Monday, 21 April 2014

The End of the Daunder: Reflections on Companionship and other Heady Matters

Early morning brew

I awoke, as is my habit, very early.  This was after a good night’s sleep in the Scarp 1.  It’s a good shelter.  Apart from its practicality of design, and robustness in the blustery conditions we had experienced, it also has a nearly white inner and a light grey outer.  This, combined with the longer end struts, makes for a lovely light and airy feeling.  It seems far more natural than the yellow inner and dark green outer of my Akto, much as I like the latter.  A joy of wild camping is waking early when the sky is clear, opening the tent and porch door and brewing up whilst still in a warm sleeping bag, and drinking tea in the silence, punctuated only by the noise of the wind and birdsong, contemplating the beauty outside.  And this is what I did, watching the sun rise over the flank of Brae Fell, the other side of the narrow valley that separates it from Longlands.
On Longlands Fell

Croydon does a mysterious and joyful dance as he counts his Kryptonite tent pegs and realises they are all still there

Slowly the group came to life, and we enjoyed a leisurely shortish walk back to lovely Caldbeck.  The Daunder had been planned from the start like a military operation by General Sloman.  It went as all British military operations ie setbacks in the early stages followed by marvellous victory as all comes together at the very end (and even without the help of the Americans on this occasion).  So the weather was perfect, the scenery was perfect, the lambs looked lovely and we arrived at the Oddfellows Arms just a few minutes after opening time and the beginning of the lunchtime menu.  We refreshed ourselves, walked the mile down to our cars back at our starting point, and then set off for home – the southerners back down to Cockneyland and Lynsey to Wetherfield.  I had the long 12 miles trek back to my cottage.  When I write “trek” I am being metaphorical, for I went in the car.
The art of Daundering: never pass a bench without sitting down

Caldbeck: Andy points his backside at the camera.  An end of Daunder ritual, perhaps?

Since leaving University, the best part of 40 years ago, almost all my hill walking has been done alone.  Not by choice, more by circumstance.  I am not a natural socialite, but do enjoy walking with others, as long as the group is not too large (the 6/7 of the Daunder would be an absolute maximum in my eyes), and when people have something like the same levels of fitness and pace.  Going solo does give one a particular perspective on life.  I find that I become more self-absorbed and reflective when I walk alone.  That can be a good thing; it can also be hell at times.  It is good to go at one’s own pace, to stop when one wants to, to choose one’s own route, to savour the sound of silence and the sounds of nature.  But going solo can, for me at least, also lead to more anxiety if the going gets difficult or the conditions become bad.  It can be good, on such occasions to have companions with you to share decisions, to laugh about difficulties and, even more, just for general companionship, even the companionship of silence, when nothing more needs to be said.  I think that to get the best from our beautiful British hills and mountains one needs to do both: to walk alone at times but also to walk with others on occasions.  I will be seeking out more opportunities to do the latter over the coming months and years.  I hope that sometimes the opportunity will arise to walk with some of my fellow Daunderers again.


  1. All that blue sky!
    I don't recall that on any of my walks! Are you sure you didn't Photoshop that in, Sir?
    Indeed there was no help from any Americans - but it would have been good had they arrived en masse, in a long crocodile, to shelter us on the way up to High Pike.
    Never around when you need them, eh?
    The wonderful thing about going Solo on the Challenge is that it's always possible to buddy-up with another Challenger if the weather is particularly rotten and you're going through some wild stuff and need a bit of company. Then you get the best of both worlds.
    As it is, Lord Elpus, Mad'n'Bad and me are saddled with each other - joined at the hip, so we can't get away from Andy's mad ramblings.
    The trick, of course, is to walk just a little slower than the Racing Snake (not difficult, I can assure you) so you just get bird song and Phil's wheezing as you we plod uphill.
    Nice to have you on board the Daunder, Sir.
    See you on next year's!

  2. Being a fellow 'largely solo' walker I can very much relate to this post David. Having one of those jobs where I spent all my working day round other folk & having a busy family life I tend to crave my own company more than most. Helps me recharge the old batteries. Its strange though because even though I enjoy solo hiking and camping I find I also enjoy the twitter banter whilst i'm out - its a strange paradox. I suppose we are all social animals at heart.

    1. Agreed! Although I do not particularly crave my own company it just happens. And I do understand my own little ways!

  3. I seem to remember rain and sleet.
    Where did all that blue come from.
    It must have been the radiant orange of my coat over that first couple of days that drove it away like a small sun.
    Global warming? Where was it Sat eh????

    I walked for years on my own.
    And after the 1st Challenge where somehow I walked with Lucy and ended up proposing to her, I decided it best if I walk future ones alone, and thus resist the terrors of that first one (19 years later still together)

    And so I did for my first 4.
    On the 5th, I teamed up with some Lanky bleeder and his mate for bits of it.
    The last 3 I cannot get away from the bastards.

    Follow me everywhere they do.

    No matter how fast I go to leave them behind, I stop for a rest, or to put the tent up and there they are, putting their's up too.

    On a massive plus note, I have never felt the urge to propose to either of them, and for that I thank GOD or whatever deity there may be.

    How dare Sloman say I ramble on and on and on..

    Where the ***k does he get that idea from?

    Hope to see you again my good fellow.
    It was a bloody pleasure to have your company on the Daunder, and LONG may it continue.

    So... To Braemar and Beyond ...............

    1. Hi Andy

      I am sure if Alan says you ramble on and on he meant ramble as in walking not talking ;-)

  4. Hi David, I think if the opportunity of walking with other like minded souls should be taken. We can walk alone when ever we want so its not like we are restricted in any way. Good daunder and i’m sure you had a laugh at the colour of Andrews PHD top. Bet you could see that in Carlisle.

  5. Hi AlanR

    Be careful or I will be landing on your doorstep demanding we go off for a walk in the hills together!