May 26 2012

Walk 50: Trailtrekker 2012 – Wu Tang

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…. wu-tang

If anyone ever mentions Trailtrekker to me again I may just scream.

To be honest, this sounds as though it’s going to be a very negative write up and it won’t be – I can assure you of that, but this event has taken over my life for the last 6 months and to be honest, I am quite drained by it.

When Dave first said a couple of years ago that he wanted to try it, a) I didn’t take him very seriously at the time and b) I didn’t realise the enormity of the challenge (although, here’s a thing- I wouldn’t until I actually arrived at the start line with the boys). So, anyway like I said, he mentioned it a couple of years ago and then we got married and then our first anniversary came and went with just a few hints dropped in here and there and then there it was: the bombshell. “I think we should do it this year” Ok, I replied, but I won’t be walking it – I will be support, and support I was. I went to all the events, I was minute taker at one of the meetings we had, I tried my hardest to do the training walks (see pic of me on my knees along the canal for how well that worked out) and I found myself in a hotel room at 10 o clock at night on the Friday making peanut butter and jam sandwiches for the boys breakfast on the day of the walk. Previous to this, myself and Ramblo had done a huge shop that consisted of bread, tuna, loads of dried fruit and nuts and isotonic drinks which as it turns out would be the boys staple diet of the whole weekend.

When we packed everything in the van on the Friday night, there was an atmosphere of excited anticipation in the air. Everyone was on really good form laughing and joking and probably not realising that this would be the hardest weekend of our lives, walking wise. We arrived at the hotel and took a few bits to the rooms (only for G & Roger to find that there wasn’t a twin bed in their room but a double (snigger snigger). We decided to drive to the school which is where the safety briefing was going to be, not forgetting the free pasta meal. We drove for 20 seconds up the road and then turned off for parking, only to find when we got out of the van, we had to walk the same amount of distance as we had driven to get to the actual buildings where the bits and pieces were being held. The boys found their way to the quick check in (!) queue and got themselves registered, then we went across to the school hall where the pasta was being served and the safety briefing was being given. I think this is where it really kicked in with me how huge this was. There seemed to be hundreds of people sat down and the same amount queuing. We stood in the queue whilst listening to the safety briefing and then went to sit on the floor (probably where the choir sing in the assemblies) with our pasta (spaghetti Bolognese and lemon tart for me) to listen to the remainder of the briefing. The guys providing it were really knowledgeable and I would definitely recommend to anyone reading this to actually listen to what they’re saying (some people weren’t)

After this, the boys had to go get their wrist tag thingys that would be checking them in at each checkpoint throughout the next day and a half and also got their T shirts. Myself, Ramblo and Beaks went back to the room after this but G, Dave & Roger stayed behind, for a beer (quel surprise)- this didn’t stand them in good stead with Ramblo but she may explain that…

They came back about 10 and that’s when I had to get the food from Roger and G’s room so I could make sure they had their breakfast sandwiches at least. Ramblo and Beaks were asleep at this point so I did feel a bit disorganised but we got into bed soon after and then had the second worst night’s sleep of the weekend. The alarm went off at 5 something but we were both awake before then. This was the day. This was everything the last 6 months had been leading up to.

We got everything ready and set off downstairs to the van (breakfast was provided by the event so we didn’t bother to eat) Again we drove the 20 seconds up the road but parked in a different place this time. We had left our things in the hotel as we didn’t have to check out before 12 so we went back to the school to see the boys off, and have a breakfast obviously. Again, the place was pretty busy as there was already a group of people that had set off at 6am so again we queued for breakfast (fry up) and sat down at the table where we took a couple of pictures. Dave was feeling a bit green with nerves by this point and I did feel for him because the weather was forecast to be so hot and sunny and not at all how we would like it.

Fast forward, after a bit of lazing around on the green, to the start line and they were off. There were lots of shouts of encouragement from everybody around us and we stood and waved them off, feeling a bit emotional if I’m honest. Like I said, this was a big thing and had taken up a lot of our time and now it was here.

We went back to the hotel then and after a little bit of refreshing ourselves, I went to Sandra’s room and made up as many tuna sandwiches as we could. The boys would be hungry on the next checkpoint and after extensive research we discovered that tuna sandwiches were good suppliers of energy for them. So, as well as doing the sandwiches, we packed up little bags of jelly babies, and fruit and nuts and then headed down to the van. We got it as organised as possible and then set off for what would be a very long time without any comfort. We made our way through the windy roads that make up the Dales and even saw a load of trail trekkers en route.

Obviously by now, we were keeping a closer eye out for our boys and just on a little bend, not far outside Gargrave we saw them and gave them a beep- hoping that would boost morale a little bit. When we got to the check stop, it was already rammed with people so we were directed to a space and then started setting up. I felt a bit unorganised at this point as the other teams round us had gas stoves and hot meals for their teams and all we had was sandwiches and jelly babies! We sat down in our chairs, donned our badger masks and waited…

Luckily we had thought to bring walkie talkies so we could find out when the boys were close by. They radioed ahead and then made their way to us after some directions. Morale was still high and they were in good spirits although the temperatures were already baking. After a change of socks and t shirts and plastering up and chaffage checking and repacked with sandwiches, water and nibbles, off they set to what would be the longest section (and what turned out to be the hottest section) of the trip.

In his infinite wisdom, Dave had planned to have volunteer walkers walk all the way round with them and it would be us that would be dropping them off and picking them up at the relevant meeting points he had arranged (more about this later) so when they had set off, we packed up our things and theirs and set off en route to Threshfield where we had planned a quiet lunch and then a pick up point for Jane and her friend. After a little reccy, we found a really nice lovely pub (the name escapes me but Ramblo will know) and stopped and had cheese sandwiches with a portion of chips and a couple of J20s- had to keep our wits about us after all.

We weren’t exactly killing time but had a bit more spare than we anticipated so we drove into Grassington (booooooooooooooo) and had a little walk round, where Ramblo got the bargain of her life and I got some more batteries for the walkie talkie. We got back in the van and then headed back to the pub where Ramblo started cutting up the chicken for the chicken salad she had planned for the boys tea. We had tried calling Jane but there was still no reception so just left them a message asking them to call when they could. Not long after she called back to say that there was a slight change of plan in that both her and Marc were now planning on walking and her friend was staying with the kids. This didn’t change our plans so we left to pick them up from their campsite and headed off to Horton in Ribblesdale. It was a fair drive so we chatted for a bit and told them how the boys were getting on as we went. We got to Horton and again parked up and Marc and Jane helped us set up and we were there for ages…

and ages…

and ages…

And then we heard a voice over the walkie talkie. Roger was just letting us know that they were on the shoulder of PYG and would be an hour or so. Good News we thought. Until that hour came and went…

And then the next hour came and went…

We decided to shut up the van and started walking towards where we thought they would be coming from. We walked over the bridge, no sign, past the car park, no sign, past the cafe, no sign and just on the corner, opposite the church, there were Beaks Roger & Tony (a volunteer walker) but where was my boy? A bit further back I saw a straggler and realised it was him. My heart just melted as I saw the state he was in and when I reached him he just started crying which was enough to set me off too. We walked slowly back to the check in point together and they bleeped in and he told me that he was going to have to quit. I felt awful for him but ultimately, the weather had just gotten too much. He had put so much effort into this, organising it, the charity fundraisers, the meetings and it was over before it really even began (he had done this distance in a practice walk and was far from ready for it to be over).

So we had a new support team member to help us through what would be the hardest stretch probably (not that he was much help for the first few hours to be honest as he had sun stroke). We fed the boys their salad (not actually feeding it to them like babies, but gave them it in bowls) and also topped up their water bottles and got them some soup (provided by the Trailtrekker people) and then waved them on their way with Jane and Marc. We wouldn’t see them now til some crazy hour in the morning (and it was a crazy hour too)

After they left, we had to pack some bits up, drive back to Gargrave to drop Tony off and then go to Hetton to pick Stuart (Lonewalker) up. We also had to get some tea, which we had already decided would be Burger King. So we dropped Tony off, waving him a not so merry goodbye – he had done a good job walking all that way but he was off home now where he could get in the bath and have a soak and have a long sleep in in the morning. We couldn’t. After dropping him off, we went to BK to get some tea (Dave still wasn’t feeling well at this point, but managed to get thru a bite of a burger so all was not lost for him) We sat in the car park and ate and chatted for a while and then left to get Stuart which was quite a way away from where we were. By this point, (due to Dave’s unplanned arrival) I had lost my seat riding shotgun so had to clamber in the back with all the stuff which I didn’t really like to be honest. We picked Stuart up (who had been waiting for hours for us) and he was just as surprised to see Dave as Dave was to be there I think. He climbed into the back with me and we drove to Oughtershaw – it was a nice route actually and it was nice to see all the campfires that people had started down on the river banks whilst they were waiting for their team and surprisingly we had to wait a fairly long time for the Badgers here. We didn’t know it at the time, but we had left one of our walkie talkies at the Horton check point so contact was impossible so we had no idea where they were or how they were feeling. We were waiting at an impromptu checkpoint, just perched in some bushes somewhere and saw streams and streams of people walking past us, all in different states. We did a bit of cheering but then it got chilly so we did the window up and Ramblo and myself changed into our matching onesies (bought especially for the occasion) and tried to get our heads down for an hour or so. As I said, we didn’t know where the Badgers were so of course, as soon as I dropped off to sleep, then who should appear, but the Badgers!!!

They didn’t want anything so Jane said her goodbyes to Marc who had crazily decided to carry on and out Stuart got to walk the night section with them. We would meet them at checkpoint 3 anyway so off they went and off we drove to checkpoint 3 which was ultimately a huge field (although why I’m only saying that about checkpoint 3 I have no idea as they were all just huge fields). We didn’t bother changing from our onesies so we just drove in them there.

When we got there Dave and Jane sat chatting whilst me and Sandra settled down to get some sleep. I’m not sure how long I was actually asleep for but it was a reasonable amount of time before I heard movement of the others getting out of the van. I woke up to a not so smiley Beaky whose feet were really beginning to hurt him now, and walked from the van to the food tent, in my onesie, to get everyone a hot meal. I think it was stroganoff to be honest but at 2am I didn’t fancy a thing so just got theirs for them. There were plenty of flood lights up but it was still harder to do things in the darkness although we tried our best.

I was worried for the boys this time as sprits were low and stress levels were high I think?! When they had done everything they needed to do, they set off again and this time we would see them at the last check point for a bit of breakfast (surprisingly some tuna sandwiches- in hindsight, I don’t think we were as organised as we should have been) We dropped Jane and Marc off at the campsite and then went back to the checkpoint where we tried to get a little bit more sleep as did Dave and we waited for them there. It was getting light by this point and therefore the conditions were a little bit more bearable. As predicted, everybody around us was cooking up a storm on their little bbq’s with the smell of bacon wafting over us. To be honest, we didn’t have to wait long for them (well it didn’t feel like we were waiting a long time for them) and in they hobbled, looking and acting surprisingly better than they did the last time we saw them. Again everybody was fed, watered and their socks changed and feet ready to roll again.

We gave everybody who wanted them their edible toothbrushes (which as it turned out were not fully edible) to give their mouths a freshen up and then they were off. A girl approached them just as they were going to see if she could walk with them as her team had all dropped out and she wanted to carry on. Of course, she tagged along with them to nobody’s issue at all, although come to think of it we didn’t see her at the last water stop which is where we had an unofficial check point with everybody again.

I can’t really tell you much about this one as Dave’s Mum and Dad, Beaky’s Mum and Dad and G’s wife and daughters had all come to join them /watch them finish so whilst everybody was doing whatever they needed to do, and I stopped and chatted with Dave’s Mum for a while. At this point, Stuart bowed out, as planned, and got in his car and drove home after saying a thanks for letting him get involved… HELLO?!?!?! Should we not be thanking you?!?!?!

Beaky’s Dad drove the van from there back to the school whilst Charlie and Helena, (G’s daughters) joined the boys on their last 6 miles. Dave’s Mum and Dad followed us in the van as did Carole and when they went to get something from Greggs for lunch, we headed back to the school to the finish line where Dave’s sister and family were waiting to help cheer everybody home. It was quite an emotional time and there were lots of tears from everyone involved and the badgers hadn’t even crossed the finish line yet! We just sat on the grass and had nice chat with everybody – as I’ve said before, it was the hottest day of the year and was glorious for a tan!

We did a quick time calculation and when we thought the time was right, had a slow walk down to the finish line to cheer the boys home. Dave by this time was in tears again as I think he felt he should be there too but he made the right decision for him at the time which is all that matters. Soon enough, we saw the figures of G, Beaks & Roger flanked by Charlie and Helena. G & Beaky thought it would be nice for Dave to cross the finish line with them as ultimately it was a team effort and even though he didn’t do the whole thing, he was still a member of the 2012 Rambling Badgers Trailtrekker team.

By this point, everybody was in tears as we watched the 4 of them walk the finish line in arms and there they stood for their final photo (which is now proudly displayed on our fridge)
To be honest, it’s really hard to remember what happened next as I kind of just relaxed…

So my report ends here until Dave has another ridiculous idea next year…

Wu Tang

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