The trip had been arranged for a short while and, maybe, perhaps, it was ill-timed. The signs of an ill-fated trip were there from the start.
From the start, it was snowing in Crook. The travel lady girl announcer person announced that the trans-pennine A66 was partially blocked, down to one lane, with a trapped HGV and otherwise “difficult” I joined it at Bowes in a blizzard and tucked in behind an HGV that was eventually going 20 mph too fast for me, so me and lots of other, more careful people plodded along at 40 in no visibility at all, apart from some vague tyre tracks on a white road.
I got to Kirkby Stephen railway station a couple of minutes early where it was snowing.
The train came in and Dawn got off. It snowed.
On the way to Kirkby Stephen, a car coming up the hill overtook something that wasn;t there and jumped up the embankment, damaging some shrubs and the front end of the car, and the front end of the driver’s pride – it was a really really expensive car, and the attempt to gun it up the hill had turned out badly. We didn’t stop. We couldn’t actually stop….
The snowstorm abated a bit as we made our way up through the muddy woods and on to Hartley Fell – the lower part of Nine Standards Rigg where a pitch behind a sheltering wall presented itself. Finding good water was an initial challenge, but an exploration the next day found something a bit better than the green mossy, but potable stuff we originally found.
The night was cold. And it snowed. And it snowed and snowed and snowed. I got out a couple of times to clear the akto of excess white stuff, but eventually resorted to just periiodically kicking the stuff off from inside with a warm sock full of foot. Nevertheless, the akto grew gradually smaller bit by bit as the long night drew itself out in a very gradual drawing out kind of way.
A bright and beautiful morning followed. The snow was crisp and deep and heavily rutted for some reason. A plodge along Mallerstang Edge would be rufty and not a little tufty in this deep and soft stuff. We decided to wait for a day. I had a little trundle up the hill and found better water.
The lovely day lasted roughly till lunchtime, after which windy, sleety showers plastered the tents and it was nice to get tucked in with brews and snooze – a pastime which is by no means a waste of time. Soon it went dark.
A cold, grey morning with thick mist, driving drizzle and ice mitigated against any kind of movement which wasn’t for urgent bladder relief. After a bit of a foray up the hill, Dawn returned through the post-holing icy thaw to declare that she wasn’t really feeling well at all. She was sent back to bed. Another day of brews and snooze developed. I could get used to not doing anything at all. You’d have thought that this would be the ideal opportunity to think through all those niggly little problems. To plan out solutions. To consider the higher things in life. Not so. I am a very efficient snoozer. I awake to a vague consciousness every now and then to register if its still raining or not, or whether I need to emerge from my aktococoon to do something useful, such as reposition a tent peg or have a nice wee. My major decisions concerned the calculation of the resilience of my water supply when measured against my sachets of kenco 3 in 1, packet soups and hot chocolate. And if the water was low, whether or not I really needed another, given that the inevitable bladder emergency would occur all that much sooner if….
The next night was a bit snowy and occasionally starry. Then, about 3:00 a.m., I became aware of a more determined rattling of the old akto. By grey dawnfall (the daylight one, not the other Dawn…), the akto was dancing around like a firewalker who’d suddenly lost his faith. The rain was also hosing down and the noise from both almost drowned out the artillery fire from Warcop. Pegs were coming loose. The snow under my tent had mainly melted to reveal a sphagnum bog. Sphagnum bogs do not take well to tent pegs. Dawn was making noises from her tent and, which I couldn’t make out due to the thundering noise of the storm, but as I emerged from mine, it became clear that Dawn’s tabernacle was in some trouble with the gale. I decided to pack my stuff, since my akto was in some danger of collapse and some things inside needed to be kept dry…..
After this, I attended to Dawn’s loose ends, which were flying in the gale whilst she packed. It was a bit frantic for a short while.
Not too long afterwards, after a short but brutal fight against a howling hurricane attended by a bit of a hosing down, we were gratefully ensconced in a warm cafe in Kirkby Stephen with a full breakfast and a huge pot of tea.
The drive home over the A66 was even more dangerous with fallen lorries, cars that had hit floods too fast for their little tyres, and consequently ended up in distress, and the odd eeejit blundering on at 100 mph as if nothing was happening.
I suspect that mid December is probably not the most ideal time to try to go for a backpacking trip down the Pennines.
Thanks to Dawn, though. Believe it or not, I enjoyed the whole thing. Everything is on radiators here at knipetowers and the dog is happy to see me.
Dawn’s blog is at http://dawn-outdoors.blogspot.com/ She’s not home yet, as I write this. I’m not sure if she intends to write her own version of this adventure, but if she does, it’ll likely be here.