12°C, some sun, some drizzle.
Second day for my Gold groups, and it’s quite a long one. One had to be withdrawn by the first checkpoint, she had a knee injury. I tried lending a neoprene support but it didn’t work.
The rest rest her group tried to pick up the pace but still took 2 hours reach the second checkpoint. Not very encouraging.
They arrived energised but worried about failing. Picking them up in the minibus would certainly mean a fail. I really didn’t want to pick them up as much as they didn’t (if you get what I mean). So I sat them down at talked through their options. Their next checkpoint is high up on the moors and the descent over the other side would lead them to their planned camp. A few of them vocalised very unhelpful thoughts on who is to blame and the acclimatisation day on Monday. These girls have done this before. Whenever something isn’t right, they use their thinking time to blame somebody. Trouble is, that’s no way to solve problems so I cut them off mid-sentence. This is what we’re going to do…
Firstly, the training day on Monday was a half-distance walk, you carried light day packs, we provided supper which you ate indoors in a warm building with good showers and a warm bed for the night. There is no reason why you wouldn’t start Tuesday fully refreshed with dry kit. Let’s focus on what’s going to happen today.
The worst case scenario, I explained, is that you would reach the next checkpoint by 17.00. That would mean descending in darkness and we haven’t trained you in night navigation. So, I told the group that if they had not made the descent by 6pm, then they should make camp wherever they are. At the latest, within half an hour of sunset. That does mean a stay on the Moors for the night, you are carrying all the right kit so there is nothing to stop you. I am not going to pull you out of expedition because of darkness. You can stay the night on the moors.
That’s okay because I will come to you from the north at sunset to find you. I can then check you out and fix up a water supply for breakfast. Even my colleague expressed concern at the idea of searching on the hills in the dark. We staff are trained in night navigation, well, Mr H, Mr K and I are. You will have your radio on by then anyway, as we’ve always told you to switch them from 4pm. They were terrified by the idea of staying on the moors. If necessary, I will bivvy somewhere nearby up there to keep you within earshot. Okay, so that’s the worse-case scenario.
The second worst scenario is that you arrive to leave open-access land but have ot navigate through woodland and some dark lanes after sunset. If this happens, I will come along and walk with you for the last few kilometers. I have a headtorch and a couple of bright hand-torches. You do have lights don’t you? They had.
I had their fullest attention throughout this briefing. A decision was quickly made and they grabbed their packs and got up.
They soon “got a wriggle on” and set off. As soon as it was obvious that they’d correctly chosen the right path at the nearby junction, we headed back to the minibus. i could imagine them walking at pace with the whites of their eyes visible. The drive is long round to the other side. But we parked up and started heading up. They responded on the radio very clearly- that means they are close. Actually, they were very close. The group not only passed the checkpoint but were on the edge of access land within 1 km of us! They really had got moving. All of them were dead pleased with themselves when they saw us.
There was no need to escort them to camp, over an hour remained of dusk. the camp is a nice one, it even has showers unlike the night before. Not that they could use them, not one of them had brought a towel.