Crossing – 16th September 2017.

Having now recovered from all my aches and pains, I am now in a position to report my successful crossing on 16th September 2017.

I’ve wanted to do this walk for a while now, and 2 weeks previously I had attempted it with my 15 year old daughter, in glorious weather, fantastic views, decent temperatures, no rain etc…unfortunately around the 30 mile mark we had to admit defeat as her training, consisting of one 20 mile walk combined with teenage invincibleness, and a week of watching game of thrones didn’t pay off! So a rather expensive taxi ride later, I was back to planning to do it solo again. I do, however have a small amount of sense and realise that if we only saw 4 people on a glorious day in 30 miles then doing it on my own really wasn’t my best plan, so I jumped on the organised trip bandwagon.

Two weeks later, and I am parked up in a pitch black Osmotherley, wrestling with my bootlaces in the confines of the car awaiting a minibus. I soon joined the other 14 people on this quest, and at 1am after the customary smiley pics next to the stone, we set off, fully waterproofed up, into the dark. I don’t recall a massive part of the first 10 miles as it was dark, very rainy and during the steep descents, an effort to stay upright. Luckily I have my previous memories of the glorious views from the attempt a couple of weeks ago. Upon arrival at checkpoint 2, the soup was a welcome warm up, and a change of socks and a bit of respite from the rain in the bus, most appreciated. At this point my feet were still just damp….this was not going to last in these conditions! Back on the trail, and it’s still dark, as the light began to emerge, I turned the head torch off and relied on the little natural light around to avoid the puddles (god knows why as I’m soaked to the skin now!) As the full sunrise hit us, we were on the long trek toward the Lion, some lovely views across here in between showers and it was great to have some moments without the rain. I managed to sneak in front for a few minutes too!! Then we turned off the railway, this was a new path for me as last time I fell into the “lets have a drink in the Lion” trap… This bit was hard going, pretty boggy and the path was hard to find in places, we soon reached the road though, and I’ve never been so glad to see two blokes in a white van in my life! The beans and sausages were most welcome, I debated another sock change but I was too cold and I knew there was bog to come. After the feed, we set back off up the road past fat betty and then onto the bog. Last time I was here it was far worse…probably because I didn’t want to get my feet wet, this time they couldn’t have actually got much wetter so it was a saunter through whatever was in the way! By this point I was one of the back markers, but the company was good and I don’t think we were massively behind. Once at Wheeldale road I knew that I was going to make it, I’d got this far before, no way was I going to fail it again. Now came the small issue of Wheeldale beck….we all went down to be faced by a raging torrent and the stones, well under water. A 3 mile detour to the ford and through the forest before rejoining the path to Simon Howe began, I think this was one of the hardest parts as we all knew it was extra milage, the terrain heading to the ford had twisted my knee and brought up a previous injury, and we were all soaked still. We did however, eventually emerge back onto the route and soon were over the crest of Simon Howe and Fylingdales was in sight…but still rather small on the horizon! We slowly trudged our way to Ellerbeck where some members were more broken than others, but after a regroup, some drug injestion, and a bowl of stew ( I may have remarked that it looked like dogfood, but at the time it was the most delicious thing I have ever tasted!) and pockets filled with sugary stuff, we all headed off on the final push. This part wasn’t too bad, I was tired but I’d gone through the barrier and it was just a case of plodding on to the end now, the views were great along here too which always helps, a few showers hit us again, but at least it wasn’t cold. Once past Lilla Cross I was on new territory again, Juggerhowe beck was picturesque although not appreciated fully at the time, I’m sure I had several stops while ascending the other side. Time for a quick cherry bakewell and some water at the last checkpoint then onto the finish. I rediscovered my mojo on this last 2 mile section and my speed increased dramatically, catching up the person in front and having some company again for the final few hundred metres. Once almost upon the finish stone, it was good to hear the cheer from the folk that had already finished, and to finally get into some dry clothes! Amazingly I had no blisters, yet I have the strangest friction burn from my knee support!

In the end I walked 42.6 miles in 18 hours and 11 minutes.

Thanks to Brian Smailes and his crew for their constant support along the way, I know I have the physical and mental ability to do this on a good day, but I’m pretty certain that under these conditions I’d have given up way before the end (in fact I’d probably not have left home really!)