Curled up in a foetal position, sleeping bag sealed off overhead, helplessly shaking from the cold, I drift in and out of sleep, longing for daylight to arrive. An eternity goes by before the occasional bird tweets and the slowly brightening tent walls signal the arrival of a new day.
I scramble around, layer up and poke my head out into the morning chill.
Frigid in a tent
The frozen lake and snowy mountains are still there, everything is frosted over…a perfect silence shrouds the valley. My mood is somewhat blemished by my stove deciding to abandon me in my hour of need, but coffee or no coffee, it’s time to set out on another epic. Bag on back, I begin the slow ascent of the day’s first mountain.
Body aching, lungs heaving, the mind races around, trying to find subjects to keep you distracted from the repetitive, strenuous task at hand. I tend to head straight for the gossip column in my head, analysing all sorts of experiences, some from way back. There may be negative thoughts, anxieties that need addressing, but they all fade away as endorphins increasingly invade the brain, opening up a new section of the mind…the one with the crazy ideas. Spurred on by stunning scenery and solitude, the ideas get wilder, abandoned ambitions are reconsidered and the magnitude of the surroundings puts everything back into perspective. All doubts and pessimistic views are expelled as a surge of motivation and enthusiasm takes over. Moments like these are essential and don’t need to be few and far between. You don’t need to be climbing Kilimanjaro or sailing an ocean to find inspiration, it’s all possible in your own backyard.
Exploring the UK
A long weekend in Snowdonia or the Lake District will do the trick. A playground of mountains and home to cute, little villages, you can scare yourself on steep rocky faces and reward yourself with fish and chips and a pint in the evening. If you live in London and the five hour drive puts you off, then the Brecon Beacons or Peak District are a tamer but equally stunning option, and only 3 and a half hours away by car. Camping isn’t technically allowed in any of these places, but maps and Google Earth will show you little areas, away from farms and houses, where you can get away with pitching a tent, so long as you leave your patch as you found it.
How do I start?
The weather can be rough and the land disorientating, so you might consider a course to get you started, for example with Plas y Brenin in Snowdonia. Or you can just get out there on a sunny day and learn through trial and error. For those looking to take their skills to the next level, you can do a Mountain Leader training course, which sets you up nicely for undertaking more ambitious objectives. It could also make you a little cash working as a guide in the summer.
So next time you need ideas or inspiration, head for the hills, exhaust yourself and maybe even pick a line up a rocky face and scare yourself. I’ve got one lined up for the next trip (see below), go out there and find yours!