Leg 5: to Moot Hall
Mark Davies navigating with John Swift, Christine Bland and Martin (whom Christine propositioned earlier in the day, "Going out for a run tonight? Oh, so am I - why don't you come with me?). Last change of shoes and socks and with almost five hours we are off to the last three climbs. Halls Fell Ridge is still a joy even after 22500 feet of climbing and we are on Blencathra faster than the schedule requires. Mark heads off to Mungrisdale Common on a line that couldn't be bettered and before long we are heading towards the sheep shelter and river crossing. It is astonishing just how much the vegetation has grown in the last seven weeks and before the river we are reduced to a fast walk. Over the river and into thigh high heather. As Martin remarked - "Who ever thought of this as being Lucky Heather needs their head looking at".
Escaping the clutches of the heather we start to climb Great Calva (my 5th time this year, 4th by this route) and, as with Blencathra, this is very familiar ground. I deliberately recced this part of the route again and again so that no matter how tired I was when I got here I would know how much is left do at all stages on each of these last climbs. Taking more food and drink on the way up I can begin to consider 'just one more climb' and on Great Calva's summit I look across to Skiddaw in (nearly) the last light of the day and contemplate the last big effort before the final descent.
Leaving the summit Christine urges me on, reminding me that with two and three quarter hours left "you have done it, all you have to do is get up there and down to the Moot Hall". It is not done until it is done and there is still a bit to do, not as much as there was. Down to the bridge and a good line across the valley bottom (thanks Martin) but the growth on the Skiddaw side is much high than 7 weeks ago and in fading light it is a struggle to find the trod we want. Martin, John and Christine all take turns to shepherd me through the rough stuff and only once do I find a thigh deep hole for my right leg.
This can be the hardest leg to navigate because it has an absolute deadline, too late on this leg can be really too late - as I know already. Mark is doing a great job and here I start to make it a harder still. I know on Skiddaw summit, in the dark, the ground is too rough to run by torchlight (unless time is very short), I also I am not going to have a fast time anyway and now it is more important to get to the Moot Hall by midnight than to trip or go over on ankle trying to save a few minutes and so I slow a little to a steady climbing pace. At the time I didn't realise Mark was already concerned about how time is slipping away but we reach the fence and start the final pull to the 42nd summit where we are battered by a strong very cold northerly wind that hasn't been felt since Scafell Pike. The clouds are down again and as we approach the Trig Point Jim Bispham and Keith Foster appear out of the darkness. Just after the Trig Point Ed Swift appears out of the gloom and we have almost for a party but the descent remains to be done.
Off the roughest stuff and a steady trot is adopted and, I think, Mark begins to relax a little as the lights of Keswick appear below us. I look at my watch for the last time to confirm there is time enough. Having got spread out on the summit the group is almost complete as we leave the car park at Latrigg and start the final stages.
Emerging from a ginnel into the market square with about twenty minutes left, flash guns go off and I touch the Moot Hall to finish. Hug and kiss from Pauline and we can both relax and enjoy the moment. Adrian & Sarah offer their congratulations as does everyone else, including strangers just walking by. It'll take about a day before it all begins to sink in and I really want everyone who has taken part to be here so that I can thank them because without them I couldn't have done it.
I had six fantastic support teams, 1 for each leg and 1 for all the road crossings. I am overwhelmed by the effort everyone made to enable me to achieve this.
At the conclusion of "Joss Naylor MBE Was Here" he writes
'To find words to express my gratitude to those who took part is beyond me'
When I first read these words I knew what they meant but I didn't understand what he meant - at the Moot Hall tonight I fully understood them.
Thank you all, especially Pauline, for everything today and throughout the last 11 months..