Crossing 30th June / 1st July 2017

After a message sent on a whim back in January this year, and a couple of ‘meetings’ held in a licensed meeting house, we found ourselves at Osmotherley, and the starting stone of the walk at 9.30pm on a gloomy and mist-laden evening. Thankfully, the rain had stopped and we set off in good spirits.  Only a few metres in, we veered off and into the ferns.  We soon realised our mistake and got back on track.  The excursion meant that one of us lost our water bottle.  Nevertheless, after this early setback we quickly got into our stride and found the first checkpoint without further incident, even though the steep ascents and descents were made more difficult by the weather.

We continued in the mists through the Broughton Plantation, which was particularly muddy, but out of the wind.  Finally, after just missing the permissive path, but getting back onto it, we arrived at checkpoint 2 for our first rendezvous with the support van.  We tried to keep to the suggested walking times and found that, although challenging, they were possible and we reached the bottom of Hasty Bank at 1.15 am.  A short stop and we were off on the long leg to Rosedale.  Joining the old railway track, the wind kept up, but we clipped along and made good progress. By the time we passed the Lion Inn, the light was returning and the first signs came that the mists might clear although we missed the shrouded Ralph Cross and Fat Betty.  The road from the Lion to Rosedale Head was longer than imagined, but the van made a welcome sight and we were half way there, all present and correct.

We marched towards the infamous boggy section in light, as an unseen sunrise after 4.30 came just before Ralph Cross. Fears were allayed and a relatively trouble-free passage was made, thanks to some excellent guide work.  We passed a second group on the road before turning off along the county boundary – an unsupported couple who were also walking west to east.  We had previously played leapfrog with another group between checkpoint 2 and Round Hill.  The waterlogged ground continued with us all the way to the next checkpoint, where sock changes and more food were a welcome break.  This was a pattern to be repeated for the remainder of the walk, as the recent rains had left their mark on the pathways.

We continued through Wheeldale and Howl Moor under clearing skies, with the sun eventually starting to break through the clouds before we managed to trudge our way to the end of this section.  It certainly felt the longest, even though we kept on track without fault.  The dip at Wheeldale Lodge was hard and this, coupled with the seemingly interminable haul to Eller Beck, meant this was a tough leg.  The meadows at the approach to the checkpoint looked pretty in the sun, and we all started to feel the heat. It was through this section we met a team walking east to west, having obviously started out early in the morning. We crossed the railway line and found the main road in glorious sunshine, after 10.00.

Taking the standard route from Eller Beck, as it was the most direct, we found the guidebook was accurate, and the paths were sodden.  Having negotiated the bog, this penultimate stage didn’t feel daunting, as we had got so far, and were on the downhill stretch, figuratively speaking.  We all took a breather at Lilla Cross, and found the path to Jugger Howe much firmer.  However, the final ravine was a challenge to tired legs and sore feet, and a short stop at the top of the other side meant a final push to checkpoint 6.  We had planned to press on to the end but the heat of the sun, arriving around noon, persuaded us a quick rest to take on more water made good sense.

The final short leg, albeit with the seemingly moving mast – it wasn’t getting any closer – was in bright sunshine and, with the mists of the preceding night fading into distant memory, was eventually completed and we all made it to the easterly stone marker.

We did manage, more or less, to stick to the walking times as offered in the guidebook.  Breaks were slightly longer, but we completed the walk in 15 hours and promptly headed off to the Falcon for a well-deserved drink and meal.

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