Mar 24 2012

Walk 45: Let’s Get Ready to Ramble – Part 1

Pen y Ghent from Blishmire Close

route: Skipton to Horton in Ribblesdale
24th march 2012
distance: 24.4 miles
ascent: 3,157 feet
time: 10 hrs 40 mins
walkers: Dave, Graham, Luis, Roger & Simon

Two weeks on from the feet carnage of our canal walk, we were off once again to stretch the legs and put in some more hard miles as practice for the mammoth walk that is Trailtrekker. In all truth my feet hadn’t healed properly and in an ideal world I would have sat this walk out to allow them extra time to sort themselves out, but this is not an ideal world we live in. The best I could do was to stick a blister plaster over the one on my left heel, that still hadn’t deflated, and try and cover the beast of a blister on the outside of my right heel to the best of my ability. One plaster couldn’t cover it so I also taped up and hoped for the best. As we got out of the car at Skipton train station I put my boots on and it hurt. I hadn’t had any footwear on for the last two weeks other than sandal type flip flop thingys. I had been to the pub in them and spent days at work in them due to the fact I couldn’t get any normal footwear on. Two weeks ago I took my boots off and now I was putting them back on and it was sore as I paced up and down the car park trying to get my feet comfy. On top of this I had a pain in my big toe from gout that I suffer from every now and again. Fortunately it hasn’t been very often recently and it wasn’t in full attack mode but it certainly gave me something else to think about as we took the team shot and prepared for the off.

We crossed the road and joined the tow path for some more canal walking, this time in the opposite direction as we headed for Gargrave. Today’s route was the first two check points on the Trailtrekker challenge so it would be an informative day in all manner of ways. We could check out the terrain as well as see how we do for time and hopefully put all of the info we gather to good use come the day. L’Autobus had opted not to join us and had instead planned a jaunt to Rye Loaf Hill from Malham which would help us with car transfers and also give me a potential “out” should I need it later on. I was ok for now though and had tried to block any thoughts of stopping from my mind as sometimes it is simple to take the easy way out. I certainly didn’t do that on the canal walk and I paid for it so today was about finding the right balance. For now things were ok if not great, as we made our way into the early morning gloom until we reached Holme Bridge Lock.

The canal walking was a gentle start to the day and we covered ground pretty quickly as we covered roughly 4.5 miles in 1 hour and 15 minutes. At this point we left the two path and headed for what will be “check point 1” passing the first water stop along the way.

Taking note of the time so we could use the data for a tactical approach to the big day we passed water stop 1 and began the gradual climb away from Gargrave. Initially this route used the Pennine Way but the route guide told us to ignore the next Pennine Way sign and to carry on up Mark House Lane until we came to a T-Junction. The lane went round to the left but we were to turn right and climb further until we re-joined the world famous long distance path once again. Because I am a little sad and also aware of plans to expand the Yorkshire Dales National Park, we made a slight detour to Haw Crag trig point. We are currently three quarters of the way through visiting all 54 trig points that fall within the National Park boundaries so thought we better get this one, just in case.

After having a quick sandwich we set off once again but with the mist still low and as I didn’t have “Gordon” with me today we struggled to pick up the Pennine Way. For a while we tried to work out the direction and we were heading the correct way but without clear sight it was hard to get our bearings. If ever a reminder was needed about why we take care in bad conditions, especially when on higher fells this was it. Eventually the mist cleared slightly and we could see the drystone walls and the River Aire below us which enabled us to correctly deduce our position and with this information we had no problem carrying on with our journey.

As we made our way along the river to Airton, I received a call from Wu Tang saying her and Ramblo were in Malham about to embark on a walk to Rye Loaf Hill. I told them we were only 10 minutes away and they could wait for us if they wanted but it took us 10 minutes to get to Hanlith, and it would be twice as long before we finally reached Malham. When we did there was no sign of the girls but as this would be check point 1 on the big day we decided to stop with each of us going through our own checks and adjustments.

Some changed socks or clothing whilst I applied some talc to prevent chaffing much to the amusement of the others. I also applied some sun cream as the earlier mist had burnt off to leave us under clear blue skies. We also used this break as another sandwich stop which due to the location next to Malham Beck meant my sandwich ended up being split three ways.

With our 20 minute stop over we checked the route guide and made our way towards Malham Cove using a new higher route. Personally I don’t know why this route is any better than the normal, lower level route, but I am sure there must be some reason for it and it did offer a different view as the cove came into view.

The high level route turned and dropped back down to join the lower level route and we were now about to begin the climb up roughly 400 steps. As we approached we could see a couple of figures looking down from the top and it turned out L’Autobus had waited for us after all.

The steps as any climb usually means we split up with Simon, Roger and Luis powering up them as Graham waits with me as I take a rest from time to time. It has become more apparent that my legs (even though they are the most defined part of my body) are the issue. Other people seem to say their calves are tight but with me it is my quads, and if I ever stop when going uphill it will be my quads long before my lungs need a break. I have learnt that a short pause followed by going again still gets me where I need to be in reasonable time and I like to think the others don’t get too frustrated with me.

By now they were sat at the top and Wu Tang came down the final few steps to walk up with me. I have to admit that this was a really nice gesture and it did make me feel good but I wouldn’t want anyone reading this to feel that I was struggling. I know my limits and as such when confronted with a climb, I know I can’t keep up with the others and set my stall out accordingly. For me it is about pushing yourself but not so far it ruins the rest of your walk and a couple of minutes after the others I had made the top and joined them for another little rest and regroup.

I was glad to sit down as my feet were playing up a little. The big blister from a few weeks back was rubbing a bit and I was still getting a pain in my big toe. Wu Tang asked me if I was going to stop as it had been considered before setting off should I need to. I didn’t want to stop but as with our canal walk, I was conscious not to do more long term damage to my feet. The 10 minutes sat down just gave me enough time off them to feel that another 13 miles wouldn’t be too much trouble and we said goodbye to the girls and left them to their walk as we made for Malham Tarn. Wu was obviously a little concerned as she made sure I knew they would come back this way should I decide to turn around. She said afterwards she thought I would be back as I hobbled off with the others, but that wasn’t in my thoughts. As with the canal walk these are practice walks but as well as covering distance I needed to prove to myself I can push on when things are tough because I know for a fact when Trailtrekker comes round it will be tough!

Ing Scar was a lovely sight as we made our way from one of Malham’s tourist attractions to the other before we eventually saw the tarn. I can’t recall having ever been to the tarn before although I may well have done as a child and it was bigger than I expected it to be.

There were people with travel rugs laid by the side of the water soaking up the sun and I made a little promise to myself that I would do the very same thing one day this year and spend a day relaxing in the Dales rather than walking round it. Not that I don’t find walking relaxing but in the 26 months since the Badgers formed I can’t really recall going to the Dales for a day out or a drive around. I will have to try and find more time to be a tourist as well as a walker. That was for another day though as we still had 10 miles to do and we reached Malham Tarn House where we refuelled once again, using the trees as shelter from the sun that was increasing in temperature. We followed the tree lined path until we reached a sign for Tennant Gill and followed that, continuing along the Pennine Way.

We reached Tennant Gill and Fountains Fell was now bang in front of us. This is the high point of the Trailtrekker walk and a fell we visited back in 2010 as we walked all of the Yorkshire tops over 2000ft. The sight of this in front of us was both a little daunting but also encouraging. Knowing you have a couple of miles of tough uphill slog can be tough but the flip side is we knew that once at the top, the rest of the walk was pretty easy. Sure enough the uphill part took an hour or so which could be faster but still a 2mph average up a big hill isn’t too bad and we were soon sat at the top enjoying sarnie break number 4.

It was worth the climb to sit at the top for 20 minutes and just let the world go by. There was no sign of anybody else and we had the top of Fountains Fell to ourselves plus G had the nicest chocolate orange brownies he shared out.

With the high point of the day reached we set off on the fairly steep descent towards Blishmire Close and all the time I had the pleasure of my favourite peak in view. There is no doubt in my mind that Pen y ghent is perfect in almost every way. It may lack the height of some of the bigger Lake District peaks but it has a unforgettable profile and as the peak I have climbed more than any other it holds a place close to my heart. I would never say never, but I can’t ever imagine a day when I have climbed another peak more or I find one that I feel as at home on.

Today though I wouldn’t reach the top again, instead we would stop where the three peaks path joins the Pennine Way and head back to Horton. Once we reached this gate we had a fantastic view back to Fountains Fell and on a clear day such as this other landmarks could also be seen.

We took five minutes to take in these views before we set off towards Horton down the route usually taken by those doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks. On most Saturday’s in the summer 100’s of people will tread this route on the beginning of their 25 mile journey, but today these would be the final few steps of ours. Once again we had reached the end of a large walk and though my blister had burst and was bleeding when I took my boots off, we had all managed to get to the end in a reasonable state. I have to admit the thought of another 38 miles was a little daunting but I was good to carry on if this was the big day. By then my feet would be sorted and we should be in a better position both physically and mentally. I had learnt more about myself today and I think we learnt more about us as a group which I think will be one of the most crucial elements on the big day. We will learn more in a few weeks time as we have a log cabin booked for Easter and we are going to do some walking in the Lake District. That will be good for bonding and enhancing the team ethic, for now though I was happy to say adios to the Badgers and go home for a bath.

Sir Edmund


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