Unsupported E-W Crossing Report 23-24 June 2017

A Bulgarian friend of mine, Nadya, now a resident of Nottingham, has been walking in the UK for a few years and was looking for a walking challenge. I, having been born in Middlesbrough and therefore having grown up visiting the North York Moors, suggested we attempt the legendarily cruel Lyke Wake Walk. I say ‘legendarily cruel’ despite my Uncle insisting he completed a double crossing in under 24 hours in the 1960s. I have my doubts about the state of his memory, and indeed his sanity, but that’s a whole other story.

We decided that we’d do the walk in two stints breaking the journey with some sleep at the Lion at Blakey. We were joined by Chris, Nadya’s boyfriend, who is also one for a challenge. We are all relatively fit, so did no specific training. While this was a reasonable approach for my two friends who are in their early 30s, as a chap approaching his 50th, my feet did not seem to agree come the end of the walk.

We used Brian Smailes excellent book as a guide and I also purchased the OS maps. We did the walk as follows:

Preamble part I: the night before.

Nadya and Chris attended the ballet at the Playhouse in Nottingham and soaked up a bit of culture. I attended the Trip to Jerusalem pub in Nottingham for 8 unintended pints of bitter and witnessed an angry gentleman of the street getting aggressive with passers by over the death of a nearby duck. It was a night of contrasts.

Preamble part II: Friday morning and the journey to the start.

We travelled up in Chris’s car and parked near the Golden Lion where we ate a superb meal and drank a lovely pint and reassured ourselves that the walk would be no trouble. We then ambled to the starting point, a trek of about 2 km that I would come to regret, somewhat, a few hours later.

Section 0-1: Lyke Wake Stone – Lord Stones (6 miles)

14:07 – 16:20 (actual 2h 13h / target 2h 00m)

We set off at a brisk pace in nice conditions and decided to utilise my local knowledge, so I was map holder. Within 30 minutes we were lost. At this point Nadya reminded me that I had downloaded the OS map onto my phone and we relied on modern technology to double back to the path and crack on. Good job I was with younger people. As a consequence of this mishap we were behind schedule at the Lord Stones. This was compounded by my insistence on buying an ice cream for nostalgia reasons combined with our ill advised attempt to locate the glider club which appeared to have flown elsewhere. We couldn’t locate it. We decided that the Lord Stones would do as a checkpoint, took a photo, took a slug from our hip flasks, and pushed on.

Section 1-2: Lord Stones – Clay Bank Road (4 miles)

16:20 – 17:54 (actual 1h 34m / target 1h 30m )

We hit the hills. I started feeling quite chipper at this point and decided to race some OAPs to the top of the Wainstones. I won. This was my finest hour. I savoured this epic victory as the weather closed in. We soon passed half way to half way so Nadya insisted on celebrating with a nip of whisky (she wasn’t an alcoholic until she assimilated in the UK), and we soon found ourselves at checkpoint 2, so we took a snap and had another nip of whisky to celebrate.

Section 2-3:Clay Bank Road – Rosedale Head [via The Lion Pub] (9.5 miles)

17:54 – 20:48 to the Lion; from the Lion 05:23 – 05:51 (actual 3h 22m / target 3h 05m)

We pressed on, Chris leading the way and now chief map holder after my embarrassment early on. I regularly checked the phone app to ensure his map reading skills were sound. His map reading skills were sound. As we joined the disused railway tracks my mood darkened with the weather and Nadya and I cheered ourselves up with a good old moan as Chris continued to set the pace with a smile on his face. Now then, I like pubs, but I’ve never been more overjoyed to see one as when the Lion honed into view. We recorded the time, took a piccy and had a slug of whisky, and I whinged about my feet while Nadya gave Chris a piggy back to prove that she was the best. Congratulations Nadya, you are the best.

[The Lion: 20:48 – 05:23 (rest time of 8h 35m)]

We dried out and ate one of the huge portioned meals at the Lion, and they kindly supplied us with a packed lunch in lieu of breakfast. We drank a beer, toasted our achievement and retired to bed. Chris thereupon suffered severe cramp in his calf. He didn’t moan about this once during the remainder of the walk thus proving himself to be some sort of borg.

Having dragged ourselves back into action shortly after sunrise, we got moving feeling sore and stiff, but in beautiful sunshine, and confident of completing the quest in under 24 hours. We were soon at checkpoint 3 where we saw the first evidence since we had begun trekking of other people also attempting the mammoth feat. A helpful chap from the support team for a more organised bunch informed us of some improvements to the route that we were too disorganised to have previously registered.

Section 3-4: Rosedale Head – Hamer Layby (5 miles)

05:51 – 07:38 (actual 1h 47m / target 2h 00m)

We carried on at a good pace and enjoying the sunshine until the turn off near the Fryup sign which heralded the start of the peat bogs. We were afeared of the bogs on account of not knowing just how boggy, and therefore slow going, it would be. Thankfully the lead up to the walk had been dry and the blogs only slowed us marginally. We emerged from the bogs a little damp but still on schedule.

Section 4-5: Hamer Lay-by – Eller Beck Bridge (8.5 miles)

07:38 – 10:41 (actual 3h 03m/ target 3h 00m)

We stopped briefly at the checkpoint for me to change my socks as my feet were starting to feel like they belonged to someone else. After a quick photo and exchanging a few words with some other organised groups who were resting we cracked on.

As we crossed a stile at a wire fence my muddy boots caused me to slip and, concerned that I may break my ankle in between the steps of the stile, I hung onto the fence for what seemed like an eternity as my fellow travellers at first were concerned but soon found my predicament hilarious. Once I untangled myself we continued down the ravine with the prospect of our packed lunches egging us on. Alas, this pending bounty caused me to rush down the ravine resulting in my muddy boots once again failing me and dumping me on my bony backside on the rocks. Once again the laughter rang out. The only thing damaged was my pride and we were soon tucking in to our sarnies by the stepping stones.

Once we got moving again, a few quick calculations had us concerned about our progress. This turbo charged Nadya, and Chris had no problems keeping her pace. I dragged myself along behind admiring the backs of their heads the whole way. I could tell that Chris was smiling and Nadya was not. Good. A yomp across the moor had us back on schedule and we reached checkpoint 5 as planned.

I once again changed my socks as my feet were now getting raw and the act of bending to tie my laces induced cramp in my abdominals forcing me to straighten my torso and release my grip on the laces. Repeated attempts resulted in the same sad retreat. Fortunately Nadya stepped into the breech and thankfully the Bulgarian bow is as sturdy as its English cousin.

Section 5-6: Eller Beck Bridge – Jugger Howes (5 miles)

10:41 – 12:52 (actual 2h 11m / target 1h 40m)

We now felt like we cracked it but the 5 miles quoted in the guide looked an awful lot more on the map. We made haste at an excellent pace but a combination of fatigue, a lack of stimulating scenery and the fact that the progress being reported by our GPS watches did not seem to match the reality of our progress saw our heads drop. Nadya and I were suffering by now but our robot companion marched on relentless. I started to consider whether he was more of a Terminator or android. After what seemed like an eternity across now rocky ground we spied a radio mast: our ultimate goal of Beacon Howes we concluded. As we neared, we were puzzled by the absence of the A171. As it dawned that the radio mast was not Beacon Howes and so the climb that faced us was not the last of the walk, we started to panic that we may not make the 24 hour deadline. This happily gave us an adrenaline boost and we bounded up the hill like new born lambs with the sure footedness of mountain goats. Finally we spied Beacon Howes and the A171 and when we reached the checkpoint we celebrated by returning to the hip flask trail.

A warning to others: this section seemed a lot further than billed and our GPS watches suggested that it wasn’t just our imaginations. Then again, perhaps we took the long route?

Section 6-7: Jugger Howes – Beacon Howes (2 miles)

12:52 – 13:29 (actual 0h 37m / target 0h 30m)

We were now convinced that we had it cracked with over an hour to do the last two miles. Nadya was suffering with her stomach thanks mainly to the supersized pub food portions and my feet felt like the skin had all dissolved away, yet Chris (or was it Robocop) continued with a smile on his face (I could tell by looking at the back of his head as he set the pace). Meanwhile, Nadya and I were fuelled by our collective pain. Finally, 23 hours and 22 minutes after setting off, we got to the Lyke Wake stone. We celebrated by finishing our Whisky and posing for some photos thanks to a random support person. We all agreed it was too hard and we were crazy for doing it.

Aftermath:

The plan had been to rendezvous with Cheryl, my partner, at the nearby Ravel Hall Hotel, but it was too long a walk to contemplate (15 minutes) so I called her and requested that she collected us. She has never looked so beautiful. She then immediately became more beautiful when she went to the bar at the Ravel Hall Hotel and returned clutching a round of beers. We all then agreed it wasn’t that hard after all and we should do it again.

There followed a quick horror show as Nadya first showed her blisters, I displayed the parts of my feet formerly occupied by blisters and now simply red raw flesh and Chris polished his metal feet. We then made haste to Whitby for some well earned fish and chips and a belly full of ale.

Final totals: walking time including checkpoint breaks 14h 47m; rest time at the Lion  8h 35m; elapsed time 23h 22m.

Addendum:

Three weeks later I have three black toe nails but my blisters have subsided and I would happily do it all again.

PS: Does this mean we are now 2 Dirgers and a Witch?

– Mike McManus
– Nadya Marinova
– Chris Morrison

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