Monday 31st July 2006, Pennine Way Day 7
I chatted to Mike as I dropped off the shoulder of Fountains Fell, and he reported as to whether he thought he could see me or not. The encouragement was welcome, and we seemed to cover that mile fairly quickly. Down at the road, it was lashing down, so we hastily spread out our coats and bags in the back of Mike's car and dived in for a welcome sit down. Mike had the heater on full-blast to warm us up and offer a degree of drying to the coats. This was appreciated by us, even though it must have been somewhat uncomfortable for him! Drinks and snacks were also at the ready which meant a bit of body refuelling without having to rummage through the rucksacks.
At this point, I was quite content for us to cheat. Mike could have driven us to Horton-in-Ribblesdale giving us a half-day rest and relief from the worsening weather. I looked up at Pen-y-ghent through the heavy rain and swirling cloud and decided that I could quite easily live without it. Jimmy said "No". OK then, one for, one against. Surely Mike would back me up with a sensible casting vote? Not a bit of it, he immediately agreed with Jimmy and told me I should "maintain the integrity of the walk". Well perhaps then he could just drive us down the road to where the Pennine Way leaves it to head towards Pen-y-ghent? Same story. Jimmy and Mike ganged up on me once again, making me feel a right wimp and in need of some serious encouragement.
Fortunately, the encouragement was on its way, and a rather pleasant surprise it was too. I expected Jimmy to continue his nagging and blinkered, self-centred tone as I trudged fearfully towards the sharp end of Pen-y-ghent. But I was wrong. He seemed to sense my concern, which, for once, he read accurately. Jimmy explained that he knew that I was nervous about continuing in the poor weather because of my responsibility to him. He confidently assured me that he was fine, had enough energy left and knew we would complete the day's full walk. Jim also knew that I was experiencing a little "fear of the unknown" ahead of the steep part-scramble up this side of Pen-y-ghent. We had always used the path from the other side on our previous visits to this summit, deliberately avoiding the steep south face with its reputation for striking deathly fear into vertigo sufferers. "I know you can do it Dad", he gently insisted. Whether this was genuine team-play and empathy, or a desperate and ruthless technique to ensure he got to do his scramble up Pen-y-ghent I could not tell, but it mattered not. Jimmy's words and change of tone were enough inspiration for me to press on, and once on the zigzag path up the steep scree I was progressing with determination and purpose once more.
With the time pressing on and the rain pouring down, we decided to activate the summit using hand-portable radios only. We were both in good spirits though, having ended all ascent for the day and with just a familiar straight-forward albeit long work to Horton-in-Ribblesdale to see through. This time the radio activation was easy, with plenty of stations able to hear us without difficulty. For Mike G4BLH, it was four-out-of-four in terms of the Pennine Way summits he had worked us on. Many thanks to the following stations, all worked on 2m FM with 2.5 watts:
Things seemed to be getting better. The rain had stopped where we were, although we could see it swirling around the valley below under dark heavy cloud. It was a spectacular sight. As we descended the couple of short steep stony sections, we took care not to trip late in the day. The skies brightened up and remained dry. Once we got to the wall and gate close to Hunt Pot, we knew we had really got this one "in the bag", so we treated ourselves to a sit down, rest and "afternoon tea", polishing off the remaining pasties and fruit from today's packed lunches. Jimmy and I enjoyed a relaxed chat, now with a sense of triumph as we reflected on the challenging day. I telephoned the Crown Hotel from Jimmy's mobile to advise of our ETA - and make sure that there would be food available!
The remainder of the walled track to Horton was very familiar to us, this being our fifth walk along it. The Pen-y-ghent Cafe was closed when we reached it, but at around 6.30pm, this was not a surprise. Oh well, one Pennine Way signing-in book that got away. We pressed on to the Crown, checked in and hauled the rucksacks and hold-alls up about six flights of very narrow stairs to our room. Not what we would have chosen for the end-of-day activity, but at least there was a good en-suite shower waiting for us in the room.
Suitably refreshed and in clean dry clothes (the main benefit of baggage couriers) we returned downstairs to the bar where we met Kevin and Janet again. This time I was prepared, and had brought down the Wainwright book with me for them to sign. They also offered a generous sponsorship to Jimmy's fundraising which was gratefully accepted. We enjoyed a pint and a chat with Kevin and Janet before they adjourned to the guest house where they were staying. Jimmy and I relocated to the dining room for pheasant & port pie and lamb & apricot pie respectively, in my case washed down with pints of Theakston Old Peculiar. Another excellent night's sleep awaited.