“If you feel like it once you’ve unpacked, Latrigg is a nice easy hike, over there’. I followed Helen’s gaze outside my empty bedroom window, across the shallow river to a perfectly shaped hill, shrouded on one side in woods.
Despite being around 350m, it looked huge. Whilst one part of me was keen for an early adventure, the other part of me was tired, so tired.
Moving house, healing from a weird illness I picked up in South America. meeting a new team, finding my feet.
It didn’t feel quite the right time.
It feels strange looking back now after all that has passed, that I resisted hiking it for so long. I think deep down I was scared, scared that I’d find it hard or I’d hurt myself. I’d solo hiked before, but the hills were still quite new to me, an uphill challenge.
Two weeks later, on one of those spring evenings when the light glows and dances golden across the landscape, creating soft warm shadows, I set off up the rocky Spoony Green Lane path to the edge of Brundholme Woods to begin the climb up Latrigg.
A short way up, I took a wrong turn, off the main path, ending up deep in the woods. But despite being lost, I was finding my rhythm.
Being back in nature, connecting with the path, it was awakening something in me which had been missing for months.
“As the rain keeps pouring down on me, and the sky is the only thing I see, and my troubles are gone with the wind, it’s just me and the ground beneath my feet….. I feel so alive’.
I listened to this Chase and Status song over and over again in my headphones as I walked. That beauty of stumbling across a song in which the lyrics so poignantly match to events in your own life.
I retraced my footsteps back to the main path, out of the trees and rising higher and higher on the uneven path.Past the sheep, grazing on the footpath, the bench, I can see the bench, is that the top?…..and suddenly, as you round that last corner, the final reward for your climb, like a little secret held tightly in the palm of a child’s hand.
The whole of Derwentwater below, the Newlands Valley hills guarding the lake, Keswick, looking like a tiny Lego toy town. In the far distance, the tip of Scarfell Pike, England’s highest mountain. To the left, the towering beauty of Blencathra, the gateway to the northern fells.
Something changed in me that evening, something came back to life.
I knew somehow this place was already truly significant, that it was was going to shape me somehow.
And it did, it really, really did.
Latrigg was written into every single chapter of my year in Keswick.
On that long hot, June night when I hiked up to watch the sunset on the longest day of the year, sitting on a grassy ledge on the edge of a gathering by the Friends of the Lake District who read aloud a poem about friendship and landscapes and how they weather and change together, bringing tears to my shining eyes as the sun melted behind Skiddaw.
A September evening, my face still bruised and battered from tripping over a branch whilst running, my best friend came to visit and there’s only one place I really need to take her.
We opt to walk, take a picnic. We’ve been best friends since we were three years old, the kind of friendship where everything is shared, no secrets left unturned. I excitedly share that if I ever ended up getting married, this, here, would be the place, with the reception at Skiddaw House Hostel, deep in the hills beyond the path to Latrigg.
During my running journey, I marvelled at the hardy fell runners weaving through the woods on and off the beaten paths, charging down with little fear. I could never, ever do that I thought, even on the footpath.
But on a cool October morning, out with my friend Diane, we challenged each other, pushed ourselves. She dared us to run to the top and down. I remember feeling incredible, so proud, elated and overjoyed at reaching the top, falling completely and utterly in love with running the descent, that feeling like your flying, that nothing can stop you.
I’d conquered the mountain, again, and now there was no stopping me.
On a late October evening, I braved my first night run with my housemate Dan, our two head touches dancing and beaming off the path, illuminating our way. I loved how the darkness makes you feel everything so much more distinctly beneath your feet.
In tune, in step.
At the top, we switched off our lights and paused in silence. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness, the stars began to twinkle in the velvet darkness. We watched the moon rise over Lonscale fell, the Keswick street lights to our right dancing like tiny fireworks over the Cumbrian sky.
An early November evening, the very end of the summer season .Our final farewell as a team – a run/hike to the summit, rewarding ourselves with brandy out of hip flasks at the top. I hear one of them breathe that you still fall in love with Latrigg a little bit more on each ascent, and I could’t agree with you more.
December, the shortest day. A run now felt doable before the 10am morning shift.
Bright, crisp snow patches dotted the path, Elbow’s “One Day Like This” dancing in my ears. I pause to light a candle at the top and I think how much I’ve changed, how much I’ve grown since that heady evening of the longest day back in June.
On Valentines Day, the only places I wanted to be, at sunrise. I’ve always loved the phrase of finding someone or something that makes you feel most alive, that makes you a better person. Guys may have come and gone in my life, but this place, this place will never change. It had helped me become a better person.
And so to the last dance.
I’d accepted a new job and would be moving down to the south of the Lake District. The last week of February, I challenged myself to a huge farewell tour of the valley, a circuit of Derwentwater, Cat Bells (too icy to ascend), Walla Crag…..and there could only be one place for the very last dance.
I ran most of the day with my housemate Jamie, but after the variable winter conditions, he opted for home after Walla Crag.
Exhausted, freezing, my body arching and blistered I was tempted to go with him, to call it a day.
But I knew I needed to say my final farewells. To close a chapter.
The climb felt as tough as it did on that very first April evening, when my body wasn’t used to hiking or running when I didn’t understand my own capabilities. I paused and winced and climbed, battling the sleet now whipping at my face. Part of me was beginning to regret my choice.
But as I rounded that last corner. those same, familiar butterflies present every single time I’ve climbed Latrigg, I regretted nothing.
All the memories of the past year came flooding back, all those milestones, all those moments, all those shared experiences that have shaped me, changed me, helped me grow.
Tears rolled down my wind burnt cheeks, and just as I’m about to turn and leave, to run back down to warmth, the sun burst through the slate grey clouds creating an arch of sunlight over Cat Bells and the Newlands Valley fells.
And right there, in that final moment, I couldn’t have felt any more alive.