day 1 - st bees to rosthwaite 28 miles 3000 ft
after a night in st bees, interupted with jangly nerves and general giddiness, we downed a hearty breakfast (a recurring theme for the next seven days) before wandering down to the beach for starters orders
all manner of emotions were flying through me, but namely i was secretly bricking it. map in one hand, pooch on lead in the other with richard reliant on me getting us all safely across 190+ miles. a backpack full of day-stuff for every eventuality and far far heavier than anything i carried on any training run.
was i up to it? was richard up it? was my ultra collie up to it? what if one of us isn't! that would be nothing short of a disaster.
once down on the beach we headed to the shoreline for the customary dipping of toes and to choose a pebble to transport over to robin hoods bay.
a quick photo, a handshake, a yelp of 'come on!' (at this point i needed all the bravado we could muster), and we were off up the cliff path
never having been to st bees before, we were both quite taken with how beautiful the coastline looked. the newness, the beauty and the fairly easy undulating path made for quick going
not too long had passed and we were heading away from the ocean inland to pick up tracks, trails and grassy paths. and it wasn't long before we'd gotten into a steady rhythm with all the anxieties floating away into the bright blue skies above us
the warm sunny weather made the going good with few if any muddy bits and it wasn't long before we could see the mountains of the lakes in the distance, that would play host to us for the next 1.5 days
i kept constant vigilance on the map something which richard found amusing given how well signed it was in this area
the miles ticked by quite nicely and after some 15 or so miles in we reached the bridgehead of the western lakes, ennerdale water. a good place for a lunch break and for charlie to cool himself down.
it seemed somehow fitting that we were there at the same time as the ennerdale fell race (a casualty of which passed us soon after with blood stream doing his face. upon asking how if he was ok he replied 'not too bad' with a wry smile. true felling spirit at play!)
having recced this bit, which in all honesty probably didnt require a recce, i had a rush of confidence that for the next 6 or so miles i knew where we should be heading
the rocky lakeshore path slowed our progress but soon we were at the other end and heading on the gently ascending track towards blacksail. here we both hit a bit of a lull for no real apparent reason. was it the warmth of the sun?
i'd started to run out of drinks but fortunately had a coke still left to resort to. richard ,the generous chap he is, pulled out one of his famous lamb and mint pies to share with us all and everything seemed good again.
the track to blacksail, the most remote youth hostel in england, seemed to go on and on. arriving at the hostel, we could have been forgiven for thinking we'd just entered a set from the fast show. we were pounced upon by a strange welsh chap who was already there for the night at 2.30pm or so and really wanted us to be his friend! we made a cup of sugary tea, showing him how to use the cooker in the process to boil the water!, to give us a much needed further energy boost. we chatted for a while with the mad welshman before bidding him farewell, leaving him to await his next victims to be completely bonkers with. even with extensive explanation i still believe to this day that he thought robin hoods bay was only 26 miles away from where we were!
i'd been warned during my planning to make sure we took the correct path to ascend out of blacksail. with this warning firmly implanted in my mind i looked carefully at the map, the surrounding features, the map again, the features again, and so this seemed to go on for several minutes but was worth it before deciding to embark on what was to be the correct route. we made good progress up loft beck and then onto grey knotts. i felt really relieved my navigation was correct. the climb, up loft beck, was our first real proper ascent but boyed with pie, sugary tea and that great feeling of running up high we gave it our best shot. with great visibilty the views were stunning, absolutely stunning.
we were beginning to feel we were having the adventure of our lives!
next followed a descent to honnister and another freaky moment. leaving the mine a vw thing drove up to us with no other than mike astbury, a guy from work, griinning at us like a cheshire cat at the wheel. he was on his way back to buttermere for the evening having just been where we were now heading. we had a bit of a chat, a few laughs and then headed on down to rosthwaite.
once there i had to pick up a pre-order of pasties from yew tree farm before checking in to the royal oak , rosthwaites very own answer to fawlty towers without the comedy element. a throwback to the 70's and an experience never to be repeated. however, there was food (altogether in one sitting at 7pm, miss it and you'll be flogged and 'when its gone its gone'), cool beer and my first ever freezing cold bath. richard was a big advocate of this post run torture and it took me until the next morning, when my legs seemed really fresh and loose, to understand why. god knows what the people in the room next door thought i was up to with all the screaming coming from the bathroom.
with a big day ahead of us the following morning we went for an early-ish night..but would i sleep well, dreaming of the great day we'd just had or of the tough one that was lying before us? some rather inclement weather was due the next day too.
my night characterised every other night that was to come. in bed by around 11 but waking at around 3-3.30am, buzzing from the day we'd had but moreso having a desperate need to prepare for the forthcoming day, packing for me and charlie and looking over the maps (at 10pm the owner of the hotel had shown me an alternative bit of the route that would enable us to maintain our height compared to the one planned..it threw me a late night unwanted dilemna). once all sorted i just lay in bed listening to the stillness of the night
i was on such a high and alert for the full week that sleep deprevation didnt really affect me. i told myself that so long as i was resting i was recovering well.
some, however, took everything in their stride and for whom sleeping was not an issue!