An easy day to start with, though it started at 5:30 in order to drive the 120 miles to Appleby to catch the early train to Ribblehead. I only had about 12 miles to do and with almost no height gain in comparison to my usual day walks I felt this should be a bit of a doddle.
I was surprised to see snow, and lots of it, on the summit of Cross Fell as I arrived into Appleby. The whole ridge was covered from about 300 feet from the summit upwards. It looked quite wintery and I had a ‘moment’ as I wondered if I should have packed my microspikes, as I would be crossing Great Shunner Fell on Sunday and thats not all the much shy of the height of Cross Fell. Too late to worry about it though, so I parked up in the station car park and paid my £8 for 5 days parking and got changed in the passenger seat as it was pissing down outside!
It’s cold enough now to justify my Paramo Cascada trousers and I dragged them and my boots on and stepped out into the downpour.
I bought a single (“just a single?” the ticket guy said as he looked at me strangely) to Ribblehead and joined the throng on the platform.
The journey to Ribblehead took about 40 mins, which is in stark comparison to the 5 days it will take me to walk back to the car, but the train had at least outrun the weather and although it was cold, it wasn’t raining as I walked out along the road from the station, heading for Cam End, to pick up the Pennine Way where I’d left it a few weeks ago.
There isn’t really any alternative to the road walk past Gearstones, but at least it was fairly quiet. There wasn’t even any cars parked at the tea van that serves the Three Peaks walkers; not the weather or time of year for 25 mile challenge walks I guess.
I picked up the new, harsh forestry track that winds up to Cam End, built to support the lorries that are now bringing the lumber from the plantations in Cam Woodlands. It’s a good track, but a bloody eyesore on the hill, visible as it is from miles away. I climbed up into the cloud and as I reached the Dales Way cairn it began to snow quite heavily. Visibility was almost zero and the temperature had dropped below zero, the snow was even sticking in the puddles of water in the road, turning them into slushies. I added a midlayer beneath my coat and hat and gloves to keep the wind out and was soon snug and warm with an easy path ahead and only a few more short miles to the pubs and cafés of Hawes.
The wind, as it was, was at my back and as I skirted the lovely valley of Snaizeholme it got stronger and colder and even with 3 layers on I was starting to feel chilly. I was passed and splashed by half a dozen off road motorcyclists on West Cam Road, I don’t mind them legally using these tracks, but at least slow down and avoid covering me in freezing mud, bastards!
This section of path is lovely, my favourite of the day and lulls you into a false sense of security. The logging road was way behind me and this path is rugged and rustic with excellent views all round. But as you drop down off Ten End, down Rottenstone Hill the path turns into a boggy horror. My feet, mostly dry until this point turned into sponges as they soaked up the water from the fields and the paths that were now rivers running down into Wensleydale, which was now visible ahead, having dropped out of the mist as I rounded the foot of Dodd Fell Hill.
The worst bit of the lot was the path past Gaudy House, where I almost slipped over half a dozen times. I was very grateful for the final section of road walking through Gayle and into Hawes.
It was still early, only 13:30 and I stopped into the the Crown Hotel where I recall they served Old Peculier. I ordered a pint and a plate of chips as a chaser and settled down to watch the world go by outside the window. I managed to get a half decent WiFi signal in the pub and caught up on some Twitter messages that had come through while I was in the black hole on the hills. Just as I decided to move, the heavens opened and the rain was bouncing off the pavement outside, so I sat back down and had another drink.
Once the rain had abated I sloshed through the fields to Hardraw, where I’d sort of booked a room at the Green Dragon. I could have stayed in Hawes, but I decided to try and use places I’ve never stayed at before, so that means Hardraw tonight and Tan Hill tomorrow instead of Keld, Baldersdale on Monday night and Langdon Beck on Tuesday.