Easter Sunday, 31 March 2013 – 11.6 miles
Staying at Dufton Youth Hostel. The Pennine Way runs from the village. It was a cold bright morning, with snow on the upper fells, but the valley was clear and green with the daffodils in bud.
The Way leaves the village alongside a farm in a deep track which was where we met the first snow in deep drifts along one wall, but it was easily passable. Then the track headed uphill. The ground was frozen solid with a few icy puddles to be negotiated with care! As we headed higher there were views west across the Eden valley to the snow-covered Cumbria fells.
The path then reached the beginning of High Cup, which is a classic U-shaped glaciated valley. To think that when I did my O-level geography, I’d never seen one in real life! The path is fairly level and follows the high edge of the valley. There was a good covering of snow, but, although it had been trodden, it wasn’t compacted and it was easy walking.
Impressive views from the head of the valley – a copy of ‘Country Walking’ magazine at the hostel had called this the best view in England. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but it could well be in the top 10!
The path then headed away from the valley, along the course of Maize Beck. It was completely covered in snow with no tracks other than a very faint and shallow set of footprints and maybe tyre tracks. We decided that these must be days old and have refilled with snow, but they gave us some visual clues as to the path. We followed this up to a bridge over the beck – although you wouldn’t have known there was a beck there! – and had lunch sitting on the snow-free steps.
After lunch, we crossed to the far side of the beck which was where the map placed the Pennine Way route, but within a couple of minutes, we encountered deep drifts. We went a little further along the side of the beck that we had come before, but although the snow wasn’t so deep here, we decided that it was sensible to turn back rather than struggle on for the sake of getting another mile under out belts.
Not being used to winter walking, we tried to see if there was any logic to which snow would hold you up, and which you sank into, but although we could see differences in texture, it didn’t seem to link to the hardness or otherwise of the snow.
On the way up, we had met a group of three people. Going down we met about four coming up, and were overtaken by a solo walker, who looked serious – we did wonder if he had come over the Pennine Way route, but didn’t see him later to ask.