Up early and into town to do some shopping to get essentials such as Kendal Mint Cake, and a new thumb stick, as my one is back home, and I hadn’t had chance to go and get it. All well and good- both were acquired much more easily, and much more cheaply than I expected. So off to Mass at St. Charles. Had lunch after that, in the presbytery, with the Fathers, and a couple of lads (one of whom is well known to the blogging world as the author of Bashing Secularism, and is off to Valodalid next year for his pre-seminary year for the Diocese of Middlesbrough) who were off to the highly successful “Invocation“ weekend at Oscott- all very pleasant indeed. I then popped off to finish packing (as well as starting to pack, it must be said) and to get some bits for the Extraordinary Form Mass which was taking place the following day. The, disaster number 1: I had misplaced my walking trousers- good roomy combats, which dried quickly and were very hard wearing. So had to dash out and get some more- succeeded in this and we were back on track. Fr. Paul and myself drove to Long Preston (well, Fr. Paul drove), to a very nice little place, who’s name escapes me, where I had rooms booked for the, and very nice they were too, with friendly and very obliging staff. A good dinner, and an early night.
Up at 3.45 (!), feeling fairly chirpy (!!) washed, shaved, said Matins, met up with everyone else and met up, bleary eyed with everyone else. Conversation was unsurprisingly limited at this point; for some reason; I suspect there is much to be said for Wilde’s remark that only boring people are brilliant at breakfast. Well this was some hours before breakfast; well this was many hours before breakfast, so we stood no chance.
We drove the 10 miles down winding roads, until arriving at the starting point of the official café (for reasons of health and safety, you sign in there, so they know if anyone is still up on the hills when it gets dark,. It also means if you do it in 12 hours, they invite you to join the 3 peaks club., which gets you a tie and other exciting things.
We were there too early to sign in properly, so left our names and the approximate time we started out (5am). However, by the time we set out, it was nearer 5.20, which is important, as you shall see later.
So off we all set; up the Pen-y-ghent; it was cool, and pleasant, but the going got steep very quickly; I set off at a fair old lick, working to the principle “if t’were done, t’were best done quickly”; I was soon some way ahead of everyone else and able to turn round and have a look at things. The views up there were really breathtaking; I shall make a primitive attempt at uploading some photos, not taken by me, and the better they are for it. Anyway, we lost our first walker at this point, who had said they were not overly keen on the idea anyway and were just along for the ride. We climbed a bit further, and began to talk to each other, as we woke up a bit. This was the thing I enjoyed most- getting to talk to people with whom I worship week in and week out, but who, for various reasons, I never get to meet, or talk to properly. This climb was perfect for that, and one of the reasons I went. It was shortly after this that the first Unpleasant bit happened: scrambles. Now, I’m not a great one for heights, it must be said, but what I like even less are depths- that sudden sensation that there’s nothing between you and quite a long drop and a bloody death/brutal injury; and the ground is uneven, and something could go at any minute. I call this the Argggggggggggggggggggh! Effect; it was not helped by several factors, which I need not bore you with here. Thankfully I was talked up by other members of the party who saw my plight, and were very kind and patient. It was at this point I realised, that, actually, this was going to be harder than I thought and there were not a few times I thought stuff this for a lark. However, I got to the top, got my breath back (I was wheezing a bit on that first one, I must admit), it was quite nice- you couldn’t see a thing, the top was thick with cloud, it was nice and cold, which was nice, as I was already rather warm. The back of my shirt, where my pack was, was ringing wet by that stage. Horrible. It was not for the first time I began to think of Lord of the Rings (a fairly obvious connection, I thought) I also thought “I bet those *!£%$*&^$^)*(&)&**%$%$”$%&^&^(*ing hobbits didn’t have this trouble.” But, so far so good.
What was interesting were the other people we saw along the way- the charity Marie Curie had a fairly large scale walk going on, with important officials, with badges. The first pair we saw overtook us on the way up the hill; dressed fairly normally- it was only when we were at the top we discovered them changed into costume- a gorrilla suit and black tie with NHS 50s glasses, which was an entertaining sight before 7am. The friendliness of people along the way was nice as well- we were all aiming for the same thing, so there would be words of encouragement to the people we passed, and the same in return. Just goes to show: you put people in a nice place and they tend to be nice to each other.
As we descended, I realised that this was a problem in itself, as once again, the ground was uneven, and the danger of me wounding my pride was somewhat great! However, my trusty thumbstick came in very handy and I was able to plant that before moving- it meant my progress was slow, but I soon caught up again.