Thursday, 16 May 2013
If you've watched Game of Thrones you know how easy it is to be sucked quickly into its fantasy world, especially if you have the double box set. Watching from the comfort of the sofa, little did I expect I would soon be out in the frozen North, re-enacting Game of Thrones on our She Who Dares annual weekend away.
We left the soft, sunny South and headed North, to the land of my forefathers, North to the Wall, a dark land of mists and mountains, passes and terrors, riders in the night and ravens at dawn, a cold land of rains and snow. Or as it's called in Britain - The Lake District. We enjoyed the hospitality of the locals on a brief overnight coaching stop in Garstang, before driving further North to Penrith, dropping down through Keswick to Glanamara Lodge in Borrowdale. A comfortable activity centre founded to 'improve' the population of industrial cities like Manchester and Leeds, and run on pretty austere lines until a decade ago. We were relieved to find clean, comfy rooms, central heating, open log fires and a bar! The food and hospitality were fantastic, the standard of instruction excellent. It needed to be, I felt like we were being prepared as stunt doubles for Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones or Frodo in Lord of The Rings.
After lunch we geared up and headed out to an old quarry for our first activity - The Zip Wire, fixed between two trees over a 60 foot drop, I asked the instructor how often they set it up, "Just three or four times a year" he replied. I hugged the tree closer and hoped the rope would take my weight. It did, but on my second descent the speed increased, the rope was too short and I found myself using my head and the tree as a brake. More 'George of The Jungle' than Indiana Jones on that one.
After a luscious three course meal, plenty of wine and entertainment from the Darlington Ramblers,(our fellow occupiers of the lodge,more Lannister than Stark) we set out the next morning for a spot of Fell walking. Half expecting a tribe of hill walkers to come yelling over the peak, weilding swords, we climbed up paths that had turned into rivers and I discovered my waterproof trousers, were not, in fact, waterproof at all. Rivulets of water soaked through to my underwear as we waded through brown, muddy water, switching up gravel paths to climb higher into the fells.
The mist came down, the rain changed direction, blasting our faces with horizontal sleet, peppered with snowflakes the size of Milky Bar buttons. We climbed on, reaching Castle Crag, I felt we should be leaving a banner, roaring down the other side, invading the tea shop along the river, but their creostoe coloured sweet tea was enough to broker a truce. We sat outside, numbed with cold, warming our hands around the white china mugs. Hardly a rampaging army, more a bedraggled huddle of middle aged women. Still, we didn't know what was ahead on our epic journey.
Lunch was taken back at the centre, we dried off, got warm, only to be frozen to the bone again. More layers, large blue fleece onesies that made us look like ageing Teletubbies, waterproof trousers, jackets, gloves, hats, socks and pink trainers to match my pink Lush lipstick. Amazingly, it stayed on all the way through our next, very wet, activity. I should have pushed them for a marketing campaign.We drove up to a nearby hill, again, and marched to the river. Ghyll scrambling is much like a water park, a natural water park, where the slides are drops and falls and the water pounds through slick, polished rock like lethal cappaccino.
That evening, over dinner, we shared war wounds and compared bruises from our wet campaign, we'd made it to the North, biut we couldn't conquer this landscape. Humans are insignificant out there. We discovered how much so on our final morning.
Over a leisurely breakfast, we watched some of the 1700 riders on the Fred Whitton Race cycle past, knowing they had 120 miles of winding roads, crucifying hills and driving rain to go before their day was over. We just had an episode of Indiana Jones. Donning more kit for climbing, we drove to Via Ferrata at Honister slate mine and began the long walk up the crag, cutting into the dark belly of the mountain as if we were on a quest for The Ring. We didn't see Frodo, but emerged to stunning views and a camera crew, filming a short piece for CBeebies. Thanks to those pesky kids, we had to start with the more challenging descent, over the edge and down a sheer rock face, clipped on by karibiners to plastic cables as we followed each other down a rusty ladder and worked across the rock on a series of ledges and metal staples.
I have never been so terrified, reaching round a blind corner, feeling for the next foothold, I began to argue with the instructor. But they kept us going,further on to a steel cable strung across a 100 foot drop, 60 foot long, I gripped the sides as if my life depended on it, which it proabably did. Then further white knuckle climbing 750 feet above sea level to the peak, and down through the mine and the luna landscapes of the old slate mines, finally, back on terra firmer with trembling knees
After that, nothing could sacre us, what an amazing weekend, with some amazing women, I went back to sit on the safety of the sofa and watch the next episode of Game of Thrones, knowing I could face The North with the best of them.