On the 6th of October, six chaps and I attempted the Longmynd Hike, a 50-mile (80-kilometre) adventure over the hills of South Shropshire in 24 hours.
We started planning our little adventure as a fellowship of six. But, just like Tolkien’s original band, our members soon began to drop. A broken toe here, a sore knee there – by the day of the hike, it was just the three of us: me, my partner Tim and our buddy Phil.
The forecast for the day showed a 100% chance of rain with the temperature set to drop to eight degrees. We packed our very best waterproofs, crossed our fingers and we were ready to go! I put on my lucky earrings and my favourite lippy – I was ready to take on this hike. By some miracle, the forecast rain had cleared by the end of the morning and, with our bags packed with far too much food, we were all set to start at 1pm.
The hike began in a lovely green field with gorgeous views of the mountains. As I began to walk, I thought to myself “yeah, 50 miles in 24 hours, we’ve got this!” Then we began climbing our first hill and, holy moly, the reality of what we were attempting to do hit me hard. It was a never-ending climb. I tried to give myself little incentives like “make it to the top and you’ll get some water” but the struggle was real (I may need to work on a better reward system for myself for next time…). Thankfully, with Tim and Phil’s encouragement, I made it to the top and to our first checkpoint, safe in the knowledge that that would be the longest climb of the day. Worryingly, we’d only covered three of 80 kilometres.
The hike carried on with one more mountain climb as I was forced into a couple of involuntary sit-downs and a surprising street-dancing move as I slipped in the deepening mud. We were just 19 kilometres in when we said goodbye to Phil, who was forced to retire due to failing knees. His parting gift, his Walking Stick of Life (as it became known after literally saving my life while coming down the steepest and muddiest slope).
As it started to get dark, we joined a group with two lovely people, Graham and Cheryl. As part of the local mountaineering club, they climb one of these mountains every Tuesday evening – thank goodness, because we did not know the route well! It soon became clear just how much training and commitment that people, very wisely, put in to preparing for this hike. I had already begun to regret not doing more…
As we got to know Cheryl and Graham better, we began climbing my new nemesis: Stiperstones. Feared for centuries by locals as the home of the devil’s seat, I soon realised why. Its jagged rocks, sticking out of the ground at every angle, had broken the bones and spirits of many a hiker before. As you climb, the rocks get larger and sharper. My biggest tip for anyone who might attempt this hike some day is to try and get over this mountain before nightfall. Trying to clamber over the rocks with a mediocre head-torch to light the path ahead is as dangerous as it is slow.
We breathed a sigh of relief when we finally made it down and I treated myself to a Nutella roll (incentive game improving!). It wasn’t until we got to the next checkpoint that I noticed an ominous clicking at the back of my left knee, in addition to the various aches and pains up and down my legs.
The hike carried on to another mountain. The climb wasn’t long but was steep and muddy. The celebrations at the top were very short-lived – the only way down was to turn around and go back the way we came. It was dangerous enough on the uphill, now we were meant to go down it? Who created this route?! This is where the Walking Stick of Life got its name, where I gave ‘baby steps’ a new meaning, and where my knee decided it had had enough.
We weren’t giving up though. We were almost half way! With our tummies filled with sweets and tea, we carried on. Not surprisingly, my pace had decreased significantly. It was an eight-kilometre hike to the next checkpoint at Shelve; there were no mountains but, my word, the struggle was real. My left knee was not having a good time and the walking stick was now supporting my weight. It took over two hours to cover the distance and the “are we there yet?” question was coming out more and more often. When we finally made it to Shelve, it was clear that the only realistic option was retirement. This knee wasn’t going to make it up another mountain.
So that was that: out of 50 miles, we made it to 43 kilometres. As long as you discount the units of measurement, we nearly made it! Last but not least, here are a few tips for me and for anyone who wants to attempt something like this:
- Invest in the best head torch you can afford.
- Do some uphill training for this hike; instead of taking the lift every day at Wapping Station, perhaps walk up the stairs (twice).
- Pack less food. It’s a hike for crying out loud, not an apocalypse!
From left to right: Oz, Tim and Phil at the start of their adventure!
Oz and her partner, Tim, at the end of the hike!
Well done guys!