Sheila Bristow's Scafell Climb

Scafell climb on Saturday 9th April. Time 9.30 – 12.27 to summit. 12.40 – 3.15 descent.

I was a bit late completing the 3 peak challenge having done Snowdon and Ben Nevis in my early teens with my parent and my brother.

Having been a mum for 35 years, helping raise grandchildren and caring for my dad with dementia, at aged 58 I finally found I had time on my hands to suit myself.

I stayed in Lingmell House B&B – lovely mountain view room, the window large, old fashioned room and very comfy bed – much appreciated when I first arrived, following the previous day of driving to the district, getting lost and sleeping in the back of the hire car on a mountain track with a water fall thundering down the side. I slept from 4.30pm until 7am the next morning! That bed!

The breakfast, full English was one of the best I have had the luxury to eat.

Great weather – blue sky and sunny to start our 5 strong group walk led by a knowledgeable experienced guide from Large, very supportive and full of humour led with his dog Lexie.

We started out from the car park upwards alongside a very loud fast flowing river roaring over rocks. From a distance it looked like a silent silvery discarded thread, glistening in the sunlight.

The path was laid with large stones/small boulders, in quite steep steps. My training of walking the hills and valleys of the Chilterns did nothing to prepare me for walking up steep steps for almost an hour, with each step raising my knees almost above my waist. Oh for longer legs I groaned!

In hindsight the two pairs of tights (which were quite tight and actually restricted my stride) were unnecessary! As was the vest, two t-shirts, polo neck jumper and fleece lined jacket.

I had to stop quite often, every 20 yards or so, leaning on a walking pole one of my companions leant me. The same guy showed a lot of human grace and positive spirit towards anyone in our group who lagged behind, keeping us company. Top man!

After an hour we crossed over a river. I only got one foot wet. It was only really cold for a couple of shocking seconds still, I welcomed the change in temperature.

I was told later, over a pint of Guinness in THE INN - that I was a cause for mild concern, being so red in the face.

The path evened out a bit so that we were walking on smaller, less steep steps until we got to the “Boulder field” for our official rest. I had a real sense of relief as when I stopped moving my temperature dropped and kept down to the extent that I began to shiver. Actually I was soaked from my skin through 4 layers of clothing. Even my fleece lined jacket was damp.

As I took my polo neck jumper off, I was reminded of the best gig I ever went to, when I got home and literally wrung my clothes out. Good times!

This was even better though. Yes, I found it really tough going. It was a real challenge for me, but I remained positive, and at no time did the thought enter my mind to quit. I was mentally prepared to do whatever it took to get to the summit.

Desire to succeed, determination, endurance, resilience, and the anticipation of conquest, will always be the raw core virtue of making individual thoughts and dreams exist and have a place in reality.

It was there in boulder field, that the news that we were half way there, was greeted by cheers.

Once I’d cooled down and refuelled, my legs stopped wobbling and I seemed to get my second wind and set out upwards again with renewed vigour. Once the temperature dropped toward the top, I began to feel much more comfortable.

I’m not saying I raced to the top, but once in sight of the summit, the exhilaration and relief kicked in and seemed to override all physical discomfort. Especially so, as we could now see the snowy bit up ahead. I joked that once there, I’d do a snow angel, but decided not to use up my energy in such childish pursuits, instead contenting myself with writing my name in it and eating a bit too.

It was lovely snow. Just right for a snowball fight which we had on the way down. Grab a handful, squeeze, and there was your snowball in an instant!

People who had already made it and were on the way down, had such big smiles on their relaxed faces, it was hard to miss that we were approaching the summit.

The nicest piece of backpacker on mountain walk etiquette was to greet everyone in a pleasant and friendly manner. Usually if a stranger spoke to me, I hold my bag tighter!

I so wish I’d done a lap of honour at the plateau as there were panoramic views of rolling mountains and in the distance, Scotland and Isle of Man. However, so focused was I on my charity mission, I had my photo taken with my MHRUK t-shirt, which at one point I’d actually blown my nose on, (in the absence of a Handy Andy, - sorry if I offend!) held up with a walking pole through the sleeves to make a flag. Then began the boggy, mossy, springy descent.

So much easier leaning into the slope and letting gravity do its work whilst looking for safe places to put feet without twisting an ankle.

Once at ground level we all went for a celebratory drink, the sudden welcoming warmth from the hearth fire warming our faces and ears to a glowing red colour. Or was that the alcohol! Revived, we hugged each other and went our separate ways.

A truly unforgettable day.