PW day 08: Mon 29 Feb 2016; Hawes to Keld

PW day 08: Mon 29 Feb 2016; Hawes to Keld
Walk descriptor Pennine Way Day 08
Date Mon 29 Feb 2016 Start to end time 06h 38m
Start point Hawes End point Keld
Miles today 13.63 Cu miles 132.21
Ft today 2,867 Cu ft 23,308
Route miles left 152.82 Route ft left 21,609
Today’s weather High cloud, no sun. Dry. Moderate to strong south easterly wind. Temp appx plus 4C in valleys, minus 3C on tops
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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

I once read that Eskimos classify the severity of their winters by the number of dogs that have to be put on top of their beds in order to keep them warm during the night. A “normal” winter might require one, whereas a tough winter might require three (hence the name of the band “Three dog night” I think, if you’re old enough to remember).

Well I have come up with a similar classification for the walking conditions along the Pennine Way. Generally, I try and wear as little as possible while walking – just enough to avoid getting severely chilled. I find that if I wear more, I get sweaty and once you’ve got sweaty, there is nothing you can do to dry off again. You just get colder and colder and have to put more and more layers on to combat the damp induced cold of the sweaty clothing.

So, on a typical day I just wear a merino T-Shirt and a thin merino fleece over it. If it starts to get windy, particularly on hill tops, I put a Gore-Tex cagoule over the top to keep warm. This combination has worked fine all the way so far from Edale. But today, on Great Shunner Fell, things were a bit different. It was a slightly colder day than most, anyway, and the Fell is, at about 2,345 ft, just a bit higher than the previous highest summit along the way, Penyghent (2,277 ft). As a result, the top felt very cold, made worse by the biting south easterly wind that was blowing up there.

So, for the first time since I set off, I had to don a second merino fleece, in order to keep warm. I still have a third, spare, fleece which I haven’t had to use yet, but I am becoming uncomfortably aware that in five days’ time I have to climb Cross Fell, which is some six hundred feet higher still and not renowned for its benign climate. I’m beginning to wonder if next Saturday might become the first three-fleece hill. Only time will tell.

I enjoyed today’s walk because although, a bit like yesterday, it had a very long gradual ascent built into it, the climb was rewarded by a “proper” summit – Great Shunner Fell. Although cold, it was magnificent in its icy desolation, with huge uninterrupted views in all directions from the top. The top is, incidentally, adorned with a cross-shaped cairn, which means that no matter which way the wind is blowing, you can always find a bit to shelter behind.

The climb was geologically interesting, too. Since leaving the south Pennines at Thornton, the PW has passed through much drier limestone terrain – drier because of all the shake holes and fissures which allow the rain to drain away. It makes for more pleasant hiking, as usually there is a lot less peat to contend with (and also, interestingly, hardly any heather). There are thin seams of millstone grit interleaved between the limestone layers, and in one of these layers today I noticed some strange dotted impressions. At first I thought they were frozen mountain bike tracks but on closer inspection, I realised they were fossils. Most likely, they are of Lepidodendron, a primitive tree which lived in the Carboniferous era. Though I am sure there are plenty of geologists out there who will correct me if I am wrong.

The only real disappointment of the day was Hardraw Force. It’s one of the highest waterfalls in England, and is unique in that you access it through a pub conveniently situated at the front. This is no hardship and the landlord is very accommodating to hikers tramping through the lounge bar. But what is a bit irritating is that the waterfall is privately owned, so you have to pay £2.50 for the privilege of seeing it. You do get a gift shop thrown in for that, though. But more annoying than having to pay to see a natural spectacle, on this occasion, the owner hadn’t bothered to turn up so the facility was shut. So I couldn’t have paid £2.50 to see it even if I’d wanted to.

Now I need to start planning for tomorrow. It’s a relatively short hop over to Bowes, via Tan Hill, but I have a nasty feeling that the weather is on the turn. I need to choose my clothing carefully.

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
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Dental relief at last! Now bacon is back on the menu Yep, that’s me
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Green Dragon inn at Hardraw. You have to enter through here to get to the waterfall. Except that you can’t get to the waterfall because it’s shut today. Lepidodendron? Or two hundred million year old mountain bike tracks?
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To all intents and purposes, the Pennine Way seemed to disappear into this wall in Thwaite (actually there is a near-invisible gap in the wall to the left) Remains of old lead mine workings on hillside approaching lonely Keld
Approaching the sub arctic summit of Great Shunner Fell
The previous day’s blog follows below the blue line
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