Distance 19 km, height climbed 305 metres, 5 hours 35 minutes. Weather cloudy at first but turning out nice again.
|Day 11 Route: Part 1
|Day 11 Route: Part 2
|Heading away from the Shielin of Mark
I made a reasonably prompt start in the morning, the plan being to head up Muckle Cairn and then to arrive at Tarfside whilst the bacon butty stocks were still high. John Sanderson was also heading to Tarfside, but he was first going to walk over several kilometres of heather and bog and up Mount Keen. We set off at the same time, with me jokingly saying that it wouldn’t surprise me if he arrived at Tarfside first. I forded the stream at the bothy, and then turned round to wave to John. In the time it had taken me to get across a 3 metre wide stream he was a mere speck in the distance, striding out across the heather and vaulting peat hags, showing that his experience of walking the Pennine Way whilst barely out of nappies had stood him in good stead.
|Looking back to the Shielin of Mark bothy (top left) from the slopes of Muckle Cairn. For the camera geeks, I took this using the zoom on my Kodak Instamatic Box Brownie
I walked, or rather stumbled, at a more leisurely pace across the boggy ground by the stream, through the modest peat hags at the foot of Muckle Cairn, and then tripped my way up hill through the heather, distracted by the mountain hares, which were leaping around as madly as if it were still March.
I had asked Ian Sommerville on the previous evening what “muckle” meant, Ian being a Scot and so is someone who knows this sort of stuff. It means 'many' or 'large', apparently. Well, all I can say is that there is only one cairn at the top of this particular hill and it isn’t very muckle. Indeed, it is one of the most pathetic cairns I have seen in muckle a year.
|The not so Muckle Cairn, dwarfed by my ULA Catalyst pack
A track begins soon after the summit, and as I descended Richard caught me up, fuelled by his breakfast of sausages. I was sure I could still smell them as we walked down the hill. I salivated at the prospect of the bacon rolls waiting at Tarfside…. Richard then proceeded to make matters worse by telling me of his culinary techniques, the spices he carried to liven up his steaks and other fine food that he had with him. He also alerted me to the dangers of spreading a breakfast oatcake whilst holding a tube of Primula in one hand and toothpaste in the other.
|Glen Lee in the murk
Richard pressed on alone, but Ian Sommerville arrived soon after, so I broke into a trot, and thus had another fine companion along Glen Lee and then over the small hill to Tarfside. The clouds dipsappeared, and we walked the last few kilometres in lovely afternoon sunshine. As you arrive at the lane in Tarfside there is a five bar gate. Ian went through, and I turned to fasten it shut. There, 10 metres back along the track was John Sanderson. If my lunch stop had been 30 seconds longer he would, indeed, have beaten me to Tarfside despite walking far further, climbing higher and having taken a rougher path. It is not a race, but shades of inadequacy would have enveloped me, except for the fact that it was good to see him.
|Team Tarfside. That's Keith in the centre starting on the gin. He's still laughing at how he almost emptied my hip flask on the first evening
We went straight to St Drostan’s Hostel, and hit the mugs of tea and bacon butties before bagging the best spots on the sports field and lazed in the sun, awaiting the opening of the Mason’s Arms and our evening meal back at the hostel. John and I had both at this stage of the Challenge run out of the excellent Gehwol foot cream. No matter. We used an old trick learnt in my military days ie the School Combined Cadet Force (CCF). When we used to go on CCF 'Arduous Training' weeks, and get foot sore from long days in the hills in poorly fitting, leaking boots we used to rub our feet with processed cheese, which was always available in our '24 Hour Ration Packs'. The fat content both protects and moisturises, so it was out with that most versatile item carried in our rucksacks, the tube of Primula. The very best flavour for feet, I have found, is Primula with Chives, as the chives have a cleansing and deodorant effect, but unfortunately, I only had plain. Still, it worked a treat and then it was off for nosh and beer and the good company of those already named, and the later arrivals such as Gordon Green and Alan Kay who added to the enjoyment of the evening.
|Cheaper than Gewhol and almost as effective
|Tarfside Sports Field. Note Ian Sommerville in the background easing his feet with some borrowed Primula. You can't do that with real Cheddar, Ian.