With the right funding and back ground I would have been killed many years ago, on a reckless and ill thought out expedition up K2 in my pants wearing a fruit bowl hat and cowboy boots. Fortunately or not depending on your viewpoint, my back ground and funding never allowed such frivolous risks to life and limb, and in all fairness as a child in the seventies with asthma, I spent a lot of the time (allegedly) at deaths door.
I remember things slightly differently, I remember playing out on my bike, falling off now banned school climbing frames, and jumping between roofs of adjacent garage blocks on a green that had been created because a V2 landed there one night and destroyed or damaged more than seventy houses (and nearly killed my dad whose ceiling fell on him two streets away). I remember running about over what had once been a municipal dump in a corner of Newham now occupied by Newham General Hospital. It was an L shape of land that had a central dirt track running through it, and various branches running off it. It was a mixture of grass and scrub, blackberries, Elders, Japanese Knotweed and Nettles (there were no tall trees). South of this was the old A13 dual carriageway (now a four lane artery that pumps vehicular life into the new city of Docklands and to a lesser extent the old City of London). In those days there were enough gaps between cars that you could run across the A13 in two well timed hops (today you would be killed by lane two). The south side of the A13 was a vast expanse of marsh, derelict fallen downs, part filled in craters from repeated German bombing raids. The occasional Pillbox subsided into the soft ground. An old style and early container yard (the type that saw an end to the Royal Docks and its sorting warehouses ), and literally hundreds upon hundreds of open acres of not a lot ... I forgot the stinking abattoir, Zif Meats where you could find the horns of cows, hollowed and gnawed by the lord gods many detritivors from rats down the chain.
Heading east you could be on open ground with the odd fallen or trampled down fence from days of yore until you arrived at the banks of the Thames at what is now Galleons Reach Outlet shopping thing. You could wander among the giant fallen in and derelict monoliths of the old Beckton Gasworks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beckton_gasworks (for those who would like to see the place today, watch Full Metal Jacket, the city scenes were shot in my once playground). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beckton_gasworks). I also found out reading this article to check my facts that other parts of Vietnam were filmed at Cliffe in Kent, a short hop over the river from Tilbury and a place we used to SCUBA dive in (without permission), in the old abandoned quarries there.
|The Brown Bit is the Path|
|Towards the Sea|
|Towards Fangorn ... We Think|
The answer is nothing and everything.
|Another Peaky Bit|
|A Long Walk Back Down|
|Doesn't Really Capture the Drop After the Treeline|
|See Just leads You On|
|Just a Wafer Thin Scramble|
As with the drive across the high plateau, I periodically looked at the barometer readings on my watch, and at our highest point air pressure had dropped from 1014 millibars at sea level to 968 millibars at 520 metres above sea level. I also took altitude readings from the same watch, my now trusted Casio Protrek Triple Sensor Tough Solar Titanium (£350 from Watchshop.com ... other retailers are available etc).
We were three hours walking in to our highest point and nearly three hours walking back out. And now maybe we see why fruit bowl hats and cowboy boots get a mention.
In truth we weren’t as well prepared for this hike as we should have been. We didn’t take enough water and we didn’t take lunch, however in mitigation we had intended only to go as far as the first incline up to see the lay of the land for today when we planned to walk up. And let this be a lesson, them there high mysterious places lead you on, a minor foray with binoculars to see the lay of the land turned into a six hour hike with a litre and a half of water and no food, no torch, no silver blankets (in case of issues), no rope or para cord, and finally no first aid kit ... we were a tinsy bit irresponsible.
The pictures will fill in the blanks of my description.
As a child I couldn’t aspire to climb mountains, we didn’t have TV until I was probably eight years old, I had no dreams to aim for. But what I did have was the remains of a part of East London, used as a tip, bombed flat during the Blitz or left polluted by the process that turns coal into coal gas. A vast brown and green waste and wetland, a place where as a child and early teenager I would disappear into further and further, year after year with barely a breakfast in me, no water in a bottle and no real awareness of the risks. And that’s what happened on new years’ day; there was a wilderness, there is a wilderness, and in many ways so much more dangerous than the one I wandered as a child, but we lived to tell the tale despite being irresponsible, and I’m so glad we went up that hill.