Archive for September, 2020

Crossing 09th/10th September 2020.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Didn’t rate our chances of completion very high. Harriet has suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and, while loads better than she used to be, can still go flop when pushed too hard. The problem is she is very determined to do stuff and does all the pushing herself! I was pleased to step in as a late substitute when her walking partner cried off as I had meant to do the Lyke Wake years ago but somehow never did. Although I haven’t done this distance for over 20 years my recent Covid-related job as a relief bin collector has got me quite fit but I was worried about a dodgy knee which has suffered from jogging on pavements in safety boots.

Early September is usually a pretty good bet for the weather and it was very fair. No rain, not too hot, wind perhaps a bit brisk but at least it would be behind us most of the time. Harriet’s mum, Jane, had kindly volunteered to drive us to the start and pick us up when/wherever and also joined us for the first section. It was sunlit and scenic with gorgeous views, purply heather, browning bracken and a few ripe bilberries still around. Mostly stony or slabbed paths so I was quite glad of previous pavement conditioning. Enjoyed plenty little breaks for nibbles and fags. We had started about 13:20/13:30 so really got the benefit of the views. Local livestock obviously used to walkers and hang about to be admired.

The disused railway line was rather monotonous underfoot but provided easy miles-per-hour and was also where we saw a cute little stoat. Here Harriet revealed that she doesn’t actually like walking much but was doing this only for the challenge! It was dark and chilly before we finished that bit so the next stop was for a more substantial feed and change into ‘nightclothes’. Then came a stretch of road, then the boggy moor.

Really, I suppose we had it pretty easy. Arriving at the end of a dry summer we never found ourselves above ankle-deep and the clear night made spotting the white-topped boundary stones no problem. Harriet was still leading the way most of the time and full of bounce. I suppose hopping around looking for a dry-ish passage is a sort of entertainment and I wasn’t bothering with checking the time any more. There were toads! We saw several, in various colours and sizes, just sitting in the path. Also large spiders making their web across the path, I guess ready to catch an early morning breakfast before men and beasts trampled the webs. We did make an effort to step over, not through, especially for the finer examples.

‘Ware grouse butts! Up here, instead of mounds for the shooters to stand behind, they have dug great pits to trap unwary errant night travellers.

The moon was high in front of us now, helping visibility and atmosphere. We tended to have our little rests near standing stones where possible and it felt a bit special.

The rest of the way should have been simple but there was a bit by some streams after Fylingdales where it was annoyingly difficult to find the path. I suppose that could have been a lot due to tiredness and being up at a time that man was not meant to wot of. And maybe singing to keep the spirits up distracted attention from route-finding. Hint – learn some songs properly so you don’t have to keep conferring about the next verse.

And all was not well with Harriet. Her dicky metabolism was playing up again. The first symptoms were stomach bloat then belches of awesome volume. Mind, after my hi-cal rations of cheese, sausage and chocolate I was competing with quieter but more noxious emanations. Harriet’s belly had more or less packed up work. She was even struggling to take water. Fortunately in her bag of many things there was some isotonic sugar/salts powder and that helped the water go down. Still couldn’t take food though and the remaining distance without it might be too much of an ask. We went slowly, very, very slowly. Dawn happened with its usual uplifting effect and that helped a bit. When the way was dry enough to be worth putting on clean socks we did that too and it was another boost. Slower and slower yet. Then H sent me into the Bag for some energy gel thing and managed to get most of it down. Quite disgusting, apparently, but it did the trick and we made it to the end. No skipping off to do the extra bit, stone to stone was quite enough, and our 8:30 or so finish time is hardly one for the annals but we felt very, very proud.


So comes the report of our crossing 9th/10th September 2020:

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

Participants: Myself, Harriet, and Maddy

The sun was full and our spirits high when we… well actually it was cloudy and we both just felt like we wanted to go back to bed or for a small ramble. The time was something around 1.30pm by the time we found the start stone and set off. My mother, who was acting as chauffeur, was accompanying us to the first trig, so our pace was a little slower but it was nice to share a bit with her. Along the road, through the woods, across the fields, till the first proper bit of up. Ups aren’t my thing. My body seems to have an issue, heart rate soars, and I head towards black out, no matter how much training I do. I took it steady. We headed along the top and up to the trig. Here we stopped for a quick nibble, and bid farewell to my mother.

We elected to go around rather than over the next section, taking the alternative route as the wind was quite high and had battered us throughout the first section. We got to the plantation and took the very sweet woodland path until we came to the gate to take us up to the wain stones and across the top. Here we met the gorgeous Galloways, some of whom were very curious and interested. After a view stop on the top, we continued along and down again.

By this point the bloat had well and truly kicked in. My body wasn’t absorbing and of the water, but it was sat in my stomach which was inflated to the size of mid pregnancy, no exaggeration. It was painful, and unhelpful, but I ignored it.

The next section we got some good miles under our belt. Despite everyone saying it was a dull section along the railway, the sun was going down so the views were just bonny. And we found plenty of slags to keep us laughing with endless jokes. Oh and we saw a stoat running and leaping along the track and then off into the wilderness. On the last bend before the Lion Inn, we stopped in a nook and changed into night layers as the last of the light left. We ate a bit of food as well, dreaming of the beer and food such a short distance away. But this was unsupported, so HTFU!

The road section was dull in itself, but oh the stars were just beautiful. A clear night, a bright sky, and even a few shooting stars to make it even better. A mention must come here to the very sweet driver who stopped to check we were ok! (Making a massive difference to the idiots roaring past at speed, lights on full, and way too close). We assured him we were fine and were actually doing this for fun!

Then of course, the bog. It was so much fun, lots of hopping around, problem solving, and all in the dark. The white tops were a godsend though we did miss our way at Shunner Howe and took the lower path, but that was quickly remedied at the road.

The next section was quite nice though still the bog hopping. Was nice to meet the Blue Man I’ th’ moss. We couldn’t work out why the Raven Stones were called as such. And on. During this section we started our toad spotting. 5 toads in toadtal (sorry). They were all quite content to sit on the path and watch us pass, with the exception of one who sat fine, until I tried to step over him, at which he jumped to where my foot was due to land. Cue gravity defying feats to save his little toady body.

Well I’d have been bloody appreciative if Wheeldale Beck actually lived in the beck, but it seems just that general area should be considered wetness. The stepping stones, to be any use, should have started 100m earlier and finished 100m later. And on.

Across the railway, through the joke of a nature reserve, across the road and splash into more boggy mud. That section past Fylingdales was hell. Not proper bog, just muddy wet. I hated it.

And it was at this point, as one reaches the hard track again, my body said enough. I tried to drink, and spewed it back out. I tried to eat, and spewed it back out. Not good. I was shaky and fatigued, but no way in hell was I letting that stop me. I changed into my waterproof/dry socks, and sat for a while. Just before we left I thought I might try the rehydration salts I had brought in a spare bottle of water. My body accepted these, sipped lightly. Here too the sun began to rise. There is an odd power in sunlight. The old adage ‘where there is light, there is hope’, is too true. It gave me strength to continue.

Forwards we went and made it, ever more painfully and slowly to the bridge over the stream. Here we sat. My body had now stopped accepting the drink, and was shaking hard, and my vision was struggling. Maddy adjusted her kit and put on dry socks. In addition she ran a tail rope for me (a rope tied to her pack for me to hold). I could barely form words but I held on and we continued. I didn’t actually put weight on the rope, but holding it gave me a guide. I let my head hang, and put my feet in her footprints. She led me up the hill and along the track. My consciousness was wavering at this point and I couldn’t think straight or see properly. My body stopped circulating to my arms, which fell numb but for the one I had looped into the tail rope, keeping the effort for essentials only. At the road, we called my mother to meet us at the end.

And on. But we were only 1km from the end when my body stopped and I collapsed. I was not going to fail here. After a minute I managed to communicate with Maddy to look in my rucksack for an energy gel sachet. My body tried to reject it, but I forced it not to. I could see the end, it was so close. This amazingly gave me a considerable boost. Maddy got me up, and I made it to the end unassisted.

And the END!!!! Never have I felt greater achievement. I did not do it fast, or well, but as someone who has suffered for many years with CFS/ME, and has notable other clinical issues, this was such an achievement. I am so proud of what I have done. I don’t know if I shall do it again, but we shall see.