Oh. My. Gawd. I couldn't write this yesterday. I walked into The Crown Hotel in Horton-in-Ribblesdale at a little after ten p.m. hoping with all my body and soul that they had a room (they did, will love them forever as a result), dumped bag, ripped off rain coat and went straight back down for what ended up being a pint (kindly bought for me by Dave and Jacqui, two lovely Bradfordians that are doing the whole Pennine Way (passionately) and have been coincident with my stopping places for the last couple of nights). A quick cheese and pickle sandwich and shower were all else I could manage before another night of sleeping on what I think is a rocky path that I keep sliding off of, but which is in fact a very comfy bed. What was the reason for this late (dark) arrival at a place of rest? Disaster, of course.
I told you it was due to be a big day. I started early-ish (nine-thirty). Climbed the cove (three hundred odd stairs), climbed Fountains Fell and crossed the saddle to the start of the Pen-y-Ghent climb. I sat on a stile at the bottom and looked at it. It is a short climb, but straight up. I had the option of going around and getting to Horton that way. I was trying to make up my mind. I fell into the old mountain trap—'because it's there'. I decided to go up. It was nearly six o'clock. The sun came out. Seemed okay to start; steep, but stone steps. Stayed away from the edges because it was straight down to sheep with left legs at least ten inches shorter than their right. Then it got to a wall of rocks that you had to scramble up. I hadn't put away my poles so I was throwing them ahead of me and scrambling up after them, trying very hard to not look down because that way disaster lay. I was so scared. I was sure my pack would pull me off the rocks and that I would get to a point where I couldn't pull myself up another rock. But once I had started the only option was up because to go down would kill me in a heartbeat. There were two sections like this; the rest was steps. In the step sections I would keep sitting down on a rock, far, far (one foot, okay, maybe three) away from the edge of the path so that I could get my heart down to at least only two hundred beats a minute. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. It was scarier than the time I had to go out on the horseshoe over the Grand Canyon on my hands and knees. I cannot express the relief when I stood up straight and walked away from the edge onto the plateau at the top. It was air. It was beauty. I was quite proud (of the achievement, not the fear).
But the planet wasn't finished with me. I have been taking a panorama shot every day. Today I had taken a couple seeing as I had been up high so often. I stood in a little alcove that was built as a commemorative for something-or-other at the top of Pen-y-Ghent, where the marker for the peak is, and took a great photo of the surrounding countryside. It was a deliciously turbulent sky. I had already had some hail during the day—two of three showers worth—and I could see I would possibly get some more on the descent with that cloud coming over. I decided to head off to try to get to Horton. I hadn't got twenty metres from the top when the storm started. I just managed to catch my pack cover as the wind ripped it off. I figured I would go back and sit in the shelter of the alcove until the shower passed—they tend to move quite quickly. I was up there waiting for over an hour while it snowed all around me. For the most part I was sheltered by the wall. I had to do little crouched down dances to try and stop freezing. Smart move not bringing a hat and gloves. Luckily I had been chilly earlier and had put on my hooded merino jacket under my rain coat. I had merino long johns and top, denim shorts, a cotton top, a merino jacket (sweatshirt really) and a rain coat. I was just about to set up my bivvy bag and try to get warm—it was now eight p.m—but I took a peak over the wall and even though snow was still coming horizontally towards me, I could now see the valley behind it again (actually a very beautiful sight with the setting sun behind it). I decided to make a bolt for it. I needed to make an approximately six kilometer dash down into Horton before the sun set in, I guessed, about an hour, hour and a half. All the fear I normally have of going down hill (slipping, dodgy knee) disappeared and I marched down that mountain. Still took me two hours but I only did the last little bit in actual darkness. Amazing what a motivator wanting to get out of the cold can be. I only wish I had been less focused, to a very small degree, and taken a photo of Pen-y-Ghent all covered in snow. I just wouldn't have thought. This is apparently the coldest May on record for the UK. I just checked the forecast for Windermere which is where I am going to next—they're expecting a top of five on Saturday! Remind me, when I say I am coming back to finish this thing (fingers crossed not, but people keep telling me there is no way I will get there by end of June, and that the people doing LeJog or JogLe in a straight line, instead of bouncing all over the countryside, usually take three months of walking to complete it) that May is not a good idea!
If I could get either get a tornado or some warm weather then I will have experienced everything. My luck, it'll be the tornado.
Good night to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, good night to you.