My friend Will is clambering over a landslide. I’m still picking a path across the previous stream, avoiding rotting trees brought down by an angry bloke called Desmond.
He came after Abigail, Barney and Charlotte, Cumbria’s first named storms. The others were like your boss on a bad day. We’re used to wind and rain in the Lake District so they caused disruption without too much havoc. Desmond was like the hulk.
We’ve had Eva and Frank since, but even they haven’t compared with 5th December 2015. Cumbria is scarred with millions of pounds worth of damage, caused in less than a week.
Getting to the northern part of the Bob Graham route is difficult. Instead of an hour’s drive up the A591, a diversion on the M6 and A66 takes twice as long. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed they’ll repair the gaping wound in the A591 by June, otherwise getting my supporters around the Bob Graham will make logistics even more hilarious.
Leg 2 meets leg 3 almost exactly on the landslide, so today we’ve parked the car on that deserted stretch of road and we’re picking our way along lowland footpaths to get up to Raise, about half way along leg 2.
I’ve seen a lot of the disruption to Cumbria’s road network because of my job as a local reporter but now I’m seeing the hidden damage to the forests and footpaths. There are closures everywhere. The valleys on either side of Helvellyn look as if they’ve cried so hard they’ve slumped, spent and numb.
A construction worker stops his digger and waves us past with a smile and we begin to climb into the snow.
Helvellyn is misty but the distinctive tracks of Inov8 mudclaws, just like my own, helpfully remind me of the best line to take as we follow the compass due south over Raise, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike. Following tracks is of course never a good idea, but this is the section of the Bob I know the best and my memory and compass corroborate the trail.
We could be in the Alps. The Lakeland Fells look infinitely grander when peppered in white. The valleys are somehow more desolate. They’re so different to the moon-like surface up here that they feel much further away.
After a slow 5 hours we find a line off Seat Sandal that leads us to the car and Will’s hot chocolate. It smells delicious but I stick to my no sugar diet. It’s been a slow run and I feel fine. I need to be quicker on B Day but it’s a good start.