Monday, September 15, 2008

Pennine Way

I've just finished walking a section of the Pennine Way: about 100 km in 5 days.
My legs are still stiff and aching; I new it would have been tough or, at least, quite tougher than my previous hikes: Peddars Way and Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

It is for that very reason that I decided to do it as soon as possible: being over 62 my strength can but lessen.

Compared to the above mentioned hikes, I found the Pennine Way not only much tougher but pretty more difficult as well: route often hard to find, very boggy and even flooded paths.
I've got to add that, in order to reduce the number of days out, I stretched the legs to an average of 25/26 km; which on hills trails it revealed too tough for me.

Anyway, like the other hikes, I enjoyed this one very much and I'm quite happy to have done it.

Again I took a lot of pictures (more than 500); if you are interested, please, take a look at the gallery top-right. They are arrayed by leg.

In contrast to the other hikes I did, Pennine Way was also more "adventurous". Let me just recount some of the main relevant events.

In the afternoon of the first leg (Hebden Bridge - Cowling), when I was going down Ickornshaw Moor, my knees began to hurt so acutely that I couldn't even ply them and I was obliged to descend the hill walking sideways and quite slowly.
I was so exhausted that I was unable to find the track which, as a matter of fact, was not easy in the least. In that area, as rather often along the Pennine Way, the track is actually unmarked and the rare traces of other walkers were deleted by the water flowing everywhere after the last August heavy rains. The ground was so boggy and wet that one had to mind carefully each step.
The pain to the knees was due particularly to the lack of prior training: August having been too hot at home. The general exhaustion was the result also of a too long first day on the hills (26 km plus 2 more because lost track detours) and of a beginning of dehydratation (I had sweated a lot wearing waterproof vest and trousers because the heavy rain ).

In short, as the day was starting to wear away, I began to fear of passing the night on the moor wrapped up in my safety blanket!

Luckily Mike, an Irish walker living in Scotland, came up and was so kind as to help me walk up to the evening goal.
I am very grateful to Mike whom I met again several times in the following stages and I'm sorry that he couldn't end his journey because a severe blister.

While my other hikes were quite solitary, walking the Pennine Way was a pretty sociable event: I met several walkers some of them I became friend with. Beside Mike, already mentioned, I want to remember Steve and, particularly, Roger and his son Thomas who helped me to find the track I had lost over Malham Cove. Although I usually walked alone because difference of pace, I often met them again at the B&Bs and inns.

Actually, the Pennine Way is partly an "invention". I mean that beside traditional more or less clear trails there are places, especially on the moorlands, where often there is no path at all.
There, one has to track other walkers' traces or relay on points of references (when available) or use a compass.
Sometimes, while the Pennine Way is barely perceivable, one meets secondary paths definitely more distinct which lure astray.
It is just what happened during my first leg, when, climbing towards Clough Head Hill, I loosed the track taking the only visible path on the right which, actually, bears away from the Pennine Way to the parking near the 68 road.
It was my first luck to meet soon a jogger which told me how to get to the Pennine Way again.

On Stonesdale Moor the Pennine Way faded away again and it was only thanks to the road across the dale - the only point of reference - that I didn't totally get lost.
Later on, when the dusk was beginning to fall - making me rather anxious - the thin smoke column of Tan Hill Inn, appearing in the immense and void sea of moorlands, was to me like the shore vision for the seafarer. I think I will never forget that epiphany.

Again, during the last leg, on top of Cotherstone Moor, the Pennine Way vanished. Luckily the weather was clear and I was able to point to the reservoir on the bottom of the dale where, after a careful walking through high tussocky grasses, I rejoined the Pennine Way.

I won't mention the other minor track missing occurred during the trip.


When I gave back the soaking low walking boots I had used on Pembrokeshire I bought, partly with the refund, a pair of Lowa Renegade GTX Mid which I had read many positive reviews about.
I was puzzled whether to use them because their heels were too high for me, making my legs pain. I was almost decided to take the New Balance NB985 I used one year before in Norfolk which, although very comfortable from the point of view of the set, are poorly breathable and low.
I knew that the ground would be very wet and boggy so I rasped the Lowa heels in order to get a better set.
It proved to be a quite sensible choice: after three days of heavy rain and a week of walking on often flooded and very boggy paths, my feet remained always dry! With the New Balance I would have got my feet quite soaked.

On the windy and cold tops of the hills I realized that there is no need of a heavy fleece: in my next trip I will replace it with a second light fleece to wear, in case, over the other one. I will be able thus to spare some more weight and space.

My waterproof vest leaked around the right shoulder and, like the over-trousers, it is not breathable. This makes a lot of moisture climbing the hills: I am going to look for breathable waterproof garments; if they exits.


I must not start without a suitable preliminary training.

On hill trails I must limit each leg to a maximum of 20/22 km.


September 5, 2008. Getting there

Flown from Rome-Cimpino to Liverpool. Got to Manchester by coach. Light lunch at the Soup Kitchen. Reached Hebden Bridge by train in the afternoon. Accommodation at the splendid 17th century old White Lion Hotel Inn.

September 6, 2008. From Hebden Bridge to Cowling 28 km (with detours)
Short visit to Hebden Bridge waiting for breakfast time.
Starded the walk under rain.
Lost track around Green Hill. Found again thanks to a jogger's help. Round 1 km detour.
Exhausted and painful knees (impossible to ply) on the afternoon over Ickorshaw Moor on flooded and boggy undistinguishable track. Got to Cowling thanks to Mike's help (Irish walker from Scotland).
Gone to bed without supper (too exhausted) at Susan & Sandy Black B&B: quite charming people.

September 7, 2008. From Cowling to Malham (by bus)

Need of rest. Got to Malham (planned stage) by busses (3). Warm soup at the local café. Checked-in at Beck Hall; nice B&B in an old building along the beck. Little walking to visit Janet's Foss and Gordon Scar (5 km). Dinner with a plate of vegetables at the local pub.

September 8, 2008. From Malham to Horton-in-Ribblesdale 23 km
Climbed Malham Cove where lost the track; found again thanks to Roger and Thomas. Climbed Fountains Fell (660 m.) under rain. Little trouble with cattle during snack halt. Climbed Pen-y-Ghent (694 m.) with rather fine weather. Got to Horton-in-Ribblesdale tired but not as in the first day. Crown Hotel very nice old inn where I had a drink with the other walkers already met: Mike, Steve, Roger and Thomas.

September 9, 2008. From Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hardraw 24 km

Rain during half day. Climbed Dodd Fell (600 m.). Walked in thick mist during 3 hours: luckily clear track and clear weather again on the moor before Hawes where the way is trackable only looking carefully for recent traces of other walkers. Cake and Coffee in Hawes, nice town. Dinner with a bowl of chips and a bitter at the Dragon Hotel where I stayed: beautiful old inn whith fire in the bar and in breakfast lounge. Long chat with charming customers.

September 10, 2008. From Hardraw to Tan Hill 26 km

Fine weather all day. Climbed Great Shunner Fell (716 m. the highest of my trip). Met a lot of walkers, even a girl on solo. Coffee and cake at Keaton Hotel in Thwaite around 13:00. Very tired. Little anxiety on Stonesdale Moor where the path fades away. Bearing thanks to the road visible on the left. Got to Tan Hill a bit before dusk: quite relieved. Tan Hill Inn very nice old inn with fire and charming landlord; celtic music. Met Roger and Thomas for the last time being their trip end. Roger offerd me a whisky: very nice. I was alone in the bunk house; need to pass by the kitchen in order to get there. Windy and rainy night; little discouraged, almost made up my mind to give up the last leg.

September 11, 2008. From Tan Hill to Middleton in Teesdale 26 km

Poor breakfast; no cerals, nor toast, nor butter and jam either; only one mug of lukewarm coffee. But the very dark brew and no forecasted rain cheered me up and set forth.
Got the route alternative to the track along the beck: dangerous in bad wheather. Lot of grouses. Lost the track at Through-Heads; entered a farm court; climbed over a locked gate hurting the knees hopping down. Extremely tired all day long. Lost track on Cotherstone Moor; luckily good visibility so no need of compass: walked through the high grasses of the moor, bearing towards the reservoir in the bootom of the dale. Got to Middleton arond 6 p.m. Went to bed after hot shower, without supper: too tired. Brunswick House quite lovely and refined B&B; forniture and food as well. Middleton looks like a fine town too.

September 12, 2008. Going home

Smooth trip to Newcastle by bus and train. Went to Marks & Spencer to buy pure wool pullover for Chantal. Got to the airport very early: alas, too tired to visit Newcastle which looks like a really alive and charming city.

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