Well, its been a tough few weeks. You see, my daft anxiety doesn’t let me choose when it will leave so I have to act in one of two ways.. I can A, sit at home and shut out real life. B, Fight like hell and push myself. Or C, Both!
This occasion was to be C. As I write this its worth knowing that I’ve had to take several days off work using holiday and unpaid leave. I have not seen anyone socially for 4 weeks…Not even Marc (until last night) and one evening with my dear friend David. I have fought and battled through work and the rest of the time I have spent alone…searching for a way out of this current ‘bout’. And search I have.. I have been over and underground. In bed, on the hill… I’m still none the wiser but I have moved forwards and I am now in a better place.
I would like to thank some friends in this blog who have tirelessly reassured me and offered words of support and care when I was at my lowest points. They may not think it adds up to much but seriously, I don’t know where I would be without your help and support. (I’ll mention them later to keep you all in suspense!)
I hope my followers and friends don’t mind me including some of this stuff in my blogs? I feel its appropriate at times as It is these problems that I have to endure that inspre me to keep doing what I do.
So, I’m sitting at home. The sun is blazing outside and I’m staring at the empty fireplace..processing, looking for answers to questions.. for hours. Playing mind numbing games of spider solitaire to pass the painful hours. My back hurts, my head is full…constantly processing, over processing, over thinking, processing….on and on it goes. Never good enough, worthless, pointless, lethargy, apathy, pain, exhaustion…..and it goes on. But today, I would make it stop. I had to. I was done. I stood up and walked to the cupboard, my favourtite cupboard… I started to pull out my bivvy kit. I stuffed and packed everything into my sack. I didn’t know where I was going or why. I just had to go.
I got Joanne to feed Merly for the night and morning and got in the car. I decided to head somewhere further afield and Pillar spring into my head. It was a long drive and the Fred Whitton was on the next day so I would need to be off the hill at a sensible time to miss the conjestion. I was committed mentally so off I went. Soon I was in the jaws of the valley. It was stunning. I could see waves on Wastwater so I knew it would be a breezy night.
I parked in the NT car park and checked with the warden I was ok overnight.. It was fine. I headed down the road, all the ewes were heavily in lamb and new borns chased around enjoying the sunshine. I walked to Ritsons Bar and dumped my pack outside. I ordered a water and a wine and sat under the trees out back listening to the water and watching the birds. I always think of my mum when I’m here; she loved Wasdale and I knew that she would probably have sat in this exact spot at some point… My eyes filled with tears and I dropped my head as the area was busy.. I missed her so much.. I looked distantly to Pillar and the long hike ahead of me. I felt reluctant-but thats my head. I had to forge forwards or go home. I knew it would be painful to force myself onwards but I knew if went home that the anxiety had won and I would feel defeated. I had come this far so I knew I must carry on. I finished my wine, tightened my pig tails and pulled my pack on. I was soon traversing the flanks of Kirk Fell. I stepped aside for a runner and to my surprise the lad behind him was my supervisor, Dave. We chatted for a good 20 minutes; this was good as I hadn’t conversed for days now.. They were reccying the Bob Graham Round.
I was soon on my way again. I was battling my head the whole time..It was bloody exhausting. I was soon where the path crosses the beck from Black Sail. Here I had to take water and pack was about to get 2 kilos heavier! Great…
The next section of path zig zags and then a small trod breaks off and rises steeply to another traverse that comes out near the path to Looking Stead. I had to dig deep here as I felt wasted. Soon it was all over and I was on the main path to Pillar. An icy wind cut through me from the Noth east and I put some clothes on. Goose bumps like hedgehog spikes formed quickly on my legs! I told myself to ‘man up’ and crack on! I passed a few people heading down and then I was alone. I was soon approaching the summit. The wind was searching for any bare flesh to freeze…as per usual. I hoped it would abate and leave me be.
I set about building a small shelter around the bivvy that was already assembled but needed some repairs! The weather was stunning and the air clarity perfect. I felt ok. Relieved but still not quite there.. I sat back and cracked open the tin of G and T I had lovingly carried up in my pack! I looked around. Soul food. The suns rays searched downwards to Ennerdale and fluffy clouds moved over the sky. It was as good as it gets. I saw some heads bobbing towards the summit. 4 Irish bloked that were all reccying the the BG round appeared. One sat down and chatted to me about a night he spent under the stars and how magical it was…It’s the best way to see the stars I said! He was soon dragged off by his friends! I waved them off and was alone again. I decided to have a little walk. I made a quick brew as I needed my tramadol and then wandered off to photograph Pillar Rock. To my surprise I saw 2 guys walking up. I took some snaps and then went back to the summit. They soon appeared having done North west climb. We had a good chat and again, I was alone.. This time for the last time. I was pleased as last time I was up here another guy was bivvying. We had a good night really, we kept a respectful distance and had some nice chats but also some alone time too.
I fired up the beast and prepared my dinner. I was pretty hungry and was looking forward to it..and my wine… My head was definitely quieter but I still felt an edge to me.
I decided to focus on food and photography..oh and wine…obviously..
The sunset looked promising. I decided as usual..it was time to move house. I preferred the look of a spot in the summit shelter. The ground was flat but a little stony-the Sea to Summit Comfort Light would be fine and I knew what it could handle so I quickly moved in time for the sun dropping. I was soon resettled and walking around with the tripod.
I was in awe of the mountains, everything looked perfect. The wind had dropped and I felt good. I was warm in my new Patagucci Ultralight down jacket.. Its worth mentioning that I got it as a present for Marc but the colour was far too ‘girlie’ so I kept it!!! (for the record-I bought him an Arcteryx Atom SL in place!!!).
As the sun dropped, the shadows grew long and cast over the mountains and valleys.. It was a stunner of a night. I sat and stared down the beautiful Ennerdale Vally. The sun shone brightly from its surface in gold, soon to turn to peach and orange.. If there is ever a way to heal your head then this is the cheapest and best therapy there is.
I love this time of night. The colours, the air, the silence. A distant bleat from a ewe and the wind.
I snapped away and took in all the surrounding. This was what I needs..I knew in my heart (and head) that this couldn’t always be the soloution but it will always level me.
Despite the sickness from my Tramadol the pain was (temporarily) gone. I sat back with my wine and watched the horizon pull the sun towards it..Soon she would be gone and I would be left with the stars…no poor substitute. Sunset was amazing!
The wind was now all but gone and walked around feeling warm and happy. My wine coursed through my veins. It was a perfect. Just breathing felt good. Appreciation of your surrounding can be incredibly rewarding-and humbling…
The night drew in and my favourite stars appeared. Warming my soul and evoking memories. Soon it would be final brew time. It is remarkable the simple and primitive things you look forward to when you are in the mountains at night. (apart from the 3am wee!!!!!!!).
I decided it was time to get snuggled down for the night. I cupped my hot chocolate and breathed the cold clear air. It felt like spring was here, despite the chill there was a different smell on the breeze.. In usual fashion I toddled off to do my teeth etc and was soon engulfed by all my warm stuff. It was beautiful. I looked skyward…My head was empty…nothing… Just Marc and how I sorted stuff out..The fact that he is so awesome and patient would hopefully make that easy.. Why he stays I have no idea..
And then it was 5.11am!!!! I looked down at my dew covered bag. The air was cold and I was reluctant to move. I needed a wee and it was sunrise! Up, I thought, get up! Don’t sleep through another one!!! I forced myself out of my warm cocoon.. And boy I’m glad I did…What a stunner. Inversions were prevalent in the East. Cloud poured over the Helvellyn range and Blencathra sat in a sea of cloud..It was certainly a good tool for spurring the spirit along! My eyes watered in the chilled air. The fells changed colour and I was hungry! I snapped a few more and headed back to the warmth and a good breakfast! Powdered coffee and dehydrated food is totally underrated!!!!
I finished my food and coffee and then…..I fell asleep for another hour! I must have needed it. I woke and there was warmth in the sun. I got up again and put another perfect powdered coffee on and had a cereal bar. I took some more pictures. Steeple and Red Pike were beatufully lit now…Soon it was time to head back to reality… I started to pack.
Soon I was shouldering the pack and taking a last look before moving off. I wouldv’e gone the long way but was mindful of the Whitton. I retraced my steps but for a deviation onto the runners paths as it was easier on the back. The sun was now high and warm. It was lovely! I thoroughly savoured the walk down. The valley was so beautiful.. As I descended it became warmer and the small of summer filled the air. I saw a new born lamb high on the fell which was lovely.
Soon I was nearing the pub. I stopped and chatted to a few people who asked about the temps on the summit and winds. The National Trust guy had to unlock the gate for me as I was in the overflow field! I was so pleased he was there or my car would’ve been locked in!
A cracking night in all but I knew more time would be needed to get over this current ‘issue’.
My head was already in Wales…. Oh dear.. It was going to be a long week…. TBC..
So, those people I need to thank for keeping me level..
Gillie H, Marc Y, James R, David H, Ste M, Katie Mc, Ali R, Paddy R, Justin G, Julie W/T, Lee W,Steph D, David W, Graeme C, Stephen B, Mike N, Pete H, Martin W,. There are many more too. Including my team at work..Absolute legends. Also, all the people who messaged me following my frst blog about anxiety.. I’m sorry if I haven’t mentioned you but after all I am a bit bonkers! (and tramadol wipes your memory!)