Yesterday we climbed among the tourists on Cat Bells heading for our 107th Wainwright on Robinson – it didn’t happen. In fact, we never reached the summit of Cat Bells (451m). More despondently we didn’t reach the summit on the best day we have had since we started walking in January. We walked under a cloud-free sky in blazing sunshine, the clarity of the mountains around us was amazing and we were relishing the prospect of lunch by Dale Tarn, brewing tea and eating a fresh baguette with salami and Emmental. It was something we were excited about and that we had planned for days. It was something we had prayed about before setting out – for God’s blessing to walk among His creation, to see the beauty of the Lake District hills, to bless these children suffering around the world. It was something I had testified about in church the day before, saying ’Tomorrow we will reach our half-way mark, God willing.’ But it was not to be. What happened?
Dejected on Cat Bells
No walker enjoys retreating from a day on the hills and especially so when the day is fantastic, and the hills beckon – it is demoralising. Half way up Cat Bells Hannah’s knee started playing up again. Within minutes, she was hobbling along supported by her poles. The tendon had flared up again, tears streamed down her face, not only in pain but also because she realised that she would have to turn back. If my disappointment of knowing that we couldn’t carry on was deep – even though I wanted to push on – hers was greater because frustratingly she wanted to achieve what we had set out to do but knew she couldn’t.
“Why, can’t God just heal my tendon then I can walk?” she muttered as we dejectedly turned around and headed back down the hill passing the many walkers that were now streaming up the mountain.
Cat Bells is one of the most accessible and amazing hills with outstanding views. It is a favourite for walkers of all ages. We passed three-year-old children, pensioners well into their 70’s, families who took the time for fun and picnics, romantic couples. In fact, the procession seemed a little incongruous with the usual walkers we regularly met on our walks.
I thought about Hannah’s question, but with the melancholic atmosphere that engulfed us, this was not the time for reason and so we headed, silently, deep in our thoughts, for the bus that would take us back to Kendal. We didn’t speak much on the way down.
Where is God’s blessing?
The more I thought about Hannah’s question, the more some facts came to light. First, we had asked for God’s blessing on our day, and as we travelled home I came to the understanding that we had to accept that this had been His blessing, but why?
It is easy to blame God when things do not go according to how we want them to. But we also have to accept that we place each day in His hands, and we have had a fantastic eight months of walking. I now feel that this was God’s way of pulling us up and asking us to look at things objectively.
We are pushing ourselves to complete all the Wainwrights in 2015, that is the target we have set ourselves, but it doesn’t matter. We have nearly achieved our objective. We have raised over £6,000; our target is £7,704. We are so close to achieving our goal. The primary objective in all this has been to raise funds to help Tearfund prevent child trafficking – the challenge of walking all 214 Wainwright in a year is our target.
Obstacles to get over
Many obstacles need leaping to walk all the Wainwrights in a year. First, Hannah had never done any serious walking prior to setting out last January – and neither had I – and I am conscious of not pushing her so much that it dulls the enjoyment of the hills for her. I have done many hard days on the hill over the years; there is no necessity to apply that mentality into our walks just for the purpose of peak-bagging.
Secondly, there are the logistics of time. For us to achieve all the Wainwrights, it would mean walking every weekend. Many people have done them faster, some slower. Some have completed them in months, others in a few years and for some it has taken a lifetime. We are not in a competition, but we do need a target; otherwise the walks could go on for years, and that would be counter-productive. Time, availability and fitness are the major factors in how long it will take to do them. I thought we could do them in a year; it was our challenge, but that is no longer feasible, but it is possible to complete them.
Hannah is only 11-years-old, and although she has done amazing walks in the last eight months, she is going through her growth cycle and it is natural that she should experience pains as her muscles develop. It would be wrong to push her too much and maybe cause serious injury. Also, she needs ‘girlie-time’ and not just rough romping over the fells at every opportunity!
Then there is the matter of finance. It costs around £30 for every trip, and I am presently not working very much, so the funds need to come from somewhere, but that is our commitment, and we are happy to do that.
Where do we go from here?
The winter months are drawing in, the shorter days and colder weather encroaches. We have a few wild camps in prospect; these we will claim next year. There are still a lot of the hills around Wasdale, Ennerdale and Eskdale to cover which I know we are not going to achieve this year and certainly not without a car. We are enjoying our Stagecoach trips: travelling by bus. It has meant that fantastic linear walks have opened up to us.
Hannah is determined to complete all the Wainwrights, and so am I – so we will. We will continue into 2016, probably finishing by the end of summer, which, incidentally, would be a nice time to finish, rather than in the cold days of winter. I also feel that Cat Bells will be our last peak. It has awesome views, easy to get up and accessible.
I suspect that Hannah will be stronger next year and probably leave me well behind on the hill.
We will be able to continue raising awareness and funds for child trafficking, and as Tearfund say, ‘Following Jesus where the need is greatest.’ Maybe God desires us to continue into next year – who knows what He has in store. We will certainly have more opportunities to walk among the beautiful Lake District fells, and that can only be a blessing, and I will have more time to write about our walks and add to the website.
So those are our plans. Thank you to everyone for your amazing and continued support, your vital prayers and all your fantastic giving, please continue. God bless you all.
And as for Robinson, our half-way mountain, the one that got away, well, we’re coming back to get you, next week – God willing!