Crossing 15th June 2016

By way of background, I’m a 57 year old Type 1 diabetic who, until a year ago, hadn’t walked more than about 12 miles in one go in the last two decades. Then I heard about the LWW, and it was love at first sight ! I’ve spent the last year (on and off) getting ready for it. Was I going to make it easy for myself though ? Oh no. The walk would be solo and unsupported, except for a stop at The Lion, and there would be no overnight rest at half way. So I’d have to carry every last thing I needed. I’d start at Cote Ghyll Mill hostel and end at The Raven Hall hotel and visit the high ground – Scarth Wood Moor trig point, the top of Cold Moor and The Wain Stones – on the way.

Come the day (June 15th) I set out with a 10kg pack in clear, dry weather. Those were the best conditions I was to see. They say the Inuit have 50 words for snow. Well, over the coming hours I said a few choice words about fog. They weren’t nice words I’m afraid. I climbed into a rain cloud above Scugdale, dropped out of it briefly at Lord Stones Café, back in again for the up-and-down over Cringle Moor, Cold Moor, The Wain Stones and Urra Moor, then had a drier, clearer spell (very welcome) from Bloworth to The Lion (very, very welcome !) and round Rosedale Head.

But the fog swirled back in on the steady northerly as I walked from Loose Howe down into the bog. I’ve splashed through that twice before on ‘dry runs’ (ha, ha) and each time I’ve relied on pinpointing Shunner Howe in the distance as my path marker. But now the visibility was 20m or so. I got worryingly lost. I had to remind myself how to use a hand-held compass so that I could work my way, with my GPS position locater, back to the path. It took a while to get the hang of it and it was not a comfortable thing to have to do in real time and in all that peaty water !

After that the fog came (whenever I needed to see where I was going) and went (when I didn’t). Towards the end a different type of fog, from the sea, at Ravenscar wiped out mobile phone signals there so badly that I lost contact with my dearly beloved, who was my safety backup. I walked from just before Eller Beck Bridge almost to the finish stone before she found a phone that could get a signal. Again not very comfortable, given the conditions, the fact that I’d already had a hard slog and that there were still 8-9 miles to go. But enough whingeing ! This was mid-June in England, so spending 14 hours soaked to the skin, walking in and out of an opaque blanket is just par for the course :-). It did mean that my times were not impressive though:

Cote Ghyll Mill 04:45
Start Stone 05:03
Trig Point above Scarth Wood Moor 05:19
Trig Point on Carlton Bank 07:07
Lord Stones Café 07:27
Clay Bank 09:07
Bloworth Crossing 10:14
Lion Inn (arrive) 11:53
Lion Inn (leave) 12:35
Loose Howe 13:36
Hamer Road 14:55
Blue Man i’ th’ Moss 15:32
Wheeldale Road 16:39
Simon Howe 17:21
Eller Beck Bridge 18:00
Lilla Cross 18:55
Jugger Howe Ravine (bottom) 20:00
A171 20:25
Finish Stone 20:57
Raven Hall Hotel 21:16

So the total was 16hrs 31mins elapsed, start stone to finish stone was 15hrs 54mins and with 42 mins at The Lion I was ‘walking the classic route’ for 15hrs 12 mins. I reckon I stopped 12-15 times to check my blood sugar, eat a little fuel and wash it down with a little water, perhaps for around 5mins per stop. The diversion back to the Scarth Wood Moor trig point cost me some time, as did going over Cold Moor and The Wain Stones rather than skirting them on the lower ground. And we’ll draw a veil over how long I spent wandering around in the bog … I think the main reason for my slowness though was underestimating just how much effort would be involved in hauling my day’s food/water/emergency clothing etc up and down the wet climbs in the first 12 miles. Not only did it make those sections slow, but it also took it out of me for the trudging that came afterwards.

Still, as they say, “It’s not about the time, is it ?”. The pleasure comes from completing the course. The sore feet are already easing and the tightened muscles and tendons are stretching out again. An accurate measurement from the GPS record returns almost exactly 42 miles as my end-to-end distance. And if I shut my eyes I can still taste and smell the hot dinner and the welcome glass at The Raven Hall. Aaaaaah …

Graeme Hirst