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Instagram goes hiking

Lakeland adventures with ambassador Nikki Gilbey and friends

We love Instagram and our community on there. Looking back through everyone's feeds you can track the changing seasons and the flowering of new friendships. Connections are at the heart of social media. They are where its true valuable lies, far more than mere 'likes' or followers. Ambassador Nikki Gibley reflects on time outdoors with folk she met on the internet.

"It was a new way to explore the fells, building fresh friendships and taking a slower pace."

My social media use has ebbed and flowed over the last few years. Facebook and Twitter have taken a back seat. I now mainly use Instagram to share, connect and engage with other adventurous folk.

At the start of this year, I reached out to a handful of people and asked if any of my online adventure buddies would like to meet for a real adventure. Some immediately proclaimed “come to the Lakes!” others said they would happily get involved and we should chat more to plan something. Some said nothing.

One particularly keen voice was Lakes local Rory Southworth. A weekend trip to celebrate the lengthening of days and the clocks springing forwards started to take shape. After finding a gem of a book called The UK Trailwalkers Handbook in my local library, we picked a route called Back o’ Skidda which took us from Mosedale out across the fells to Skiddaw, with an overnight stop at Skiddaw House, finishing across Blencathra and back up to the starting point.

One advantage of having Instagram as a point of reference for online friends with a distinct style means you can spot them a mile off in a busy service station car park. We discovered this during an impromptu stop at Tebay services, where we bumped into our new adventure pals about 40 miles south of the planned meeting point and recognised them right away.

As a group of five, three of us friends for a number of years and a pair of co-worker friends who we had not previously met, we started out at the base of Carrock Fell in the hamlet of Mosedale,

climbing steeply up and away from the road. The prospect of spending 36 hours with people we

didn’t really know didn’t feature in our minds – we were just a group of people who love the

mountains, heading off to spend time in the place that makes us happiest.

As we walked, we talked about the big things in life, the small things, routes and experiences we loved and had shared with other friends at other times. The weekend wasn’t about covering huge distances, fast times or metres of ascent, it was just about getting outside, filling our lungs with fresh air, enjoying the view and spending time getting to know each other a little better. At Whitewater Dash we refilled water bottles, decided against the slog up to the top of Skiddaw, and headed along the valley to our home for the night, Skiddaw House. An off grid hostel run by the lovely Suzy and Martin, we arrived to a warm welcome and a huge kettle of water being hoisted onto a stove, ready for tea and homemade flapjacks.

The hostel is an absolute gem, with roaring log fires, a piano, a well-stocked bookcase and hot water bottles for every bed. We chatted with other walkers and spent the evening filling our bellies and sharing stories.

After an excellent night’s sleep, we were keen to get breakfasted and off. After a quick

piano/spoons/maracas jam session with big thumbs up from warden Martin, we headed out into the ​sunshine to skirt around the bottom of Blease Fell and Gategill Fell and up Halls Fell Ridge to summit Blencathra.

An enjoyable scramble took us to the top, with stunning views across to the Yorkshire Dales in the east and Helvellyn to the south. Big wide open skies were above us, and the snow capped ridges and fells gave inspiration for future weekends of adventure and exploration.

A descent of Sharp Edge was on the cards. Being at that in-between state of partly melted snow and ice with dry rock on the windward side, it was slow progress, giving plenty of time to enjoy the view. At the bottom of the ridge we took a northerly direction, passing Bannerdale Crags where we could look back at the entire circuit of our walk, and up to our last summit of the weekend, Bowscale Fell.

As we descended back into the valley towards our cars, talk turned to camping tips and planning of future trips. For those in our group whose focus was often speed and completion of objectives, it was a new way to explore the fells, building fresh friendships and taking a slower pace. And for those whose pace is often slower, there was inspiration aplenty to try a faster way to cover ground, and consider the merits of running over walking.

In his brilliant book Constellations of the Forest, Sylvain Tesson says

"In life, three ingredients are necessary; sunshine, a commanding view and legs aching with remembered effort”. 

I would also add to that people to share it with.

Amen to that.

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