Well, if I’d thought I was knackered ta the end of yesterday, then today I was double knackered with knobs on! The wind was relentless and biting cold too and by the time I stumbled into Appleby it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. I arrived on auto-pilot with feet sore and leg muscles screaming for a rest!
I had an early breakfast in East Underhurth Farm – a lovely little hill farm that does B&B on the side to survive and Emma and Michael were brilliant hosts, I think I would have still been stood in their kitchen nattering about this and that even now if I hadn’t dragged myself outside, into the wind and the cold – running the gauntlet of their peacocks, hens, ducks and other poultry-type birds that I couldn’t identify.
My legs were feeling OK, despite the tough day yesterday and I was soon striding out down the Pennine Way past the last outpost of civilisation at Widdy Bank Farm and out onto the moors. I’d stopped at the last wall to shelter from the wind while I dropped my Paramo coat into my pack and switched instead to baselayer, wind-shirt/softshell thingy and thick fleece, along with neck gaiter, gloves and hat – that just about did it and although my eyes were cold the rest of me just about got by. The wind was in my face and the going underfoot was the same as the past couple of days – very wet in places and even wetter everywhere else. The path is supplemented with duck boards and slabs in places, but some of these were more treacherous than the bogs. I just don’t see the point in putting down duck boards and then not putting that chicken wire stuff over the top – the damn things are like walking on ice when they’re wet and I either tippy-toed across them gingerly, looking very much like John Inman in “Are You Being Served”, or I avoided them completely.
The Tees along this section is sublime – the valley is wide and inviting (despite the wind trying to blow me back the way I’d come) and the hills across the river are fantastic. The path sticks close to the river as well and there are several sections so close to the water you end up walking on boulders that have fallen from the cliffs above and settled right beside the rushing stream. When these are wet it takes significant concentration and close order foot-work to keep from falling into the water, or onto the stones beside you. I managed it thankfully and actually enjoyed the thrill of balancing on sharp edges wherever possible (to avoid the sphincter tightening feeling of your foot slipping on the wide, flat surfaces).
As you can see the sun was trying to break through the low cloud and once or twice it actually managed it – I had the sun on my back for a few short minutes during the day – at least along this lower section. It was slow going along this section and I reckon I dropped to under 2 mph for this stretch, thanks to the jumbles of rock and the bloody duck boards.
I was expecting the drama of Cauldron Snout this time, so it wasn’t a surprise as I rounded a buttress of the hill to my right and saw the water boiling and pounding down the hillside ahead. It was making a fearsome racket and even though I knew it was there, I found it hard to spot the path that runs up the right of the waterfall.
I took it easy, the rocks were slippery and there were a couple of exposed sections where a slip or tumble would have seen me in the water and back at the bottom before I could shout “damn it”. I tried to take some video at different points along the climb and if I manage to piece it together into something watchable, I’ll come back and post it here. In the meantime here’s another couple of photos of this wonderful waterfall.
The next section was the toughest of the whole day I think, the long climb up and over Rasp Hill really killed me – straight into the wind that seemed to be increasing with every foot of height I gained. I recorded a gust of 33mph on the top and that was in my face. I stuck my head down and slogged it out. I still had a job to do though, so I would need to stop every couple of hundred yards and make notes, update the map if needed and all this meant I couldn’t get into a proper rhythm and I was getting increasingly cold every time I stopped. The sweat I built up on the ascent kept me chilled as even three layers weren’t keeping the wind out as much I would hope.
Even once I dropped down to Maize Beck the wind didn’t drop much and I battled my way up to High Cup, feeling more and more tired and less and less enthusiastic at the prospect of what I still had to do. Needless to say my boots were completely soaked by now – they had been for hours and my feet were feeling quite abused in them. The path to High Cup is good, but quite rocky in places – I know I’m never happy – path is too wet, path is too rocky 🙂 It was just that sort of day I’m afraid.
High Cup was magnificent of course, but I was too cold and too tired to spend much time admiring it. My plan had been to drop down the Nick and walk down into the bowl of High Cup, along the path that runs beside the beck. The wind whistling up the bowl and over the edge was horrendous though and I switched plans quickly. I took the thin path around the southern edge of the bowl and the wind seemed to be blowing over my head, so it felt better almost immediately.
I found some additional shelter beside an old collapsed shepherds hut, ate some flapjacks and checked for a signal – I’d had nothing since before arriving at Langdon Beck, so was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms, but still nothing. I plodded on. The path was slippery and wet and boggy and wet and slippery and…. well, you get the idea, I was getting a bit fed up – this section was just a means to an end – I had to get to Appleby station and this was the quickest route. If I could have got a lift anywhere beyond this point I would have gladly taken it.
Then it started to rain – not much, but just enough to make me a bit more miserable. But it soon stopped and I realised how lucky I’d been over these five days. I’d had rain, sleet and snow on Saturday coming over Cam High Road, but that was it in terms of stuff falling out of the sky – the rest of the bad weather had just been down to the wind yesterday and today. Not bad for the middle of November.
The final descent off the hills was nice, they look lovely and I’ll come back for some of them in future I think. The final few miles through the farms and fields into Appleby were a bit boring, not to mention sore on my feet, it was mostly tarmac and there were a surprising number of short little climbs that almost did me in totally. But I finally arrived back at the car, thankful that five days in the station car park hadn’t resulted in any harm.
A great section of the Pennine Way – possibly the best five consecutive days there is (just close your eyes for the bit beyond Baldersdale).