Crossing 30th November 2019………. Solo, Unsupported, Non-Winter …………. yea, RIGHT! Gerry Orchard.

Yesterday was arguably one of the dumbest crossings that I have ever attempted and the decision to press on regardless, as it appeared that a finish before midnight unlikely, was beyond foolhardy.

I am currently in a state somewhere between life and death anticipating several sleeps today and a lethargic start to the forthcoming week.

After a surprising icy slither to Jugger Howe, believing the forecast of +6 Degrees near the coast would be accurate ( !! ), I was greeted by the roar from Jugger Howe beck from about 1/4 mile away. It was at this point that I realised that I could be in for trouble. Luckily, the water was just below bridge level, so first obstacle ticked off. The stones down and up were lethal with black ice but not too hard on fresh legs!

Little Ellerbeck also “had its moments” and I wondered whether vaulting poles should be left for those over 60 years old and / or with short legs. Sleepers around Fen Fogg……………… lethal! The gentle thaw then started making each step a gamble as to whether one would encounter sheet ice or gloopy mud. Rule of thumb “don’t step on stones cos they are black ice”!

There was somewhat of a shock as I met a man from Goathland on the route who was doing a “circular slide”. We both expressed consternation that we had encountered somebody else on the moors. He had previously completed the Lyke Wake 14 times but had successfully turned his life around.

Then came Wheeldale Stepping Stones. The good news was that the stones weren’t icy so one other hazard off the agenda. The downside was that they were still underwater due to all of the recent heavy rain. One gets deep and dark visions as one reached half way across the stones. Still, stayed upright!

The bogs “benefited” from the gentle midday thaw producing vintage bog as if after recent heavy rain. This is where the sane person would have agreed to divert and take their “coming to pick you up” partner to a meal at the Lion Inn. But no, having already gone half way to hell, why chicken out now?

The railway track actually gave one blind confidence as it was possible to move quicker than shuffle pace and the risk of “going splat”. Unfortunately as Rudland Rigg neared, so did darkness. The embryonic New Moon made a fleeting partner soon disappearing into the gathering freezing mist to shortly set unwitnessed.

On leaving the railway track, the depth of my folly soon became apparent. Those stones used for paving the path are unavoidable in most places ………………. and were just black ice covered. In the pitch dark, one loses track of gradient but unfortunately not the pain from falling over.

The mud through the woods below Clay came as a positive relief shortly to be replaced by ………more sheet ice covered stones……….

I contemplated doing the detour through the woods to the North of Carlton Bank but realised that should I not make it out, nobody would have the faintest idea where to look for me. OK, more slippery stones and a steep climb.

After Scugdale, I perceived easy walking. How wrong one can be. The road from the cattle grid was just a mass of ice……………. so started a new hobby of “verge crawling”. Still, managed to beat midnight.

Matters Arising:
Got some cracking bruises where I didn’t even know that I had places.
Not unsurprisingly, there were no other idiots doing the walk ……………………….
On a more serious note, despite carrying plenty of safety equipment, this was a very ill judged venture that could have gone badly wrong.
Even the drive home afterwards was “horrible”.

The plus side is that there were some magnificent, if unshared, views at times.

The Final Indignity.
It didn’t qualify as a Winter Crossing ( by one day )…………..