Hike Southbound through Britain with Daryl May
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White Lion Inn, Patterdale
DS35 White Lion Inn
DS35 Kirkstone Pass sign
Days S33 - S43                                                                  North of England
Day S35 - Patterdale to Kirkstone summit 
Day S34                        The Kirkstone water rat                     Day S36
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Time of departure: 8.45 am
Time of arrival: 1.15 am
Place departed: Patterdale, Cumbria
Place arrived: Kirkstone summit, Cumbria

Miles: 6
Cum miles: 471.7
Percent complete: 48.6

Bed sign Kirkstone Inn, Kirkstone pass ****
Cost for bed and breakfast: 38 ($76)
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DS35 Author in Kirkstone Inn
Above: Author in Kirkstone Inn, showered, in dry clothes - recovering.
Below: the Kirkstone Inn photographed when I left next day

DS36 Kirkstone Inn
Yesterday, I wrote:

"I am wondering how strenuous the climb up Kirkstone Pass will be tomorrow, but will reserve further comment until then."

It rained last night, and it rained all morning - and I'm not talking about drizzle. The rain created running streams most everywhere, or huge puddles some of which - when it got colder as I climbed Kirkstone Pass - were of slush and some of ice. When I rested my gloved-hand on a roadside stone wall, my glove froze to the wall. When I sat on a grass verge, my rear end felt as cold as a polar bear's bum. The wind was blustery, and the cars splashed me.

The pass itself is not high (1500 ft), but from the north it rises nearly 1000 ft in just two miles, on a poor road without a shoulder which winds and has gradients signed at 20 percent, which is approaching the maximum that a roadbuilder with a warped sense of humor had the temerity to create in times gone by, because I doubt the design would be approved today.

My glasses fogged. I could hardly see the cars approaching me on the narrow, dicey road in the mist.

My so-called waterproof jackets (I wore two) weren't up to the job, and nor were my waterproof overtrousers. Moreover my waterproof boots - of genuine Gore-tex - soaked through to the point that I am sure there was a finite depth of water in them - at least enough to drown a rat (no jokes please).

There was no question of photography while it rained.

After a couple of hugely arduous hours, I suddenly came upon the Kirkstone Inn - barely 50 ft away. It was right at the top of the pass, a place that I'd held in my thoughts all morning. And, suddenly appearing as it did, it held biblical significance.

Of course, I entered the inn. No sane human would have walked by. At the door, there's a sign saying it's been here since 1496. There isn't another building around, and it's easy to envisage its historical importance to travelers over the intervening years as a place of refuge. You can also say that I journeyed as the great majority of people these last five hundred years, on foot that is. I bet the numbers of people who've arrived here in a similarly wet and exhausted state can be numbered in the thousands.

Now here's a little question for more experienced hikers. I am using high-quality boots with a sewn-in tongue and sealed seams (though I don't wear gaiters because I've carried them for a thousand miles before without using them). One of my jackets (the extremely lightweight one) is polyester and labeled waterproof; the other is brand new, labeled waterproof and breathable, and sold by a reputable outdoor store. My overtrousers are purpose-made but of unknown origin; I know that they've got waterproof properties because they can be made to hold water when I wash them. As for the high-quality jacket, I raise the hood as soon as it rains, and close up the neck-band too.

So here's the question: in these conditions, is it inevitable that one gets wet from head to toe after only two-and-a-half hours?

In the afternoon, the rain stopped. As I looked out from my seat beside the fire, it looked quite pleasant outside. The visibility had improved and I could see the steep hillsides with rapidly-melting snow judging by the runoff on the road. My planned destination of Windermere was a mere six miles ahead, and downhill all the way. I could easily be there by evening. Since it was forecast to rain tomorrow, I really ought to have walked while it was dry.

Having showered and put on dry clothes, and enjoyed a shandy and a Strongbow, I was fit to resume hiking too. If my just-washed clothes weren't drying full-steam (sic) on the radiator of my cozy room, and if I hadn't set my heart on the pub's beef lasagna that evening, I surely would resume hiking today . . .

Not exactly. The flesh was willing but the spirit was weak.

Day S34                                      2007 and 2008 Daryl May                                      Day S36