Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Coast to Coast Route in under 5 days.

Following my sub 5 day crossing of Wainwrights Coast to Coast route last September, I decided to do it again to celebrate my 65th birthday, only this time going East to West starting at Robin Hoods bay and following a more direct line in places.
After a train and bus journey I arrived at a RHB shrouded in sea fog. I had arranged B&B at the Bay Hotel for the night.
Note: Any photo can be enlarged by clicking on it.

Arriving at the Hotels entrance I met 'Freddie' a Dutch guy who had just finished his West to East crossing.
"Osprey" were his first words, referring to my rucksack. I could see that he had on an Osprey Aether 70Ltr. We chatted for a few minutes about how good a sac they were. I then checked into my room, then came back down and joined Freddie for a couple of pints. It ended with him almost having me convinced on the benefits of walking poles, he swore by his Leki's Carbons.

I visited Keith at Cromwells Plaques, who gets most of the feedback on crossings. He told me of a guy that had had walked the route without any stopovers, just the occasional short rest, to celebrate his 55th birthday and had completed it in a little over 3 days.
I returned to the Hotel bar and talked with a couple who had also just finished. I entered my details from last year in the completers book, as at the time then, my mind had been too engrossed with my painful feet.
 A walk up the hill for provisions, then back to my room and eventually down for a meal, a couple more pints and early to bed.

Day 1. 0430hrs RHB to Ingleby Cross 42 miles.
It was dark and still mirky from the lingering fog as I left RHB and climbed the road hill before the clifftop path. There seemed little point in following this path as there was no view to be seen so at the first opportunity left the path for the Cinder track (old railway) and it was light as I entered Hawsker, but extremely hazy with inversion.

On my first crossing my legs were never tested and felt strong all the way, just my feet let me down, however I was now aware that my legs were feeling very tired and I was having to push to keep them going at my desired pace. Above all I needed to be at Shap by the end of day 3.
I opted to follow the road, avoiding the moor and taking a more direct line to Littlebeck. By the time I got there it was very warm, I stopped for about ten minutes to rearrange my sack..

Up over Sleights Moor, I was soon descending the long road hill into Gromont. I changed into shorts in the public convenience there before continuing on.

Over the bridge and onto the track I was soon joined by a guy on his cycle. This was Terry and we got on immediately, he accompanied me, riding slowly alongside for the following 1.5 miles until we reached Egton Bridge. He too was an ex runner who had to call it day with his bad back. Surprisingly he found that cycling didn't cause his back any problems.

Glaisdale soon came and I resupplied once more at the shop on the hill leaving the village.
At the head of Great Fryup Dale after Glaisdale Rigg I stopped for a while talking to two two coasters coming the other way. This was to set the scene of things, as there would turn out to be a fair number of them coming the other way during the course of the next few days. Last time I did the route I could just slow down for a while talking to them as we carried on walking, but this time I had to stop.

The Lion inn came into view as ti started to rain. I had no sooner got my jacket on and it stopped. I cut the road corner on the rough path and on rejoining the road took the more direct path across High Blackey Moor thus avoiding the Lion Inn, and straight onto the Rosedale Railway.
This path was okay for about halfway, then it disappeared but by staying roughly in the same direction I eventually rejoined it. It became a deep rutted narrow channel in the high heather, which I would think become water filled during periods of rain.

Bloworth Crossing passed and the place where I had my emergency short pitch last time, past Round Hill and down to Claybank Top. I was going well, but hose hills in front of me now looked to be testing.

Soon I was at the top of the Wainstones where some guys were climbing. It was just after here that I had planned to finish day 1, but it was still too early and I decided to try to make Ingleby Cross in order to avoid any early ascents the following day.

Descending then climbing again, then again over Kirby Bank, I was praying that Lord Stones cafe was still open. I arrived there just after 5pm.

I walked straight in through the open door to find all the chairs stacked on tables. I asked the guy outside if they were closed (which they clearly were) He answered by asking me what I wanted. "Soup" I said.
He said he could do a brew and some Apple Crumble and poured cream. "Superb" was my reply and soon I was getting stuck in. I purchased some bottles of drink and left there after about half an hour.
Over Carlton Moor, through the woods into Clain Wood, over the road near Scarth Nick and I found the stile to take the descending woodland path to the track and road eventually the Blue Bell at Ingleby Cross.

I went straight in and ordered a meal of Sirloin Steak and Chips and pitched my tent while it was being done.
Chatting with a couple in the pub before my meal arrived. I only had a single pint of Guinness, then returned to my tent and was out like a light.

Day2. 0500Hrs Ingleby Cross to near Muker, 41 miles.
My thoughts for this day of mostly easy terrain had been to move fast, taking advantage of the flat terrain. However my legs were really tight and I had to push quite hard just to get them going even more so than on day 1.

Passing through dark then hazy fields, I arrived after 3 hours in Danby Wiske. Still only just after 8am, there was no sign of life, so onward to Bolton on Swale. Just after the church I noticed a table by the roadside with bottles of water and cake etc. A guy coming out of the gate to the house there asked if I would like brew and invited to the chairs and table in the garden. He left after a few minutes as he needed to go and shear some Sheep. His girlfriend and I chatted until I had finished and bought more drinks. She asked if I would mention their place to any coasters I met coming the other way. I bade farewell and did indeed pass on the benefits of a good cup of Tea, there to a fair number of walkers I came across over the following few miles.

Over Catterick Bridge and under the next stopped for more chatting with an enthusiastic Australian guy who was loving every minute.
The heat had got to me somewhat by the time I reached Richmond, so spent about an hour there, went to Boots and saw the Pharmacist, who supplied with me with the remedy for 'Cheeky' sweat chaffs! Oh, the relief!

Whilst in there another Coaster told me he was on his third pair of boots. His old faithfuls had finally disintegrated on Kidsty Pike, and he had managed to buy a new pair en route (I presume Shap or KS) but after a few miles in these he noticed an increasing irritation at the back of the heel. Apparently there was a ridge there in the Goretex lining. He had limped into Richmond where he had managed to purchased a second hand pair for £10.., and was hoping they would hold out to get him across. It was only midday, but he had, had enough, and went off to find accommodation.
By now the soles of my feet were feeling quite bruised despite the Sorbothane insoles. The dry conditions meant that the ground was really hard and those cattle indented fields had taken their toll.
I enjoyed the stretch between there and Marske, passing by Applegarth, despite a guy trying to keep up with me by occasionally running some 30 or 40 metres behind me, whilst carrying a baby in a sort of harnessed chair on his front, and leaving his partner some distance behind. Finally I lost sight of him.

At the road junction in Marske I saw where I had taken the wrong turning  during the night the last time, yet there it was a clear as daylight C2C sign. I wondered whether ti had been there then or if it was new.
Further on after the hill, rejoining the fields I could see my other error, which had left me wandering the fields in the dark for a couple of hours.

A walker approached looking very uncomfortable. It turned out all his Toes were blistered. I felt for him, I had pretaped my feet using Leukotape, which seemed to be doing its job. I had started with pressure blisters to my heels which I had expected, but they were manageable. I had also put special ball of foot Compeed on beforehand and had no problems there. He carried a very impressive looking 'Gregory' large sac, which he really liked, saying despite the weight it was very comfortable.
Before too long I arrived at Reeth. Had a bit of a break here, as I had to wait about 20 minutes before they started taking food orders at the pub. Steak & Ale Pie and Chips, just the job along with the obligatory pint of Guinness of course.

I left there for the low level route to Keld having done the high level one last time.
As I passed through field after field and many stiles and gates light was starting to fade and by the time I reached Gunnerside it was dark. It was now too late to reach Keld, and after passing through Ivelet I started looking for somewhere to put down for the night. At a stone wall just before the river bends away from the path towards Muker, I found a spot.

Day3. Near Muker to Shap. 35 Miles.
Up early again and away, very soon it was light and I stopped to remove my Gortex trousers near Arn Gill. Fortunately it wasn't too far from there that I needed my map reading glasses, I say fortunately because I had to backtrack and recover them from where I had left them on the ground when I had stopped.

Past Swinner Gill, over the footbridge and soon I was in Keld. Quite a few tents but only one camper was stirring, still being early morning.

I carried on and arrived still too early for anything at Ravenseat. Had a short chat with a guy sat outside his tent who was camped there.

With May only a week away I decided to go up to 9 Standards rigg via the May - July route. This turned out to be good way although dry was a better route than the Aug - Nov one I had used last time.

A good view was to be at the summit, so after a few photo's I was off again. I met two fit looking young guys just below the summit. They were running the route using B&B and were also on a five day schedule.

Kirkby Stephen was heaving with Easter Sunday visitors, but I found an empty seat in a cafe and had hot chocolate and cake. I purchased a few supplies before moving on.

My legs, neck and arms were burning in the Sun and I was having to constantly swivel my cap so that its peak could protect my neck.
Over Smardale Bridge, past Bents farm I came across three young Coasters with big packs lay on the grass taking a break. "How long will it take us to Kirkby Stephen" one of them asked. "Depends on how fast your walking" was my reply. "Its taken me just two hours" I said. "We were thinking of five hours" came the response. They were finding it harder than expected. I told them as long as they were enjoying it, just to take it as it comes.

After Sunbiggin Tarn I took to the long road section for Orton. I kept to the grass at its side as much as possible due to my battered feet. On reaching there I went to the Chocolate Factory where I had another brew and cake in the cafe there.

From Orton I took the Bousfield path which led onto Roman Road across Crosby Ravensworth Fell to rejoin the main route before Oddendale. Over the M6 Bridge, just entering Shap I met Bill a guy a bit younger than myself, who pointed me in the direction of  'New Ing Lodge', where I managed to get accommodated in a bunk room. I hadn't had any change of clothing at all since leaving RHB so it was good to get cleaned up and feet seen to. This time I placed Compeed instead of tape.

I joined other residents for an evening meal where we had a good laugh, everyone was in high spirits. I then went off to the Bulls head for a couple of pints with Bill. In the pub he showed me his 'registered blind' card. I was amazed at how he had crossed the Lakes with apparently no peripheral vision. In the dark on the way back to the lodge he nearly tripped twice after misjudging the footpath curb.
In my room two other guys had meanwhile arrived and were in their sleeping bags in their bunks. I quietly got inside my sleeping bag and was asleep withing 10 minutes. Alarm going off at 4am and outside for 4.30am.
Day 4. Shap to Below Scarth Gap. 38 miles.
By the time I was at Shap Abbey it was getting light, through Burnbanks alongside Hawswater I turned right and followed Measand beck as far as the footbridge.

Here I turned abruptly left and found the MTV track that leads all the way over Measand End, Low Raise and High Raise.

A herd of Deer stopped when they saw me and disappeared down the Fellside. I ignored Kidsty Pike this time and took a direct line for The Knott from Rampsgill Head. Dropping away from the normal route I descended towards Hayswater. I followed the beckside path to the Kirkstone road and then the path alongside Brothers Water.

I resupplied in the camp shop there, but was relying on getting something proper to eat at Stonethwaite.
From Brothers Water I began the long and steep climb up the valley, by the side of Dove Crag, bypassing Hart Crag and onto the Fairfield summit. I didn't hang about and quickly descended to Grisedale Tarn, then down the beck to Dunmail Raise.

Here It was a choice of going via Wythburn or a route I had carried out a recce on via Harrop and Blea Tarns. I opted for the latter, which although normally very boggy, was okay due the dry underfoot conditions,
The steep descent into Borrowdale was testing on tired legs.

I was to be disappointed at Stonethwaite as the pub there was closed on a Monday, Easter or not. I walked to an outdoor centre at Seatoller where food was served but was too early, I would have to rely on my emergency rations of a packet of Chocolate digestives.
I took the path that runs parallel with the Pass and at the top came to the Honister Slate mine. I was a bit surprised to say the least when I saw the new bright orange front fascia, and thought it a little out of place. Why so bright, I thought, its not as though they have to stand out amongst any competition, still it's their business.

I made my way up the old tramway then took the path for Haystacks. This seemed to go on for far longer than I remember it. I avoided the summit by cutting across its crags on the left and dropping down to Scarth Gap. I dropped a little further and found my wild camping spot among some small knolls above Black Sail Hut. I pitched my tent and settled down for the night. I was starving, not having been able to secure any real food during a day which involved 8,200ft of ascent and almost the same descent.

It was very windy and quite cold as darkness fell and I kept nodding off while trying to eat my biscuits whilst wholly enclosed in my sleeping bag. When my alarm went off in the morning I found the bag covered in crumbs and melted but re-solidified chocolate which was also over my right shoulder.
Last Day. Near Scarth Gap to St. Bees. 23 miles.
Left a bit later this morning as my headtorch failed last night due to me having it hanging from a carabiner on my sacs waistbelt all the day before. I think the wire had become stretched and pulled away from its contact.
Legs felt okay today as I followed the diagonally descending path to the forest track in Ennerdale. I could have gone for it today to finish in the shortest possible time for me, but instead decided to take my time as the 5 day crossing was assured, and just walk at a comfortable natural pace today.

I came upon two lads wild camping at a small clearing next the track, they were Coasting but doing it in two or three days at a time. I carried on past Gillerthwaite and onto the waterside path leading to Anglers Crag. Here I met a young guy who was using a Bivvy instead of a tent. He had a large sac complete with folding camp chair in its side, wand pocket. He was hoping to get across in 6 days and was now on day two. He reminded me of myself when I failed all those years ago, through underestimating the challenge that lay ahead.

I came to Ennerdale Bridge and walked down to the Fox & Hounds Pub which had recently been taken over by a community cooperative. I inquired as to whether they did breakfast. The lady there, Dianna told me they didn't but before I could turn and be on my way, she said that she could do me some Cereal.  "Excellent", I said, "would you like some toast and a cup of coffee as well" she asked, "Even better", I said.

I swear that Cereal with loads of cool milk was the best I have ever had. I also purchased two bottles of water, all for a fiver, a bargain if ever there was one.

She told me of her friend who is running a small Tea and biscuit type place near Cleator and I said that I would pop in there too, however upon reaching there after the climb up Dent Hill,I failed to find it.
I was soon passing those out on their first day going W - E.
On leaving Cleator my right knee suddenly developed a sharp pain down the side and across the Patella Tendon. I began walking faster to see if it would clear and it did ease off a lot.
The pub at Sandwith was closed and I arrived at the Lighthouse after taking a direct along the road. It was here that the batteries on both my camera and phone finally failed.
The pain in my knee worsened as I came along the new clifftop path just before St Bees.

I reached the C2C sign 4 days 11 hours and 5 minutes after starting out from RHB.
I went to the cafe and had something to eat and drink then went across to my B&B which I had booked earlier in the day. The knee pain had faded away, so I reckon it was due to kneeling in my tent that morning.
Later after I had showered and gotten changed I went across to the Hotel for a meal and a couple of pints whilst watching football on the TV.
The next day I caught the train and bus and arrived home mid afternoon.
No serious blisters this time, just two on my right heel and a small one on my left, although the expected fluid retention in my legs began after 48 hours. Although I lost several pounds during the walk, this fluid increased my weight by 10 pounds compared to just before I set off. I knew that this was down to the 3 or 4 litres of fluid in my legs and I could feel it swishing about in my muscles as I walked. By elevating my legs as much as I could, it began to slowly be reabsorbed, and my weight began to come down.

A few days after returning home we went back to New Ing Lodge in Shap to retrieve a bag I had left with them. This had lessened my 25lb load by about 4lbs for the Lakes section.
I thoroughly enjoyed the walk, the daily mileage was okay but would have been more comfortable in less heat, but then again, I didn't have any real rain.
The people I met , scenery, the route, weather everything was fantastic, I had a great time once again.
Re: The lower route between Reeth and Keld, although very nice I defo prefer the high level route.
Places I recommend:
The Bay Hotel,
Cromwells Plaques,
Lord Stones Cafe,
Tea and cakes house near the church Bolton on Swale,
The Chocolate Factory Cafe in Orton,
New Ing Lodge in Shap,
Fox & Hounds Pub in Ennerdale Bridge,
West Coast B&B and House B&B, both in St. Bees.