What Scotland gave us in sunshine, the entrance to England gave us in rainfall. We left Carlisle castle early in order to make good time and try to end the Friday slightly earlier. No such luck. As soon as the curtains were parted this morning we saw what was in store. The temperature had plummeted dramatically, the winds picked up and the rain constant.
After fighting through the morning Carlisle traffic, we were soon on the country roads once more although this time there was no scenery to be seen. The mist and low cloud, coupled with driving rain were making it nigh-on impossible to raise the head to see further than a few feet ahead. By the time we reached Penrith, 26 miles in, every man was drenched and bitterly cold. As we were making our way through the town, we spotted Rob Thorpe and Mark Blenkinsop in a cycle shop, buying new, dry clothing and gloves. Scanny had a similar idea and as we saw and outdoor shop, pulled over and dived in - it's quite amazing the price you'll be willing to pay for some dry clothes when you're desperate! No sooner had we got back on the bikes, however, did we spot the support crew at an impromptu stop! We had full access to all our dry clothing and fresh kit! Money Not Well Spent on new socks. As it was, we were slowly outrunning the worst of the weather and by the time we restarted onwards for Kendall the rain and subdued to a light drizzle.
From Penrith to Kendall we had the small matter of Shap Summit at 1400 feet! As we were making the slow ascent, cyclists were passing the other way with tales of doom and woe about how windy, dark and cold the summit was! By the time we eventually made it, the clouds were light and the wind had dropped. Spectacular views awaited us across the lake district and Kendall below us. Of course, the best thing about being on the highest point for miles around is that the only way is down! Reaching speeds of 46.5 mph (Scanny), we let rip and let the bike do the work, carrying us all the way in to the town below for lunch. It was here that we met Alex Krol and his friend Phil Ogley. Alex is a Marine from RMR Mersey who suffered a broken spine in a motorbike accident. He now makes his way around on a handbike and asked if he and Phil could accompany us for half a day. At this point, the rain had made an unwelcome return and so for some it was a chance to get in to the outdoor shops and kit out for the worst.
While the lead team sped ahead to our final destination of Weeton Barracks in Preston, the remainder of us kept with Alex and Phil at the slightly slower speed of 11-12 mph and made our way at a more sedate pace. Eventually, we found our finish but the day was not done...there was just the issue of the rehearsal for the impending Blackpool Tower abseil! So off to Blackpool Fire Station we went where we met up with Ian Rankin, our trusty Mountain Leader. He gave us a quick refresher of the kit before throwing us out of a 50 foot tower...hardly a representative rehearsal for what is to come!!
Big thanks to Alex and Phil for joining us today. Alex, you are a true inspiration. Phil, you're just a madman but well done for being such a good lad and friend to Alex.
Photos to follow when our photographer recovers from flu!