… that was my strategy for the MdS, and it worked. I didnt die, or even get mildly lost, despite my ‘drip under the tree’ incident. However, I had a thought that the Spine Challenger would be a different story, particularly as there’s no mention of support from helicopters, or gimassive green lasers to guide the way, or indeed another 1000 runners on the course to follow.

Nav refresher it is then…

Thankfully we’ve recently got to know Charlie Sproson from Mountain Run really well (he’s also doing the full Spine coincidentally), and he agreed to help us out with the skills we’d need to prevent deathbybadnav in Yorkshire come January

So that’s how we ended up at Mountain Run’s nerve centre in Watermillock, drinking brews and eating over-priced chocolate hob-nobs (they saw Glyn coming, again). We had a great couple of hours chatting about kitting choices, and nutrition and hydration, getting some good tips in the process, and also reinforcing some of the decision we’d made. Glyn’s face made me chuckle a number of times as he went from glee to ‘oh crap i’m going to die’.

We then got our kit together, and piled into Chadderseses van for the trip to Dufton near Appleby in Cumbria, and the Pennine Way. Took us a bit longer to get there than expected, but I’ll not go into that, and we were out of the van and sorting ourselves out. It was like a Montane catalogue shoot with all the kit that we’ve got, and Charlie is another who’s getting support from them – not sure any of us will ever get a modelling contract though. Then we were off up the road chuntering away to each other.  We rounded a corner and Charlie kicked in to gear – right where are we, how long do we expect to be on this path for, when will we be turning a corner.  Glyn and Chads confidently answered the questions, I disagreed with them. Show me where you are Wayne…. Ah, that’s the problem, I’m going down the wrong path, starting in the wrong place.  I was off to a bad start as I’d got lost within half a mile of the van!

We got some experience in recognising our surroundings as we made our way slowly uphill, checking out where we were in the daylight to a pretty accurate degree.  And then hit the snowline!  And boy, was there a lot of it, which surprised me. This was pretty exciting, it was soon going to be dark, and finding landmarks was becoming more difficult in the snow, and then we looked around and saw the clouds moving in too. AWESOME!!

We hit a cairn on Green Fell and the wind hit us.  Flipping heck it was cold!  We were fairly well kitted out between us, and had been gradually pulling on buffs, gloves and hats on as we ascended the fellside, but the wind went through me.  The other guys started putting waterproof trousers on to get some wind protection to their legs, but I thought I’d be ok as I had Skins and walking trousers on – Lesson Number 1!!

Charlie asked me to verify where we were by finding a sheep fold that should have been around 50 metres or so away.  I put my head torch on and trotted over.  Nope, no sheep pen. Some massive boulders, but they’re too big.  Charlie used this as an excercise for us.  Use the compass, measure the distance, pace it out.  Nope, no sheep pen still.  Phew, it’s not just me then (I’ll be back when the snow’s gone to find that bloody sheep pen).

Darkness was now well and truly upon us, and we were into the bubbles of light on our headtorches and not much else.  Talking through buffs muffling our voices.  My finger tips were getting proper cold despite my gloves, so Charlie had us doing actions to get circulation going. Brilliant, they were warm again and Lesson 2.  Now it was my toes, and snow was up inside my trousers and down into my goretex boots – wet cold feet – need gaiters – Lesson 3!  These lessons were coming thick and fast now.

Back to the cairn.  Measure the distance to the next cairn. Take a bearing – bloody hell I got it right!  Then it’s ‘two hundred metres, two hundred paces, off we go…. how’s everyone feeling’ says Charlie, ‘Bricking myself’said I.  Good was the response, and off we went, off the edge of the earth (or so it felt).  Two hundred and two paces later, and a cairn emerged from the darkness and I was bloody delighted.  I couldnt get over the fact that I’d managed not to lose myself on the fell, although the other three had taken the same bearing and were walking alongside me counting too.  At the cairn, we did the same again, with a longer count, but did the same again! Awesome!  I was feeling comfortable and confident now as we took another bearing from cairn to cairn.  On the downside, I could feel the cold leaching warmth from my legs and arms now, and I was getting really cold.  I had a spare down jacket in my pack, which I was contemplating putting on, but then we made it to the final cairn and then agreed to get off the fell down a road and back home.  We took a bearing to the road end, where it met the path, and off we trogged through the snow.

We had a great wander back to Dufton by the road, which had some incredibly drifting snow across, which seems a bit surreal now.  Chadders and I were chuntering away for most of the trip, with Glyn and Charlie chatting away further back as we wandered through Knock, then Dufton back to the van and the rest of the chocolate hob nobs

As always, we had a great day on the fells, and it was good to introduce Charlie to some of our ‘banter’, which was at least 50% down due to the absence of Andy.  All in all the day was fantastic, and I feel much happier about being in the darkness somewhere on the Pennine Way come Yorkshire.  However, I’ll feel less confident in Chadwick, after the needle on his compass decided to reverse direction with North facing South, but that’s another story.

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