Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Click on photo to enlarge, then click off it to return.

September 4th -6th 2015.
Spine Challenger Route on the Pennine Way from Edale to Hawes, 106 miles.

Dave Lee (Spine 'Almost' Finisher 2013, Finisher 2014)
Malc Christie Spine Finisher 2015.

Malc and I have experienced many adventurous epics over the years and share an absolute passion for our fantastic hills and mountains, and it's been an absolute pleasure to introduce him to the longer stuff.

February 2006, In the Crianlarich Munro's.
May 2006, In the Spittal of Glenshee after 9 glorious days in the snow of the Cairngorms.
Malc had mentioned having a go at the Spine Challenger at the end of August then contacted again about it at the beginning of September. "I was thinking about Friday 4th September" he said, just four days away.
My ongoing problems with my foot and knee had limited my walking and running had become almost non existent. I had however managed a couple of 30 mile walks, a 45 and a 50 miler, although all had been a struggle towards the last 10 miles. To be honest in the last couple of years I have been surprised to find that I can no longer just make my mind up in the morning, and go off and do a good 80+ mile non stop fast paced walk anymore. I guess it had to happen sometime, but Ive not been prepared for it, and have been trying to turn things around, without any real success. I suppose I should be satisfied with what I have already achieved in my long distance forays over the years, but there is so much I still have the desire to do, so in the meantime, I will keep on trying.

Back to the subject in hand.
I texted Malc "Lets do it!"

I had loaned my PW 1:20,000 maps to an ex squaddie for his walk, which he had not returned, so I contacted him and he posted them to me, signature required.  Posties card was left through our door, ticked in the box 'left with your neighbor' but no house number!.  I knocked at several, but non of them had the package. I though that whoever had it would post it through our door, but they never showed up. I instead took my harvey Strip map, although I was confident I knew the route, and Malc was taking his set.
On top of that I discovered that my Alpkit Hunka bivvy bag was missing. Searched high and low and realised that I must have left it at Middleton in Teesdale after I had pulled out of the Spine in January.
I texted Malc to tell him that I may have to take my tent, but made a mistake and texted to Robin Tilbrook instead, 2105 Spine Challenger who lives just a few miles away. He responded to that by offering to loan me his new bivvy bag. I took him up on his generous offer and collected it that afternoon. 

 After arranging to meet up on the bus to Chorley rail station, we headed for the start at Edale.

Our sacks weighed about the same, 11.5kg, as we had to carry all food until we could re-supply at the Coop in Gargrave, no drop bag this time.

Well good old British Rail! Our train should have delivered us in Edale for 9.30am start, however the first train was 32 minutes late, meaning that we had missed our two connections and ended up arriving in Edale over two hours late.

We eventually set off at 11.45am from the Station, then called in at the shop near the official start.

Start Edale Station.

Hydration at Edale shop.

The Old Nags Head Official PW Start.

It didn't take long to work up a sweat but ascending Jacobs Ladder I borrowed Malcs map case and positioned it across my chest to keep the somewhat cool wind off. I would repeat this tactic several times over the following couple of days when wearing just a single thermal layer. Malc however was feeling the cold more and kept rotating his tops from thermal with 'T' shirt to Buffalo and Jacket. During the night we both donned full waterproofs on top of thermals etc.

Approaching Kinder Rocks.

Kinder Low Summit Trig Point.

Kinder Rim.

Kinder Downfall, stream actually falling down this time.

Good visibility from the Kinder Rim and the water, what there was, was actually falling 'down' the Downfall.
An improved path after the Snake Pass crossing, we continued on past Bleaklow summit and arrived in Crowden. It is here that I usually suffer extreme inner thigh cramp, or 'old mans' cramp as I call it, as it only seems to affect the over 55s. It's a killer and one is immobilised until it passes which can take up to ten minutes at a time, then come on again several times afterwards. This affects me badly after about 16 miles on the first day, but only on the first day, then is gone! Anyway I thought I'd got away with it on this occasion, but no, it grabbed me further along the route after Ladder Rocks.

Approaching Ladder Rocks.
Approaching Black Hill
Black hill Trig Point.

The ascent of Ladder Rocks is when my legs quite suddenly got that empty feeling. Malc as usual was away in front, but not too far in front. He is such a strong mountain walker and runner, during a walk he normally goes off almost disappearing into the distance with his easy rangy stride. When we were Munroing, up to four of us at a time, all fell runners, he'd leave us all for dead, then look back from a distance shaking his head at us, like a Stag does on the skyline. It's easier to go at your natural pace, so he just has to slow down occasionally or wait for me to catch up.

The dark of night hit us before Black Moss Reservoir, then came the Standedge crossing, followed by the M62 bridge. However well before the M62 bridge we had run out of water. All streams were almost black and Peaty and the single reliable one down from Wessenden head was almost dry and of no use.
We knew we would not be able to get anymore for sure until Highgate Farm shop at Hebden Bridge, and only then if it were open. Of course we would knock on some door and ask, but now being nighttime, would have to go through the night without.
Standedge crossing.

On M62 Footbridge.

Then Malc suddenly had a thought. "If we had the number to the White House, perhaps they would leave a couple of bottles of water outside, and we could push the money through the letter box".
After much trying to get through to directory inquiries and finally succeeding, after telling the tale, the White House obliged, not requiring any payment, and on arriving there at 1am Saturday morning, we found around 10 litres of water in four tubs. Thank you very much the White house, fantastic! We were made up.
Water at the White House.

So, we had our water, it was past 1am on Saturday morning, Through lack of sleep during the week leading up to this attempt, Malc had been struggling badly for some hours now and desperately wanted a stop. His legs were, as usual as mountain-strong as ever, especially with his ongoing Corbett baggin, but he needed to get some sleep. We settled into our bivvy bags right at the pubs front door with it's overhead cover.
The White House Bivvy.

Malc has this ability, even when not especially tired of nodding off quickly, whilst I can be a bit of an insomniac and it takes me a while. Any noise and I struggle to get to sleep even when really tired, usually ending up with headache instead. He was away in no time. I had been trying for about an hour and just as I was beginning to succeed it began to rain. I was positioned at the outer edge of cover and in no time the leaking overhead gutter heavily dripped directly onto my Bivvy bag head cover. I couldn't get out of it's way, other than to move out further into the heavy rain itself. As it started to ease off along with the dripping I managed to nod off for an hour or so.

Alarm went off and we were up in no time and tucking into our Potnoodles. We were on our way at 5.23am, after a 4hour 23 minute stop. We knew we had to make it to Gargrave at least before stopping again.
Breakfast at the White House.
We passed someone camping in a fantastic spot beside the reservoir heading for Stoodly Pike.

Someones tent on reservoir beach.

Stoodley Pike.

Full waterproofs to get warmed up, which came off for me anyway before the cruel climb out of Charlesworth up towards  Hebden Bridge CP1. We didn't break off to the CP as there was no point, instead we got permission to drop our sacks at a cottage and walked to the Highgate Farm shop. Drinks, some food and an ice cream were taken on before we proceeded further.
It was a nice warm day but cool in the breeze.

The Walshaw Dean Reservoirs came into view as Malc strode away some distance in front. He was still struggling with lack of sleep and I think he was stretching out simply to stay awake. I offered him one of my gels, and got two out of my sacks side pocket, handing one to him. He looked at it and said "Bakewell Tart!", "Oh, bugger" or similar I replied, "I was saving that one, it's my favorite". I had to make do with the Blackberry as he wasn't for giving it back. A couple of times afterwards he mentioned how good it had tasted, Ba.......!

He wanted a 10 minute power-nap so we stopped by the side of the reservoir drain. Time up, I shouted, we were up and away again. Top Withins ruin passed. Further along the track we were passed by a walker with very shiny boots and overall very clean and tidy. He occasionally looked back checking how far ahead he was, but we didn't take him on.
On the approech to Highgate Farm Shop.

Top Withins Ruin.

Ponden Reservoir

That damned steep grassy hill after Ponden had me gasping but soon we on the open moor. A ten minutes stop once again was required so we stopped at the boarded up bothy on Ickornshaw Moor at High End Low. Malc settled into the heather, I open the door to the side shed and found a sun lounger, which I opened up. Unfortunately for Malc he was already asleep, so I settled down upon it.
Besides Moorland Bothy.

Dropping down to Lothersdale.
Dropping down through Cowling and beyond, we arrived at the Hare and Hounds Pub  in Lothersdale. Malc went inside and ordered soup and coffee which we consumed outside in glorious weather, whilst chatting to a local couple.All too soon we had to leave and made our way out of the village, up the hill and onto moorland once again.

Leaving Lothersdale.

Pinshaw Beacon Trig Point.

Towards Thornton moor I called my wife on my mobile phone, walking slowly. Malc was off into the distant again, I didn't rush as I was chatting. As I hung up I lost sight of him as I approached the stile onto the open moor, then there he was, amongst the heather getting another power-nap.

Through Thornton in Craven, we wondered how long it would take to reach Gargrave and much needed supplies. Malc increased the pace and I was surprised to find that my legs were waking up at last and beginning to feel good. We made excellent progress and arrived there, well ahead of eta.
We had considered having something to eat in a pub, but decided to go the Coop instead. Malc hinted that he fancied over-nighting in the village, But I said we could do with reaching Malham instead, as we would have less to do on Sunday. We reached Malham at 11pm Saturday after a 47 mile day.

Arrived in Malham.

We headed for the public toilets at the car park, as we intended bivvying in the mens there. However it had a noisy, continuously filling, wc cistern. We opted for the ladies and made ourselves comfortable. I tried to work out what time we would have to leave, and how long it would take us to reach our destination and mileage. The target was sub 54 hours and I thought it was going to be tight.
Bivvy in ladies Loo, Malham.

We were soon packed up after a little breakfast, once the alarm had awoken us after a three hour stop. All gear back on and on our way once more at 3am. Out of the village up the never ending steps by the cove, past the tarn and reached CP1.5 The Field Centre. John Bamber had said there may be part of the Spine Team in residence, so we could call in for a brew. We were however much later than planned and didn't arrive there until 5am due to the late start etc. We couldn't gain access due to the key-in controlled door, so we stopped briefly for around 15 minutes out in the courtyard.
In the courtyard Malham Tarn Centre. CP 1.5

Light of day broke through on the way to Fountains Fell, which we ascended and descended quite easily.

On Fountains Fell

Descending Fountains Fell.

Approaching the ascent of Pen Y Ghent we came across a young lady going the other way, who said that she had bivvied behind the wall. (I later discovered that this was Alzbeta Benn, a future Spiner, I believe). We parted company and headed up the steps. Many people doing the 3 peaks were on the Fell, particularly at it's summit.
Ingleborough and Pen y Ghent.

Steps on Pen Y Ghent.

Approaching Pen Y Ghent.

Pen Y Ghent summit.

Blue skies and very warm, we changed into shorts, which felt much better.
We were making good progress now, my legs had come together. Malc can always walk strongly but he was still suffering sleep deprivation and would stagger about almost stopping in his tracks at times as he nearly nodded off.
Approaching Hawes.

The thought of a pint of beer drove us onwards, and we finally descended down into Hawes arriving outside CP2 at 2.06pm, 50 hours and 21 minutes after leaving Edale and 5 hours 35 minutes minutes faster than my Spine 2014, although we did bypass CP1.
At Hawes CP2.

Well earned I think, after finishing in Hawes
Following a few recovery pints we found a spot on the grass next to the car park and had a short sleep. Then it was time to board the Dales bus which took us to Ribblehead station and another couple of pints in the pub there. The train arrived, Malc phoned his wife Andrea, and she came out to pick us up at Bamber Bridge station. Not the first time she has come to our resue, thanks Andrea.

For a spurr of the moment long distance walk, we were quite pleased to achieved what we set out to accomplish, but did wonder why we had suffered physically more during that section than during the Spine itself in January. The ground conditions were almost as good as they are ever going to be for the Pennine Way. Maybe it was the extra sack weight, although Malc says he carried the same in January, the warmer weather, the lack of rest beforehand, who knows? We both picked up blisters and sore feet and ended up in Hawes with a different gait to that which we started out with!.