Monday, 18 February 2013

Mind, Body & Soul

View from Place Fell
"Wow, from up here you can see the whole world!"  Those were the words of an excited dad to his sons yesterday as he stood on top of a snowy fell and took in the view.  I'm not sure you could see the entire world, but it certainly was an impressive sight; dozens of snowy peaks disappearing into the distance in every direction.  The clear blue skies, the sun with its first warmth of spring and the gentle wind, though cold, only added to the sense of perfection.

Seriously?
With the obesity crisis hitting the headlines and inactivity killing thousands there are no doubt going to be calls for everyone to be more active, and what better way to be active than hiking in the Lake District fells?  Of course hiking the fells is fabulous exercise, a 7 hour hike is better than any workout I've ever done, but fell walking doesn't just give you a physical workout, it gives you a mental one too.

"Are we there yet?" is the jokey cry one of us generally utters as we huff and puff up the first part of the ascent; maybe it's my age but it always takes me half an hour or so to hit my stride these days.  Stride found, things then settle down for a while as we wind our way upwards with regular photo stops thrown in for good measure, but it's not long before the battle of the fake summit begins and that really can be a mental challenge.

Is there anything quite so disheartening as thinking you're nearly there and then realising there's at least another two peaks to go before you reach the one you're after?  To add to the fun between you and the summit of your dreams may lie bogs, streams, howling winds, mist, rain or, as was the case yesterday, soft powdery snow which made conditions rather like trying to walk up a very slippery sand dune; this is when you need to dig deep physically and mentally.

Haweswater & Harter Fell
Shouting in frustration as you fall over for the umpteenth time, swearing loudly and even beating the fell with your walking poles doesn't do anything to help; trust me, I've tried.  Plus all of that stuff only serves to wear you out more quickly; a little positive focus is what's needed if you're to get to the summit in one piece.  Personally, when I'm done swearing, I often resort to songs from The Sound of Music to push me forwards and, if you're really unlucky, you'll be within earshot when I start belting them out.

Sun through the clouds from Helm Crag
All that physical and mental exertion is generally forgotten when you reach the summit, at least for a little while.  However many fells I climb the feelings never change; exhilaration, joy and, on many occasions, a sense of relief that we've finally made it.  Of course that's only half the story, descents can be every bit as tricky as ascents plus now you're feeling tired and, if it's been bad weather, you're cold and wet as well but if you stop concentrating mistakes can, and will, happen.

Beautiful moonlight.
Take yesterday for example, during our descent after slithering half a mile or so along a track we realised we were headed the wrong way and had to slither all the way back again; not what's needed but no good ranting, turn around, get yourself on the right path and keep going.  As it turned out we were so late that it was dark by the time we got back to the valley floor, thankfully it was a beautiful evening with a moon so bright we didn't need head torches to find our way to the car.

After 7 hours of snowy hiking we were both utterly drained but, on the bright side, we'd had plenty of exercise, seen the whole world, pushed ourselves when giving up would have been easier and had a fantastic day on the fells full of memories which no camera can ever capture, and that's got to be doing us more good than any prescription ever can.

On top of the Howitzer.