Like last year, on the final weekend before Christmas we met up with old friends at Ninebanks Youth Hostel, which is near Alston in the Pennines. On the Saturday a group of us set-off reasonably early for a yomp around the surrounding moors. It started well: lots of ice and snow. It was cold, and hard-work, but satisfying none-the-less. The cloud even began to lift, and there were occasional hints that the weather might be improving…
Although we are old hands at clutching at straws.
On Hard Rigg the wall had almost disappeared beneath a snow drift.
But, unlike last year, the drift was soft and yielding, not compacted and hard-frozen snow. Then, we had made good progress stomping along this highway across the bog. This time we floundered. Most of us had soon crashed through the snow and ice and had one or the other boot full of a delightful cocktail of ice, mud and snow. I’d managed to fill both boots and had also been stuck with one boot in the bog for a while until given a helping-hand out.
We’d already revised our ambitious plans and were making for a descent by Black Cleugh when I broke through the ice beneath the snow again – but this time I found myself doing a full-on Doctor Foster: right up to my middle in the soup. Geordie Munro, proud member of Cheviot Mountain Rescue Team, leapt straight into action: he whipped out his camera and took a photo.
I can’t say I enjoyed the rest of the walk. Even though, as we descended, it brightened up considerably.
Although my new thermals performed admirably, I was very wet and cold. I soon started to get cramps in my legs and by the end of an amble of all of 6 miles I was practically out on my feet: absolutely exhausted. Fortunately, at the end of the walk was shelter, sympathy, a hot shower, soup and plenty of hot tea, and several layers of dry clothes.
From there the weekend picked up again: good company, fine food (even if, as one of the chefs, I do say so myself), cold beers, a musical intros quiz, a slideshow from Mozambique, and, perhaps most importantly of all, a superb walk on the Sunday. Of which more anon….