Friday 4 December 2009

Dales Ramble

Having been invited up to the Dales by a friend, I travelled up to Leeds on the coach where she picked me up. On our first night we stayed over at Grinton lodge YH, having the whole place to ourselves was novel experience and rather nice. The moon was riding high and shining bright tempting us out for a short walk, the night was frosty and ice covered much of the road and due to the fact we had little cold weather clothes on meant we did not linger for too long; if we had been dressed more appropriately it would have been a good night for a walk. When we returned Rachel made hot chocolate which was most welcome, especially being drunk in front of an open fire.
After a sumptuous breakfast the following morning we headed over to Garsdale, stopping at Hawes on the way. The small road leading up the valley was icy and the car struggled to get any grip. After some tricky juggling we eased the car back down to park at the side of the road and decided to walk up the valley instead of driving. Ice on the road further up made the decision a wise one. Several houses are still in use high up the fell, unfortunately most are now holiday lets. One such, now being refurbished was at one time occupied by relatives of Rachel's; so it was a nostalgic moment for her and possibly in some ways a sad one too. Beyond the last of the buildings an indistinct path led us higher up the hill to a saddle; Rachel proved very adept at finding the way ahead. By now the best of the day was gone and the light was starting to fade; also, it was obvious the weather was on the change. After some casting around we got the tents up and the stoves on for a brew. This was Rachel's first winter wild camp and later that evening, in increasingly bad weather with snow now being driven by strong winds, Rachel admitted her growing apprehension. Sitting with hot drinks and a snack in my tent we discussed the matter; I admired Rachel for her honesty; there is no point in false bravado and silently suffering. After talking things through we unanimously decided it better to pack and head back down the valley. Working swiftly by head torch we packed up camp and began to head back out. After a momentary few minutes of indecision we steered on a direct compass bearing; unfortunately directly in to the driving wind and snow, our head torches illuminating the swirling snow, lonely islands of light in the darkness. Keeping to a simple navigation technique I stayed at the rear with the compass with Rachel ahead of me. With great fortitude and patience she accepted my brief and somewhat terse commands; 'left Rachel, left, left, bear left, right a fraction, right, slow down a tad lass'. If anyone had been able to see and hear us they may well have thought I was teaching her to herd sheep, 'come by, come by, away, away, steady now, easssy'??? The one downside with steering on a direct bearing was the fact that we where negotiating some horrendous ground, bog, tussock, thick reed and small, meandering streams. A few time I plunged in to unseen bits of bog; at one point I slipped and went in to a stream. To cap it though I suddenly felt the ground quake beneath me and before I could react I sank rapidly up to my waist, yet more cold water finding its way down my trousers, struggling and unable to get a decent purchase of anything, I finally belly flopped out of the clutching ooze on to firmer ground, the bog reluctant to release its grip to the last. Staggering to my feet, Rachel and I exchanged wild and somewhat manic grins and after a couple of reassuring hugs we lurched onward. The bog monster had been deprived of its supper and we had now done the bog swim and dance, laughing at the absurdity of it all. Finally, a group of trees and the ruins of a building loomed out of the darkness confirming our position; even more important a footpath sign showed that our navigation had been correct. Shortly beyond the sign we stumbled on to a snow covered track which, although a slightly route led back down the valley and eventually back to the car. As we descended lower the snow turned to sleet and eventually driving, icy rain. Despite the late hour we knew of a pub not far back down the road and we headed straight for it. We had been thinking of trying to get a bed for the night there. The landlord though was away at a darts match and the lady behind the bar was unable to contact him. Despite our wet and disheveled appearance a somewhat inebriated local farmer propositioned us to a threesome if we went back to his farm. Rachel, with admirable aplomb, politely declined the offer; after all, this was hardly the time or the place for such things! Directed to a b&b next door we hesitantly knocked on the door and where promptly issued in and showered with kindness, mugs of hot tea being rapidly produced, no complaints as we struggled out of wet and muddy boots and foul weather gear, leaving pools of water all over the floor. A room was rapidly made ready for us and eventually, warm and dry we where able to relax and laugh and joke about the events of the day, an interesting and somewhat eventful one it had been too.