Distance: 15.5 miles
Ascent: 2800' (felt like 6000')
Number of times we didn't fall over: 187
It was a two-cups-of-tea morning and a late start. There seemed little value in getting going whilst we were still enveloped in cloud. The delaying tactics worked to a degree - by half past eight not only could we see Hen Hole, but, being now below the cloud we could see its edge a few miles away and sunshine beyond. We were hopeful that we would find views atop The Cheviot.
Our optimism was just that. By the time we had huffed and puffed (or maybe it was just me huffing and puffing - I was finding it disconcertingly hard going) up to Auchope Cairn we were in the cloud. By the time we started on the out-and-back detour to The Cheviot it was raining again.
I was determined to go up to The Cheviot today, there being no certainty that I will find myself so close again, and having omitted it in 2008. In hindsight (and having been there in such poor conditions) I have to say that it wasn't an interesting summit worthy of the detour for any reason other than to say that I've been there.
There were patches of snow at various points during the day, most extensively on The Cheviot detour. Some were firmer than others, as I found when I fell straight through one snow bank, landing with both feet in the pool of water lying below. Mick mocked me for my lack of care, yet I managed not to be too smug when he had the same mishap befall him on the return leg.
Two women, Mollie and Carmen, were met as we rejoined the Pennine Way and a good old chat was had. They were jubilant at being 8.5 miles from Kirk Yetholm, after a 15-day walk from Edale which has seen them basking in shorts and wading through snow. Their first walking trip too - hats off to them.
Various others were met between there and Mozie Law, some of whom commented on how slippery the wet flagstones were. We were glad it wasn't just us - we were teetering along slipping every few paces, although miraculously neither of us found ourselves hitting the ground with a bump.
Pausing for lunch just before Mozie Law, we were already fatigued enough to want to stop. Yet more ups and downs and more bogs through which to meander (don't remember the bogs from when we were last here, but it had been a dry spring) were in our path and when, at 1530, we paused for a sit-down in the shelter of the Lamb Hill refuge hut it was tempting to call it a day.
Somehow we managed to stir our weary, aching selves and motivate ourselves for the final 3.5 miles. It's mind-boggling to think that just 9 months ago I wouldn't have baulked at walking 25 miles over this terrain, but such is the current level of fitness that today's 15.5 miles felt longer than 25.
We did, of course, make it to our intended destination - which you'll see in the photo above (and yes, those are the remains of a dead sheep next to the tent, but long-dead and skeletal, so not maggot-ridden and smelly!). I've got an almost identical photo (but without the dead sheep!) from last April, as we're pitched within 5 yards of where we stayed after walking through Otterburn Range last year.
Hopefully the bodies (did I mention that they ache?) will be a little more resigned to the expected activity tomorrow. Don't think the weather's going to play ball, though, is it?