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WHY I'M DOING IT
I first decided to do this walk in 1989 after watching a TV film with a similar theme and I liked the idea of the challenge. I was 37 then and could not take the time for a three month adventure so instead contented myself with the London Marathon and waited and waited for the time to be right. Now, I don’t feel I can wait any longer and it’s time to get on with it whilst I still feel able to walk decent distances carrying a full rucksack. I read that the maximum you should attempt to carry is 20% of your bodyweight, for me that’s about 30 pounds. I’ve lost around two stones preparing for this so I figure that will put me back where I started, so I shouldn’t feel anything at all. Unfortunately it doesn’t work quite like that. Happily, after investing in some ultra lightweight clothing and equipment, that’s just about the amount my rucksack weighs but I’m working on trying to reduce it for at least some of the route.
I didn’t think I should attempt this without some preparation so I have been walking 3-5 hours once a week for over a year now, always carrying a rucksack first around 15 pounds increasing to 20 and for the last couple of months the full 30 pounds and now increasing the time up to 7 hours.
I also booked to walk up Mount Kilimanjaro in October as it gave me 7 consecutive days walking as it’s one thing to walk for a day and quite another thing to get up and do it again....and again. I did Kilimanjaro to prepare for the End to End walk but I did three training long weekends first, to prepare for Kilimanjaro. One in the Peak District and two around Mount Snowdon which I walked up 3 times, so I feel I at least have an idea of what to expect. Incidentally, summit night on Kilimanjaro is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You leave at around midnight and walk up, at around 20,000 feet, (that’s twice as high as the top of most Alpine ski resorts) through the snow till 7.00am. I didn’t suffer from altitude sickness but the effects made me feel week as a kitten. Everyone agreed it was worth it in the end, but I think that’s only because we are already there. Very satisfying but not to be taken lightly.
Andy Robinsons’ book sets a specific route and gives lots of information. He says “The End to End Trail aims to join up as much of Britain’s high ground as possible while still keeping to a reasonably direct route from Cornwall to Caithness.” It avoids tarmac wherever possible and focuses on countryside and hilly or mountainous regions. It uses recognised Long Distance Walks where they coincide with his principal and others wherever possible elsewhere. Sometimes, particularly in Northern Scotland, there just aren’t any so it’s down to using the compass and crossing wild country. Actually, Land’s End to John O’Groats is not the most northerly and southerly points of GB, it is the two furthest points away from each other. The most southern place is Lizard Point and the most northern is Dunnet Head. As they are only about 40 miles away from start and finish points it seems daft not to do that extra bit, just for my own satisfaction.
The official route starts along the South West Coastal Path to Barnstable then moves inland to Bristol. It crosses the bridge into Wales and follows Offers Dyke as far as Knighton where it does a right turn crossing diagonally up through Shropshire and Staffordshire to Derbyshire where it picks up the Pennine Way. I’ve done the first bit from Edale loads of times over the years but I’m really looking forward to covering the whole 267 miles. That takes me into Scotland at Melrose and it crosses from east to west just under Edinburgh and just above Glasgow when it connects to the West Highland Way taking me up to Fort William and Ben Nevis. Obviously I can’t walk past Ben Nevis so I’ll stay an extra day and walk up and down that. The route then does it’s own thing a bit. Most routes follow the Great Glen to the East Coast along the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness to Inverness, Andy Robinson prefers the Highlands so we stay west passing through nowhere I’ve ever heard of which seems to be devoid of any buildings or sign of life and his readers are told there are no shops to restock so take two weeks food from Fort William. When I get just below Thurso I’ll decide whether to go to Dunnet Head before or after John O’ Groats. As it’s off route I’ll see how I am getting on with my map on the tablet and my GPS. If it’s working out well, I’ll go first if not I’ll take the easier option following the route to John O’Groats and walking back along the road to Dunnet Head. Although, I can’t see what can go wrong, if I keep the sun at my back and my shadow in front of me I’m walking towards Dunnet Head so if I stop when I see the sea, just before I fall over the cliff, I must have arrived.
As the crow flies the two points are 601 miles apart and by road the usual sort of route favoured by cyclists, and walkers in a hurry, is about 874 miles. The book specifies this route as 1206 miles, but as I am adding to either end, and allowing for necessary diversions to my accommodation, not to mention unnecessary diversions where I lose the route, visit places of interest or nip up Ben Nevis, I anticipate my walk being closer to 1500 miles. My log will tell us once I’ve finished.
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"So what's it going to cost?"
I’ve been asked more than once how much this adventure is likely to cost me. I don’t know if it was because they were interested in doing the trip or just curiosity. Whilst I prefer not to think about it I calculate that so far I have spent just under £2000 on equipment and other stuff. The Killimanjaro trip which I did as training along with the three long weekends in the UK cost around £3000, but that was worth it for the sake of that holiday of course.
On the walk I anticipate booking into B&B’s or hotels about 70 of the nights at say £75, youth hostels, bunk houses, bothies or campsites for an average of £10 around 15 nights leaving maybe 20 nights wild camping for free. That’s a total of approximately £5,400.
If I eat in pubs or restaurants or the youth hostels for the 85 nights and keep it simple averaging say £10 plus the shopping for the camp cooking at £3 per night, that’s £910. Lunch will be mostly a sandwich on the move but sometimes a cafe or pub, plus chocolate or snacks so maybe £7 which totals £735
I don’t know what incidentals may arise, I think I’ve thought of everything but no doubt I haven’t and I don’t know what may break or run out and need replacing so maybe allow £100 for that.
So that’s £2000 before hand, £5400 accommodation, £1645 food and £100 incidentals which gives:-
A Grand total of £9145.
OK yes, I probably am mad, to be fair I didn’t really work it out beforehand and don’t forget, I’d have to eat for the three months anyway and I’d have other expenses I save on so .... hey ho.