NB: Forgot to post this, so doing it now before we leave for the bog of doom.
I could have come up with a more imaginative title, and really should have split these into three posts. But I’m tired and it’s my blog, so I’ll do what I want!
As you may have gathered, I’ve successfully completed the first three days of my challenge. My measure of success is simple: getting to the end of the day, and being able to get up the next.
This was… tricky. I tried to go to bed early, but was awake half the night dreaming about everything from forgetting my trainers to falling off a mountain. The first two days were my nemesis with my sore knees and general hatred of hills making me dread the climbs.
We woke up at 5am and left at 6am for St Bees. We were expecting to be waved off by lovely Rob from the Brain Tumour Charity (at that point my fundraising was just over £3,000, so he said I deserved a send off) but I was delighted to see my former boss and friend James Wills standing in the car park when he arrived! Although living in Essex, he had a meeting in Manchester and so had been at his dad’s near Keswick.
I was clapped and waved off, and the adventure began…
To say the weather was atrocious would be an understatement. It was low cloud, heavy rain and strong winds from the moment I left and it did little to relent all day.
I ran the first 15 miles on my own to Ennerdale Bridge, dripping from head to toe and left a little shaken by the mud slide that was the descent down Dent.
From there it was on to Honister and Rosthwaite, this time with D joining me.
By the time we hit Black Sail, we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces because of the wind and rain. We dived into the youth hostel to shelter, layer up with every item of clothing we had an eat. The battle against the elements was exhausting.
It got worse, as we left Black Sail and promptly headed in the wrong direction. The low point of the day was D on one side of a raging river trying to persuade me to cross, and me standing sobbing on the other side that I simply couldn’t. After 20-odd miles at this point and extreme weather, I was exhausted.
We eventually found a safe place to cross…. and after 45 minutes managed to navigate ourselves back to the right path (and the right side of the river!).
We finished the day in the dark, much to mum’s concern, and were exhausted, wet and cold.
Thankfully the wonderful Jocelyn had lent us her holiday house in Keswick, allowing for hot bath, food and bed.
The second day started badly… I’d been awake on and off all night, terrified about the prospect of not one but THREE peaks to climb that day.
D was staying in the support vehicle with mum all day, as the experienced fell running ultra marathon miracle that is Angela White had agreed to take me through it.
Almost 30 miles including three peaks was always going to be a challenge, but throw in yet more bad weather and it looked to be a major issue.
I was up at 5.30am to meet Angela at 7, and was in a bad way. I felt sick, dizzy, scared and I was exhausted. Mum and D cajoled, bullied, got tough and nudged me to be ready and to eat what I could.
It was one of the toughest hardest days of my life. It took us 13 hours moving to complete it… and there were two 30 minute stops on top of that to refuel, refill water bottles and to start the process of draining and rebandaging my blisters. Turns out wet feet for hours on end, coupled with steep descents moving your feet about, leads to blisters the size of toes! Ouch…
I genuinely could not have completed it without Angela – the first climb to Lining Crag saw us scrambling UP through what was essentially a newly created waterfall caused by the rain. As we hit the top the low cloud and drizzle gave way to an inversion, the first I’d ever experienced which gave me a high! To give some scale of the day’s task, it was 542m high. When I told Angela I had assumed it was the smallest peak of the day…. she told me it was.
And so we descended into Grasmere, via a bog which soaked any last dry fibre of my feet, and our first pit stop. Sock change, food and up we went up Tongue Gill. I can’t remember how high it was, but it was again wet. And steep. And tough.
And from Patterdale we headed up to Kidsty Pike. By this time the weather, the sheer scale of the water on the tops and the dangerous nature of the ground meant we’d lost masses of time.
But plough on we did…. we reached the top and immediately headed down. The trek around Haweswater was one of the longest of my life. It was never-ending and, navigating it with a head torch and sore feet, it seemed like the camper van would never come.
We ate dinner in the van on the side of the road, before heading to Giles’ static caravan a few miles away. A hot shower and crawling into bed marked the end of an horrendous day.
This was today! And, while the sun was not shining, it WASN’T RAINING! I slept fractionally better – or longer at least – and so felt better today. That and the fear of the fells was passed.
Jonathan Coulthard surprised us with a flag-waving ceremony (and much-needed hug) to see us off – with D joining me for the first eight miles.
A day of dodging angry bulls, narrowly avoiding stampeding cows – the farmer on his quad bike saved us – but no rain.
I’m running out of energy to keep typing as desperately need to sleep, but essentially the hardest part of today was the ever-growing blisters. Gotta go pop and dress them and hope they’re better tomorrow.
Once again, thank you for all the sponsorship. I’ve topped £4,000 which makes the pain I’m feeling so worth it….