In an ordinary year, before setting off for our first backpacking trip, we will have done plenty of walking, including a handful of days carrying a loaded pack. Although we walked quite a bit whilst in Spain during January and February, it was mostly of the moseying-around or sightseeing variety and thus not good training. And, because we were away, we didn’t do the loaded pack thing.
With our first backpacking trip (itself a warm-up for subsequent trips) being just a handful of days away (yikes! There’s still dehydrating to do! I hope all the kit is exactly where I left it!), and having not carried a full pack since the end of July last year, it was looking perilously like we were going to spend the first couple of days suffering and cursing ourselves for not preparing better. Thus, a last-minute plan was formed.
After a couple of days spent with Ma-in-Law in Halifax, off we headed on Thursday morning just a handful of miles down the road to Soyland Moor for a gentle re-introduction to our backpacks. A circuit of the reservoirs, with the addition of an out-and-back to Stoodley Pike, fitted the bill nicely, with barely any ascent and with good paths for all but one relatively short wet and muddy section.
Lunch at Stoodley Pike (even though it was only 11am!)
The outing came out at exactly 11 miles and Anquet alleges that there was 700’ of ascent, which seems an exaggeration to me. It served its purpose too, as I incurred bruises on my collar bones and hips, and finished with pounded feet and stiff knees and lower back.
Day 1 ended with an unexpected return to Ma-in-Law’s house when we discovered, as the evening cooled down and we tried to put the heating on, that Colin’s gas system had developed a fault (the very system that had been serviced last month, and which we hadn’t used since). Unfortunately, by the time we discovered the fault we’d already travelled down to the start point for Friday’s walk, but fortunately that was still only 10 miles away from WildAx, the manufacturer and servicer of Colin.
So, Ma-in-Law unexpectedly put up with us for another night, and at 7.30 on Friday morning we pitched up unannounced at WildAx where Danny the Production Manager kindly dropped what he was supposed to be doing to sort out Colin’s gas problem and get us back on the road.
By quarter past ten, Colin had a new gas regulator, we’d eaten a Morrison’s cooked breakfast apiece and we were back parked on Wessenden Moor for a plan which involved following the Pennine Way to Swellands Reservoir, the old route of the Pennine Way from there to Black Hill, to pick up the Pennine Way again to get back to our start point. It looked like this, except that the reality didn’t have a gap in the route (really should have charged the Garmin Gadget at some point either before or during the trip):
The outing started nice and gently – indeed, it was all downhill as we headed past the first two reservoirs. Then our gentle re-introduction ended, firstly with the short-but-sharp pull up onto the moor, followed by a very soggy yomp along the old line of the Pennine Way across White Moss.
Well, that was unexpectedly hard work, although not as much so as the section across Wessenden Head Moor! The last time I went that way was in June 2010, after a very dry spell. It’s not been very dry lately and thus what we encountered was
hideous, slow-going bogginess excellent training for Scotland.
By the time I sat at the foot of the trig on Black Hill (which I’m pleased to see is still green) I was feeling the effort, but at least it was all downhill from there … except for the bit of up that turned out to be a little bigger than I’d remembered.
Even though I was more than ready to be back at Colin with a cup of tea in my hand, I still managed to muster the energy on the descent off Black Hill to run after and catch the bunch of five 30th-birthday helium balloons which drifted past us:
Duly punctured I put them in the back of Mick’s pack, adding to the one I’d put in there on Thursday. That beats all previous records for the number of helium balloons (or remains thereof) picked up on a single trip.
We finally arrived back at Colin after an outing that felt a bit longer than its 9.9-mile length (1300’ of up), but happy that all of Thursday’s aches and stiffness had gone, even if my collar bones and hips were more bruised.
A number of walk locations had been contemplated for Saturday but the final decision was the easy option: to stay put at Wessenden Moor overnight and to walk from there again, even though it would involve some repetition from Friday’s route.
Thankfully, by the time we set out, the overnight rain and wind had given way to an increasingly fine day, although the after effect of the heavy rain was evident on the ground.
Moreover, it was evident when we opted not to follow the Pennine Way back off Wessenden Moor but (in the interests of reducing repetition) to take the longer-but-less-violent-down-and-back-up option. What we hadn’t considered was the stream crossing which would be required in going that way.
We didn’t quite manage it dry-shod, but it turned out to be easy enough, and soon we were back down in the valley, along with plenty of other people enjoying a sunny Saturday stroll.
With 9.7 miles walked, with 1200’ of ascent, we arrived back at Colin at 1330 rather hungy (with our bread being far past its best, I’d not made sandwiches to take out with us). As tricky as it is to prepare two cooked breakfasts in the tiny omelette pan that we have in Colin, I managed the feat. Then we tootled back off home.