Thursday, 14 October 2021

Pennine Way Days 2 to 4, Crowden to Gargrave: Food Begins to Figure

Day 2 Crowden to Light Hazzles

29.1km, 830m ascent, 9hrs 30 mins (This includes rest stops. I had to teach Johnboy what a 'rest stop' is. You would have thought that as an experienced backpacker he would have known. After a week or so he would eventually get the hang of the concept).

Walking is definitely easier with a companion. Well it is for me. The weather had started off slightly mizzly but the climb up and over Laddow Rocks seemed much less of an effort than the last time I’d come along here. We were at Red Ratcher in an hour and forty minutes. It had taken me two hours in 2019, although then the weather had been far worse.

John on the summit of Black Hill

A numpty on the summit of Black Hill

Visibility dropped as we climbed the flagstones to Black Hill, but as we got closer to the trig point two murky figures resting there came into view. Actually they weren’t murky figures at all. What I meant was that it was the weather that was murky. But you will have guessed that. If you didn't then you are even more pedantic than me and need to get a life. Anyway, they were two young lads we’d seen at the campsite the day before, doing a circular route over four or five days. After a natter with them they disappeared into the mist. A couple of minutes later Johnboy noticed that one of them had dropped his spectacles and the next thing I knew he, too, headed off into the mist following them at a speed close to that achieved by Usain Bolt when winning Olympic Gold. He returned, mission accomplished, a few minutes later. I mean John returned, not Usain Bolt. Oh crikes I've done it again. You knew what I meant, didn't you?

The Pennine Way initially heads north-east from the summit of Black Hill along flagstones which give safe passage over what were once horrendous peat bogs. We, however, went north-west into the cloud, not lost but following the original route that John had taken in the 1980s. This path is now very indistinct and in places has disappeared completely, if it ever existed. The great advantage is that it shaves off a kilometre or so and a couple of hundred metres of ascent as it sticks to higher ground. The massive disadvantage is that it means that you miss out on the snack bar with its bacon rolls and mugs of tea that is often parked up on the roadside at Wessenden Head. The new route re-joins the old at Black Moss Reservoir.

On the original Pennine Way route off Black Hill. None of your cushy flagstones here

The sun appeared as the day went on which made the walk along Standedge and up White Hill a delight. Even the once disgusting car park just short of the M62 seemed much improved, with the only detritus on show now being piles of used nitrous oxide cartridges. Even better, though, was the newish addition of Nicky’s mobile snack bar. It is important to support enterprising local business and it was for that reason only that we ordered copious amounts to drink and rolls filled with various pork products.

John appears to be sprouting antlers as he approaches the top of Standedge

The view from Standedge

Nicky's Snack Bar
The Aiggin Stone: A mediaeval way marker for travellers

I must have been feeling pretty good after this refuelling because I think it was me rather than John who suggested that I could manage going further than the quarries before the White House pub where we had planned to camp for the night. I must make it clear, if the obvious has not yet struck you, that John had not suggested going further only because he is aware of my physical limitations, not because he wasn't able to walk further. And thus we found ourselves in fabulous late afternoon sunshine putting the Duomids up in front of the poem “Rain” carved into the rocks just short of Light Hazzles Reservoir. Bloody vandals.

Camped at Light Hazzles: A perfect evening
'Rain' by Simon Armitage. It didn't.


Day 3 Light Hazzles to Ponden Mill

28km, 779m ascent, 8hrs 40 mins

Another misty morning on the way to Stoodley Pike
Bridge over Colden Water. They don't make them like this anymore.

We woke to more mizzle but were packed and away by 7.30am, which had become our normal daily starting time. The walking was pleasant but unexceptional. Unexceptional, that is, apart from the climb out of the Calder Valley up the very narrow, cobbled rights of way that lead passed various relics of the industrial revolution. Fascinating, but I reckon this is possibly the steepest sustained climb on the whole of the Pennine Way. A legendary feature of the Pennine Way came soon after in the form of May’s Shop, allowing us to pig out on pies, cakes, cans of drink and so on which we got stuck in to with a vengeance.

The sign says it all

Having started the day a couple of kilometres ahead of the original plan we decided we could today also get further than the original intended wild camp at Top Withins, the alleged inspiration for the setting of Wuthering Heights, which as you will know is a famous novel written by that great literary figure Kate Bush in 1978. Click the linky thing for appropriate sound effects.

Top Withins

I was quite pleased not to be camping at Top Withins, it looking rather bleak and the spots to pitch, such as they were, were nothing to write home about. One flat space, which used to be large enough for a tent, now sports a large wooden seaty thing, all very well for Japanese tourists but not for weary backpackers hoping to spend the night there. 

John had earlier phoned ahead to the camp site at Ponden Mill which is a couple of kilometres beyond Top Withins. He had found that they had closed the camping field for the night because of a wedding being held there, but was informed that they were allowing backpackers to stop on an adjacent field. This 'field' turned out to be a narrow stretch of steep river bank with virtually no level ground. The woman in charge made sure she got a tenner out of each of us before showing it to us. In return we had the enjoyment of the facilities ie a small, shabby toilet block that looked little more than a Portakabin, no hot water in the gents and an outdoor washing up area. I can give you a flavour of the latter. I went to fill up my water bottles there and decided to put them on the ground rather than on the draining board as I decided that the ground was probably more hygienic. We stayed on a few camp sites on the walk. This was the most expensive, and by far the worst in terms of facilities, pitch etc. Moan over.

We managed to get the only almost level spots on the site. To be fair the small wall made for a great seat until the midges arrived.

Day 4 Ponden Mill to Gargrave

26.5km, 844m ascent, 8hrs 40 mins

Ickornshaw Moor

Pinhaw Beacon

This was another day that started with mist and a little drizzle and ended with sunshine, the weather seemingly reflecting the scenery as we moved from the bleaker landscapes of the southern Pennines onto the softer beauty and friendliness of limestone country. Thus, we walked across misty Ickornshaw Moor to the fields above picturesque Lothersdale, then up to Pinhaw Beacon with its fine views, before more sheep and cow grazed pastures and then the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. There is a super café just off the towpath beyond East Marton where I managed to disgrace myself thanks to a large scone, some jam and a copious amount of clotted cream. I can only put this down to low blood sugar, overwhelming hunger and manners that make the eating habits of pigs at a newly filled trough look refined. After the café more fields were crossed during which we planned and readied ourselves for a wild Saturday night out in Gargrave.

John (in left corner) hastily trying to find another table well away from me to avoid any more shame about the way his companion necked down a Yorkshire Cream Tea .

Lots of this today

We had booked an Air B and B. The plan had been to sort out our resupply parcels, wash shirts and socks and stuff, get to the Co-op to supplement the supplies, then have a pint and a pub meal followed by another pint or two. We were thwarted. One of the two pubs has closed down. The other was fully booked. So was the Indian Restaurant. So after completing the routine jobs we ended up eating fish and chips in a bus shelter and then headed to the packed pub for a drink. I hadn’t fancied standing up to drink my pint after walking for the best part of nine hours so when I saw a group about to leave their table I was sat on one of the seats almost before the previous occupant had left, possession being nine tenths of the law as they say. I may be slow on the hill but when it comes to getting a table in a busy pub I am unbeatable.

Four days done and almost a quarter of the distance. And the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Pennine Way: Off We Go, Day 0 and Day 1


John arrives in Edale, having failed to finish packing before he left home

Penrith taxi drivers like a lie in. I found this to my cost (literally and metaphorically) when a few days before the walk was to begin I tried to book a taxi to get me to the station to catch the 6.40am train to Edale. “Sorry mate”, was the constant reply. We don’t start that early. I was finally given the number of the only insomniac driver in the town. “No problem pal,” he told me, “I still have a number of unbooked slots for September. That’s September  2024.  I’m in big demand, see, on account of none of the other drivers around here will get out of bed before 7 or 8 of a morning. And then they do the school run sees.”  

My plans were hastily re-arranged.  New rail tickets were purchased and I headed to Edale the day before I was due to meet Johnboy. I camped the night at Fieldhead Campsite.  I slept badly and in the morning already felt all done in by the time I’d packed up and walked from my pitch to the entrance of the site, by the road up from the station, and sat on the tarmac, slumped against the wall and waited for Johnboy. He arrived within minutes looking very cheerful, swinging a carrier bag full of food and looking horribly, horribly, frighteningly fit.

Looking as innocent as a lamb on the way to the slaughterhouse

Kinder Scout was shrouded in mist. Rain was clearly imminent. Neither had been in the forecast which had been for blue skies and zephyr like breezes. We did the photo stuff outside the Old Nag’s Head. John was happy to do the ‘new’ route up Jacob’s Ladder and on to Kinder Low, but I knew he was really keen to follow the original route of the Way up Grindsbrook Clough and directly over the plateau to Kinder Gates and then to Kinder Downfall and this was mutually agreed.  He sought to reassure me.  “It’s been years since anyone drowned in the bogs up there,” he stated, “and anyway the skulls of long lost hikers poking through the peat provide firm stepping stones in the worst bits”.  At this stage a suspicion came into my mind that John, who has spent much of the last 50 plus years wandering across Pennine bog actually likes the stuff. But surely not? Alarmingly his grin became wider as we headed up towards the plateau.

John smiling in Grindsbrook Clough, happy at the thought that he might soon be up to his knees in Pennine bog 

Looking back down Grindsbrook Clough towards Edale

Am I shrinking? That jacket was a perfect fit when I bought it

We set off. Within 10 minutes we were in full rain gear.  The Clough felt steep but the scenery was fabulozy; the plateau was reached and crossed.  It was far greener than I expected and far less boggy. Yes it was damp in places, but not enough to bother me. It is an obvious success for those who have been involved in restoring what was once, by all accounts, a dreadfully eroded landscape.

Next Sandy Heys, Mill Hill, and then the flagstones to the Snake Pass making for far easier going through the wetness that walkers used to face on their first day which was sufficient to make quite a few give up after just one day. Then the easy climb to the summit of Bleaklow. The sun came out as we descended by Wildboar Grain.  As did masses of weird flying thingies, fortunately of the non-bitey variety. On to Clough Edge above Torside. I had been so tired when I had reached here two years earlier but, today, thanks to the good company and the chat all was well. We arrived, as planned, at the excellent campsite at Crowden and then fatigue did hit me whilst John strode around like someone who had just been on a short afternoon stroll in the park.

Afternoon sunshine at the start of the short climb up to Clough Edge

Looking towards Torside Reservoir. Crowden campsite is on the far right hand side of the reservoir

One day down.  25km walked. 768 metres climbed.  8 hours 5 minutes including stops.


Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The Pennine Way: Men on a Mission (with a gear list thrown in)

Having bought Tom Stephenson’s guide to the Pennine Way as a teenager I finally set off to backpack it 45 years later in 2019. Well it is important to mull over such ideas. Despite it being so long in the planning I failed miserably. That tale of woe and pathetic-ness was told here.

In 2020 I decided to have another try. Covid and lockdowns got in the way. A further date was planned for June 2021 and put in the diary. Mad ‘n’ Bad Andy Walker offered to walk with me for a few days of the trip which, I knew, would help considerably. I am certain that walking with someone else on longer trips is beneficial for me. Having company stops too much introspection and improves my confidence and determination no end.

Andy’s brain must then have got the better of him and, in an effort not to hurt my feelings by simply making up an excuse not to come, he drove around the lanes of Cambridgeshire for days on end until he eventually found an elderly couple who would assist him. They shunted his car into a ditch at very high speed. A serious shoulder injury meant he could not carry a pack. With some trepidation I realised it would need to be another solo attempt.

I sought information on decent places to wildcamp from ‘Johnboy’ Sanderson. John started backpacking aged about 14 months when his mum pushed him out of the back door wearing a lovely green fleecy romper suit and with a carrier bag full of sandwiches, telling him not to come back until he had walked the 105 mile Cleveland Way. 

Johnboy on his first backpack: The Cleveland Way
(Photo credit @itfeels like film)

After that he walked the Pennine Way four times, once when he was 17, bunking off school to walk from Land’s End to John of Groats, with the Pennine Way as part of his route. Since then he has backpacked and mountaineered all over the world, from Patagonia to some mountains between China and Tajikistan, which I could swear he told me were called the Pam Ayres but which I now find out are called the Pamirs. I believe on an expedition there he tried squatting in a snow hole (ie living in it without consent, not performing his ablutions) dug by a Russian climbing team. Having been kicked out of that when the Russians returned unexpectedly he had to appropriate a tent higher up the mountain from which a recently deceased climber's body had just been removed. Well as he’s climbed to over 7000 metres above seal level I guess Cross Fell is relatively straight forward.

Johnboy today. Well not today. But very recently.

He gave my asked for advice then tentatively said  “I might tag along for a few days. If that’s ok”.  After about three-quarters of a nano-second I bit his hand off. Metaphorically, obviously. I’m not some sort of cannon ball, am I? A few days later he said “I wouldn’t mind doing the whole thing again, actually. Slightly slower this time. Take it all in”. He has previously backpacked the 268 miles in 9 days. “Would that be ok?” I bit his other hand off. I then did the decent thing and suggested that I might slow him down ‘a tad’ and that for him it might be rather frustrating to walk at my pace and perhaps he should reconsider. I actually had my fingers crossed behind my back when I suggested this as I didn’t mean it. Being either a good egg or very silly (of course it's possible to be both) he insisted that he was happy to walk at my pace. He didn’t even murmur when I said that I would be hard-pressed to even think of planning doing it in 17 days, let alone succeeding in achieving this. 14 days is thought of as a fast pace and 21 days is regarded as leisurely but I am in my mid-60s and would be carrying all my backpacking gear, not using a company to ferry my stuff from B and B to B and B as many seem to do these days.

A plan was hatched. Detailed with daily mileages, wild camp spots etc. As much as possible it avoided the guide book suggestions of the usual places for the starts and ends of each day, and which the majority of walkers adopt. We both expected the plan would not survive engagement with reality. Then came a throw-away line from Johnboy. “And of course the original route of the Way, the one I took in the 1980s, was very different out of Edale and off Black Hill...Lots of advantages to these earlier routes...Loads of work done to re-vegetate them...Not had that much rain recently...Those bogs will be nothing like they used to be…”

I set about my preparations. Lots of training walks were intended. Before these even began I developed a hurty foot. Physio made no difference. Then an agonising bad back (again) that lasted four weeks. Still, who needs training walks? Everyone who goes on YouTube knows that the secret to a successful backpack is not training. It’s producing a gear list and buying lots of shiny new stuff. I indulged with a vengeance. I honed my gear list down to the minimum weight possible. Then I gradually started to add all the 'just in case items'. Well you know how it is.

For those who, like me, are sad enough to be interested in these things, I now include the list of every single thing I took. Yes, I know. The base weight is heavy. After the event I reckoned that I could have cut about 660 grams of stuff that I never used. And there were several other things used but not necessary  There were also items not used but which I would carry whatever eg many of the first aid and safety items. Even then the base weight would still have been far more than many would carry.

To be continued....






Category weight

Post walk Comments











Atom Pack Mo + 4 mini carabiners



Nylofume Liner Bags *2


Never used before and I was worried about robustness. No need. 1 too many

Pack Cover


Not really needed

Atom Pack Roo (Bum/Waist Bag)









MLD DCF Duomid



MLD Solomid XL Mesh Inner


Should have taken my heavier but solid cheapo Chinese inner instead




Peg Bag



Pegs etc


8 Gold Eastons, 2 Ti hooks, 1 MSR Blizzard, 4 Groundhogs. I do not believe the much lower weight of pegs others claim to take!

Half J cloth









Thermarest X Therm (Regular)



Sleeping Bag Z Packs 20 degree



Exped UL Pillow


Brand new . Deflated every night. Since replaced by seller

Sleep Socks - Merino


Not needed

Compression leggings



Rohan Silver T



P Bottle


No Ed., I will not pee in the vestibule or go out at night :-)

Z Packs DCF Dry bag



Treadlite DCF Packing Cell


Also used to hold my tranklements







MSR Pocket Rocket, canister feet, windshield, lighter


Lighter not needed

Fire steel



Evernew 0.9 litre titanium pot



Evernew 0.4 litre titanium mug



Sea to Summit long alloy spoon



Classic Swiss Army Knife



Mini tin opener


Not needed

J Cloth - half



Z Packs DCF stuff sac



Pot Cosy







All used, with long water carries on several days


Katadyn Befree 1 litre



Katadyn Befree  0.6 litre



Cnoc 2 litre bladder



Smart Water bottle 0.6 litre



Purification tablets



Oookworks red stuff sac





Clothes, Worn




Inov8 Roclite 400 Pro GTX boots


Almost new. Superbly comfortable but leaked. Inov8 have replaced.

Trekmate short Goretex gaiters



Darn Tough Socks



Bridgedale Coolmax liner socks



Rab Torque Trousers



Under Armour Boxers



Rohan Silver Core long sleeve shirt



Rohan Latitude Zipneck Fleece



Rab Windshirt



Outdoor Research Cap








Clothes Carried




Rohan Boxers



X Socks *1


Not used

Bridgedale Coolmax liner socks *2


1 pair not used

PHD Down pullover


Supplemented sleeping bag in the early hours

Rohan Silver Core long sleeved shirt



Montane Razor Shorts


Very comfortable but ridiculous. Eric Morecambe would have been proud to own these




Montane Prism Gloves



Tuff Bag overmitts


Not worn

Hi Tec Zuuc Camp Shoes



Montane  Beanie



Rohan Momentum Jacket



Berghaus Paclite Overtrousers



Sea to Summit blue dry bag



Z Packs Medium DCF dry bag





First Aid Kit





DCF Pouch


Tick remover

Not used

Safety Pins

Not used



Plasters and compeed

Compeed not used

Micropore tape

Not used


Not used





Hay fever tablets


Travel sick pills

For bus/taxi journey home

Gaviscon and prescription meds

Used and more purchased


Not used

Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel

Not used



Repair Kit





DCF Pouch


Thermarest puncture kit


Velcro strap *1


DCF tape


Bungee cord




Duck Tape (on walking poles)




Personal Care




Osprey Dry bag



Zip lock bag



Toothbrush and paste



Dental Floss






Dr Bronner's


Far too much




Anti-bac wipes, 12



Towel - Lightload Mini *4


Only two used

Contact lenses*8



T Roll



Hand Sanitiser Gel






Trowel, Deuce of Spades



Ear plugs


Not used




Glasses case



Face mask



Smidge Head Net


Not used but should have been 

Smidge 18ml



Sun screen



Lipsalve and sunblock



Thermacare backpain heat pad


Not used







Cicerone guide


Hardly used and never needed

Cicerone map book 1:25k



Silva compass



Galaxy S10 Smartphone / GPS in case



Zip Loc bags *2 for Cicerones



Ortlieb Map Case


Not used







Anker double charger



Anker 10,000 power pack plus leads*2



Anker 4,000 power pack


Not needed







Spot Messenger





Not used

Headtorch, Petzl Tikka



Thermarest Z Sitmat



Watch Suunto Core



Black Diamond Trail Pro Poles



Camera - Lumix DMC TZ60 + case and spare battery



Clothes pegs *2



Sea to Summit yellow dry bag (waste bag)








C and C Club Card



Senior Rail Card



Notebook and pen



DCF Wallet, credit cards, cash, emergency contact



House keys




Food, Drink and Fuel




Gas (230 gr cartridge)


Used  approx. 450gr of gas (net) over the 17 days



Minimum, and I was often still  dehydrated due to empty streams  

Z Packs DCF food bag



Food (average 3 days)



Plastic food bags





Total Base



Total Carried: base + fuel, food and water