The challenge of trekking up something big has been on my Life Ticket for quite some time. It started because I went on holiday to the Lake District for the first time back in 2008 and saw some pretty impressive fells. Then I watched Julia Bradbury climb Scafell Pike and I knew what I wanted to climb. I wanted to get to top of the highest fell in England.
I watched a few people complete the National 3 Peaks on You Tube and thought that although it looked challenging, it didn’t look overly scary like chucking myself out of a plane at 30,000 feet or bungee jumping off a bridge. So I bugged everyone I knew, asking them if they’d do it with me to which I got a resounding no! Not even to walk up one of the fells. Having practically dragged my partner up a previous fell (in 35 degree heat), I was told in no uncertain terms I was on my own for any “serious” trekking”.
Surely, I thought there must be a way to climb something big, by myself, without either getting lost or getting injured. And that was when I discovered the Lake District Walker. Low and behold I could have a guided tour up Scafell Pike, and reach the highest point in the whole of England for just £22. Guess what I did.
So, during my week in the Lakes I climbed Scarfell Pike, and I got to the top and, I’m here to tell the tale!
But honestly, without a doubt that was the scariest, most challenging, thing I have ever done. It tested all of my abilities, took all my will, and my energy just to get to the top. Not because it was overly difficult but because it was my first ever climb and it was the biggest climb I could have started with.
What the hell was I thinking???
Oh, I’ll just saunter up to the top, take a few pics for Instagram and trot on down to the bottom again? Yes? No!
I panicked all week about the weather. My phone continued to notify me of impending thunderstorms and yellow warning of rain. Neither of which helped my anxiety and I ended up scanning the weather every 3hrs between the Monday and Wednesday morning. By some crazy twist of lucky fate the actual weather was dry and warm.
It was so humid in fact my deodorant gave up after 30 minutes. Thank good ness I was in a group (of 7 lovely people) who were also suffering from the heat. Although due to the sweaty state we all got in I’m sure we were all pretty pleased that we’d never have to see each other again. And that was pretty much where the similarities ended, unfortunately.
Out of the group, there were two regular marathon runners, a cyclist and someone who had walked 10miles round a lake the day before. Finally, there was that person. You know the one. Who pretends at the beginning that they’ll bring up the rear “they simply won’t be able to keep up” and end up reaching the summit first because once you get talking to them (between sharp intakes of breath) they have traversed nearly every mountain range in America.
All I can say is thank goodness I didn’t know all this before I started because I would have backed out. I was the one constantly trailing behind.
One hour into the climb and my lungs were heaving, my heart was pounding and my thighs wanted to give up and drop me. The path was steep with very little flat paths in-between. The ascent included boulders and rocks to climb over using feet, arms and hands just to get up and over the distance.
I couldn’t keep up and had to stop more than a few times just so I could get my breath back. The walk leader was very patient and kept an eye on the whole group ensuring nobody was getting too far in front or behind (in my case).
I became anxious and frustrated all at the same time and on top of that had to make polite small talk to people who I’d never met before. It was really, really difficult but I refused to give up. I didn’t care how long it took me, I was going to reach the summit.
I got to the top in about 4-hours (Although it’s hard to say because I’d given up looking at my watch by this point as sweat was just pouring off my brows).
Unfortunately, the people in the group who got to the top first enjoyed 20minutes to indulge in, not much of a view, as the clouds had started to gather, but time to relax somewhat. I got about 2 minutes by the time I reached the top. By which point I was equal parts annoyed that I was so behind everyone else and annoyed I wasn’t even going to be able to sit down on a smooth, flat surface at the top. Up there was boulder town. It looked like something from the moon. Completely devoid of any life or colour, apart from a few other walkers making their way up or down the summit.
And it should have been a feeling of pure joy I felt, having reached the top and it was, just not to the extent I was expecting because other thoughts like, “I want to sit down for a week”, or “why isn’t there a proper plaque up here denoting the summit?” dominated my initial thoughts. My brain just couldn’t comprehend the feat I’d done before it was time to traverse back down.
While a lot easier (there was another ascent shortly over the summit ridge), it was still rather challenging to get down such a steep descent. At least I was kitted out with proper, heavy, walking boots. I went down on my backside once which at one time would have embarrassed the hell out of me. I just gritted my teeth and thanked god I hadn’t broken my ankle. I was happy to scramble over the rocks and boulders coming down. And in 3.5hrs I arrived back at the starting point truly wondering in astonishment. In what seemed like a minute I had been up there in the clouds and now was back down again. Did it happen? My body told me otherwise but my pride was okay because coming down I wasn’t holding anyone back and I wasn’t last.
I felt so accomplished and pleased with myself but still annoyed I wasn’t as fit as I thought I was. Jogging three times a week simply wasn’t enough.
Less than five minutes after getting back to the car and driving away from Seathwaite it started to pour with rain. It didn’t stop all evening.
I can already tell, now four weeks later that Scafell Pike is an itch that isn’t going to go away anytime soon. When I got back to the cottage that evening after the trek I vowed I never wanted to see another fell again, never mind Scafell. But now I’m not so sure. Now I am wondering, could I do it again? Could I do it better? Could it be a good challenge to motivate me to take up more exercise? I don’t necessarily want to do it any quicker. Being frogged marched up and down you lose the enjoyment of the fell itself. It’s beauty, it’s quietness. I had not been given any time to appreciate it but what if I was fitter?
When you push yourself to the limits it’s surprising how your body and mind begin to behave. What I thought I’d do and what I thought I’d feel was nothing compared to the real thing and yet that’s still not a bad thing. It’s my mind and body’s way of telling me how I really am. And from there I can now develop and set myself yet another challenge.
Bring on the fells!