Sunday, October 22, 2006

Returning from the Lakes

Well I'm back... and what's more, I'm relatively unscathed. I will post photographs shortly but I am waiting for a few from a mate who is still on holiday. Here is a brief run down of events as I perceived them:

Friday 13th October
Set off about 4:45 from Alcester after being picked up by Mike... who was driving his father's car (which incidentally received a good, sound thrashing with a horse chestnut branch by Rob's 2 year old daughter - Katie). The journey was for the most part uneventful... I tried to wave at pretty ladies passing by in other cars on the motorway, purely to bide the time... but alas I was stuck on the driver's side and we stayed on the right for extensive periods. We arrived in millom at 9.30pm ate a sandwich and turned in. Curiously for me, I had no trouble sleeping.

Saturday 14th October
We awoke to a glorious sunny day and decide to do potentially the toughest walk first... a steep ascent up Kirk Fell... something like 10 meters vertical for every meter forwards. When we got to the top I was relieved, but then we looked across to Great Gable whose summit was shrouded in mist... and we decided to ascend that too. I don't know about you, but the way I tackle mountains psychologically is to remind myself that you go up and that is as worse as it gets... then it's all downhill (which I find easy). I found the next bit hard going because we descended into a valley quite sharply... only to come back up again at a similar rate to before. I think my brain was shot to hell and back because I was finding it hard to go upward... however having reached the top I found it an easy descent... and was teased horribly by Rob because several girls we came across on a couple of occasions were eyeing me up at various points on the way down... much to Mike's chagrin (poor old Mike thought I was irrepressible enough as it was), still I did enjoy the attention... and it did take my mind off the seemingly arduous climb I had endured. On the way down it was unbearably hot... the sky was sapphire blue and the sun beat down on us. We couldn't believe it was the middle of October, it felt more like midsummer. We went to the pub for our first evening meal. A wonderful pub outside of Millom called the King William - worthy of a plug for it's wonderful atmosphere and even more wonderful food. The landlord and his family are quitting this year... so if you want to sample the delights of real food... go now, while you still can. There is a nice, warm and friendly atmosphere and if you can bare the odd coarse joke... you will find it a pleasant refuge and according to Mike (our resident real ale drinker) a good local brew! We discovered that a small chapel we passed on the way back to the car (during the walk), was the burial place of British expeditionary mountaineers. Originally the church had not been used for burial purposes due to the presence of what the landlord called "evil spirits" (I find it amazing that people of the rural north are a lot more matter of fact about such things than other people elsewhere.... they just take it for granted as an everyday occurrence where most people just view it as superstition). With a hearty meal of cajun chicken followed by sticky toffee pudding inside me I headed for bed.

Sunday 15th October
A much more relaxing walk occurred on this day... up to the Heart of Fell. It was my kind of walk as we had plenty of variety. Yes, we had the climbs... but we also had to traverse woodland, brooks and streams. We got to the summit and looked down through the haze at the tiny villages below. We could just about make out the remains of the Roman Hard Knot Fort... I was amazed that something similar to that once stood in my hometown. The decent down was an interesting one. Mike went over on his foot and had a slight twinge... I'm lucky in that respect, my feet turn over quite often... but they never seem to pick up injury when they should be thrown out of whack. The second event was my attempt to emulate Bruce Banner's transformation into the Hulk. As we came down to a treacherous path there was a distinct tearing sound - a flaw in the fabric of my new trousers had resulted in them tearing from knee to groin! I had to wait until we were on the flat ground below, before I could get my waterproofs on over the top of them. Fortunately we did not pass anyone coming up the other way... and far more importantly it was yet another warm day. Dinner this evening consisted of salmon steak and apple pie for pudding. Mike's had been specially crafted with an "M" due to a comment made in jest at his expense the night before... he dared NOT have apple pie.

Monday 16th October
The day got off to a wondrous start. My TARDIS alarm on my mobile phone woke me up as usual; however, I noticed that Rob was still beneath me in the bunk below. Not wanting to unduly disturb him I reached for my phone on the shelf opposite... bad move. I pawed the air two or three times but became unbalanced and fell right out of the top bunk. there was a loud thud... so loud that Steve (downstairs in the kitchen) had thought the entire bunk had tipped over. In fact, I had actually crashed to the ground head first... my cranium absorbing the entire force of impact. Unusually I was facing the opposite way to the way I flipped.... a mystery have still been unable to fathom. Miraculously there were no injuries... although some would no doubt argue that where there is no sense, there is no feeling. 90 minutes later and I was clambering up Black Combe Fell, the oldest peak in the area. The rest of the day passed without incident and I went o bed after consuming lamb in redcurrant and rosemary sauce, followed by the now almost obligatory sticky toffee pudding.

Tuesday 17th October
Today we decided to explore the woodland outside of Millom which was fun for various reasons... especially when we reached a perimeter fence for a quarry. At first it felt like we were in Narnia because we kept stumbling across seemingly random lamppost in the thin wood. Eventually we passed by the quarry - which both Rob and myself started getting James Bondesque feelings about... as we gazed over the wooden fence, you could easily imagine Ernst Stavro Blofeld having a secret base beneath the surface. As we followed the woodland away from the quarry, it started to get all ethereal and enchanted. It felt like something out of the 80's ITV series Robin of Sherwood... in fact, I swear I saw Hern the Hunter more than once... but maybe I was still hallucinating from the blunt force trauma to the head from the previous morning. Mike was suddenly possessed by an urge to run (this isn't a mike like thing to do) and sprinted ahead of Rob to the top of a tower... and collapsed. We had our lunch atop the platform and headed back to the town. On the way down, Mike again took a tumble and injured his foot... having to limp back the rest of the way - this turned out to be a major disadvantage when we reached a patch of farmland where two bulls looked on us with disgust and more than just a hint of an evil glint in their eyes. Fortunately for us they couldn't be bothered to do anything - good job too, because with one man lame and a field full of bulls on the other side of the wall, who Rob had proceeded to wind up (safe in the false knowledge that the wall protected us), we had nowhere to run. For my last meal at the pub, I ate chicken breast cooked in a red wine sauce... very nice - followed by the now unavoidable sticky toffee pudding.

Wednesday 18th October
I was very nervous today. I had been told we were going up Jake's Rake - which sounded daunting enough... but with my overactive imagination going into hyperdrive... all attempts to disarm my state of panic just exacerbated my fears. As we trudged up the steep hill (twice crossing the river Ghyll), my brain was seriously trying to discourage me and I was losing heart rapidly. We crossed paths twice with some cadets. Now bearing in mind I have no military training and was scared stiff of falling off the mountain, I am especially proud of what happened next. Steve recommended Jake's Rake to the cadets as they supped on their coffee. We passed by them and headed for the Rake - 150ft of vertical climb - for the most part wedged between two walls of rock - but occasionally surfacing out with 500ft sheer drops to the left. We scaled it in about 15-20 minutes (I'm told I did very well - managing to do it practically all with no assistance and transferring my bodyweight onto my arms in some tight spots that required it - although I put that down to pure adrenaline). Where had the cadets gone? That's right... they'd chickened out like wusses and headed for Easy Gully - a relative stroll. Having reached the top of the mountain, we began to work our way back to the car... but not before trying another peak. I was yomping off ahead of the others because I was hearing girls voices and wanted to investigate the sound of these sirens that was coming to us across the mists. Alas we caught up with them as they were coming down from the next peak... with their boyfriends, but we exchanged pleasantries anyway - it pays to be polite! On the way down, Mike managed to yet again do in his foot... but the walk was almost at it's end and as we reached the car we tumbled in and set off from the mist covered mountains on a course that brought us back to our home in the lowlands. I sat on the left this time and managed to smile and wave at a few more fair maidens - who smiled back... what can I say? It passes the time!

Here endeth my chronicling of events in the Lake District 2006.

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