Such were the wise words of Richard Baskerville upon learning Sam and I were off to the Lake District for a week away. Clearly he knows us, and our tendency to ‘inadvertently end up doing things the very hard way’ too well.
Somehow though, a mere 24 hours later on day 1 of the holiday, we managed to end up doing just that. Waking up to glorious sunshine, we decided to seize the moment and ascend Skiddaw, the closest peak to our cottage, which was just outside of Kendal. However, the particular path we chose to take became increasingly narrow, steep and punctuated with worryingly large drops on the right-hand side. “This isn’t a walker’s path, it’s a goat’s path” exclaimed Sam’s mum Ann as we huffed and puffed, picking our way gingerly up the mountain side.
Sadly the worse was yet to come. To get up to the high point looming in the distance, we realised to our horror we were going to have to scramble up a stupidly steep and scarily long scree slope. Achilles burning, panting and chronically overheating (with walking being a fairly new activity in my repertoire I was woefully underequipped on the clothing front compared to the others and hence clad in ‘age 12-13 boys skiing salopettes’ rather than waterproof trousers), by the end we were virtually crawling up that godforsaken slope as it got steeper and steeper towards the top. It occurred to me, as I heaved my way up, that the experience made for a rather good metaphor for chemotherapy. It gets increasingly unpleasant as your body takes a battering from each progressive session and the temptation to run away from it grows, but then when you consider the alternative (letting the alien grow or attempting to get back down a seriously perilous path and undoing all your hard work) then it’s a no-brainer.
Finally, arriving at the top, my ‘ascent fantasy’ of collapsing on my back and catching my breath were quickly put paid to by the marshy ground underfoot and the vicious circling wind. On the right-hand side the peak of Skiddaw loomed, but the remaining path looked disturbingly similar to the one we’d just come up. Good reason prevailed over the drive to ‘mountain bag’ (my sado-masochistic tendencies have clearly been dulled by the chemo!) and we decided to head back down.
Unfortunately the descent proved as stupidly steep as the ascent. (I’d forgotten how walking down a mountain can be just as strenuous as walking up one.) The final kilometre however was a lovely smooth, albeit steep, grassy slope and Ann introduced us to a novel ‘knee-saving’ technique: bottom-sledging. This innovative technique, soon to be patented by Ann Hemmant, involves sitting down on the ground and using the combination of slippery waterproof trousers and arms to propel yourself down the slope, ski-pole style. Classy it ain’t but when your knees are threatening to implode it’s a life-saver! Several hours later and thoroughly battered, the Hemmant clan made it back to the ranch and the day’s achievements were celebrated with tea and cake. And then a very long nap.
After Sunday’s epic, I was too crippled to be able to face walking again in the near future so we went for some nice gentle spins on our bikes – to be featured, no doubt, in a future post. By Friday, equipped with rested legs and a shiny new pair of waterproof trousers, I was however ready to don the walking boots again. This time we went for a route that couldn’t fail to be flat – a circumnavigation of Derwent water. Despite the showers amid the sunshine, it was a lovely walk. Resisting the temptation to join Sam and his dad Les on a deviation via an ascent of Cat’s Bells halfway round, Ann and I continued to amble around the lake-side on the flatter terrain. “No more epics” 😉