Without a clear plan of how to spend these last Two weeks up to the day I do my Bob Graham Round, I opted to visit an old friend last night - Miss Blencathra.
Last year and early this year I would beast myself up the shortest possible ascent route, from Mousthwaite Comb carpark to the summit via the walkers path including all zigzags.
As it seems to be commonly held that you should still do plenty of training in a taper period, just not to exhaustion and certainly easing back on the volume, I figured a blast up my favourite route was in order. After all, it would only take 40-50 minutes to go up and down - so about 3 -4 hours less than what Ive been doing most Wednesday of late.
Strong headwind most of the way up meant I was nowhere near cracking 30 minutes for the 2.2 miles. But 33 and a half is good.
I was originally intent on then flying straight back down to test my descending ability and get a non-stop time from carpark to summit and back again. But it was a lovely clear evening so at the top I stopped to admire the view a while.
I found a sheltered spot inbetween the trig point and the top of Gategill - kinda nestled in the bosom of the East/West saddle, high above but looking straight down onto the farm at the valley bottom.
It was a real windy evening but there was no wind to speak of from my sheltered spot - t'auld lass was protecting me, and warmth from the bright shining sun was felt through my all-to-flimsy-for-sitting-still jacket.
As I looked out, I saw everything at once - all of Lakeland before me in a mass attack on the senses. Near and far, lakes and hills, sky and haze. Almost too much to take in at once, and a scene I had seen time and again.
Minutes passed and I began to look more closely at what lay before me.
Closest was Clough Head, looking diminutive compared to its neighbour Gt Dodd, but a slog of a climb nevertheless. I traced back down from Cloughy the line to the coach road, then the rough field to Newsham House and the road back to the A66. I'd be running there in a week or so, but in the dark.
As I continued my study of the panorama I realised for the first time that I now know so much more about these hills, this beautiful landscape than I did just a few months ago.
I picked out the Dodds to Helly, they are easy. I also knew exactly where Fairlfield was hiding and Seat Sandal. I could see Dunmail beyond Thirlmere so theres the entrance into Wythburn valley from where me and IWC emerged on the three thousands day. Steel Fell and High Raise then became obvious to me, and though not prominent I knew where the Langdales were - so that must be Esk Pike? Yes, because I can definitely tell thats Great End centre of Styhead and Esk Hause.
I was on a roll - never before had I realised how much detail I could not only see, but put names to, I could visualise exactly a stony path 15 miles away that currently occupied about one ten thousandth of what I could see before me.
Further right - the Scafells - Gable - Kirkfell was an interesting one. Only 8 days since I first set foot on its summit, but thanks to that day I now recognise its flat aspect compared to Gables more rounded mound. I don't know if Pillar, Steeple etc were within my view but again, I knew where they lay in reference to others.
Off Gable - Green Gable, a poor cousin of diminutive height, then Brandreth and Grey Knotts scarcely discernible as tops from so far away, but there they were and then the gap to Honister.
Only 3 more to go - all easily picked out on this glorious evening - a long lens would have allowed closer inspection, perhaps revealed cairns and shelters. But who needs a telephoto when a still head and long stare can reveal so much.
I didn't look too closely across at Catbells, Sail etc, and Grisedale was behind Gategill fell from here anyway. It was the round I was following. I stood up and there was Skiddaw and Calva behind me, and the concrete ring trig of Blen' herself was a mere 20 metres to my left.
The Bob Graham Round was laid out before me. And I was looking at it for the first time. I'd seen all this many a time - yes I'd picked out Swirral Edge and Gt Gable and Catstye Cam and Catbells and Robinson before. But tonight was different, tonight there was something else happening on this ugly beautiful mountain. Something new, not to see, but to know.
I realised right there and then that this was MY LAKELAND, MY CUMBRIA, MY MOUNTAINS and that the Saturday after next was going to be MY DAY. My day to run, to walk, to eat drink and be merry, to fall, to hurt, probably to throw up, almost certainly to cry, to laugh with friends, to be quiet and remember, to recognise and to be lost, to rely on good people who are giving up their time to help me, to do something that afterwards I may wonder, as Stu says, 'what all the fuss was about', but right now is everything.
Something had brought me to this place, this mountain - my favourite in Cumbria - on this night. A place I have already been to countless times before, and that I hope to visit a hundred times again. Blencathra has always been my favourite, and now here she was reaffirming her top billing.
Next week I will be scarcely registering my umpteenth visit of the year to that cement trig. I'll be there and then gone - heading for slopes of Doddick and the comforting lights of Threlkeld beyond as I approach the end of just the first leg of a day long journey. Somebody will register my being there of course, it should be aroundabout 0100 hours on June 1st. She will be number 3 of 42. But of course, however long I spend away from her, she will always be number 1
Blencathra. A place where I have shared the very best, most amazing, unforgettable, special times with the very best, most amazing unforgettable, special people I have known.