After a 2 hour power snooze I woke refreshed. I packed down some porridge and plenty of tea. The Checkpoint staff were amazing, nothing was too much trouble.
Whilst I was asleep my feet had dried out, and were now ready to be dressed / taped for their next 44 mile onslaught.
Even with the intense pain in my feet I felt really good. I had come through 3 tough sections of the race and now I felt I would definately finish.
Steve & I heading towards Sayer Hill
Steve and I left Checkpoint 3 together in joint lead after a good rest, in decent physical shape. Now our sights were set on Alston ( Checkpoint 4 ) approx 44 miles away. Between us and Alston lay the infamous Cross Fell, the highest point of the race, and notorious for it's own treacherous weather system.
It was a cold, clear day with a biting wind. Scott Gilmour ran along with us for a while out of Middleton-in-Teesdale.
Me, wrapped up against the elements.
As we headed past High Force towards Sayer Hill, we could here shells firing on the ranges further away on the moors to our left. At any time I was expecting a tank to come rolling over the horizon.
Soon we came to Falcon Clints, and beneath it an iced up slippery boulder field we had to clamber over. I stopped to do a little blister management on a new hotspot. Steve took the opportunity to film the event on a minature handycam given to him by Scott, to get some raw footage in the field. I haven't seen the results of this yet, I doubt hollywood will be calling Steve and I soon for our film making skills !
We still had plenty of daylight and rounding a corner the raging cascade of Cauldron Snout came into view.
I arrived at the bottom of Cauldron Snout. It was raging. Along side the boiling outflow was basically a cliff you had to ascend using various handholds / footholds. Which conveniently were covered in a nice slick film of ice, making passage precarious.
Eventually Steve and I reached the top, much to our relief, and pressed on towards Dufton Fell.
Now with all the mileage I had covered, sore, blistered, leaking feet was not the only problem. My lubrication of certain delicate areas was proving insufficient, and chafing was becoming the issue.
Basically I could have fried an egg on my bum cheeks !! A possible new survival technique !! Not that Steve would have thanked me for it !!
So out with industrial strength Sudocrem, and a little short term relief. Fortunately nipples, back and shoulders were all fine, no chafing.
Steve and I moved on quickly towards High Cup Nick, a spectacular ring of cliffs that drop hundreds of feet to the valley below. We got there in complete darkness skirting the upper ring of cliffs, where a few feet to the left of the path it plunges straight down. This was reminiscent of my run on the 208 mile Tor Des Geants in Italy.
Once off the tops I quickly descended, running down to the village of Dufton. I was feeling really strong with over 150 miles covered. Steve was pressed but managed to keep up with me.
We pulled into the Stag Inn, where the barmaid put together a bacon & egg toastie, chips and beans, along with fresh coffee. This was greatly appreciated, as on a Tuesday evening they don't serve food. The locals couldn't believe we had been up on the fells, and that we were running to Scotland.
I met Dougie, Mark Caldwells dad, who was waiting for Mark, so he could get a sleep in the campervan.
Steve and I pressed on.
The weather was closing in, the wind getting up. We had our biggest challenge now facing us.
A string of high tops and ridges that goes on for miles and notoriously dangerous.
Great Dun Fell ( 848 metres ), Little Dun Fell ( 842 metres ) and finally Cross Fell ( 893 metres )
The other danger is that in some areas there are sink holes and pits.
Steve and I marched on submerged in darkness and the escalating winds. We quickly ascended up to the south eastern top of Great Dun. As we reached the top visibility plummeted to 1 metre and winds were now reaching 60 to 70 miles per hour. It was terrrible conditions.
I shouted to Steve over the screeching wind for us to stay side by side. We hunkered down beneath the man-made rock pillar cairn of Great Dun, whilst I took a precise compass bearing. Steve had GPS, but it was vague at times. I paced counted on a bearing, and bang we hit the pathway. Then quickly lost it again in the poor visibility and also due to the obscurity of the path. Another bearing and I picked it up again. We moved on slowly bent double against the screaming wind. We were taking a serious battering, but we kept eating through this, and importantly kept moving in the severe cold.
We reached Little Dun Fell by walking straight into the cairn on the summit ! I was pleased with my navigation. We huddled down behind the cairn out of the wind and celebrated our little triumph with a piece of Richard Lendon's Mum's homemade fruit cake ! Fantastic.
Now it was time for the big one, once more into the breech !!
We stepped out into the howling maelstrom, navigating onto the path. However the path was lethal, great swathes of ice covered the paths. They were impassable. We had to leave the path and go around which meant navigatinf to relocate the path again. We did this repeatedly and again, BANG !! we walked straight into the Cross Fell summit cairn.
Steve and I were on a high, we'd accurately navigated in the dark, in 60 to 70 mph winds when we couldn't see our hands in front of our faces !
We quickly crossed the tops and started our descent. A little further on we stumbled into Greg's Hut.
A little safe bothy on the side of Cross Fell.
John Bamber and Paul Shorrock from the Spine Team had set up a base there for runners to seek some respite from the conditions.
John and Paul gave Steve and I a big welcome. John fixed us some piping hot coffee and some noodles. I huddled close to the stove for warmth whilst John and Paul took some photos.
We chatted for a while and then headed back out to push on to Garrigill.
John and Paul did a great job establishing a base in Greg's Hut.
Back into the elements, the weather was changing. It was now lashing, horizontal, freezing cold rain. An absolutely evil night to be out. Still I felt good, had some nice hot coffee and noodles inside me.
We cracked on, descending quickly to Garrigill, making excellent time.
I could practically smell Checkpoint 4 despite it being 7 miles away. Now we were mostly on the flat, just some fields ansd riverside pathways to negotiate, we'd done the hardest part......or so we thought.
The path descended into a sea of mud, knee deep in places. It really started to sap our strength. The path also disappeared through fields of mud and slop. It was becoming frustrating, so near to Alston yet such slow going.
Eventually we broke out of it and arrived at Checkpoint 4, the Youth Hostel at Alston. Hoorah !!!
I was cold, wet and tired.
Phil Hayday-Brown, Becky and Anna met us, and quickly got Steve and I into the drying room to discard some of our wet outer layers. Then it was copious amounts of food, HOT SHOWERS, such luxury and importantly sleep, in a proper bed !!!
I'd made it to Checkpoint 4 !! Over 180 miles covered, only 88 to go. I was definately going to finish this. The Spines back was breaking !!
to be continued......