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A tale of two walks

Image for article A tale of two walks

After the second try, the car chugged into life and wipers dragged across a frozen windscreen. Heaters on full blast, anti-freeze sprayed with abandon, and Kate is soon trundling her way up the M6, northbound.

“Getting up at this time had better be worth it,” she thought, as the caffeine worked its way through her sleep-addled brain. The motorway gives way to lanes and silent villages as fellsides open up like the pages of a book. A crunch of gravel as the tyres leave the tarmac for the car park. Engine off, silence penetrates. A quick check of the pack to make sure everything is there, a scan of the map. Soon Kate is striding through long grass, the melting frost making her trousers damp as she makes her way to the fell wall. The ascent begins, layers come off, a rhythm is found.
Bob turns off the alarm clock and drags himself out of bed; he needs to get a move on or he’ll not get to the top of the Pike. Rushing downstairs, he manages to catch the tail end of the B&B’s breakfast. Throwing the essentials into his pack, Bob reaches for the door and heads for the fells. Fields appear between the buildings, and gradually he leaves town behind. A footpath leaves the road, with a signpost for ‘The Pike’ and Bob heads for the rock and heather in the distance.

Kate is making progress. Picking her way between the rocks, she stops at the foot of a crag and looks out over the valley, partially hidden under a thin layer of mist. Gradually she picks out each of her objectives for the day, silhouetted against the grey-blue sky. The weather has been fine so far, but looking to the west, Kate can see dark fingers of cloud moving between some of her planned peaks. Pressing on, she climbs higher up the path, towards the first summit of the day.

Bob’s shirt is wringing wet as he steams up the path. He’s passed a few walkers on their way down. Checking with one of them that he is on the right path, they assure him that he just needs to take the second fork to the left for the most direct route, but that it will be ‘a bit of a scramble’. It’s late in the afternoon, later than he wanted to be honest, but he’s come a long way to bag the summit and he not going to turn back now. At last, a cairn comes into view, he must be at the top.

The Pike is Kate’s third of four peaks for the day, but the light is fading. “The next one will wait” thinks Kate and she takes the path back down to the valley. It’s loose and steep; suddenly the scree begins to slide underneath her feet and she falls head first down the slope in front of her. Luckily it was more a trip than a fall, she’s not gone more than a few feet. Kate sits up, but the throbbing from her ankle tells her that she’s not got away lightly. She tries to stand but a stabbing pain plants her straight back on her bum. “Oh well, a chance to put that First Aid course into practice” she thinks. Out comes a bandage and some painkillers. The ankle is swelling but it doesn’t look too horrific. “Hopefully just a sprain”. With the bandage wrapped tight and walking poles deployed, Kate eases to her feet and begins to shuffle down the path. The ankle won’t allow her to bear any weight and progress is both painful and slow. Again her feet begin to slip and it takes real effort for Kate to stay upright. “This isn’t working; time for plan B”.

The clouds are red as the sun goes down. Bob is on the descent now. He’s tired, but he just has to retrace his footsteps and he’ll be back at the B&B in a few hours. The path is becoming increasingly difficult to see, so he extracts his phone. The narrow beam illuminates his feet but not much else. “Probably should have brought a torch” he thinks. The crunch of his footsteps are gradually overwhelmed by the pitter-patter of raindrops and Bob realises that he is out of his depth; “Time to call Mountain Rescue”. The police operator takes his details and advises Bob that the MRT will phone him back shortly. As promised, the phone glows into life and Bob thanks his lucky stars that he still has some battery left.

“Can you give me your exact location?” the team leader asks. “I’m on the path from the valley, up to the Pike. I’m about half way down I think.” “There are three paths to the Pike from the valley. If you’ve really no idea which one you’re on, we’ll have to search all three to have a hope of finding you, and we’re already on our way to another walker. It could be between two and six hours before we find you. Do you think you can stay warm for that long?” “I’ll have to” says Bob.

The rain is becoming heavy as Kate shudders inside her survival bag. There’s no signal on her mobile, but she has told her mum to expect a call by now to say she is OK and she’s left a route plan with her. It will be a cold few hours waiting for the MRT, but she pulls on all her spare clothes. “Things could be worse” she muses.

Accidents can occur to even the most experienced walkers. It is important that we all carry a map and compass and have the ability to use them. As well as preventing getting lost, it helps to pass a location to the Mountain Rescue Team should you need them. Having additional equipment like warm clothes, a survival shelter and extra food is also needed in case you are injured and have a long wait for the Mountain Rescue Team. Remember, if you don’t have phone signal, then who will raise the alarm if you need it, and how will they know where you are?

12 December 2016 by Jon Wickham

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