Back in October 2012, I have an entry in my diary saying ‘Lake District Mountain’ and ‘sunny’. Wainwright would have been horrified at such scant details. Thankfully at a later point, I had penned the name of this mystery mountain in a different colour of ink.
Bow Fell. My first ‘proper’ mountain (excluding Pen y Gwent in the Yorkshire Dales) and my first ever Wainwright. I actually can’t remember my first time that well, maybe I was too focused on breathing while going steadily upwards! I seem to remember a river while going down though…
So it is now May 2019, with about 12 Wainwrights completed, Snowdon, the three Yorkshire peaks (not all at once), Mam Tor and Kinder Scout, I may be a few years older but surely more experienced at hill walking?
Bow Fell Part 2 must surely be easier than Part 1…
It was a bad start when we realised that we didn’t have the map we actually needed. It was left in the house and instead we had an older, less defined map which would just have to do.
There were a few flattened out plateaus, but it felt mostly uphill and heavy going. Strangely, for a bank holiday, there were not many hikers until nearer the top.
We passed three tarns and walked and scrambled up many peaks, each time I thought, is this it?
And each time my hopes were shattered. We finally reached the top and decided, instead of going back the way we came, we would take a shortcut down and walk along the river. We followed the river the last time so it must be the right route.
By this time, the rain had got heavier and it was getting more difficult to see with the increasing mist.
Wearing glasses ironically makes it even harder to see when the water lashes down onto the lenses and smears the vision.
So there was poor visibility, poor weather, and the steep downhill section had, what looked to me, slippery rocks, ready to trip me up.
Here’s the truth – I’m not scared of heights. I am scared of falling, slipping, sliding and doing myself an injury.
I did it on Skiddaw (skid by name, skid by nature). I ended up with a sprained ankle, not a nice experience but it could have been worse. Much worse.
So our wet, slippery journey down the mountain was not fun. Hence why there are not many photos of this particular walk, I gave up taking photos fairly early on.
Finally we reached the bottom and continued along the river, where we passed a tent, feeling envious of the dry person or persons inside while we traipsed on what seemed a never-ending trail, sogging wet.
Eventually we got to a farmhouse and a road, not quite a main one, but a road nevertheless.
But it was bad news. We didn’t have a clue where we were. The river was not our river, not the stream we walked along the previous time. This watercourse was some random one that had no connection with where we wanted to be.
We were tempted to ring the bell at the farmhouse. Instead, we looked at the location in the red phone box, tried to locate it on the vague 1972 map, which isn’t much good, and eventually we two luddites tried to get Google directions on our phones.
We hovered at the side of the road, soaking wet and miserable, awaiting unsuspecting passer-bys.
A cyclist came around the corner, he was in no mood to stop but Simon waved him down and asked about directions. The cyclist was annoyed, he was actually in a race but he reluctantly – though helpfully – told us we were eight miles away from our car park and two miles away from the nearest village in the opposite direction.
This was not good news.
We grovelled our thanks to the cyclist, feeling bad about interrupting his race, and feeling even worse about our location. If it was not wet, if we were not tired or exhausted, we could walk to the nearest village and hopefully there would be a pub to dry off and a number to ring for a local taxi to take us where we wanted to be.
It was our only option.
Later, Simon told me he didn’t think I would be able to walk those two miles – that even he would have found it hard. It’s amazing to think how little two miles sound when you’re not soaked, exhausted, chilled and hungry.
Despite this, we started to head in the direction of the village despondently.
There may not have been a pub, or even any taxi service nearby. But we will not have been able to walk eight miles, that was for sure.
And then two angels (that is how it felt for me!) arrived, in the form of a young couple driving a large blue van.
Simon asked about directions again and…
Words to my ears…
‘Do you want a lift back to your car? We’re going in that direction anyway.’
They even apologised about us having to sit down on the floor of their van! They chatted throughout the journey, putting us at our ease and after about 20 minutes or half an hour, we arrived at our car.
They wouldn’t even take any payment!
There are two ways to see this particular and memorable day.
We should have had a proper map, I shouldn’t be so reliant on Simon, we both should have paid more attention. If I was fitter, I wouldn’t have been so exhausted at a point that could have been more worrying had we not received such kind help.
So a lot of lessons to learn.
On the other hand, it’s when you fall on hard times, even as temporarily as this, that is when you do encounter kind, generous people, such as Phil and his partner, who restore one’s faith in humans.