Saturday, 20 September 2014

Well you don't get anywhere without trying, so off I go again to try and bury the ghost of not getting across the Wainwright Coast to Coast some six and a half weeks ago. Turned out I was somewhat anemic. I would have preferred to rest my legs some before another 5 attempt but with work and decorating since that has not been possible. My legs however felt better so I thought they should be ok.

Following two medium sized jobs, I returned home got ready, then the taxi arrived top take me to Chorley rail station and I arrived in St. Bees around 3 hours later. I walked to my B&B in the Seacote Hotel not far from the start board of the Coast to Coast. A lovely room with sea view and the start if the route.

                                                        Room at Seacote Hotel St. Bees.

A couple of pints of Guinness and a meal, I was in bed early. I was looking forward to a good sleep but wasn't really able to and just cat napped the night through.

Tuesday 16th September 2014. St. Bees to Grasmere (38 miles)
I crept downstairs and collected my packed lunch in lui of breakfast and was out of the hotel by 4.15am.

To enlarge: Click on photo, to return to blog, click again -off the photo.

                                                              Looking back to St. Bees.

It was a bit breezy along the clifftop path, through the quarry and on to a once again sleepy Sandwith.

The pie shop was once again open in Cleator, I only needed water, so didn't hang about, however whilst in there I asked the apparent diversion I had read about which adds a mile onto the path, before Dent Fell. "No diversion, they haven't even started", I was told, so went the usual way.

I was keen to try and get to the summit of Dent Fell in a quicker time than my previous two attempts going West to East along the route. I stopped at the stile just after the tree line to remove my jacket and over-trousers as it was now warm enough for a single top and shorts.
I arrived at the summit17 minutes faster than last time and 13 minutes faster than ever before.

                                                                     Dent Fell Summit.

Carrying on it was quickly becoming very warm, even though still early morning. I caught up with more Coasters before Ennerdale water. Chatting to one guy, he told me they were going as far as Blacksail Hut today. I told him that they would be there 'in no time'. "Oh", he said, "Ive been told its eight miles", I replied "that's what I mean" then thought I'd better not say anything else, as I didn't want to upset him. He did add that his wife was suffering an injury, so that explained their very cautious pace.
Through Ennerdale I must have passed around 60 C2C 'ers, the majority of them Americans. This was a busy time on the route. One lady was walking backwards and as I approached, she asked to let her know if she was about to fall into a hole. We walked together for a short while. She was with the group of around 10 just ahead and a few others further behind. They were doing the C2C the leisurely way. They were taking the ferry the length of Ullswater to Pooley Bridge then walking round to Shap via Brampton, thus saving the ascent and descent of all the high ground leading to the Knott and Kidsty Pike etc. They would also avoid going over 9 Standards as they had been told it was dangerously boggy. Seems to me this was to make life easier for the tour company, more then anything else.

                                                       Route alongside Ennerdale Water.

                                                       Looking back after Anglers Crag.

                                  On the approach to Loft beck with Great gable and the Tongue.

I was going well as far as Loft beck when I well and truly hit the wall and all strength went from my legs, it was a struggle to get to the top. Clearly I had blown all my reserves on my wish to get ahead of time early on. I was over an hour up on previous times at this stage.
At the top as the way swings round to the right, I could see a guy ahead who had gone straight on, but had stopped and was studying his map. This is a area prevalent for nav errors, especially during bad visibility, but today was clear and I wondered how he not seen the obvious right turn on the more worn path. I looked across to him again and saw that he was now heading over in my direction

                                                           Looking back down Loft Beck.

The gradient eases after Loft Beck before the descent into Borrowdale via Honister Slate mine. However the shear effort to ascend the beck after pushing so hard since St. Bees was now taking it's toll and my legs were cramping up badly. The spasms were that powerful, they were sending my legs all over the place. I have experienced calf muscle fasciculations (twitching when relaxed) before following hard runs etc. but these spasms were occurring whilst working them hard and included the quad muscles above the knee which has never happened before. When your legs are doing this you know that you have literally pushed them beyond their limit. See video.

                                          Leg muscle spasms on the approach to Honister Pass.

                                                      Honister Slate Mines above the pass.

At the pass I went in as last time for a brew and bowl of soup. here I met Alan, the guy who almost went wrong at Loft Beck, who was also doing the C2C. We walked briskly together down into Borrowdale. I directed him to his campsite at Seatoller and carried on down the road and through Stonethwaite.

                                                    Looking to Eagle Crag Borrowdale.

Along the stony track before the start of the ascent leading to Greenup Edge I came across someones abandoned bedding and food. Must have been someone sleeping rough, I thought, surely no serious walker would leave such a mess????

                                                         Abandoned quilt and food bags.

The ascent was very long and wearisome, I was having to take a brief break every ten or so steps on the made up path. Some guys were descending in the heat and I mentioned that my legs were completely empty. I have never known them that bad, worse even than last time and it took me 31 minutes longer to reach the head of Easedale.

                                                     Looking up ahead to Lining crag.

                                                                      Greenup Summit.

Between Greenup Edge summit and the head of Easedale, I decided to abandon at Grasmere. There was nothing else for it my legs had no climb in them at all and continuing cramps were so painful.

Where the Far Easedale path finally meets the road, there is a little B&B to the left. Upon reaching that point I looked across and the sign read 'Vacancies'. I was at the door in no time, whereupon the lady told me that they had no single rooms. I responded that not many places have. "It's £45.." she said. "That's fine" I said and entered after removing my shoes. After a shower, and change of clothes I went into the village for a meal and a single pint of Guinness. I couldn't drink anymore or finish the meal. I then walked around two miles further than necessary trying to find the road that I come down from the B&B and kept choosing the wrong one. I called my wife to let her know that I would be returning home the following day. She said that I didn't 'have to' do it in five days and could take longer. I muttered "yeah, I know", I guess you have to be into these kind of things to really 'get it'.

Wednesday 17th September 2014. Grasmere to Smardale Bridge (40 miles)
However on waking after a solid 9 hours sleep, legs stiff but better after stretching, I opened the curtains to a wonderful sunny morning and began wondering about getting that train home. During breakfast and talking to a couple of other walkers, I decided to carry on and just walk as fast as I could, even if it took the remaining 4 days I had left available to reach Shap. If it had been raining I would surely have been on that train.
It crossed my mind that if things somehow improved massively, I may be able to carry on right through. Problem was, it was 10am before I left, so 5.5 hours behind on time schedule, plus the time it would take to reach my predetermined over-night location.

                                  Heading up the valley out of Grasmere towards Grisedale Tarn.

                                                          Looking ahead down Grisedale.

                                                                  Over to Ullswater.

It was slow but progressive ascent up to Grisedale Tarn, and I really got moving on the descent to Patterdale. I re-supplied here as I was taking in more liquids than usual.
Then came a steady rise to Boredale Hause and beyond past Angle Tarn. Just before the rise to round the Knott I came across Brian who was almost taking a dip in a stream the weather was so hot. I joined him splashing water over my head and filling my cap with the same and then straight on with it.
He had, had some navigation problems that had got him slightly behind and his 15Kg pack didn't help. he asked me to put on the right path at Kidsty Pike, so I decided to slow down and walk with him as far as there. We had a good chat and I discovered that he was brought up in my town of Chorley but was now living in Leeds. I took his photo at Kidsty summit and he returned the favor.

                                                                 Brian at Kidsty Pike.

                                                   Me at Kidsty Pike and remains of cairn.

We exchanged farewells and Brian set if down for Hawswater, whilst I backtracked some and found the path to High raise and eventually took the MTV track by-passing Low Raise to Measand Beck.

                                        From the MTV track to Hawswater Dam and beyond.


Past Burnbanks I took advantage of the honesty box at Naddle Bridge, taking three bottles of water a can of coke for £2.50.
By this time some irritation on the balls of my feet and heels had begun to manifest and I found myself so consumed with the discomfort, that I was not taking so much notice of my surrounding anymore. I reached Shap and on checking the time discovered that had managed to claw back 3 hours. This spurred me on to recover even more. I had a pub meal then continued onwards. I knew it would soon be dark. My intention was to claw back the remaining 5 hours and if possible get slightly ahead of schedule.
Up to this point I not needed to refer map or GPS, but it was my GPS that got me through in the dark along this twisting winding route past Oddendale, Scarside, Sunbiggin and the Tarn and had me arriving at Smardale Brideg at 1.05am where I pitched for the night. It was a sweaty clammy uncomfortable night.

 Thursday 18th September 2014. Smardale Bridge to Gunnerside (20 miles)
I set off again at 5.30am. My initial target time for passing over Smardale Bridge was 6.30am, so I had done it, I had clawed back the other 5 hours, plus I had got 1 hour ahead. This was down to no nav errors, less hanging about and cutting my overnight tent pitch by 5 hours.
I arrived in Kirkby Stephen an hour and half later. I text Martin one of four guys  (others: Shaun, Brian, Andy,) from the walking forum to let them know that I was passing through their location and would not be able to meet up with them after-all.

                                            River Eden from Franks Brdge, Kirkby Stephen.

I was atop Nine Standards Rigg at 9am exactly. It was cold cloudy and windy, so I didn't hang about. It wasn't as boggy as my first time up there and I began my journey across its expanse. I arrived in Keld sore footed and headed for the village cafe. Soup was once again the order of the day, with a brew.
The dark moody low cloud showed no sign of lifting and the temperature was defo down compared to the lakes.

                                                                A mirky 9 Standards Rigg.

                                                                    Village Cafe, Keld.

By now my troublesome feet were a major problem. Despite pre-taping and Compeed, a combination which had worked well on numerous occasions, bad ball of foot blisters had developed. I also had at least one blister directly under the centre of my right heel, where my problems with PF were. Strangely enough the PF had not troubled me at apart from some initial discomfort for the first few miles, after which it eased.

I pressed on with the thought of reaching as near to Richmond as possible. Every step really painful, I was barely aware of the beautiful dale that I was passing through. Beyond Muker and Ivelet, I found a cafe at Gunnerside. Sat outside with my brew and Carrot Cake, my feet throbbed, and I knew they were bad.
During my first sub 5 day across on the C2C, the same thing happened, bad 'ball of foot' blisters, which cost me 10 days off work. As self employed that was not good at all. What went through my mind was that on that occurrence, the problem had only manifested on the approach to Richmond. This time it had been with my before Shap - what would they be like by Robin Hoods Bay!?
That was it there was nothing else for it, this attempt was over, finished, dead and buried!
100 miles completed in less than 2.5 days, crossing the Lakes whist carrying my own shelter in a wild camping pack of 11 Kg, is not bad when you look at it like that, even if I say so myself.
I then found myself stranded, in a place with no B&B, no taxi, and no bus. I set off hobbling along the road to Reeth with my thumb out. After a couple of miles a couple in their mobile home stopped and gave me a lift.
In Reeth I couldn't get any accommodation, everywhere was booked out, and no taxi there either as the only one, was on the school run. I asked a couple of builders who were packing up for the day if they they knew where the YHA was. They weren't sure but asked where I wanted to be. I told them Richmond would be better. The one with the van lived there, so gave me a lift.
I eventually found a B&B, got changed went to Wetherspoons for a meal and a pint and had another early night. Following day I got a cheap rail ticket and arrived home just after mid day.
Sat watching TV with an ice pack beneath my feet to try and reduce the blisters. I definitely made the right decision to stop. Although of course it's disappointing not to reach the goal, as Ive always said, it's not a 'challenge' if success is almost guaranteed, but only so, if failure is more likely than success.
To try, and fail, is better, than failing, to try.