One again the appeal and draw of the North York Moors took hold of us, and a few weeks ago, Claire, Dave, Jimmy and I decided once again to do a Lyke Wake Walk in January. Last January (after an awful walk!) we had more or less agreed to stop these mid-Winter crossings but somehow your mind never stops playing tricks on you and so before we knew it, we were driving up to a very dark mast in Ravenscar in January 2015, ready to meet our partners in crime.
Once again we were crossing unsupported, and I have to be honest, this is the best way I can imagine doing it. I have to stress that we are well equipped, we know what we are capable of and what our limitations, and are aware of how much food and drink we will need. Having done numerous crossings in all weather conditions over the past year we are familiar with the lay of the land too. If you are new to the LWW, or have a larger party then I cannot recommend going it alone - this link is a good guide to some of the preparations that can be done!!
Conditions were pretty favourable - it was cold enough for the ground to have a decent covering of frost, but not uncomfortably so. There was an icy wind on the fell tops, which meant we skipped a couple of traditional snack breaks, but on the whole the weather was OK apart from a brief moment.
We set off towards Coalmire Plantation in fine spirits, looking forward to the night ahead. There is always something magical about night-time walking, and in Winter there is very little chance of anyone else being around so it can be a tranquil experience too.
Fortunately the steep steps up to Live Moor were not fully iced over so the first hurdle was soon overcome. Once we reached the more exposed ground we were hit with freezing blasts of wind, and so we didn't linger at the trig point on Carlton Bank. A quick walk down and back up saw us warm up with the sharp pull up Cringle Moor. Here again the wind was very cold, but not too strong as the narrow ridge and its sheer drop down to the north can be a bit unnerving.
The next challenge was probably one of the toughest of the walk - the rocky steps down from Cringle Moor were covered in snow and ice and pretty treacherous and made for slow going.
With this in mind we decided to follow the plantation path around the side rather than risking the potentially very slippery Wainstones. This normally very muddy section was cold enough to be pretty solid underfoot and allowed us to make good progress.
The end of the Cleveland hills is a major milestone and a sign that the walk is well underway. The real apex moment here is when you pass the summit of Round Hill, as from here you have a reasonably long section of relatively flat walking over to Bloworth Crossing then along the railway track. On our last walks this has been an enjoyable section, but on this occasion we kept getting hit with icy wind blasts and it got very cold. We were really glad to find the junction which takes us off the railway path up towards Flat Howe. This recently re-opened footpath can be tricky to follow normally, but today the footpath was clearly laid out in the snow and it was actually really simple to follow with just a few muddy sections to navigate around.
Soon enough we were on the roads headed towards the bogs and marshes of Rosedale Moor. At this point the snow started coming in hard and I think all our moods sank a little as visibility was getting poor too. Approaching the bog is always highly anticipated, but with the fog coming in and it was nowhere near getting light, we were quite apprehensive this time round. Soon enough we were in the marsh with the mist swirling around us. Every footstep was tentative as with the powdering of snow there was no way of knowing if the next piece of ground would be solid, liquid or just bog! We made very slow progress through this section, but knowing that the especially bad section is probably only a mile, we eventually made it through and headed up across the moors to Shunner Howe and with daylight fast approaching our spirits were lifting.
Traditionally I have found the section across Hamer Moor past Blue-Man-I-Th'-Moss tough going but this time it was actually pretty straightforward with the path well laid out in the snow. Blue Man himself looked dapper with a dusting of snow on his shoulders. Before we knew it we had made it to Roman road, and would soon find out if we would need to detour should the stepping stones of Wheeldale Beck be under water.
As luck would have it the water was low and we were very pleased to use the stones before heading up towards Simon Howe. Somehow I always forget this section, by now the walk seems to sneak in extra miles here and here when you're not looking! Finally we were starting to get glimpses of sunshine and things were warming up a little.
From here it is a straightforward walk over to Fylingdales, over the NYM Railway line and across the busy Whitby-Pickering road. The section up to Lilla Cross involved the usual stream hopping to get across Little Eller Beck, and sadly along this section the saturated ground won out and I got wet feet. My boots did great up until there though with a couple of full dunkings earlier in the walk - not as bad as Claire who at one point was up to both knees in bog!
From Lilla Cross the route is very straightforward and although we were glad that this clay path was nice and solid for the most part, for me this remains the dullest part of the walk, with a badly eroded path that goes on and on!
Claire's nemesis was up next - Jugger Howe. I personally don't mind this as it engages muscles that have been resting for a while, but it is a tough one at this stage in the game. Dave and Jimmy had pulled ahead here and by the time we caught up with them on the track towards the A171 they seemed quite contented, resting on bales of heather - I think given another five minutes they would have been asleep...
After crossing the road we were all pretty tired but there is that final haul up to the mast and Lyke Wake stone which needs to be done. For me this was a case of putting my head down and waiting for the finish to arrive! Although I do love this section of the moor with the fresh sea air, and the prospect of finishing another Lyke Wake crossing.
We completed in just over 18 hours which was pretty good all things considered and overall I think this was the most blister/ injury free that we as a group have completed the walk. Once again I loved this Winter walk and whilst it's not for everyone, it shows that the North York Moors is a brilliant adventure playground open 12 months of the year!