How did I get here?

Ok, first of all, I didn’t walk! The destination I’m on about is how I came to produce a blog about my love for the outdoors and some of the adventures and escapades I’ve been on and hopefully will be on! I’m certainly hoping that this destination is the beginning of an exciting journey, fingers crossed.

The beginning seems like a fairly good place to start, but where is the beginning? My first real trip was a wintry one to the Peak District as an Air Cadet. I’m not sure where we went, but I loved it and was hooked immediately! I know I told my parents about it when I got back and they weren’t surprised recalling stories of when they visited the Lake District together around the time my mum was pregnant with me and the many walks we’d go on around the South Downs when we lived in Berkshire. Their was even a trailer tent that the family used to holiday in around Devon and Cornwall, and even France. The genetics went even further back with my Dad retelling long forgotten stories of his younger days on outward bound courses and camping trips with his mates, including one where they turned up late in the night at a campsite and proceeded to hoist their tent over the only standpipe on the campsite, only to be woken in the morning, unsurprisingly by many angry campers! I think him and his friends found it funny, I’m not sure the rest of the campsite did!

Still, what’s the outdoors if not enjoyable and good fun? I know I’ve had many laughs over the years, and whilst I have solo camped, there’s nothing better than sharing the experience, it’s always better to laugh with someone, and so it was on my return from my first enthralling trip, not only did I tell my parents who explained my love for the outdoors was clearly in the genes, but I also told my school friends, who I think were probably keen, but hesitant.

It was at this point that somehow my Science teacher entered the picture and we realised we shared the same passion for the outdoors. Not only that but he’d served as a Outward Bound instructor and was a very proficient climber, this was perfect and an expedition was arranged with me, my dad, my science teacher and a group of pals with the Peak District our destination and what a trip it was!

It was an amazing weekend and many years on, I can still remember it vividly. It was February and it was cold. We had sunshine (not much) rain, hail, sleet and snow! Every season hit us and the wind on Stanage Edge was so strong that no only were the waterfalls flowing backwards, but at one point one of my mates was blown straight off his feet and thrown straight in to me! No bruises or broken bones, just shock at the power of mother nature and then the realisation that when you put everything in a rucksack on your back and end up on your backside, you in essence become a hilarious tortoise trying to get back up! That evening we pitched up at the fantastic National Trust campsite of North Lees and settled in for a chilly night. We ended up waking to a foot of snow much to the shock of a pal who unsuspectingly put his head out of the tent in the morning straight into a snow drift!

It was an amazing trip and the sight of the previously backwards waterfalls now frozen in air was just one of the amazing sights that sealed a brilliant first adventure, I was well and truly hooked too!

Over the rest of my teen years the adventures continued with the kit getting better, the routes getting longer and the summits getting bigger, including my first ascents of Snowdon and Scafell Pike (my favourite mountain and one I always go back to). Companions changed too, sometimes it was with friends, sometimes family, but it was always fun and I loved every minute, apart from maybe when soaking wet which happened far too many times!

Particular highlights included summiting Snowdon with my Dad via Crib Goch and meeting my Mum at the top who ascended via the Miners Track. It was an amazing day with beautiful weather and it was a special moment to be stood on top of such a grand mountain as Snowdon with both my parents!

Hilarity soon resumed though after we stopped at the summit cafe for a break and my dad sat down on a plastic bucket chair with his rucksack next to him and his coat on the back of the chair. What he hadn’t realised was that he had left his hydration pack mouthpiece attached to his coat and was leaning on it the whole time. He’d not noticed as he’d not taken off his apparently rather effective waterproof trousers, that the liquid which happened to be orange squash had slowly leaked out of said mouthpiece. Upon standing to leave orangey coloured liquid ran down his trousers and a pool of the stuff remained which very much looked like he’d had a rather unfortunate accident, much to the hysterics of both my Mum and I!

On another trip, once again to Snowdonia, this time with my Dad and my Science teacher we decided to take an early evening walk before dinner as we’d arrived in good time. The weather was brilliant and the walk was fantastic, although nearing the end we realised we’d need to ford a rather wide river. No problem, off came the socks and boots, of which mine were brand new and off set my teacher to test if it was safe. He crossed no problem, so off I set with trousers rolled up and boots in hand, rather than hanging round my neck or attached to my pack. Things went well, I took my time wading through the chilly mountain water and trying to evade any sharp rocks. Going well and the opposite bank was getting closer, but my feet were getting colder, so I think I rushed a bit which proved to be disastrous. Immediately I slipped, plunging backwards and abruptly sitting down in the icey cold flow and the shock, well obviously I let go of my brand new boots and watched horrified and unable to do anything as they started to sail away towards the Atlantic. My Dad was also unable to help as he was still on the opposite bank and so it fell, to my very kind teacher who had just finished lacing up his dry boots to launch, quite literally a rescue attempt at which he did by running along the bank in pursuit and jumping feet first to rescue my marooned boots! I eventually pulled myself up on to the bank and will always be eternally grateful to my teacher and friend for his swift actions to salvage my boots, which thankfully went on to serve me well over many years!

It wasn’t always laughs, giggles and successes, as many lessons were also learned including better preparation and planning, and slightly better navigation skills due to a few of the experiences that occurred. Some were more annoying than others including a weekend trip to the Peak District where we packed absolutely everything, and I mean everything apart from a pot to cook dinner with, which we only realised when we actually went to cook. No problem, we were staying at a campsite in Bamford, so off we went to the local shop to hopefully purchase one. Upon enquiring ‘do you sell pots’ we were met with the relieving answer of ‘yes’. Bingo, we were in luck, dinner would be served. ‘where are the pots’ came the next question as we looked around eagerly, ‘oh, we sold out yesterday’! Hearts broken, stomachs grumbling, I think we eventually found ourselves in the local sharing whatever we could muster with the little money that we’d bought, lesson learn, better prep and packing!

If pot saga was an irritation, the biggest lesson I learned was definitely a bit more serious and really taught me that wherever you, at whatever height, mountains will always be dangerous and British weather very changeable. Coupled with silly mistakes and bad timing caused an unfortunate episode of becoming cragfast somewhere on the edge of Broad Crag / Great End with two friends in mid August which caused an 10 man Mountain Rescue Team complete with dogs to be called out.

It really was a silly mistake as we left it too late to climb and one of the party was ill equipped, but we summited Sca Fell by early evening in clear weather with good views, with cloud swirling over our heads. On the descent to the col however the cloud followed us and by the time we were climbing Broad Crag, the temperature had dropped from balmy to chilly, visibility dropped to mere feet and the rain came out of nowhere accompanied by a howling gale, it changed so incredibly quickly. We still had daylight on our side, so no panic and I’d done the route a few times before. However after an hour of still climbing, I felt something was wrong. It was at this point we tried to descend to get under the cloud for a visual bearing and after sliding and scraping down steeper and wetter rock, found ourselves a little stuck on a ledge barely a few feet wide with a drop of a couple of hundred. With no way back up either we were stranded and so unable to erect the tent due to the precarious nature, we only had one solution, to call the absolute heroes of the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team. I was able to give a vague grid reference and they later explained that they were able to find us as there were only a few locations in the area where you could get a signal.

We were advised that they should be with us in about 3 hrs, around 10 pm, so with the storm getting worst we hunkered down as best as possible. One thing not to do when you’ve just called Mountain Rescue is call your parents in a matter of fact way. I was personally annoyed it had happened and that was about it, my family, in particular my Mum spent the rest of the night having kittens as they had no idea wherever we were down or not until the next day!

We were eventually rescued and I mean we had to be harnessed and roped off the ledge we stupidly got on to and then efficiently and kindly escorted off the mountain, although not before having to be harnessed again to cross a stream that had become a raging torrent due to the storm we’d encountered.

I mentioned as well that a 10 man team plus dogs had been dispatched, well by the time the dog located our whistle sounds and flashing headtorches the team had been greatly reduced as by that point numerous other calls had come in from a group of three peakers who’d also been caught short by the storm.

By the time we arrived at the Wasdale Head Hotel, about 3 am, more embarrassment ensued as we realised that the Mountain Rescue Team had been dragged away from a fundraising party for themselves being hosted by the local landlord who they’d also saved a few years before, when he’d had a heart attack in a storm. These volunteers really are the true heroes of the mountains and you should always try and support as you never know when you might just end up having to call on them yourself.

Following these many adventures, my twenties were unfortunately a bit quieter. I still had some great adventures and trips, but somehow or for some reason they were less frequent. It was always in the back of my mind to get back to the hills, but it just never happened as much as I’d have liked.

Now in my thirties, the adventures have resumed with my most memorable one of recent years camping out under the stars, just under the cliff tops of Stanage Edge with some friends in -10 conditions. It wasn’t snowing, but it was a little chilly, however it was so icey cold and the sky was so clear because of it, it really was a sight to behold! We’d actually planned to sleep in a cave which upon arrival was a bit waterlogged, so we slept just outside it and I really was pleased to be there, and felt lucky to be staring up at such a magnificent sky.

So now the adventures must continue, I’ve definitely truly found the bug again, if it ever left me. One thing lockdown has taught me is to appreciate the simpler things in life and all I’ve wanted to do is be in the hills or in my tent, with whoever I drag along on my next adventure.

So I reached the destination of this blog in the hope that it will keep me motivated and inspired. By starting to write about it, to record it down, this destination is actually, hopefully going to be the beginning of another great adventure. So here goes Off The Trail, probably OTT, the crazy, stupid adventures of a very amateur adventurer!

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