The sun was reaching towards its peak now in the cloudless blue skies. It felt like the higher we climbed the stronger it got and seeing as we had not considered any sort of sun tan lotion we were thankful we had our hats on even if it made us feel hotter.
We rounded the next left hand bend and from this point onward’s we could forever see our ultimate destination of the peak.
It seemed like it was an awful long way away considering we had passed the halfway mark.
The best bit of advice we had been given before taking on this climb was that “It’s not a race, everyone does it in their own time” and this was on the money.
I am not going to lie here my legs were already tiring, that along with the mixture of constant sweat mixed with the pathway dust being kicked up from all of the other folks walking the route combined to make a nice gritty paste where ever the dust could get into but I was determined to keep going forward’s only worrying a touch about the amount of water we were carrying and whether we had brought enough.
Our pace on this rough but nice incline surface was good until we rounded another bend to the left only to come face to face with what I would describe as the steps from hell itself.
There stood in front of us an uneven stone staircase approximately five feet wide with the steps themselves made out of any type of boulder that could be put int position regardless of size or step height making it both very steep and treacherous underfoot. I do not doubt for one moment that these have been the cause of many a broken bone in their time!
The walking sticks we had bought came into their own from this point forwards in the climb and I cannot say enough to anyone reading this how handy they really are. When I first started walking for fun and saw folks with these sticks I thought it was more for the “look” of being a hiker rather than any sort of real use. Quite honestly I used to scoff inside at what I perceived as the pretentiousness of the things but I take it all back now.
I really don’t think I would have made it safely up those steps that ran on until forever without that stick to guide me on!
Its ok there are other people who can now look at me thinking I am showing off when i use it instead, their time will come…
The uneven steps felt endless, but with each few new rows climbed the scenery that opened up was both spectacular and breathtaking! I could of done without the breathtaking bit really as I was struggling already but every which way you looked the vistas were clear and you could see forever in all directions.
It was on this section that a sort of cat and mouse game began with other walkers. We would walk past someone who had stopped to gather their breath back or just to take a rest, then sometime later when we had stopped they would walk past us with a grin on their faces until the whole process repeated again.
After the first few passes with the odd smile and a “good morning again” to boot the encouragement began. You see the people you kept passing were working on the same level of fitness (or lack of it) as you so you ended up seeing them all the way to the top.
A strange camaraderie sprung up which found you routing for these people to make it to the top! and it helped out because you started to use each other as a sort of pace marker. Now again there is no rush but seeing as you kept seeing each other you were all singing off of the same hymn sheet so the pace was set.
As we headed to the top of this staircase our hearts were pounding very hard along with the now constant sucking in of deep breathes of air it felt like we had been running up this hill rather than walking. Believe it or not there were some people running up the mountainside and not because there was a bloody great bear or tiger chasing them down to be a spot of lunch but because they wanted to! Now that is a level of fitness that I will never ever reach but hats off to those that do, it is seriously impressive! or they might just be mad, who knows?
I may as well take a minute to tell you about the other types of folks walking up this mountain while we are here because the list is quite varied. There were young families so you had Mum or Dad with a toddler strapped to their backs walking upwards (show offs) while the older children ranging from say 4 to 10 years old happily skipped along next to them…yes you read that right they were skipping up a bloody mountainside! I could barely catch my breath going up this staircase and these kids were skipping by me swinging their arms then taking to the time as they passed to mock I mean smile at me and wave without breaking their pace!
I saw a couple of older couples in their mid to late seventies having a go (they all made it to the top!) plenty of overweight mid life crisis folks who were heart attacks walking (made me feel a lot better about myself I have to admit), fed up teenagers that had been dragged out of the darkness of their rooms into the bright mountainside sunlight for some enforced physical activity. The list just goes on and on!
Now we are the prepared type of walkers. We like to go out with rucksacks on carrying what we could need such as wet weather gear etc, so even though the forecast was mostly sunshine with a bit of odd cloud thrown in for good measure (the standard weather forecasters way of saying “We are not sure which way it will go”) we came prepared because the temperature drop can be huge in Peak District when the sun goes in let alone on the side of a mountain!
But other people it would seem are not so bothered about this and that is of course their choice. Some carried much more than us others nothing at all. The best one I saw, and she made it to the top, was a women in her early twenties in a pair of short shorts and tank top carrying a single small water bottle wearing a pair of very worn out sandle’s!
Like I have already said each to their own this was a hot summers day at this point but folk could easily get caught out in the colder months. I prefer to carry a little more and be warmer on the way back!
Finally the end of the giants stairway came into view along with a little bridge and tunnel underneath for the railway so we dug deep pushed on and then as we walked through the tunnel yet another stunning view was offered up to us!
Time to stop for a little rest and water up replacing just some of the copious amounts we had already lost by sweating!
After spending a few minutes laying back on my back pack like a tortoise stuck upside down just soaking up the scenery I looked to my right to see what we had ahead of us next and my heart sank.
It got steeper, I mean it really got a great deal steeper so this was to be the most challenging section of all. I thought it had been hard so far but my word looking at the next and final stage I just wanted to turn around and head back downwards towards the car! The sun was really getting hot now and there was a hovering dust about six inches off of the ground from the number of pounding feet sticking to anything in came into contact with.
Wifey looked at me then the hill ahead of us and just said “Best get on with it then”
With that we started walking upwards once again.