One of my favourite walks was across Sharp Edge in the Lake District. Sharp Edge is a ridge scramble route up to the top of a mountain called Blencathra.
It must have sounded like a good idea at the time!
Being scared of heights I find that scrambling can be unpleasant and I am usually reluctant to take on such challenges. One Sunday morning in August 2003, I received a text message from my walking partner to say that he would be arriving at my house imminently and that we would be going to scramble across Sharp Edge! Apparently I had agreed to this after several pints the previous Friday evening and there was no way that I would be backing out of it. It must have sounded like a good idea at the time.
The drive north up the M6 gave me plenty of time to worry about how scary the scramble would be. More than likely I would lose my footing and plummet down the side of the ridge, enduring a very painful death. Or at the very least I would get stuck half way across and lose control of my bowels. The weather had been fine during the drive up so it could have been worse.
We turned off the M6 and on to the A66. Not much further now. Then we turned the corner and Sharp Edge came into view. The sky was black and the ridge was standing high in sky forebodingly. Things were not looking good.
Get your Walking Boots on!
Fortunately we found a parking space near the beginning of the path. Hesitantly, I put my walking boots on and checked that my waterproof jacket was in my rucksack. With sky looking so dark I was sure that it would rain, probably at the same time as we were crossing Sharp Edge ridge.
As we walked up the path towards the ridge and the impending scramble, I was continuously weighing up my chances of getting through this ordeal in one piece. Would I scramble across the ridge safely or would I chicken out completely and walk back down the mountain in shame?
Walking with Little Yappy Dogs
Finally we reached the start of the ridge. Time to scramble! Feeling scared but not willing to be beaten, I began to advance across the ridge proper. There was a gentle introduction to the ridge as the sides gradually began to get steeper and longer. So far so good. Everything was going smoothly, then we came to crux. The part of the ridge where there was nothing to hold on to. The trouble with a hard part like this is that once you have crossed it there is no easy way of going back.
After what seemed like a lifetime of indecision I made the move into no-mans land, terrified. Gingerly I stepped across the wobbly bit and from there onto a small flat bit from which I could grasp hold of some rock with all the strength that my hands could muster. Then I jumped out of my skin!
Something was licking my hands! I looked round to see three little yappy dogs running around the rock face. Once my heart began to slow down I started to wonder “who on earth goes walking across a ridge with little yappy dogs?” My question was soon answered by the dog owner, a man who must have seen the shock on my face. He reassuringly told me that if wasn’t scared scrambling across Sharp Edge then I wouldn’t normal.
In His Rucksack?
The next challenge came once I had made it across the ridge. The scrambling was not over yet! There was a climb up to the summit of the mountain. There was no way I was going back over Sharp Edge ridge, so I hoped that the scramble would not be too scary. I was in luck! The scramble was sheltered with plenty of hand holds. In fact, I even enjoyed it.
The little yappy dogs were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps the owner had put them in his rucksack for the final ascent. Paris Hilton carries her dog in her handbag, so why not?
Waterproofs Not Required Today!
We reached the summit and admired the view. The hike back down to the car was pleasant and scramble free. The rain had held off, no waterproofs were required today. It had been an excellent walk, challenging and enjoyable.
Whatever the weather conditions are like in the valley, the weather may be completely different when you are up in the mountains. Therefore it is always best to be prepared for a range of different weather conditions.