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PW day 17: Wed 09 Mar 2016; Bellingham to Byrness

PW day 17: Wed 09 Mar 2016; Bellingham to Byrness
Walk descriptor Pennine Way Day 17
Date Wed 09 Mar 2016 Start to end time 06h 42m
Start point Bellingham End point Byrness
Miles today 18.00 Cu miles 264.08
Ft today 2,290 Cu ft 42,010
Route miles left 26.45 Route ft left 4,903
Today’s weather Overcast all day, no sun. Light drizzle to start, drier later. Moderate to strong north west wind. Temp appx. 4C
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Today’s location
(the red cross in a circle shows where I am at the moment)
GPX based track of today’s walk
(click button to download file) GPX
Commentary

At the end of every day since Keld, with the honourable exception of the day on Hadrian’s Wall, my boots have been wet.   Not damp, but sodden, wringing wet.   The sort of soaking wet that means that small foamy bubbles ooze out of the seams as you walk, causing them to hiss and fizz with boiling wetness.

This causes a dilemma.   When you arrive at your night’s destination, you are faced with a choice – to dry or not to dry?   Everyone’s natural reaction is, of course “to dry”, and I must admit that has normally been my choice.   This means either asking the proprietor of your lodgings if they would mind putting your dripping wet, filthy, stinking boots somewhere warm, like perhaps their airing cupboard, to dry out for the night.   Or secreting them into your room and putting them on top of the radiator to dry.   If you haven’t suffocated in the night, your boots will be warm and dry in the morning.

This sounds like a bit of a no-brainer, but drying your boots brings with it a downside.   Through the process of drying, your footwear becomes crispy and rigid – in fact as tough as old boots.   Because, literally, that is what they are.   This makes them very uncomfortable to put on – a bit like wooden clogs with spiky bits where the disintegrating interior has dried out and hardened, and which will stick uncompromisingly into your feet.

Last night, I opted for the dry route and sure enough my concrete footwear was produced, warm and dry, with great forbearance by my landlady this morning.   So I slipped them on, feeling a bit like Cinderella’s ugly sister who had to cut her toes off to get the shoes on.   And to my great disappointment, within a mile or two I felt chafing on my right foot, and by lunchtime it was so bad that I stopped to take a look. And sure enough, the rigid boot had caused a blister to form on my heel – my first, actually, of the walk. So the moral of the story is – contemplate before you desiccate.

Footwear problems aside, the walk was rather like yesterday, but actually a bit more enjoyable.   The hills were a bit higher, the path a bit less farmyard-y, and the views a bit more expansive.   I felt I had a bit of a spring in my step – despite the blister, and made good time today.   I actually found the going a bit drier than I expected too – but there was a good reason for this.

Normally, when people offer me sage advice about how the next stage of whatever I am doing is both difficult and in their experience dangerous, and I really ought to do something else, I ignore it.   This is on the basis that it is usually either wrong, or given in the spirit of demonstrating that while they were heroic enough to complete whatever it was that you were about to do, you probably are not.   But sometimes, you get advice that you just have to listen to. And that happened today.

A friend of mine, Richard, who completed the “LEJOG” hike a year after me, followed the Pennine Way for part of his route.   He emailed me to tell me that the couple of miles on the Pennine Way through Rumblingsike Bog, which I planned to traverse today, were the worst two of the whole 1,500 miles he walked between “LE” and “JOG”.   In fact he said that this was the only point on the whole of his hike where he actually feared for his life.   He strongly advised me to avoid it, and take a route to the west, up a forestry track, that he only learned about after the event.

Given that Richard has nothing to prove, and neither do it, I unhesitatingly took his advice, and added a “dog leg” to the forestry track from the main PW, neatly sidestepping the notorious Bog and keeping dry (ish) feet.   If you want to read Richard’s graphic account of the bog, then click here.

So now I’m in Byrness, contemplating the Cheviot.   It feels a bit like this is what the whole walk up to now has been about.   The section from here to the end at Kirk Yetholm is without doubt the hardest of the whole Pennine Way. The real scorpion’s sting in the tail.   It’s the longest section of the walk – at 26 miles at least, and involves the most climbing – around 5,000 ft.   Also, I know there’s a lot of snow up there – I met a couple of walkers today who had been up on the Cheviot a few days ago and experienced waist –deep snowdrifts.   So, it’s a toughie.

I’m planning to make a very early start tomorrow – I have set the alarm for 5 am and want to be away before six.   Sunrise is about 6:36 and sets again at 18:03, so I should have over eleven hours of daylight, and hopefully only need the head torch for an hour or two at most.

BUT!   I have a fallback plan.   If the going is too tough, or I run out of daylight, I will drop north west off the ridge just beyond Windy Gyle, and head for Cocklawfoot.   The B&B proprietor from Kirk Yetholm has agreed to pick me up there, and return me the next day to finish off the job.

So I hope tomorrow is the last day, but it may not be.   It’s all down to man vs. mountain.   Check this blog tomorrow to see how I got on!

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
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Setting lut this morning.  Bridge over the river Rede in the background On the top of Millstone Edge.   Feeloing remarkably chipper!
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Typical hilltop scene today – near Whiteley Pike Pennine Way sign (to the right) looking a little forlorn today – the gravel forestry track is such a more appealing alternative!
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This is an Irn Bru spring.   The girders are out of sight, just round the corner Mind the gap… approaching Byrness through Redesdale forest
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At this point (looking back along the way I’d come) you can either take the left fork into Rumblingsike bog, or the right fork down the forestry track.  If you go left, you might never be seen again.
The previous day’s blog follows below the blue line