I woke up feeling very nervous. 20 miles, three ascents including the highest ascent of the walk. And only one walking pole! I’d have been nervous body was going to hold up even with two.
It felt like fate/life/the gods (etc.) had made it’s/their move and I couldn’t just passively take it. I had to make some kind of counter move. (Which is of course faulty thinking (on a couple of levels) and often the best move is to make no move at all.) My reasoning went: with one pole, more weight would be going through whichever side wasn’t using the pole, which could cause knee issue. So the only option was to try and get weight down. Unfortunately with Post Office closed down I didn’t have any options to post things home. I made the possibly rash decision to donate tiny tent to the YHA. I’d used it three (or was it four) times early on, but since the day of the flies, and injury and the weather, and the fact it’s too small to even sit up in, I’d been keeping it for emergencies only. Annoyingly for the eighty quid it cost, I could’ve avoided the weight and kept the money and stayed in YHAs. etc.
So I was pretty nervous heading off. N____ had some kind reassuring words which really helped stopping me freak out too much. Fortunately N_____ was also going to Alston so it meant for the second day I had company. I was very glad of it. We shared a similar sense of humour and the gradual sharing of life stories, not to mention the feeling that there was someone with you, who had your back if bad things happened was an enormous help psychologically.
I was worried I’d slow him down, but as with yesterday I said a few times to press on if I was slowing him down and I’d meet him at the end of the day, but he reassured me that pace wasn’t an issue today, we were heading to the same destination and the time didn’t matter. He loves powering up the big hills, so for those he’d maybe go on ahead and wait for me at the top.
Just before the first fell there was a signpost for a shortcut to miss it out. I’m reasonably nearly 100% sure I wouldn’t have been tempted by it even if I didn’t have N____ beside me to assure me it was cheating!
We came to the first one Green Fell and I matched pace for a bit, but vision soon started getting fuzzy at the edges and I had to stop and hyper-ventilate for a bit! That said I felt determined and kept pushing on and on, stopping every once in a while for breath, but no big stops for any water or anything. (which I probably would if I’d been on my own!) Eventually, after so many false summits, made the top. N____ was impressed. He’d only been waiting for 10 mins, (he’d estimated he’d prob. have to wait 30mins for me). Probably just as well as the wind was immense making it very chilly indeed.
(happy after first ascent, I’d temporarily forgotten there were two more to go)
It was a real rush to actually make it. Body parts behaving well.
We pushed on to fell number 2, Great Dun Fell. Strangely this was steep, but mostly up a road. It has an enormous golf ball on top where the government intercept everyone’s emails and send them to the American government for security reasons. (possibly).
Bit of down and up Little Dun Fell which apparently doesn’t count, and then the big one – Cross Fell.
I was starting to go a bit unusual, panting like a woman in labour and bellowing almost as much, it kept coming at us. N____ stopped to talk to a 66-year old Liverpudlian and I pushed on, and on reaching the stone wind shelter at the top, felt a tremendous explosion of euphoria. I took a panoramic 360 picture, as there was some visibility. N_____ and the Liverpudlian (never found out his name, we just referred to him as ‘the old fella’), arrived and in the wind shelter we took on water and some energy snacks. (I managed to tread on my banana!). Another walker doing a different route joined us, and ominous thick grey mist rapidly started to descend around us. (The old fella had been up here yesterday, but in the mist had been unable to find the path down to Garrigill and had to do the three ascents in reverse to head back to Dufton).
We pushed on, stopping briefly at legendary bothie Greg’s Hut and signed the visitors book. Only had time for a brief look, but there’s so many brilliant entries in there it’s the kind of thing you’d hope would be published one day.
Feeling pretty elated I’d done the three ascents, with only one pole, of course the PW (which isn’t a sentient being and has no deliberate part in deciding what happens to me) then served up a horrible, massively gruelling slog down to Garrigill. Having used the pole on the right hand side to protect ankle, left knee started complaining viciously. I swapped the pole over to the other side, but maybe too late. N____ very patient but it was a slow painful limp down to Garrigill.
We both wanted to try and catch the shops in Alston, and pace was making it questionable if we’d make it, so had discussed N_____ pushing on from Garrigill to get his zinc oxide tape from the chemist and a walking pole for me and we’d meet up at the YHA.
Fortunately 15mins rest with boots off in Garrigill with a bottle of coke (I am quite sensitive to caffeine) and a bag of crisps made the world of difference. Knee pain had gone, and like a man possessed I stalked on like a madman at terrific pace. The old fella had got away from us, but we caught him up, overtook and came thundering in to Alston. (I should possibly maybe drink Coke more often, though I was half-wild and talking a thousand miles an hour. N_____ presumably used to the half-gibberish I come out with towards the end of a days walking. (Later he said, you made some very interesting noises today.))
YHA is on route, so we checked they had space for us, dropped packs off, got directions and then headed into town towards chemist. Normally there’s a rest after taking pack off, but heading straight out we felt half floating and off-balance.
Zinc oxide tape, walking pole and some energy bars from the health food shop achieved and it was back to YHA to check in. Couple of pints of ale for me and orange juice and lemonade for N______ in a pub and then over the road for a nice pizza followed by profiteroles in the Alston Hotel with the tennis on.
YHA in Alston is lovely and run by nice friendly people. Exhausted from the day’s exertions was in bed by 9pm. Tomorrow 16.5 miles to Greenhead.