After my relatively successful walk up Alderly Edge I decided to throw caution to the wind and try a walk carrying my rucksack filled with my Camino gear. This would be the first time I have hiked carrying anything larger/heavier than what I could fit into my pockets. So, did I chose a nice gentle stroll while I got used to my pack? Nope, I went full on 20ish km hike up the 2nd largest hill I’ve ever been up. (The 1st being Snowdon).
I drove to Edale in the Peak District, dumped the car, threw my pack on and set off positively brimming with enthusiasm.. 1 or 2km along a country lane, hop over a stile and the trail begins. The trail wound it’s way up what can only be described as a HUGE hill. I could make out people near the top, but only just, they were tiny specks of black against the skyline…
The first km or so was quite steep, the muddy ground was hard going and sapped strength from my legs as I trudged toward another stile in the distance.. I earmarked the stile as my first cigarette point and slowly climbed onward.
That first km or so I averaged 3km an hour.. Not great but my excuse was having the pack weight.. The main issue now was that the trail steepened severely from this point on.. I took a deep breath and went for it..
The second stage of the hill was killer. My legs were on fire, the odd sheltered part was shin deep in snow while the rest was wet and slippery from the meltwater running down. A group of 3 young healthy types that had once been a speck in the distance behind me bounded up to where I was collapsed having my second cigarette stop.. The thing that struck me the most was that they were laughing and joking as they climbed.. Here was me, hardly enough breath to get a decent drag on my cigarette and they had enough energy to actually be having fun!! As they bounced past with a quick hello a truly amazing thought came to me.. Thinking back to the Alderley hill the other day (Which included one cigarette stop) I realised that I could rate the hills using the cigarette scale (this hill would end up being a 3 cig hill which equates to somewhere between huge and bloody huge). I shivered as I Imagined what a 5 cig hill would entail. Part of me thought there maybe some irony in this scale but I was too tired to think any more about it and staggered on.
Well, I made it to the top (the three young ‘uns were having a picnic..) and headed down the other side. Alot of people say that going downhill is as hard as going up. On this I disagree. The trail was muddy, slippy and wet but I got down in no time (only once losing grip and setting off like an Olympic skier but I was saved by a grassy tuft.. I scored well but was just outside the medal positions)
Up and down the hill was just over 6km.. I wandered around Castleton village, treated myself to a well earned coffee/cake stop and decided to take the longer (flatter) way back to the car..
The journey back was about 12km along pleasant country lanes.. no drama, I pretty much forgot I had my pack on and just wandered along enjoying the day.
By the time I got back to the car I had the occasional twinge in my legs.. my feet were ok (I assume the double layer hiking socks were partially to thank) but on the whole I felt great. I doubt I will have a day as extreme on the Camino and if I do I know I can handle it.. in fact I’m quite sure that I could easily have carried on for another 5-8km without issue.
I’d say today was a good day.. another few km under the belt and a bit more confidence for my Camino. Back home now and it’s time to celebrate with a pizza and a couple of beers!
I hope you’re enjoying reading about my goings on.. please leave a comment or follow if you get the urge 🙂