May 26 2012

Walk 50: Trailtrekker 2012 – Sherpa G-String

Sunset over Whernside

route: skipton to skipton via gargrave, malham, horton in ribblesdale, buckden, kettlewell, conistone & hetton
26th & 27th may 2012
distance: 63.6 miles (graham, roger & simon) 24.9 miles (dave)
ascent: 7,015 ft (graham, roger & simon) 3,132 ft (dave)
time: 28 hrs 47 mins (graham, roger & simon) 11 hrs 40 mins (dave)
walkers: dave, graham, roger & simon


The story of…. sherpa g-string

5.30pm Friday soon comes around and it’s time to head for Skipton. A quick stop at Beaky’s to pick up the mini bus and then over to Dave & Leanne’s, then Skipton here we come! On arrival at the motel we find that all the rooms are doubles, I turn around to Roger ‘looks like we’re spooning’ hmmm it’s going to be a cosy night!
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Bags unpacked and off we go to the registration & pre-meeting, as we get into the school area I realise how big an event this is going to be, the hall is completely full and this is only one of the safety talks. We quickly join the food queue while listening to the Trailtrekker briefing.
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When asked who’d done the challenge before, not many hands went up which made me feel more confident that we could give the challenge as good a go as anyone. It was a lovely evening but the forecast over the weekend was 26-28 degrees boiling, not ideal for a 30hrs none stop trek! So far It had been a long day for all, and when the briefing & feeding was done I thought it would be good to just sit down outside with a beer and just relax for half an hour to take in the event and the enormity of what was to come.
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The support were keen to get back to the motel to start preparing the food, unfortunately most of the food was in mine & Rogers room and we hadn’t given them our key, oops! Sorry support. Anyhow, bizarrely enough we got the last 3 beers available from the bar and sat down outside the main hall on the grass bank overlooking the start line. I thought that the next time we see that site we’ll be kitted up and ready for off. We slowly drank our beers and strolled back to the motel. Back at the motel it was all go, the support got the food moving and myself and Roger started preparing our kit bags ready for the quick depart at 6am, it was only then I realised I hadn’t packed my waterproof leggings, not that I would need them of course as it was going to be hotter than the equator! It seemed to take ages to pack but finally we got sorted and settled down to watch Graham Norton to try and wind down. The lights were finally out but neither of us felt the slightest bit tired, I seemed to be half awake all night with the sound of cars and voices outside the motel.
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I think we actually woke before the alarm went off, a quick shower and get the walking gear on and we were out for just after 6am. Beaks and the others were already in the car park, so off we went to the school for breakfast. After breakfast we had some time to kill so we chilled out on the grass bank people watching and waiting for the start call. A few pictures of us all in the badger masks kept the atmosphere relaxed although Big D seemed a bit agitated and just wanted to get moving.
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It wasn’t long before we were all called to the start line.
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We joined the crowd on the start line, a real mix of teams from all over, different nationalities bursting to get moving. After a few words of encouragement from the Trailtrekker organisers the big countdown was on 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 TREKKERS! Off we go, through the park people were getting into their own stride, but once down to the canal it was a similar pace for all, apart from Beaks who disappeared into the distance like Linford Christie!
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A few miles into the walk, and a nice steady start, or so I thought but my right boot wasn’t very comfortable on the heel and I could feel a hot spot coming. A bit strange really to say the last training walk we had done was 38miles in the same boots & socks and all I had was a tiny blister. Meanwhile, Beaks had stopped and waited for us and we all walked into Gargrave together. As we approached Gargrave I could see Tony, our first guest walker waiting on the bridge. It was good to see him and from here on we had guest walkers joining us for different sections for the rest of the walk. By the time we got to the first water stop I had the early stages of a blister, I was gutted, looks like I’ll be patching up for the next 60 miles, oh joy! A quick 10 mins stop and then we were off again, next stop Malham. The walk to Malham we had done before which is a pleasant walk across grassy fields and country lanes, and now we had Tony to amuse us.
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As we neared Malham it was starting to heat up, my boot was still rubbing and I knew I would be in for some further patching up. I wasn’t wrong! The blister had obviously moved on, anyhow a quick patch up and some new socks felt better. The walk into each stop was met by fantastic cheers and whooping by the Trailtrekker staff which gave you a huge boost of encouragement. As we approached the Rambling Badgers minibus I suddenly realise that Sandra & Leanne were sitting there with the badger masks on, brilliant! I’m not sure how long they had been sat there with them on but it was a real funny sight, not sure what the other support teams may have thought though!
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We planned to do the next section slow & steady as this was going to be the most climbing and with the sun hotting up and nowhere to hide it was going to be tough. My Trailtrekker t-shirt would come in handy as I used it to cover the back of my neck, with the breeze blowing through it, it made a welcome relief. Big Dave was also preparing himself for the onslaught, a half tonne of talc smashing down into his shorts to stop the chaffing was enough to send small children and women running for cover. I feared they would be scared for life!, Anyhow he was creamed up, talc’d up, new t-shirt, sun hat & neck covered and ready for the off, the next time we would see our support would be the 25mile bronze stop in Horton, which seemed like a long way off.
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At Malham Cove, Roger, Tony & Beaks were straight up and waiting at the top as me & Big Dave made our way slowly up. After a short rest at the top we were off again towards the tarn, the sun was really beating down now and I could tell this section was going to be physically draining.
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As we approached the tarn a lone ice cream van was spotted, and a quick stop for an iced lolly was a nice surprise. We marched on from here and were soon round to the old house at the other side of the tarn where we had a quick stop for a bite to eat. When I took the mini pork pies & scotch eggs I was looking forward to out of my bag they looked like they had virtually melted, nice! Anyhow off we go again towards Fountains Fell for a long hard slog in the blazing heat.
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As we got to the bottom of the fell there was a nice surprise, and the Trailtrekker organisers had put on an extra stop. This one was special, cheese & biscuits were the order of the day, hmmm lovely, and after drinking sugary sweet sports drinks all morning it was nice to get some savoury bits. A few pieces of mature cheddar followed by a cracker biscuit with stilton was a real good feeling boost.
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Off we went towards the fell, Roger, tony & beaks were off again as soon as the incline started, we left them to it and made our own steady pace up the fell stopping when required. We took it slow & steady which was the best idea in this heat, chipping away a bit at a time, and although a few people passed us I was happy that physically all seemed to be good. We finally came over the last ridge and we could see the boys resting at the main cairn, we made our way to them for a well-earned drink.
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After a 10mins rest it was time to head down, the first obstacle was a high dry stone wall, but as Big Dave was stretching over his leg cramped up, ouch not good. A few stretches later and he seemed ok and we started to head down, Roger dropped back with Big D and I carried on on my own for 10-15mins. The sight of PYG looked awesome as usual.
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We all joined up at the bottom and started along the road only to be met with another Trailtrekker stop. Unfortunately this one was crap so we had 10mins before setting off up PyG. The usual 3 went ahead while we made our way slow & steady, the wind had really got up and was a nice reprieve although it was still boiling. We passed through the half way gate to head down the other side of PyG, on this side the wind was none existent and the heat seemed to shoot up.
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We finally got to the bottom and made our way along the stream where the shade of the trees was a welcome break if not for long. It was nice to be on the flat again but the heat was still extreme and that section had given us a real pounding. I was certainly ready for a stop, Big D had slowed down quite a lot even on the flat as we headed down the main street in Horton, but I thought he would be ok once we had made the stop and had some food & drink. Leanne had made her way up towards us to meet Biggest (a name I often call Dave) so I carried on and let them have 5 mins but as we were walking across the field to the check-in I looked back to see Big D in tears. I knew then that he had had enough and the heat had finished him off, I was gutted to see him so emotional. The worst climbing had been done and on the next section we would be heading into the evening and the night stretch which would bring some welcome relief with the temperature.
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As we sat and sorted our feet and had some proper food & drink I kind of hoped he would change his mind and have a go at the next section as he’d done on numerous occasions before, but it was not to be, I’m sure on the right day he would have made at least silver but the heat was overpowering and had already finished off lots of the other walkers, so with all that said he had given his best on that day. This was also where Tony would be leaving us, a sterling job of 20miles in the midday heat, he kept the spirits up along the way with some usual tony frolics and some funky moves to LMFAO, ‘good job done’. The next guest walkers were Marc & Jane who met us as we came in. They would be picking up the next section to Buckden which was going to be most of the night section. As we said our farewells’ to the support crew and sadly Big D, who was now going to get involved with the support crew to help us achieve the rest of the challenge. We checked in to the trailtrekker stewards who checked we had the correct gear for the night section then set off.
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On our way out Jane had picked up some walking poles from the mini-bus, I didn’t pay much attention to them at first as I don’t usually use them but little did I realise due to the state of my ankles they were to play a huge part in getting me to the finish line. Off we headed behind the crown pub and started the slow crawl up the bridal way that leads out of Horton.
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We weren’t far up the path before Jane said do you want to have a go with the poles, so I did, as we were on an incline and by taking more of the push-off on my arms I found that the poles were taking the pressure off my ankles so I persevered and soon got into the swing of things. It was good to have some new company and we talked about allsorts all the way to Cam End. The other teams were quite spaced out now and we didn’t come across that many all the way up to Cam End. The sun was going down slowly but the heat was still intense and the fact that we were walking into the sun meant that I had to keep my hat & sunglasses on which I was dying to take off to get some air to my head.

As we got to Cam End I picked up a signal on the phone so I replied to a few texted words of encouragement that had come through. I also had to borrow Roger’s tub a vaseline as the chaffing had started, ouch!! After the short stop we turned right to head along the top of the valley, everyone seemed to be doing ok at this point, apart from being a bit salty, dusty & hot. Beaks’ feet were holding up ok and Roger’s new trick of covering his feet in vas was doing the trick, wish I’d have done that but it was now too late. We soon got the sign post that leads down to the forest of doom, it was now getting dark and the head torches needed to come out. We stopped at the entrance to the forest with another group of walkers and put on our head torches, the trail through the forest was pretty good with the way lit up by glow sticks, 2 mins through the forest we were clear and looking down the valley, next stop was the Cam End Farm water stop.
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As we approached the farm it all seemed fairly quiet until we turned into the actual barn that was the water stop and it was pretty manic. The most bizarre situation I’ve ever seen, from pitch black quiet to bright lights and noise with walkers strewn everywhere, bonkers!, I headed to the counter to see what was on offer, I originally fancied a nice cup of tea until I spotted one of my favourite Ainsley Harriot soups (broccoli & stilton) hmmm… something savoury and different from the crappy sports drinks. Much to my disappointment the cup was too small and this made the soup far too think to drink, so after trying a few sips I left it. I managed to sneak a few pieces of cake in that was on the counter so it wasn’t all bad. We didn’t stay in there too long as I think the team wanted to keep moving and it was such a manic situation we just wanted to get out.

I wasn’t really looking forward to this whole section as the landscape is fairly boring, although it was pitch black at this time. It is just fields and grass clumps to navigate your way around, and constantly having to look at the ground with a small circle of light from the head torch started to have an effect on the eyes and balance. The lack of sleep didn’t help, but everyone seemed to be doing ok. We marched on with only the night sky, stars & the trail of what looked like fire flies following each other in a long line that stretched out the whole way around the valley.
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This was the other walkers of course with their glow sticks tied to their backpacks, but it was a sight. This section was passing quicker than I thought and to my surprise we were soon at Oughtershaw. I noticed some headlights ahead but I didn’t realise until we got real close that it was our support crew waiting, along with another guest walker, only this time a celebrity guest, ‘Lonewalker’. Out of the van jumped a giant pink rabbit which looked like Leanne, maybe the lack of sleep had finally got to me!
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We were there for 5 – 10mins having a catch up, it was this point that Marc & Jane should have been leaving us but Marc decided he’d like to carry on and see us to the 40mile silver point at Buckden, again an amazing & much appreciated amount of support. Jane decided she’d had enough and was ready for a rest, maybe she’d run out of cracker’s hehe a Badgers in joke! Again, fantastic support from Jane and she is always a pleasure to chat to. This was the first time we’d seen Big D since he had to bail out at Horton and I really felt for him because I know he was itching to be with us. After 10mins Jane hopped into the mini bus and off we walked towards Buckden. It was great to have a new face on-board and again it amazed me how people had put themselves out to help us achieve our goal. It was the middle of the night and Stuart was there waiting to join us and walk us to within 6 miles of the finish line. Jane had been fantastic and Marc was still with us until Buckden, amazing! The walk into Buckden from Oughtershaw was about 6.5miles I think but it seemed like 20! At Beckermonds we headed down towards the bridge and over the river for the last stretch into Buckden. Along the way there were camp sites on the other side of the riverbank with fires blazing. All the while we could hear the sound of the ambulance sirens & flashing lights buzzing up & down the valley. It seemed really bizarre like a scene from Apocalypse Now as we marched on by. A bit further along the way we came across another Trailtrekker stopping point. We headed into one of the small tents but the place was scattered with injured & exhausted walkers, most of them with head in hands and clearly struggling with the situation, I realised then that we were doing pretty good.
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I can’t remember the conversations as we walked but the mood was good. As we got to Hubberholme I knew we were close and I started thinking about the state of my feet and whether to change into my trainers. The ground was dry so it shouldn’t be a problem. I discussed it with Stuart and he advised me to give it a go but to put my boots in my bag just in case I needed to change back. As we got into Buckden village it was like a mad house, people coming in and people going back out. The silver stop was quite a way through the village and I thought we’d never get there. We checked in and I headed for the food tent, everyone seemed to go separate ways to sort out their own bits & pieces. At this point I was feeling pretty crap, my feet were screaming at me and my head was fuzzy without any sleep, and staring at the ground with that damn head torch… roll on dawn.

Off we went, back to where we’d come into Buckden passing walkers coming the other way as they headed to the silver checkpoint stop. We headed for the river and the soft flat grass underfoot which was a relief from the uneven ground on the section before.
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The stretch from Buckden to Kettlewell was surprisingly quiet to say that Buckden was so busy. Roger seemed fairly quiet although the mood was still good, I think everyone was just waiting for dawn to come so we could get the damn head torches off. Anyhow, we didn’t have to wait long, as we neared Kettlewell the light started breaking and a real uplifting feeling was enjoyed by all. This was going to be the best time of day for us as even though we still had a fair way to go. It was before the sun rise and the air was cool. We had a welcome toilet stop and a quick snack at Kettlewell and stripped back down to my t-shirt which felt good in the cool morning air.
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Next stop Coniston, again a nice walk along the tops and nice underfoot, we set off towards where the farmers track leads off before the short climb up through the trees and onto the tops. Halfway up the track was another unexpected Trailtrekker stop but there wasn’t much going on. I think I had a cup of tea, as we stood there the team of French girls appeared, this was the first time we’d seen them since the canal section at the beginning and they all looked to be doing ok.
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We set off for the top never to see them again. As we made our way across the tops everyone seemed to be in good spirits although Roger had gone on in front, I think he was ready for stopping again and just needed to get his boots off.
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He waited for us at the top of the Coniston dib just before you start going down towards the radio mast. The sun was now starting to appear over the horizon and it wouldn’t be long before it was high in the sky and beating down on us again, oh joy! As we headed down towards the village it was the first time I had an appetite since Horton but I didn’t really have much on me until I realised that I had a packet of magic biscuits, hmm they tasted so good! We headed through the village and over the bridge towards the morning stop.
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Sandra was on the bridge waiting for Beaks and to see us all in. I was ready for a full English but it didn’t appear. We sat down and did the usual patching up of feet and grabbing stuff to eat and putting a few supplies into our bags. We had some instant Oat Burst pots that one of our clients had donated for us so I had a pot of porridge with syrup. Boy was that good, so good I asked for another, this really went down well and would fuel me up enough to fly through the next section at record speed.
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I think we were expecting to do the next section to Hetton in about 3 hours but we were flying now and made it in 2 and we passed team after team as we motored on. Stuart kept saying he couldn’t believe the pace we were going after 50 odd miles. As we neared Hetton down the longest straightest bridleway ever, I was looking forward to seeing Carol and the kids. As we approached the small church and the last water stop I saw Carol & the kids with Sandra, Leanne, Big D and a few others. I said a quick hello and headed for the church to clock in. It was at that point I thought maybe I should get the medics to patch up my blistered raw ankles so I went straight into the medics area, what a mistake this was!
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I sat there for what seemed like ages, while the rest of the team were getting refreshments and something to eat I just sat there waiting, and when I came out it was time to get moving. Also they had taken off what was left of my compeed plasters and just put dry gauze bandage around the back of my feet so there was no actual padding. With hindsight I should have left them as they were and got something to eat & drink and say a big thank you to Stuart who had taken us so far. Anyhow I nipped to the toilet and vas’d up as the inside legs had started to chafe, and we were ready for off along the last 6.5 miles into Skipton.
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Charlotte & Helena were joining us for this final section. The sun was up now and beating down hotter than ever, the breeze we’d had the day before was gone and the temperature seemed to rocket. The last section is a mix of fields, inclines, river, farms, woods and then finally back into suburbia. My feet by now were giving me some real problems with the lack of any cushioning on the heels and I dropped behind the rest of the team. As we approached the farm at the bottom of Flasby fell I was not doing too well, the heat was also taking its toll on me and I was running on empty. The rest of the team made their way up to the gate at the top of the incline but I was struggling big time, having to stop every few steps. Now I know how Big D felt with the heat exhaustion. Slow and steady I got to the gate and had a drink and a few minutes rest, the next part was even steeper through the trees and I thought we’d have a bit of shade, but it was not to be as the sun was still on us all the way up to the top. I finally made it to the top and sat on the bench in the shade. That was by far the hardest part of the walk for me and the only part where I really thought I was finished. We sat in the shade for a good 5 mins, we had some drinks and I finally got an appetite and had a sandwich. It was at this point that Charlotte took my bag and Helena had taken the walking poles. I was ready to go!

As we set off I felt ok again and we moved along at a reasonable pace once more passing people on the last leg on the run in to Skipton. We passed a guy who must have been in some real pain as he could hardly walk. As we left the forest area the rest of the walk into Skipton seemed to take ages, but we finally made it to the A65 fly-over bridge and I knew we were almost there. There was a member of the Trailtrekker staff going in the opposite direction checking the team numbers so he could call the finish line to make everyone aware that we were approaching. Down through the houses there were Trailtrekker staff scattered around offering water and the usual well done messages which had helped keep us going all the way around. We got to the entrance to the park and made our way through, it was strange at this point as there was no staff in the actual park so it wasn’t clear which way to go but we headed toward the school area and finally came across more staff, we could hear the cheers and excitement from people that were crossing the finish line and as we approached the staff were fantastic in their appreciation of what we had just achieved.
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This was it! We dropped down towards the tennis courts where me Big D & Roger had sat the Friday night before the start relaxing with a cool beer overlooking the start line. As we turned the corner there was Big D waiting to congratulate us and what was a very emotional 30 seconds of hand shaking and hugs we made our way to the last 100 yards towards the line, at this point Big D had moved off to the side to let us enjoy our minute of fame but although he didn’t make it all the way to gold he had put in the biggest effort of all, organising all the fundraising events of which none would have happened without him, and we wouldn’t have achieved the £3000 we raised, so it was only fair that he crossed the line as the team that we had started out as.

We called him over and he joined us for the last 50yards with the crowds cheering the cheerleaders and the speakers confirming the Badgers were crossing the line it was a feeling I’ll never forget, yes! Our families were there on the other side of the line along with our support Sandra & Leanne who had put in an amazing amount of time, what a fantastic effort by all, would I do it again, of course, but I’d like a rest first : )
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Sherpa G-String

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