Being amongst the Lakeland mountains in good company and on a sunny day is pretty hard to beat.
It got me thinking, why is it hard to beat and what do the mountains bring to the party?
Immovable lumps of solid rock are not to everyones taste, but to most of us they bring a sense of scale and help us place ourselves in the world. To a climber, these lumps of rock are our road, the pathway to and of adventure. Touching rock can bring a smile, it always makes me smile that's for sure.
When these lumps are huge slabs forming mountains of grandeur, it's hard not to be impressed by their scale and how they make us feel so small and insignificant. We are by the way.
And for all we give the mountains nothing, how can we. They can bring us so much joy.
Freedom to move over the wild terrain, curling our fingertips over a crimp of rock and feeling the crystals gently pierce our skin as the grip tightens. Pulling up on the hold and moving ever upwards, checking the solidity of the next hold before committing weight and going again, in our skyward quest.
Energy is burned rapidly, our hearts pump life blood around us allowing muscles to be finely controlled, balancing neatly on small footholds whilst our brain computes the next move and plans the route in detail. Of all the sports and activities I do and have done, climbing and mountaineering are the most absorbing. The benefit of this is it allows us to switch off from whatever else is happening in life and the world. This is probably more important than ever in these troubled times.
With this energy of movement comes risk and adrenaline. Mountaineering and climbing are inherently dangerous activities, there's no getting away from that. Whether you are a first timer, super experienced, or choosing to hire a guide. All methods involve risk to some degree. The benefits of hiring a guide are they will have considered carefully the risks and mitigated to help reduce them. But to take away the risk entirely would be to take away the adrenaline, to sanitise the experience, to make it something it isn't.
Remember, it is to the mountains we run to escape conformity, to leave the day to day life behind and breathe fresh air in wide open spaces and to do so without constraint. They are a place to explore, to be free, and to excite us, sometimes to surprise us. As humans we need this to thrive. Keep on exploring........
On Monday I was out in Langdale with Carly. We first met on a Lakes 3000's which Carly flew around in a rapid time even though we chose some very long and complex routes. It was clear from early on the mountains were giving her great happiness and this is always wonderful to see. I suggested some future visits with more rocky terrain as a theme and in the summer we managed to fit in some climbing in the Borrowdale valley. A sunny afternoon allowed us 2 routes on Shepherds crag before the rains came just as we finished. Good timing overall. But the plan for that day had been a longer, mountaineering route, so that came this week. And what a day.
With a northerly airflow cooling the air to a Baltic level, it had to be a sunny venue, so Langdale came up trumps there. We began with Middlefell Buttress. The rock was actually warm and utterly glorious to climb on. The skin looked like it had been painted a vivid blue, it really was quite surreal. We scrambled up the continuation and on towards Thorn crag, turning left here onto the Gimmer path. Sadly it felt too cold for Gimmer, but Loft crag was going to be just fine. We followed a series of buttresses, all of perfectly formed Igneous rock. This led us to the summit crag, a steep wall of around 20m and we followed a groove of immaculate rock. Still the rock was warm to the touch.
A short walk towards Pike O'Stickle brought us to the top of The Great Stone Chute. We descended this as far as the stone axe factory (used as a base during Neolithic times). Our next route started opposite this.
Merlin Slab - this follows a groove up to a wet slab, crosses the wet slab to reach a grass ledge. The wet slab was easy but freezing cold due to its wetness. From the grass ledge we took a direct line up a steep crack, this was very exciting. Above us loomed a flying arete and this looked truly magnificent. It didn't disappoint. The exposure was a delight as to look back down the arete took in the whole of the Langdale valley hundreds of metres below. The rock still felt phenomenal under the skin, although more care was needed as there was no shortage of loose material. Just how mountaineering should be, a bit unpredictable.
The temperature began to dip as the afternoon wore on and we made the call to begin our descent from here rather than trying to squeeze in another route. Walking back into the valley on a big blue sky day having spent so much time on rock brings a big dose of the smiles for me. It is simply unbeatable.
A grand day out on rock, thanks to Carly for joining me and good banter throughout :-)
Winter is now so close and I'll be away for a while, searching for warmer rocks to play on. But spring is nearer than we realise. If wanting a day in the mountains, on rocky terrain on hiking, please do get in touch. We'd be very happy to help
Thanks for reading