“I stood frozen on that stage, looking for the courage to to strike back”

beginning the walk
Lud's Church
pathway with Shutlingsloe in the distance

{Eight more pictures under the cut}

On Saturday I was at home, so my Father and I decided to go walking together. We left the house early and drove into the Peak District. The weather was a bit chilly but clear and still, although the gray clouds hanging over the peaks ahead promised much more dismal weather conditions coming up. We arrived, bundled up and set off walking towards The Roaches. We started walking through some forest towards Lud’s Church. This is not an actual church but rather a sort of cave – steep rock walls tower up above you on either side, covered in moss and with trees drooping over the edges. Its very impressive. I think the name comes from the fact that people did use it as a place for religious meetings. We walked the whole way through it then climbed out of it into more forest. By this point I’d stripped down the number of layers I was wearing and was questioning why I’d even brought a coat. The walk was also fairly easy, the ascent to the ridge gentle. But as we came out the forest the path became steeper and the wind picked up. We climbed on and then it began to rain lightly. By the time we got to the start of the Roaches the wind was strong and it was pouring with rain. We started up to the Roaches, stopping briefly to put on our raincoats, bundling up again against the severe wind and the pouring rain. I trudged onwards, my father behind me. The path was fairly steep, although nice and paved, and the weather miserable, although the sun was still shining and the view was very pretty. We got to the top of the Roaches and the rain stopped and the sun shone brighter, but the wind was still strong. We walked along the top of the edge, admiring the bizarre rock formations and the pretty view of the fields below. Eventually we found a sheltered place to sit and eat lunch. Soon, it began to snow. No, I am not making that one up. Actual snow flakes began to fall, even as it was sort of raining still, so they melted as soon as they hit the ground. It was also freezing cold.

We carried on, in the snow/rain and the wind, and ended up going right to the end of the roaches, past Doxey Pool. The views continued to be spectacular, and the drop from the edge was sheer rock -my dad kept walking to the edge and peering over whilst I lingered behind and nervously pleaded with him to step back and not get blown off. Now we had to get down somehow. This involved clambering, half scrambling down the rocks. It began to snow properly, flurries of the stuff falling down and bouncing off the rock faces to settle in the cracks between the rocks, where we needed to step. Halfway down my father twisted his ankle which was a oh shit no moment if there ever was one. I swore out loud and asked “are you ok?” already beginning to panic. I can easily get worked up when things feel like they are out of my control in a bad way – its all part of the anxious mental state. Thankfully after a moments rest my father was OK. Although my father is very stoic and secretive even he wouldn’t have been able to hide if he was in serious pain and he seemed fine so I did my best to curtail my panic. We carried on down. The snow subsided, but the rain continued, as did the wind. It was really cold. “Are you OK?” I kept asking my dad, nervously looking back at him. Still slightly anxious. Thankfully every time he replied positive, and every time he was not struggling. We made it to the bottom. Hen Cloud was ahead of us, looking terribly steep and exposed. My father was keen to climb it but I was hesitant “In this wind?” it looked like we’d be blown right off it – I did, in one of my walks with the university rambling society, experience a walk that involved scrabbling up a hillside with the wind pushing at you, so you’d end up stumbling, and eventually crawling along the top at points, before sliding down on your butt as you descended. It was tough. My father was adamant though and a part of me did see the logic in the we’ve come all this way. We carried on towards Hen Cloud and up. Amazingly, the rain stopped, the wind died and the sun came back as we climbed up. At the top we met a nice man who was part of the network of volunteers who climb up Hen Cloud every single day for two months to watch over the edge where the Peregrine falcons are hatching to make sure no one disturbs them. Amazing isn’t it? Imagine climbing up there, and then standing there for hours, in this weather. My father and him had a nice chat as I stood slightly behind my father, listening, smiling and nodding where appropriate, but saying nothing. We said goodbye to the nice man and carried onwards to the peak of Hen Cloud, which provided some nice views. Then it was back down Hen Cloud to start the journey back to the car park.

Neither my father nor I were particular keen on ascending to the roaches again, so we skirted around it on a rough track which lead to a dirt road, that we followed onto a twisting country lane which we followed all the way back to the car park – a little monotonous, and the rain kept coming and going as it pleased, but pleasant enough. We saw a full rainbow too – the entire semi circle I mean. I think that was my first time. That was cool.

We got to the car and shed our wet outer layers then started the drive back. My dad stopped at McDonald’s and bought me fries, which was a nice end to the day – I was ravenous after walking 9 miles. It was a very nice day overall and I was thankful my father chose a relatively easy walk – although the weather could have been better!

“You don’t want to hurt me, but see how deep the bullet lies.”

Ladybower Reservoir
Ladybower 3

{Six more pictures under the cut}

The opening sentence is always the hardest part of an entry to write. I can think to myself I want to write and I can know what I want to write about, but its hard to sit down and actually start. I find that with everything- essays that need writing, problem sheets that need doing. It’s always the starting of it that is the hardest.

Well, it’s already November. Two months until exam season, and when did that happen exactly? University is plodding along as ever. Half my modules are going OK, I just need to keep at it and make sure to practice questions a lot before the exams, but the other half are not good at all. Power Systems I like, but do not understand in the slightest. Electrical machines I know is necessary for my career path, but I do not understand in the slightest. Fields, waves and antennas I hate, and find boring, and do not understand in the slightest. I still have time for fields and power systems to hopefully sink in enough that I could scrape through the exam, but I have a coursework due in less than two weeks for Electrical Machines that I haven’t even started yet. I literally cannot do it. At all. The lecturer is good, the notes are good, the problem sheet is linked to the coursework and has thorough, clear solutions. But I just cannot understand it. At all. It’s worrying. Apart from that, my group project is also, well still, stressing me out. I am clashing with my group. Before every meeting I tell myself to hold back. There is a difference between sharing your opinion, and being an obnoxious twat. I’m leaning dangerously towards the latter but I am so frustrated and I find myself unable to keep myself from letting it show. They are just so disorganized, and so laid back about this project. And its like guys, seriously. This is the majority of our marks for this year. Can you please take this seriously? I’m being too harsh, I know, its probably that our learning styles are clashing, but that doesn’t make any the less frustrating. We had a meeting today we were supposed to be going through our project proposal presentation for tomorrow and no one had made any cue cards or even knew what they were saying and it just felt like such a waste of time. I’m really worried about how the presentation will go tomorrow, even though I have a feeling my group are going to surprise me (I am hopeful of that, I guess it could be said) I don’t really get on with any of these people either. I find myself rambling, saying things I shouldn’t, because I feel so nervous around them. Desperately over compensating for the fact I don’t know how to act around them, or what I am really doing. I was so lucky to have such nice groups last year, that I suppose its only right I end up with a difficult group who make me feel uncomfortable and frustrated this year. Apart from that, I am still being far too lazy with my Japanese, and I have another extra curricular module that I haven’t even started work on. Meanwhile I keep wasting time reading fic and browsing the web, because I am tired and frustrated and faced with all these things I don’t know how to do my first instinct is to bury my head in the sand and pretend that it does not exist, that it is not November, that time is not slipping, sliding out of my hands, unable to grasp onto it.

I’ve been going through health things lately. (This could veer towards TMI, so skip this paragraph if you want.) I suffer from heavy, painful periods and resulting anaemia and I got sick of it around the beginning of this year. I subsequently went on the pill and it turned me moody and made me fat, so I went off it and went on some other non hormonal pills, which didn’t work. So I am now facing going back on the pill and I just don’t want to. I am really not sure what to do – I want less heavy periods, but at the end of the day I’m facing going on the pill (mood swings, fatness, having to remember to take them) or getting the mirena coil (painful, painful, painful). Being a woman sucks. In other news I had a very awkward doctors appointment on Wednesday where, amongst other things, I was all “I have aneamia!” and he was all “No, no you really do not” and I just stared at him, shocked, because, and I accidentally said this out loud “But I feel like I do, so what’s going on?” He did not answer my question and I am still confused. I’ve been anaemic, or low iron but not quite anaemic for about 5 years now. I always imagined when my iron levels returned to healthy, normal levels that I would feel it. That I’d know. That I’d automatically be less tired, that I would no longer get out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs, that my periods would sort themselves out. I would know. But I am not anaemic and I still feel the same as ever. I am exhausted, all the time, I get out of breath, so easily. Which, after an unfortunate amount of time spent pondering this leads me to have to make some uncomfortable conclusions – I must be clearly doing something right if my iron levels are up without the aid of iron pills, but I must not be taking as good care of myself as I delude myself into. Lets admit to some things, right now. I do not sleep well. I wake up at funny hours multiple times during the night, I have bad, disturbing dreams that I struggle to wake up from. My diet could use some work. I have been on a mission to be less fussy, trying new vegetables, learning to love chickpeas and kidney beans and quinoa and cous cous but I still eat too many sugary snacks, I still binge eat terribly. I need to stop this. I am probably very unfit. I walk every day to uni and back, and I have been going hillwalking semi regularly, but that is only recently. I spent last year and the summer reasonably lazily, and I’ve never been particularly active, so I should probably accept that that is why I get so out of breath when I attempt activeness- my body just isn’t used to it right? That’s all I could come up with. Unless its all in my head, and that’s the most uncomfortable of all. Do I make myself ill for…what reasons would I do that? Attention? I don’t think I am that sort of person, but maybe I don’t know myself as well as I think, or there are things I don’t actually want to admit to myself. I find this all such a pain in the end. I don’t feel right, and now I feel crazy. Thinking about it all just makes me want to reach for the cookies because really, no matter what I do, it never seems to work (well, clearly the no dairy, more veg and less rice, more quinoa is working sorta, so there is that!) I just hate this and I really don’t know what to make of it all. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that I have normal, healthy iron levels. That everything is OK. It doesn’t feel like it. Also: I still do have the very real issue of my fucked up menstrual cycle to deal with. ugh.

And yes, did I mention the hillwalking? I went out with the society again and I took an easier walk and it was wonderful. We went from the Ladybower Reservoir up to the Derwent Edge and along there. Absolutely gorgeous and paced nice and slow so I could cope much better than the first time. I then spent two weeks not going, until this weekend where I went out despite the storm. We went out around the Kinder Scout area. There were strong winds, like a hand pushing you, and needle-like rain. Yes, I finally understood those cliché descriptions. It was terrifying walking up hills with reasonably exposed edges when the wind was pushing into you, a physical force, threatening to push you right down (I admit I stumbled several times as the wind caught me just so) And then the rain, oh the constant rain. I was so wet. Everything I was wearing was soaked through to my innermost layer. All my belongs in my bag were soaked. My pants and shoes turned brand new colors as the dirty water seeped into them. It was cold, windy, wet and downright miserable and I am going back again this weekend. Because the scenery was beautiful, the air was fresh, albeit maybe a bit too fresh last week, and although I don’t always enjoy the process, I do enjoy the overall getting out of the house and doing something. Just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, not sinking into a peat bog, not slipping on a wet rock or down a muddy hill, not being pushed over by the wind, it drives everything else out. It’s a good break. And there’s less pressure than in sports- there’s no rules, no fancy dress code (just be warm, don’t wear jeans and wear walking boots. easy!), no judgements. It’s still awkward, and embarrassing, because I am unfit (not anaemic, oh no, I have to face up to it now- the breathlessness, the pain in my chest, the nausea that overcomes me when I exert myself it all from a lifetime of inactivity, most likely) and I lag behind sometimes, and it’s awkward and embarrassing socially because I tend to say the first thing that enters my mind, and its never witty, because I space out and miss what people are asking me. But the big advantage of the bad weather is no one wants to talk, we traipse along, single file, in silence, trudging through the bad weather, wet and cold together. It’s quite nice. I don’t know how long the weather is going to hold out – but I’m going to try get out there until the ice settles in.

I do wish I could afford a fleece, some waterproof pants, a waterproof bag though. Alas, I could only afford to buy a hat for this upcoming weekend. Please, please let it be less wet and less windy. Not wet and a little windy would be ideal.

(No pictures from this weekend, due to horrible weather making it impossible, so have a handful from the walk before- around the Ladybower reservoir.)

“Keeping my heart warm as today, rainy days never stays”

Beginning of Castleton Walk

{Five more pictures under the cut}

I woke up bright and early at 7am on Sunday. I got ready and left the house at 8am, then ended up sitting and waited outside TESCO (supermarket) for my sister to come to get my keys from me. She was in the city this weekend, and wanted to see me after my walk. The plan was to go to the walk, then get back around 6.30pm and have an hour with my sister before she had to go home. Things did not quite go to plan for this day, in many ways.

So, by 9am I was at the pick-up point for the walk with the university “rambling and hill walking” society. There were a handful of other people of the society there and we sorta chatted – the standard name, course, year, isn’t the weather nice? sort of conversation. We got on the bus and then it was a slow trawl to pick everyone up. The bus started at my pick-up half empty – but by the last pick-up point it was packed. A woman came to sit beside me, who was a long time member of the society. She was friendly, we chatted somewhat about this and that, and I got some information about the club from her, but eventually we lapsed into silence. The bus journey was fairly short – it’s amazing how quick you can go from the city to the countryside. After around a hour I was dropped off with the rest of my group. I had chosen Walk 4. There were 5 walks being held- with 5 being the hardest. Feeling relaxed and fairly confident, I had chosen 4. Something about it appealed to me. But really, I was an idiot to choose it.

The walk started off OK – going through fields and woodlands, then it became steeper and steeper and eventually we were trudging up a hill. A very, very steep hill. My breath caught in my chest and it felt like I could never quite release it, my legs felt tight and hot. I was panting loudly, out of breath. Everyone else was of course, quite OK. It was fairly embarrassing but I managed to push myself and keep up, even if everyone else had to hear me rasping breathlessly. (How. Embarrassing) the views at top were stunning though – and I took a million pictures before the leader called for us to start again.

The walk evened out again – lush forest and fields, even a long stretch of downhill, but there was another surprise just ahead – another hill to come. It was coming on to 2pm and we had not had lunch and I thought that if I just had lunch it would be OK. I made the mistake of mentioning this and there was an awkward moment where everyone stopped for me and offered me chocolate – thankfully I managed to convince them I was fine and to carry on until the planned lunch point. Thankfully they had decided to have lunch fairly soon. I really did want to take a proper break then – but I felt too embarrassed. It was PE all over again, where you’re lagging behind coming in last, letting the team down. We stepped off the road we were on and back onto rough path, climbing up through forest. I really was struggling to breathe, and my legs felt like lead. I pushed on and was grateful when we stopped for lunch. Two sandwiches, some chocolate biscuits, some grapes and some wine gums and I still felt exhausted, and vaguely ill. But there was still another hill to climb. By this point I was starting to lag, to get moody from my tiredness. The climb got steeper and steeper and every step was agony. I was clutching my camera strap and biting my lip in an effort to endure. I was really lagging behind now. Thankfully there was another girl just in front, also lagging, but she wasn’t feeling well. I was just unfit. I do not know how I made it to the top, but once there I sat down immediately, putting my head between my knees and trying to get my breath back.

Eventually I realised I was just starting to hyperventilate and got out my water to take a long, steadying drink. I felt ridiculous. I had climbed two mountains! I should be able to do this! But in truth when I climbed those mountains with my father we paced ourselves far slower and with far more stops. That uphill bit, we would have stopped at least once – sat down, watered ourselves, probably snacked. These people were hardcore, experienced walkers. They started at the bottom of the hill and went up the hill, no stops, no problems. I was exhausted. Thankfully the walk evened out nicely. We were going along the great ridge, and to either side were breathtaking views of the countryside. The day was bright and sunny which brought out all the colors. It was wonderful. I was lagging now, but not caring. I was tired, and I wanted to take pictures. I lingered behind everyone else, always keeping them in sight, bursting into fast speed to catch up so I could go over the stiles and gates as them at the same time, but otherwise embracing my exhaustion. I had tried so hard to keep up in the first half of the walk, not pacing myself at all like usual, and had ended up so tired. We did not carry on all the way along the ridge, but dropped down, through more farmland and eventually landing up at the town of Castleton. We sat down at a pub to wait for the other groups to come. I texted my sister- who was at home, waiting for me. I was eager to see her, to talk to her about my day. Unfortunately, it was not to be. One of the groups came in late so the bus departed late, which turned my plans into a huge mess. I ended up getting off at the university, then running to catch another bus, to get to my part of the city, then I had to run from the bus stop to get to my house. I got back to my house at around half seven, and my sister had to leave at quarter to eight. She was stressed, worried about missing the train, as it was the last train of the day. I was tired and stressed from the rush of trying to get back in time, and for her too. We chatted a bit but she was off soon enough. I was very disappointed, and I almost regretted going for the hike – because I could have had the day with my sister, instead. I wanted to see my sister.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the hike. The day was lovely, the views were stunning, the people were friendly and accommodating (really, socially it was quite nice – there was not too much pressure to keep talking, as we were walking, and afterwards on the bus everyone was tired and caught up in thoughts of getting home, and not wanting to talk too much, even sleeping. I met some interesting people – a lot of them engineers, mathematicians and physicists, and a lot of international students. Even a girl who had lived in South Africa a little bit. All very interesting, very nice.) However I over estimated myself. Those hills really killed me. And I felt embarrassed- talking about my experience climbing mountains, then puffing and panting and lagging behind climbing up a hill. The more I think about it, the more I cringe. Strangely though, I find myself wanting to do a walk 4 again. I want to push myself. Yet, I don’t want to embarrass myself again. I have signed up for the walk next week nonetheless, and I will see what happens. We choose our walk difficulty on the day, so I will see how I feel then. Hopefully not so reckless as this week. But even if its an easy walk, I want to cram in as many walks as I can whilst the weather holds.

Today I woke up surprisingly not stiff, another early start, for it’s an hours walk to my house to university. The price to pay for living in a quiet suburb by myself is that it is very far from everything. The walk to university is not bad- just flat tarmac through suburbs all the way. I got to my lecture at 9am exactly, and felt tired, but not too bad, and still not too painful. My first lecture was on Power Networks and it was fascinating. It’s so great to be really digging into Electrical Engineering this year – instead of sitting through stuff I am not interested in. For the whole two hours of the lecture I was listening, paying attention, making notes, interested. I got a bit lost during the second half, but I will do a little bit of revision on the background material, the basics, before the next lecture. After that lecture I had Electrical Machines. Along the way a guy I was sort of acquainted with in first year approached me. I was shocked that anyone remembered me and happily chatted to him and his friend, who I had worked with on a project in first year, and so was glad he remembered me. It was quite nice you know? One thing I am noticing is that people keep asking me how Malaysia was and I think there is the expectation that I am going to start gushing about how great it was. It’s difficult, as it wasn’t that great. So in the end I am honest, I say that academically it wasn’t amazing, but getting to travel was brilliant. It feels a little awkward. Anyway, I sat with them for that lecture. It was weird, I felt a bit out of place. I’m so used to being alone. The lecture itself was also fairly interesting – though I have a feeling I may find this module difficult. Its all relevant to what I want to do one day though, so I shall try my best.

Really, I had a nice first day back. Just two intro lectures, no major social blunders. And I love that I’m living alone now – so I have time by myself. I can cope socially but only for a certain amount of time and I need time alone otherwise I get too anxious, I get moody and not nice to be around. I noticed it on the hike as well – once the hike was over I was keen to get back. I’d had lovely conversations all day, a few awkward moments, but nothing I said was as embarrassing as I get and I think I did OK, but after a whole day of it I was done, I needed to be by myself, quiet. In this way I think living alone will be good for me – I feel a bit calmer, less anxious, being able to come home and be by myself. I really am a bit of a loner.

Tomorrow I have three lectures, with an awkward hours break between the morning and afternoon. I have no idea what I am doing to do during that break. I’m trying not to worry about it. I want to stay in a good frame of mind this year.

“Snowstorms are coming, the heart is cooling”

→ My first day back at university was not as bad as I was expecting. It wasn’t good, either. It just was. It was terribly anticlimatic, really. I had two introductory lectures- one on safety, and another talking about the structure of third year. Both were dull and a lot of it I already knew. Socially, it was of course awkward. I got through the first lecture unnoticed, thankfully, but at the start of the second lecture I caught the eye of someone who I’d met in Malaysia, who is now taking a year abroad at my university. I remembered a close friend’s advice and did my best to ask questions, and listen to the response and ask more questions to keep the conversation on their side, unfortunately conversation does require that the other person also ask questions sometimes, and it is in trying to talk about myself or my feelings that I fail miserably. I have a habit of misinterpreting what people are asking, mostly because I have a habit of never catching the full question, and I have a habit of saying one thing when I really meant another, or wished to say something else.

After about 5 minutes of this fumbling, awkward excuse for conversation I caught the eye of someone I never expected to see – my close friend, the one who is now in fourth year. My friend from Malaysia had just asked me about my friends here, in the UK, (aka why I was sitting alone) and I was more than relieved to catch my close friends’s eye then, so I did not have to answer that question (I don’t have any friends in my year, is just such a awkward thing to explain to people) My close friend came over and we talked, then she left, and thankfully the conversation with my Malaysian friend moved on, although it was no less stilted and awkward. The second lecture passed, we attempted conversation some more, then parted. I thought about all the things I could have said as I walked home. How much better I could have presented myself. Isn’t that always the way?

→ I really cannot remember this guy’s name. My Malaysian friend. It’s right on the tip of my tongue but I just cannot remember.  I’m really terrible aren’t I?

→ This year, a large part of my marks is coming from a group project. an unsupervised group project. The enormity of undertaking something like this only hit me during that second lecture today and it is now on my list of things to fret about.  I am praying that I get my first choice project. It’s all simulation based, and I think I could manage that. I struggle to remember my other project choices, and I’m to scared to look, least I was idiotic enough to choose anything with a practical aspect. I know, I’m an electrical and electronic engineering who cannot solder. It’s a bit not good.

→ I joined a society this evening! I was talking to my Father on the phone, and he reminded me that I’d said I was going to join the rambling and hillwalking society at university. Of course, I had remembered that I had wanted to, but by this point I had already convinced myself not to sign up. My father encouraged me though, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised I really did want to join. I’ve climbed two mountains this year and I loved it, but I also struggled. I needed a lot of support from my father to get through those climbs. So I’d like to walk more often- just long treks through the countryside, up hills, to build up some confidence when it comes to walking, which will hopefully translate to having more confidence and independence when hiking. I’d really love to climb another mountain next year, I don’t know which one, but I want to climb something. I say this hesitantly, but I think I may have found something active I actually like.

I hope joining this society doesn’t ruin it for me. I’m worried about the social aspect, of course, and I’m also worried about how the walks will work- I’m anaemic, I get out of breath, sometimes I need to slow down for a little bit before returning to a more normal, brisk pace, sometimes I need to stop, just for a moment, to catch my breath and take a sip of water. It’s one thing being sweaty and out of breath, or needing to stop, or tripping up/slipping when you’re with family, its quite another around strangers. I’ve signed up for a walk this Sunday anyway (really, I have no idea where this burst of confidence and assertiveness came from tonight). I’m thinking I’ll just choose the easiest walk option, just to get a feel of it. Really, I’ve climbed hills before. I’ve climbed mountains. I can do this. Maybe.

→ I find I grow to hate things when they become too serious- I grew to hate music when it all became about passing exams, I grew to hate archery in first year when it all became about competition. There are things which I don’t want to be about competition, or getting a grade, but about enjoying it for its sake. I’m not competitive by nature, I work hard at my degree and strive to do well, but that’s all. And that’s my degree. Yes, that’s maybe also a reason I’m worried about this. I’m worried it will become too serious, and will stop being a relaxing thing I do every now and then, and become a chore.

→ On the subject of walking, I was talking to my father on the phone and he tentatively agreed to walking with me in the peak district in the winter! When we went to Japan we attempted to climb Mt Odake up in Aomori, despite terribly snowy conditions and it went terribly wrong. Of course it went wrong (I should really get around to writing that entry, because the story is pathetic, but the pictures are stunning). We weren’t prepared for those conditions, had no experience climbing in them really. I was scared the whole time, and both of us gained minor injuries from slipping. So why on earth would I want to put myself through this again?

I just think it would be good to do something I am afraid of.

This time, I want to do it properly. Proper equipment, an easier walk (i.e. flat). I think it could be much more fun if done properly, and I’d like to conquer the fear that Odake put in me when it comes to walking and hiking. It was the first time it hit me that actually walking/hiking is fairly dangerous. Once you’ve realised that, there’s no going back. The fear doesn’t leave you – that things can go wrong, very, very easily. I don’t want to be afraid. I want to do this dangerous thing, and realise that it can be done, despite the dangers. (Admittedly, once we got down from Odake I felt exhilarated. I’d been lost, injured, afraid but I’d gone ~300m up that mountain, and ~300m down it, in conditions I was in no way prepared for and I’d survived. There is something to be said for that feeling. Perhaps that is what I’m seeking out. Maybe its not about conquering fear, but about adventure. I’ve never considered myself adventurous though, so I’ll stick to my fear theory.)

“This world is yours, it’s all yours”

Looking back onto Ullswater
Climbing Up and Up...
Red Tarn, Catstye Cam and the view from Catstye Cam
Nearly at the top of Catstye Cam

{Seven more photos under the cut}

I climbed my first mountain in Japan with my father and, as I was doing so, I talked to my dad about mountain climbing in the UK and somehow got him to agree to taking me to the lake district to climb something there. Of course, I didn’t think this would actually happen. I thought it highly likely my father was just saying that to appease me. But this week he informed me he’d taken Friday off work and he would be taking me to the Lake District to climb Helvellyn, the third highest peak in England and one of the most popular. I googled it and was apprehensive upon seeing photos of people balancing atop the narrow striding edge, but my father assured me that we’d be going another way that should be easier than that. I trusted him-imagining something like Mt Tarumae that we climbed in Japan- pathways and steps to the top.

On Friday I dragged myself out of bed just before 6.10am. Blearily I showered and washed my hair and pulled on my hiking gear- plain cotton pants, a t shirt, thick socks. I have nothing fancy. I’d gotten up so early in order to avoid my father shouting at me that I’d made us late by taking too long in the bathroom- we had plans to leave at 7.30am. Of course it was my father who only woke at 7am, and in the end we only left at 8am. Which actually wasn’t so bad. We were starting our walk from Glenridding, so basically we just had to take the motorway straight up north, then turn off to go to Windermere, and from there turn up to Glenridding. That drive from Windermere to Glenridding was very scenic. I had been to the lake district when I was younger, too young to really remember it. So it was like seeing it all new and with all the excitement and wonder that comes with that. The lake district is similar to the peak district, but grander. Blue skies, narrow country roads, winding stacked stone walls, sheep dotted about everywhere, large glimmering lakes.

We arrived at Glenridding around 10.30am and began our walk, taking a wrong turn and ending up halfway on the wrong route and having to turn around before setting off on the right path. The first part of the journey proper was a hellish slog upwards, upwards, upwards, always thinking that soon it’d flatten out, and always finding that it did not. It was hot, I was sweating and panting and flushed. I was miserable. My father was also miserably hot. We had to stop quite frequently for water and just to get our breath back, and just to try and cool down. Every cool breeze was met with a welcome sigh of relief. Eventually we had to stop after around an hour for a good 10 minutes to have a little to eat before carrying on up. The scenery was lovely though, and turning back revealed the path we’d taken snaking away behind us and Ullswater cradled between the hills. Eventually I spotted the peak of Catstye Cam poking out in the distance and soon after the path did even out. At this point, I threw my hands in the air and cried out in sheer joy. We’d made it! Well, we’d at least completed the hellish slog upwards to gain height. The view ahead of us showed Helvellyn clearly, and Catstye Cam and the valley where Red Tarn – the large lake below Helvellyn- lay.

We carried on walking, much easier now that the breeze had picked up and the path had become flatter, to arrive at Hole in the Wall, which we walked past and down to Red Tarn. We found ourselves a spot on the rocks near Red Tarn and ate lunch. That was nice. We then packed up again and headed up towards Helvellyn, turning off to go up Catstye Cam. From there we had some spectacular views of Ullswater. We didn’t linger too long there, and turned back to head along the top towards Helvellyn and oh, I was a fool to expect just a sloping path. The dirt path turned to steep rock- and that was the way we’d have to scramble up. I was not pleased- my father had promised me no scrambling. I did not want to scramble. But having little choice, I started the harrowing climb up, clinging on to rocks and desperately trying not to look down. It felt never-ending, and I hated every moment, so when I finally pulled myself up to Helvellyn I was more than relieved. I stood and looked about the flat top of the mountain. My father asked my opinion, and I was still grouchy from the climb and declared loudly “THIS IS NOT WORTH THAT.” Nearby, a man laughed. I glared at my father and followed him along the top. And OK, I was wrong, and I admitted to my father as such. Once up on Helvellyn it was more than worth it. The view was: the path we’d come on and Catstye Cam, Red Tarn and Ullswater in the distance, nearby peaks, and the shadows of other mountains. Of course there were sheep right up there too, having no trouble navigating the steep slopes of the mountain. My father and I found a spot to sit to gaze out over Red Tarn and gulp down some more water, and eat some sweets. Eventually my father lay down and promptly fell asleep, whilst I read my book. There was a very cooling breeze up there and I was no longer so stiflingly hot, and it was quiet and peaceful all the way up there, with spectacular views as a bonus. It was very enjoyable just to chill up there- about 850m above where we’d started.

My father woke up after a 10 minute power nap and we set out across the top of Helvellyn towards the adjoining peak of Lower Man. I’m not sure if we ever made it exactly there, but we did make it to some nearby peak, which gave us views of the next valley along, Ullswater still in the distance, and the back of Striding Edge. Behind us, the shadows of more mountains and lakes. Gorgeous.

The views of Striding Edge gave us hope that there would be a path we could take to avoid the rough scramble over the top. Though I was still nervous about getting down. We contemplated carrying along the top to the next peak, which seemed to have a gentler way down, but as it was unknown we decided to go with the devil we knew. We started back up to Helvellyn and had another sit down on the top close to where we’d been earlier. More sweets, more admiring the scenery. Then we had little choice but to go over to Striding Edge and try to get down. By this point it was about 5pm already. The first part of striding edge was all right but then we were met with a challenge, in order to get to the path we’d have to scramble down a sleep stope, littered with loose stones. Nearby was a grassier slope so we gingerly made our way down there instead, me whining the whole time as anxiety gripped me. I did not like this. Striding edge proved to be just as harrowing as getting up to Helvellyn had been. Yes, there was a path…but a loose definition of one. There was much scrambling to be done even after we made it to the path. And it was very exposed. Worse, anxiety started to make me feel slightly light-headed and disoriented…which was obviously not good. Still, there was nowhere to go but down and I persevered, once again concentrating hard and trying not to look down. My dad was wonderful here- guiding me along, holding my hand when necessary, and constantly reassuring me (even it was often in a teasing way.) It carried on for ages- edging along the narrow path and climbing over rocks, before we got to the end and to the Hole in the Wall. We passed through and then had a very lovely walk along nice even grass before we reached the junction to the path that would take us back to Red Tarn. We had to walk back on ourselves a bit but this was perfectly pleasant compared to all that desperate scrambling. Once at Red Tarn we took off our shoes and socks and plunged our feet into the cool water. And so we sat, as the sun begun to slip down towards the edge of Helvellyn, casting a stream of light across the water, our feet dangling in the water, eating chocolate cookies in companionable silence.

After a bit we dried off and put our shoes back on and set out on the path back- a long, twisty gravel affair. It was a bit slippy due to the loose stones, but manageable. The sun was definitely setting by then and it was beautiful. We were following a stream that had several small waterfalls. Eventually we came to a bridge across a low sloping waterfall and there we spotted a heron hunting for fish amongst the rapid flow of water. How lucky! We lingered and watched in amazement.

By that point, it was coming up to 8pm. My thighs were aching, and my fathers feet were killing him. But we had to get back to Glenridding, so on we persevered. My father was eager to get back, worried about my mother being worried about him as there was no signal to call her there, and he set us a rapid pace. Eventually we could cross over to paved road which was easier to walk on, but strangely more painful, but still we slogged on as the sun continued to set and got back to Glenridding just after 9pm, and then we were off home. We got back at 11.30pm, tired and aching but feeling very pleased with ourselves.

Yesterday I had a lovely lie in and woke up stiff and aching. Fun.

We had our first braai of the summer yesterday, in order to celebrate my birthday. It was nice, but my sister was moaning the whole day and I could not help but feel peeved at her stealing my thunder, just a little. My Mom baked me a dairy free chocolate cake whilst I was off with my father on Friday. and a few hours after the braai they brought it out for me- my family did. My Mom had put candles on that read “Happy birthday” and underneath she’d put those alphabet letter magnets to spell out my name. I got sung to and blew out my candles. My Mom pulled the candles out and then I cut into the cake and well, this could be classed as a pinterest fail. yeah, I did not find the recipe on pinterest. but I found it on a random blog and the cake was no where near as delicious as the photos promised, nor as the description made it sound. Shame, my poor mother was crushed. She had tried so hard but sadly the cake was greasy and no where near as rich and chocolatey as expected. I tried to reassure her- the frosting was nice at least! and I badly wanted to say something about the cake too but no.. it was not so great. Really, I do think it is the recipe though. Its the nature of the internet after all- it’s not reliable. and that recipe was definitely off. my poor, poor mother. I ate a slice this morning after breakfast, hoping to reassure her that it was at least edible, but I don’t think I managed to convince her. I feel so bad …I gave her the recipe after all!

Despite a few little things though, this has been an enjoyable weekend.