Crazy plans come good - Meeting Bill Griffin in the middle of the Lakes
I was really pleased that Bill Griffin from Nevada looked me up when he was planning to come over to the Lakes to walk the Coast-to-Coast route. A couple of emails and one hurried phone call and our crazy plan to meet at Black Sail Hut fell into place like magic. We both had long walks to the meeting point and yet Bill reached the hut at 11:50 and I made it at 12:10. Not bad at all!
By complete coincidence my work colleagues were heading for the Lakes the same weekend that Bill would be passing through and were planning to camp the other side of some mountains from where Bill was headed. Unfortunately, we didn't discover until late that their intended campsite was full and they ended up staying on the banks of Windamere instead. This would have been another 6 or 7 miles hiking for me on friday night but I sat in the car making signs to 'The ODG' and 'Langdale'. I think i got out of the car about 21:00 and started walking along a surprisingly quiet road. I stuck my thumb out and the first car stopped for me but they were not going my way. It didn't matter, of the first 5 cars that passed me, 3 offered me a ride. I was soon at Langdale ODG (pub) and was on my way, with grateful thanks to a hardcore fell running couple who gave me some good advice about my route.
I hiked a couple of miles along Mickledon and as it got dark I decided that the lush grass was more tempting than a 500m climb in the dark and so pitched up. I noticed some spots of grass were boulder strewn so picked a spot where the mountains don't seem to be able to reach when they throw rocks down.
Breaking out my Henry Shires Tarptent again (out of my ULA pack) was an experience to savour and took me right back to the months I spent on the PCT. There is something very freeing and relaxing to know I have the right gear for long distance back packing even if I'm only out for the weekend. I got organised in the standard PCT fashion (apart from not needing to hang my food in a tree - no bears here!) and had a deep sleep out on my own in the mountains. What a treat! I hoped my work colleagues, some of whom were new to camping, were having a nice time and were not too packed in to little tents as I feared they might be. The luxury of my isolation in the mountains far far outweighed running water and a hot shower!
The next morning I broke camp and was on my way up Rossette Gill at just after 7am and the climb was already very hot then. This was quite a climb too, about 500m. As I climbed I had the notion that my brain was fried like a computer battery on 'critical' and as I walked it was on fast recharge. By the top I felt almost completely recovered from the stresses of normal life. Soon I was at Angle Tarn and Sprinkling Tarn (both excellent places to camp) and was looking up at Great Gable, which looked HUGE. I had originally planned to get over the lower pass of Windy Gap but figured I had time to get over the top of Great Gable (899m) which was only another 150m above Windy Gap. I assumed it might take a couple of hours but I set my mind to it and was very soon on the top, which quite surprised me. I guess by the time you get to Sty Head Tarn you have gained a lot of altitude. When it came to Great Gable I thought back to climbing 14,000 ft up to Forrester Pass in the Sierras an it made the mountain seem that much smaller!
Sitting on top at 10am and planning to meet Bill at 12pm I figured I had a lot of time and set out to have a little sleep and some food. I slept for about 10 minutes and then ate something but then the top got a bit busy so i decided to head off down towards Black Sail Hut.
I was VERY surprised to realise how hard the descent from Great Gable was on the other side. It was certainly enough of a scramble for someone with a full pack and poles and in something of a hurry. This was the first time I started to feel a bit tired. After what seemed like an age I got back to a path I could move quickly on but the path down to Black Sail Hut was non-existant so I strolled down a grassy ridge instead (which was probably what I was supposed to do).
Arriving at Black Sail I stopped to chat to a biker heading for the opposite coast, since I had done that trip on a bike a few years earlier - see Gary Hill's C2C 2002 write-up.
Saying cheerio to the biker I hear, "Dr Myhill !" and there he is, it's BILL! I fully expected him to be there on time. What a treat to see a smiling face from Nevada. Black Sail Hut is something else too with all kinds of treats for the hiker with a few quid to spare - like cake for purchase and tea and coffee. Sadly, having only £20 notes I wasn't able to partake but another time I shall!
Bill and I had lunch and caught up on things a bit before setting out towards Borrowdale, a lovely walk taking in the Slate Mine at Honister Pass which now sells Ice Cream and teas and coffee (though the staff were exceedingly grumpy). It turned out that Bill only retired the friday before he flew to the UK on Monday to start the trail - now THAT is how to retire!!
Another hour and we were at the Borrowdale YHA. I failed to secure a bed but did manage to negotiate breakfast and find somewhere else to camp, and was very pleased the place had a shower - what a hot day.
That night we found a local pub, heaving with trade from the C2C walkers, and got some decent food and a couple of pints before crashing out.
The next morning, we scoured the route and asked around and planned to arrive at Grassmere by 3pm to meet my workmates for the ride back to Oxford. I'd not had phone reception until this point so had failed to check in and see how they had done on Scarfell Pike (they had ALL made it!). We had breakfast at the YHA, which was really excellent value, and then slathered on some sun cream and headed for the hills.
From Borrowdale we often followed a pretty creek with some excellent water pools and water falls with swimming, or at least dunking opportunities. Unfortunately we were a bit pushed for time.
The route has a key decision point about 4 miles in - high route or low route. We had plenty of time before 3pm so went for the high route (which we had heard didn't take much longer and indeed wasn't much more of a climb). At the top of the first crag I noticed someone on the phone so checked my own. It showed no bars but I thought to try to send a message anyway and sure enough, a couple of messages had already come through and mine sent. So I sent a message confirming my intention to be at Sarah Nelson's ginger bread shop by 3pm. It wasn't until 1:15 until I received a message back asking if I could get there for 2pm instead of 3pm.
I had expected I might have to run at some point to get back in time so from here I said my goodbyes to Bill and Earl and tightened up my rucksack straps before attempting to jog the ridge, which was a bit rocky in places but was mostly runnable. I probably ran the last 3 miles back to Sarah Nelson's and made it for about 2:30, which was not perfect by any means but my work mates had waited for me so it all turned out for the best and I was certainly very grateful for the ride back.
An awesome weekend!
I finally managed to map my route. It seems to come out at around 21 miles, 2 on friday, about 10 on saturday and 9 on sunday, of which I ran the last 2 or 3.
And the elevation profile was like this... You can see the back of Great Gable starting just after the 6 mile point. It was quite a lot harder coming down the back than going up the front!
Sol is much more mobile now than when he last saw Gran but is not walking yet, though he likes to walk with a bit of help and can pull himself up. He can even lower himself off Mummy's bed!
Sol's toy of the moment is a mop which Yolanda picked up from a playgroup type session. He loves to sweep the floor. We wonder (quite often) if he is related to us!!!!
Today Granne did a long drive to come and visit. She bought a number of presents one of which was a book about animals called 'Duckling and friends' which made animal noises out loud. It also had some tactile things to touch so Sol could see what a duckling felt like. He liked it so much he bent over and kissed the book - what a star!!!!
A short while later he decided to give Granne a kiss. We couldn't have paid him to be better behaved!!
Later we walked to Syon Park where, for the first time ever, Sol waved to Mummy as she was buying some coffee and cake. We shouted at Mummy and sure enough, he did it again!
Last year we wanted to campaign to get people more allotments. Our MP David Howarth (LIb Dem) had put in place a system whereby with a validated petition we could get a council hearing. So we did. He even signed it. Check out his expenses record - no second home for him. He is 100% straight up and down and clever to boot.
Our local lib dems do a whole lot and for a whole little. I've been very impressed and even as a former labour voter have had to switch. David H, Jenny (squared) and Neale Upstone - thank for making it a very easy decision.