The Pennine Way – One Day To Go…
Whilst Wayne has been busy researching camp sites, memorising routes, working out daily mileage and creating detailed spreadsheets, my biggest concern with our latest hiking adventure has literally been what to pack and can I fit it all in my rucksack!
People say to me you’re the last person I would ever have expected to go ‘travelling’. Well, it’s a delicate balance. I love my luxuries, but I also love not being at work. The freedom of doing whatever, whenever – but with obvious restrictions of budget of course. (We haven’t won the lottery to travel, more’s the pity). With this in mind, for us it’s all about making our money stretch further so we can travel for longer. So what better way to do this than by walking, because after all walking is FREE!
We love to walk! Hiking in Peru during our 6 month trip to South America.
It’s Good To Walk!
We ignited our passion for walking during our first RTW trip after heading to New Zealand, the land of mountains (oh and annoying sand flies). Having invested in our first pair of hiking boots and waterproof jackets, we discovered that walking wasn’t so bad, especially when you find yourselves walking through a set from ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
We had to start somewhere! Our first long day hike, The Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand.
At that time, hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, considered one of New Zealand’s most spectacular trails, was a major achievement for us. When the only walking we did previously was me dragging Wayne on a shopping trip, a day walk of 19.4 kilometres across active volcanoes was no easy task. As I remember it, I was miserable for the first couple of hours due to a mammoth uphill start that I hadn’t expected. In my head ‘alpine’ scenery meant rolling hills and fields of wild flowers. Picture ‘The Sound of Music’ and you get the idea.
As we came over the ridge, mist suddenly descended to obscure our view of the turquoise crater lakes below.
To say it was not what I was expecting is an understatement. Instead of a gentle stroll through wild meadows, it was a tough hike along some knife edge ridges in mist and rain, with gale force winds to contend with as well. By the finish, I was completely shattered. My legs literally felt like lead weights and all I’d carried was a small day pack with water and some egg sarnies for refuelling. It sort of puts you to shame though when a 10 year old boy is walking up front with his dad and completes the trail with a triumphant high five and a huge smile on his face. You can learn a lot from children and their outlook on the world.
Selfie’ shot in the Grand Canyon after hiking along Bright Angel Trail. Luckily the sun made an appearance, which always helps on a tough hike!
It’s Only Putting One Foot In Front Of The Other…
So our walking became more regular and our trails got more adventurous. Plus we discovered a hobby that we both enjoy and where we can spend time together (instead of being at home sitting in separate rooms doing separate things). From climbing the hundreds of steps that line the steep peaks of Mount Hua Shan in China to treading carefully on the icy trail heading down into the USA’s Grand Canyon in winter time, we’ve accomplished more than we ever considered possible and seen some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, all with boots and a backpack, plus a bit of ‘get up and go’ attitude.
It was a struggle trekking up mount Hua Shan as there are literally hundreds of steps – but the reward – fantastic views from the top of this holy mountain.
Just a few more steps to go!
Every Gram Counts
With attempting more adventurous hikes, also came the need to invest in some lightweight equipment, which inevitably means spending money on good quality stuff (which Wayne assures me is more cost-effective in the long run as things will stand the test of time). Durability is key to Wayne’s kit choices along with how heavy it is – as he continually reminds me, every gram counts, which I’m about to find out as we embark on our 700 miles.
Wayne changing the guy ropes on our hiking tent to lightweight dyneema cord – because every gram really does count!
Hiking with a solar panel to charge our mobile phones and camera batteries. Another great investment! (Obviously it relies on a sunny day!)
As I said earlier, Wayne has been the one to plan this whole 700 mile hiking expedition. He spends a lot of time researching the latest hiking products and reading online reviews to make sure what we buy is exactly what we need. The problem is that each year something new comes out that is even lighter and even better than the previous version we bought (or so he tells me). It’s a running joke that I now own more rucksacks than handbags! But hey, at least we have a different sized rucksack for every eventuality.
For a more detailed breakdown of our kit for long distance hiking take a look at Wayne’s post: ‘Our Summer 700 Kit Breakdown’.
Another major factor to impact on your whole hiking experience is what you wear. We’ve now abandoned our old cotton hiking gear in favour of lightweight synthetic materials. These feel more comfortable and are better at letting your skin breathe, especially when you’ve just hiked a kilometre down into a canyon in temperatures reaching 30 degrees.
Hiking 1km down into Colca Canyon, Peru.
Lightening the load. We now hike in lightweight synthetic clothing.
Up For A Challenge!
Hiking the Pennine Way for me was never some quest for ‘self discovery’. Like Wayne, we’re simply up for a challenge and it meets a purpose; travelling on the cheap. I said before about how we try to maximise our money and by walking and camping we can do that. Another of our priorities is to get fitter and lose weight (too much Colombian chicken and chips is not spending a lifetime on these hips!) And it goes without saying that we’ll get to see some more fantastic English countryside as we hike the length and breadth of our home country, taking in places we’ve never visited before.
Even though 700 miles will be tough, having a whole summer ‘off’ is most appealing! Although with the unpredictability of the English weather (or rather predictability as it usually rains whenever we choose to camp) I might not be saying the same thing in a week’s time. Wayne loves the saying “A rainy day on the hills is better than a sunny day in the office”. I agree in theory, but after a soggy 8 hour walk carrying 16kg, I might just think my cosy classroom is a better alternative!
A little bit of rain doesn’t put us off (although I can become slightly miserable!)
Last Minute Jitters
No matter how much preparation we’ve done including several training walks over the last 3 weeks, I’m still worried about carrying my backpack. Yes I love walking and I’m fit enough to cover the miles, but hiking with literally your home on your back is another matter entirely. Imagine your holiday suitcase jam packed at 15kg for a Ryanair flight (I quote Ryanair and 15kg as that was our measly luggage allowance when we set off on our first RTW trip back in 2010. 5kg of which was actually the weight of my rucksack ‘with wheels’). How did I manage 16 months with just 10kg worth of stuff? I didn’t. I cunningly put another 10kg in my hand luggage. But even with our lightweight gear, my backpack stands at 16kg. I guess another re-pack is going to happen in the morning with another attempt at downsizing essentials!
Before anyone mentions hair straighteners, they didn’t even make it on the list, let alone in the bag! We do both have 4kg worth of water and food rations included in our pack weight though, so we guess once we start eating the said ‘rations’, our bags will inevitably get lighter.
It’s Time To Go, The Mountains Are Calling!
Hiking in the Lake District, England.
You can’t guarantee the weather, but we’ll finish with a smile on our faces!
So with our hiking gear upgraded and our kit list fine-tuned due to Wayne’s meticulous planning, it’s almost time to set off on our latest adventure, which will be our greatest hiking challenge to date. (When I finally finish re-packing my rucksack that is!)
Having just returned home from 6 months in South America, we’re not quite ready to go back to work just yet. And what better way to spend a whole summer than in the great outdoors doing something you love!