I briefly mentioned in my first blog how welcomed I felt into the walking community from my very first guided walk at 15. Little did I know that the mountains would give me the best friends and memories a girl could ask for.
When I graduated from Uni, I moved to Leeds. A whole new city away from the friendships I had just built up over three years. I started a little temp job at a corporate(ish) company in Leeds. It was quite a transition – I’d come pretty much straight after being a student and my role prior was at a museum (so I was mostly used to dealing with mostly inanimate objects or dead people).
I sat in the finance department, I was by far the youngest member on the team and quite frankly some of the team members scared me a little. I sat diagonally across from a guy called Dave (cause everyone needs a friend called Dave), a few weeks into the job we chatted a little. He knew I was interested in Hiking so invited me for a walk with another guy and girl from the company, Big Trev and Jo. The memories we would make from that day on will make me laugh, cry, despair and make me a very lucky person.
Our first group walk – disaster or success?
It was probably both. I wasn’t used to doing long-distance trails at this point, and I don’t think anyone in the group had done a particular long challenging walk for a little while. So some genius (Dave) decided our first walk should be a ‘fitness test’. We started off from Settle, walking through Langcliffe, Stainforth, eventually meeting the Pen – Y – Ghent path. We continued to reach the trig, dropped into Horton – In – Ribblesdale, crossing the railway track toward Ingleborough (with the plan to descend down Simon’s Seat) eventually arriving at Ribblehead and the Station Inn Pub covering a distance of approx 18 miles.
I think its fair to say that this is a challenging walk for even a seasoned hiker, to which some of us were not at that point. We gravely underestimated the challenge and timings and found ourselves still on Ingleborough as we approached sunset. Dave turned around to me and said ‘do you have your emergency blanket, we might need to camp here tonight’. I thought he was joking, but he was deadly serious! Thankfully, we all had head torches so we made the decision to come down. By the time we reached the pub I was exhausted and a little bit traumatised I’m not gonna lie.
The walk didn’t quite go to plan, but that was the start of many adventures as a group. Since then, we almost killed Jo’s enthusiasm for camping after nearly freezing her to death in a -5 night in Keld. Big Trev and Dave almost got lost in the Peak District after making a wrong turn on a 26-mile walk, turning it into a 32-mile walk (Jo and I had been waiting in the pub for 5 hours by this point waiting for them). We have aborted the Ribblehead to Kirkby Stephen via Wild Boar Fell many times because the weather hasn’t been kind which has become a bit of nemesis of ours, and we have done dozens and dozens of amazing and beautiful walks in between. One of our favourite things to do now is to sit it the pub and laugh at all the crazy adventures we’ve had.
Hiking – the universal language
Hiking is a hobby that really does bring people together, across all ages and backgrounds. Through these amazing friends, I have made new ones and we can have up to 8 people on a group walk. When I meet new people, I proudly tell them about my friends and our crazy (miss)adventures. They are often surprised when I tell them the age range of the group. There are 32 years between me and the oldest member of the group, but these are my best friends when you have a mutual love for the mountains why should age ever come into it?
It’s fair to say, without the mountains – these amazing people would probably never have been my friends and it would have been one of the biggest missed opportunities of my life. We have all helped each other in a lot of ways – I wish they would all ask for help more. As time and life moves on, members of the group have settled down with partners who have also become very good friends. The downside is that it has become a scheduling nightmare to get us all together. Selfishly it makes me sad, but I’ve seen how much happier they all are which makes it all worth it.
To my amazing friends
Not sure any of them will read this, but I am always thankful for you guys coming into my life. Jo, you have been an incredible friend and I love you very much!