I had a great evening in the Green Dragon, the only thing that could have improved it would have been some comfy chairs. The ones they have are all wooden chairs with the odd scatter cushion to ease the pain. But I found an empty seat beside the fire, so I propped my boots up against the fire guard and stretched out cat-like to ease the muscles in my legs. I had an excellent pint of Theakston’s Bitter and a pretty good steak pie with chips and watched the locals gather for their Saturday night blether and get together. It was a lovely atmosphere and I almost fell asleep in front of the fire, but eventually pried myself out of the chair once the muscles of my arse began to go to sleep themselves. I hobbled back to my room and watched a film on my phone (the Note 2 has quite a good screen size) and fell asleep watching The Departed on Film4.
I’d requested breakfast at 8:00 and I was there waiting for it at 5 to the hour. The chef breezed in about 8:15, with a casual “you’re up early for a Sunday morning”, “shame you weren’t” I wanted to say, but didn’t, on the basis that he was in charge of what went into my breakfast.
I took a stroll up to see Hardraw Force waterfall, which sits in the grounds of the pub, but for all the water that fell yesterday, the flow wasn’t particularly impressive. So I set out on the long ascent of Great Shunner Fell, no gentle walk – in, just straight up the steep little lane that leaves the village. I followed a lone lady walker, no backpack, up the lane, so I figured she wasn’t going far. We had a chat as she stopped at the first gate in the lane and turned to head back down to look after her tea room.
The weather was perfect, no wind, biting cold, clear visibility and sun shining through light, high clouds. The only downside to the cold was the path was frozen in many places and if there’s anything worse to walk on than ice encrusted slabs, then I ain’t walked on it. Much of the ascent of Shunner is on slabs and so many of them had a thin layer of ice on them that I ended up tip-toeing most of the way up and most of the way down too. It took bloody ages.
I had to add a layer about half way up and hat and gloves too, and by the time I reached the summit shelter I could have happily added my coat as well. I didn’t hang around in the cross shelter for long; just enough to send a couple of texts and download my emails. The descent was even more tricky than the climb up and I narrowly avoided a couple of embarrassing slips, glad no one was around to hear the squeaks of fright that I emitted as my planted leg slipped on the icy slabs. My feet were soaked by this time, I could feel the liner socks were wet, despite my Gore Tex lined boots and my Gore Tex Sealskins socks; so much for waterproofing. The ground was wet beside the slabbed path and I’d been using this to avoid coming a cropper on the ice. The boots are going to get soaked tomorrow anyway, as I cross Sleightholme Moor and climb up Colsterdale Moor, so no point in worrying about them too much. I may take them back and try and get a warranty return on them before the Salamon 2 year guarantee runs out.
The crossing of Shunner is quite a walk, it’s about 8 miles from. Hardraw to Thwaite, 4 miles up and 4 miles down and I felt like the day was slipping away from me. It took 4 hours to reach Thwaite, thanks mainly to the tentative approach I’d taken to the icy path. I decided to skip the diversion into Keld that I’d been planning and instead stopped at Kearton tea room for a cuppa and a biscuit. The brew hit the spot, warming me nicely along with the significant rise in temperature as I sat outside, in sun, and shed a layer.
The climb out of Thwaite is a bugger, it’s steep and it was warm, and I sweat a bucket as I ascended through the heather and along the lovely rocky path. The path around Kisdon is ace, it’s rugged and picturesque and the views across to Swinner Gill and down the Swale were great. It was getting on though and the sun was blocked by Kisdon, so the path was in shadow and the temperature dropped quite a lot, so I stuck my hat back on and tried to up the pace a bit, without slipping on the ice that still lay in the deeper holes.
I took a breather at East Gill Force just outside Keld and girded my loins for the long climb up beside Stonesdale moor to Tan Hill. At least the sun was shining on that side of the valley and I was warm enough for most of the boggy ascent. I passed a couple of couples as they returned along the same path, back into Keld. They were all cheerful and chatted about the day they’d had. A wonderful weather day at this time of year seems to raise the spirits of anyone out on the hills. I’ve still not met anyone walking the Pennine Way though, which isn’t exactly surprising, but I was hoping to see someone.
The final climb up to Tan Hill was tough and I was knackered by the time the pub came into sight. The sun was an inch above the horizon behind me and I cast the longest shadow I’ve ever seen. It must have been well over 100 feet long. I took a photo of my shadow opening a gate on the path ahead of me.
I arrived at Tan Hill Inn just as the sun set and although I’m equipped to walk in the dark and I don’t mind doing it, I was glad not to have to. I ordered a pint of Theakston’s Old Peculier and asked about my room. I’d booked a B&B room, and been quoted £25, which I thought was quite cheap. Sure enough, I’d actually been booked into the bunk house rather than a room. Although it was empty, I didn’t fancy a night in a draughty room that’s too big to heat properly, so I asked if they could move me into a room in the pub. It’s quiet this time of year and it’s Sunday night, so there was no problem, they charged me another £15 on top of the £25, but I don’t mind and I’m in a twin room with a radiator and an en-suite shower.
Food isn’t being served until 7pm and I got here just after 4pm, so I have some time to wait and I’m absolutely starving. The beer is sitting on an empty stomach and as I don’t really drink anymore, you can imagine I’ve got a nice little buzz going on.
Only 10 miles to go tomorrow, so I will set out as late as possible to try and arrive about 4:30. I’m in a little B&B in the middle of nowhere, so getting there at 1 or 2 pm isn’t going to go down too well. I reckon I could leave here at midday and still get there in plenty of time.