The coverage for phones is sketchy at best, so I gave up trying to blog after the first disastrous attempt, where all the photos vanished. Instead, I wrote a diary with pencil and paper. I will, over the next few days rewrite these diary entries onto the blog. Day 1 follows:
Day 1, Saturday the 6th May 2017
Like all great adventures should do, my quest begins in a tunnel in the side of a hill. I am surrounded by dwarves sharing my second breakfast, and there is a wizard blowing smoke rings.
Of course, this is pure fantasy. My great adventure begins in a stone built house in Huddersfield on a sleepy Saturday morning. Rising at 6 with bleary eyes.
I cram the last essentials into my rucksack. Sleep was elusive last night, trepidation and excitement hitting like caffeine till the small hours. I go over the list of kit I am taking. There is nothing I can’t live without here, but it nearly makes my eyes pop as I lug it down the stairs. The coffee machine is kicked into life, and a double espresso is soon downed. Back upstairs, Kate stirs and one eye peers from under the sheet, “what time is it?”, “6:30”. The eye closes after giving me a withering look, “wake me in half an hour”.
I make another coffee, this time I go for luxury and add milk and sugar. This one hits the spot and I am zinging a little as I load my pack into the car. “heck” I think to myself as I again feel the weight of it, but I will get used to it. I make Kate a cup of tea and use it to tempt her from the duvet, it works, and by 7:30 we are heading over to her parents. They are coming along for the ride and to give Kate moral support on the way back. Surprisingly, when we arrive they are ready to go straight away. This is a first, but a welcome one. We head away from Huddersfield at 8, entering a swirling mist over Woodhead on the way to Edale.
An uneventful drive is a pleasing in so far as taking part, but makes for a boring story, so I will say no more than we arrived safely in Edale. Parking in the main car park, I got my ticket, then asked the team if they would care to join me on the walk up to the start.
“How far is it?”, “about 200 yards”.
Being aware of my casual disregard for accuracy, and an occasional penchant for underestimation, they decide to defer a decision until I have driven up to the start and back to show them what is involved.
Half a mile of driving uphill later, they make there decision, and I park in the National Trust visitor centre car park. The place is able to offer some poor coffee from a vending machine, but no logbook for wayfarers to sign. I leave my team in the shop briefly while I return to the car to get ready.
Fond farewell’s and wishes of good luck follow, as I manage to hoist my pack onto my back. Teetering forwards then backwards, I make an attempt at a forward step. A gentle nudge from Kate and I am propelled forwards. No stopping now. I raise a hand and wave, shouting “Bye, see you in two weeks” I don’t turn, I can’t.
Later I hear that Kate Mum and Dad both have reservations about the trip, axe murderers and lost wanderers feature in the imagination somewhere. I’m glad I didn’t know, bad enough Grandma pronounced me a mad man. (which I am very amused by, and regularly tell people about)
Afer taking a photo of me on the start line, I put my head down, think happy thoughts and set off.
It doesn’t feel like a gentle introduction, as you head uphill along a tree line path. After a hundred hard yards, I stop for my first rest. It won’t be my last.
Through the stile, I bravely navigate sheep infested fields. Up Hill and Down Dale, never resting, tramping along a hard slog, I eventually arrive at Upper Booth. The first half mile is in the bag. I am knackered. I am joined by a group of Rambler’s who are up for the weekend from BlackHeath in London. The express how impressed they are at my attempt on the whole route, and I make a show of being a rough tough Yorkshire Lad. By Lee Farm they have left me for dust, another rest is called for.
The next short stretch is a gentle stroll alongside the river Noe.
It would be pleasant if i was able to get my pack to sit right on my hips. I tighten the waist strap as tight as I can, it pulls in my tum and works well for a few paces. Then my tum fights back and the belt gets pushed down. I guess they only work if the diameter round your tummy is less than round your hips.
At Jacob’s ladder, worries about the hip belt become less important.
All my thoughts are focused on breathing. Getting enough oxygen with each ragged breath to take the next faltering step. Each mater of ascent a hard fought battle. One step follows another and time stops, I am a machine, broken, a bit rusty, but a machine non the less. Breath In, step, out, In, step, out. Over and over, no thoughts save pushing further along. A young lad passes and says a cheery hello, I respond in kind, fraud that I am. In, step, out, step, pause, in, out, step.
At the head of this steep stairway, I’ll take another rest, and some water. Just a few more steps first. At Swines back, I collapse in a heap, and it is a few minutes before I manage to lever myself into a sitting position. An old man walks past.
“Aye, not bad, nice day for it”, I say
“You doing the whole thing?”
Not for the last time, I think for a moment before I answer, “I am”
He nods sagely, then looks me up and down once before he carries on his way, chuckling to himself.
After what feels an eternity, I get to Edale Rocks. Time for another rest.
“You doing the whole thing?”, a spirited couple of 70 something’s, with walking sticks ask.
“That was the plan at 7 this morning, now I’m not so sure”
The weather is dull and overcast, and the wind is gusting over 30mph. Its 5’C, yet I am sweating. I can feel it running down my back. ‘Unless it’s blood!’ I panic. My pack comes off and I gingerly run my hand inside my T shirt. It comes out wet with sweat. No blood. Idiot. At this point, I have got to the trig point at Kinder Low.
Worse than climbing kinder is descending Kinder. Each step taken like an Octogenarian on a zimmer frame. On the flat though… you should see me go. I pas a fell runner as if he is stood still. Oh, wait, he is stood still, he’s admiring the view from Kinder Downfall.
Not for me, this stopping malarkey, I have a schedule to fail to achieve. I creak and groan my way off the mountain. A signpost kindly points the way.
A few yards further, I’m at the top of Mill Hill. It is not overly impressive, but the mist is starting to clear, so that’s something. I head North East, on generally level ground. Floating across the moors, in the distance, cars and trucks form a strange sight, which preoccupy my thoughts for the mile and a half it takes me to get to the Snake Pass. The A57, is of course, what I was seeing, at least the cars on it, even if the road itself is hidden from view. Time for another rest. If I could swap feet now, I would. I have a blister under my right heel, and one under the big toe on the same foot. Still, I must be nearly finished for the day. A quick check on the map near brings me to tears. 1/2 way.
The map taunts me, “Old Woman” is printed next to my position.
Suitably chastened, I plod on.
Alpot Low (Alltime low, I call it)
All pass in a haze of pain and fatigue, until I eventually reach Bleaklow Head.
After a quick selfie (not looking too happy!)I start my decent.
Torside Clough, pretty thoug it is, is a fresh Hell. A vertiginous drop away from the nine inch wide path. Pain or no, I am not stopping. I limp down to fields above Torside Res, and I make a call. “Can you meet me at Crowden?, I need to Lighten this pack, It’s killing me”
My friend says he can, and sets a rendezvous for 6:30.
At the roadside, a pristine sign for the Pennine Way points down a newly laid track. An invitingly flat path heads down to the dam wall, I put my best foot forward (the left one as it happens). I have planty of time, and my pack will soon be lighter.
The smart path leads to Tintwhistle. I am over a mile along it when I stop daydreaming of lighter loads and have to retrace my steps. What I thought to be a fairly level, flat path is actually a slope, and I am now heading up it. Right back to the start, where I find a gate, tucked away behind a bush, with a PW sign stuck half in the mud at the side of it. Grrrr. The last mile to Crowden campsite is misery for me. I am tired. I am sore. I am cross with myself for going wrong.
About 2kg of unnecessary, pointless weight is handed over to my very amused friend.
I get a pitch for the night, no wild camping for me today, I just want to sleep, but before I do, I avail myself of the on-site takeaway, and get a peperoni pizza nicely tucked away. There is no mobile signal. I limp over to the shower block, when I get back to the tent I fall into a very deep sleep. Its 9pm on one of the longest days of my life.