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Pasties are great handwarmers

Northallerton to Kirkby Stephen

Post New Year and the disappointment of the Tour De Helvellyn I was itching to get the howfast project back on track.  Part of my aim before the summer is to recce the whole Coast to Coast route at least once.

This stage is tricky as public transport doesn’t cross the Dales – well from Kirkby Stephen East it doesn’t!  So when Charlotte our intermittent lodger was heading back to the moors I took it as the cue to leave a car at Kirkby Stephen and hitch a lift east.

It was a last minute call but tried Jim Rounsley to see if he was up for 2 days walking.  He bit my hand off and was heading north.  Great to have the company for some big days out.

This trip was a game of 2 halves not just with the two days but with the terrain with 15 miles on road from Northallerton to full on fell walking on really soft ground over Nine Standards.  So decided to take two pairs of shoes.   What with a bit more clothing than my TdH experience and food for a couple of days, a 35ltr rucksac came out to play.

Accommodation was tricky to find – eventually managed to bag a twin room at The Village Inn a mighty fee of £50 with Breakfast at 7 and then at Dales Biking Centre for the 2nd night.  Both great.

Wednesday 2nd January Northallerton to Reeth

On the way over with Charlotte we talked footwear and I jested that I really don’t suffer foot problems – last blister was when I was in the scouts 27 years ago.  Oh how those words  haunted me for two days.

The Road

Setting off on a grey wet morning on the minor lanes towards Carrick Bridge at quite some speed (well about as fast as someone can walk without mincing or running).  I started getting hot spots on my heels – before long this unusual experience of a blister appeared on my heel.  I’d put it down to the socks and the old shoes.. the socks were a bit worn and the road shoes had their innings.  At 8kg of weight and the motion of walking I was in a bit of pain.

Also when we stepped off the road to the fields we took on the graceful appearence of ducks on ice.  I should have swapped my road shoes for the fell shoes there and then.

Needless to say before lunch I’d found myself sliding down a bank and sitting in a muddy puddle with no dignified means of getting myself on two feet whilst the bearded Jim was sniggering with glee.

Jim Rounsley

Richmond was a welcome sight.. (although I had to find a stream to wash myself down before).  Blood sugars as per TdH were tricky to check in these conditions but I’d been pretty disciplined with eating every 30 mins so felt OK but was ready for a hot cuppa.

A pretty town is Richmond which among other things has a few old school sports shops.  I parted with £7 for a white pair of running socks (its all I could find!)  We were off.. we still had some tricky navigation across some fields before Reeth.  We were chasing the light – by no means impossible just a lot more difficult and part of it was about seeing where I was going to go this summer.

Dales Biking Centre

Another pirorette and muddy slide we made it to Reeth by 5.. my feet a tad mashed but this day was done.  Greeted by Stu Price as he waxed lyrical about the wonders of the Tour De France coming to Yorkshire, a proper tea, shower and he dropped us off outside the pub for tea… it was OK not going to get excited, we got evicted from the Bar to the function room as darts was on.  I felt vindicated to eat what I wanted not least because my wife’s watch had let me know I’d burnt 4500 kcal in the last 9 hrs!

Blood sugars were in the 5’s but it was OK.. considering I’d been eating crap all day I mean probably in excess of 200g of carbohydrate!  Bed at 10.

Thursday 3rd January Reeth to Kirkby Stephen

Best intentions we hoped to leave at 7.30 but it was more like 8 again.  Jim went off at quite some pace.. it was a cool morning bit overcast but at least it was not raining.  I had not quite cottoned on how tricky the navigation was going to be.. as it turned out I’d say it was one of the hardest days navigating I have done in a long time.

Once we left Reeth we would not see any settlements pretty much until we got to Kirkby Stephen at the end of the day.  Our aim was to get to the top of Nine Standards whilst it was still light.. some 8hrs ahead of us.  The paths above Reeth followed the fell walls as we skirted the precious shooting estates.


Seems like the story of this trip is underestimation.  I wrongly assumed that with all these big tracks crossing the fells that these would not be big hills.  How wrong was I!!  We decided to bypass Keld my thinking was to get to Ravenseat – if we lucked out may get a cuppa from the tea shop there.

Well luck out out we didn’t, place was pretty dead.  So was I, the mission to get up Nine Standards before it got dark meant we had been going non-stop for 5 hours and although I’d been religious with the eating I was definitely not feeling on par.  Blood sugars reflected this with a low 6.

Blood Sugards

We set off up Nine Standards – there are 3 routes up depending the time of the year.  The formal route in the winter is pretty much along the road ideally missing the top.  We decided to take the red route which is in play between may and july when I’d be doing the event.

The faint brown line up the side of the hill into the rain and the mist was ominous as we played hopscotch across the boggy areas.  Once on the plateau my full concentration was on taking the right bearing and picking a dryish route crossing fingers that the pile of stones would soon appear.  Before taking another bearing.  We did good.. then heading north just 2km to the top.. then it just went very flat the mist really came in.  I could see we would miss the top if not careful.

The Top

Had a choice I could blunder on – I know we would find it, but with 30 mins of daylight I decided to pull out a trump card.  Anquet had let me Beta test their Iphone app.. I pulled out my phone started it up and we were 200m west of where we should have been.  It’s all I needed to get back on track as we bumped in to the trig point.  Having never been up here before I had no idea where the 9 standards were and they are not clearly marked on the map.  With the visibility as it was, I was resigned that we would have to miss them.  Heading off the top on a bearing we bumped in to them and the big track off the hill.

It was a well used track with the 9 standards fell race the weekend before..  it was a long walk back down to Kirkby Stephen and refreshing to see the lights.  We had done a total of  50 miles over the previous 2 days both taking just over 9 hours each day.. Lisa’s watch also reminding me that I had burnt 4500 calories each day.

My feet were mashed and I was doing the funky chicken in a mission to get to the chippy.  We headed south in Jim’s car, to save him alot of time dropping me off in Cumbria plan was for him to drop me off in Carnforth and I’d catch a train to Cark.

Train was late.. I was getting cold, proper cold.  Really wanted a coffee staggered across to the coop which was full of chill cabinets nearest thing warm was an 80p hot pastie.  Found it worked great as a hand warmer.  40 mins later I was cuddling my rucksac on the train.  What I really had failed to measure up was the 2 mile walk from the station to my house.

Lets say it took a while, not pretty and akin to the “Adventure Racers Mince” performed at the end of the Expedition events I run.  Boy was glad to be home but slightly humbled that I had only done a small part of what I intend to do this summer.

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