Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Wild Places & Solitude

Spring and Summer of 2012 were a challenging time of life. The "busyness" of the Centre and the pressure of domestic circumstances presented relatively few opportunities for leisure. Whenever possible I attempted to grab a day or even a few hours to escape into the fells, invariably on my own and with an un-written agenda of finding solitude. The sense of remoteness and maybe even more an absence of human activity has always held a lure; an opportunity for reflection, planning and to seek new perspective. Time and circumstance moved on leading to Lent and Easter 2013 which became a seminal point in life. The Easter journey was both deep and meaningful culminating in a solo micro-expedition in the Lake District Fells in what were still full winter conditions. The sense of solitude and retreat experienced in those few hours was unique. 

John Muir said: "Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."

Regular readers may recall the original account of this trip ....
"A night out in the fells had been on the radar for a few days...... After getting back from Church on Easter morning I faffed around for ages and then at about 3 o'clock decided this was the night to go for. In a way, I was quite pleased that last minute supplies were difficult to come by - all the shops were closed because it was Easter Sunday. 
After a major change of plan (I was thinking of going to Warnscale Head) I set off for Mosedale with a loose plan of staying over in Lingy Hut, it was nearly 5 o'clock before I arrived at the head of the valley & started walking. Along the Cumbria Way and up through the old Carrock Mine site was interesting, will need to make a discrete visit back here again one evening (with SRT kit!). After a short distance along the beck there is a pleasant alternative path which cuts the corner off the Cumbria Way ascending across Arm o' Grain directly to Lingy Hut. I called in the hut to check whether anyone else was around & looking like staying over, satisfied that I was likely to get the place to myself I set off north through the snow for High Pike. The summit of High Pike speaks for itself in the photos below, in this winter of superlatives the views were breath taking.

High Pike

The Northern Fells or the Scottish Highlands?

Re-tracing my steps it was back to the hut for something to eat and at least some respite from the numbingly cold wind.

Unfortunately there were no clear skies to be enjoyed and the wind picked up in the early evening curtailing any further plans, so it was early to bed as the temperatures plummeted (minus 5 to minus 6 degC has been mentioned but I have no way of verifying this). It was certainly a cold and draughty night in the hut.

In line with the continuing loose plan I got up at half four and left the hut at five a.m. heading for Carrock Fell summit and a planned rendevous with sunrise. The visibility was no more than average (due to darkness and high level cloud obscuring the moon) so I set off by the light of head torch on a bearing with a calculated time for the leg in my head. The snow had a crisp crunch to it with every footfall, the next hour or so was quite possibly the highlight of the trip - complete solitude in a dark frozen wilderness. The allotted time passed; check the map; new bearing; new distance calculated & on again in the darkness. This leg was aiming almost due east for Mitton Hill, slowly a faint red glow began to appear in the sky ahead. No need for the compass now the rising sun marked the way on. Previous memories of Carrock Fell summit led me to think that there might be a scramble over some boulders to realise the summit cairn, either these memories were inaccurate or the snow was simply that deep and hard frozen that the boulders were buried. The view at the summit is captured below:

I hung around at the cairn for quite a while trying to take in the vastness of the landscape around me & reflecting on the journey through lent and the year to date. It was cold but I could have stayed there for ages.

After a while I re-traced my steps heading west into a brightening day with  breaking cloud and massive views beginning to develop before my eyes.

At the flat ground between the first ring contour and Mitton Hill I broke off the summit plateau to the south west back towards Brandy Gill & the Carrock Mine sett. The snow in this area was especially deep and progress was slow as I repeatedly sunk past knee deep.

A steep descent saw me back at the mine where I ratched about for a short time before re-joining the Cumbrian Way heading back towards the car on the Mosedale valley road.

It was only eight a.m. when I reached the car, the temperature was minus one deg C on the car's thermometer.

This was a really enjoyable micro-trip lasting not much more than twelve hours but containing two summits; an overnight stay in a mountain hut and yet more superb winter conditions."

I read recently words to the effect that many might say walking in the hills, alone, produces a sense of "getting away from it all"  whereas for a minority the same activity gives a sense of "getting closer to it all" - I can say without hesitation that it is the latter which applies to me. I've always felt at home in the mountains and strangely this feeling of being at home is heightened when alone; my best mountain experiences have undoubtedly been when by myself. I'm reminded of Thoreau's words:

"I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls"

There is a sense of perspective that is uniquely gained from journeying, on foot, in high wild places: the physical exertion in reaching a height; the effect of the prevailing weather be it windy, wet, hot or still and cold; the "timelessness" of a mountain that existed before man and will exist long after man are the conditions that crystallise a clarity of vision which for me is elusive at most other times.


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