Sunday, 1 October 2017

Pennine Way

Middleton-in-Teesdale → Dufton

high-force.jpg Distance: 20.70 miles
Ascent: 918 metres
Duration: 8 hours 25 minutes

Force of nature
« Not walked | Not walked »

Our schedule has three twenty-mile days. Today is the first. It should have been simple: follow the River Tees upstream to a gap in the hills, then enjoy a gentle descent along "the finest scenery the Pennines have to offer".

Let's start with the river. The first few miles were tremendous: a great path through fields to the outstanding waterfalls of Low and High Force. Even mist and rain couldn't detract from these powerful cascades.

falcon-clints.jpgUnfortunately the path soon got rougher. At Falcon Clints it dropped right down to the bank of the fast-flowing Tees and was interrupted three times by jumbles of huge boulders that slowed our progress to a literal crawl, before revealing the third and most impressive waterfall of the day: Cauldron Snout. The volume of water rushing through this narrow gorge is fearsome, and to pass it walkers have to find hand-holds on the slippery, polished rocks while trying not to think about the consequences of falling into the deep.

cauldron-snout.jpgBy the time we'd reached the track at the top we were only halfway through the day's walk, and despite worsening weather conditions we felt it would have been foolish to turn back. (More fool us.)

The onward path was certainly easier in terms of terrain, but walking into the rain blown by a strong, gusting wind was tiring. At one point I twisted my ankle while crossing a stream and quickly found I was enjoying "a little lie down" in the water. (It was certainly refreshing, but not to be advised.) Somewhere roundabout here my phone battery ran out.

Drawing us forwards was the reputation of High Cup Nick: that celebrated symmetrical valley perfectly framing a view of Lakeland hills beyond. Our guide book, and the walk descriptions we'd read online, described this a a major highlight of the Pennine Way.

high-cup-nick.jpgSadly, when we reached High Cup Plain — almost blown over by sudden, fierce gusts of wind — all we could make out was the edge of the scar. The landscape beyond was lost in an opaque white sheet of low cloud, and we weren't going to get a reward for our efforts today. With compass in hand we found the top of the Narrow Gate path down to Dufton, and slowly limped towards our destination, via a seemingly interminable descent.

Dropping beneath the clouds, and finally losing the worst of the wind as we lost height, it felt like a different day: one that hadn't actually involved the physical, mental and emotional effort that we'd just expended. Our painful limbs and dented spirits knew otherwise.

Posted by pab at 20:00 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!