About The Place Where We Are Not Supposed To Be
APART FROM CARRYING my 10 kg rucksack on my back plus a 2 kg tripod, I was also carrying a heavy burden of guilt of not writing. In the beginning I thought that as soon as I was released from my Tutor’s iron grip, I would definitely start writing for my blog. But after the workshop was over, there followed a shopping spree to Ambleside, the ‘village town’ as the locals call it, then walks into the mountains for two consecutive days, with a bit of photography.
Well, what can I say in my own defense? Too excited, too tired! And the rain! Day after day! More of a Deluge! You have to share your paths with rapid mountain streams, clear as crystal and cold as only mountain streams can be. Even my fancy Scarpa boots, which I was forced to buy in Grasmere and, I was told, were 'very very waterproof’, stood no chance. (‘You have to wax them well’, I was advised by a white bearded fellow traveler later that day, when I was following him with my heart brimming with gratitude.)
I thought that during the photography workshop my Tutor was pushing me to the limits. But then I realized that I was pushing myself even further, nearly beyond those limits. That day I walked to Easdale Tarn the second time. The weather looked slightly better than was predicted. I took a few photos and glanced at the path leading up into the mountains. Why not climb up, walk past the other two tarns and come down to Grasmere, rather than return to the cottage now. One of these days I was planning to do it in any case. On the map it all looked clear and simple. It was still early in the day, no sign of people yet, and a journey in happy solitude awaited me. Yesterday I saw couples, young and old, walking along that path into the mountains, as well as groups of friends, young families with children and even babies. The image of a strong young father carrying a tiny baby on his back stood out in my mind with particular clarity, and, without further ado, I started off. I wish I knew! (I’m glad I didn’t, though!) It rained on and off, sometimes turning into a downpour. The higher I was, the stronger was the wind. At last, after a slow and arduous climb I found myself where I was not supposed to be: alone, with little or no experience, at the top of a ridge, whipped by rain, hail and rain again. Down below was the Stickle Tarn, with the ominous looking Pavey Ark towering above it to my right. The rock looked so scary that I hardly dared look at it and instead turned my gaze to the distant mountains, shrouded in mist. I tried hard to admire the tarn for at least a while, but powerful wind nearly knocked me over again and again. At one moment it seemed to me as if wrapped in the gusts of raging wind were the spirits of all those, whose ashes where scattered in the Lakes; as if they were dancing and whirling on the ridge and above the tarn, retreated with rain into the distant mist and then came back again. Or may be it was our innermost dreams emerging out of chaos… In one way or another, I felt trapped in this otherworldly space. There was no point, however, in lingering here any longer, - I had to start looking for a way out of this meataphysical dance floor in order to reach the valley in daylight. I could not turn back to Easdale Tarn, even though it would have been a familiar route now. First, it would have defeated the purpose of my 'adventure' (despite the growing fear, deep down I still regarded this whole affair as an adventure); and, second, there was that wet, slippery wall of solid rock that I clambered on the way here and the memory of it filled me with dread (it was the Belles Knott, a 2nd grade rock, as I later found out!). I had no doubt that sooner or later I would find my way down to Easdale Valley, but the sometimes barely discernible path and the short November day made me feel anxious. I stood on the ridge contemplating my next step. On my way here I met not a single soul, saw not even a glimpse of human figure. Yesterday the mountains swarmed with people (it was Sunday!), and today I was all alone. No one to ask for direction. And suddenly, while I was studying the terrain to make out a path (it was supposed to be here), a man appeared from behind the rock. John, an IT specialist, an early retiree. From his gait and clothing I immediately understood he was one of those dedicated walkers. I dashed towards him, forcing myself against the mighty wind. He stopped and we talked for a few minutes. He showed me the path and moved on. He was walking very fast and I feared he would soon disappear and I would be stranded here again. He didn't. I was too proud to admit that I needed him to guide me out, and he was gallant enough not to point this out. He would glance back now and again to make sure I was close and would wait for me to catch up where the path was rocky or muddy. And thus we walked together along the ridge, until it was time to part (he was heading for Great Langdale).
It took me some time to find a proper path (it had turned into a fast mountain stream) and at last I descended into the valley. As I was hurrying to my temporary home, I vowed to myself: 'Never! Never again!'
I dropped the rucksack off at the cottage, gathered the last bits of strength and headed to the co-op shop for a newspaper to stuff my boots with. When back at the cottage, had a long hot shower, cooked myself a meal and sat down at my laptop computer to look at the day's images of which, not surprisingly, there were very few. The next day and then the next the sun was shining, it hardly rained and hordes of people set on the pilgrimage into the mountains – from the bottom of valley I could see a multitude of tiny dots on the top of the ridge. I, however, would go nowhere near, just idled around Grasmere Lake from sunrise to sunset, searching for pretty pictures. True, I did climb just above the Loughrigg Terrace, halfway to the Ewe Crag, and that was it: sat down on the rock, admired the valley from above while sipping hot coffee from my flask and then climbed down. And on the last day of my break the second lockdown was announced. Through the day to day routine, a dreamlike memory of the astounding tarn with the ominous rock and the distant mountain peaks clad in mist, keeps returning. I know of a couple of mountain guides who can take you there wildcamping. Just wait...