It was on my list and it needed ticking off. What other reason could there possibly have been for me climbing the highest peak in England?
It was there, it needed doing and it was the finale to my month of hiking in the UK. The Hadrian’s Wall Walk was done, the Orkney’s were done and now I’d landed in the Lake District with all its possibilities as far as walking was concerned.
Rather than just walk, I chose to climb.
Earlier this year I made it to the top of Bluff Knoll, the highest point in the south of Western Australia and although Scafell Pike, at 978 metres, was a few metres shorter than Bluff Knoll it was a totally different and equally difficult climb.
I’d roped in a friend to take on this challenge in the Lake District with me. Jenny’s a Manchester girl and we met on my first Everest Base Camp Trek in 2013, we’d stayed in touch and when I made plans for this trip she was the one who I contacted to join me in this adventure. She said yes but I’m not really sure she knew what she was letting herself in for.
As we drove through the fells towards Scafell Pike we were looking into the distance trying to pick out the highest point- at least I was, Jenny had her eyes firmly on the narrow, twisty road that she was trying to drive along – and when we pulled into the car park at the start of the walk it seemed a terribly long way to the top.
We pulled on our boots along with our determination, made sure we had our water and lunch and snacks, and strode (yes, strode) towards the start of the track. The first 5 minutes were relatively flat, possibly lulling us into a false sense of security, but after that it was all up.
The sunshine that had been following me around for the last few week – along Hadrian’s Wall, up through Scotland and across to the Orkney’s continued to hover above me and it wasn’t long before we were feeling rather too warm for this lark. That determination kicked in though and we ploughed on.
As we got higher we looked back and the view down to Wastwater was spectacular and then we’d turn back round and look up to where we were going and wonder #1 how amazing the view would be from the summit and #2 how on earth were we going to get up there?
The terrain was all rocks; rocky steps, rocky pathways, rocky rubble and just plain rocky and uneven ground, but for most of the way it was just a gradual incline.
Until we got to the last few hundred metres that is, and that was where it really became a struggle. I was stopping every few metres, on the pretext of admiring the view but more to give my legs a break, but we were so close, we knew we could do it.
As with most peaks, as we got higher, the weather was changing and the cloud was beginning to drape itself over the summit. Damn, don’t do this to us, we want that view.
I’ve mentioned it before, several times in fact, that mountain weather and in this case Lake District weather too, can be changeable, and this Peak was to be no different. About half an hour from the top we watched the gradual appearance of the misty clouds. Not too much, just enough for us to wonder if we needed to put on a bit of speed to get to the top before the views were obliterated. Not that we actually could have turned up the speed, we would get there at our own slow and steady pace.
Picking our way slowly up that rocky rubble, the end seemed to be always just over the next hill. We were trying to discern a pathway but finding that it was just a matter of making our own. Those on the downward run were assuring us that it really was only a few minutes more but by this point we were beginning to doubt that we’d ever get there.
But suddenly we did.
With no fanfare and no flag, not even a signpost, we found ourselves standing on the highest point in England.
We did have a view, not as bright and clear as it could have been and not the 360 degree panorama we were hoping for, but there was a view and it was spectacular and worth the climb and definitely an amazing reward for the struggle we’d put ourselves through.
As is always the case for me the down part of this escapade was more difficult than the up part. Dodgy knees plus steep rocky descents just about do me in and without my hiking poles I’d be stuck – literally. It was a slow descent. Slow and steady.
As the saying goes, you haven’t actually completed a summit till you’ve successfully descended (or something like that) and we just managed to get back down without calling in the mountain rescue guys.
Satisfaction? Elation? Yep, done it.