By everyone's reckoning, Patterdale to Shap is the most difficult day of the entire walk. It's 16 miles of pure hell. It involves a very long, 5 mile climb to Kidsty Pike and a very intense, steep descent to Haweswater. This day's walk causes more lost walkers and injuries than any other section of the Coast to Coast, even among the most experienced walkers.
It began raining about midnight the night before we were to set off for Shap and continued raining all morning. Dark, ominous clouds were obscuring Kidsty Pike and much of what we would walk was not at all visible from the ground. Our innkeeper, Chris, at the Grisedale Lodge told us that the weather was only getting worse and that they were recommending that all walkers cancel for the day. Everything I've read and been told about the difficulty navigating over Kidsty Pike in good weather was coming back to me. Chris said that she wouldn't want her daughter up there. That's really all I needed to hear. The British doctor sitting next to us said that even though we hadn't asked his opinion, he didn't think we should attempt it.
We took the bus to Penrith and then caught another to Shap. The bus driver was kind enough to drop us off right in front of our home for the night - The Brookfield House - even though it wasn't an actual stop on his route. The rain hadn't stopped for a moment all day long and he was trying to keep us as dry as possible. Unfortunately, our innkeepers weren't home so we hightailed it about 1/4 mile up the road to The Greyhound.
What a perfect English pub! Lauren had hot chocolate(s) and I had, well, what do you think I had?! A pint, of course. Within minutes, Biscuit, the resident tabby was curled up in Lauren's lap. We sat in warm, comfortable sofas around a small table for a couple of hours, talking to the bartender and petting his shy German Shepard, Glen. A sorry name for a dog to be sure and no doubt a large part of his confidence problem.
We got soaked going back to the Brookfield House but were pleased to find Margaret expecting our arrival. Margaret is exactly the sort of person you want waiting for you on a cold, rainy day in strange place. She swept us inside and instantly made us feel like we were home. She gave us the best room in the house and immediately had hot tea and biscuits (cookies) for us. She fussed and fussed and it seemed to make her happy. No matter how many times I told her were perfectly comfortable and happy, she found something else that made us more comfortable and even more happy. Margaret is one of a kind.
We went back to the Greyhound for dinner and as we were finishing, the British doctor from breakfast came through the front door. He looked like hell. He said it was the worst day of his life and that if he had known how bad it was really going to be, he never would have attempted to do it. He said it was raining sideways, very hard, all day long and that for part of the afternoon he had to deal with sleet and hail. The route was not visible and if not for some other walkers with a hired guide, he never would have made it down.
Although I regret that there's a piece of the C2C that we didn't walk, I know we made the right choice. My daughter's safety comes first and my pride somewhere after that.
We walked back to Margaret's (it was still pouring) and we were lucky enough to talk to both Zak and Dougie before sacking out. That made our day and even though we hadn't walked and shouldn't have been tired, we were asleep by 9pm.
17 Day Itinerary
Our walk begins in St. Bee's on the West Coast of Great Britain at the Irish Sea. Almost 200 miles later, we will find ourselves at the North Sea in Robin Hood's Bay.
Day 1 - Moor Row, 9 miles The Jasmine House
Day 2 - Ennerdale, 8 miles Low Cock How Farm
Day 3 - Seatoller, 14 miles Seatoller Farm
Day 4 - Grasmere, 10.5 miles Town Head Farm
Day 5 - Patterdale, 7.5 miles Grisdale Lodge
Day 6 - Shap, 16 miles Brookfield House
Day 7 - Orton, 8 miles The Westons
Day 8 - Kirby Stephen, 13.5 miles The Black Bull
Day 9 - Keld, 14 miles Keld Lodge
Day 10 - Richmond, 14 miles The Old Brewery
Day 11 - Danby-Wiske, 14 miles Old School House
Day 12 - Osmotherly, 12 miles 32 South End
Day 13 - Clay Bank Top, 11 miles The Maltkiln House
Day 14 - Blakley Ridge, 8.5 miles The Sevenford House
Day 15 - Grosmont, 14 miles The Station Inn
Day 16 - Robin Hood's Bay, 16 miles The Raven House
Of course, these distances don't account for getting lost and doubling back a few times, avoiding an aggressive herd of heifers or navigating the moors.... or wandering off in search of a pint.