The trail keeps moving steadily on beneath me – just your regular dusty path leading up your regular 892m mountain. As the sweat runs down my nose and the humid sun beats on my back, this track is all I can concentrate on because at the end is the summit. Then I’ll stop the pain and look out over the landscape; massive green mounds, faint lines of other lanes and ant-like figures marching along. Of course, I still have to get there. Breathe in, breathe out. I’m taking it one step at a time.
It was the penultimate day of my four-day holiday hiking and youth hostelling in the Lake District with my dad and brother. We had chosen to climb Pillar.
At the top, it was fairly cloudy so we couldn’t see the hills of my imagination – but there were rocks to munch celebratory bags of crisps on (and to wonder where the inescapable heat that tailed us up the mountain had vanished to). And the feeling of casually tapping the pile of stones at the top is something not even the Lake District’s notorious mountain mists can take away from you.
As we sat, enjoying our cheese and onion, a couple of sheep mooched over. You can’t blame them. If I spent my time in this now damp and sunless spot I’d investigate a snack too! Sheep are misunderstood animals. Despite their humorous exterior: square-looking pupils, impractically woolly coats and long faces, whenever they ‘baa’ in that flat and human-like voice one could almost imagine they were about to whip off their fleece to reveal an undercover agent concealed within...
Sheep aren’t the only animal that appears everywhere. The mosquitoes flock ready to pounce and sample unsuspecting (but apparently delicious and irresistible) humans. I have fresh itchy bites on every surface. It’s almost worse than the midges in Scotland! This certainly adds another attractive feature to your complexion, on top of the sunburn.
Youth hostelling is not a bad experience though – to save on carrying weight we chose hostels that provided hearty meals and the beds were comfortable. The three we stayed at varied, from the more modern places at Helvellyn and Wastwater to the small hut Black Sail, which doesn’t have road access, and can sleep a maximum of just 16 people! The people are polite and friendly with an immense sense of comradeship, and a love of sharing the day’s tales of adventure and misfortune.
Indeed, not all of the days were as simple as a swift ascend and descend. Just after having eaten at the top of Pillar, the first raindrops began to fall. They did not stop. After the impressively fast scramble for cagoules and over-trousers, we found ourselves trudging in the midst of an increasingly heavy downpour, dodging slippery stones and streams.
The hardest day was the first when we walked from Wastwater to Black Sail and did Sca Fell and Scafell Pike in the scorching heat too. Scafell Pike is the highest point in England at 978m and Sca Fell stands close at 964m. There is a gully in the middle, meaning you have to go down then up the scree-ridden slopes again! It felt good to be on the top of England.
At the end of the fourth day when I peeled off my boots for the last time having climbed Helvellyn (950m), we were dirty and drained but happy. There were highs and lows having faced inevitable hits to morale - like rain, rock-like rucksacks and getting lost - but in the end it was as exciting an adventure as I could have hoped for. It was filled with challenge, achievement and view after sparkling, dazzling, breathtaking view.
Jessica (age 16)