Thursday, 30 March 2017

Head for the hills

Last Monday, Phil took a day off work and I cancelled most of my horsey bobbins so we could take a trip together. 

We've been so busy with our own things lately that we needed a day just for ourselves. 

Nancy came too, because when we politely asked her to go and make other plans she just wagged her tail a few times and climbed into the van before plonking herself on top of our bags with a confident expression on her little gooseberry face. 

Helvellyn was the destination. We've walked it twice together and yet, through absent-minded chatting, ended up taking a completely different route, which worked out uncannily well...

We were at the youth hostel by the time we realised we were going the other way around but the day was wearing on and we decided to persevere. In the youth hostel car park we said hello to a man with a very distinctive Yorkshire accent and exchanged a few words about the route and the weather.

He waved an ice axe at us (it was still snowy higher up) and asked if we had one. We said No and he looked at us as if to say 'bloody amateurs'. 

And on the left, Alan Hinkes OBE
Mountain safety is a funny subject. Plenty of people manage Helvellyn in trainers, without waterproofs and without any supplies. But some don't. People die in the Lake District every year. Personally I like to play it safe. I had no plans to take Nancy up Swirrall Edge anyway, but thought it would work well to walk up to Red Tarn and cut in front of the famous Striding Edge and take the gentle route down. 

So on we stepped. The weather was glorious sunshine and the running streams and fresh air made us feel good. 

I love this pic of Phil and Nancy
A short time later, our Yorkshire friend caught us up and we got to chatting. He said he was meeting a photographer at the top and again I had that nagging familiar feeling. I started to ask what the shoot was for and out it all came. We were in the company of Alan Hinkes OBE, who's been up more mountains than you can shake a very large stick at, including Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga. 

A few years ago I went to a talk he gave up in Newcastle. Although he paints himself as a grumpy old men, he's actually very nice and extremely knowledgeable and I still remember and apply some of the things he said in that talk to anything I do that involves a risk. Namely, get back in one piece, you can always have a crack at it another day. If someone tells you that who holds world records for risky things, you should probably pay attention.

We also learned something about fitness that day. Alan Hinkes is 63 and he skipped up that walk like he was stepping up a shallow kerb. 

Waiting for us to throw her a stone. And cooling her paws after extreme frolicking
Rather quickly (!) we were at Red Tarn, and what a sight it was. Beautiful, soaring shadows spread across the snow and the surface of the water was a mirror. Mr Hinkes left us with a handshake and we stayed to enjoy the majesty and have a bite to eat. 

Then we walked to the start of Swirral Edge for the view, before wending our way back down to Red Tarn and then beginning the slow descent down to Glenridding and a cup of a tea.

Yoga wanker: although I don't write about yoga much any more, I'm still a daily practitioner.
Normally my view is a big pile of numnahs in the spare room so this proved hard to resist.
Nancy might have counted this walk as the best walk she's ever been on. She kept playing in the snow, racing around and generally just seemed to be loving life. In the van on the way home she fell into such a deep sleep and we didn't have a peep out of her that evening, even though we were eating pizza and she normally sits at our feet drooling and looking hopeful.

The walk has haunted me in such a lovely way all week and my mind keeps returning back to the stillness and warmth of the day mixed with the thrill of the snow. We hope to be out on the fells many more times this summer.

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