20 Nov Lessons from a lump of rock on a dark and rainy day
When the sun isn’t shining and the fog takes the path from our sight. When the rain is heavy and the wind cold, why do we continue the hike?
Why do we continue working for the company we dislike, or give our time to people who leave us feeling weak? What is the point, if any at all?
I arrived at Seathwaite campsite at 23:00 after driving 600miles. It was a clear evening and my Mountain challenge buddy Jayne was already cosy in her tent. On hearing me arrive Jayne opened the zip on her tent and out jumped Breaca the border collie to greet me. I set up my tent, climbed into my sleeping bag and got some much needed rest.
I woke up at 6am to the sound of rain on my tent. I needed the toilet but didn’t want to face the rain or the day yet. We had planned to complete 10 peaks in one day. We checked the weather forecast the day before which read, rain in the morning clearing throughout the afternoon. 7am arrived and I couldn’t hide any longer. I unzipped my tent and looked out side. The clouds were heavy and I knew right away that this weather was set in for the day. I let out a comedy groan as if to say “not again”. Jayne responded with
“I blame Julia Bradbury for this! She promotes the Lake District like it is always blue skys and sunny, but does she have the skills and motivation to explore it in this weather?”
I totally agree with Jayne for two reasons.
One, if we pretend the weather is always nice in the mountains, people who lack experience set off in the sunshine and can soon find them selfs lost in cold, wet and disorientating conditions.
Two, Most who watch Julia will expect their experience to be just as fluffy and nice as hers. Fortunately for Julia, her editor does a fantastic job of making the 6 hour walk over challenging terrain look like a 30 minute dream hike.
So why do we bother? If the conditions are not perfect, what is the point? Julia only goes out in good conditions so why don’t we do the same?
We got ready, cooked breakfast on the stove and then assessed the day ahead. We came to the conclusion that we were not going to try for 10 peaks because that would be far too risky in these conditions. We agreed to summit the highest mountain on the challenge, Scafell Pike and then turn back.
We reached Styhead Tarn and then reevaluated the risk of heading up onto Scafell Pike. It just wasnt worth it, so we decided to head up onto Great End and then back to the camp site. After some navigation through thick cloud, everything getting completely soaked with rain and moral starting to waver, we made it back to the camp site.
Later that evening reflecting on the day, I asked myself what relevance walking up a mountain has in life. The majestic views and peaceful sounds support us to feel connected and refreshed, which is perfect for re energising ready to go back to the grind, but what about when the weather is shocking? How does that help? Why do we bother?
I believe a mountain day in grim weather challenges me to leave my comfort zone. I know for sure that I will need my map and compass, but most of all I have to remember to leave my ego back at the tent. Standing at the summit with a perfect view and a big smile is great for an Instagram post, but standing in the valley, cold and wet, while making the decision not to carry on is training for every day life.
We have the choice to challenge our selfs each day and I whole heartedly believe people should. It is through these challenges that we learn to make clear choices and become the best we can be.
I am not advocating going out into the mountains in poor weather, especially without the relevant skills. Nevertheless, the challenge is to learn the skills needed to keep you safe so that you can face what ever life throws at you.