Ever walked up or climbed a mountain?
Say like Scafell Pike in the English Lake District. There is nothing better I imagine than using the protection of a suitable cairn or trig point, opening up the sandwich boxes and the thermos and having a relaxing bite to eat before heading back down to valley floor and the car home.
I imagine there’s nothing better anyway because I’ve never had the experience. Let me explain.
My Dad was a skilled and committed climber back in the day. He had trekked and climbed in Scotland, Wales, The Peak District as well as Norway and the Alps but he always came back to his beloved Lake District.
He knows every inch of it, and was so compelled to have his regular fix of it that when my brothers were small often on a Sunday he would wake me up at the crack of dawn and we would kit ourselves up, get in the car and go to The Lakes for a fell walk. Or a quick couple of routes if it was climbing weather. My Dad would make sure we always had the right gear: Sturdy boots, waterproofs , ropes, compass , map, whistle. We went prepared for anything. Except eating. He was so eager to get onto the fells that on the way out he would just grab anything that he thought might sustain us by way of provisions. Food was a very low priority. Besides my Dad was notorious for going the whole day with just 20 Embassy to fortify him.
I remember one occasion stopping for lunch on the summit of I forget where, for my Dad to open his rucksack and produce a tin of pilchards in tomato sauce! Pilchards! Ugh! We ate them out of the tin with our hands.
But the best example of this cavalier attitude to food was on Crinkle Crags. And thereby hangs a tale of survival and derring-do.
We’d headed for some snow, hopefully to try out some new skis. But instead found ourselves on the top of Crinkle Crags in white-out conditions. Snow being blown horizontally. You could barely see your hand in front of your face. It was so cold and windy, ice was crystalizing on the front of my jacket. We found a bit of protection in the lee of an outcrop of rock. My Dad had a primus stove and two eggs he planned to boil. Fat chance of that! It was simply too windy to light the bloody thing.
‘Don’t worry’ says my Dad, pulling out a tin of beans. He went about opening the tin with a tiny ‘wiggle and cut’ opener and passed the can to me ‘At least they are already cooked’ So we shared the tin ‘drinking’ the beans while trying not to cut our lips on the shredded metal. Suitably ‘refreshed’, we considered our position. My Dad took the view – which I shared – that we were in danger of outstaying our welcome and that we ought to call it a day, even though we were only half way through the walk.
The trouble was the lack of visibility. We were on the traverse of the crags, but which gully to descend by? Get it wrong and it was goodnight Vienna. We consulted the map again and made our choice. I wasn’t scared in the least. I never was when I was out with my Dad.The snow was about knee deep in the gully. The most dangerous thing was avoiding lose rocks and boulders hidden by the snow. After about 20 minutes we broke through the cloud and saw we were spot on with our direction finding – exactly were we should have been – It was still snowing, but much less windy now we were off the tops. In fact we skied the final third of the descent. Not exactly Kitzbuhel but there you go. And home in time for tea and crumpets.
NB. Scafell is pronounced ‘scorefell.’
Andy Daly 2016