My first ever mountain ascent was, like many other people’s, Helvellyn in the Lake District. Having just graduated, my fiancée and I were on a week’s holiday in Cumbria during the summer of 1992 – a holiday consisting mainly of visiting ‘attractions’ rather than being an outdoors type holiday. Nevertheless, one day we had the idea of climbing a mountain – partly so that when asked what we got up to on holiday, we could say ‘we climbed a mountain’. But we did also have a genuine interest in seeing the view from the top! Nevertheless we were looking for something straightforward.
It’s not fair to say that we were completely new to the outdoors. We both liked walking and had been on some of the Out Of Doors Society’s walks when we were at university. We also liked the Sunday walk across the countryside to a pub for lunch. We were also, unlike many tourist walkers, clad in proper walking boots.
It was a typical August day in the Lake District – pleasant enough at valley level, but getting cooler, windier and cloudier as we ascended and with a constant threat of rain. Parking at Wythburn, we took the path up the western side of Nethermost Pike. I remember marveling at the views, particularly once we were above the tree line and could see down to Thirlmere and the distant hills. I also remember it being hard work and having frequent pauses.
It seemed to take forever to get to the top and once we were up there we didn’t want to linger in the wind. We stopped for lunch in the summit shelter, and then retraced our steps back to the car park.
All in all it took around 6 hours to complete the walk. As we will see later on, I haven’t really got much faster over the years.
That was it for that holiday, and the closest we got to any other mountains, was driving through the Hardknott and Kirkstone passes. I also remember pointing out that Scafell Pike was ‘somewhere over there’ as we descended Hardknott pass towards Boot. At that point, actually climbing it couldn’t have been further from my mind, and I was even slightly intimidated by the fact that the people we could see heading towards the mountain were much better equipped and than we were. Surely, it must be quite some undertaking to climb to the top of England. At that point, I pretty much put Scafell Pike into the bucket marked ‘unlikely to do’.
With the end of the holiday, we returned to ‘civilisation’ and started our first post-University jobs which soon took all of our attention – so much so that we didn’t even do the weekend walks that we had before. It would be another 13 years before I ventured out into the hills again.