The first time I met members of the Invicta Mountaineering Club (IMC) was at a 16hr survival first aid course in January on what was probably the 2 coldest days of the year in a scout hut with no heating. In hindsight, perhaps this was a warning of things to come. Anyway, un-deterred I thought I would join them on one of their walking weekends to a) gain a couple of Logbook walks for myself and b) foster better links with the group for the future. So, I found myself signed up with Sally & Sarah Hutchings (they had been before and assured me I would be OK) on the late May bank holiday weekend going to Borrowdale in the Lake District.
At some stage I had ticked the box marked wild camping, sounded good at the time, whilst I found out just beforehand Sally & Sarah had not, oh well, how hard could it be! So, Friday 26th May came and at 6.00pm off we set. 8 Hours later, we arrived at a strange campsite at 2.00 a.m. in the morning and pitching a tent in the dark whilst being attacked by swarms of midges was interesting, who knew they would be awake at that time. Luckily a last-minute addition to my bag of bug repellent came in handy. Finally, I fell into bed and drifted off, to awake to the most amazing view, mountains all around WOW!
Saturday’s weather forecast meant that my group of Neil, Judy, Will, Becky the spaniel and myself decide to change our plans and do Mondays walk today and wild camp Sunday night instead. “Fancy trying scrambling?” was the question “OK”, said I, “You will need your day pack and a helmet”. For those of you who may not be up on walking terms, a mountain day pack is a 45litre rucksack containing everything you may need in an emergency, not a little lightweight pack containing your food and drink. So, I’m finally ready and we are off, at this point they decided to tell me that scrambling means climbing up 300 vertical metres of waterfall in full kit on a very hot morning. Did I miss something! What can I say; it was hot, tiring, but ultimately invigorating on reaching the top realizing what you had done. The rest of the day was a lot gentler; it rained steadily all afternoon, a good day was had.
Sunday dawned with low cloud but dry so we packed our expedition packs, now added a tent, sleeping bag, stove, fuel and 2 days water to the pack and condensed it into a 55 to 75litre rucksack, you get the picture. Scafell Pike, camp at Sprinkling Tarn and return Monday is the route but what I inadvertently forgot to realize at this point, is that Scafell Pike is England’s highest mountain at 978 metres and we are doing it carrying around 12kg each, it just does not go in (you would have thought by now I was a bit warier, but no).
Off we set chasing the cloud up the mountains till finally at 12.00 it disappeared to reveal another baking hot day, the corridor route between Styhead and Scafell was interesting, lots of twists and turns around cliffs and rocks, climbing all the way. About half way up Scafell Pike it’s a case of putting one foot in front of the other, “just keep walking” running through your head. Finally summiting at 4.00pm, it’s what makes the year, you have done it, you have proved to yourself you can complete the challenge and it’s a moment you will always treasure and worth every aching muscle to get there. Picking our way down on loose scree, I lost my footing twice (the only one to fall) but no harm done and then a section of boulder hopping over Broad Crag which was very hard work. When we pitched tents for the evening at Sprinkling Tarn I was more than ready for bed but again worth all the effort. We may have had 4 other small groups of campers up there but otherwise where else is it just you, your friends and Mother Nature in all her glory. Waking up to sheep less than 2 metres away and the peace of the mountains, cooking breakfast to only natural sounds, what a great way to start the final day.
By 10.00 it started to rain steadily and it kept this up all the way back and also whilst we strike camp but never mind as Neil, ever the optimist, points out you never get rain and midges, there is always a positive! It’s at this point Will the youngest member of our group decides he’s had enough, wet through from a waterproof legging failure, he heads off with Neil back to camp for a hot shower and cake at a brisk pace whilst Judy is very patiently waiting for me to pick my way down, by this time I have blister on my big toe, maybe I will finally have to retire my trustworthy walking boots after 20 years of service. Back at camp I attack my emergency rations, a Double Decker has never tasted so good and forget the calories I’ve just burnt at least that! That’s it packed up and gone home arriving back in Kent at 9.00pm.
Would I recommend an IMC trip? Absolutely, they are more than friendly, helpful and with the good sense of humour needed to get you through those uncomfortable moments when the rain is lashing down and you have a blister. Anyone over the age of 14 and a member of the Kent Scout Association or Girlguiding Kent Weald can go, so long as your Commissioner approves it so please contact me for info if you are interested, it might particularly appeal to anyone practicing for Gold D of E so please bear this in mind. What are you waiting for, accept the challenge and get out there!