This is the second installment of a three part story, a trilogy, if you will. In these short tales I regale my lovely readers with stories of my travels and ordeals upon mountainsides, adventures which have made me all at once extremely respectful and appreciative of Mother Nature’s sublimity and power, as well as her reverent beauty.
The month was February, almost exactly two years ago to the day. (I seem to remember a vaguely romantic, Valentine’s-induced idea of climbing a mountain with a significant other, traversing the wilds and conquering the peaks together.) Unlike the trip up Ben Nevis (see Taking A Tumble, Ben Nevis Edition), the weather was beautiful, and remained so for the duration of the climb.
Scafell Pike is located in the Lake District, Cumbria, England. Standing at 978m, it was a worthy opponent for the day. In reality it ended up being too worthy, but with the sunshine making the snow sparkle and warming the air to a delicious freshness, we felt that quite literally no mountain was too high to climb. We began the ascent, stopping frequently to marvel at the views.
I must admit, more than once whilst walking I imagined myself as a member of the Fellowship, on my own quest to live the fantasy dream. If there was ever a day to believe, really and truly believe in the power and magic of nature, it was that day. The scenery changed dramatically the higher we walked, and the snow grew deeper. At one point I decided to be ‘smart’ and follow along next to the path. This did not bode well as I suddenly dropped down a snow-filled dip, and found myself knee deep snow. As humorous as it was, I quickly learned my lesson!
It was a bizarre walk, trudging along in minimal layers despite the snow, thanks to the sun’s unseasonable warmth. The terrain changed yet again, and now we were moving across peaks instead of just up.
I was a world away at this point, content to revel in my own fantastical thoughts, letting them take me away away… to unknown realms and parallel worlds, while my feet guided me onward and kept me grounded.
What happened next I feel is best described through the lyrics of one of my favourite songs:
“Night is now falling
So ends this day
The road is now calling
And I must away
Over hill and under tree
Through lands where never light has shone
By silver streams that run down to the sea”,
‘The Last Goodbye’, Billy Boyd
Dusk fell, and we were nowhere near the summit. Time had been totally lost in the balmy air and the natural timelessness that comes with being among nature. We hadn’t properly taken into account the early sunsets of winter, or the treacherous prospect of descending a mountain in the dark. We were prepared for such events, but had somehow neglected to foresee the fast-approaching darkness. Then we saw this…
We watched ravens swooping around the lake, marveling at the majesty and effortlessness of their flight, envious that we were denied the power of flight. After standing for several minutes, we suddenly became aware of a chill in the air and a pink tinge to the sky. We decided to climb to the brow of the hill to best assess our route down. There was no way we could continue to the top now and, disappointing as it was, the walk had taken much longer than anticipated. (We realised at that point we had taken the longer, 8 hour journey, instead of the conventional 3 hour route.) I felt defeated, I had never not completed a mountain before, and after such a promising start it was crushing to have to turn away. But we had no choice.
With heavy hearts we began the last short climb, with every step the sky turning pinker and pinker with the sunset. We made it to the top of the hill and stopped dead. Words cannot describe the sheer, immense, raw feeling that overwhelmed me as I stared out over the edge of the mountainside. I can honestly say I have never seen a more breathtaking sunset as this one, perhaps because we were so high, and felt as if we were walking into the sun; perhaps because we felt like the only two people at the end of the world in this moment. We simply watched as the sun drifted lower, shrouding the peaks in a soft pink glow, making the sheerest of crevices soft, and banishing the treacherous path of our descent.
We watched until the soft glow had disappeared, and then began a hasty descent. All disappointment at not reaching the summit was gone, any doubts over whether this had been a successful walk vanished. This had been the walk of dreams, and I had absolutely no regrets of not making it to the top. The photographs don’t do the scene justice by any stretch of the imagination, but they continue to inspire me in my travels, spurring me on in my ambitions to witness more incredible feats of nature.
This part of the trilogy is very much picture-based, a natural development, as I felt the photographs spoke so much more than any descriptive language I could write. If you take even just a snippet of inspiration, awe, or simple enjoyment from this story, then I will feel content that I have portrayed these incredible mountains in as magical a light as I lived and breathed them that day. I returned to Scafell later in the year, and reached the top in three hours. Yet somehow it didn’t feel as special… although I was glad I succeeded. That day I learned there are many types of success, and I really cannot wait to see what other adventures lie in store for me. I do believe we make our own luck though, so if I have any say in it then I will make sure there will be much more beauty, sublimity, and magic!
If you haven’t seen the first “Taking a Tumble”, installment, i’d love if you would give it a flick through too. (I actually did nearly tumble off!) Watch out for the final “Snowdon” edition soon too 🙂