‘The Day A Moun­tain Changed My Life’


As a child my fam­ily used to make a yearly es­cape to the Lakes, each year walk­ing up a slightly big­ger moun­tain. I couldn’t wait to be old enough for my dad to sit down and plan a route which would see the two of us tack­ling one of the Lake Dis­trict’s ‘big three’.

It fi­nally hap­pened when I was 14, and it was Helvel­lyn. I re­mem­ber that day vividly – wak­ing up so full of an­tic­i­pa­tion, the burn­ing of the first 40 min­utes, the tarns and the views. How­ever, just as we were ap­proach­ing the fi­nal slog heavy clouds de­scended. Un­for­tu­nately, we were in the worst pos­si­ble po­si­tion, with sheer drops ei­ther side. We sat in a sheep shel­ter, shov­elled down cheese rolls and a mouth­ful of tea, with my anx­i­ety-fu­elled ques­tions of he­li­copters and moun­tain res­cue be­fore dad de­cided he could nav­i­gate us down even with the dense cloud cov­er­age. Cue us nearly fall­ing off the edge and down the side. Luck­ily, my sense of di­rec­tion (or more likely, eye­sight) was slightly bet­ter. Work­ing to­gether we even­tu­ally found our way down the moun­tain. We didn’t make it to the peak, yet I felt so much achieve­ment that day.

Fast-forward eight years, I am sweat­ing in uni­form, sat in a war-torn desert hav­ing lost friends that I cared about greatly. Dur­ing these de­ploy­ments, my happy place was this mem­ory – my happy place was plan­ning ad­ven­tures in the Lake Dis­trict, feel­ing the free­dom and peace of the hills. When I was fi­nally able to put these plans in place, I wasn’t in a men­tal po­si­tion to re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the time spent in what used to be my favourite place in the world, and my love of hills be­came for­got­ten.

An­other few years in time and I’m work­ing in a dif­fer­ent uni­form for the pub­lic sec­tor, meet­ing peo­ple on their worst days, hav­ing been vi­o­lently as­saulted on more than one oc­ca­sion. I re­alised my anx­i­eties were leav­ing me feel­ing des­per­ately suf­fo­cated. I am lucky enough to have an un­der­stand­ing and pa­tient part­ner who also loves the hills – when I start to feel like I can’t breathe, we head to the hilly outdoors, where the peace, quiet and free­dom calms my busy brain, opens up my lungs and helps me push on. We’re off to Helvel­lyn next month.

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