Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Torside Reservoir to Diggle

After a good night's sleep, Chuck and I headed downstairs for our first of many Full English breakfasts.  This first was no exception to the ones that would follow - Chuck would always eat my egg.  We chatted with the landlady who told us that today's walk was really pretty easy. We shouldn't have too much trouble despite the drizzle that was already falling.  This was the same landlady who viewed us with incredulity when she found out it had taken us three days to walk the "first day" in the guidebooks. 

The beginning of the walk was lovely and wooded.  The mist gave our views an almost other-worldly quality to them.  
Our walk through the trees
As we headed up to Torside Reservoir, we passed through a gate and saw our first warning about the penalties of "sheep worrying."  So far, we had been loudly greeting every sheep we had encountered.  I wondered, "What causes a sheep to worry?"  and "How can you tell if a sheep is worried?"  They certainly did seem to run in the opposite direction as soon as we came into view.  We resolved that in future, we would make sure they were aware that we had no worrisome intentions.
"Hello sheep...we don't want to worry you..."
We crossed the reservoir and headed back into the countryside, unconcerned about the trail ahead or the increasing drizzle.  All of a sudden, we encountered Laddow Rocks.  The guide book mentioned a gradual ascent, but there was nothing gradual about what was before us.  To me it looked like an almost perpendicular climb, and the drizzle/rain and fog were both increasing and descending quickly.  It was also starting to get chillier, and Chuck told me he was going to go on ahead of me.  My slow climbing pace wasn't going to do the trick for him in terms of generating warmth. 

As expected, Chuck was relatively unfazed by the climb - in just a few minutes, he was at the top, and I couldn't even see him unless he peeked over the edge to see my lack of progress.  I, on the other hand, was in tears before I was halfway up.  I had come into this journey with a worry that my lack of ability was going to cause problems, and Laddow Rocks seemed to be proof of my greatest fear.
Chuck on his way up Laddow Rocks
My legs were aching, my lungs were screaming, and I was starting to hyperventilate.  As panic set in,  I envisioned myself stuck in the middle of this hillside, freezing and alone. Every step was more proof that I should just pack my poles up and go back to Torside. After all, I could get to Manchester pretty easily from there, and Chuck could move on and really start enjoying himself instead of waiting for me to finish the ascent!
Finally, I reached the top, and despite how long I'd taken and the frequent stops I'd required, Chuck greeted me with a "good job."  Needless to say, it was the last thing I expected to hear.  Surely he was cold from standing around, and he had to be cursing the day he'd agreed we should do this together.  Chuck had warned me that the trail could do funny things to your emotions, and, as he typically is, he was right.  I was pulled out of my own personal bog of self-pity by his simple words of encouragement.  Teammates and friends support each other, and right then, I appreciated that support more than I think Chuck realised.  I took a moment to collect myself and decided I was not going to let a little hyperventilating stop me.
We were now on stone slabs again, and the weather was proving that it was not part of the Chuck-Ruth Pennine Way team.  The wind was fierce and coming at us from the side.  The drizzle turned into sleet, and I could hear it pounding down on the hood of my jacket. There was nothing to do but put our heads down and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I developed little mind tricks to keep myself moving forward.

One of my favorites on this trip, counting, is something I tend to do even when I'm walking short distances in my day-to-day life.  For what it's worth, I also count when trying to fall asleep.  Counting manages to calm the mind and allow me to keep moving forward or, alternately, fall asleep.  So, I would pick a target at the edge of my vision, and try to guess how high I would count before I reached it.  It didn't seem to matter if my estimate was WAY too low. I'd just revise it and keep counting.  The rhythm seemed to be the key.
For the next several hours, essentially all I saw were my own two feet and the ground I was trying to navigate.  Occasionally, I would look behind and see Chuck making his way along the slabs. The weather was not making picture taking a very successful activity, but Chuck would occasionally try.  At one point, he decided that perhaps we should try breaking out the umbrellas we'd been carrying.  I looked back to see a lonely figure holding an umbrella at a 45 degree angle.  Chuck seemed to be at a 45 degree angle, too, leaning into the wind.  Neither Chuck nor the umbrella seemed particularly happy with this arrangement, and he soon abandoned any attempt at blocking the rain.

Laddow Rocks and the ravine below was described by the guidebooks as being picturesque.  With the fog, there was no chance we'd see those sights.
So much for the sights of Laddow Rocks
Finally, after a long and wet walk over Black Hill, we reached Wessenden Reservoir.  We were still quite a ways from the next town, Standedge, but it was getting pretty late in the day, and the weather had not afforded us much opportunity for either resting or eating.  Finding a dry spot to camp seemed extremely unlikely, as well, and so we made the decision that we would keep going to Standedge even if we were hiking in the dark.

I didn't care anymore about whether I was stepping in mud or puddles or even in deep boggy pits.  Taking the shortest possible path to our destination was what was most important now.  We passed several reservoirs en route, and we could feel the chill blowing off the water.  Finally, we reached Standedge, completely soaked, hungry and tired.  The 11 miles from Torside was a record for me, but little did we know, the night had another two hours of walking to come. 

The guidebooks all contain information about where you can stay in the various towns and villages.  They also recommend booking ahead. But, they tell you that this is because there are so many people out walking, that you need to reserve a space or risk having none.  Since it was November, we figured booking wasn't really that necessary. Surely we could just show up on the doorstep of a B&B and the kindly proprietor would take one look at us and usher us into a room with a fire and warm cups of tea...

We had identified a B&B that seemed to be priced right and figured the map we had was simple enough. So, we set off to find it.  Up hills, over highways, back and forth, along paths, and even through something that looked like an actual dump in the light of day. We tried it all, but we couldn't find the roads identified in our guidebook.  Finally we called, only to learn that there was "no room at the inn."  At least the lady gave us the name of another place to try in the "nearby" village of Diggle. 

We called New Barn, and the lady who ran the place seemed hesitant to take in people who were calling so late in the evening (6:30).  She later explained that you never knew who it could be and a call out of the blue could signal bad intentions (hooligans must abound in these parts).  But, I must have sounded desperate and pathetic, for she eventually agreed to allow us to stay and managed to give us clear directions to the B&B from where we were.  (From this point forward, I would always be pushing Chuck to let me book our next B&B/Hostel in advance - sometimes only minutes in advance...)

Another 30 minutes of walking brought us to New Barn. Dorothy and Alan Rhodes (coincidence?) met us at the door and instructed us to take off all our wet things so they could put them in the dry room.  We decided that they didn't really mean "all" as the site of two naked people with skin wrinkled from being wet all day was probably more than this elderly couple was prepared for.

So, we took off a few things to be polite and dragged ourselves up to the room, where we promptly hung the remainder of our wet clothes wherever we could and hoped that the radiators would stay on all night.  (Post script - they didn't.)

1 comment:

  1. This is a Hobbit tale for sure! what no second breakfast? Are there elevenses? You needed elf capes.