Monday, 3 June 2013

The best part of the hiking day

Last Saturday we embarked on an 11 hour hiking extravaganza tackling Pillar via Ennerdale.  Hiking days are always special and I love to savour every moment but the enjoyment for me begins way before I even strap my boots on...

Planning:  Is there anything to beat the anticipation of planning a good long hike?  Pouring over maps (and couple of glasses of wine) and debating the pros and cons of each route?  Perhaps checking out what others have done before and then arguing the toss before settling on a route that you may well change again at the last minute.

The real reason they make waterproof maps.

Preparation:  Getting up early to make the sarnies and the flasks whilst gleefully stuffing chocolate into the rucksacks.  Covering the maps with toast crumbs as you double check everything before heading off.  Even last minute cries of "darling, where did you put my woolly hat?" fail to dampen the spirits. Double checking the weather reports even though you know they will bear little resemblance to reality...

Starting out:  Nabbing a parking space and finally starting off.  I love this bit as I know in my mind that several hours later I'll be returning to this very spot with a head full of wonderful memories.  The first sight of the fell for the day and slowly settling into your stride.

The view along Ennerdale
Settling in:  You've found your stride, you're on the right path and you're passing other hikers with a cheery "good morning" whilst secretly hoping they're not on the same route as you so you'll have it all to yourselves.  Honestly, is there any better feeling as you settle down for elevenses and crack open the flasks?

Elevenses.  Essential on any hiking trip.
Lunch:  You've done it, you've actually found a spot for lunch that isn't blowing you sideways and has somewhere decent to sit.  Quick, get stuck in before the sheep nick it all!  (And if you're lucky there'll even be a nearby stream where you can top up your flasks.)

River Liza. Beautifully clear.
New Views:  I love the feeling as you gain height and new views open up around you.  On this particular hike I was stopped in my tracks by the stunning sight of Pillar Rock looming high above a waterfall as we rounded a bend.  Stunning.

Hard to get to but worth every single step.
As we potter along we also have a laugh making shapes out of the forests below us - can anyone else see the happy elephant in this pic?  (There's also a sleeping gecko too if you look closely enough).

And then there's the game of "name the fell" as you try to identify the many fells disappearing away into the distance.  

"But if that one's Haystacks then that MUST be Fleetwith Pike"
The summit!  You've made it, you've reached the summit!  Often at exactly the same time as the mist...  But don't worry, it won't last long, will it?

Summit of Pillar

Haycock emerging from the mist.
The descent:  I'm not a big fan of the descent but it really helps when the sun is turning everything that wonderful golden colour and Ennerdale valley is stretching out ahead of you. (Even if that does also remind you how far away the car still is!)

Lovely woodland.

Mixed emotions.

The walk back to the car:  The flasks are empty, your feet are sore, assorted limbs are aching, your head is stuffed full of wonderful new memories and the topic of conversation flits between your favourite part of the day and just how large a portion of chips you're planning to demolish.  Carling don't make days on the fells, but if they did...

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