Crossing report – 21st May 2021

Tom, Richard, Ben O, Charles and Ben B (and Jules, the amazing support driver)

This was a gritty crossing. I don’t think we were under any illusions that this wouldn’t be a challenge but the weather certainly wasn’t kind. The month of May had been a wash out across the UK so water levels were high and this was the forecast as we headed up on the train from London:
But the inexperienced five old mates from university were not going to be deterred and our naïve knowledge of the area and hiking generally was probably a plus.
We had also raised an incredible £17k for Mind, the mental health charity, so nothing was going to stop us…
We were keen to make the last food order at the Raven Hall Hotel and so decided to set off at 4am

The weather was actually kinder than forecast as we set off which helped the early start. And the first section to Lord Stones went relatively smoothly (bar a slight wrong turn early on…), although our support driver mistakenly went to the second checkpoint so we didn’t stop and carried on up the climb to Cringe Moor to checkpoint 2. The paths was thankfully relatively solid over these sections, excluding the path along the Broughton plantation which was very muddy.

At checkpoint 2 we met another support driver who told us there was another group in pursuit (more on them later…). It was then that the rain started and it basically didn’t stop for the rest of the day. We were reminded of the scene in the movie Forest Gump ‘we been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain…and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways’…

The next section along the old railway was long (9.5 miles) with the rain lashing and visibility getting worse. But at least the ground was still relatively solid. Given the lack of visibility we missed the turn at the Lion Inn and so added a mile or so onto our walk…But we arrived at Checkpoint 3 at Rosedale Head at 11.15am so we were on track.

The next section was the one we had been dreading – the bog. I don’t think photos will do justice to the conditions. Paths were streams and the ground was like a sponge, with us sinking each step.

But this relative short section of c. 5 miles felt like an adventure and we arrived at checkpoint 4 wet and in relatively good spirits for a quick lunch (thanks again Jules!). We were halfway and still vaguely on track timing wise (c. 1.15pm).

At this point some of us were feeling quite smug that our water proof clothing purchases were holding out well, whilst others were having to change socks, shoes, clothes etc.

But getting wet couldn’t be avoided in the next section. The book had warned us that this felt longer than 8.5 miles and this was certainly the case. The ‘wet’ section at the start was much longer than anticipated with the very stoney path along the plantation basically a stream.

It was along this section that the group mentioned above passed us. But we soon caught them up again at the river. I noted the last crossing report that said if the water was any higher then the river was unpassable as the crossing stones would be under water…well there certainly were no crossing stones for us!
Whilst the group that had passed us were wondering what to do, one of our group (Ben B) went for it and waded through the river, falling to his waist right at the end but he got to the other side. We had no choice but to all follow suit, wading through thigh deep water trying to keep our footing on the slippy stones. The situation was comical and the sight of Ben O falling into the river had us crying with laughter (and will live long in the memory).

But we were now cold and still a couple of miles to the next checkpoint. Ben O was freezing at this stage but was comforted by the knowledge that he had a change of clothing in his bag…which Jules our driver had kindly dropped off at the hotel! So after Ben O had borrowed various garments, we set off from checkpoint 5 with less than 9 miles to go (and now lagging a bit time wise).
Mentally we had thought that getting past the last section would see us home and dry, but by now the legs were starting to go and it was just so wet under ground that the going was slow and heavy, sinking with each step. The visibility continued to be rubbish and hence we had no chance of seeing the finish at Lilla cross.

Even the path that looked like it had been recently worked on was a muddy and rocky, and hence slow going. The legs for a couple of others were beginning to go – walking poles helped to propel us forward. But we finally made it – within 16 hours to the stone, just….

Beer can opened and a walk / waddle / stagger to the hotel in time for food and celebratory drinks into the night…42.6 miles in total given wrong turns etc.