Sunday 17 July
03:50 We arrive at Southwaite Services on the M6 for our Scafell Pike briefing. It’s annoying to see people in sleeping bags, indicating that there’s a fair chance they’ve had some sleep. I take the opportunity for a wash, a fry-up and, most importantly a cup of tea.
04:32 We set-off for Seathwaite, passing through scenery that looks like a miniture, more inhabited version of Scotland.
05:46 We set-off on our ascent to Scafell Pike in much better weather than we had in Scotland. Although cloudy, it’s much brighter, and warmer too. The going’s ok but not particularly fast and I for one, welcome the brief break at Stockley Bridge for a team photo.
Now I’m lagging behind quite a bit, feeling the effects of no sleep and a big walk only a few hours before. James too has dropped back, although whether that’s a tactic to chivvy me along, or his real pace I’m not sure.
We slog our way up to Esk Hause and look back into Borrowdale which is wreathed in wisps of low cloud. It’s stunning, I’ve never seen anything like it, but I don’t have time to stand and stare, which is what I really want to do. Thanks to my research I’m able to look around though and identify Esk Pike, Pike of Stickle and Great End.
Despite preparing myself for it, the boulder field on Broad Crag still comes as a bit of a surprise. Despite this I look to my right, and briefly the thought passes through my head that the top of Broad Crag is itself only a few metres away and, were we not on a schedule, could easily have been bagged. By now we’ve dropped Rik off as his knees have pretty much had it, and we’ll pick him up on the way down. Some of the other teams simply left their wounded where they had fallen to make their own way unaccompanied down to Seathwaite Farm. For some reason, we stick to the rules.
09:00 Summit. I didn’t enjoy the crossing of the boulder field followed by the descent and re-ascent on to the summit plateau. And now I’ve got to do it all again on the way back. At least it’s not wet though. But I did enjoy the view down into Eskdale though.
10:05 The descent is slow going. We’ve now collected Rik and his knees are such that he’s in constant pain as we slowly crawl and judder our way down the rocky path back to Seathwaite. The others have set off at their usual pace and are doing their usual trick of stopping to let us catch-up. The speed of Rik and me is clearly irritating them. But I’m feeling ok, or at least compared with Rik, and the main reason I’m at the back is to keep him company. Whilst I’d struggle to keep up with the others, my natural pace at the moment would leave Rik for dust. But we can’t leave without him and the team time is that of the last team member to finish, meaning that abandoning him won’t help matters. Staying with him might, however, help him get down faster. As we’re now last, the marshalls and mountain guides, one of whom camped at Esk Hause overnight (that’s keen), are following us down and their dogs keep getting in my way. I have a strong urge to boot them down into the gill.
I’m trying to go constantly at Rik’s pace and not to keep stopping and starting and therefore reminding him that he’s holding us all up. But this slow pace is killing my legs too, and right now I never want to see the mountain again – it’s caused too much pain. But I’m also going slowly enough to take in my surroundings and I keep gazing at Seathwaite Fell on my left and the ridge of Glaramara on my right. Deep down it’s more complicated than physical fatigue and I have a sneaky suspicion that I may feel differently about this place later on.
12:36 We’re down. We limp into the car park and Rik receives treatment. His 3 Peaks is over, and as a result of walking with him all the way down from Esk Hause, mine isn’t far off. I’m also not feeling particularly good towards the rest of the team due to the experience of the last couple of hours. But a quick meal and mug of tea help and soon we’re off in another race against time to get to Snowdonia.