No matter how many times I refreshed the weather apps, heavy downpours and strong wind were forecasted for the day. I packed my bag regardless. I could always turn back if it got that bad.
After five minutes of walking a heavy downpour arrived, dry bunkhouse still in view. Waterproofs on, this wasn’t just a passing shower. I sheltered under the thick branches of a large tree, listening to the raindrops falling on its leaves. This grounded me, looking up to the mountains and studying my map. Leaning on the tree trunk, I connected with the landscape through stillness.
As the rain cooled off, I decided to walk again. I began to enjoy the feeling of fresh raindrops on my face, watching the mist move around the crags and contours above. I encountered two men with two teenagers who told me they’d decided to turn back during the downpour. “It’s awful up there,” said one of them. “I’m hoping it’s clearing up,” I replied. “You’ll be alright in your waterproofs,” he said reassuringly. Onwards!
The river was roaring as I ascended alongside it. No one else was around now, I walked with my own thoughts and realised that this was my first walk alone in the Lake District mountains. This filled me with excitement, but also made me check-in with myself - am I ready for this?
I had been longing for it, to be in the mountains on my own terms. I could choose my way, stop and take a break without holding up anyone else, entertain my curiosity about the landscape and find my place in it.
I noticed that I felt nervous as I looked up at the enormous towering crag above me, the unfamiliar path ahead of me, quite intimidating under a dark sky. The scale was so much bigger than where I usually walk alone on Kinder Scout. It took courage to be there, not relying on others to plan the day, to navigate and to make decisions. A sense of freedom came with that - “I can do brave things” became my mantra.
Walking to the mountain top along the river had been straightforward, but my route down was a little more challenging. The rocks were very slippy after the rain, they weren’t holding my boots in place like the gritstone of the dark peak does. It was windy too as I descended, with steep drops ahead that made me feel nervous again. I paused to take a breather when I needed to, settling my mind by talking myself through each step gently. No one was there to rush me, no one was walking into the distance while I got left behind. Step by step I reached the end of the rocky section, relieved to see grassy moorland ahead.
After collecting myself, I looked back. “Wow - I just walked down that!” If someone had shown me that view of it from below, there’s no way I would’ve walked down there alone! I felt proud of myself, and I kept looking back at it in total awe of the landscape and appreciation for the experience.
I still had hours of the afternoon left, coffee in my flask and snacks in my rucksack. I nestled between some rocks and enjoyed half an hour of happiness sitting in the mizzle eating hobnobs. The simplest joys of relaxation and satisfaction after doing something that took courage. I looked around me and thought “I belong here.” Not forever, but in this moment.
That evening, I ate at the pub next to the campsite. Surrounded by families, walking groups and couples, I was sitting alone at a table in the centre of the room. I was an observer of this precious moment, the sun finally shining on me while I drank tea and waited for fish and chips. I absorbed all of it - the day, the atmosphere, the burning glow of my skin after being exposed to the elements.
“Everything is going to be ok.”