The Only Way Is Up!
What a weekend! 6 hours rehearsing, 10 hours hiking, 4 peaks reached, and shed loads of music and laughter! It was worth every step - all 34000 of them!
My crazy weekend adventure began on Friday just after I finished work at Sage Gateshead. I met up with Dave and two students; Kyriaki and AJ, from the BMus Jazz, Popular and Commercial Music degree ready for our drive west to Cumbria for our full weekend of music and hiking.
Our road trip consisted of a wide range of music, perfectly chosen by Dave on Spotify and various conversations, mostly around music! We briefly stopped off at a supermarket for some supplies before heading towards our first stop.
As we neared Cumbria, Kyriaki was amazed at the view and was overwhelmed by the sight of a lake! She is from Cyprus and had never seen a lake before! Therefore, Dave drove us to Surprise View where we had a stunning view and took lots of photos with Derwent Water in the background. On our way back down we stopped off at Ashness Bridge too. It really was beautiful!
It was then back into the car and onto the Youth Hostel where Kyriaki and AJ were staying. Their YHA was situated in picturesque Borrowdale where they were surrounded by stunning views once again. It was a quick drop off before Dave and I headed back to the car and began our final route to Dave's house in Lamplugh.
We arrived at Dave's cottage, and were greeted by his lovely wife Angie and daughter Tor before we unloaded the car and had some food! I honestly have no idea what Angie had cooked us, but it tasted wonderful! We then chilled out with a couple of cans and had an early night as we had to get up early ready for our long day of rehearsals!
We woke Saturday, had breakfast, loaded the van and then headed to the YHA where we met up with the other BMus students, Rugile and Alex. We then picked up Kyriaki and made our way to Keswick where we spent the day rehearsing the three songs we were going to be singing/playing the following day.
Our rehearsal started with some physical and vocal warm ups to get us ready for the day. We did these outside as the weather was wonderful and we didn't want to be stuck indoors alll day. Once we'd sung a few rounds we headed back in and everyone found their spots to sit in in the choir. I had my own little percussion corner in between the tenors and the basses.
We started with The Fellowship of Hill and Wind and Sunshine - the song specifically commissioned for this project based on the words by poet and climber Geoffrey Winthrop Young. I was not playing in this piece so I was able to relax and be surrounded by the stunning sounds of the mass choir around me.
We then rehearsed The Change (Game of Thrones). I had previously done this piece at a conference in Edinburgh in 2016 but we always struggled to find a beat to play to it. After a few trial and errors and lots of different ideas from various musicians in the room! We finally found a beat I could play on the buffalo drum which fitted and sounded great.
It was then time for lunch so we headed over to Booths to get some food altogether before settling down to have a lovely picnic out on the grass together. It was then back inside for more rehearsals!
The final piece we rehearsed was Ya Basta! Again, I was familiar with this piece. This was the first piece I learnt on steel pans when I first started my degree in Community Music at Sage Gateshead in 2012. Dave was my tutor and during welcome week we did a version of this in Sage One. I also did it again in 2015 at Solfest. But I obviously couldn't carry a steel pan or drum kit up a mountain so I settled with some simple (but effective) egg shakering for this rendition!
At the end of the rehearsal we all headed outside to record each piece, not to forget the added dance moves each section of the choir had developed for Ya Basta!
Around 12 of us - mostly from the NE/Sage Gateshead connections then headed to a Thai restaurant - the waitress said we were an easy group because none of us chose any meat for our meals, the majority of us were vegetarian or vegan so it was easy for the chef!
Following our meal we then split off into different groups headed in different directions. I went back with Katherine, Bex and Sharon (3 out of 4 members of the stunning acappella group Mouthful - Dave is the fourth member) to find their Air B&B whilst Dave, Angie and Tor went to a swing dancing workshop. Once we'd all met up again at the Air B&B it was a short drive back to Dave's where we started to get our gear ready for the following morning, we were set to leave at 7:45am from Lamplugh!
It was another early night for all of us followed by an even earlier morning. We had breakfast and finished loading our bags with snacks, drinks and final bits of gear before piling into the car and making our way to Honister where we were to start our hike!
We arrived at Honister and all changed into our hiking boots, had a quick toilet stop, signed in, loaded our bags on our backs and found our group! My group consisted of the member of Mouthful - Bex, Katherine, Sharon and Dave, - Angie, Tor, AJ, myself and Gerry. As well as our two mountain leaders. We had a quick kit check and then, we were off!
We were one of the first groups to leave, allowing us more time to reach the summit. It was a quick walk through the slate mine and then we started the ascent! Halfway up the first hill I had to stop and take the drum I had strapped to my bag off,as it was throwing me off balance. I struggle to balance on flat ground let alone trying to climb a mountain with, what was effectively a pendulum, on my back! Lucky for me Dave strapped the drum to his bag and we were off again!
At the top of the first hill it was time to de-layer, it was too hot in my fleece! We then made our way across a fairly flat section looking out at the amazing Lake District and some of the Lakes... (Although I learnt there's actually only one Lake in the Lake District - the rest are Mere's/Waters!)
During this part of the walk some of my group began singing various songs. It's always great when loads of your friends are amazing musicians! It definitely kept the morale up for everyone!
We had a few stops along the way for everyone to catch up as a group, re-hydrate and change layers if needed.
I spent the whole hike up in my shorts and kept on changing between having just a t-shirt to a t-shirt and fleece. This seemed the best way to maintain my temperature at a nice state.
I was definitely glad I invested in some new gear the week before - special base layers that are able to keep you cool and not sweat!
We then made our way further along the path and we were able to see Great Gable. It was definitely a pretty site! By this point the other groups were nearing us, and some of the groups, including us had a longer stop just under Gable Crag.
It was here that we were able to truly take in the view of Great Gable which we were about to climb up! It was fairly high!
We were told it would be a bit windy around the corner as we started the ascent, so I kept my fleece on but braved it in shorts still. We were onto, what was for me, one of the hardest parts of the hike. I started off fine and took my time. I had my walking pole in my right hand and used my left hand to stabalise myself as it was too hard holding a walking pole in my left hand.
As we got further up, I had to stop more and more, my body was not coping well with the climb. My left leg went into spasm which made it hard to stand up. I was able to keep moving though but had to stop again as my fingers on my left hand had swelled up in my splints. Thanks to Bex and Gerry for helping me get them off! We also had a quick snack stop to get some more energy.
We caught up with the rest of the group and another group at the scrambling section of the hike. At this point both my legs were spasming and my left hand had started too. I have never had this happen to me before so I was a bit scared at this point, especially as I was half-way up a mountain with no easy escape!
I then decided that it would be easier to climb without my rucksack on as it was putting pressure on my muscles, especially on my left side. I'm so grateful for everyone that carried my bag up in relay up to the top!
I could now see the Summit and I was determined to make it to the top. I took a deep breath and began the scramble up. My body was spasming constantly and I was loosing my balance on some rocks, but I gritted my teeth and kept moving step by step.
As I neared the top, I could hear a lovely rendition of Mravaljamier being sung, this defintiely helped me complete the final part of the scramble. I made my way over to the rest of my group where I collapsed in a heap on the floor surrounded by a round of applause! I'd done it!
We had lunch and took in the amazing view around us. After a short break it was time for the choir to begin rehearsing and setting up for the virtual reality recording of The Fellowship of Hill and Wind and Sunshine.
The choir assembled themselves at the summit, warmed up and then recorded the song. They must have sung it around 10 times!
During this point I was just chilling on a rock chatting to some other people who weren't in the choir. I was getting a bit cold by this point so I started adding layer by layer. Once the choir had finished on the summit we moved round to the other side and they did another recording looking out over Wasdale.
By this point I had to put more layers on and had re-attached my trousers to my shorts. It was a bit windy just sitting around at the top but the view was well and truly worth it!
It was then time to regroup and make our way down, and then up, to the next summit we were heading to - Green Gable. It was quite a challenge going down Great Gable, there was loose scree underneath our feet, big boulders and stones to climb down and move from. Lucky I put my trousers on for this bit as I slipped over a number of times and still have the massive bruises all along my shins from it!
But again, I just kept on moving step by step. My mountain leader was amazing and made it easier by helping me down some of the sections. We made it to the bottom and then it was a fairly easy ascent up to Green Gable.
At Green Gable we had a quick break before setting up to sing.
I was playing the drum for this song so I got my drum off Dave's bag and made my way to position myself in the middle of the choir at the front. We were ready to play The Change (Game of Thrones). It was great to be able to play along with the choir, this is what I had come all this way to do! We recorded it a few times, in a couple of locations before packing up and heading onto our next stop!
The next place we sang was on Grey Knotts so we made our way up to Brandreth, down Brandreth and up to Grey Knotts.
At Grey Knotts we played Ya Basta! so it was time to get my egg shakers out! Again I took up position at the front of the choir and we played and danced our way through Ya Basta! a few times. By this time my arms were absolutely shattered but I was surrounded by a wonderful sound which helped me find the groove and just have an amazing time!
We finished Ya Basta! and that was the end of our singing adventures! We finished with a group photo, multiple thank-you's for the organisers, mountain leaders and performers, and ended with a song about Friends which Dave quickly taught us.
It was then time for the final descent. This was by far the hardest part of the hike for me, after 10 hours my body was shot, but I was not going to give up. It took me forever to make my way down. My left knee was playing up due to an old injury and CP flaring up. It didn't help that I also stubbed my toe on the descent on my right foot so every step was a sore one. But slowly and surely, step by step, I staggered my way down the mountain and back through the slate mine to the car park.
I had done it!
One day, 10 hours, 4 Summits and 3 Songs. Being surrounded by fabulous countryside, even more fabulous friends, old and new, definitely helped my through the day.
It was by far the hardest thing I had ever put my body through but I'm so glad that I did it. I may have Cerebral Palsy but I will NEVER let it have me! Now to do it all again next month!