Pillar Rock with Ennerdale water just peaking around the corner.
I've wanted to write a mini guide on how to conquer the mountains for quite some time now but being a novice at hiking I thought, 'who the bloody hell would listen anyway?'. I decided I couldn't care less so here we are and if you're reading, well thanks, I'm guessing you trust my judgment when it comes to tackling the fells! Anyway, here we are fast approaching my favourite time of year for walking on the fells. There is nothing quite like climbing a mountain in the snow, eating your sandwiches with your fingers feeling as though they are about to drop off and then reaching the summit and laying your eyes on an incredible view. You really do feel on top of the world. So, when the forecast for the weekend was looking good, I couldn't wait to dust the cobwebs off my walking boots and get out there.
From the cairn at Pillar Rock looking down to Ennerdale Valley.
Always pack more than you think you'll need. Waterproof coat, windproof trousers, another pair of socks, an extra chocolate bar, your duvet, hot water bottle, toothbrush, you name it, throw it in your rucksack! You never know when you're going to need it. (I'm totally kidding by the way, think logically when it comes to packing but always expect the unexpected). Trust me, I know.. I ended up losing my footing and getting one of my feet completely soaked in ice cold water and quickly realised I had forgotten my second pair of socks. Thankfully, Josh had one I could borrow, my hero!
On a side note from the paragraph above, you have to be prepared for any quick changes in the weather. Suitable clothing, compass, map, foil blanket etc. Being up in the mountains can be pretty scary when you experience a quick cloud emersion that is so thick that you lose your sense of direction and what's worse (but also quite exciting) is when the heavens open and you end up being pelted by hailstones, you will struggle to find anywhere to shelter so make sure you have enough layers to keep you warm and obviously dry!
Take enough water because after a lot of scrambling, panting and sweating your body needs to rehydrate itself! I use a camel back which has been great but lately it's tasted vile and I daren't drink it anymore so I'm going to find a metal water bottle to keep my mouth from feeling like the Sahara. (I also take a flask of hot chocolate to keep me warm when we stop for food).
Tell somebody where you are going and how long you are expecting to be because if you're ever caught out in a storm and lose your way or you fall and have no phone signal to call for help or if you get struck by lightning, attacked by wild animals, at least somebody can notify mountain rescue that you're missing. Obviously it's better to go out hiking with others but if you all get lost in fog, basically you're screwed, unless you can navigate yourself using a map and a compass. Which admittedly I can't!
Lastly, just enjoy it! Get off your phone (unless of course you use them for taking lots of photos, like me) and just take in the tranquility of being outdoors and away from all the bullshit everyday life throws at you. Talk to someone, appreciate mother nature at it's finest, listen to the wind as it blows and feel the cold air on your cheeks. You really should try it, it's great for the soul, trust me! Plus, looking forward to sitting by a roaring fire in a cosy little country pub, ordering a strong g&t and bowl of cheesy chips is what keeps me going when I think I ain't tough enough to handle it.
A very unflattering photo of myself but I was so happy when we reached Pillar Rock where my late Grandfather had fallen in 1965.
& The Don'ts
I've heard of and witnessed people hiking in totally the wrong gear, jeans are a no go especially when it begins to get cold and snow, or just anytime of year for that matter. They are not going to keep you warm, plus if they get wet which is very likely up in the hills, your legs will chafe and won't dry out until you're home and in front of the fire. Please, save yourself now and just don't do it. I recommend a breathable pair of sports leggings, comfy and super stretchy! And the same goes for trainers, they do not have enough grip to stop you from slipping like a proper pair of walking boots do. Invest in a good pair and get fitted for them, this way you shouldn't experience any nasty blisters, they will prevent you from twisting your ankle and you'll soon realise it was the best expensive purchase you ever made, especially if you're well into your 20's because your feet should've stopped growing by then!
Do not kick start your journey wearing every single item of clothing you have hanging in your wardrobe, even if it's the middle of Winter. I used to do this all the bloody time and within 10 minutes of walking (if that) I'd have to stop and strip and re-pack my bag. Of course the cold will hit you, especially if you leave the comfort of your car heated seat but once you get going you will be fine. I start with a base layer and a jumper usually and normally add my down jacket and another layer at the top or when we stop for lunch.
Don't litter. Take your crap home with you. You brought it, you take it back! So bloody sick of coming across cans of pop and crisp packets littering these beautiful places, does anybody care about anything nowadays? Seriously though, just have a little thought for the next people or even the effect it has on the wildlife.
Don't expect it to be easy because most likely it will be tough, especially if you haven't done a long hike before. You'll learn a lot about yourself and the people around you when times get tough, so just remember to stick it out - that feeling of doubt is all in your head.
Looking down to Wasdale head from Pillar summit.
From Pillar Rock over to Buttermere, Red Pike and Haystacks.