Two minutes silence
Given that we had an eleven o’clock deadline to meet we pushed on at a decent pace passing one group of walkers after another. Although the weather was pretty poor our mood was fine as we chatted away whilst walking up Grains Ghyll. It’s a pretty sociable affair when the group is a decent size. You’ll walk along and natter with someone. When one or the other needs to stretch their legs or has got fed up of talking a load of tripe the conversation will end and one party will wander off to bore someone else silly. It may sound a little harsh, but after a few changes it adds a great variety to the day’s conversation. It may also sound strange, but it’s an accepted part of a day out and one of the features of a good days hill walking. There were all manner of people making their way uphill and just as we reached the waterfall at Taylorforce Ghyll we passed an old bloke who was making real slow progress. Surely he wasn’t heading for the remembrance service?
Just prior to reaching Styhead Tarn Mark had the brainwave that we should climb Aaron Slack and take an alternative route to the summit of GG. He wasn’t the only one to have this idea. As we made our way up this congested route our lungs started to feel the gradient. All in all I didn’t do too bad, and just for a change I couldn’t keep up with Mark. Over the next few minutes we all reached Windy Gap with John as expected bringing up the rear. I’d never seen anything like it. There were hoards of walkers everywhere, especially coming along the ridge from Green Gable. Clearly this mob had saved themselves a great deal of effort by starting at the highest access point at the summit of Honister Pass. After literally filtering into the queue that was slowly snaking its way up the final few hundred feet of Great Gable we set off in single file at a dawdle of a pace. Everyone seemed as though they were part of a big event and all were in a cheery mood as they scrambled up the final rocks and rubble.
We needn’t have worried about the time as we arrive on the summit for half ten. There was nothing for it, we found a few boulders sat down, took an early morning snack and generally took in everything that was going on. Hill walkers are obviously not shy retiring types as looking around everyone was decked out in bright multicoloured gear. There weren’t that many that were camouflaged with the scenery. Paul also made a comment that out of the hundreds of people up there everyone was white. There were no Africans, Asians or anyone else who seemed to have originated outside the traditional first world. Perhaps hill walking as a hobby appeals to a particular type of Brit. As the half hour wait came to an end the summit crowded even more and just short of eleven, right by the summit cairn a lone hiker addressed the service. I missed a little of his introduction, but managed to pick up enough to realise that this gathering had its origins in the First World War. It transpired that several local climbers had perished in the trenches and in their memory two wealthy landowners gave a substantial area of mountain land (including Great gable) to a local fell walking association so that walkers could experience the freedom of the hills forever. In 1923 this land passed to the ownership of the National Trust and since then the remembrance service has been held in ever increasing numbers. Bang on eleven this short sermon came to an end and with everyone stood we were all asked to witness two minutes of silence. In my case my thoughts were specifically with my grandfather, who survived WW2, my great grandfather who was injured and captured in WW1 and my great uncle who was lost at Dunkirk. During this period of silence the only sound to be heard was the odd yap of one of the many dogs that had made the trip with their masters. There was no doubt that proper respect was shown by all.
Leaving behind the crowds.
Heading for Scafell Pike.
You would think that the descent would be just that. How wrong can you be? The way off towards Great End involves a couple of short sharp ascents and it was on one of these that the old stomach cramps started. Yep, you’ve guessed it, a short while later I reappeared from around the back of a great rock with the score now at 48!! Having caught up with the rest whilst on the way over Great End our route took us back down towards Esk Hause. For the first time in several hours we now descended below the clag and had our fist views of this dull November day. It was clear to see that Bob was now starting to slow down, but to be honest both Steve and Bob had done pretty well for their first walk. Ok, both were already fit, but hill walking uses different muscles to football on a five a side pitch or road/mountain bike running and riding. Seathwaite could be seen in the distance and slowly our goal was reached. It was en route that I realised I needed some new boots, as once more I took a tumble on some greasy rocks.
On reaching the cars, there were just another half dozen or so left abandoned on the grassy verges. Just for a change we were about the last back. A quick change followed and rather surprisingly the Scafell Pike Inn was open for bar meals and ready to serve at five o’clock. Better still they had a roaring log fire, great beer and the Cumberland sausage was spot on. Even though the weather had been disappointing it was still a damn good day in the hills. Roll on December.
A final thought should go to the words of the chap who gave the speech on the summit. “Let us be thankful for our freedom of access to roam the hills”. Where would we be if the hills didn’t exist, or we couldn’t clamber amongst them? With this in mind, the old chap who was persevering in his somewhat delayed personal climb to the summit sums up the spirit of the hills.