As usual, woke up consumed by nerves. Real struggle to get and keep cooked breakfast down. Hopefully my last one for a very long time! Byrness Hotel was nice, but as the only guest was a bit of a lonely experience.
Checked out and headed off… thick mist everywhere! Steep climb from Byrness up through a conifer plantation and then a rocky scramble. Like many other sections I imagined how it would much worse it would be to try and get through in wet weather.
The merino top turned out to be a bad choice, really hot during the climb up and then in the thick mist it got covered in condensation and remained soaking wet. Still body temperature was ok as long as I kept moving.
Up on top, no views other than thick white mist… would get sudden vertigo when the mist cleared a bit and the thick white to my right was actually a massive drop.
The path split into two one going round the top of a hill and one going over the top. Knowing the PW, the correct path will be the over the top, rather than the easier option I incorrectly deduced. I was soon lost in fog in bog-land (though thanks to a few days hot weather bogs weren’t nearly as difficult as they could’ve been). Using compass, I made vague uncertain progress in the right direction. It’s a military training area and a sign warned about objects that might explode and kill you. Groping around in the fog, I tried not to think about it.
Suddenly in the gloom I made out the figure of another walker! I headed over to find a party of six walking together including T____ and A_____ that had stayed at the same b&b as me in Bellingham. They’d all met and bonded at Forest View. Relief that I was no longer lost in fog was short-lived as it turned out they were just as lost as I was! (they’d also gone over, rather than round). Following the general compass bearing eventually one of the walkers found a PW signpost and we were back on the path.
The way followed the English/Scottish border for most of the day, and they had a tip that to avoid the worst of a particularly boggy section it was worth hopping over the fence into Scotland for a bit and hopping back further up.
I walked with them for a while, chatting away. Then left them behind during a steep section. As before T____ and A_____ would overtake me when I was having a rest, and then I’d overtake them when they were having a rest. Quick snatches of conversation each time.
The other walkers were heading to the the half-way point, Windy Gyle, and from there would take a 2-mile route down to where the people from Forest View would pick them up in a minibus drive them back to Byrness for the night and then bring them back for the second half of the Cheviots tomorrow. (This seems to be the usual way of doing things. Not for me though, I was aiming for the 2nd mountain rescure hut, a challenging 18 mile day for me, that would then leave me a hopefully very reasonable 9 miles for the last day.)
Was feeling good when I made the top of Windy Gyle. Plenty of fuel in the tank. The mist lifted enough for me to see some of the amazing view
Music-wise I’d started the day with Beethoven’s Archduke trio. It can always soothe my jangled nerves, even if only temporarily! I’d saved some of the big-hitters for the final days, and in the the thick fog up on the hills, Marillion’s ‘Brave’ was devastatingly perfect. Getting a bit worked up in the angstier moments I went storming on, and then went over on ankle and fell over. More speed, less haste rael.
Coil’s ‘…and the ambulance died in his arms’, with it’s demented ambient soundscapes and disturbingly beautiful stories and lyrics was also perfect. After it finished I needed more and went straight into Coil’s ‘Musick to Play in the Dark vol.1’.
Pushed on from the summit Windy Gyle, feeling confident and fully meaning to do the detour up to the top of the Cheviot. The hot sun burst through the mist and the skies started to clear. Alas another couple of hours of walking really took it out of me and a tough climb up Cairn Hill left me feeling ragged. Also I was starting to worry about my water supply. I’d reasoned that I averaged 1.5 litres a day, so took 3 litres to cover two days walking. If I needed more I’d fill up from stream using purification tablets. This was a bit stupid because on hot, hot days I could do 2 litres easily. *Plus* I hadn’t factored in the amount of water I’d need in the evening/morning when not walking! (To save water I had the classic backup plan of sugarfree chewing gum instead of proper teeth cleaning!) And of course by the time I came to think about topping up, I didn’t come across any streams!
Eventually came to the sign post for the Cheviot detour. It was two and a quarter miles out of the way. (So four and a half miles there and back). Legs and feet hurting, energy depleted, eighteen miles for the day was a lot for me, and pushing it up to over twenty two didn’t seem reasonable. My back up plan was to head on a short way to the second hut, and come back and do it in the morning.
It was with some relief that I eventually spotted the little hut, but some dismay to realise it was down a lengthy, very steep descent.
Was destroyed by the time I eventually reached it, and realised there was no way I’d be climbing back up there in the morning. The Cheviot would have to remain for another day. There was water I could reach if it came to it, but a further climb down I’d rather avoid if possible.
Stuffed down nice packed lunch The Byrness had made for me, put sleeping back on the bench and got semi-comfortable reading. Nodded off to sleep at 8:30pm but woke up an hour later wide awake. Read for a while and realised I was never going to get to sleep as too uncomfortable. Fortunately in my medical kit I had a couple of emergency diazepam, took those and soon fell fast asleep until around 4am, then dozed in and out consciousness until 6am.