Solo West – East Crossing: 4th/5th February

Dear Sir,

I am pleased to report my successful West to East crossing over the 4th/5th February. It was a solo undertaking as part of a fundraising challenge in aid of the charity Challenges Worldwide. My apologies for the tardiness of my report. I have been away for much of the time since I completed the walk and as such have only just got round to sending my report.

I started walking at 12am on the 4th with first five hours or so going with-out a hitch. The lights of Teeside guided me along the Cleveland Way running along the ridgelines towards Carlton Bank. However as I started the assent of Hasty Bank the fog came in followed by a good attempt at snow. This made the section to Blowworth Crossing particularly cold and disorientating, with visibility reduced to a couple of meters at the most thanks to the fog. The light of my headtorch only exacerbated this, creating something close to a ‘white-out’ effect! The winding route along the old railway seemed never ending with every looping turn feeling as if it was going on forever. As soon as it started getting light I ditched the head torch and deciding that I would be better off just peering through the mist rather than walking blindly into endless white fog. It was a surreal and somewhat eerie morning, perfectly still apart from the occasional rustle of disgruntled grouse. At this stage my spirits were pretty low, it had been walking for nearly 9 hours, I was falling asleep whilst walking and the thought that I was only half way was rather disheartening. However my morale began to revive as soon I stumbled, damp and tired through the door of the Lion Inn at Blakey to meet my more than patient support team. A full English breakfast and half an hour indoors got me back on track mentally before embarking on the next leg. (Although neither tiredness nor hunger could not coax the black pudding down me!) With a fresh supply of Jelly Babies in my pocket and an upbeat pep talk from the support team I set off eastward again toward the notorious boggy section. Upon reaching the bogs however I was pleasantly surprised. Having imagined I would be virtually swimming through the oozing black muck it become obvious that it was not nearly as wet under foot as I had feared. By this time the fog had pretty well lifted and I managed to negotiate the bogs with relative ease. That said on more than one occasion I would lurch forward as the apparently stable tuft of grass beneath me disappeared into the black ooze along with my leg.

The end of the boggy section to the finish can most accurately be described as a ‘trudge’. With the bizarre pyramid type radar of RAF Fylingdales now visible on the distant horizon I now had tangible evidence I was making headway. (Only when I reached Fylingdales did I realise how naive I had been for thinking that I would be nearly finished when I reached the radar station!) Over the next 10 – 15 miles it seemed to be a matter of crossing a vast expanse of open moorland to the next cairn or piece of high ground and assess how much closer Fylingdales was. It took a while for the strange pyramid to get much bigger on the horizon.

On reaching Eller Beck I very much felt that I was on the final stretch and had a renewed spring in my step. About 2 miles out from Jugger Howe darkness was setting in again and I soon had to resort to the head torch again. However spurred by the thought of the finishing like I had a new release of energy that helped me power down and up the steep ravine at Jugger Howe and on to the finish.

I arrived at the finishing stone drained of energy and my legs aching and sore but brimming with satisfaction that I had completed the walk. Amazingly I did not come across a single other person along the 40 mile route while walking. It was a fantastic challenge, across some awesome spectacular country. However I’m not sure I would do another crossing in February! Total time for the crossing was 19 hours 36 mins with about 17 and a half hours of actual walking time. A huge thank you goes out to my support team Gill Railton and Rona Kermack without whom I could never have completed the walk on my own.

Kind regards,

Max Railton