Day 1 - Tue 29th Aug 2000 - Kirk Yetholm to Mountain Rescue hut 2
We rose at about 7.30 am and ate some of the Muesli that Dil had brought with him for breakfast as there was not the option to have something prepared for you at this Youth Hostel. Our next task was to collect some provisions from the store in Town Yetholm. While we were there the Warden walked across to the pub for us and got two certificates duly stamped. We took our picture outside the Border Arms and proceeded up the road that began the Pennine Way. My first thought was of the pack on my back, I had this vision of me falling backwards and laying on my back like a flailing beetle unable to turn myself over.
The weather was warm, the sun was shining as we slowly climbed to the top of our first hill. Dil took a quick stock of the sounds around him:
This was with still 16 miles to go. We climbed a further huge hill that was not even worthy of a name on my map. It may have only been a small bump to the map-makers but it felt like twice the size of Everest to us. At the top of the Schill we meet the first party of eight people coming from the south. They are all reasonably fit and seem to be enjoying there walk. I am sitting wheezing on a rock as they approach, I try desperately to control my breathing in a vane attempt to appear fitter than I really am, it doesn't work! A glance at the leading mans footwear still leaves me puzzled. One of his boots appear to have a split across the top and poking through from underneath is a blue plastic bag. I can only assume that this was an act of desperation to prevent his foot from getting wet. I think it must have got equally as wet from perspiration.
Before us stood the first Mountain Rescue Hut we were to encounter that day. Our plan was to walk to the second some 10 miles further on and spend the night there. We went inside to see what the accommodation was like. It was adequate and inside we found a couple of bottles of water. These were to prove very useful later in our journey that day. I had lost a half litre bottle that had been hanging from the back of my rucksack. Dil put a comment in the visitors book and we went on our way passing the detour to the Cheviot. It would add another three miles to the journey if we walked to the top and we were already knackered. I made the excuse that the guide books said that it was not worth the effort and continued on.
At the top of one particular hill covered in broken slate we rested. A man sauntered around the corner dressed in track suit bottoms, a T-shirt and wearing running shoes. In his hand in a small plastic bag he carried an apple and a small bottle of drink. He was tall and wiry. He had come out on a ten mile run he chatted for a while then scrambled over the top of the hill. We followed him over the hill almost immediately and he was already on a causeway and running into the distance we walked onto the wooden causeway, our first. These are excellent as they lift you above the boggy ground over which they pass. That is they are excellent until they stop suddenly and for no apparent reason leaving you standing in the middle of the bog. This bog finally gives way to a Stone path which lasts until you again start to climb where they abruptly stop. You are then left to your own devices to scramble up the last 150 metres of the hill passed sheep whispering "We don't have any problem when we do that".
With still five miles to go we consumed our last water, the sun was burning hot in the sky as we climbed up to Windy Gyle. It was here that we said goodbye to our co-walkers for the present as they left the main trail for a 3 mile hike to their B & B that evening. Still another 4 miles to go to our mountain rescue hut. We laughed heartily knowing that in the morning we would be 7 miles ahead of them. We didn't laugh for long; that was the longest 4 miles I have ever walked. No water; blazing hot; aching back; aching feet. At one stage we thought we had lost our path only to come on it again.
I was exhausted. It was about 7pm, the time we had hoped to be at the hut. Dil walked on (he was moving slightly faster than me), the hills were becoming harder and harder to negotiate. Every time I got to the top of a hill I expected to see the Mountain Rescue Hut in the distance but still it didn't come. Finally as the light began to fade I saw it in the distance. I eventually arrived at the hut at 8.15pm. Dil had arrived shortly before me only to discover that there was no water at the hut. A map showed us where we could find a fresh water spring about a third of a mile away but it was now too dark to seek it out, it would have to wait until the morning.
Dil set about making the hut cosy, while I set about making it untidy. All the food and what little drink we had left was placed together and a few candles were lit (these were provided by the hut F.O.C.) plus a couple of perfumed night-lights that Dil had brought with him. We placed our sleeping bags on the rather narrow benches. I put mine on the cooking area (I was past caring). Dil put on his little radio that he had brought along; first he tuned it to Classic FM and then another shit "local" station which kept fading away. Dil had with him a hip flask of Whisky and my Thermos flask was full of Southern Comfort. Our idea had been to have a drink when we arrived to celebrate our first days journey. This we now abandoned knowing full well that the alcohol would only increase our thirst later on.
I was now feeling cold as the temperature started to fall. I climbed into the sleeping bag to keep warm and fell almost immediately to sleep. Dil was not quite as lucky and found it difficult to sleep on the cold hard bench with my incessant 2-tone snore all night long.
Thought for the Day
We're sure that they have inflation on their miles in Scotland and the North or perhaps the measurements we were given were as the crow flies, they certainly don't take into account the three dimensional nature of the land. Its easy for the map makers when they do it via satellite! Dil has made an extensive study of the figures and has come up with a theory (soon to be published in a science magazine). The basis of the theory is this, the first thing you do when given a mileage is reverse the numbers, i.e. 12 = 21 and 13 = 31 as for numbers like 10, 11, 21 etc… you just double them.