Pillar

Post 125:  12 April 1995: Day 5 – Black Sail Hut Youth Hostel to Eskdale Youth Hostel – The Underpant Trail.  14½ miles

After breakfast, we all gathered outside to put our boots on. The youngsters were ready first, eager to get on with their journey.

‘Where are you going today?’ I enquired.

‘To the summit of Pillar.’

‘Oh, we are also heading there. Maybe we’ll see you on there?’ I joked, thinking that they would arrive there well ahead of us old fogies.

We carried on chatting for some twenty minutes in no rush to ascend Pillar at 2927 feet. Suddenly remembering we had over 14 miles of hard walking ahead we eventually left the hostel in bright sunshine to begin the steep climb up the Black Sail Pass. We then headed off along the ridge towards the top of Pillar. The youngsters soon came into view and, feeling considerably better than the previous day, I shot up the ridge to catch them up.

‘Oh, we thought we would be on the summit first,’ said one of the youngsters, Bernise, clearly disappointed that someone who probably did not look much younger than their parents had caught them up.

‘Don’t worry, I am sure you will be able to keep up with me,’ I joked.

Sure enough we approached the summit together, but the youngest one burst into a run, determined to get to the summit first. I had no such ambitions and just smiled.

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They then reached the trig pillar and one of them climbed onto it so that I could take a picture. I couldn’t resist climbing onto the pillar, forgetting that I had dodgy knee ligaments and, if I were to jump off, I would probably be a mountain rescue case. At 6ft 2.5 inches on top of the trig pillar on top of Pillar, is this a world record for Pillar?

the-big-50_6786_edited-1My companions thought this was hilarious and threatened to leave me there, until one of them took pity on the ‘old’ man and gave me a hand down. There is little doubt that an energetic climb to a summit can lead to tremendous endorphin highs. Forget drugs, take up fell walking.

The descent was less pleasant as we had to follow the scree run from Wind Gap to the head of Mosedale. Scree runs are not nice, steep scree runs are agony. The pressure on the legs, in particular the knees, is incessant and, as your feet and the scree give way, you end up on your backside more times than it pays to count. Dan was dressed in faded beige trousers (up-date – a forerunner in the fashion stakes for Nicholas Crane who was much later to acquire fame in the TV series Coast!) so that by the time he reached the end of the scree he had a black bottom (see hostel picture below). When I reached the end my muscles were screaming, my knee ligaments were sore, I had bleeding blisters, sweat was pouring out, and I was covered in dust. It was with great relief we were able to dip our feet in the ice-cool Mosedale Beck and spend half-an-hour sunbathing.

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A few days later we heard that a walker had died of heat exhaustion on this very day – in April.

A bonus for our efforts was that we saw Peregrine Falcons and Buzzards swooping overhead, or were they vultures waiting for the dead bodies? Not waiting to find out we carried on to Wasdale, past Burnmoor Tarn, so deep blue it looked unreal, then to Eskdale Youth Hostel, arriving at 5.30pm.

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At the reception were two East German ladies who were having great difficulty choosing from the breakfast menu due to language problems. Do they have porridge in East Germany? Dan’s language skills were useful again as he had a working knowledge of German. One of them joined us in the Woolpack Inn in the evening, but only Dan could have a meaningful conversation. However, I was impressed as she was a Guinness drinker. The lost energy of a long and energetic but memorable day’s walking, was soon restored by a huge plate of steak and chips, washed down with Guinness. My view is that fitness is measured by how quick you can recover from your exertions; our recovery was fairly rapid that evening.

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