Thursday, 13 December 2012

My Advent Calendar - Day 13

December 13th

Welcome to Day 13 of my Advent Calendar, where I am reliving my Coast to Coast adventure!

Day 7 – Part 2

~ GPS, We find a road, People, Keld ~

When we planned to walk the Coast to Coast we knew it would rain. Even with the amazing sunshine for the first five days we knew we could not spend 14 days outdoors, in England, without meeting some precipitation. What we didn’t expect was to have about a month's worth of rain 24 hours. Cast your mind back to the third week of June and you will remember that Yorkshire experienced some fairly horrendous floods, it was the beginning of the wet summer, and we happened to get caught right in the middle of it.
            The rain was almost horizontal and hammering down. Using the map was impossible, but without the path we were lost. Our last chance was Hannah’s GPS, which so far we hadn’t used. GPS’s work best with no cloud cover, and lose their accuracy, or don’t work at all in the kind of conditions that we were in, which kind of defeats the object of them, I think. So it was by some miracle that it picked up a signal and pointed us towards the next marker.
            Hannah went in front, myself tucked behind her, and together we tramped across the hill, trying to avoid sinking into the sodden earth. I don’t entirely trust technology at the best of times and in a rain storm, not at all, but it was the only thing we’d got.
            After a while it picked up a second point and we walked on. Visibility was barely more than thirty metres and really we had no idea where we were going. The GPS could have been leading us completely wrong for all we knew. Roughly half an hour later, though, we saw something that almost made me want to cry with joy. A road. Firm tarmac, with a direct route to our destination.

Now don’t misunderstand me. We were still on top of the hill. The rain was still battering us and the wind still blowing a gale. But at least now I knew we could get off the mountain before it got too dark to see, which tells you how dim the light was, given that it was about 2pm on the 22nd of June!
            ‘We’re not leaving the road,’ I told Hannah. Tarmac may not be great for walking, but I had done enough wandering in the wild for the day and had no desire to go back to it. Hannah agreed and we set off down the road, which clung to the hill side in wide sweeping bends that descended agonizingly slowly.
            The worst thing was that the wind was blowing from that side of the hill, so there was no shelter and to describe how strong the wind was I’ll tell you something I saw.
            At one point a stream (which was more of a river) flowed down the hill on our left, passed under the road and then dropped almost vertically on the other side. Except that when the water gushed out of the pipe on our right the wind caught it a blew it back up, onto the road. It was an incredible sight.
            Looking to our right was difficult because all we could see was rain driving straight into us and mostly we kept our heads bowed and trudged on. Our legs ached and our feet were soaked. My boots had collected two lakes of their own and I was a little bit worried about the effect all this water would have on us. So far we’d been relatively injury free. Neither of us had blisters. But we weren’t even half way yet and I didn’t know how much longer I could go in wet boots.
            Finally the road descended more steeply as we entered the Swaledale Valley and finally a car stopped and asked us if we wanted a lift. However, with only half a mile to go, I decided that I did not want to give in and with some new found courage we pressed on to Keld. Just before we reached our campsite however we saw a large group of walkers coming off the hillside by a different route. We caught up with the back and heard how they had found a path and gone higher up the mountain. They had started earlier but for once had gone even slower than us because they had encountered streams above their knees, which made us very glad we’d stuck to the lower route (of sorts).

We reached the camp site. A rough, back garden of a camp site, with a drafty barn to put things in for a while. It was still raining and the wind blew straight down the site, which meant walking one way was easy and the other a battle. The wind practically put up our tent for us, but then spent the whole evening trying to blow it back down. We were very cold, the temperature had dropped so low we could see our breath and although it was only just after 4pm we both got into our sleeping bags and huddled up to keep warm. Later we came out for some food, cooked by the kind owners, but then it was straight back to the tent.
            This had been our toughest day and our lowest point on the walk so far. That night we both agreed that if the weather hadn’t improved by morning we would have to catch a bus.


Looking east from the barn, with the wind behind me. This was taken the following morning, when we could actually see beyond the house.

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