I woke up at about 1:15am; 40 minutes before my alarm was due to sound. I didn’t feel too bad, but took some preemptive ibuprofen to be on the safe side. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I started packing away my things. At 0200, David checked that I was awake; oh ‘eck, it looks like I’m going up the mountain. A flask of Magic Tea and a few biscuits were waiting for me on the table. The tea didn’t seem as potent as the night before, but I was up now so there was no point backing out of the challenge.
It would be no exaggeration to say that the next 4 hours were absolutely horrible. This was the toughest few hours of walking I have ever done. Climbing up and down Peak District peat hags is hard work, but at least you can breathe. This was a long steep climb, mainly up scree, and my lungs seemed to have packed up and gone home. I had to stop every few steps and my breathing was reduced to rapid, shallow panting.
David had obviously allowed plenty of time for his very slow client. As I got higher up the hill, I could see other head-torches setting off from the camp; I reckon I was the first one on the hill that morning. At one point, after a couple of hours, I was ready to give up and told David that I didn’t think I was going to make it. His slightly hurt look, and response of “I am committed!”, made me pull myself together; it would’ve been daft to give up now.
I was wearing an Icebreaker long-sleeved top, a T-shirt and my Paramo Velez. I was cold, so I put my windshirt and waterproof trousers on as well. Usually, this level of extertion would have warmed me up, but this was hard, cold work.
Like a child in the back of the car, I kept asking “Are we nearly there yet?”, but David’s replies were all encouraging rather than informative. “Not bad time!” was the best I could get out of him. I had no idea whether I was getting close to the summit. I had been using the stars as a crude indicator of how far up the mountain I was; if there was a big black gap in the stars then that must be the mountain. The stars were starting to fade now as dawn was breaking on the horizon.
We reached a ladder of metal staples fastened into the rock. David told me to leave my trekking poles and climb up the ladder. I climbed up, worrying about leaving my poles behind. Then it dawned on me…… we’re at the top!!I nearly hugged David. In fact, I think I may have done. I couldn’t believe it – I was at the top! I felt a mix of exhaustion, satisfaction and cold. I could have climbed a little higher to the summit crag, topped with a metal cross, but this blog is called around the hills – not up them – and I’d gone quite high enough, thank you very much. The highest elevation recorded on my GPS was 4886m, which is 99m below the listed height of Point Lenana, but I didn’t seek out the high point. My Suunto compass/thermometer said it was -5 degrees C, so I didn’t fancy dithering over a few extra metres.
The plan was that the rest of the group would arrive at the summit at sunrise too. I could see them approaching the metal ladder and I waved enthusiastically as they climbed up…. until I realised that this was the group of Israelis we’d seen earlier on the trip. Oh well, I’m sure they appreciated my sentiment!
A few minutes later, my group arrived looking exhausted. I’d had a few minutes to recover but they looked like they’d had a tough walk in. There was lots of hugging and taking of photographs. We’d all done what we set out to do and it was good to be all together again at the summit. The views were breathtaking; it’s a shame my camera didn’t do them justice but I think the memories will stay with me.
The walk down was, in some ways, tougher than the walk up – but breakfast awaited back at Shipton’s Camp and it felt good to sit in the sun looking up at the peak and think “Oh yes, we did that one before breakfast!”