Day 13 - September 14th 2004

Dufton to Alston - 20 miles


Up early and more refreshed than yesterday morning. After breakfast, I made a sandwich from the left over chicken tikka, packed up and headed out, meeting Brian where the Way heads out of town. From this point it was essentially a long uphill grind to Knock Old Man. At first the walk was somewhat pleasant, at least for the Pennine Way. However, we could see the weather deteriorating and it did, although not anything like my walk “over the top.”

After a pretty easy stroll the path started to climb rather steeply. Brian was leading the way into the ever deteriorating weather. A rather long slog to Knock Old Man which was somewhat less impressive than I had been lead to believe. From there, up to Knock Fell and then on and on with the wind increasing in strength and the mist lower and lower or was it because we were higher and higher. Whatever the case, visibility was poor but not like “over the top.” We found the path around the radar station enclosure with no problem but the dome of the station was just a very vague outline in the mist.

From the top of Great Dun Fell it was a cautious descent to the saddle before Little Dun Fell. It was raining and the stone slabs were quite slippery; no place for an injury. We continued on with heads down and the wind howling. Why is it almost always in one’s face? From the saddle north of Little Dun Fell it was up to the top of the great dome of Cross Fell. The book talks about it taking on “goliath proportions” from a distance. Well, with the weather the way it was, it was just a long uphill slog. Fortunately, when we got to the summit, we could easily see the cross shaped shelter as the mist had cleared somewhat and the rain had slackened considerably. We took our first break of the day in one angle of the shelter. It is amazing how well they screen from the wind. Although we could not see back from where we had come or down into Eden Valley, the view across the domed summit was pretty clear.

After our brief break it was off in the right direction, at least for a while. We got to where the path leads down hill and we could see someone in the distance coming towards us. He was the only person we would see that long day. When we met him he told us he had left Alston four hours before. Brian and I were quite pleased at the time we had made and with a down hill or flat run ahead of us, we anticipated Dufton in less than four hours. Not to be.

We headed off down hill, unfortunately not paying attention to where we were going. Suddenly we were in the bogs and not a path in sight. It seems we must have followed a trail left by vision impaired sheep and now we hadn’t a clue as to where we were. I could see to the west down into a valley and I knew that was not right. Brian activated his GPS and we learned we were off the map in Pennine Way North. Rather than doing the intelligent thing and retracing our steps, we elected to go across country, in the direction we thought correct, in the vane hope of cutting the Way as it headed north east. This plan compounded our original error as we were actually paralleling the trail out of sight above us. For what seemed like an eternity we were bog hopping, much of it at an uphill slant with no trail in sight. At one point I looked up the hill and could see a hut. I told Brian that must be Greg’s Hut and if that was the case, we would have to head pretty much straight up hill in order to get out of the bogs and cut the Way. Well, that is what we did, coming onto the path perhaps three hundred yards to the east of the hut. We had no urge to retrace our steps to see what the shelter offered.

We continued down the Way, stopping after about a mile for lunch. While it was not raining and the mist was gone, the wind was howling. I took out my chicken tikka sandwich, anticipating restoring much needed calories burned in the the bog hopping. Unfortunately, there was a slight tear in the bread and that was all the wind needed, blowing my sandwich all over the hillside. Shit! Lunch then consisted of a power bar, water and some cookies. From this point on it was a long downhill run to Garrigill on a path made for easy walking, something we could certainly use.

In Garrigill we passed by the pub with longing in our hearts but it was late and we knew that another four miles were ahead of us. Fortunately, the weather was not a problem and the walk was quite pleasant along the South Tyne River. As we neared Alston, Brian was thinking of changing his reservation at the hostel. However, as he had been in the town before, he knew it was built on a definite slope and we were approaching it from the downhill end. He decided he had had enough of “up banks” for the day and elected to stay in the hostel where it turned out he had a lovely chickpea dinner. Just after he left me, making arrangements to meet for a pint that evening, I came across Connie sitting in the car where the Way hits the road leading up to town. She was a bit worried as we had taken longer than she thought. She had even walked back on the path toward Garrigill looking for us. Once I explained the error of our ways in the bogs, she understood and it was off to our B&B.

After a cleaning up and a change of clothing, it was off to The Turks Head for drinks and dinner. At the bar I was checking out the pump clips to decide what I wanted to drink. I picked an ale and when I ordered it, the publican told me it was quite strong. I told him I had just come over Cross Fell that day and he said, in that case, I needed a whisky. It sounded like a good idea so I had the pint and a shot of McAllen 12 which hit the spot. Dinner was good and Steve, the walker we had seen entering Dufton yesterday as we talked to Brian and family, joined us. He, too, was walking the Way. Brian came along later and I bought him a whisky as, after all, he too had come over Cross Fell that day.

After a very enjoyable evening at the pub, it was back to the B&B, making arrangements to meet Brian the next day where we had parted on this one. The owners of the establishment lived directly below our room and were watching the television which seemed to be a bit loud. After I asked them to turn it down, they did and to sleep a little after 9. This was a quite tough day, made worse by our failure to pay attention to where we were going when we started the descent of Cross Fell. I guess, again, we thought we had the day’s walk now under control and obviously we didn’t. I often said, on my journey up the Way, “The Pennine Way never lets you go” and it certainly did not that day.  

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