Anna and I met about a year ago today. We'd been 'Instagram friends' for a while and one day she messaged me inviting me to go up to the Lakes to meet her for a weekend. I thought it sounded like a great idea to meet a perfect stranger in the middle of nowhere, so we met at the Great Langdale National Trust Campground and spent a couple of days rambling in the hills. I know it's a bit of a cliché, but there are certain people you meet who you feel you've known for years and years - Anna is one of those for me. We hit it off straight away. Conversation was non-stop; we both loved long walks and down jackets, we shared chips and pints in the pub and talked about camping trips gone wrong and all those other girly things like what it's like to wild camp as a solo woman, dogs called Oslo and tall, handsome men with backpacks.
Anna is an almost 6ft half-Swede who once walked 1000 miles across France and Spain and more recently spent 6 weeks alone in the wilderness of Arctic Sweden. Safe to say, she's pretty badass; though also incredibly humble about her experiences and honest in the way she portrays them. Anna wants to be an Adventurer, while I want to be writing about adventures and adventurers; both jobs are usually considered 'pipe-dreams', so that was something else we shared - an overwhelming desire to turn our passions into careers, fighting against the norms of society to do so. Since that weekend, the theme of our meetings has been long walks and deep conversation, and I'm quite certain it will continue that way for a while!
On this particular weekend, we were both in the Lake District for Kendal Mountain Festival - a weekend of inspiring films, engaging talks, and many-a down jacket. On the Sunday the weather was fine and instead of being cooped up in a movie theatre all day, we decided to head out to the hills. Initially planning a trip up Scafell Pike, we ended up changing our plans to head to the closer Helvellyn where Anna knew a good scramble we could tackle followed by the infamous Striding Edge. So, at noon on Sunday, two girls in hiking boots and leggings armed with backpacks and cameras swung over our shoulders set off towards the summit of Helvellyn.
The journey upwards is remarkably stunning, as views look onto Ullswater and the surrounding hills; still alive with the rich colours of Autumn despite the chill in the air. Indeed, the morning sun had been replaced with a blanket of soft, grey cloud and as we climbed higher there was a definite wintry feel which we both admitted to loving. After stripping down to just a thermal and t-shirt for the ascent, we were both layering into fleeces, down jackets, gloves and woolly hats once the hills plateau'd and we reached the banks of Red Tarn.
From there, we headed round to the right of the tarn to what's known as Swirral Edge, where there is a short and thrillingly fun scramble to the summit of Helvellyn. There was frost glistening on the grassy banks and cairn-stones on top of the hill, and puddles were covered with a thin layer of glazed ice. Our faces would have been frozen if it hadn't been for the incessant conversation coming from our mouths, and neither of us dared to take off our gloves while we shared a big bag M&S crisps huddled behind a wall at the summit.
When we finally got too cold and decided to begin the steep descent to Striding Edge, we realised that there was no one else around. There's no better feeling when you're a mountain-lover than being alone in the hills; it makes us giddy and drunk with utter euphoria. I don't know what time it was but it still felt relatively early in the afternoon, and we were both undeniably thrilled to have this stunning piece of nature all to ourselves - I don't think that happens very often here. As a result, we probably spent too long sat on the edge, taking photos and chatting before realising that the light was quickly fading and we only had around two hours before Anna's train at 6pm. For two people who have done a whole lot of solo adventures in wilder places than this one, we certainly didn't plan our timings very well (or at all) that day.
Darkness descended as we made our way off the Edge, and with only one half-hearted head-torch between us we resolved to using our phones to make sure we didn't hurtle headfirst onto the rocky path. Time was ticking away and the descent was seemingly endless, but we finally made it back to the car and whizzed over Kirkstone Pass just in time for Anna's train home to Oxford. I must admit that despite the slightly stressful return journey, it was worth it to get to have Striding Edge all to ourselves. And anyway, what's an adventure without something going a little bit wrong anyway?*
Until the next adventure, Anna! See you soon.
*Disclaimer: don't be like us and decide that descending in the dark without a head-torch is a good idea. Or do so at your own risk...