Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Whernside Peak

On Easter Sunday we decided to climb a mountain. The weather forecast was good, everyone was buoyed by early morning chocolate treats and we set out enthusiastically. As we approached Whernside Peak it started to rain. As we began our ascent it started to hail. By the time we were half way up the mountain it was snowing. We finally reached the top after a lot of muttering and grumbling and took shelter behind a stone wall as the snow turned to hail again.
The ascent was quite gruelling, so when we noticed an alternative route down that looked shorter, if considerably steeper, we decided to take it. We were joined by a couple of more experienced climbers, one of whom slid about a hundred feet down the mountain on his backside. The children laughed volubly and the climber turned to ensure them that he had actually done it on purpose (he probably had) which made them laugh even more. It wasn’t long though before everyone stopped laughing entirely in order to give their absolute concentration to getting down the sheer mountainside. Jo and Neil both fell, but not far. The rocks were slick with slime and liable to slide, resulting in several mini avalanches. We hadn’t realized that the route is an old one which is no longer maintained and comes with a danger warning due to erosion, bogginess and the extremely steep descent.
It took us more than two and a half hours to edge down the mountain. Once the steepest part of the climb was over we had to wade through a bog. I stopped worrying about trying to find dry patches when I was wet up to my calves. The day began to take on a hideous sort of hilarity and every so often the children would clutch each other and double over laughing which led to sliding into the bog and more laughter.
What kept me cheerful was looking over my shoulder to see where we had been. I kept saying look what we’ve done. That, for me, was the best part of the day; the hail, snow, rain, soaking feet and legs, zinging muscles etc were all worth the pleasure of looking over my shoulder and thinking I climbed down that. I took the picture above when we finally reached the bottom. I'm sure there are some life/hiking metaphors to be found in this story, but I'll leave them somewhere over my shoulder in the long grass and muddy water of the Whernside bog.
For better photographs of Whernside see here.

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