Starting in dry weather was encouraging. Finishing in dry weather was pleasant. It was every second in between that was a problem. We knew what we were getting into with a day out in the Howgills, as we had all done our Bronze and Silver awards prior to this. However, what nobody had told us – and what was about to become incredibly clear – was the sudden step-up in difficulty. What we had assumed would be a day of walking became a day of equal parts navigation, rock-climbing and trying not to fall off a mountainside.
The minibuses set off at 8am and had us in the mountains for 10. It didn’t take long for the roads and villages to fade out into the mountains, rocks and trees, and it wasn’t long after that even the sights of the countryside were obscured by the thick fog and (courtesy of the 50-mph winds) horizontal rain. The views we did get during the few dry spells made the whole thing worthwhile: to stand at the top of a mountain, look down and think ‘wow I just did that’ is a great thing, and part of the reason people take part in the expeditions.
There were a few instances where we found ourselves walking too far through a field, or coming off a path too soon, but these were all issues that we solved with minimal fuss and had us all very hopeful about the final expedition in August (which we all hope will not take place under similar weather conditions). Map skills, route planning and forward-thinking have all become second nature after the various other expeditions we have completed, and the day (although challenging) did not present anything we could not do.
The three groups each completed their assigned route in good time, and we were setting off home by 3pm, pleased, exhausted and just a little bit damp.