Charmaine Biggin, John Muir Writing comp winner

Charmaine won the Trail magazine and John Muir Trust writing competition “The Day a Mountain Changed My Life” with her compelling tale of the hope she found in the mountains.

Cat Bells, Lake District

Cat Bells, Lake District

We had plans. Plans with twin baby shapes in them. The long wait to be a family was going to be over. The IVF was successful and we were in the 20th week. Holiday plans were different that year. I didn’t want to book our usual walking adventure to far-off places such as South America and Asia. Instead we’d settled on a tour of Italy where the pace would be gentle. Then it happened, on an everyday Sunday. As it sped me to the hospital, I glimpsed from the window of the ambulance a snapshot of a family out enjoying the early September sunshine. Our future ambition and excitement crumbled to dust a few hours later.

I had to stay in hospital for a week, which was strangely comforting. There was no preparation for coming home. We were stunned as we crossed its threshold. My body and mind were unwilling to return to this place where a dream had been planned. My husband suggested a trip. Heading north-west from our Midlands home, Simon Mayo’s drivetime show buzzed quietly, reminding us what fun families were planning for the weekend.

We arrived at Keswick late that evening, in darkness that suited my state of mind. The next day we visited Derwent Water and looked up at Cat Bells, a mountain we rarely bothered with as “it’s not very big and is full of tourists”. My husband suggested we walked towards it if I felt strong enough. I didn’t but I followed him, focusing on one step at a time, step after step after step. The incline steepened and I started to feel a sweet, familiar feeling of physical exertion. I stopped… a lot. It probably wasn’t what the doctor had recommended when I’d left hospital just days before.

The clouds parted and the Cat Bells panorama penetrated my grief like a sunbeam. Views dizzyingly pulsated through me from every direction and I felt something rise inside. I took my husband’s hand as we got to Cat Bells’ busy peak, a mere 400ish metres climbed, but the most important metres we had travelled as a couple. A speck of hope surfaced in my mind that day. Could we be strong enough again to follow our dream for a family? And we were. And we did. Our son will be walking with us to the top this month.

Jenna Maryniak