I am off in 2 days to start the Pennine Way. Here is my full plan for my 2 week trip with advice and guidance.
Planning is important. In anything. I used to work as a project manager. But the key to any good plan is to have zero attachment to the outcome of the plan and expect none of it to go accordingly.
Why plan? other than the obvious not dying, ending up in a bog, or running out of socks:
1. I would like to be a qualified mountain leader in the next 3 years so its good practice
2. The UK has a lot of other trails and rights of way crossing over the Pennine Way and they are not always clearly marked.
3. Finding where others have wild camped via blogs etc saves a lot of time when you are out on the trail all day and all you want to do is cook and sleep.
4. I did a 3 dayer years ago with no planning what so ever, and it was stressful!
1. Who & What?
Start by broadly outlining what it is you are planning on doing and who you are doing it with. Aimlessly wandering around the countryside is wonderful on a weekend away, but through hiking needs a little more narrative. If you have a companion or a group- what are their fitness levels? What is their hiking experience? Are you going to end up being the unofficial guide? Or Are you all equals? will you agree or argue? Do some people need to be politely told they need to train a bit and that whistling will not be tolerated within earshot?
Me, myself and I. Solo hike. A 28-year-old woman from the East of England. Previous independent hike: Everest Base camp and Gokyo in Nepal.
The Pennine Way National Trail: The oldest/first and ‘they’ say “toughest” National Trail in the UK, created by Tom Stephenson in the 1930s that runs along the backbone of the country, and depending on the source is either 268 miles, or 256 miles long. The majority of the trail also now forms part of the E2 long-distance trail.
You don’t want to keep changing your mind about everything so it’s always best to ask yourself why on earth you are wanding off into the hills for endless days of pain. To get this clearly outlined in your head will be very when you are 5 days in and your back hurts and your feet hurts and you are wet and it’s cloudy, and you hate everything, as you will then have a reference point of motivation and are less likely to head to the nearest train station.
For the enjoyment, freedom, challenge of hiking a long distance trail alone and unguided. And, for the Mountain Leader training and assessment, I need to log quite a lot of experience and days out in the mountains. Also, I would like to the Alpe Adrea trail in Europe maybe next year, so need something over easier terrain at a lower altitude to practice a multi-day long distance solo hike. I also have never wild camped solo, so this is also an opportunity to do so for a couple of days in a relatively safe environment.
Are you going train station to train station within the same region of the UK where the terrain is probably the same but the weather may vary? Or are you transversing 4 national parks/weather forecasts/terrains and counties? like the Pennine Way. Or are you travelling across mountain ranges and or countries? Whichever it is, you need to know where you are going! What are the biggest elevation gains? what are the altitude ranges? What is the weather like in each area? Do you need a different kit for different weathers or terrains?
The Pennine Way “follows a high route along the back of the Pennines from the Peak District to the Tyne Valley and after a short section following Hadrian’s Wall goes north to reach the Scottish border at Kirk Yetholm by way of the lonely and remote Cheviots.”http://penninewayassociation.co.uk/the-route
– Peak District– Southern end of the Pennines. 100m to 636m high, Rolling hills, farmland and moorland. Landscape and Character.
– Yorkshire Dales & The Three Peaks: Limestone crags & caves, heather moorland and Farmland. Landscape & Character
– North Pennines AONB – Moorlands, Grasslands, Woodlands, UNESCO global Geopark, Landscape, Full info Pack.
– Northumberland NP & Cheviots: Highest point: The Cheviot 815m, Dark Sky Park, Landscape & Ecology
4. How & When?
This is the big one! And it takes TIME, researching other people’s blogs, the national trail site, maps and a guidebook. You have to outline the amount of time it will take, taking into account fitness and daylight hours (something to consider in the late Autumn to early spring, as having as little as 6 hours of daylight in good weather will massively limit what you can achieve).
Hoping for 15 days, plus 2 travel days
a. Speed of Travel
Things to consider: miles per hour pace & add 1min to average pace for every 10mins of heigh gain. Work out how many miles you can/want to walk a day linked into chosen accommodation spacings.
I can walk 1 mile comfortably in 17 mins; with a pack going uphill I would round up to 25 mins so my pace with stops for pictures etc is 2mph. So to walk 20 miles- I am planning for that to take me 10 hours.
b. Are you camping? hosteling? hotelling? bivvying/wild camping?
1. Campsites: Long List of Trail Campsites can be found HERE & the only YHA en route that has a campsite is Hawes
2. Huts/Bothy: 3 in Northern England & the Borders: Cross Fell/Gregs Hut, Haughtongreen, Spithorpe
3. YHA Hostels en route: Edale, Mankinholes, Malham, Langdon Beck, The-sill-at-hadrians-wall, Bellingham & Berwick
4. Wild Camping: Peak District, Cheviot Hills
c. Weather Reports
Will you be able to access a regularly updated weather report? Can you read natural weather signals? When you get phone signal- check the weather for the next 24 hours, and screen grab it, or download the page offline. Failing all that, ask the locals.
d. Are you just walking the trail, or seeing the sights as well?
You need to ask yourself this before you go! And be honest with yourself. There are extra hills to summit, waterfalls to discover and some serious nerding out to be done over English history with all the castle and ruins.
I plan to see some sites that are en route. Have built in stops into my timing plan and available hours each day for the on route sites. List of route detours and stops that could be possible if my feet and time (mainly feet) allow: Kinder Scout, Laddow Rocks, High Force, Gordale Scar & Janet’s Foss, Yorkshire 3 peaks, Monks Road, Ribbleshead Viaduct, Dodd Fell, Hull Pot, Hardraw Force, Kisdon Force, Moor Stones Hill Summit, Hadrian’s Wall, Housesteads Roman Fort
e. HOURS OF DAYLIGHT
This data is easy to Google and is something to bear in mind when crossing latitude lines on a hike longer than a week. Its good to work out the changes in the sunset, as for example you may make an on the fly judgement on a distance to try and walk based on it getting dark at 8.30pm but it actually left you pitching your tent in the dark because of a 20min difference between the start and where you are now. The Pennine Way goes from 53°N 1°W to 55°N 2°W so pretty much following in-line with the NW angle the country leans at, going 2 lines of latitude north, which on the same day, has about 5 mins difference in daylight, but over the course of 16 days where we lose 3-4 mins of daylight a day in September. So as you can see here, I will lose 1 hour of daylight from beginning to end, with half an hour difference at start and end of the day.
First Light 05:37 – Sunrise 06:14 – Sunset 20:01 – Last Light 20:38 = 13h47 of Day Light
Kirk Yetholm 14/09/18
First Light 06:03 – Sunrise 06:40 – Sunset 19:28 – Last Light 20:05 = 12h48 of Day Light
f. ROUTE & MAPS
Don’t be that person, that calls 999 while standing in the fog 100m from a farmhouse. Unless you can navigate by the stars or the angle of the sun, or are an acclaimed explorer/mountaineer, or have walked the same trail so many times its muscle memory… Minimum requirements here are are 2 ways to navigate. You always need a backup. And in an emergency, Can you work out a compass bearing? can you? Whichever methods you choose, and it goes without saying, but study them in detail, many times before you set off! (OS Landranger 1:50000 are difficult to navigate with but can use as a backup) Make sure you leave your itinerary with someone at home and inform them of any major changes. As you leave campsites or whatever, inform the staff of where your heading and if you can try and contact the planned next night’s accommodation.
Paper Maps- There are 9 OS Explorer Maps for the Pennine way, the full list can be found on the national trail’s website. Even with my BMC member discount, I couldn’t justify the cost. You also would then have to carry 9 maps, which will probably end up being folded up to 3 times the size they started at, and potentially be a sail that will drag you down a hill backwards…
Map Book- I have the Pennine Way A to Z map books, one for the North Way and one for the South Way. The south book starts in Edale and annoyingly the north starts in Kirk Yetholm, so either way, you walk The Way, you will be reading one of the map books backwards! I imagine the first pages of the second half of the trail will be like the first 10 mins of the second half of a football match… you keep looking the wrong way! They do however use very clearly printed OS Maps at the Explorer scale of 1:25 000.
Guide Book- If like me, you only 90% trust your solo map reading skills and would like a little commentary as a back up, then the official National Trail Guide Book, is worth having. It also has OS Explorer 1:25 000 maps (but these are closely cropped to the Way path so a little harder to use than the A-Z Map Books. It is full of wonderfully pessimistic Quotes from Wainwright’s Pennine way guide too, so certainly worth having, unless you already own a copy of the original.
Digital Route Planning- For digital route mapping and digital navigation, options are Google/ Garmin/OS online/all trails/maps.me or whatever mapping or hiking app you may use. I use Garmin because I have a Garmin Fenix 3 watch. See plotted map below. Even if you only use it as a back up like me, it is extra research for sights and surroundings & it can be used as good practice for international hikes where quality paper maps can be hard to find.
GPS- given my watch does not have built-in maps- Although it will give me exact coordinates, my offline google map download and phone GPS would be an option, otherwise, its a map and compass/watch combo, orrrrr if I wanted to cheat, then OS also have this wonderful tool called OS Locate.
5. DAY BY DAY ITINERARY:
After most of the above, a day by day plan can then be constructed:
Day 0: Travel to Edale - Wild Camp on Grindslow Knoll Day 1: 19mi to Crowden - Crowdon Campsite Day 2: 12.5 mi to Standedge-The Carriage house, camping Day 3: 21.5mi to Stoodley Pike - Wild Camp (YHA Mankinholes, back up) Day 4/Sat: 18mi to Cowling - Cowling Campsite Day 5/Sun: 19mi to Malham- Gordale Scar Campsite Day 6: 14.5mi to Horton-In-Ribblesdale- Crag Hill Farm Camp Site Day 7: 15mi to Hawes – YHA Hostel Day 8: 16.5mi to Tan Hill- Tan Hill Pub 'Wild Camp' Day 9/Fri: 25mi to Forest in Teesdale/Langdon Beck -YHA hostel Day 10/Sat: 23mi to Cross Fell, Gregs Hut Bothy Day 11/Sun: 25mi to Greenhead, Camping at Holmhead Guest house Day 12: 20mi to Bellingham, Bellingham Campsite (Backup Haughtongreen Bothy) Day 13:18mi to Byrness – Campsite or Backup at Spithope Bothy Day 14: 19mi to Wild camp in the Cheviots/Mountain Hut Day 15: 8mi -Kirk Yetholm SYHA Affiliate Hostel (£18) OR Bus to Berwick YHA hostel (£12) Day 16: Bus to Berwick YHA hostel (£12) OR Full day in Berwick- BUFFER DAY Day 17: Morning in Berwick and Travel back home
POST HIKE AMENDMENT:
What actually happened: Intentions to stay at the bothies were great but impractical for the time frame because of their locations. After 25 miles to Langdon beck I was exhausted so day 10, I actually stayed in Dufton campsite, and day 11 I stayed in Alston YHA hostel. Day 12 still ended in Greenhead and day 13 was as above from day 12. I finished by 11am on day 16 and got the bus into Berwick after lunch at the Border Hotel.
Train to Edale: Booked- Departs 09.17am, Arrives 14.47pm
Bus to Berwick from Kirk Yetholm: Not Bookable – 81 bus (Munros of Jedburgh) to Kelso then a 67 bus from Kelso to Berwick (Perryman’s Buses). (Taxi also an option in a missing-the-train-related emergency)
Train home from Berwick: Booked- Departs 16:12pm, Arrives 22.35pm
– Survival bag, Extra Warm layer (down), normal warm layer (Fleece),
– First aid kit- Dressings, sling, plasters, knee support, antiseptic, painkillers…
– Waterproof Jacket & trousers, Sunhat, sunglasses, sun cream with insect repellant, Hat, gloves, buff
– Map books, compass, biro, pencil, Unperishable Snack Food
– Lifestraw water bottle
– Mobile phone, head torch
– Hiking Boots & hiking Socks x3, Gators
– Hiking Trousers x1, Hiking Shorts x1, T-shirts x3
– Top and bottom long sleeve Base Layers
– Toiletries- toothbrush/paste, deodorant, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, lip balm
Camping & Extras
– Tent, sleeping bag , sleeping mat, small microfibre towel
– Enough light/dehydrated GF Vegetarian food for 7 days – I am carrying over half of my food and will supplement from towns and villages along the way. Keeps costs low and reduces the I-am-out-of-food stress.
– Pen Knife & Cutlery (Spoon/fork), Thermos, Mug, Mess tins
– Stove, Fuel, lighter
– Loo Roll, eco washing up liquid, small sponge & cloth, small nylon poop trowel
– Kiking poles, guidebook, whistle, comb
– Solar panel, power bank, charge cables
– Water bladder (+purification tabs if not boiling)
7. What ifs?
Always think of all the worst-case scenarios and how you will avoid them, how you are prepared for them or how you will solve them if they happen.
What if you fall over and hurt yourself? Can you identify all the items in your first aid kit? Are you hiking with people who know first aid? Do you know what DRAB stands for if you came across someone else that was hurt? Do you know first aid? If you hurt your ankle do you know what RICE stands for? What steps do you take for a cut, puncture wound or burn? Nature will test you. Hiking poles and good ankle supporting boots are my preventions- I have weak joints and one leg shorter than the other, so poles reduce the impact vibration by up to 30%, particularly in my knees and hips- important if carrying a heavy pack. I also know the answers to all the questions above.
What if there is a storm or a drastic weather change? Are there shelters, huts, farmhouses or towns en route for each day? How quickly can you erect your tent? do you have those pesky waterproof trousers that you never end up wearing but know you will need them the time you don’t bring them? Yes, 5-10mins, yes
What if all your kit gets wet? Prevention: Dry bags and/or Waterproof bags, or simply wrap everything in double bin liners. Mostly nothing will get wet in a dry bag, so for the UK, drybag everything you need dry! So, at least your sleeping bag, a warm layer, socks and underwear! If camping, dry your sleeping bag on the back of your pack in the day while walking, do that rather than clothes, if you have to choose. Dry the clothes at night at a campsite or nearby pub, as at least you will get sleep and warmth in a dry sleeping bag, and then fingers crossed dry clothes in the morning.
What if you lose your map and you run out of phone battery? I have paper fold-out maps, a guidebook, a phone, google maps downloaded offline, and a plotted Garmin route plan, a power bank and a solar panel. Which is a little over cautious, but also allows you to mix it up day by day, and hone different nav skills. Being able to navigate back the way you came from memory is good if you are truly in the wilderness and mapless, or walk until you find a marker/farm etc… but just stick to the trail and not to take unknown risks.
What if you miss the train/bus home due to a slow pace, sickness, injury, or bad planning? Be honest, how terrible would it be? Is it actually the end of the world? will you get fired? is rushing/exhausting/hurting yourself worth it? If you think from your experience or lack of, that its wise to build in 2 or 3 buffer days which could be used to go home early or relax at your final destination, then do it. I will hopefully be 1 day early for my train, I have 1 buffer day. Otherwise, I have two options, hitchhike as far as possible to an affordable on-the-day train distance, or as I have no time constraints walk the Northumberland coast trail and then beg for a lift on Facebook to people I know in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to take me to Peterborough to get a train.