‘Ah, seems like you have taken the scenic route going up’, two guys said when we were scrambling on all fours up the ridge. ‘We haven’t got a clue where we are on the map’
In 2001, the year of the devastating foot and mouth disease among cattle in England. All farms were isolated from the outside world. To keep the disease from spreading all footpaths were closed as well as some natural areas.
We were a bit restless, after all the physical exercise in the kayak, we would like to go out for a good walk. Passing lake Windermere we parked our car near the tourist information. It turned out the footpaths were just reopened. We could have a walk! We did not have a map of the area so Alexander quickly put three waypoints in the GPS. It was still a bit rainy and Alexander said, ‘It is only a 15 km, just three hours’ while looking at me with puppy dog eyes. Who can refuse such a face? I was not to keen on the weather but gave in. With 2 bananas and 2 bottles of water, we started our walk wearing rain gear.
The first bit was alright. We found a very clear path. We started walking up and up… I asked Alexander if we were still on the right track. He checked the GPS and informed me that the batteries were low. We could not check very often.
As we walked up the clouds were getting lower. We were still walking up and the grassy path changed to pebbles and rocks. We could not see what path lay ahead due to the thick mist. The path turned into a zigzag pattern because we were going steeper up the hill. It was not always clear where the zigzag started or ended. According to the GPS we were going in the right direction. So we put our trust into that damned machine since all else failed.
Somewhere we must have made a mistake. There we were climbing up on all fours on a scree field. ‘This can’t be right’, I said to Alexander, ‘a normal Englishman would not crawl up a hill’. Alexander by that time felt a bit guilty. He insisted on the walk without a map, the batteries critically low and now we were crawling up a hill for 3 hours…
Fortunately, we brought an almost dead GPS. We could pinpoint our location on their map on the last of the batteries. Looking at the map, we found out that we totally missed a turn. The turn that said, ‘Go left for the easy walk up and go right for the steep way up’. It took 3 hours to crawl 875 meters up the Fairfield. One of England’s highest hills….. I was pretty pissed at Alexander for making me drag myself totally unnecessary up that hill. He knows I am the world’s worst hillwalker!!
But there was no going back. We ate the bananas and drank some water realizing we did not bring enough food and water. We walked through a small valley. On the other side of the hill, there was a lovely little lake with clear views over the surrounding hills and paths. The weather started to improve and improve some more. The sun came out and we got out of the layers of clothes. Of cause, the rucksack was too small for all stuff so I tied my raincoat and the normal jacket around my waist. We walked back to the car, sunburned and hungry. In the car, while eating everything we could lay our hands on, we concluded that we walked only 6 kilometres in 6 hours!