Pete followed the old drovers track up the hillside, past the cottages for a hundred yards or so until he reached a flat section next to a ruined barn. He backed the old Land Rover in close between the barn and some bushes.With the muddy, old Defender looking indistinguishable from the local farmer’s vehicles, he knew the chances of getting a ticket in this spot were remote. He set the steering lock (too many of these Defenders were getting nicked), pulled his rucksack onto his back and set off down the hill to meet the others.
The lads from the engineering shop had decided that, what better way to enjoy a fine Autumn than a spot of walking? Encouraged by Pete, they had been doing a few walks locally & enjoyed their trips. Recently, they started talking about something a bit more adventurous, perhaps the Lake District? Pete volunteered to plan a route and they agreed to meet in the Grasmere car park. There had been talk of inviting a couple of the girls in Admin to join them, so Pete was intrigued (and a bit eager) to see who actually turned up.
As he walked down the hill towards the village, he scanned the surroundings. The weather forecast had been for a predominantly dry day with the chance of some sun. As he looked around he could see a low cloud base with the highest fells hidden from view. ‘Well’ he reasoned, ‘it’s only 10.00am and there’s always a chance that it’ll perk up later.’ As far as he was concerned, there were no bad days in The Lakes, just some that were much better than others.
A few blasts of car horns brought his attention down to earth and he could see two cars pulling into the car park with lights flashing at him and lots of arms waving out of the windows. As he walked over, he saw Steve, Bill and Mick had been joined by four girls! He knew Suzie, Penny and Tess from Admin but didn’t recognise the fourth girl. Tall and slender, with short black hair, full lips and large dark eyes, she looked stunning & the red bandana knotted around her neck gave her a quirky air.
‘Laura, this is Pete; Pete, Laura.’ Introduced Suzie. ‘He likes to act like the boss but just because he’s supposed to know where we’re going today, don’t let him boss you around!’
‘Well, he can try,’ grinned Laura, ‘just so long as he doesn’t think any mansplaining is required!’
Pete said ‘Hi’ and giving her proffered hand a squeeze added a big wink on the side the others couldn’t see.
‘Don’t worry, ladies,’ chipped in Mick, ‘Judging by the size of that rucksack he’s carrying he’s either got enough rations for the next week or he’s brought the oxygen for the final climb up to the ice-field!’
‘Our very own boy scout!’ chipped in Bill.
‘OK, listen up!’ Pete called out, ‘I can see you’ve all got suitable footwear but I trust you’ve also brought a waterproof jacket with you. It’s supposed to stay dry but you never know on these fells and, anyway, it can get chilly higher up.’
After a few more words of advice and instruction, they set out in a north-westerly direction up Easedale towards the higher fells.
‘OK, boss man, where exactly are you leading us today?’ Enquired Laura falling in beside him.
‘Nowhere too tough’, responded Pete pleased that she appeared to have sought him out. He went on to explain that he had in mind a route that would take them up to Easedale Tarn and then higher up to Stickle Tarn.
‘It’s a lovely spot and if the weather holds and the group is up for it, we can go on to the Langdale Pikes. It’s only about 5 miles across from here but it’s quite steep in places but the views are superb if we get there.’
‘Looking forward to it!’
‘How do you know the others?’
They were soon lost in conversation. It transpired that Laura was a friend of Suzie, they’d met at college and now lived near each other. She was an accountant in a small firm and had ambitions to run her own business one day.
‘What’s all this “boss” business with you about, then?’ Laura asked.
‘Well, I recently got made supervisor of the engineering shop and the lads haven’t stopped teasing me about it yet. I went the apprenticeship route to get qualified but I reckon I can get ahead more quickly than a lot of the graduates. Don’t say I said so, but I’m doing a business studies degree with the OU now.’
As they walked on up the hillside chatting non-stop, the others falling behind bantering and playing around, they found much in common. Laura was a keep fit fanatic too, in the pool and the gym most days, loved the thought of outdoors but had never got around to spending much time in the countryside. Pete found her easy to chat to and as the morning progressed, he was more and more taken with her.
Reaching Easedale Tarn, they stopped to have some of the coffee they had briought, the girls passing around biscuits. With the cloud base falling and visibility beginning to reduce ahead, the discussion turned to the idea of turning back and finding somewhere in the village for lunch.
‘Sounds like a great idea to me.’ Penny concluded, getting to her feet without further to-do. There was much nodding agreement amongst the group.
‘What do you think, boss?’ enquired Laura, opening those big eyes wide, one eyebrow arched and with the faintest hint of a smile breaking around those fulsome lips.
‘There’s still a chance the weather will clear and we’ll get the views we came for. I’m for going on but if you don’t want to take the risk, I understand.’
‘Well, if you’re for going on, I’m with you, boss!’ Laura’s smile had now developed into a broad grin, with her chin raised and head inclined to one side.
Pete thought she was looking more appealing than ever.
‘OK,’ he said to the others, ‘you should get back in good time for lunch if you follow the same route back.’
He caught a glimpse of Suzie smirking at Laura before the others set off down the hillside. They waved them off and then he and Laura set off upwards and they were soon scrambling up the steep escarpment that shielded the tarn on the western side. Soon they were deep into the mist that was swirling around and Laura was taking his hand on the steeper sections. They felt so natural together.
The mist got thicker as they went higher and it became difficult to tell where the path was at times.
‘You still happy going on, boss?’
‘No problem, we’re nearly at Stickle Tarn and I think it’s lifting a little, definitely getting a little lighter.’
It was indeed getting lighter and suddenly, within just a few yards, they broke through the mist to reveal a wondrous scene. Dense cloud was swirling around their feet, like a gentle sea with peaks of the higher fells thrusting through like islands. The low sun was casting a golden light across the scene. To their right the surface of the tarn was catching the golden light of the setting sun and behind, now in deep shadow, was the steep escarpment rising up behind the water.
‘Come on,’ said Pete, ‘let’s sit on one of the boulders and break out the last of the coffee!’ Laura gave his hand a squeeze. Soon they sat sipping coffee, fortified with a dash of scotch from a hip flask Pete produced. Laura was bewitched by the magic of the scene before them.
‘Don’t say a word!’ she instructed and snuggling closer, laid her head on his shoulder and took his hand ‘I just want to savour this.’
They sat and watched as the golden glow deepened, the sky darkening as the sun began its descent below the clouds. Pete turned and looked at her, the last rays of the sun reflecting in her dark eyes and kissed those full lips. The kiss seemed to last forever, with neither seeming to wish to break it off, until Laura put her head on his should once more and sighed. They stayed that way until it was almost fully dark.
‘Well, I guess we’re lost together on a mountain?’ ventured Laura, in a tone he couldn’t quite pin down but didn’t seem to convey the concern he would have expected. ’What are we going to do then?’ We’ll never get down in the dark, will we?’
‘Well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be easy.’ Having grown up in the Lakes, Pete knew these hills like the back of his hand but he wasn’t going to let on just yet!
‘Surely a good boy scout, like you, came prepared? What have you got in that big rucksack, anyway?’
‘Not much,’ said Pete, grinning in the dark, ‘just a cosy, little tent, a thick double sleeping bag, a stove, sandwiches, coffee and a bottle of wine!’