18:36. A brief goodbye and cuddle with the dog then off out I went along Northern Common through Holmesfield to Flask Edge. The initial sense of numbness hit as the brain struggled to take in the many miles to be covered. Cars passed by carrying people home from work to family, warm food and shelter, leaving a distinct feeling of isolation as I walked alone into the showery night.
|The distant lights of Sheffield from Flask Edge|
After a sweaty climb onto Win Hill Pike the next 9 miles to Kinder Scout's summit passed by in
a blissed-out daze. Wandering under ethereal moonlight above the sleeping villages below I was serenaded by the midnight song of curlew and ring ouzel. Constant movement over familiar ground, time and distance flowing into a blur and the whole place to myself. This was long distance walking at its very best.
|2:05am. 100th time to the 636m/ 2088ft high summit of |
The visibility was non-existent as I stumbled about like a drunken blind person down the River Kinder until the Kinder Gates suddenly appeared in front of my nose. Then things got hard. Three times I tried to walk on a bearing to Fairbrook and three times I ended up walking in circles back to Kinder Gates. 40 futile minutes passed. Morale dropped. I was beginning to get cold, tired and fall asleep. Damn. Then miraculously at 3am the mist lifted enough to make out the northern edge and a distant Snake Pass. Ignore everything and go for it. In situations like this you have to pull yourself together, seize the opportunity and get going again if you wish to succeed. The game was back on.
The early hours of the morning dissolved into endless pathless moorland and soaking bog as I became just a tiny speck on the land, gradually picking its way across by torchlight. Ashop Clough, Salvin Ridge, North Grain Clough. Just keep on going and stay awake. Passing Over Wood Moss I glanced over to Alport Low. Back in 2011 I found a body here and hoped they were now at peace. It began snowing. A black silhouette loomed ahead as I staggered towards the dark heart of Bleaklow in a trance-like state.
|Sunrise over Outer Edge from Grinah Stones.|
|7am. 30 miles down, awake for 24 hours. Time for food!|
|Early morning in the Upper Derwent Valley. Life began to|
get a bit funky and I started hallucinating...
By Abbey Brook there was time for a quick 5 minute rest and the 5th Clif Bar of the walk before the next 5 miles up over Back Tor and Derwent Edge to Hordron Edge. The wind picked up and the rain intensified whilst the feet began to seriously hurt. It was all rather unpleasant aside from the first distant view of Ringinglow on the horizon- after 40 miles home was in sight. My mind entered a numbing and strange meditative state- it hurt to think about very much and anyway, thinking felt like far too much effort. All thoughts were now reduced to nothing more than hobbling along in my little bubble and getting to Hordron Edge. Life had suddenly become beautifully simple.
10am, Hordron Edge. The 43 mile mark had been breached and I slumped under a tree for some respite from the pain in my feet. At this stage on long walks you usually start taking painkillers, change socks and wolf down food, and if you've been looking after yourself it is possible to still feel relatively good. Yet this time it was different. With soaking boots, blisters and heavy rain any footcare was out of the option. There was a strong urge just to get home as fast as possible. 10 miles of soggy moorland still lay ahead. Time to go for broke. Force down another Clif Bar and some apple sours, haul yourself up and get moving. After 10 minutes the pain eases off and you can pick up the pace a little. Onward again, out onto Stanage.
Crossing Stanage Edge the rain once again intensified and thoughts drifted back to everything that had happened this year. Due to many things it had been the most intense three months I've ever lived through, difficult yet wonderfully amazing in equal measure. Through it all had been intense amounts of training, planning and excitement whilst waiting for the days to get long enough to do this walk. With walks like this you do them for no-one but yourself. It is not about ego, escapism or impressing people. They are everything but that- otherwise you will end up hurt or disappointed. You do these things because you love it and because of the sheer simplicity of it. Because it is good to challenge yourself and do things because they are hard. For the last 6 months I'd wanted it so badly it hurt. Long walks alone offer one of the most intense, relaxing and interesting experiences life has to offer. That freedom of having nothing to think about apart from walking across a beautiful landscape for 24 hours is something very special. Because doing these long walks makes you feel free, awake and alive.
It was an emotional haggard mess that hobbled along Stanage Edge, down to Redmires and up onto Ringinglow Bog, pausing only to shove some more apple sours down it's gob. A few people passed by it and gave it a wide berth, probably because it resembled a drunken albatross that had been dragged through mud....
|Home in sight! Looking down the Porter Valley from|
14:10, the familiar bench on Fulwood Lane came into sight in time for another rest. After 30 hours awake and 19 hours on the go the magical 50 mile boundary was breached for only my 4th time. Walking through the 50 mile mark is a special experience- you are aching both
|50 miles of walking in 19 hours. Happy as a pig in shit!|
Far below the Porter Valley led like a soggy tree-clad carpet down to Hunter's Bar and the finish. The Peakland 600m Hills, Chorizo Sunrise Dreams, Beyond the Horizon. The next few miles had been the final stage of several long adventures and it was time to do it all once again. Familiarity takes the surprise away. I knew what to expect. So far yet ever so tantilisingly close. It was going to be a long slog. Stand up and start walking.
The stagger down the Porter Valley was difficult. I'd been walking with sore, blistered feet in the rain for 20 miles and 7 hours now and had became totally consumed by the pain. Each step felt like standing on knives. My vision became blurred and jumpy. Numbness in the mind faded to be replaced by constant overpowering burning thoughts about my feet. On those never-ending rainy miles down past Forge Dam to Hunter's Bar it was all I could think about. I was completely broken.
Somehow, eventually Hunter's Bar appeared in front of me. 53 miles down, 0.5 more to go. Home
|Haggard and happy. Home at last!|
16:09. A final agonising stagger into Nether Edge and onto my road. Hobble down and bang on the door until my housemate opened it. Step through, take the boots off and collapse on the sofa. 53.5 miles and 21 hours 33 mins of walking, awake for 33 hours. It had been a long, epic, amazing journey. Finally. I was home.
Epilogue: After a hot bath and a Bliash I somehow dragged myself to see Yo Dynamo (https://www.facebook.com/pg/yoyoyodynamo/about/?ref=page_internal) play at The Washington for a fun time hobbling about and chatting to friends in a highly euphoric state. It was a wonderful evening. Surprisingly I could still stand on one foot (briefly) even after several pints of moonshine. I'd woken up at 7am on Thursday 16th March, gone to work, walked 53.5 miles in 21.5 hours then gone to the pub. After all this and staying awake for 45.5 hours without any stimulants, at 3:30am on Sat 18th, I finally fell asleep.
The weekend was spent resting and recovering (aside from a pint in the Sheaf View on Saturday), followed by a week of enforced rest and eating as much as humanly possible. The plan is to have a few easier weeks of cycling and wandering to fully recover before preparations and training begins for the next big epic walk. All being well this will happen during the summer if things go to plan.
This walk was a particularly difficult and intense experience (due to the crap weather and subsequent pain from being unable to properly look after myself during the Friday) and there was more suffering than on any walk I've ever done- much more so then even 'Beyond the Horizon'. Yet looking back, it had been a brilliant and unforgettable wander. To enter those deeper states of exhaustion and pain whilst doing nothing but walking for 21 hours was an absolutely fascinating experience into a powerful sense of freedom so rare in today's world. It may have been hard and unpleasant at times, but also extraordinarily interesting, amazing and rewarding too.
Thanks to my boss Sarah at Foothills for letting me have the time off at such short notice (it was really appreciated), to Rory and Liv for kind texts of encouragement during the long rainy morning (they perked me up no end!) and to Billy and Jenny for being the best people you could wish to stagger into whilst being a haggard soggy mess.
A note on ethics.
All of the 8 walks over 40 miles in a day that I've done (The Derwent Watershed, Peakland 600m Hills, Chorizo Sunrise Dreams, The Derwent Watershed-ish, The Full Eastern Edges, The Peakland County Tops, Beyond The Horizon, A Journey Home) have been done completely self-supported. That is, apart from stopping at shops/ pubs along the way I've carried everything needed for the walk and had no-one waiting to provide footcare, extra food and water ect.
All but the Derwent Watershead and Peakland 600m Hills were done alone and on Chorizo Sunrise Dreams and Beyond the Horizon I decided to do both of them self supported and not inform anyone of my plans or where I was going. Although I do carry modafonil as an emergency to stay awake, I've never used it and on all walks stayed awake for 36 hours or more without use of any aids or stimulants whatsoever.
None of the walks have been done as a sponsored walk for charity. I do them because I love doing it.
Gear and stuff.
|Packing up on the Thursday morning...|
For this walk I wore a pair of Scarpa Peak GTX boots that I was kindly given from Scarpa. They fit my narrow feet perfectly and until I messed up and fell into a bog were extremely comfortable- I hope to wear them on another 40+ mile walk in the near future. My coat was the Rohan Guardian Jacket- despite walking heavy rain for over 10 hours it worked wonderfully, keeping me perfectly dry with very little sweat build up. My overtrousers are a battered pair of Berghaus Gore-Tex ones I can't remember the name of but still work well.
Other: I took two pairs of insoles- the thick orange Scarpa insoles and a pair of the Anatomic Absorber ones- they are both comfortable for about 30 miles and were changed after then. 3 pairs of socks (smartwool trekking, Silverpoint Alpaca Hike), a pair of borrowed walking poles, Seal Skinz Winter Gloves, map and compass, Petzl Tikka+ headtorch, spare batteries, 1 front bike light (as backup lighting) 3 ibroprofen 2 modafonil 1 co-codamol (for emergency, not used) and my ancient but trusty Montane fleece and Terra Pants.
Food: Eaten: 6 Clif Bars, 1/2 bag Sugarland Apple Sours (much better than Harribo Tangfastics as they have far more sugar in them), 3 white chocolate flapjacks, 5 bananas, 1 sachet of cous-cous, 1 bottle of lucozade, 1.1.5 litre of water. Taken but not eaten: 1 pack of chilli peanuts, 2 malt loaf, 1 Clif Bar, 1 bottle of lucozade
Roll on the next big adventure!!!