Apr 21 2012

Walk 49: Let’s Get Ready to Ramble – Part 2

The River Wharfe at Beckermonds

route: Horton to Skipton
Date: 21st april 2012
distance: 38.92 miles (Graham, Luis, Roger & Simon) 16.9 miles (Dave)
ascent: 909 ft (Graham, Luis, Roger & Simon) 1735 ft (Dave)
time: 16 hrs (Graham, Luis, Roger & Simon) 6 hrs (Dave)
walkers: Dave, Graham, Luis, Roger & Simon

There was just over a month to Trailtrekker and it had been the plan for some time for us to do the rest of the route to complete our main training. Sure we would all keep active in the meantime but this walk of all but 40 miles would be the maximum distance we would cover prior to the event. The weather forecast was mixed to say the least with some dry spells early on before it was expected to hammer down with the added excitement of thunder and lightning. Now I don’t mind thunder storms but I have only really walked in them once during last year’s sponsored Yorkshire Three Peaks and while it didn’t scare me I did feel a little more exposed when out in the middle of nowhere. Having said all that, it certainly wasn’t going to stop me from putting my boots on and covering more distance in one go than we had ever done before. The first thing I did as we stood in the car park in Horton was cast my mind back 4 weeks to the end of March and try and recall how I felt at the end of our Skipton to Horton walk. In effect Trailtrekker would be these two very big walks stuck together to create a monster of a walk that none of us could truly get our heads around. Obviously I couldn’t recreate my physical state of 4 weeks earlier but I wanted to try and be aware of how I may be feeling on the big day.

We set off past the Crown and with it being only just after 6.30am it was a little early even for me (plus it wasn’t open) so we made our way along the Pennine Way as it climbed gradually out of Horton. When I say gradually it was but it certainly got the blood flowing and the lungs working as the gradient continued up for nearly 2 miles before levelling out. I knew already at this early stage that today would be about covering the distance rather than stopping to take pictures and document the walk as is the norm. With this in mind my thoughts went back to a walk last year and WU Tang’s new method of photography where you carry on walking and simply point the camera over your shoulder and shoot. I thought this may be a much used tactic today and I tried it for the first time as the path levelled off, but I am not sure G will be impressed with the technique.

For the next mile or two the route would be nice and flat as we continued at a good pace and one which I was sure we wouldn’t be doing during Trailtrekker. That didn’t matter though, all that mattered was us eating up the miles right then. Eventually we turned sharp left and went up the smallest of hills before it levelled once again and headed towards Cave Hill.

As we skirted the base of Cave Hill I mentioned to Roger that there was a trig point he had yet to reach just at the top and it isn’t the largest of hills but I totally understood when he declined to keep his energy for what was still to come. We had followed this part of the Pennine Way back in February when it was covered in snow so whilst it felt familiar, it also had the feeling it was somewhere new for us to discover. Not that we had much time to discover anything as we kept pressing on at a speed of over 3mph which is good for hill walking. We reached Ling Gill and the bridge and went straight past and began the mile long pull up to Cam End. As we climbed we got a sighting of the Ribblehead viaduct away to our left as it appeared and then vanished into the early morning mist.

Upon reaching Cam End we decided to stop for the first time. We had been going a fraction under two hours and had covered roughly six miles with at least half of it being uphill it was a good effort and one I realised we may not be able to do during Trailtrekker. One of the points of these walks as wells as familiarising ourselves with the route and getting miles in the legs was to try and work out our timings and strategy. By the time we were done today we would know how long it took to do the route in two chunks and we could work out how long we felt we could do it in overall. With everything taken into account (and this was confirmed during further analysis a couple of weeks later) I felt we could be at Cam End (31 miles, nearly half way) in around 12 hours and that would be a vast chunk of the ascent done too. It was all looking good and I was really pleased I had managed to get up to this point at the same speed as everyone else, without stopping. With no more than 10 minutes stood still and our snacks away we continued up towards the junction of the Pennine Way and the Dales Way where we would join the latter and head towards Cam Pasture. No more than a few strides into setting off I stood on a stone that caused me to move my foot and I aggravated the gout I had been struggling with for nearly a month now. It was niggling away when we did the Skipton to Horton walk and while I knew it wasn’t cleared up it hadn’t given me a moment’s thought for the first six miles. Unfortunately every step now became noticeable and I just hoped that it would sort itself out over the coming miles.

We joined the Dales Way and headed towards Cam Woodlands that the route guide said we would cut through. Up ahead I noticed Beaky go flying as his feet went from under him on the soggy ground. I wanted to shout forward and ask if he was ok but I couldn’t as I was concentrating so hard on staying upright myself. I obviously didn’t concentrate hard enough as in trying to avoid taking a step in order to keep weight off my toe, my left leg slipped and I went down with a thud. After pulling myself up and reaching the end of the woods I had everything crossed that this toe wasn’t going to keep annoying me. The path led us into the trees and through the upturned roots and over the squelchy boggy ground.

In places we were literally on our hands and needs crawling through mud to duck under fallen tree trunks and we got the impression we had gone wrong somewhere. Surely a footpath like the Dales Way can’t have you stuck in the “forest of doom” as it was soon dubbed. People looked for alternative routes out and eventually Roger managed to reach daylight where he instructed us to not follow him and instead gave us a more sensible route out.

Once out of our wooded dungeon we soon reached Cam Houses where a helpful guy pointed us in the correct direction, not that we didn’t know it anyway. We also came across the sign I never like to see and that is one relating to a bull. As with the thunder it wouldn’t stop me but it does ensure that I have an extra eye on the lookout for trouble.

After half an hour of walk we finally saw a bull, and a big one it was too. Fortunately for us it didn’t pay us much notice other than to watch us sheepishly skirt around it and disappear into the distance.

We soon reached Nethergill and here the underfoot conditions changed from the soggy, boggy, slippery grass to a farm track that eventually led us to Oughtershaw and a short spell of walking on the road. I couldn’t work out if this harder but even surface was better for my foot or I was happier on the softer but more uneven grass. In truth I wasn’t totally happy on either and my mind skipped ahead mile after mile of what was still to come and I knew I was in trouble. Beckermonds meant we reverted back to off road walking as we crossed the river and then followed it towards Buckden. It was at this point Wu Tang and Ramblo would be waiting with food, snacks, drink, spare clothes and lots of other bits as they were rehearsing their role as support crew. We crossed over the river once again at Deepdale as the road did the exact opposite. By now my toe was beginning to hurt a lot and I was hoping beyond all hope that something would suddenly take away the pain and allow me to get on with the task in hand.

Approaching Yockenthwaite we noticed the girls going along the road towards Buckden and we knew they would be ready for us which was a nice feeling. Yockenthwaite came and went as did Hubberholme and we were now only a mile away from Buckden. As is usually the case I was alongside G who was complaining of a sore hip and he was wondering if he would have to stop before the end. At that point my mind was made up and I told him I was stopping at Buckden.

It was a tough decision and with hindsight I could have got to Conistone but the outside of my leg was beginning to hurt as I consciously tried to keep the weight off my big toe. I was only going to do more long term damage. As we neared Buckden Roger held a gate open for me to go through and said I looked in pain, which I was. I told him I was stopping and it didn’t feel good to admit defeat. Physically I felt good and we had covered almost 17 miles in 6 hours which was pretty good going. I tried to reassure myself that it was only a practice walk and I was doing the right thing by not struggling on but it felt pretty hollow really. Even now writing this I don’t know if I should have struggled on but I know I would never have reached Skipton and therefore I feel I made the correct choice in not doing more damage. The girls were parked outside the pub and had all sorts of goodies for everybody as most people changed socks or tended to feet. I felt awkward and didn’t enjoy those 15 minutes before the boy set off again. I felt like I had let everyone down.

The other four had a picture in front of a tree next to the pub before they went on their way once again. I was now tagging along with the girls and “spoiling their girly afternoon” although I knew they were joking. We agree we would meet the boys at Kettlewell and jumped in the car to head for the pub. The chosen spot was the Racehorses and we ordered a drink and looked over the menu. For the first 20 minutes or so I was subdued as it felt wrong to be sat here whilst the others were walking, but then I realised nobody would want me to sit sulking. It was done now so why sit stewing over it. I almost gave myself a little heart to heart chat in my head and my mood lifted instantly. We finished our food and waited for the boys. Ramblo went to look and found a purse in the car park which we contemplated leaving behind the bar but instead we decided to check for any I.D. As we had an address that wasn’t too far out of our way home we agreed to drop it off later. The boys reached Kettlewell and looked pretty good. It had rained on that section for the first time today and we joked about me knowing when to drop out to stay dry. They set off again towards Conistone where we would meet them yet again. When they reached Conistone a couple of hours later they were soaked. We tried to replicate the check point as it would be but nobody was interested in staying too long in the conditions. Nobody bothered much with food or drinks. I think Beaky put his waterproof trousers over his already sodden walking trousers as he couldn’t be bothered to change. Within five minutes of arriving they were off again heading for Skipton, 13 miles away. I joined the girls as we dropped off the purse off with the owner. Well at her house anyway as she was still out. We did manage to speak to her husband though after a helpful neighbour called him on his mobile. With our final good deed done for the day we went home to relax. The time was about 6pm by the time we got home. The boys however wouldn’t finish walking until 10.30pm. They had done nearly 40 miles and were home around midnight. It had been a long day for them but one that would no doubt be valuable come the day of destiny. I just hoped that I could get my toe sorted in time and that I wouldn’t be found wanting due to missing this experience.

Sir Edmund


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