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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

'Let's see what it can throw at us...'

...hmmm. So said my fellow Twirlie as we made plans for a 'C2C training day' – a trip to Keld and the 'halfway point', from where we plotted a route down towards Muker (where we stay one night) followed by an easy amble along the Swale to Gunnerside, then turning to the north along a wide track to Lownathwaite lead mines before a left turn west to head back via Crackpot Hall to Keld.

Well, all I can say is, (indeed I think I did, somewhere between Lownathwaite and Crackpot – which, now I come to think of it, perfectly describes our little adventure, but then nobody ever said we weren't barking!) next time my wee walking pal throws out a challenge to the Universe, can she please include me out and keep it all for herself!!

It started out a little ominously, I suppose, as we drove across the moors, through Settle and Hawse, and the clag crowded in on the car. But then, we're used to that in Lancashire! Then the rain started, but nothing too heavy, just that fine spray mist that barely touches you. Almost pleasant. I think we said that too at some point, something about the rain being 'quite nice actually', as we sat on a wooden bench in the centre of Muker, daffodils nodding at our boots. Then, as we set off towards Gunnerside, scattering rabbits and lambs as we negotiated stile after stile 'designed for whippet-lean local farmers' (allegedly), the sun started to bleed through the clouds, the odd patch of blue sky appeared. We're on a winner we thought and headed uphill towards the lead mines.

Big mistake. Up we went. And down came the rain. Down came the clag. And up came the wind. That said, it seemed okay at first, until we reached the point of no return (or at least a blummin' long walk back the way we'd come) so we pressed on. And the wind howled louder.

But let's cast back, for a moment, to Gail's house: 9.00am. Let's meet nice and early, we said – we'll be in Keld by 11.00. Four hour walk. Back in time for tea. Sorted.

Until I arrive on Gail's doorstep (just before 9.00, admittedly but traffic was actually 'good' for a change!) and there's no sign of her. No car. No lights. No note. So I ring her.

'Are you at mine?' she asks. Er... yes? I say, with that slightly rising ending we seem to have imported from 'Neighbours', where every sentence appears to end in a query, whether it does or not. Only this time it did. A great big unspoken 'Where the heck are YOU?' query.

I should have guessed when I drove past Mr Heywood at the wheel of the team's brand new Land Rover Discovery. Call out. So, an hour later than planned, we set off from Rawtenstall. And, if you're wondering why I led you down this tiny detour... I can sum it up in one word: map. The one I didn't have in my collection. The one Gail DID have – all ready to stuff in her rucksack (ref last blog post). The one she left sitting on the stairs. At home.

Fortunately, I was test driving the Viewranger with the iPad, and I did actually have Martin Wainwright's Guidebook AND Harvey's Coast to Coast map with me although, at 1:40 000, it's not as detailed as the OS version – especially if you need to do a bit of fine navigation. (ie. get lost in the fog.) The Viewranger maps, of course, ARE 1:25 000, but – even wrapped in its waterproof bag – I didn't fancy carrying the iPad in my hand, what with the wind threatening to chuck me off my feet on more than one occasion.

But, walk with it in my hand I did. We'd slogged along for what seemed like hours – I was genuinely beginning to think I'd never see my sofa and bed again, let alone a glass of wine and a bag of crisps – every possible hatch battened down, each lost in our own private misery, when I just got the feeling something wasn't right. The ground to the right seemed to be dropping away from us rather too steeply – that was evident, even against the Harvey's. Cold, wet, extremely fed up,  and clearly not thinking 100% clearly (hypothermia here we come!) we stopped for a quick conflab and neither of us could work out from either the map or the guidebook where the hell we were. So out came the iPad, which had been tracking our every move since setting off.

I'll carry it in my hand and it'll soon tell us if we're going wrong, says I. And sure enough, it did. The thing was, we were on the wrong path, but neither of us could remember seeing any other path branching off to the right. We'd have stopped to check it out.

So, we backtrack – and I keep my eye on the little black arrows as they magically appear on screen – towards the point where the path forks. And then, we saw it. For a brief moment, the clag thinned and we could JUST about make out a path to our left, on the other side of the beck. A bit further on and there it was, the elusive fork, onto a very, very indistinct, crumbled and and boggy path (in fact, a few yards along this path, the ground had fallen away entirely, meaning we had to scramble above it, clinging onto clumps of heather and, quite frankly, praying!) Confident we were now on the right track, I stuffed the iPad back into my rucksack – two hands definitely required for aforementioned prayer-moments.

The rest of the journey was more an act of endurance than anything else. Slight detour at one point, when we had to choose between two gates and, guess what, chose the wrong one, with immediate corrective action with iPad. Oh, I'm lovin' this Viewranger! When we finally dropped down a few contours, the wind quietened but we were still wet and tired, and very glad to see the car again, six hours after setting off. Quick change of clothes, a divvy up of a very large piece of cake (thanks Bee – Gail says you can definitely bake a cake for the end-of-walk party in Robin Hood's Bay!) and we were on our way back to civilisation.

I think you could safely say we had a day's 'training'!

On another note, speaking of the iPad, it was useful to see how much battery life the pad has with the GPS tracking pinging away all day. Fully charged at the outset, it was down to just 8% after six hours – clearly not sufficient for a longer day's walk. So, this lunchtime I emptied another few quid into Apple's bank account and bought a spare battery – should make the iPad chargeable on the hoof and give several hours more battery life. It's charging up as we speak and I'll be testing it on the hill at the weekend. Watch this space for an update!

And now I am exhausted just writing about yesterday's epic. Till the next post!

PS. Gail said to say she might not have remembered the map but she did have her whistle.


  1. Cool Blog cus! Let me know how that extra iPad battery works out...

  2. Thanks cus! Glad you enjoyed it - and will definitely let you know how the iPad works out.