Sunday, 19 June 2011

A Sting in the Trail - Day 4

DAY 4 - DUFTON TO STANHOPE



















It had rained all through the night and was still raining early morning. The forecast was for continued rain throughout the day and cloud cover at 1,000ft. We knew that our route over the northern Pennines that reared up before us would take us above this and therefore knew conditions would be poor. Wet weather gear on, we soon began the climb just out of Kirkland. Initially there was a good farm track, but it started to bite after a few miles. Unfortunately we were going against the grain of the strata which made it more difficult and we were again reduced to walking. By now the rain was driving and visibility decreasing as we continued to climb. As we reach the top, visibility is no more than 50m.

It was becoming difficult to distinguish track from stream owing to the volume of water coming off the fells. What should have been a well-defined track that linked to the Pennine Way above Cross Fell suddenly disappeared, with no obvious route in any direction except the way we had come. It was here that we make a foolish error of judgement. Instead of re-tracing our route to see if we had missed a turning, or taking account of the appalling conditions in such a bleak location and resolving to complete this section by road, we continue in the direction the route should have taken us by compass bearings in an effort to recover the track.

Lost in mist near Cross Fell!
The next four hours proved to be the most miserable and desperate I've ever spent as we push the bikes, which by now were becoming a serious hinderence to our progress. We wander for six miles like this and were by now well and truly lost, with no features to pinpoint our position on the map. The only option was to take a direction that would bring us down from this dreadful place (who said Hell had to be hot!) which was to be north-east. After what seemed like a lifetime and with constant detours around deep gullies we came upon a dry stone wall. Somehow making the correct decision as to which direction to follow the wall, we begin to descend. Our spirits rising, we eventually drop below the mist and see a tarmac road below us. Never can mountain bikes have been so please to see tarmac!

After much needed cups of tea in an oasis of a cafe, we get our bearings and are shocked to see just how far north we are of our anticipated position we really were. We make our way to Stanhope by road and arrive safely though somewhat late at our accommodation - the Queens Head - and it sells Theakston's

Day 5 (final day).....

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