Dave Parker’s Epic Coast To Coast Northern Traverse – May 2018

Norther Traverse Route

So here we are, myself and friend Matt at St Bees on the start line of the Northern Traverse. 192 miles and 28,000 feet of climbing between us and the finish at Robin Hoods Bay. It’s been touch and go whether I’d get this far with my dodgy knee, so already a small victory won. We have two plans in mind, sub 80 or around 100 hours, aiming to finish either Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon so that it’s daylight and our families can be there to meet us.

We start as we mean to go on, at the back, taking photos and chatting to people setting off to walk it in the more conventional two to three weeks.

A beautiful walk up the coastline then cutting inland across farmland and rolling hills till we hit the edge of the Lake District proper.

A rocky path beside Ennerdale water then a gradual climb through forest to the YHA Black Sail Hut leads to the first big  ascent over Fleetwith and long drop to the intermediate checkpoint at Rosthwaite via Honister pass and Seatoller. Nine hours, 28 miles, 6pm.

No drop bag here ,but they feed us and we take out extra clothing and head torches ready for our first night. After glorious weather all day we get the first drops of what will be a 12 hour soaking. The next 17 miles consist of two enormous climbs, Greenup edge to Grassmere and Grisedale tarn to Patterdale.

We’ve done them both before and pick up a few competitors en route who are glad of the route guidance in the dark and wet.

Checkpoint one Patterdale, 45 miles, 1230 am Sunday, 15.5 hours.

A few people chose to have a short sleep here but it’s never our plan. An hour to eat and change socks and we’re off. First off getting the biggest climb of the entire route, and more importantly for me, descent, Kidsty Pike out of the way. So glad I’ve been practicing with walking poles, make a massive difference for my knees. Plus the pouring rain and bog helps to take our mind off it.

The sun comes up and the rain finally subsides as we make our way along the side of Haweswater and over more gentle countryside past the Abbey and into Shap.

Here we say goodbye to competitors taking part in the 60 mile Lakes Traverse and after more food and 10 minutes sleep for Matt we’re off again, no point wasting all those good hours of daylight and we know the route to Kirkby Stephen is quite tricky to navigate.

Twenty miles over open moorland follows still bang on target  for sub 80 but Matt is suffering from a lack of sleep and we stop for him to rest in a field. To keep on track I set my alarm for 1.30 pm, “you’ve got 23 minutes” I tell him, standing joke for the rest of the trip, after all he had only been going for 28.5 hours.

We do well route finding for most of the day but Matt is definitely not thinking straight and as we approach Kirkby Stephen it becomes obvious that a turnaround with 2 hours sleep as planned won’t be enough, and we decide to revert to plan B, having given ourselves plenty of time to beat the cut-offs.

Checkpoint two Kirkby Stephen, 80 miles, 6pm Sunday 34 hours.

Food, foot care, food, sleep, food.

Leave Kirkby at 1.30 am for the long drag up to Nine Standards Rigg just as the sun comes over the horizon, amazing place to be, followed by a sobering march across knee high bog before we hit the Yorkshire dales and the beautiful escarpment from Keld to Reeth.

Not sure if it’s the fantastic weather or the free coffee and walnut cake served at the Dales cycle café, but we’re buzzing as we fly over the fields and lanes to Richmond.

Checkpoint 3 117 miles, 4pm Monday 56 hours.

Checkpoint routine. Sit down and order food. Open drop bag, replace food for next leg, change of clothing, first aid kit for feet, battery charging for torches and GPS, sleeping bag out if stopping. As with all checkpoints the level of support from staff is amazing, the best on any event we’ve done. The combination of cold wet nights and warm days is taking it’s toll, Richmond is littered with tired bodies trying to repair bruised and badly blistered feet. Matt has a bad heel and I have blisters on the soles of my feet , but we’re nowhere near the worse.

The next leg is the longest, with very limited places to stop en route so we get a good start leaving at midnight. Time wasted finding our way across the new A1 and an absolutely bitterly cold night, coupled with long boring flat country road sections test our resolve but at last day breaks, as we head to the road crossing of the A171 and the familiar hills of the North Yorkshire moors. Matt has a quick kip in a field while I carry on to the 24 hour garage where there are a few people laid in the morning sunshine enjoying a Costa. Not sure what the morning commuters make of us. Another little rest and we’re off, well almost off, takes about 15 minutes to find a big enough gap in the traffic to hobble across the dual carriageway.

A steady pull up onto the moors and we spend the day following the Cleveland way, with a coffee stop at Lordstones café, till it turns left at Bloworth crossing and we carry on to the Lion Inn. Mid afternoon and it’s boiling, we’re short on water and start to ration what’s left when we come on a fellow competitor and his pal in a far worse state than we are. We’re about 6 miles from the Lion Inn and decide we can’t leave him. No outside assistance is allowed but as fellow competitors we can give him water and food, which with stopping three or four times to sleep gets him there in about 3 hours. Unbelievably he has a rest and carries on to finish in 104 hours. Amazing.

Checkpoint 4 Lion Inn 162 miles, 7pm Tuesday, 82 hours.

Just tents for food and rest at the Lion Inn, most people taking a few minutes then pushing on but we’ve got our schedule and we’re going to stick to it. A 1.30 am set off, after fantastic bacon and eggs breakfast, is brought short after only a few hundred metres. We have to hold onto each other in the gale force wind, to put on full waterproofs and push on through the night across the moors to Glaisdale. Dawn finds us winding our way to Egton bridge and Grosmont, Matt’s hip flexor is giving him some real pain and we take advantage of a railway bridge out of the rain for him to have a lie down and rest, much to the amusement/bemusement of morning dog walkers. Over the moors again, with a little detour taking us through Littlebeck and we’re finally heading towards Hawsker, but we don’t get complacent, the last leg down  the coast seems to take an age.

A quick man hug as we reflect on our achievement, before Robin Hoods Bay and our families waiting to escort us down the steep hill to the Bay and finish, job done, Epic.

Finish Robin Hoods Bay 192 miles, 2pm Wednesday, 100 hours 47 minutes.

Thanks to all from ST Theresa’s who gave messages of support via Facebook, they were a great help, hope you enjoyed the updates and dot watching, here’s to the next one, Cheers.

Dave Parker

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