|The Official Start of the Pennine Way|
"The forecast was for showers,” said James, the proprietor of The Old House, the bed and breakfast we reached at the end of the first day. “I suppose that was true. There was one shower that lasted all morning, and another shower that lasted all afternoon.”
|Climbing Jacob's Ladder onto the Kinder Scout Plateau|
We climbed all morning into cloud. On Jacob’s Ladder, the steep initial ascent from the narrow valley of the River Noe, we passed a group of teenagers participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award, their bright orange pack covers the only objects visible in the mist. As we reached the top of Jacob’s Ladder and emerged from the lee of the mountain, a steady gale pelted us with cold rain. Past Edale Rocks—a faint shadow in the mist that gradually solidified into a mass of gritstone boulders—I lost the trail and wasn’t sure I had found it again until we reached the trig point on Kinder Low. There was nothing that looked like a path, nothing but boulders and black earth and cloud, nothing to follow but the compass needle.
We didn’t see another soul until we reached the vicinity of Ashop Head, where the Pennine Way crosses the Snake Path, and a party of half a dozen middle-aged walkers appeared suddenly out of the cloud. The one woman in the group clutched a broken black umbrella over her head.
“Lovely English weather,” one of the men said cheerfully.
For the six days we spent walking on the Pennine Way, the weather was an unfailing topic of conversation. It was one of the central facts of life on the trail. Like the landscape and the blisters and the crowded contour lines on the map, it was part of our shared experience, a basis of our fellowship. We walked in whatever weather the day dished up. We got drenched in the rain, scorched in the sun, and the weather was always either ironically or genuinely lovely.
|Hern Clough. We followed Hern Clough upstream for about half a mile,|
crossing and recrossing countless times, to reach Bleaklow
When we stopped near Ashop Head, there were still miles of supersaturated peat bogs to cross before we reached the Old House at six in the evening, nine hours after we set out from Edale, just as the clouds were beginning to thin out above Torside Reservoir.
We were soaked to the skin, and it took a pot of tea and a hot bath to get the chill out of my left shoulder. We had spent the entire day walking in cloud, and although it was disappointing not to have seen any of the views from Kinder Scout, I felt exhilarated. I had made it through the toughest day of the toughest long distance walk in Britain in some of the most challenging conditions. The disappointments were just points on a larger arc of accomplishment.
|Warming up in our room at The Old House|