It's been a drizzly, overcast day. The bigger hills (like the Pike) still have snow on their upper slopes and, what with the low cloud, the snowy slopes have merged into the clouds in an indistinct haze.
When I got out the car and shouldered my rucksack I realised how long it had been since I went for a walk like this. For the past year, getting close to nature has meant swimming in lakes and rivers. The year before that, the time I would have spent walking was spent road running.
Above the wood, the track ascends across fields to an almost-level area of moorland, which I didn't remember noticing from below. (It's one of the things I like about climbing hills: what looks like a big lump from the bottom hides all sorts of detail which you only discover when you climb up).
The path steepened again and I soon found myself on a second shelf of moorland. I was lost in thought by now. I was thinking of something I'd read recently, by Emerson:
OUR age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?I decided that whoever said that was definitely a man for our times.
I soon found myself at the foot of an outcrop that ran around this part of the hill like a contour-line: the path steepened again. Once at the top of the outcrop I found myself in a different world: there was more snow on the ground and the cloud had closed in. If this was a sacred mountain, I felt, then I'd just entered an inner sanctum. The ground was steeper and after a few minutes I realised I was on a steep, continuous slope that disappeared into the cloud on all sides. I felt as if it could go on forever. The air felt lighter: it's a feeling I've often felt as I approached a summit and I've never worked out why it should be so.
I took a break at the summit: just long enough to eat a banana and take a few more photographs. As is usual for high, windy places in winter, the wind had blown the ice into curious shapes. I was particularly struck by an accumulation of ice on a pole that stands by the summit.
Banana eaten, I set off down. I took a different route: I'd ascended by the "tourist path", but descended by a path that leads to the head of Buckden Beck: a stream that runs down the hill, back to the village.
The descent was more of an adventure. The path was well-defined at first, but later it became more like the ghost of a path. I'd find it for a while, then it would disappear. I came across the spoil heaps of a disused mine, but could find no tunnels. Perhaps it was just as well. Old mines are dangerous. I had a torch and am always tempted to explore places. I carried on, and soon found myself standing on an edge overlooking the village. The hillside steepened considerably at this point and I found myself descending a scree-slope. I found myself in the wood I'd walked through at the start. Sadly, the tea shop in the village was shut. It had just gone 5 o'clock and it is February after all.