As the waiter approached our table Dave asked 'Do you have any tooth pick's?' Mick chipped in with. 'Aye! It's on a chain at the end of the counter!'
Which about sums up the level of seriousness for the next couple of days.
Earthing is how I described it anyway. A few friends heading off to the English lake district for a night in the hills. You know the feeling when you need to escape from phones, computers and the infernal combustion engine and simply enjoy the quietness of natural beauty.
So we'd arrived at Seathwaite after an early start and a breakfast at the Little Chef, scene of the toothpick incident. We set off to climb over Great Gable into Black Sail Pass, before returning to Seathwaite via the Hay Stacks and Honister Pass. A minor hiccup on my part briefly delayed our start as I'd left my camera on the roof of my car! Which had me running back for it. Quickly back to the other five, a check to ensure my pack hadn't received a few extra pounds in the form of rocks and we were off. 'Cos that would've been a jolly wheeze, eh! Lads!
It started off at a modest gradient but soon became steep. As I'm used to camping from canoes or motorcycles, my gear isn't the lightest available and my cracks about the half toothbrush brigade returned to haunt me. Still I plodded on, I realized I was going to win the 'unfit lardy git' award for this outing. The others, who were more used to hill walking with full kit were very encouraging, although it did little to ease my ego as Mick, the eldest of the party would stop to make and smoke a roll-up while he waited for me!
We'd made it to Styhead tarn and the emergency box and stopped for a breather or a smoke, depending on your needs. Up to this point the weather had been, well not bright exactly, but just that side of overcast, if you know what I mean?
As we started for the final leg up 'Great Gable' we passed a group who had already made it over and were on their way down. Their comments as they passed us were 'it's a bit wintery up there.' But we were well prepared, so onwards and upwards!
Another few hundred yards and it became darker and colder, the breeze freshened and then snow! It never got really bad and we stayed warm enough. In fact my Mardale suit (similar to Buffalo clothing) was a little too warm because of the effort the climb was costing me. I was making frequent stops now and receiving plenty of encouragement of the 'it's just over the next crest now' type. My own fault for asking 'are we nearly there yet?'
As we approached the top, I seemed to get into some sort of rhythm finally and all the others made out they where more tired than they looked and let me pass, so as I'd be first to the summit, bless 'em! At the top we enjoyed a brief bite to eat and a quick photo opportunity for Jamie! Not wanting to cool down too much, we soon moved on, Mick led the way, and we were soon clambering down the boulders towards Black Sail Pass and our campsite.
The weather improved the lower we got and we started to cover ground quickly. As we made our way further along the valley the ground became awkward with wet slippery patches mixed with ankle breaker tussocks, I'm sure many of you are familiar with the type of terrain! It wasn't long before Mick pointed out our camping spot. An area in among some mounds, one way it was 100 yards from a babbling stream and 100 yards another way plenty of dead wood for the evenings fire. A last slide on my backside down a slippery slope and then ten minutes to make a brew and take our boots off.
Camp was quickly made before we set about collecting sufficient wood for a fire. Ian's poncho gave stirling service as with someone on each corner and a mound of wood in the centre, we soon had enough fire wood for a corroberee! Another brew and get some food on the go. Poor Mick was doing a bit of stove wrestling, his faithful stove of many years was proving troublesome. Still after a few attempts he was successful.
Feeling refreshed and full we lit the fire. It was cooling quickly with the sun hidden by the hills and the warmth from the blaze was most welcome. As we sat round toasting our toe's everyone brought out a bottle of something that does you good. My own contribution being some of my own 'Bramble Whiskey'. No! I don't have an illegal moonshine style distillery out in the woods at home! It's made like 'Sloe gin' by adding the berries to the spirit! We sat around the fire swapping tales, but after a couple of hours I turned in as I was exhausted. I left the others at the fireside chatting and joking and in my sleeping bag, I slept like a log!
Bright sunshine greeted us in the morning. Very nice! Breakfast of fried taties, onion and mushrooms to make us good and strong for the walk home, a pint of tea and we were ready to break camp and enjoy our journey home.
It was definately starting to get warm as we headed upwards. Funny how just one days exercise had given me renewed strength. I was definately feeling much fitter and able to take on much more. Up we climbed as we headed up and round the to the Haystacks and on to Grey Knotts before joining the Honister Pass at the slate mine. Finally coming to rest at the cafe in Seatoller for a well earned cuppa.
A lovely two days, a good group and a lot of fun.
Words by Al Girling
I hope to dig out some photos from this before too long - so pop back occasionally to check.