any valley in the Lake District.
At the head of it, a wet little hamlet with an inn and a field for climbers' tents shivers beneath a horseshoe of big, bare mountains, Yewbarrow, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Lingmell and Scafell Pike, the highest in England.
("Oh my God," gasped Coleridge, the first recreational fell-walker, pausing here in the summer of 1802, "what enormous mountains these are behind me!
One bank of it is formed by the Screes, a rampart of rock half a mile high, in which broad red streaks are folded through the grey stone, the whole plunging and crumbling to the water's edge.
On the opposite bank, with more fells massing behind, there is a solitary farmhouse, the home of Joss Naylor, sheep farmer, fell-runner and modern Lakeland hero: a man whose work and play is so bound up with the landscape he inhabits, you might compare him to Wordsworth's Lucy, "Rolled round...
with rocks and stones and trees", if only there were more trees; if only he were not so unrestingly alive, and so much less of a girl. This midsummer weekend, for instance, 22-23 June, he will run up and down 60 peaks over 2,500ft, one for each of his 60 years, in 36 hours; leaving the gate on Walna Scar near Coniston at 3am on the Saturday and finishing in the car park at Glenridding on Ullswater at 3pm on Sunday; over 100 miles in distance, and over 40,000 feet of ascent, the equivalent of climbing and descending Everest, from sea level, one-and-a-half times.
Not exactly a stroll in the country; but nothing out of the ordinary either for a man whose notion of pushing himself has shifted mountains for decades.
The special toughness of the Wasdale character may come partly from its being cut off by its mountains from the softer lakes of Westmorland to the east, the cream teas and choking tourist traffic of Ambleside, Grasmere, Hawkshead.
You approach Wasdale instead from the West Cumbrian coast, south from Workington or north from Barrow-in-Furness, through grey towns and villages - Flimby, Frizington, Drigg - of rusting rugby posts, abandoned workings and shops for sale.
I found this out, anyway, one autumn afternoon, by trying to take a cab across the Lakes from Kendal station to Wasdale.
Not 20 miles, as the buzzard flies; but two hours later, the driver, who had never been to Wasdale before, had a pounds 50 fare and a double puncture. Neither is there anything false or pretty or self-conscious about the traditional sports and contests that go on at the Wasdale Show.
This happens each year on the second Saturday in October, the last show in the Lakeland calendar, the chilliest, drizzliest and heaviest-drinking.
To lay a hound trail, two runners head off in opposite directions, each dragging "a sock full of other socks" soaked in aniseed, to meet somewhere halfway round the course as the owners let their foxhounds off the leash.
A pair of Cumberland wrestlers, in their daft flowery knickers, lock to in a mismatch: the grinning old hand upends the plump teenage apprentice with friendly restraint.