It can be quite strange the things people say in passing when on a Lake District mountain …
The Things People Say
by Simon Whaley
“I want Julia Bradbury’s bottom,” said one woman as she perspired her way up Helm Crag. Whilst it is good to have something to aim for, her comment made me realise that people say the funniest things to passing strangers on a Lakeland path. Gone are the days it seems, when one could just say, “Morning” whatever time of day it was.
Of course, what is funny to me may not be funny to the person uttering those words. Take the time when I was climbing the scree path from Carl Side up towards Skiddaw’s summit, and a fellow walker passed me during his descent. A few minutes later, I stepped aside again to let a woman pass by who was clearly not enjoying herself. She nodded to the man in front who’d passed me earlier. “If he wanted a divorce, there were easier ways to go about it,” she said. I laughed. She didn’t.
Sometimes these comments are the result of other people’s comments. Take Wainwright for example. When describing the ascent of Catbells he claimed that it is, “one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together.” Hmmm. Whilst I happened to be clambering down the craggy sections of Skelgill Bank, a passing Mancunian man climbing up quipped to me, “If Wainwright’s Grandmother is supposed to have been capable of doing this, she must have been a bloody Russian gymnast!”
I agree that the route up from Hause End is not as wheelchair friendly as Wainwright’s comments suggest it may be.
Some stereotypes remain true to form though, even when out of the hills. Take the two blonde women I happened to be standing near, at the summit of a rather wind buffeted Bowfell, who were trying to keep their long flowing hair out of their faces whilst they ate a sandwich before their descent. In the distance I could hear a ‘doof-doofing’ droning noise and approaching from Langdale, we spied a helicopter heading towards us. As it drew nearer, either the wind decided to up the Beaufort scale or we began feeling the effects of the rotor blades, but one of the blondes suddenly noticed the camera ball under the cockpit.
“Oh gosh, look, it’s filming!” she cried. “I bet it’s filming for the next Julia Bradbury series, quick …”
Both blondes delved into their rucksacks and rummaged vigorously, eventually finding what they were looking for. As the helicopter circled overhead, one pulled out a hairbrush.
“Can’t have our hair looking a mess on the telly can we?”
Both bravely fought the down-draught but it was obviously a losing battle. “I think you’re entitled to look a bit dishevelled at the summit of the six highest mountain in the Lake District,” I offered. “You are 2,959 feet above sea level.”
Both stared blankly at me. “But Julia Bradbury looked immaculate at the summit of Scafell in Series One.”
They had a point.
© Simon Whaley