Scared in the Lake District – 5 incidents that really freaked me out

I was out hiking in the Back O’Skiddaw hills last week and something happened that really freaked me out. It got me thinking about all the times I’ve been terrified by bizarre and eerie incidents when fell walking and adventuring in the usually peaceful, non-threatening mountains of Lakeland. These are the top 5 petrifying moments I’ve experienced.

1. “Is anybody there?”

Scared Lake District

Scared in the Lake District: wild camping out in the fells

I’m solo wild camping on a Wainwright-bagging trip (read about my journey to summit all 214 Wainwrights here) to the eastern fells. My tent is pitched inside an old, dry-stone sheep pen in the middle of nowhere. This is remote. I’ve barely seen another hiker all day. I’m in the land of nod, dreaming sweet dreams when at 3am an eerie voice wakes me – “is anybody there?” I virtually jump out of my skin. I’m immediately 100 per cent alert, not to mention completely panicking. I hear the voice again, this time louder: “is anybody there?” My mind is racing – oh my God, it’s a ghost, it’s an axe-wielding maniac, I’m going to die. It’s none of the above though – just mountain rescue workers searching for a hiker reported missing in the area.

2. Attack from above

Scared in the Lake Distric

Scared in the Lake District: attacked by a buzzard

So, picture this – I’m hiking near Orthwaite a few days ago, minding my own business and enjoying being outside in a beautiful, tranquil place. Then suddenly I hear a whooshing sound and, to my horror, a bird of prey is dive bombing me from on high. It swoops down on me five or six times, coming closer to my head each time. Showing no signs of manly bravery, I leg it away as fast as I can, wailing, cursing and holding my rucksack over my head for protection. Super scary! I later find out an aggressive buzzard has been displaying territorial behaviour in the area.

3. The fox and the hound…and the hiker

I’m half way up a hill, lost in the wonderful simplicity of putting one foot in front of another. One minute everything is calm and relaxing. The next I inadvertently find myself engulfed by the mayhem of a hunt. I see a fearful, panic-stricken fox run to my right, just a few yards away. To my left are a pack of blood-thirsty hounds going at full speed. I’m in the middle. Nothing happened, they all simply ran past, barely even registering my existence – but for a split second I was bricking it.

4. Not exactly the most comfortable night’s sleep ever

Scared Lake District

Scared in the Lake District: freezing winter weather

I return back to Grasmere Youth Hostel at about midnight following a meal out with friends. Snow is falling heavily. It’s bloody freezing. I stroll along the driveway and go to enter the building. Uh-oh, where’s my keycard? I search everywhere but can’t find it. I must’ve dropped it and it’s hidden somewhere in the snow. Desperately I try to break into the locked hostel, banging on doors and climbing a drainpipe. But I can’t get in. So, to cut a long and disastrous story short, I end up sleeping in my car, freezing my ass off in what must have been -5C. Nightmare.

5. Moo-ve over

Scared Lake District

Scared in the Lake District: my general approach to meeting cows when out hiking

I really don’t like cows. I full on despise them though when they charge you for no reason. I don’t want to be trampled to death, thank you very much. This has happened to me quite a few times – on the shores of Ennerdale and in a field near to Great Mell Fell. Ever since, I’ve given the bovine beasts of Lakeland a wide berth and hope I don’t have any near-misses any time soon.