Friday, 1 April 2011

Pennine Way Backpack in 9/10 Days. September 2008

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                        The Pennine Way, at last.

                       Click on photos to enlarge.

My wife and I had a quiet drink or two and nice evening meal in the Nags Head in Edale on Thurday 28th August before retiring to our B & B at Weston House.
                Weston House B&B.

                The Old Nags Head.

Friday 29th August Edale to Standedge 28 miles.
At 9am I waved farewell to my wife at the start of the Pennine Way, and was on my way. My wife was returning home to Chorley via shopping in Manchester.
The cloud was fast lifting from the top of Kinder and it was becoming hot and humid.
I came across a couple of guys outside their tents at the bottom of Jacobs Ladder.
                Halfway up Jacobs Ladder, looking back.

After a short discussion it emerged that they had set off from Edale the morning before at 9 am and thought they were near to the Snake Pass crossing. I was a bit bemused by this, being in an enclosed valley and the Snake Crossing being on an open moorland summit. It turned out they had lost their way looking for Mill Hill and hadn't realised that they had descended Jacobs Ladder after ascending the same earlier in the day.
                Kinder Downfall, looking back.

                Looking towards Mill Hill.

I pressed on and at Mill Hill encountered swarms of flying ants, that were to accompany the Way for the next 22 miles.

                Bleaklow Head summit.

                Crowden Reservoir.

                Ladder Rocks.

Over Bleaklow, past Crowden and Ladder Rocks. I was now dehydrated in the hot clammy conditions sweat sheeting over me. My water used up, I was looking for a clear stream, but only finding brown, Peaty water. Then at last I found a clear one near Wesenden Reservoir.

                Wessenden Reservoir.

Drunk loads and filled my bottles. Got to Standedge and found a flat spot to camp for the night.

                Camp at Standedge.

Saturday 30th August. Standedge to Lothersdale 33 miles.
Up at 4am, moving by 5am. Even this early it was very warm and again humid, sweating up straight away. Soon passing over the M62 footbridge and Blackstone edge.

                Pennine Way footbridge over the M62.

                Summit Trig, Blackstone Edge.

                The White House.

This was an easier section than any the day before. Past all the reservoirs, Stoodley Pike and dropped down into Calderdale after refilling my water bottles at a farm below the Pike.

                Light Hazzles/Warland Reservoirs.

                Stoodley Pike.

                Farm at Lower Rough Head.

A steep ascent took to the open moor once again and the long trawl past more reservoirs before reaching Withins Heights.

                The ascent out of Calderdale.

                Pennine Way alongside Walshaw Dean Reservoir.

                Top Withins.

Dropping down to Ponden Reservoir, just before the bridge and road, I came across another wayfarer taking a rest. This was Peter, he was spending 21 days on the route using B&Bs and carrying a fair sized pack, which looked heavier than my 30lbs, tent and all inside. I carried on and quickly ascended the steep fields beyond. During the boggy moorland that follows, I went to step on a submerged flag that wasn't there and went in up to my knee. My right boot filled with peaty water and by the time I dropped down to Cowling had a blister on the ball of that foot.
                PW slabs on moorland before Cowling.

                Bothy now closed.

Here I met another Wayfarer again taking 3 weeks on the route. He was now wearing trainers on his badly blistered feet,with his boots slung over his huge camping backpack which must have weighed in around 65lbs, and his legs looked to be buckling under the strain. I left him looking for the campsite there and carried on to Lotherdale, arriving at around 7pm. I found the Bungalow that allows camping on their lawn, had a shower, changed and off to the pub for a meal and drink.


                Camp at 'The Bingalow' in Lothersdale.

Sunday 31st August. Lothersdale to Horton 30 miles.
Moving by 5.30am arrived in Gargrave by the time the shops were open. Had an ice cream and bought some fudge in the cafe by the PW signpost and moved on towards Malham.

                Leeds/Liverpool Canal.

At Malham went in the cafe there and sat outside with a pot of tea and something to eat.


                Heading for Malham Cove.

                 Dry Valley above Malham Cove.

The weather was now fresher than the previous days and no longer as humid. Round the Tarn and up Fountain Fell. Near the top just before the leftwards swing towards Pen y Ghent I quickly caught up with a slow moving fellow carrying a rucksack plus a holdall. I commented that it must be uncomfortable carrying the bag, but he seemed not bothered. During the next 20 minutes conversation this chap told me that he had walked the coastline of mainland UK, mentioning that he held the record for it. However he was confused as to whether the route we were on was the Coast to Coast or that one that finishes just over the Scottish border!!?? He also had to find accommodation in Horton as someone had stole his tent along with three others in Malham the evening before. Said he didn't fancy the climb over Pen y Ghent. I told, "Well that's the way the route goes", but it seemed he didn't mind short-cutting.

           A distant Pen Y Ghent, from the flanks of Fountains Fell.

Caught up with another guy called Rob, on the descent track leading to Horton. Rob was about 27 years old and camping carrying 25Kgs, I told him that was far too much. He agreed and said he might abandon the camping after Hawes and go B&B from there on. He was on a 20 day schedule. I showed him the campsite and I went off to the Bunkhouse behind the pub. Got there around 7pm.

Monday 1st September Enforced Make & Mend Day.
My toes which had been extremely sore since the descent of Fountains Fell the previous day, this morning were very red swollen and sensitive and had kept me awake most of the night. I knew I couldn't walk any distance day, in fact I couldn't get my boots back on. I felt this was the end of this trip. I then reminded myself of how long I had wanted to do this route. However the clincher was, that I felt if I gave up now I would be letting my wife down, after her final words before she waved farewell at the start, "Good luck, you will do it easy." After all she had been through recently, my sore toes seemed insignificant, and I knew I had to find a way to carry on.
I got a lift into Settle with two London guys with whom I had shared a meal and the bunkhouse with the evening before.
I bought some Compeed at a Chemists, found a Chyropodist, who trimmed my toe nails (OH! the Pain!)told me a blood blister was lifting my big toe nail, but not to pop it for fear of infection. He advised me not to go walking any distance, until the toe inflammation had gone down. I replied that I had no choice and was determined. He didn't charge me!
I then went to the crag shop and purchased a new pair of boots a size bigger than the ones I been wearing and a couple of pairs of Thorlo Socks. Bus back to Horton, I again met Peter who I had seen at Ponden. He too was in the Bunkhouse. We had a drink and meal together and I retired early for an early start the next day.

Tuesday 2nd September. Horton to Tan Hill. 31 miles.
Left the Bunkhouse at 2.40am and at first walked slowly up that never ending ascent up the lanes to Cam High Road towards Hawes. Happy feet, and no toe problems with so much room in my new Scarpa Boots Toebox. I was at Hawes for 9am and had breakfast in a cafe there.

           The track ascending Great Shunner Fell out of Hardraw.

       Looking back to Hardraw and Hawes from Gt Shunner  Fell.

                Gt. Shunner Fell Summit.

Intermittant rain during the ascent of Great Shunner Fell, which was easy enough. The rain became more persistent and I was in full waterproofs by the time I got to Thwaite, where I had a hot chocolate and slice of cake in the cafe there. Onwards over the hill to Keld, where I had intended to camp. However it was still early, 5pm and legs not tired so I decided to press on the extra 4 miles to Tan Hill. At the Tan Hill Inn, I booked into the Bunkhouse, got showered, changed then down to the bar where I met two lady walkers whom I had come across on Great Shunner Fell. Had a meal and spent the rest of the evening talking to them.
Wednesday 3rd September Tan Hill to Cauldron Snout. 30 miles.
Off by 5am. Down the road to meet the Sleightholme Road because of the increasing boggy conditions. Then that long haul across desolate moorland before reaching Gods Bridge and the road.

                Moorland Track between Tan Hill and Middleton.

                 Footbridge over Sleightholme Beck.

                 Gods Bridge.

                Blackton Reservoir.

                 Looking down towards Middleton.

More moor to Blackton Reservoir then Grassholme before dropping into Middleton in Teesdale. Everywhere closed (Wed afternoon?) no point in hanging about so carried on up Teesdale past Low and High Force to Cauldron Snout.
                 River tees, Lower Force.

                 Top of High Force.

                Cauldron Snout.
During this latter few hours the rain came heavy with the wind and the path below the rocky escarpment just before the Snout was flooded, so had to scramble across the boulders slightly higher up. I couldn't really find an ideal camping spot so knocked on the door of a farm about a mile beyond the Snout and was advised of a flat area at the next stream bridge, which I duly found and spent the night there. It continued to rain heavily during the night bt had stopped by morning.
                Camp just beyond Birkdale Farm at Grain Beck.

                Sunrise whilst heading for High Cup Nick.

Thursday 4th September Cauldron Snout to Alston. 29 miles.
Slept in slightly this morning, on the move by 6am. The mist was clearing as I approached High Cup Nick.
                 High Cup Nick ahead.

                 Looking down High Cup Nick.

The mist had gone by Dufton, where I spent an hour checking my voicemail. Then back up into the clouds to Cross Fell, a pot of tea, re supplies at the shop in Garrigil, and arriving at my B&B, soaked through in Alston. Soon sorted, and walked down to the pub for evening meal etc. Back at B&B for 10pm.

                 Gt. Dunn Fell.
                 Heading for Cross Fell.



Friday 5th September. Alston to Hadrians Wall (Twice Brewed)
30 mile.
This section is described as uninteresting but I found it pleasant enough. After Greenhead I stopped at the visitors centre at Cawfields to replenish my water bottles etc. driving rain accompanied me along the wall before dropping down to Winshields Farm and its camping barn near Twice Brewed. Soaking again, but the two good radiators soon had everything dried off. I had to put my now dry waterproofs back on including plastic bags over my trainers for the road walk down to the pub. Again a nice meal, few drinks chatting to other walkers, then the walk back in worsening conditions.

                 Hadrians Wall.

                 Hadrians Wall path.

                 Drying out in bunkhouse at Windshields Farm.

Saturday 6th September Twice Brewed to Byreness 29 miles.
Moving at 6am, driving rain into a headwind. Head down along the wall, I missed the sign at Rapishaw Gap and ended up at Housesteads Fort, back to the gap added on about about 1.5 miles. The valley below and the crossing of Jenkins burn was flooded and I ended up carefully wading through past my knees in water. Again at a flooded Slade Sike crossing a few miles further, more wading up past my knees.

                 Slade Sike in spate and the PW path.

Goretex boots are great but once water gets in, it cant get out, so for the next 25 miles My boots were full of water. I now no longer had to walk round big puddles and flooded parts, now I just charged straight through. Met a few going North to South on this section.


At Bellingham I took the advice of locals not cross that flooded moor as I was assured it would be impossible to negotiatte and would end up turning back. Up the road I went and met others coming the other way who were doing the same. Eventually into Kielder Forest and arrived once more soaked through at my B&B at the Byreness just before 7pm. Kate the landlady was an angel. She dried all my clothes after rinsing through, provided a lovely three course meal and Cider.

Sunday 7th September Byreness to Kirk Yetholme. 28 mile.
Kate left my breakfast out on the table together with my packed lunch, and I was off by 5.30am.
The first steep climb was no problem, but then soon up into the pea soup. Terrible weather head down with only 80 metres visibility all along the Cheviots. Getting cold, concentration on getting to the first refuge hut and making a brew, then getting to the second before at last dropping down below the cloud into the valley before Kirk Yetholme. Arriving at the flooded stram at the farm in the valley there was no way across. I backtracked, managed to get across then climbed the left hillside having to negotiatte fences to gain a better vantage point. From here I could see that my intended road was submerged in the flooded valley, but further along I could see it emerging from the water, and so I headed down to that point.

            Flooded Halter Burn after descending from the Cheviots.

                          Further down a flooded Haterburn.

Walking along the road , I was just praying that Kirk Yetholme and my B&B at the Border Hotel was not flooded. Being on a slightly higher level it wasnt. I was made welcome and shown to my superb room. Fed and watered later I made my entry in the PW log there and was given my free half pint. I was told it was the fastest this year and for some time, however she probably told every finisher the same. I was also told that flooding was worse the previous day and PW finishers had to be air lifted out from near that farm that I had passed.

                 Border Hotel Kirk Yetholm.

                 Kirk Yetholm Lane down to the finish.

I made my home via three buses and three trains the following day.
My thoughts on the way back home - Was this the challenge to finish with? Should I now just walk for enjoyment? Would I enjoy walking shorter distances at an easier pace or is it the hardship of the challenge that I enjoy? Or then again, if I ever recover from this bad groin injury and get back to running...................................?