Walking the Pennine Way In 9 Days

The Pennine Way (PW) starts in Edale, Derbyshire and finishes in Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders, it covers a total of 268 miles and follows what is often referred to as the Spine of the UK.

It winds its way up and over mountains, follows valleys and rivers, crisscrosses reservoirs, plows through farmland (get what I did there 😉), passes through forest, and of course traverses what it is most known for I would say is the sometimes bleak, beautiful and mesmerizing moorlands. All the while making its way Northward.

The Pennine way is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and challenging long-distance trails in the UK, it can be very exposed and it can make you feel like you are completely alone out there thousands of miles away from civilisation, which is amazing right?

My Plan

My original plan was to head to Wales but logistical issues the night before scuppered that idea.

Instead, I opted to hit the PW nobo, I had a goal of finishing it within the Easter break but was happy if that didn’t pan out.

I had aimed to take it steady covering 15-20 miles a day, but in retrospect should have known I would just lie to myself.

Day 1

I started the trail in Edale, the official start point at about 09:30 after scoring some pasties from the café next to the train station. I headed out, passing by a fair few people and getting chatting to them along the way. I soon found myself facing Jacob’s ladder where I knew I was in for the first tough climb of the trail and it’s a corker too.

I chilled at the bottom near the river, airing my feet out and eating some sausage rolls (they’re a re-occurring theme on this trail :D). Some of the people I had passed along the way caught me up and began their ascent up the notorious steps.

I decided on taking the Pony track as it isn’t as steep to start with and soon caught them up at the intersection. I got chatting to a couple who were doing the trail in 3 sections, with this one finishing in Horton. It was great speaking with them, and we soon parted ways as I headed to Kinder Downfall. 

The wind was relentless up on the plateau and I really struggled to walk a straight line which meant no rest too. I refilled water at Kinder Downfall and cruised on along the ridge before dropping down and back up Mill hill and over to Snake Pass. I quickly made my way over Bleaklow which was still quite boggy. I always forget how bleak, Bleaklow is on the summit, it’s like being on the moon. 

Anyway, I scoffed some food up there and cruised on down Torside Clough remembering I camped here last time in 2020, but not today. I was still feeling fresh and knew I had a few more miles in the tank so kept on slaying the miles which came thick and fast.

I cruised along Torside reservoir before heading back into the hilly moors and over Laddow rocks and man was it windy up there. I nearly took the plunge a few times but managed to keep cruising.

I soon found myself at Black Hill which is where I met a couple in 2020 who I’m still friends with now, so the nostalgia was awesome. The weather quickly closed in though and it soon became a hailstorm up there which in shorts was pretty pants. I kept on cruising though and found myself at Wessenden head reservoir where I found a nice spot all cut and fresh so opted to spend the night here. 

27 miles walked

Day 2

I woke up nice and early, packed up, and got to cruising, the wind was pretty bad, and it was foggy so visibility was poor. I soon passed by reservoirs and over the moorland where I got speaking to some guys doing a marathon along the PW.

I thought it would be the first and last I would see of them but as I cruised over Standedge I somehow caught them up. From there we played relay up to White Hill which they said was the halfway point so we’re headed back now.

We parted ways and I kept cruising towards the M62, unfortunately, the little café nearby was closed as they were doing a refurb, so I was unlucky (it is however open now). I cruised on over the bridge and followed the moors, but the weather quickly became very bad, and I soon found myself walking through driving wind and rain with some hail thrown in for good measure.

I found myself debating sacking it off at this point as I was cold, wet, and miserable. However, this is all part of the fun and I cruised along to the White House pub and scored some hot food and a drink. I decided to see if the weather would chill which it did a little bit.

I kept on going making my way past Blackstone edge reservoir and towards Hebden Bridge in the rain. As I got near Todmorden the weather chilled out and the wind dropped which was an absolute godsend.

I reached Studley Pike and was awed by the scale of it like I am every time I’ve been there. I decided to head into the woods for the night as I knew it would be a little warmer and less wet in the dense canopy.

17 miles walked

Day 3

I woke around 0400 and packed down my gear before heading down into the steep valley where Hebden Bridge sits. I waited for the post office to open and had some breakfast before posting some gear home (my cooker and a jacket). I quickly followed the old PW and up into Heptonstall which I highly recommend as an alternative as it’s so beautiful there. It really does have the feel of an old medieval village still. 

I soon found myself at Mays’s shop where I raided her pastry collection and had a drink and chat with her. Mays shop really is something special and is the place to be on the PW, it’s amazing and May is super cool too.

I set off again following the trail towards Gorple reservoir before swerving a right and heading on over to Walshaw Dean reservoirs which looked to be quite low considering it was winter not long ago. I was being chased by the weather at this point and made a beeline for High Withens at the speed of a thousand gazelles, fuelled by Mays sausage rolls.

I soon found myself at the old farmhouse where I scored some shelter (could be a good place for a night if the weather was bad), I chilled chatted to a lady, and then hit the trail again in the rain.

I soon passed by Ponden reservoir and began the ascent into Ikornshaw moors which I remember were very boggy. I bog hopped for this section playing flagstone roulette at the points where they existed. Amazingly, I managed to keep dry feet and didn’t fall in any of the mud.

I stopped at one of the hunting lodges to air my feet and eat some food before heading down into Cowling where I considered sacking it off for the day.

The weather gods were kind to me though as it became bright sunshine which spurred me on for bigger miles and I cruised over the landscape which I noticed had changed from the Peak district moors to more managed farmland which marks the beginning of the Yorkshire Dales.

I soon found myself in Lothersdale and scored some hot food and a quick recharge of the power bank and phone. I decided at that point Gargrave would be the end of my day which was still a fair distance away.

I kept on walking over the endless farmer’s fields and stiles eventually hitting the canal where I stopped for a little while. When I set off again my right foot was hurting pretty badly, and I was soon limping along and debating whether I was badly injured or not. 

Within a couple of miles, I could barely load bare, the churned-up fields didn’t help and my feet were soon drenched which made me even more miserable. I kept on plodding forward though and decided to stop for a pint where I got chatting to some cool older dude who offered his front garden for the night. I snapped his hand off at the offer and he even squared me a shower. 

I tried getting to sleep around 9pm but the pain in my foot kept me tossing and turning for about 2-3 hours before I drifted off…

32 miles walked

Day 4

I woke up and immediately packed up and felt my foot, it was a little bit swollen along the top and still painful to walk fast. I opted for a short day with a finish at Malham cove where I planned to spend the night. 

I made my way over the farmland and soon found myself walking next to the river slowly winding my way to Malham. I stopped to rest my foot and decided the cold water would do it good so went for a dip (it was freezing).

I chilled at the riverside for an hour or so and checked my foot again which appeared to be bruised, I guess the cold water must have brought it to the surface. It did however feel a little better, so I pushed onwards.

I soon found myself in the beautiful village of Malham where I scored some breakfast and a quick recharge of batteries before making my way towards the cove. It was pretty busy around the cove, and I found myself wondering if I could push further. I climbed to the top and chilled for a bit drying out my tent and any gear that was damp or wet.

After a couple of hours, I thought I might as well try and get a few more miles in and carried on cruising down the PW. I spoke to a couple who asked which way Gordale was, I was happy to help and gave them directions before watching them walk off in the complete opposite direction which I found baffling.

I found myself lost in a crowd of walkers before Malham tarn and spoke to a few of them along the way before heading up onto the hill so I could pass by.

Once at Malham tarn I scored some food and chilled with my feet In the water for a little bit before heading down the trail once more.

I soon realized I had no choice but to hit Fountains Fell as places to pitch were few and far between, so I made my steadily up to the summit where I had a look down some of the open mine shafts up there. I think Fountains fell is one of the most underrated places in the Dales and is so beautiful. I debated walking to the tarn at the top and spending the night there but decided to head on over to Pen-Y-Ghent where that would be the end of the day.

I made my way down, being careful not to aggravate my foot, and met a cool guy who was chilling from his bike journey, I spoke with him for a few minutes before heading on to my destination.

I always find Pen-Y-Ghent looks a lot more intimidating than what it is and once I had begun my climb, I was at the top within 20 minutes and eating a sausage roll. I found a place to pitch just off the summit and watched the sunset before retiring into the tent for the night to deal with the aches and pains my body was starting to pay me back with.

19 miles walked

Day 5

I woke early doors and got to see the beautiful sunrise coming up over the summit of Great Whernside in the distance. I quickly packed my gear down whilst watching it before gobbling down a 500-calorie flapjack.

I soon cruised down from Pen-Y-Ghent and into the rolling hills following the Y3P route for a little bit. After a while, I parted ways with this and carried on towards Dodd fell and the North.

The miles came quick and fast, and any aches and pains of the previous days were left behind as my foot felt much better. I cruised on over Dodd fell keeping pace with a guy on a bike through the ascent before being outpaced on the flat.

Pretty soon I found myself sat watching the clouds overlooking the valleys around Hawes and the stunning views they brought with them until the peace was disturbed by the sounds of Motorbikes coming up the mountain, I watched them cruise by before wondering what the days would bring.

I decided to head into Hawes and score some much-needed food and to stock up the hoard on pastry and snacks for the trail. I chilled outside a pub and wangled a charge for my power bank before hitting the trail again towards Hardraw.

I was tempted to visit Hardraw force for a shower and wash but decided to keep cruising as the miles were flying by today. Before I knew it, I was winding my way up Great Shunner Fell and got chatting to people along the way.

The path was steady, and the weather was good with a nice, chilled breeze to make the miles flow faster. I soon summited and sat at the marker on top hiding from the wind and eating some pastry, chocolate, and flapjacks arguing with myself over whether to pitch here or not.

I opted for the ‘not’ and found myself gliding down to Thwaite and over the top to Keld and to Swaledale waterfall. It was around 7pm by this point and I stunk so had a look around and couldn’t see anyone.

So thought hell yeah. Shower and bath time in the river, a waterfall which I savored, unfortunately, a group of young adults was making their way down so I quickly got out and was in the process of getting dressed before I heard them laughing and telling their mates to look at the half-naked guy. Thankfully they weren’t too mean 😀 😀 😀 and my pride was left intact for the most part. 

I decided to head on up to Tann Hill as I was feeling strong still and hoped it wouldn’t be too busy up there (I know insane right?).

The moors between Keld and Tann Hill are exquisitely beautiful, and you feel like you are genuinely light-years from anywhere which is an amazing feeling.

I quickly came into view of the pub and my god was it busy, there must have been a hundred camper vans around there and the carpark was heaving. I was a bit gutted as I doubted being able to spend the night there. As I got closer, I could hear the noise and thought to myself that most nightclubs would be envious of these numbers.

I made it to Tann Hill, sat for a minute and thought I’ll get a drink and head out, but when I popped inside people were packed out to the door and there was no way I was scoring a drink ☹. 

Anyway, I thought I could hit a good mile day today so headed down into Bowes fell.

My god was this a mistake and the path quickly disappeared along with the light. I found myself dodging bogs trying in vain to keep my feet dry and considered just sleeping chest-deep in water and becoming a bog witch.

I kept hearing voices whilst traversing the challenging terrain and thought I was being stalked which made me reckless in my bog traversing.

I was praying to the moon Goddess hoping she would light my way which amazingly she did, this made me happy, and I was buzzing that the moon goddess was guiding me through the darkness.

Eventually, I found a raised wooden bridge and decided to chill there and thought I could sleep here if desperate enough, but I would still have to get out of the bog tomorrow so opted to carry on.

I made my way slowly through the terrain and eventually came to the track, which was a godsend at this point, a quick check of my watch put me at 2 am and I decided to find a place to sleep. I found a spot quickly right next to the track and pitched. 

38 miles walked

Day 6

I woke up around 5 am in thick fog and wet, my kit was pretty damp as well and I thought this needs to clear as it’s going to get grim if I can’t dry it all.

Luckily, I was meeting John from Robustours to crush some miles in the morrow, so I only had a short day to Middleton today. I soon found myself at the bridge of the Gods and the A66 crossing where if you pay attention someone has written on the little sign that this is the official halfway point.

I kept on going with visibility being poor and soon ended up with wet feet, but with it being a short day I wasn’t too bothered and headed on towards Middleton. I watched some Guys at the reservoir fishing and wondered if they were cold sat there barely moving before eating some more food and carrying on.

I spoke to another guy in the moors somewhere (or it might have been a mirage at this point) who was going SOBO, and he said I wasn’t far off Middleton now. This spurred me on, and I just about made Middleton as the clouds broke and the weather cleared, almost like the trail Gods were guiding me.

I headed into Middleton and scored a hotel room which was huge, and I took full advantage of doing some much-needed gear cleaning and admin before scoring some resupplies and then heading to the pub for a pint. I met another PW walker there who was staying nearby with her friend, they were doing a section and it was great speaking to them before they headed on back to their air B&B.

The day passed quickly, and I soon found myself laying in a soft comfy bed drifting off before being woken by the Sun.

13 miles walked

Day 7

I was up dead early and was out of the hotel before 7am, I scored some breakfast and headed to the river where the PW crosses through and the place I was waiting for John.

I spoke to a few people who passed through whilst I was waiting, and some were doing either section of the PW or the whole thing which is soo cool.

I love hearing people’s stories and the adventures and trials they have faced along the way, it’s what makes thru-hiking special…. well apart from the beautiful things you see I mean.

John arrived around 0930 and his personality shone through straight away, he is so upbeat it’s impossible to be miserable around him. We headed on up the river Tees where John filled me in on all the local stuff and best places to get shots, history of sites, and whatnot.

He’s very knowledgeable which is amazing and runs his own outdoors business so if you want a quality ML who will take you to new heights, he is the man (Robustours)

The miles rolled by, and we soon found ourselves chilling at High force waterfall and devouring some calories, I can say firsthand that corned beef and cheese wraps are not a nice combo. Trust me on this one!

We chatted and made our way over the hills and through the valleys with John’s knowledge made following the trail seamless. We soon found ourselves traversing the little boulder field before Cauldron Snout waterfall.

We chilled at the bottom of the waterfall watching people scramble up and down and eating more food 😀 before making our way up to the top and to Cow Green reservoir where John said his goodbyes as he had a long walk back. It was amazing having him join me for the day and I was buzzing from the company. 

I quickly annihilated some miles across the back of Warcop ranges towards High Cup Nick and made it there in no time. It was quite windy looking out across the huge glacial valley, but my god is this place stunning. It is just such an awe-inspiring place it’s hard to even comprehend in words. If you haven’t visited, you need to. No ifs or buts, just do it as it will blow your mind.

I sat chilling and eating more pastry whilst chatting to some people before heading along the PW. I knew what was next and that was Cross fell. The toughest part fo the trail as the climb is just savage and never-ending. I was hoping I would win at flagstone roulette up there as it is notoriously boggy.

I slowly made my way over to Knock Fell and chilled there for a while until my legs recovered a bit before heading on. I was quite nice up here and the weather was kind, and I was indeed winning at the roulette…so far.

I made my way to Great Dun Fell and found myself trying to catch up to the people in front who stopped at the top. I looked at the Golf center for a while (I know it’s not a golf centre) and then headed down to Little Dun Fell where I lost all my chips at the roulette and got my feet soaked.

Eventually, I hit Cross Fell which is the highest point of the trail and cruised on down to Gregg’s hut which is an absolute lifesaver.

Unfortunately, the people doing the Pw in front of me had left all the candles burnt out, and not bothered taking rubbish with them or sweeping the floor so I opted to do this even though I was dying.

After about an hour I heard the door go and wondered if it was the Cross Fell demons and ghosts coming for me, but it was a cool dude named Rob. Turns out Rob had started in Middleton as well that morning and ran all the way there, he was planning to run to House steads in the morning and was training for Junes Spine race which is amazing.

We chatted and told each other our stories before retiring for bed before the sun was down. It gets cold in Gregg’s hut on the night too 😀 and I was pretty chilly, so I imagine Rob was in bits, poor guy.

Anyway, I was feeling the pain when I laid down and it was like knives been twisted in my joints all over my body so it took a couple hours before I drifted off into dreamland.

31 miles walked

Day 8

I woke up in pain and needed to get moving, unfortunately, the weather was poor up there and it soon started raining. I said my goodbyes to Rob knowing he would fly by me in a few minutes.

I headed on towards Alston in the rain and as I said Rob cruised on by, I tried upping the pace for a while to keep him in my sights, but he was too quick and was soon gone. I flowed down the track towards Garrigill and noticed my feet were feeling tender now. I knew my body was under strain at this point and cracks would start showing.

I crossed the fields and the river before heading into Alston where I sorted my feet out by cutting the blisters that had formed and wrapping them up. It took a few miles of pain before I was into the groove again, but I kept going towards Hadrian’s wall. 

The weather cleared by mid-morning, and I was glad for the sun, I followed the Pw and noticed that the path was getting less signposted and a lot wilder now that I was heading into Northumberland which meant with my added tiredness I was making errors and getting off track.

Eventually, I cruised through Slaggyford and kept heading North with the intention of sleeping at Hadrian’s wall. The wall never seemed to get any closer though and the track became quite wild with bog city going on around Greenhead area.

I was charging my phone on the power bank and somehow managed to break the charging cable, which I was gutted about. John offered to drop me one out (what a legend, its miles out of his way) which pays testament to his character, but I said I should be fine as I’d drop off and get a new one as the trail always provides.

I made it to Hadrian’s wall and thought I could sleep near Walltown which is where I had pitched when doing Hadrian’s Wall trail last year and chilled at the pond airing my feet for an hour.

I felt refreshed after the rest and thought, this could be a good mile day, so I cruised on along Hadrian’s wall enjoying the roman battlements or remains of anyway. I fantasized about being a centurion on the wall and wondered how tough they must have been back then. Pretty soon I was nearing the end of the wall and got to enjoy a beautiful sunset as I headed north into Kielder.

I plodded along the trail up to Kielder in darkness managing to avoid any bogs and keep my feet dry, I was in a fair bit of pain by the time I reached Haughtongreen bothy and was glad for the shelter.

I walked in to see a guy sat in complete darkness with no lights on barring the fire which was closed making it pitch black. I absolutely shat myself when he spoke 😀 but he was cool enough and even lent me a charging cable, the trail always provides!

We chatted for a little bit before I retired for sleep which did not come easy. I was in utter agony, and it took me around 3 hours to drift off, I was almost crying at one point from the pains in my joints, feet and body. Eventually I drifted off into slumber town.

38 miles walked

Day 9

I woke up before the sun and knew I only had a short time left before my body gave out, so I headed on out towards Bellingham knowing I needed to make it to the Cheviots today.

I cruised along the bogs and even kept dry feet through Kielder which is almost unheard of. I hit the small diversion where some trees are still collapsed along the trail, I couldn’t face the extra miles so dived on through. It turned out it’s literally like 20-30 metres of felled trees and that’s it, so it was a good choice. I made my way over the hills and fields before hitting the Pit stop which is amazing.

I scored a drink, some nice conversation where we swapped stories and recognized ‘Impalas’ sticker on the fridge 😀 before heading on out to Bellingham where I needed some supplies.

Once in Bellingham I scored some medical gear for my blisters, and some alcohol to clean the wounds I was nursing. Next was to stock back up on some much-needed food which was to the bakeries horror as I wiped them out of most of it :D.

I sorted my feet out and headed on over the fields and hills towards the forest above Byrness and the Forest View Inn. I had been speaking with Ollie who runs the place and he had said to pop on by so that was my aim for now. I ended up with wet feet which by this point were in pain as were my legs which were covered in weird bruises like the blood vessels had burst as well as blisters from the Sun.

I cruised on over the vast undulating landscape before the weather closed in and it started absolutely belting it down for about 3 hours. This did nothing for views or my mood and made the journey slower.

Eventually, the weather broke which was amazing and I could enjoy the lush forest track to Byrness. Or enjoy it for a while anyway before I started wondering if I was gonna be walking this forever.

I debated giving the Forest view a miss but a message from Ollie made me drop in and I was soo glad I did. I met a lady who was gonna be finishing the same day as me which was proper cool. On top of that Ollie squared me away big time, he offered me food, drink, recharged my phone and even offered me a place to kip along with medical tape for my feet. So the place to be on the PW is the Forest View Inn in Byrness.

After a while chilling, I opted to head to the first mountain hut in the cheviots as I knew I didn’t have long left until my body failed. We said our goodbyes and I cruised on up the steep hill out of Byrness before coming into the beautiful Cheviot Hills which are amazing.

I made my way over the hills and soon found myself walking in the dark which was cool and is always a completely different experience. I eventually made it to the mountain hut and laid down for the night before crying myself to sleep through the pain in my body.

35 miles walked

Final Day

I woke up knowing I would be finished soon and that spurred me on through any issues I was having with my failing body. One thing that is worth noting is that water is sparce on the Cheviots so make sure you carry enough from Byrness. 

I soon found myself climbing into the mountains proper and sat in the cairn shelter atop Windy Gyle which weirdly enough was pretty darn windy. I ate most of the remaining food here and headed towards the Cheviot not knowing if I would take the detour and ascend. As I neared, I decided I didn’t have the energy for it and took the very very steep descent to the second mountain hut where I had a little rest.

I was soon back out loving the views, but the heat was punishing up there. I carried on regardless using my buff as a bandage on my leg to keep the sun off the scorched flesh. Eventually I found myself cruising out of the hills and towards Kirk Yetholm which made me kind of sad as I knew my trip was nearing its end.

I chilled a the bottom for a while before growing the courage to face the last mile or so down the road. the walk along the road was quite simply brutal, all the other climbs descents, challenges were nothing in the face of this minor road and slight hill. I think the residents and council know this too as there are numerous benches along this small section and I am not afraid to say I used them all.

I eventually dropped into the town proper and scored my certificate and half a pint at the Border Hotel.

All thoughts of regret about the trial finished when I saw Charmaine and Elyas as they had both travelled up to meet me at the trails end which was the most emotional and beautiful thing I had seen on the trail.

18 miles walked

Summary

I started the trail at 0930 11th April – 1315 20th April total time of 9 days 3 hours and 45 minutes which was never my intention and is the toughest thing I have done on the trail so far. The range of things you see along the PW is truly amazing, the hills, fields, forests, people, and weather all vary massively, and it truly is one of Britains toughest, best and most beautiful trails.

A special thanks to:

I’d like to thank all the people who I met along the way, people I spent time with on the trail and the ones I spoke to via social media. Without you Guyz I don’t think I would have finished and your support and advice were amazing.

Thank you to Montane for squaring me with some gear for the trip it was all amazing. Although I think I may have ruined some of it :D.

Thank you to Hiiker for having an amazing mapping system on their app as it made logistics and route finding so much easier meaning more miles per day.

And most of all thank you to Charmaine for coming up to meet me at the end with Elyas, this was the most special thing I could have hoped for.

What’s Next 

My next challenge will be the Wainright round in August where I am attempting all 214 Wainrights in 18 days which consists of 326 miles and 111k of ascent. 

Thank you everyone and happy trails

Peace out

Pack_backer

The Yorkshire Dales Top 10

The Yorkshire Dales Top 10 is an unofficial route that encompasses the top 10 mountains of the Yorkshire Dales. It does so by starting and finishing in Hawes and covers about 79 miles. The trail itself is quite challenging and often cuts across moorland and up steep embankments.

I decided to depart on the trail In January 2022 with the aim of doing it over 3-4 days.

The mountains the trail covers are (in order of Height):

  1. Whernside – 736m
  2. Ingleborough – 724m
  3. Great Shunner Fell – 716m
  4. High Seat – 709m
  5. Wild Boar Fell – 708m
  6. Great Whernside – 704m
  7. Buckden Pike 702m
  8. Gregory Chapel 695m
  9. Pen-Y-Ghent – 694m
  10. Hugh Seat – 689m

I did these in a slightly different order which I’ll cover below.

Day 1

I started the day early morning, parking my car in Hawes. I put my boots on and hit the trail heading along the Pennine way towards Hardraw. Once there I began my ascent up the third highest peak of Great Shunner Fell.

The trail is well marked at this point and is a case of following the Pennine Way to the summit. It isn’t too challenging as it covers about 4 miles before the summit. The weather was shining bright, and the views were amazing as I travelled at a leisurely pace along the flagstones. Considering it was January, it wasn’t too boggy, and I found it easy going.

At the summit I was feeling fresh and enjoyed the amazing views, I sat and aired my feet out and took the time to eat some food. A couple of other guys came and chilled with me, they were doing another trail and we enjoyed a good conversation before they headed back down as one had lost his car keys on the ascent.

Next for me was a Western path along an unmarked area and across the open hill and moorland towards Hugh Seat, High Seat and Gregory Chapel.

I descended a couple of hundred metres and had to traverse some very rough ground with no discernible path available. I managed to avoid most of the heavy bog and peat soil erosion areas before ascending Gregory Chapel and then onto High Seat. I realized on my way back past Gregory Chapel, that I had missed Hugh Seat.

Luckily it was a short way off the unmarked path I was already following along a riverbed. I decided on taking the direct route straight up the hill and to High Seat, simple right!

Wrong!

As always with a Mike shortcut, it went tragically wrong and turned out to be a terrible decision, and one that I paid for.

As I was hiking down a section before the final ascent, I noticed a flat patch of sphagnum moss and thought to myself, this looks like an ideal place to pitch my tent. I should have thought to myself why would there be a perfectly flat section on a hill. Unfortunately, I didn’t, and I stepped well above my waist with momentum carrying me forward into a Sphagnum bog. Luckily, I managed to stop myself from submerging completely with my hiking pole, but this changed my whole trip.

After dragging myself out of the bog and having an angry spat I calmed and assessed my situation. I decided that as it was winter, and my boots were now soaked along with all the clothes I had on, it was best to take a long tiring walk back to the car and switch out my gear for trail runners and my spare clothes in the pack.

I finished ascending Hugh Seat and set back along the open moorland towards the side of Great Shunner Fell. It was slow going but the views were absolutely amazing and as much as I was cold and wet, I enjoyed the tough ground and made sure not to repeat my mistake.

I finally found a farmers track that led through Cotterdale and I was able to follow a small trail back to the Pennine way just before Hardraw.

The section from Hardraw to Hawes was tough on my feet and the wet boots were taking their toll on them. I could feel the blisters bubbling now and knew that I wouldn’t be able to complete the route as I had hoped and so would have to adapt my plan.

Once back at the car I changed out my clothes and reassessed my situation and what I would do.

Ultimately, I decided on car camping and driving to the mountains, with the aim of completing each of the remaining 6 as fast as possible.

I scored some pub food and then drove over to Wild Boar fell which would be my 5th on the trail and slept the night in my car near the base.

Day 2

I woke up early and decided to hit Wild Boar fell with a vengeance, I think I was just taking my frustration out on the incline and summited within an hour. The views were amazing on the way up and it looked like a mini version of the Matterhorn from the route I had taken.

Once at the top I spotted some cool cairns and had to take a small detour to check them out. So glad I did as they were beautiful and so unusual in their layout. I chilled at the top enjoying the beautiful sunshine before heading over to the trig point which marks the highest point.

I decided to have a little run back down and was making good time until I took a bit of a tumble and rolled a good 15m downhill across the frozen ground. Luckily, the only thing damaged was my pride. I opted for a brisk walk back down after that and quickly found myself back at the car with 5 out of 10 ticked off.

I decided to assault Whernside next and parked at the legendary Ribblehead viaduct. Unfortunately, once over the pass from Hawes Whernside and Ingleborough were completely steeped in clouds making the area seem very formidable.

I made my way up Whernside following the Yorkshire 3 peaks route which was very familiar to me from the Dales High Way. I made quick time and considering the weather, the trail was still busy. As I got higher, the wind became strong and was absolutely freezing against my skin. I pulled my hood tight and pressed on, I soon found myself above the cloud base and the views were spectacular as the clouds rolled over the mountains and hills in the distance. I soon summitted and enjoyed a little rest bite before snapping a couple of pics.

I could make out the peak of Ingleborough as the cloud base ascended over the top which was brilliant to see. I quickly descended towards Chapel-le-Dale and made my way along the path towards Ingleborough.

I met an awesome lady who I spent 5 minutes chatting to, she was leading her friends back down from Ingleborough and told me the views were amazing up top. This boosted my spirits and abated my fatigue as I was able to make my way up the steep scramble before the summit. I spent some time here, watching the clouds roll over the hills around me and felt truly blessed to have witnessed it.

I made my way to the summit of Ingleborough and chilled at the top speaking to people who were sat up there.

After a while I decided that I had best start heading back down and chose to opt for a descent via Simon and Park fell. The route was straight forward and followed a very steep section along a wall down to the road near to where I had parked the car.

I debated heading over to Pen-Y-Ghent but my stomach decided against it and I made a night of it at the Station inn, where I spent the night in the bunkhouse.

Day 3

I woke up before dawn and set off towards Pen-Y-Ghent which would be my 8th mountain out of the 10. I decided on taking the less severe route up as it was icy and I wasn’t sure about the scramble near the top. The path was lit with the beautiful shine from the moonlight and It was almost as if the great moon goddess herself was guiding me. I was feeling very fatigued by this point and had pains and groans in most parts of my body but I pushed onwards regardless.

As I ascended I could see the faint glow from the coming sunrise and hoped I could outpace the light to the summit. Luckily, when I reached the trig point at the top I was in luck and I got to witness a beautiful sunrise that lit up Great Whernside like a beacon.

I chilled here for a little stretch before making a quick descent down the Pennine Way and into Horton in Ribblesdale.

My next and 9th peak was to be Buckden Pike which I’ve not summited before. I parked in the carpark and noticed how much colder it was here in comparison to Pen-Y-Ghent. I made haste as I knew the ascent and pace would warm me considerably.

As I went up I noted how remote it felt in this area considering I was crossing farmland. The path was frozen which aided me and kept me from getting wet feet. As I ascended I met a guy who was building one of the dry stone walls that are dotted around the Dales. I stopped and watched him for a good ten minutes as I was mesmerized by his swiftness and skill before carrying on my way upwards.

The path was getting ever steeper and I knew I wasn’t far off the summit now, so I carried on slowly. I reached the summit absolutely shattered but knowing I only had 1 peak remaining.

I watched the sky from the summit almost hypnotised by the rolling clouds that formed such pretty shapes, thinking I was literally in them the day before whilst summiting Ingleborough and Whernside.

I made quick work of my descent and soon found myself back in the carpark ready for the final challenge of my trip.

I parked up in Kettlewell and made a very hasty and steep ascent of Great Whernside. I thought I was ready for a direct attack but man was it steep.

I followed an unnamed stream all the way to the summit which was tough going and slower than I would have liked as my legs were completely shattered by this point.

I could hear my heartbeat in my ears and a quick check of my watch showed it hitting well over 180bpm but I persevered nonetheless, slowly making my way up the steep embankment. Eventually I reached the summit and was greeted by a group of people who looked surprised by the route I had taken up. I had a quick chat and told them I’d done all 10 peaks now and they snapped a pic of me atop the trig point which turned out well.

I left them and descended via the route I had taken up. It didn’t take half as long and I was down within a short period and soon finished with my peak bagging trip.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about the highs and lows of my trip and even though it didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped, I enjoyed every second of it and wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

Remember to tap me up on Instagram if you want to follow more of my trips @pack_backer

Peace out and happy trails.

Walking the Hadrian’s Wall Path

Hadrian’s wall is a feat of engineering like no other. It is world UNESCO site and features some of the most beautiful landscapes in the North of England. The path starts in Bowness-in-Solway and finishes in Wallsend in Newcastle covering 85 miles. The path itself follows the original Roman wall and covers beautiful hills, farmland, riverside trails, and plenty of the beautiful and staggering wall itself.

For my hike I opted to start in Carlisle and finish at Newcastle train station as it made sense logistically, however meant I only covered 66 miles of the 85. The sections I missed were mainly road walking and a bit of river walking but made no real difference to the overall trail and in my opinion, are worth missing out.

I completed the walk in November 2021 in a total time of 46 hours and 30 minutes.

Day 1

I started the trail in beautiful sunshine, taking a steady walk out of Carlisle and down the river following the signposted pathway. The scenery was beautiful from the onset but was a little tough on the feet fairly fast as it was just road walking. After about 5-10 miles the trail led into some farmland and it was plain to see by how straight the path was, it was following the wall at this point and the landscape had scars from its construction. The wall itself wasn’t really visible at this point and most of the stone was presumably stolen for farms and maybe the Priory not far from there.

As the day went on, the Autumn chill was present and with the speed, I was going I soon found myself running short on water. The water situation was quite a problem for the whole trail as the farmland just seemed to contaminate any water sources I could have used.

As I headed through Walton, I had some beautiful views south towards Cross fell and looked forward to heading into some hills and getting to see the wall proper.

Hadrian’s wall really comes into its own around the 30-mile mark and soon joins with the Pennine Way. It was beginning to get a little dark by the time I hit some of the main sections of the wall, but I scored some awesome photos and spoke to cool people along the way. I carried on cruising along into the night and soon found a place to pitch near Walltown Crags about 10m from the wall itself. Once pitched I sorted some food out and had a little wander around taking in the scale of the wall. In the dark, it was easy to see what type of challenges the Roman soldiers must have faced patrolling the wall.

I finally went to sleep around 10pm and slept really well until about 5am.

Day 2

I made myself a drink and headed into the fog, visibility was very poor, and I was left with the damp morning air surrounded by thick fog and my own thoughts. I plodded along keeping a straight path next to the wall and past sheep (at one point I thought a sheep lying down was some type of bear, luckily it wasn’t). I chose a spot for breakfast in one of the old roman towers which seemed like a good shelter from the wind. I quickly made my breakfast, brushed my teeth, and carried on my way. I reached Cawfields lake where I was able to fill my water bottles back up as they were getting desperately low. I spotted someone in the distance at this point ascending the hill towards Thorny Doors and was determined to catch up.

After ascending the hill I managed to catch up to the person I spotted earlier and spent my time chatting to him and we hiked along together. Turns out he was walking The Pennine Way solo which is quite a challenge in November I would imagine. We walked along, barely getting a glimpse of Sycamore Gap due to poor weather and visibility, but the company was great. Eventually, we parted ways and he went North into Kielder, I fantasized about joining him in his journey North but didn’t have the time.

As I headed East the weather began to clear and I saw some daunting-looking hills in the distance and knew I would have to ascend them at some point. I managed to get some good visibility at one of the old Roman Villas and spent a little bit of time exploring the ruins before carrying on my journey, I was still awe-struck at the scale of Hadrian’s Wall.

I was hitting around the 50-mile point of the journey now and nearing Chollerford where I hoped to score a pub meal or something of the like. Unfortunately, I was out of luck but a few miles further down the road in the fading light, I had spotted the Robin Hood Inn on the Hiiker app. I hoped this would be open and thinking of a nice cold pint and some good food spurred me on to crush the 5 miles or so to my destination.

I was in luck and scored an awesome burger, 3 pints of beer and 2 pints of coca-cola which quite honestly bloated me to no end and made me feel quite sick. Luckily, I would burn it off fairly soon.

I headed East and hoped to pitch up near Whittle burn reservoir so carried on with my journey in the cold. It was getting late, and I was walking next to a busy road. I eventually arrived at the reservoir and lucked out as there was a bird watching shelter that I took full advantage of or so I thought…

At around midnight I was woken a loud bang and a 4×4 revving its engine, I had a lookout of the window and spotted a guy breaking the gate to the reserve open and the driver of the 4×4 wheel spinning into the grounds. At this point, I was just thinking why do people behave like that. I hoped I would be sharing the shelter with some bird watchers. Turns out I was wrong!

3 guys got out of the vehicle and began having a loud chat about setting fireworks off whilst the 4th proceeded to fire rockets into the sky. I could hear the wildlife in the area and all of the birds screaming in a fit of panic as their tranquil night had been broken. The next part came fairly quickly with one of them saying they were going to fire loads of fireworks into the shelter so they could have a bonfire. At this point I was quite frankly scared out of my mind but decided to don my head torch and go to the door, luckily this worked as they must not have expected anyone to be there and they left without even a word. This experience was the worst I have ever had whilst out hiking!

Day 3

I didn’t get much sleep but cooked some breakfast about 4 am and set on my way towards Harlow Hill which was only about a mile away. I carried on to Heddon on the Wall and scored some snacks from the garage there as well as a drink which boosted my morale for the last part of the journey.

I descended through a golf course and hiked along the beautiful River Tyne speaking to the dog walkers along the way and reflecting on my journey. The path became boring quite quickly as it was just a path walking near the road for the most part. Eventually, I reached Newcastle and found my way to the train station where I had decided before the walk to end my journey.

I found Hadrian’s wall walk worth doing but I think the middle 30 miles where there are hills are the only worthwhile sections as all the sights happen here and the parts before and after are simply paths across fields and next to roads which really take it out of your feet.

I hope you enjoyed the blog and wish you all the best out there.

Peace out.

The Dales High Way

With an Alternate End

The Dales High Way is an 89-mile thru-hike running from Saltaire near Leeds and heading North up to Appleby-in-Westmorland covering over 12,200 feet of ascent. The trail covers beautiful moorland that has beautiful stone age rock art, leading into the Yorkshire Dales proper and covering the beautiful limestone landscape around Malham. The trail then heads up the awe-inspiring Ingleborough mountain before dropping down and heading across a beautiful ridge along the back of Whernside before descending into a beautiful valley and back up again into the Howgill Fells. The trail then heads across farm and moorland towards Appleby via the Eden valley.

I chose an alternate route where the trail meets the Coast to Coast near Newbiggin on Lune and headed East through the Eden valley and into Kirkby Stephen.

Day 1

I started my journey in Saltaire with the sun shining for about 3 minutes. The skies decided to open before I left the beautiful canal path, so I spent much of the day wrapped up in my gore-tex to keep dry. The trail really came into its own within a couple of miles and I ascended into the Ilkley moors where there is beautiful stone age artwork dotted about. The trail drops down from the moors and skirts Ilkley following a beautiful ridgeline that gives stunning views across valleys.

The next section drops down towards Addingham before ascending into some fantastically remote moorlands and heading down into Skipton where I scored a little bit of warm food and a drink. The rain was still lashing it down at this point and I decided to change my socks, rub some Vaseline in and head out back into the moors. I ascended Sharp Haw and skirted the edge of Rough Haw before heading back down into the more populated area of Hetton (I say populated, it’s just a few houses). The next section took me past Winterburn reservoir which I noticed had a very low water level before starting the long walk up to Weets Top (414m). Once I had finished my ascent, I headed back down into the beautiful limestone valleys that surround Malham and Gordale. I decided to spend the night at the campsite at the foot of Gordale scar, which was so beautiful when I woke up.

Day 2

I woke up aching quite badly and noticed a few niggles in my right foot, which I hoped would ease up once I got going. I took a little wander down to Gordale scar and snapped a few shots, before packing up my gear having a quick wash in the river, and heading up to the top of the mighty Malham Cove. A bit of trivia for Gordale and Malham here: They were formed during the last glacial period when the ice sheets were melting. This happened as small rivers created channels through the limestone that lead into huge bodies of water cutting their way through the rocks until finally what was left was the likes of Gordale scar and Malham cove.

I sat atop the cove and had some breakfast whilst looking out into the beautiful day ahead. A truly magical place that should be on the bucket list to visit.

I cracked on and followed the trail across the beautifully scarred limestone hills and noticed my first glimpse of Ingleborough looming in the distance and still a good 20 miles away. I remember thinking to myself I’ll be hitting that at some point in the early evening when I’m tired out.

Next was the descent into Settle where I met a lovely lady who shared a cup of tea with me and chatted about hiking and our mutual obsession with hoarding gear.

I soon left Settle and found myself following the River Ribble before ascending the hills once more and heading over to Feizor where I scored some water, a couple of drinks, and a few snacks.

I then began the slow ascent of Ingleborough which I noted as being about 11 miles from this point and was a never-ending upwards slog. I had beautiful views of the mountain and spent a few minutes chatting to people on the Yorkshire 3 peaks as I was going up.

Once at the top I admired the views for miles around and thought about pitching at the top. Alas, it was a little too busy, so I dropped down towards Chapel Le Dale and spent the night at the campsite near the foot of Whernside. Even managed a hot shower!

Day 3

I had crushed around 50 miles by this point and the constant up and down of the dales had taken its toll on my right foot. I set off nice and early and scored some beautiful photos of Ribblehead viaduct, which is another must-see especially in the early morning due and mist. It was so beautiful.

I then headed up over the Back of Whernside and skirted a ridge for a few miles before dropping down towards Dent, the hills never rest in the Dales though and I soon found myself heading back up into the beautiful Moorland over Sedbergh.

I dropped down into Sedbergh where I decided my foot was in a bad way and I needed to rest it for a week or two before pushing on. I managed a lift home at this point and promised to head back out and complete it as soon as I was able.

End of Part 1!

Resting

It turns out I had done a little bit of damage to my ligaments at the section of my foot where it meets your shin and controls flexibility. I soon found that part of my foot really inflamed and bruised. It took a couple of weeks before I could fully walk on it again and a friend gave me some advice on exercises to strengthen the area.

Part 2 – Day 4

I traveled back out to Ribblehead via car and left it at the viaduct before retracing my steps towards Sedbergh, it was around half 6 I set off and soon found myself exhausted by around 11 pm when I managed to get back to Sedbergh. I had covered around 15 miles by this point in such a short time.

I began my ascent of the Howgill fells in total darkness and soon found myself exhausted as they are a tough old climb up. I decided to pitch upon a relatively flat spot about 500m up and spent the night there.

Day 5

I woke up to some amazing views across the fells and could feel how remote they were, I packed up and headed North following the beautiful hills. I summited the Calf early in the morning and spent some time admiring the beauty of the landscape before carrying on towards Hazelgill Knot and West Fell.

I dropped down towards Newbiggin on Lune where I had some lunch and made the choice to switch up the route and follow the Coast-to-Coast route instead of heading to Appleby-in-Westomorland.

I followed the C2C route East and through the beautiful Eden valley area summiting a few hills along the way. Eventually, I arrived at my alternate finishing point of Kirkby Stephen where I scored some food and made my journey to the train station where the skies opened once more.

I hope you enjoyed the read and hope it has inspired people to do this amazing trail that has quickly become one of my favorites to date.

Peace out!

Walking The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way

The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way was first established in 2000 and is often known as ‘Scotland in 57 miles’ it covers beautiful coastline, some amazing heritage, some beautiful views of mountains along with woodlands and moors.

Running from Portavadie along the Cowal peninsula it heads North-Easterly finishing in Inveruglas on the shores of Loch Lomond. I began the Loch Lomond and Cowal way on the 15th of August 2021 and finished it the following day on the 16th of August 2021, I flipped the trail and started at Inveruglas heading South to finish in Portavadie and then head straight into the Kintyre way (see my Kintyre Way blog to read my adventure on the Kintyre peninsula).

Day 1

I began by parking my car at a campsite in Succoth and hitching a lift back to Inveruglas (mainly because I hadn’t booked a permit to park in the carpark at Inveruglas). From there I followed the road for a couple of hundred meters before heading up a forestry road and into the hills. There wasn’t too much ascent, and the trail began following a river before crossing over it and heading through a valley in between two steep hills. The views were already epic with mountains looming all around like something from a Lord of the Rings movie.

After a few miles, I arrived at Succoth where I had left my car, scored a burger at the campsite and carried on along the water’s edge before heading up into the hills once more. The views were absolutely amazing at this point and I was mesmerized looking across the water towards Tullich hill on the other side.

I carried on a Southerly course hiking through amazing forestry with some slight inclines along the way. I soon came out of the forested sections though and entered open moorland with a steep ascent around the North side of Cnoc Coinnich. The moors felt very remote and the views were stunning, next was a steep ascent through some woodland where I took a few tumbles on the slippery ground before heading into Lochgoilhead where I scored a can of cola and chilled next to the Loch.

Upon leaving Lochgoilhead the skies opened up in traditional Scottish fashion and I was soaked through to the bone before I could even get my waterproofs out.

I decided to just crack on regardless soaking wet through and up in the hills once more. After following a logger’s path for a few miles it ends and you find the path very exposed and not very well-trodden. There is a steep ascent up the side of a series of waterfalls here and it was definitely slippy going due to the onslaught of rain.

After ascending I managed to get some sunshine and chilled at the edge of the waterfall looking out across the beautiful Scottish hills for a while.

I planned on stopping near Curra Lochain but it was still a bit early and I felt fresh so cracked on along the water’s edge and back into forest (most has been logged but it’s still beautiful).

Following the forest paths and around the outside of Beinn Lagan and towards Glenbranter. I found an amazing spot about half a mile past the little village and pitched up in the woods next to a river. I managed to find a lull in the fast-flowing river and decided to take a dip and wash my already stinking clothes. I had basically just lied to myself at this point and hammered 26 miles instead of the 15 I had promised to myself, so I was almost at the halfway point already.

Day 2

I woke up nice and early, packed up my gear, and started crushing the miles ready for a big mile day as I had told myself I may as well just get it finished today.

The trail carried on slowly ascending the Western side of Creag Tharsuinn continuing along its South-Westerly vector before dropping down and following what in my opinion the worst section of trail I have ever come across. It was at least 15 miles of road walking with little in terms of views due to the trees,

If there was a bus, taxi or even cars I would have attempted to ditch the trail and get to Kames via those options.

Alas, there wasn’t and I plodded along for what felt like a year before being met with some rather treacherous cliff paths along the loch before Tighnabruaich.

Once I reached Tighnabruaich I feasted like a demon and treat my feet to a dip in the loch to cool them before powering on through Kames and across the moors towards Portavadie.

I reached Portavadie around 5pm and sat chilling watching the waves roll across the shores in a kind of stupor that I had finished the 57-mile journey so fast and feeling fresh as a daisy really.

Check out my blog on the Kintyre Way for the next part of my journey across remote Scotland.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and my rant about road walking hasn’t put anybody off from the beautiful Loch Lomond and Cowal Way. Peace Out.

Thanks to Hiiker for providing the amazing mapping to do this trail. If you want your hiking needs taken care of defo give their app a download.

Post Trail Blues

Everyone talks about the mental health benefits of hiking and outdoor activities and what’s not to fall in love with, it’s been proven to improve mental health and give a more positive outlook on the world.

When living in the outdoors for long periods we feel free, it’s like a nomadic calling to nature, perhaps it’s in our genes as it’s only relatively recently that we have changed our way of living and become fixed in one place inside cities and the like.

Unfortunately though there is the other side of the feeling of euphoria one experiences when out on the trail that any thru hiker and most multi-day hikers feel.

The Post Trail Blues! I’ve always found that the further from my day to day life of routine, stress and responsibility, the happier I feel but this is accompanied with a sense of impending doom that increases the closer I get to the finish line. That is to say the closer I get to having to return to all the stresses that modern day life brings. This leads to a depression in my life which sometimes lasts weeks, making me quite often anxious and feeling lost.

After speaking with many hikers over the years, I thought it might initially have been something going on with my own mental health but lots of others experience the same dread and the same anxieties of going back to our ‘normal’ lives.

I believe fundamentally that this feeling when finishing a trail and returning to ‘normality’ is because deep down we are meant to be nomadic as a species and we are meant to wander and explore our surrounding. We are adventurers at our hearts, hunters and gatherers and should be free at our very roots. Unfortunately in our lives we are most often none of these things. This leads to the depression hikers feel known as the ‘post trail blues’.

I’ve tried many ways to combat it, but found that the only real way is to slowly transition my way back into my life when I finish a trail and that involves going out after work and slaying some miles, spending much of my first week or two back at home walking, lounging in the garden or other outdoor spaces and convincing myself that it won’t be long until I’m back out. Some outdoor retail therapy helps too 😂.

I hope you enjoyed this short read and if you suffer from the post trail blues, don’t worry you are definitely not alone and it will pass within a short period of time and you’ll be back to feeling amazing.

If you do however suffer with depression, anxieties and other mental health conditions in normal day to day living. It may be worth consulting a professional to investigate the route cause of the problems.

peace Out.

Walking The Kintyre Way

The Kintyre way is a 100 mile thru hike starting from Tarbet on the Northern end of the Peninsula and zig zagging through beautiful scenery between the East and Western sides of the peninsula. It does this whilst ever heading in a southerly direction and finishing in Macrihanish in the South-West.

The Kintyre way has a very varied landscape with sections of road walking, huge pine plantations, open moors, and coastal paths. It offers remoteness for large sections of the walk but also has settlements every day or two (depending on distances covered).

I started the Kintyre way on the 17th August 2021 and finished it on my birthday the 20th August 2021. It took me around 3.5 days in total and I hiked from Macrihanish back up to Tarbet as it made more sense logistically for me.

Day 1

My first day started at around 1800 as it took me a while to travel down to my starting point and so I only covered about 3 miles into the open moorland on the South-West side of the peninsula.

Arriving in Macrihanish I was met with some strong wind which one would expect with the Atlantic Ocean directly in front. The next body of land if you look directly out from Macrihanish would most certainly be Greenland which is amazing when you think about it and daunting at the same time.

After a short walk down the beach and along the town’s main road, I headed up into the fog and my visibility became very limited. It’s a steady climb updawards along the road as you pass some of the working farms in the area and head into the untouched moorland of the Kintyre peninsula. There are signs along the way warning hikers not to underestimate these moors and once up there in bad weather I can tell you it is 100% savage up there.

Once you pass Ballygroggan the road finishes and it becomes pure moorland with the Kintyre way markers been very hard to spot in thick fog. The trail at this point appears to see very little use and is overgrown, boggy and the markers are mostly rotting adding to the isolation you feel up there.

After about 3 miles and just past ballygroggan I found a small wall on top of a hill that offered some shelter from the brutal onslaught of wind and rain, it was here that I decided to spend the night.

Day 2

My second day on the Kintyre way started very poorly in all honesty, the wind and rain had increased and it was practically gale force at this point. I managed to pack away my soaking gear and head out along the remains of the track.

My second day on the Kintyre way started very poorly in all honesty, the wind and rain had increased and it was practically gale force at this point. I managed to pack away my soaking gear and head out along the remains of the track.

After about 20m my feet were soaked through (I only really hike in trainers and shorts, so wet feet are part and parcel once its wet) and my legs were cold. Luckily my waterproof jacket is the bomb (Mountain Equipment Lhotse, for those who want a bombproof waterproof). The moorland was truly beautiful though and whilst I was miserable at the time due to the bad weather I look back with fondness and wish I was up there still. The weather really did hammer me throughout the next 4 miles of moorland, and I only covered a few miles in 4 hours. I hit a section where I was quite high up and could hear the Ocean hitting the cliffs that were close by, but I never once got a view of it due to low visibility.

After about 20m my feet were soaked through (I only really hike in trainers and shorts, so wet feet are part and parcel once its wet) and my legs were cold. Luckily my waterproof jacket is the bomb (Mountain Equipment Lhotse, for those who want a bombproof waterproof). The moorland was truly beautiful though and whilst I was miserable at the time due to the bad weather I look back with fondness and wish I was up there still. The weather really did hammer me throughout the next 4 miles of moorland, and I only covered a few miles in 4 hours. I hit a section where I was quite high up and could hear the Ocean hitting the cliffs that were close by, but I never once got a view of it due to low visibility.

Whilst on the moors the trail become barely visible at sections with no signage, and it was easily lost (which happened to me numerous times). I would recommend retracing your steps if you do the trail and lose the trail instead of trying to plough ahead like I did. The undergrowth is treacherous, and I nearly had some nasty accidents whilst making my way through the untouched wilderness.

After Hitting the summit of Amod hill the path becomes easier with the area being used as a working farm so it is easily identifiable, and you begin to head down into farm-land. Once out of the moors the trail follows roads to the coast. Once at the coast its worth a visit to see Kiel cave and St Columbus footprint as well as the ancient well. Its practically on the path.

This area is beautiful and the views out to sea are phenomenal (the weather cleared up once I was off the moors too, typical isn’t it). It’s worth looking back towards the moors that have just been traversed too as they offer some amazing views. Hiking along the road towards Dunaverty and Southend you can spot seals on the rocks chilling in the Sun.

This area is beautiful and the views out to sea are phenomenal (the weather cleared up once I was off the moors too, typical isn’t it). It’s worth looking back towards the moors that have just been traversed too as they offer some amazing views. Hiking along the road towards Dunaverty and Southend you can spot seals on the rocks chilling in the Sun.

Southend is a small village but does have a shop to stock up on some essentials, after this you continue along roads towards kilmashenachan where you head cross country again and can hike next to the sea. This section of the walk was an absolute foot breaker as all the way to Cambelltown is road walking (I hate road walking). Luckily the views are fantastic and looking out to sea is amazing. There are a few steep ascents along the road with one next to a hill apty named ‘the Bastard’ and it really is.

There are a couple of good spots just above the tide line off the road to pitch up for the night, but I felt fresh at this point and planned to power on past Cambelltown. Once I hit Cambelltown I sourced some food and headed back up into the hills chasing my biggest mile day ever.

Unfortunately, I was for the most part more road walking before heading into a large forest plantation around Lussa Loch. It was dark for me at this point, and I had to keep hiking to find a place to pitch. I managed to find somewhere right next to the trail and what a pitch it was. Perfectly flat with a bench and table and a note (that for some reason I didn’t take a picture of) saying ‘Don’t give up’. It was here that I pitched my tent and spent the night.

Also, I had covered a whopping 43 miles that day! Which beats my PB by 5 miles and considering the strain on my body, I felt fine.

Day 3

I woke up nice and early feeling fresh and packed up my gear, headed down the forest road that wound its way through the plantation, I noticed a caravan probably 500m from where I pitched. I assume its used by the loggers as a break room, it was open too! Seriously wish I had slept in there the night before.

I hiked through the forest for quite a few miles and the views of trees, hills and sometimes the coast were amazing. I love the forest and it’s my favourite place to crush miles. Eventually I headed down into Bridgend and found a post office where I could score some food for the next day or so. There’s a cheeky little café too which I waited to open and had a nice sausage sandwich.

The next section was totally amazing as I spent a lot of the day in the forest hiking along the forest trails and from Bridgend, I made my way North-West through them towards the West side of the Peninsula. The forests were so cool, and the miles literally flew by. Before I knew it, I was on the West coast again. The weather was pretty poor, and the wind and rain hammered me all day but because of it been big forests I wasn’t too wet or bothered as I was in my element.

Once at the coast I hiked along the beach for a little while in the rain before I made the decision to skip miles of road walking down the A83. So, I hopped on a bus and jumped back on the trail at Clachan and heading back into the hills. I had a couple of hours rest near Loch Ciaran and then continued on through some more forest and moorland where I could make out the Isle of Arran if the clouds broke enough. This was largely good hiking trail with some forest tracks and moorland walking.

Eventually I came back to the East coast of Kintyre and decided to crack on to Skipness and find a spot along the beach. After hiking down the beach road for a while I was beginning to think there wouldn’t be any good spots as campervans were literally everywhere. Luckily, I happened upon a spot and chilled out watching the sun go down. It was an amazing night there and I could see across to Arran whilst listening to the waves lap the shore.

Day 4

It was an amazing day this day, not only had I crushed the miles and was 11 miles of finishing. It was also my birthday so double points. I packed my gear and scored some water from a river before heading back up into the moors towards the finish line of Tarbet.

The weather was kind to me, and it was nice and warm with sunshine throughout. The moors were beautiful with the purple heather everywhere before they turned into a huge plantation for most of the remaining trail. It was amazing and the trail was laid out well too, so I could just relax, slay miles and enjoy the scenery.

Once I started the descent to Tarbet I was treated with amazing views across to Portavadie (where I had come from after finishing the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way) and could see for miles.

Before hitting the finish line, I made sure to have a look around Tarbet castle as recommended by a guy called Chris (he is walking the entire coastline his Instagram is @christhecoastwalker and he has a website by the same name, so check him out) I met about 10 minutes before. It is well worth having a look around and offers some amazing views.

Once I hit Tarbet I knew I had finished so the emotions came thick and fast, with the regret that I had completed too fast and that I wished I was still out on the trail.

I hope you enjoyed the read and its inspired you to hit the Kintyre way. Peace out

Preparing for a Thru Hike

On the 15th of August I will be hitting the trail again, this time heading up to Loch Lomond in Scotland and hiking the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way. Following this I will be heading straight into the Kintyre Way before heading back via public transport to my car at Inveruglas.

I thought in this blog I would share what prep I have done if any for the trail and thought I’d share what kit I carry, clothes I wear and anything additional I’ll be taking for the trip.

Prep

Since returning from the Eskdale way a few weeks back I haven’t really done any exercise as I have been moving home unfortunately. Ideally, I would have been out at least a few times a week crushing some 20 milers to keep my fitness up a little as well as doing some running for the overall stamina. This time as I said, I have done little in way of fitness so when I set out ill be covering 15 or so miles a day for the first few days to get my body used to it again before upping the mileage.

Kit wise I have already been titivating and have added in a peaked baseball cap, a midge net and some gloves as well as carrying some trousers and a long sleeve shirt. My reason for carrying these is simply the Scottish Midge can be a killer and if you’re unprepared for them they can end your trip.

Food Prep

I’ve been dehydrating some veg to supplement my meals which I usually do, to do this you can buy a dehydrator or do it the old-fashioned way and put the oven on about 80-90 degrees Celsius leaving the door slightly ajar and add thinly chopped veg onto the tray. Depending on what you want to dehydrate will depend on the length of time needed for the moisture to disappear. For this trip I will be dehydrating plum tomatoes, sweet peppers, aubergine, onion, and some spiced tofu which should all supplement my meals nicely. Meal wise I only usually carry around 2 days on trails like these. It’s obviously worth doing some research on how secluded it is and what towns, villages and shops are about as well as pubs for food and to charge electrical items.

For my 2 days’ worth of food, I pack simple and boring to keep the weight down. I carry sachets of porridge for breakfast, cup a soups and mugshots for lunch and the bachelors dehydrated pasta packets for tea. Those with my dehydrated veg and tofu work well and keep my food light. I do usually carry some hot sauce too for a little kick and I carry some skinny lattes for hot drinks.

Kit

I try and keep my base weight below 10kg with food and water adding another 2kg. Kit wise I carry few luxuries and stick with only essentials. I would class the 3-5 pairs of socks I carry as a real luxury; I love putting a fresh pair on and feel like it revitalises my feet (sad I know). One thing I do always carry is a set of headphones for when I’m slaying the miles, a bit of upbeat music can really help you when your tired and feeling a little down. I’ll write a breakdown of the kit I carry. Additionally, I’ll keep the clothes I wear separately and write a little about them after.

Kit List

  1. Osprey Exos 48 (I remove the lid as I don’t use it)
  2. Thermarest Corus down Quilt
  3. Sea to Summit Pillow
  4. Sea to summit etherlight xt (large, as I roll around when asleep)
  5. Sea to summit cool max fitted sheet (nothing worse than sticking to your mat when it’s hot)
  6. Ear plugs (honestly a lifesaver when its windy)
  7. Lanshan 1 tent with y shaped aluminium pegs
  8. A telescopic hiking pole (both for use with my lanshan and to help with uphill and downhill, well worth investing if you haven’t already)
  9. 750 ml Titanium cup (my cooker fits inside nicely)
  10. Generic gas stove
  11. Sea to summit collapsible pan
  12. Spork
  13. Wind break for my cooker (I made it out of a turkey tray, its lightweight and works a treat)
  14. A gas canister (I take varying sizes depending on the length of the trip, for this one I’m taking a big one)
  15. 3-5 pairs of merino wool socks
  16. 3 pairs of merino wool boxers
  17. A pair of trousers (I usually only hike in shorts for the summer, but with the midges potentially been bad I have decided to add in a pair)
  18. Long sleeve top (for the same reason as above)
  19. Craghoppers microlite synthetic jacket (it packs tiny and has some awesome heat retention)
  20. Mountain Equipment Lhotse Jacket (I only recently saved the money for this mega investment but its an awesome jacket and will keep me dry in any weather)
  21. Head torch and batteries
  22. A mora diving knife
  23. Lighter
  24. First aid kit (fitted with tick tweezers, compeed and Vaseline)
  25. Microfibre towel, toothbrush and toothpaste
  26. Sawyer mini water filter
  27. Anker power bank
  28. Osprey rucksack cover
  29. Food and water which we have covered above (I usually carry 1.5-2l of water depending on heat and ability to resupply)
  30. Peaked baseball cap
  31. Midge net and Jungle formula repellent (as much as I worry about the environmental impacts of deet and the potential consequence of long-term use on our skin making sure the midge repellent contains it is a must)
  32. Gloves
  33. Maps and compass (this time I will be taking the paper versions of the Hiiker trail maps)
  34. Phone

I haven’t listed drybags on here, but I generally individually waterproof most of the things listed with drybags. I find it helps with packing as well as making sure my kit stays dry.

Clothing

Day to day I wear a pair of mid length shorts with a t-shirt and my trusty bandana and for my footwear I wear a pair of Hoka One One Speedgoat 4’s. I generally don’t wear boots in the summer at all and save my Scarpa Terras for the winter. I have trialled all sorts of different shoe styles and boots and have found these two to be perfect for me. I would recommend anyone to get correctly fitted for shoes and remember that each person’s feet are most likely completely different to your own. See my previous blog which can be found here for some tips on looking after your feet.

Navigation

Carrying a paper map and a compass with the ability to use them in my eyes is a must, just as security. It’s rare I use them these days, but you never know so it is best to carry them. I use the Hiiker app to navigate my thru hikes as it contains the trail routes I need as well as showing all the amenities along the way (campsites, water, pubs, shops, towns, restaurants, you need it the hiker app has it).

Finishing Touches

As the days get closer, I will probably repack my kit 3 times or so just to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything (which I probably have on the list above :D:D:D) and just because as it gets closer to trail day, I get super stoked to be back on the trail.

Some of the kit I have listed is a little pricey and if you are just starting out, you don’t have to spend top dollar for gear and there is plenty of kit for good prices too. It’s taken me a couple of years of saving and scouring sites and second-hand pages for some of this stuff at the right prices. It’s a slow process and one that does take time.

I hope this blog has given an insight into my trail prep and the kit I take along on my journeys. I look forward to writing my next blog which will hopefully cover my adventures on the trail.

Thank you and happy trails.

@pack_backer

On Your Feet

Every hiker dreads to think of blisters or any injury for that matter and in this article, I will cover some of the most common foot care routines to take care of our feet. Is there a foot care routine that is the best? Is there a routine that will work for everyone? The short answer is probably not!

Our feet are unique to us and because of this a one size fits all approach simply won’t work, what we have to do is find out what works best for us as an individual and tailor it accordingly.

For me personally, I have tried many different methods of looking after my feet whilst on the trail, some have been met with failure, others with success. I use a mixture of methods and have had little trouble in the last year or so due to this. I’ll list a few of the more common methods below and discuss them.

Correct Footwear

Correct footwear is simply the most important aspect of any routine and we see many people swear by an individual brand (myself included), unfortunately just because a brand works for one it won’t necessarily work for another. The first thing to consider when buying footwear is its use. It’s no good buying a trail runner when your winter hiking as your feet will freeze! So making sure you have the correct footwear for the correct terrain and season is paramount. Next up is the correct sizing and fitting, in regular shoes, I am a UK 9 but for hiking, I always go with a 10, and if there is a wide fitting I choose these two. Why you might ask? Well, it comes down to wearing a thicker more durable sock and allowing my feet room to swell. Once I have been out for a few hours my feet are bigger than they were when I started, it may only be marginal but trust me it matters when hiking 30 odd miles in a day.

Double Layering

I have heard lots of people swear by double layering their socks and have tried this method myself with some limited success. Double layering works in principle by wearing a thin liner sock and then a slightly thicker sock on top, this then offsets the friction caused when hiking and thusly reducing blisters. I have found however that wearing two pairs of socks causes excessive sweating and the feet to swell more on long hikes which cause their own problems and do eventually lead to blisters due to separation of skin layers from wetness. Another factor is that most people only wear one pair of socks when getting a shoe fitted, so if this is the method you use please make sure to double-layer when buying the shoe.

Merino Wool

Now merino wool is well known for its ability to wick moisture away from the body which is why it’s used in socks and base layers by many huge brands. Obviously, as we travel long distances our feet sweat so it only makes sense that merino wool socks are the go-to for a lot of hikers as they help to keep the feet dryer. I’ve attempted to try and find a downside for merino wool socks, but ultimately I think they are an essential item for looking after the feet and a win-win.

Compeed Plasters

Every hiker has come across Compeed and they are well worth keeping in the first aid kit, I carry a few packs myself just in case. To me though whilst Compeed can work to prevent blisters by putting them on in any problem areas or hot spots beforehand, if you’re consistently using them every hike then maybe there is an underlying issue such as ill-fitted shoes. Compeed however is brilliant at managing blisters when they arise and combined with tape (I’ll be covering next)are an awesome foot management tool.

Tape

There are many types of tape you can buy for a few quid, some are obviously better than others. For me, I carry a small roll of Leukotape and have found its adhesive properties to be on the extreme end (it literally doesn’t come off for days which is a bonus when out). I have found on its own tape isn’t the best but combined with a Compeed underneath it can work wonders for blisters and adds another protective layer on top, in the past, I have added a little piece of gauze for extra padding underneath which can be a godsend. Tape can also help with minor foot injuries and add support if done correctly to minor metatarsal injuries as well as niggles on tendons and ligaments (clearly this is not a solution and medical care should be sought if the pain is bad).

Rest

This is the daddy of them all in my opinion and I will happily debate it with anyone who disagrees. Rest is the best thing you can do for your feet, your body, and even your mental state. Resting the feet is paramount to their recovery and stopping, resting, and airing out the feet at regular intervals throughout the day works wonders. It helps them keep dry, allows them to cool down, which in turn reduces the foot swell and gives time for hot spots to ease and blisters to begin healing.

Vaseline

Now up until about a year ago, I had no idea that Vaseline could work miracles on the feet, but after speaking to a few hikers who swear by it I decided to give it a whirl. The Vaseline helps keep friction to a minimum whilst hiking as it acts as a lubricating layer, not only this but Vaseline helps keep the feet soft and, supple and durable without them becoming too wet. It’s cheap and effective (or is for me anyway), simply apply a coating before bed and then again in the morning before setting out and it can work wonders for preventing those nasties on the feet (I’ve not had a blister since using it).

Which is Best?

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all in terms of foot care, but hopefully, some of the techniques above will help you manage those feet and complete some epic trails without worrying too much about painful blisters.

It wouldn’t be very kind of me not to say what I do as a routine so here it is: I wear a size bigger shoes which allow for any foot swell and then combine with some merino wool socks, usually not an overly thick pair. To manage my feet themselves I use Vaseline on them at least twice a day, morning and night religiously and often again in the day. I change my socks at least twice a day and rotate them, trying to wash them in streams or anywhere I can. Seriously, there is no better feeling than fresh socks. Lastly and most importantly I rest every couple of hours for at least 20 minutes and longer for lunch. Combining these methods has worked wonders for me and I hope you all find a routine that will work for you too.

Thank you for reading and I hope it helps.

@Mike Smith

@pack_backer