Tuesday, 3 September 2013

3 days 15 hours on the Coast to Coast UK.

Having already completed two Coast to Coast trips, West to East along the official AW route in 4 days 15 hours, and an East to West with slight personal alternative lines in 4 days 11 hours, I decided to attempt a 3 day trip west to east with some personal straighter lines than the official route. 90% of the AW route would still be included, however I would include some running rather pure walking.

Instead of my trusty North Face Hedgehog walking shoes I chose a pair of Nike Trail Running shoes and a new rucksack - Inov8 Racepac 32 with front pouch.

My tent would be  the Laser Photon Elite and my Mountain Hardware Phantom 400 down sleeping bag.
I would use an OMM foam pad sleep mat.
No cooking gear and only one pair spare socks and spare shorts.
For travelling back home I included another pair of shorts, 'T'shirt and socks.
Full waterproofs inc Goretex socks.
One cap and two Buffs.
Two windshirts.
Satmap GPS,
Harvey strip maps
Reading glasses and map reading glasses.
Mibile phone.
SPOT Tracker device
Food as in cereal bars etc.
Petzl Myo RXP Headtorch.
Spare batteries.
1st aid kit
Midge headnet.
Wallet, cards and money.

Click on photos to enlarge, then move cursor to the side off the photo and click again to revert to blog.

I must admit to not being as focused on this attempt as I was on the other two, maybe only finishing a course of powerful antibiotics had something to do with it and not getting as much sleep as of late.
I had a couple of medium sized jobs to do on the Thursday before heading off for St. Bees by rail. I was going to camp at the site there but decided to inquire about B&B instead and got fixed up for £30.. near to the start. I went across to the Hotel for a meal and a couple of pints of Guinness and retired around 20.30. I had a decent few hours sleep which was more than I had had the previous three nights.
I walked down to the start C2C board and was off just after 03.00 in the dark.

Past the rail station I headed straight up the main street, until it was obvious I had gone wrong. 'Blimey', I thought to myself, I can't even get out of St. Bees without going wrong.
 Back down the road and right at the road junction, where I should have gone in the first place. I found the track that should lead me to the right of way across the fields. This track however ended at a new building site. Referring  to the Harvey strip map I managed to find an alternative way and soon picked up the ROW. This was clearly little used and lead me into a narrow passage between high hedgerows. The ground was cattle trodden and made for not the best of paths. Emerging at the top I eventually came to a gate. The ROW is straight on here, but I was surprised to find myself at a track running across my route, although there was no sign of this on the map. My position was correct, and I was dismayed to see the ROW did not exist on the ground. I was confronted by a full grown Barley field in which the path had not been reinstated whatsoever.
I had no alternative but to follow the track to my right which led to a minor lane, then another to to the road, which I had to follow to get back on route. This lead to Cleator and I was now on the official C2C as far at the base of Dent Hill.
I walked up the road towards Ennerdale Bridge but broke off right along a lane and track then left to go round Flat Fell. The ground was rough and squelchy in places. I went too low at one stage and had to regain height, but soon I was in Nannycatch and the road. I found the track that would take me around Grike etc to the top of Red Beck, which I would follow down to Ennerdale Water.

I came across an abandoned bike by the side of the track. This is the first time I had seen this in the lakes, although a common practice along with rucksacks in the Highlands of Scotland, where one would leave them to bag a summit and return the same way to collect them. A short distance further on I came across the owner, a young lady who was running around the area clearing up after an Orienteering event the previous evening.

I had descended Red Beck once before several years ago in February, and remember it as an awkward path. This time with undergrowth in full bloom and chest high Ferns it was absolutely horrible with the path hard to see never mind follow. My shoes were being forced up either side of my foot, and by the time I reached the bottom I was soaking wet and my feet feeling the start of blisters. I knew at that point that I was 'in for it.'

I decided to block it out of my mind and enjoy the walk as I carried on through Ennerdales Forest.
I changed out of my wet Ron Hill tights into shorts which felt much better, however shortly after I suffered a bad inner thigh cramp which had me motionless for around 5 minutes. These inner thigh cramps are the worst kind, 'old mans cramp' as I call them because  they only seem to affect guys over the age of 50, and certainly that;s true in my case too. They grip really hard and are difficult to stretch out and just when you think the spasm is receding and you go to take another step, it grips again. The only way to get mobile again is to try and walk without bending the knee too much, until it relaxes.  I had several of these episodes as far as Honister. Once Ive experienced these, usually on the first day of trying something that I am not quite ready for, I don't tend to get them again.

I had intended taking the sloping path to Scarth Gap and climbing the scree to avoid Haystacks summit, but didn't like the idea of my feet rocking about all over the place on the loose scree, so decided to go over the summit instead. I made good time to Honister, where I called in the cafe and had a bowl of soup and a pot of tea. I also purchased some bottled water.

Running down to Seatoller and beyond past Stonethwaite, over the bridge and to the ascent towards Dock Tarn. Once over the stile at the top I should have turned right to pick up my planned direct line. However the heather again in full bloom now, had me opting for the path that led to Dock Tarn. I thought that on the way I may find some better ground and break off right from there. All too soon I was at the Tarn itself. I had no option now I had to break off to get on a line to the South of Blea Tarn.

I took a compass bearing and walked for a good mile through dense deep heather up and down over little hillocks until I gained the brow of the rise in front, fully expecting to gaze down upon Blea Tarn below. No, I was looking across a huge wide pathless valley, no sign of the tarn. I double checked my compass, Oh No!
The following video explains it all:-

Back on track I soon made Dunmail Raise. Up on the path by Raise Beck to Grisedale Tarn.

 I should have then headed up to Cofa Pike before descending Deepdale towards Brothers Water and a direct for the Knott. I instead carried on the AW route down Grisedale and ordered a meal in the White Lion in Patterdale.

Then it was continuing on the route to Boredale Hause, Angle tarn, the Knott and instead of Kidsty Pike, I turned for the ascent High Raise.

I found the MTV track and whilst following this phoned my wife to give a sitrep. It was now well dark and I donned my headtorch. the path seemed much longer than I remembered it to be, but that's what the dark of night does for you. Past Low Raise and descending to Measand Beck and following it down to meet Hawswater and the C2C path once more. Through Burnbank and after a confusing little full circle near the old Packhorse Bridge, I came to Shap Abbey and continued in the drizzly rain to sleepy Shap. Straight through, past the quarries, Oddendale and along the mist shrouded track heading towards Orton. Feet feeling bad now, although not too tired, I thought I'd better find somewhere to camp for a few hours near to the road and just on the edge of rough pasture/improved pasture, before it became light. I found a spot at 4am. and pitched in the rain.
Alarm went off all too soon, I'd had no more than a couple of hours sleep. Everything felt damp. Still raining, feet re-taped and Compeeded, full water proofs on, packed up and away. Down the road through Orton, to the the path at Sunbiggin Tarn, and carrying on to past through Brownber. I met the first walkers at Smardale Bridge.

They asked me to mark it clearly in the book at RHB, if I made it. I filtered some water and filled my only water bottle, then I got on my direct line once more, which was good, lots of big beasty cattle to walk around but they were unperturbed  and soon I was at Tommy Road. I took the Bridleway at a field, which although well signed at first had little to no path on the ground and I lost it soon after. Emerging onto a track, I found another path which was marked on my map and followed this to Shoregill and Outhgill.

 I could see the line I needed to take, which did not look appealing at all. it turned out to be a big mistake, mostly pathless ground, wet, lumpy, boggy and eventually incredibly steep. The views however were fantastic. The summit and ground heading towards the track that leads to the road to Keld, was no better.

It had stopped raining and once at the road, I removed my waterproofs and changed into shorts. I entered Keld on very painful feet, to be informed at Keld Lodge, where I was relying on getting fed, that they were booked up solid, it was bank holiday weekend after all.

 I asked about Muker, and was advised to take the road, which I did. This was bad advice as it turned out as it was almost twice as far as the C2C route there. Anyway I got well fed there and talking to a couple, I was told about a little plot of common land where I could camp at Gunnerside Bridge.
Arriving there I found there was a Camper-van parked up, but enough room behind it, just before the drop to the river, for my tent. I thought I had better inform the occupants as to what I was doing in case they wondered what was going on outside in the dark. I knocked the door and explained to the man who answered. I started pitching my tent when a lady opened the van door and asked me if I would like a brew. "I'd love one" was my reply. Just come in when you are ready she said. I sorted my tent and was made welcome inside the van. Tea and biscuits, the conversation was easy and relaxed but after about 45 minutes, I thought I really need to try and get some sleep, so I wished them goodnight and thanked them for their hospitality.
Again couldn't nod off quickly due to foot tenderness, but eventually had about two hours uncomfortable cat napping.
Alarm went off and on my way around 3am again. missed the first C2C path entrance but found the second and followed this until it became confusing in the dark, so took the gate out onto the road and followed this to Reeth.

Rather than the Marrick route I had opted for a way South of the river which avoided Richmond itself. My feet were very sore by now and uneven ground made the pain worse, I had to be at RHB by 7pm at the latest so although road walking is not one of my favorite things I decided to take the road  to Downholme, Hudswell, Holly Hill  and beyond, which would bring me back to the C2C route before Catterick Bridge.

Road walking does play havoc with the feet, but usually more so on the balls of the foot. I had pre-Compeeded this area with a padded Compeed plaster which was working well with no problems there, my main problems were at the heels and big toes through toe jam, now that feet had expanded with the mileage. Oh, how I wished I had used a bigger pair of shoes.
After a long road stretch, which actually wasn't too unpleasant, I was beneath the A1 bridge alongside the river and over  Catterick Bridge. I would now stay with the main C2C route as far as Ingleby Cross.

I made a beeline for the garage shop near Brompton on Swale intending on a re-supple only to find it closed. Never mind I thought I'll be able to do so at the cottage next to the church, where I had done so last time during my E - W trip. Alas no facilities there any longer, but a sign saying 'Drinks and Cakes etc' in the church. However the church also was closed, 'damn it', that's it now until Danby Wiske, I hope the pub's open!

On one of the many road sections in between, and them being very quiet with hardly any traffic, I began practicing my heavy eyelid relief, of closing my eyes for a count of 10 or 20, re-opening them to check all is safe, then repeating, again and again. usually 20 minutes of this is sufficient to bring one out of that feeling of extreme mental fatigue. The big danger as I found out during the Spine race was that if sufficiently extremely tired, you can actually fall asleep, albeit briefly, whilst still walking along.
Whilst on a very straight part of road, I glanced back over my shoulder and was surprised to see a person some one hundred metres or so behind me, and moving fast. A short time later he came alongside so as to overtake. "You okay fella" or similar he said, "Yeah, fine, just sore feet" I replied, and we got into a good conversation. He was Shaun and just what I need at that stage, because he was moving swiftly. I increased speed without problems and we fair flowed along. As soon as I saw him, one thing flashed through my mind 'Ex Para', it was obvious, his whole demeanor shouted it out loud and clear. He later confirmed that this was the case. We swung the lamp for a while about our military days, until we reached a road junction where he would wait for his walking partner, another 'Dave', who had been feeling the pace and was a little behind. I pressed on telling him that I would wait at The White Swan in Danby Wiske.

I arrived there and ordered a pint of Orange and Lemonade and a Barmcake.
I sat outside on the low wall, Shaun soon came followed slightly later by Dave. We shared some banter with some Coasters going East to West, had a pint of lager, then carried on. Ingleby Cross was the next target where the other two would camp for the night. They were on a 10 day schedule, Shaun had done the route a couple of time before, but Dave was a novice walker. Shaun was very strong, but I did wonder how Dave was truly feeling, he told me was suffering with blister and both had very large backpacks.

We reached the Blue Bell Inn at Ingleby Cross. I went in and ordered a meal and a pint of Guinness. Shaun and Dave followed after short while, they ordered a pint but didn't eat. They said they were carrying on a bit further and we discussed the route through the woods. A guy sat on his own at another table was also doing the C2C and had met the other two at times during his walk. Then came A 'Les and Heidi' moment, as had happened on my PW walk last year, following interchanges, he asked me if I was Dave, Slogger. I replied that I was, he knew of me from the forum. this was John. At that moment Shaun almost jumped out of his seat with an outstretched arm to shake my hand. "Are you Slogger?" he loudly said, "Yeah I'm Slogger" I replied. he shook my hand vigorously.  His brother had told him about me and my walks, although where he had heard of me, I don't know. "wait till I tell him Ive walked with Slogger," he said, and we had a good laugh. John suggested that rather than chancing the forest route, we walk up the road to Swainby before turning in to join the main route. Another couple of pints and we prepared to go. John bade farewell and went off to his room. We took his advice and walked along the A172 road to Swainby, turned off and along the lane to Huthwaite Green. This is where  I said goodbye to Shaun and Dave as I was taking the lower route via Seave Green, before rejoining the C2C once more near Round Hill.
Legs strong but feet sore as I continued in the dark and was surprised at the amount of Ascent on this section. it was getting late and after momentarily nodding off on my feet and walking into a thorn bush, around midnight I managed to find a flat area, just beyond a gate near Barkers Crags,
and pitched for a few hours.
Couldn't get to sleep, couldn't get comfortable and was quite cold too. The next two and three quarter hours were spent sleeping a short while before waking and readjusting, sleeping some more and so on. Maybe got just over an hour sleep altogether. Of course you are always at your most comfortable and in the midst of the best sleep when your alarm goes off! Putting your head back down is lethal, so up straight away, packed up and off once more. As I set off I noticed it was coming up to 3am, exactly 3 days since I started at St. Bees.
Better tracks and road were soon encountered as I passed through Seave Green and Town Green and began the climb up to the Old Rosedale Railway which I would join near Round Hill.
It was daylight before I reached the Railway and I looked over to the Cleveland Hills that I had avoided this time, and I did wonder whether I would have in fact been better off following the official route there.

A morning of extensive inversion, with the valley mist slowly lifting as the sun came up. I turned off before the Lion Inn and took the direct to the road and across Rosedale Head.

Past the head of Great Fryup Dale and onto Glaisdale Rigg, it was warm and sunny, a really nice morning. The Rigg seemed longer than what I remember, but on reaching Glaisdale I purchased supplies in the shop there, and had a brief sit down on the low wall opposite.
Next I was crossing the river via the stepping stones at Egton Bridge, then followed the old railway to Gromont, where I spent a good 40 minutes in the cafe with a large pot of Tea, a bowl of soup and a big fruit pie covered in cream, delicious!
Gromont and Level Crossing before the big road climb.
Reluctantly I had to leave and face the long climb up that road to Sleights Moor. After a while and some mild undulations, I thought to myself, as I remembered it, it was unrelentingly uphill. I checked my Satmap GPS, I had gone wrong about a mile back. that junction I crossed, I should have turned right. Nothing for it but to retrace my steps. Top of the hill and further along the road, I cut the corner across the moor and was soon heading down the track to Littlebeck.
Top of the Road ascent out of Gromont.
Entering Littlebeck.

Straight up the road avoiding Falling Foss. Oh how that road seemed to go on for ever. I was glad to cut across the moor before exiting on to another road that would on reaching its brow gave me the first site of the sea and RHB.
First view of RHB.
RBH from the top road.
Further down the road at Fylingthorpe I entered the campsite and asked a lady about the path to the Bay. "Follow the signs to the beach" she said. I did so and upon reaching a quiet area with a bench, changed into my 'going home' shorts and 'T' shirt. At least I wouldn't 'Humm' as much, I thought, after a sweaty, three and a half days without a wash or shave. Somehow I must have wandered off the beach path because I ended up at the road at the top of the bay. I walked down steeply to the crowded Bay Hotel, arriving there at almost exactly 6pm. I found the book and made my entry 3 days 15 Hours after starting out from St. Bees.
The Finish/Start at the Bay Hotel Robin Hoods Bay.
 I ordered a taxi, for 7pm, managed to get a priority order for a meal, as they only took orders from 6.30pm and my train was at 7.50pm from Scarborough, and a pint of Guinness. Spent some time talking to other Coasters, had my meal another pint of Guinness then saw my taxi pull up outside, so off I went.
Train arrived on time, so did the connection in Manchester. Another taxi in Chorley and I arrived home at 11.30pm. My wife had waited up but went to bed soon after as I had a good soak in the bath, saw to feet and had a good few hours sleep before getting up at 7am for a job had booked in, for 9.15am.
Feet still very sore although I had popped the large heel blisters the night before. my big toe nail seemed to be floating on top of a sqishy mess, so I made an appointment with the Podiatrist for later in the day.
These guys don't mess about, he set about with the scalpel removing all the detached skin from my heels, completely removed my big toe nail and the one next to it, bursting the blisters beneath in the process, and finally taped dressings. Good job I had worn sandals as there was no way I could get shoes on.

Inov8 Racepac 32, superbly comfortable and it's Pouch was brilliant, everything at hand, on the move.
Shoes: Nike Trail, good shoe, very good cushioning, if only they had been a full size bigger.
Tent, Sleeping Bag, clothing as usual as good as ever.
Water Filter - brilliant and quite indispensable, used it four times after  running out of water miles from anywhere open or higher streams.
This was in a way a training event for next years Spine race, and I did pass through the 134 mile point almost a full day faster than in last year Spine Race albeit in different conditions and time of year.

Some of the route lines I opted for were awful and led to extra exertion and foot problems.
Shoes were not big enough for the high mileage and this led to toe jam.
Too many little route finding errors.
Never felt really quite 'with it' maybe I should have waited longer after finishing a course of Anti Biotics, a few days earlier.

My third C2C and defo not my best nor most enjoyable. My other two I really enjoyed completely even with bad blisters during my first one.
My direct route choices were a big mistake at times which led to bad foot problems and distracted the mind spoiling the enjoyment.
 I did enjoy large parts of the walk, but not as a whole, however it's all part of the experience and it's not as though I spent 12 days on it and didn't enjoy it. It was over and done with quickly!
I think that with a good line and good conditions, 3 days is possible. Even 3.5 days, solo backpacking on the official AW route.
Will I have another do at it some time? Never say Never!

WARNING: High multi day mileage can be uncomfortable if your foot management is not correct.
One week on and healing nicely. Two toe nails removed.