The Last Day

Trip Start Jul 05, 2005
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16
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Trip End Jul 20, 2005


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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Friday, April 7, 2006

The last stage of the Pennine Way is typically Byrness to Kirk Yetholm. Last and, arguably, the hardest. Apart from having some of the nastiest ascents on the journey, as you clamber up the Cheviot Hills, it is also the longest by far - 28 miles.

This is because there is no civilisation at any point between the two places. The only places resembling shelter are two mountain refuge huts - one at around ten miles in, the second at around the twenty miles mark.

We had made some good time in the early stages, and we had completed two shorter stages in one day - this had, of course, been Karim's idea. We decided that the worst possible thing would be to do the arduous walk in one day - 28 miles is just stupid, and we would be getting into Kirk Yetholm last thing at night unsure of where to stay.

So we decided to make for the second of the Refuge Huts, and spend the night there. This would give us a nice leisurely morning's stroll the next day of just eight miles, most of which would be downhill.

It turned out that the last stage was no more gruelling than many of the other stages, and this put us at ease a little. We had spent the last few days dreading the final stage so much that before we knew it we were there, and before we knew it we had broken it's back, stopping for lunch at the first Mountain Refuge Hut.

It wasn't much to look at, really. It was a small wooden hut, maintained by the walkers who used it and also some Scottish volunteer group who, rudely, I can't remember the name of (apologies). There was a nice guest book so we were able to while away an hour reading tales of people about to finish ("thank God it's almost over!") and remarks from people just setting out from the other direction ("I hope it's not going to be like this all the way").

But we had to press on to our home for the night, the second hut. We whiled away the time in between fantasising about the many differences there would be between the first hut and the second. Our hut, we decided, would have a tile floor, central heating, a spa, a McDonalds and a free bar.

It didn't have any of these things, but it did have a nice kind of swap shop system where kindly backpackers left things they no longer needed and took the odd supply in return. We left what we had of our food supply, some medical stuff, some sun tan lotion, and I think in return Karim took a chocolate bar, so that's kind of fair.

I had also finished my song, so I wrote it up and stuck it on the wall, so it may serve as an omen for anyone else considering doing such a thing as this.

It was a long, cold night (unsurprising considering we were at the top of a Scottish mountain with no heating). We used the last of the gas bottles keeping the camping stove burning through the night. Neither of us got much sleep at all.

And then the day dawned bright and bloody freezing. In eight miles, it would all be over.
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