There were two key aspects to this crossing – a dawn start, and the reverse route!
The plan was simple, and indeed cunning. We would arrive at the ‘end’, Ravenscar, late evening on the 18th, get some sleep, and then set off around midnight, complete the easy section from Ravenscar to the A177 in time for dawn to break and light the way through the awkward section past Fylingdales. A brief SOTA activation of each of the two summits as we passed and then a steady drop down into Osmotherley in time for tea and medals.
It never ‘quite’ goes that way when me and Bob go walking!
The day started well, we got into Osmotherley and parked Bobs motor up. I was driving the first run since Bob doesn’t like the way my bad leg has a tendency to go hard on the gas. From there we made our way to Whitby, and raided the Co-op for food, managing to cram sandwiches and whole quiche down (each!), plus staggeringly big bars of chocolate. To avoid the temptation to visit a pub, and to also avoid having to pay for parking, we carried on to Ravenscar, and got parked close to the normal finish line.
As we arrived, we noticed a minibus parked up. Thinking this might be for one of the known regular supported walks, we wandered over for a chat. It turned out it was for a crossing by one of the schools in Scarborough. As we chatted, their first finishers came in, a teenage girl and boy, hand in hand! We congratulated them on a fine effort.
As we checked kit and got ready to rest up, more support teams began to arrive, plus more early finishers. And that’s when we made our first, and (quite nearly) fatal mistake!
… we decided to crack on!
The temptation to A) congratulate and B) encourage / wind up, the incoming walkers as we passed them, was too much! We treated our feet, although with our nice new boots which now fit properly, little was needed in this, had a pee, and hauled our, predictably, shockingly heavy Bergens on.
So, in daylight, we set off to walk the reverse route. Encouraging the tired and worn walkers coming the other way as we went with calls of ‘not far now’, ‘nearly done, keep going’, and telling them that we’d just finished and were going back for the next group we were guiding across!
It was remarkable how some of the walkers really did look about to die! But we did also notice, just how muddy they were! It turned out that the recent rain had not yet drained. Many parts of the walk, even at this early stage, were muddy and slippy.
Bob was asking every group we passed if they were someone (I forget who). I think we did eventually meet that person. We also met one of the club officials!
Boyed by this, we very quickly reached the A177. We failed to become squeshed walkers as we crossed, and so did our usual feet check and carried on. But it was now becoming much slippier, and we were rather surprised at just how muddy it was, considering the day itself was lovely.
As dusk fell and the light started to fade, we could see RAF Fylingdales in the distance. Around about this time we decided, it was time for some music!
One of our handheld transceivers happened to have an FM broadcast receiver built in, so we found a station playing decent music and carried on, although in true fashion there was a short interlude whilst Bob evacuated himself.
The radio would become our companion on this walk. It was actually really nice to have some music, as we walked through the night. Indeed, the morale boost it provided helped offset the fact that, although the weather was perfect, the ground conditions meant that it was particularly tough going.
Somewhere short of Flylingdales, the paths became indistinct, and very muddy. We began to slide and stumble. Despite head torches, we found finding the correct path became tricky. Bob took a bad slip and went both legs into a bog, unfortunately, the bit between his legs was solid ground! Quite a painful experience that would later prove to have been damaging.
We began to have to make quite embarrassing course corrections as the path became invisible, and finding ourselves on the wrong side of a nasty section of bog each time!
At some point around here, I managed to put my entire left leg up to the knee, into a post hole, and then fall forward onto my right knee. This simple incident would prove disasterous to our efforts and ultimately to our crossing times.
An yet, we were so far going well. We had plenty of energy, and were in great spirits. We’d conquered the first of the nasty ravines with little more discomfort than the damn midges. Eller beck was behind us, and we were safely over the A169 road and heading through the nature reserve to cross the North Yorks Moors Railway.
By now it was pitch black, and we were guided only by our GPS and torchlight. As we began the approach and descend to the 2nd ravine of Wheeldale beck, and the site of the roman road, things took a sinister and un-nerving turn! We began to hear dogs barking. Then vehicle movement up ahead. Now, such things occurring in the middle of the night, on the moors, in the presence of a pair of ex-infantrymen, instantly put us on guard. As Cat on Red Dwarf would say ‘It doesn’t smell right!’
And it wasn’t. The vehicles, and their occupants, were out for one reason – they were hunting us! As we came to the beck and the stepping stones, we saw another lamp approaching. We were confronted by an irate owner of one of the houses beside the beck. Intent on intimidation, and voicing his annoyance that people might dare to walk a public path on a national park during the night, our fear was that he would set his dogs on us. I have absolutely no qualms of pointing out the exact location, and hence the house in question, for future walkers to be wary. I had intended on reporting his actions to the police. I can understand a landowner in such a remote location being wary, but it was quite clear that we were walkers.
We got clear of the roman road as fast as was possible, and away from this idiot. But we now had the worst of the boggy sections to cross, and boy was it wet! However, it was beginning to become light, we were now able to dispense with the head torches. We stumbled and slipped, cursed, jumped and sank our way through, until eventually coming out onto the metalled road. We were now close to Fat Betty, our breakfast and selfie stop!
At Fat Betty we stopped to eat, and cold Chou Mein is a fantastic taste! (im not being sarcastic there, it really was nice!). Changing socks and checking feet was done in relay, fighting the onset of cramp. A few piccies were taken, and we enjoyed a rest sat in the glow of the rising sun.
From here we made our way down (or up?) the road to the Lion Inn, luckily quite firmly closed at that time in the morning, and passed over the back to join the Rosedale railway path. Now, on our first crossing, this winding track seemed to go on forever. This time was no exception. We began now to tire a little. Soon, the long drawn out slog of it began to rival the climb up Whernside! By the time we turned off to join the Cleveland way towards Urra Moor, it was becoming seriously tedious and boring! My gawd its a long, long way when its all uphill!
Our spirits were still good though at this point. Bob had been texting the radio stations overnight, and shortly after we crossed Urra Moor, totally forgetting to carry out the SOTA activation as we crossed the summit before we realised, we found the bench at the start of the decent down to the B1257. Another sock change and a bit of scran here. But by this time, things were just starting to go awry! As a result of our falls earlier, we were both beginning to hurt, and lots of painkillers were not helping enough. My left knee was becoming serously painfull. But, one fantastic moment did occur whilst stopped here – we got a mention on Radio Cleveland!
We were still in good enough morale at this point to be annoyed by the idiots who let their dogs run off lead on the moor, despite the presence of the sheep. But as we descended, and more so as we began the climb up the steps towards Cringle Moor, our injuries began to take their toll. For Bob, painkillers were effective, and he was able to maintain his pace. For me, although the painkillers did their job, and my knee didn’t hurt too much, it was rapidly stiffening. Each step became an effort.
Once up on the moor, walking wasn’t too bad, but I could no longer maintain my usual pace. By the time we were negotiating our weary way through the rocks of , we were both slow, but I was now finding it increasingly difficult to bend my knee. We were becoming very slow. Now, Cringle Moor and Drake Howe effectively form three ridges, and the cols between are deceptively steep. As we looked up to the summit, we realised that there was no way I would be able to ascend, without causing myself serious damage. We opted to take the lower level path slightly to the north, even though this meant the ups and downs of various ancient waste tips. Progress was laboriously slow.
We rejoined the Cleveland way path near Mouries pond, and limped into the Lord Stones cafe. Every movement for me now was a challenge, including sitting down on a bench, and then getting up again to go and buy something to eat. As we moved off, I had been reduced to the pace of an asthmatic tortoise. I told Bob to just crack on, that way at least one of us could maintain a good time, but Bob insisted on remaining together. This we did until the summit of the next hill. Here we stopped, took a look around, took a look at ourselves, and realised that somewhere in the last ten miles, we’d left our morale and enthusiasm behind! We looked pretty much how we felt, and we felt terrible. I finally convinced Bob to forge ahead, with the argument that I only had to follow the path from now on and that I might be slow but I wasn’t actually dying, and he slowly started to pull away as we went down the hill. I crept my way painfully down, and soon was tackling the horrendous set of slippery steps in the woods. I stopped upon a mound just before the farm, as my GPS batteries had given up. I changed them, and finished off the last of the Jerky and the coke id got at the cafe.
On the drive back to Ravenscar, Bob told me of his adventures –
After leaving me, he started heading down the hill at a bit quicker pace. Finding he could actually move better at a jog than walking, he started to run! This he managed to maintain, after a fashion, until he hit the banking up to the woods after the river crossing, which sapped some of the energy reserved he still had. He’d also had to stop and check with a local which way to go, after his GPS decided to have a wobble.
Having made it up the slope and into the woods, he was once again able to make time. On arriving at the car park, hot, sweaty, stinking, he found he was in the midst of masses of families, all smiling and laughing kids. And one now very knackered and rapidly stiffening Bob! He then opened the car, removed his boots, and hobbled barefoot to the ice cream van. The happy families had to then endure the sight of a steaming, crumpled hobo ramming a ’99’ down his neck!
After a brief rest I carried on, soon I was over the road and the stream, the bridge of which was rather awkward to cross! But now, I just had to get into the woods, and a couple of miles later would be on the road down to the car park and the end! Once in the woods, I again began to enjoy the scenery, and even managed to increase my pace a little. I’d sent Bob a few updates by text (our radio batteries being long since dead!) with a rough ETA. At one point, I took a slight detour instead of following the expected path, and was worried that Bob might have retraced his steps to meet me. But, I had told him to get to the car and have a kip.
As I came to the end of the woods, with the last length of Coalmire Lane ahead of me, I noticed a car parked by the gate. The Pen-Y-Ghent cafe sticker in the rear window indicated it was Bob (im hopeless at recognising cars). I fell against the wing, knocked on the window, and asked a half awake Bob “When’s the next bus due?”
We had made it.
After a brief rest, we headed back to Ravenscar to collect my car, only going the wrong way and into Middlesborough the once. We were shattered. And we stank. But we had completed the Lyke Wake Walk for the second time, and by the reverse route.
Our crossing times were appalling! Although Bob managed a bit better than me, but even so, we made it within the available 24h. Recovery seemed to be much faster than the first time – I could actually walk the next day! But both of us, even as I write this report in early October, nearly four months later, retain the remnants of the injuries we picked up on that day!