It’s now less than a month until my Mom and I are doing our charity Snowdon walk, starting at midnight and hitting the summit in time for sunrise (hopefully). I’ve obviously been doing more walking in preparation, and so when Blacks invited us to join them for a day with The North Face by Kilnsey Crag, in the Yorkshire Dales, it was the perfect excuse to fit another walk in (and, as it turned out, become totally inspired for future adventures).
Getting to Kilnsey involved a two and a half hour drive up to Manchester, before boarding a coach there to take us the remainder of the way – a further hour and a half. As the coach got closer to the Yorkshire Dales, the sound of the rain battering on the windscreen was a little daunting. Thankfully, although it wasn’t clear skies when we arrived, the downpour had reduced to a bit of heavy drizzle, and we were just excited to see what awaited us.
A Little Soggy
After a spot of lunch, we set off. It was raining a little bit – but no one really seemed to mind (or at least, they pretended not to). I did notice the numbers were fewer than I think The North Face were expecting, so I wonder if the wet had already put off the fair-weathered walkers? With our hoods up and the rustling of waterproof trousers mixing in with the calling of birds and the bleating of sheep, we soldiered on, leaving Kilnsey Crag behind us. And you know what? The rain really wasn’t in detriment to the walk at all. If I’d have been at home and just planned to go on a walk, that amount of rain might have put me off and made me reconsider… but with the right clothing, a bit of rain needn’t dampen any walk. In fact, there was something about it that made me feel a little bit more adventurous, and that little bit more in tune with nature.
Our afternoon walk was led by Mark Reid, owner of Team Walking (a company offering navigational courses, outdoors skills and walking events). He took us on a route around Kilsney and Conistone, taking in the landscape carved out by glacial floodwater as well as remains of iron age settlements. I loved Mark’s guiding – he often stopped to tell us about the area we were in, identifying and smelling plants with a bit of philosophical chat about the importance of being outdoors and a fascinating insight into history of the area. I’m already eyeing up walks he offers through Team Walking and eager to book a weekend away for Jim and I.
Some of my favourite parts of the walk I didn’t capture on camera – sometimes, it’s just better to be in the moment and enjoy it for what it is rather than experiencing it from behind the view finder. I loved the parts that felt a little more adventurous – scrambling up some steep rock steps or walking up a little rock ravine. These are the bits I’ll remember the most.
Time to Chat
Thinking back over the day, the overwhelming highlight was just having time to chat with my Mom. With no children to run after, no housework to feel obliged to complete or errands to run, we had the best part of 18 hours to just talk. I honestly don’t think we’ve ever had that much time together in a single day, just the two of us.
That’s the thing about walking, isn’t it? It’s not just the physical exercise, it’s not just taking in the gorgeous scenery, but it’s having the time to reconnect – both with nature and with each other.
I know going to an event like this isn’t particularly in my Mom’s comfort zone. Neither is taking on the challenge of Snowdon, really (even though, she’s pretty much one of the fittest people I know!), so I’m over the moon that she’s doing it. And it really does mean the world. I know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to share these memories with my Mom, and it’s definitely not something I take for granted.
Beer and Pizza
When we arrived back, the smell of wood fired pizza filled the air – thanks to The Wood Fired Pizza Company. Mom and I grabbed a beer from the mobile bar, and took some deckchairs out to eat outside. I’ll be honest, I was really surprised no one else did the same! It had stopped raining by this point, and considering the gorgeous views around us, it seemed obvious to me that the best thing to do was to enjoy the scenery in all its impressive glory.
I’m not sure why, but I still find the novelty of mobile bars really exciting. I loved the set up of the Yorkshire Bartender, and I’d have definitely taken better advantage of their offering had I not needed to drive us home later that evening. One beer was all I allowed myself, knowing I had plenty of time for it to work through my system before being behind the wheel and I strategically ordered a can of coke to take home with me, to ensure I was well caffeinated for the midnight drive ahead.
The North Face Athletes
Before we settled down to enjoy Free Solo, it was really inspiring to hear two presentations from some of The North Face athletes. First we heard from husband and wife team James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini, who told us a bit about how they became professional climbers (following two very different routes) and how they embarked on a Sawanobori adventure in Japan last year.
Sawanobori is the Japanese art of waterfall climbing. It’s a bit like a more extreme version of the Gorge Walking I did last month, but rather than following the flow of the water, going against it! And they scaled some pretty impressive heights through doing so. James and Caroline made us laugh with their candor, and I especially loved hearing about their latest adventure into parenting and how it compares to mountain climbing.
Next we heard from Justine Gosling, who I’d been chatting to a little bit on our walk around. Her story of applying last minute for an expedition mentorship and suddenly being thrust into the organisation of a trip of a lifetime was amazing, and although she spoke very humbly of her achievements, I was fascinated by her change of lifestyle and incredibly impressed with her dedication and skills. Honestly, go and follow her on Instagram and prepare to be in awe of her adventures. I loved the sound of the Unveiling the Iron Curtain expedition, and I’d have loved to chat to her further about her experiences, her future plans and what advice she’d give to those of us with dreams of big adventures but little idea of how to go about it.
Needless to say, after hearing about these incredible adventures, I’m desperately thinking about what once-in-a-lifetime trip I can take on and when.
To finish off the day, we watched Free Solo. I’d heard from some of the other walkers that it was an incredible documentary but hadn’t heard about it or seen it myself before. If you haven’t, it follows the journey of Alex Honnold, a free solo climber with a very warped sense of risk. Free solo climbing is rock climbing without any harnesses, ropes or back up, essentially. One wrong move, and there’s nothing to stop you falling. Add in El Capitan, a 1,000m high rock face in Yosemite and you’ve got an epic two hour documentary that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Watching it outside, with Kilnsey Crag as the backdrop was inspiring, very fitting and really helped put his achievements into perspective.
A Long Journey Home
As the credits rolled on Free Solo, I looked around us to find the mist had rolled in and with the daylight rapidly fading, it really was the most beautiful end to the day. I instinctively grabbed my camera and tried to capture it, before we headed back to the coach returning us to Manchester. It was still a long way back to Redditch, as we had a further two and half hours of driving ahead of us, but with my mind whirring with ideas for adventures and plans to give climbing a go, we were soon safe and sound – if a bit knackered.
Jim rolled his eyes at me on Sunday when I announced that after being so inspired by this event that I’d like to start learning to rock climb. He knows too well that I’m always trying new things and can get quite obsessed with whatever is my new fad. I’ve already been googling our local climbing wall, and I’m sure they can expect to see me soon. I’d love to learn, I’d love to train and I’d absolutely love to eventually return to Kilsney and climb the Crag there. Thank you Blacks and The North Face for igniting a new adventure idea.
Disclaimer: I was invited to attend this Blacks X TNF event in the Yorkshire Dales, in exchange for covering the day in a blog post. The majority of the attendees were winners of a competition. All content, opinions and views remain my own, and as always, are 100% honest.