Dufton to Garrigill
“The highest, most remote and most exposed part of the route” says my Pennine Way guidebook about today’s jaunt. It’s a stiff climb from 190m at Dufton to 750m at Green Fell after 6Km and then 800m at Knock Fell, 850m at Great Dunn Fell and 893m at Cross Fell, the highest point on the Pennine Way.
I have to take their word for it because I couldn’t see a thing. I could easily have been in Piccadilly Circus during one of those smogs of my childhood. At first the weather was fine but as I climbed out of Dufton I could see the clouds coming down over my Fells ahead. I set off early to allow the mountain rescue people enough time to find me before the pubs closed.
I kept telling myself, “these are the Pennines, this is why I’m here, this is really a nice day for the area because it’s not raining – yet”. It’s nearly always misty although historical records say you can see the Lake District on a clear day. But what I’ll always remember is the wind. It’s a hurricane. You can’t stand up and when you try to walk you can easily be blown off the path.
It was a relief to reach Green Fell but the path is so feint that I lost it in the mist. Some footprints disappeared in a bog so I drank my coffee and ate my marmalade sandwich which the chef at the Kings Arms prepared for me in lieu of breakfast. He should have put a label around my neck, “Please look after this softie”.
My iPhone thought the path was about 2m to the right and that’s where I found the footprints that I was following like a bloodhound. On I went to Knock Fell where I almost bumped into a man coming towards me. He said it was incredibly windy on Cross Fell. As I watched him disappear into the mist behind me, a new figure emerged. It was Katrina who is a fell runner from Leeds and who was following my footprints. She is walking the Pennine Way in 11 days which is par for those types. Her backpack was the size of my day pack and contained her tent, stove and some matches. Not much else.
Katrina shook me out of my ambling pace and we set off towards the Great Dunn Fell, home to a National Air Traffic Services station. They cleared us to climb to Cross Fell and we put our gloves on. The wind blew so hard that it blew the clouds away and suddenly there was a fine view of the valleys below. Magic moment!
We lingered for a minute to take an unsocially distanced selfie and then descended a few metres to Greg’s Hut where you can shelter or even stay the night. Chef made me two packs of cheese sandwiches (after I made a little fuss) so I gave one to Katrina together with a KitKat and my apple because she needed it more than me. In return I got a fine cup of green tea.
And then it was a hop, skip and a jump over the bog down to Garrigill, 337m, where I called for my taxi, 3 hours ahead of schedule. The rain started to fall.
Into the hills today
Knock Fell, possibly
On Cross Fell, windy… but then a moment…
Cross Fell Summit selfie with Katrina