Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Up the Creek Without a Paddle

Isaac Martin (Spring 2017)

... And we like it that way!
Lake District was an adventure.  It was an adventure in the fullest sense of the word, “an unusual and exciting or daring experience,” and let me tell you, Lake District did not disappoint.  It was unusual in the sense that it didn’t include site-seeing within the cities, or finding cool museum tours or looking at old buildings as you walk down old cobble-stoned streets.  Instead of walking out of the hostel and onto a busy street, we walked out to find nothing but a beautiful vista of the calmest, most peaceful lake I have ever laid eyes upon.  It truly was sensational.  After letting calmness rush over you, you see the mountain break through the fog behind the lake and you realize that you’re about to climb it.  This is the excitement the Lake District promises.  As you approach the mountain you can’t help but notice the countless streams and creeks, all of various sizes, running off the mountain and into the still lake.  Then it hits you – tomorrow you’re going ghyll scrambling and you’ll dare to walk (you’ll later learn that means wading) up one of those streams.
In all my years spent outdoors, hiking and whatnot, my favorite times have been the ones where I have a starting point, an ending point, and a vague idea of where I want to be in the middle without having a strict path to follow or reason to rush.  The best times for me are just spent doing what I love most-- exploring.  What a better way to experience the Lake District than simply crawling up the side of the mountain, abandoning the scattered paths through the hills, and simply seeing what you can see. 
There are definite perks to walking off the beaten path; new discoveries, better views, and a stronger sense of adventure. However, it doesn’t come without its difficulties.  Out of such difficulties, games were made.  What games, you might ask?  The ones were everyone in the group agreed that whoever fell over from slipping in the mud the most lost.  We went so far as to define the rules of playing and what exactly constitutes a “fall”.  We mostly followed the NFL rules for what is ruled a tackle (any body part besides the feet or hands touching the ground is considered down).  And after consideration we included a “tripping” clause that if anyone was determined to have tripped or deliberately pushed another down would have said person’s fall attributed to the pusher’s score.  The goal was to keep your score low so as to not lose the game.
Ten miles later, the final score-line amongst us nine friends was 2-2-2-1-1-1-1-0-0.  The three-way tie was never broken and all three “2-pointers” were determined to be co-losers.  It was random games like this that contributed to seemingly random exploration being one of my favorite activities of the Lake District.  This game also helped me to realize that sometimes in life you’re going to fall down, but while you’re at it, have some fun with it!
One of the most interesting parts of the hike itself was that each time we saw a hill we thought to ourselves, “Surely, if we can just get to the top of this hill, we can take a break on top.”  A great mindset in theory.  However, as in life, there’s always another hill to climb.  The Lake District has no shortage of climbs to be had, and it’s important to just keep putting one foot in front of the other because the view from the top was worth it every time.  After hours of false-summits we finally reached the top of one mountain, marked by the stone column informing us of our measly 1100 feet climb (by far the smallest summit in the area).
 Another favorite adventure from the Lake District was ghyll scrambling.  Something I hadn’t heard of until signing up for activities through Harlaxton, I had no idea what to expect out of this.  The easiest way to describe what ghyll scrambling actually is would be to have you imagine the coldest water you can think of being acceptable to get into, and then imagine colder but going in anyways.  Now imagine that said water is moving swiftly down a sizeable mountain creek.  Add a helmet for safety, shoes with some good grip, and now get in that creek and start walking (or crawling, rather) upstream. 
Ghyll scrambling taught me a few things.  First and foremost, it taught me that it’s okay to accept that you have physical limitations and that some people will just flat out be more inclined to do things that you just can’t.  Ghyll scrambling involves a lot of finger strength, body control, and sometimes you just won’t be able to reach the same hand holds as everyone else.  That leads me to the next ghyll scrambling lesson: creativity.  Just because you can’t use the same handholds or path that someone else used doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution for you.  Use creativity to find a way for you to make your own path amidst the current trying to sweep you away.  Lastly, via various deeper pools of water along the route, I learned to take the jump.  You only have one chance to ghyll scramble with this group of people, on this creek, with conditions like this.  Don’t not jump simply to save yourself from feeling a little cold.  Jump in the freezing cold water and make a fool of yourself.  Life doesn’t offer do-overs.

This adventure truly was all about the journey, not the destination. And more than that, it was about the lessons learned, disguised as fun and games that stick with me through the memories.  From learning to have fun with it when you fall down, putting one foot in front of another until the view takes your breath away, accepting what you can do, creatively finding a way around what you can’t, or taking the jump into that cold water because you don’t know if you’ll ever have the chance to do it again, Lake District imparted me with stunning views and important reminders.

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