My first expedition didn’t really look or feel like an expedition nor did it feel like the start of something at the time. But it was.
Passing my driving test in a 1990 Nissan Micra was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I wanted to climb a mountain and was reminded of the little black triangles on the battered AA road atlas I had spend many hours entertaining myself with whilst confined within the cars of my childhood. The pages of the East Midlands were a network of green, red, yellow and white roads which linked the cities, towns and villages that I knew. Turn to the latter pages of the atlas and there are vast swathes of white space punctuated only by these little black triangles. How can such large areas be left so cold and undefined? What occupies these white spaces?
Being from Melton Mowbray, the nearest such empty space contained a single mountain that was simply entitled ‘The Peak’ and was underlined by the number 636. It was in the Peak District in a national park (something we had learned about in Geography). I packed the car with four mates, twenty five quid, some pork pies, a bottle or two of budget cider and someone’s dad’s tent. Driving in as straight a line as possible towards ‘The Peak’ I now know that we arrived in Edale. I went into the nearest pub and asked the girl behind the bar where ‘The Peak’ was because I wanted to climb it. Confusion ensued until I went back to the car, apologised to the cramped and increasingly impatient bundle of mates and showed the road map to the landlord. He told us that the walk was one for tomorrow. It was getting dark so we set up the tent in the campsite near the pub and spent our Tesco trolley collecting wages on meat pies and whisky. Bed late, rise late.
Eventually we got to the top of Kinder Scout.
It was a glorious day. We didn’t particularly stick to any route. We were very hungover. We were wearing denim shorts and trainers with holes in them. We were racing to the top. We splashed through streams. We didn’t drop any litter. Nobody told us off. Nobody told us where to go. Nobody charged us any admission.
The freedom made me feel very rich and I was addicted.
That was definitely the beginning. What followed were other trips to the Peak District, then to Wales, the Dales, Scotland and beyond. One day walks gave way to overnighters and then longer tours. Having enough beer and a fresh mix CD was as paramount as good navigation and clean socks. We were ill equipped for most trips although this never mattered. I enjoyed overtaking the high-viz hoards and felt smug in my £8 tent because I was always alright in the end. Some of the same mates joined me and some new mates came along.
Everything I did can be done by just about anyone. I want to share some of my memories as a way of understanding them better myself and also (hopefully) to inspire someone to get out there and feel that sense of freedom and entitlement that being outdoors gives you.
2005 Year Zero