Distance based challenge walks are fairly common and have grown in popularity recently, especially in conjunction with money raising for charities. For example, The Yorkshire Three Peaks, (NB the most boring walk I have EVER done), the national three peaks, (too much driving and too much rushing on roads). The Lyke Wake walk, (LWW), is a little known local long distance institution that has interested me for some time. Taking in the more northern North York Moors and walking right across, from West to East, it takes in some stunning countryside along the way.
The challenge is to go from the start stone to the end stone in 24 hours. There are more rules on the home page of the official society, (including some frankly crazy and very British club rules and titles). Its 40 miles long and has some serious assent (depending on the route you take).
There are various strategies to its completion. We did the classic route, in the classic direction, (west to east). This proved to be 40 miles long and gave us 1900 metres of assent, which is quite a lot! (we measured the assent and distance using a GPS).
Many groups start at midnight. We speculated as to why and decided it was to give themselves as much daylight towards the end as possible. We decided to start at 4am with the hope of finishing around 9 pm, hoping to average about 4 KPH over the day.
Well, with a few problems holding us up, we managed to set off at 4:20 am. The sun was just coming up and the birds where singing. The weather forecast was good and we had a light wind at our backs. We had one re-supply stop, a friend was joining us at the Lion Inn, (more water, fresh socks and some calories). And so the challenge was started.
I won’t bore you with an in-depth description of the route. However, what I will say is it’s a great walk, taking in the many flavours of the moors, from wooded valleys to wide open moorland, from relatively recent to very ancient archaeology, it has it all. Given the fantastic weather we had, we also got the views, which on the right hill, you could see for miles. We did it in 14 hours and 45 minutes, a respectable time and I genuinely enjoyed the experience.
I will however share my tips for getting ready for the walk, (which are relevant for any long distance walk).
Preparation. The old adage, “falling to prepare is preparing to fail” is very relevant here. Good preparation is key to success and enjoyment. Three things you will need to sort- Your ability to walk the distance, your logistics for the day and your kit.
Firstly, how do you prepare to walk the distance? Well, you could hit the gym, cycle or swim. All might help, but the plain answer is, do a lot of walking! Seems obvious, but it is I suppose. A well-respected trainer agreed with this, explaining the best exercise to train for any sport is doing the sport. Simple. So walk, a lot! And take in some long days, 20-30 miles, over some of the more difficult local walking too. Its moors your walking, so do moorland.
Secondly, logistics. It’s a linier walk, so you will need a car or pick up at both ends. I would recommend at least trying to get a lift from the end. My wife picked us up and while I could have driven, I am unsure ultimately how safe I would have been without a considerable rest and something to eat.
Work out your re-supply points. One of the organised Lyke Wake Walk events had one every eight miles. We had one in the middle at the Lion Inn, (which adds a bit to the route, but not too much). If possible, get someone to pick up your starter car, in the day. We didn’t do this, as we couldn’t get it organised. It added about 2 hours to the end of a very tiring day! And poor John had to drive home, which he said was hard! You have been warned. Get it sorted as soon as possible and build in a contingency if possible. My parents where on stand-by in case Diana couldn’t reach us. You don’t want to be stranded at the end. It’s another 10 miles to Scarborough!
So this leaves kit. An important area to consider and can easily make the difference between success and failure, enjoyment and misery. First and perhaps most important, boots. For the classic summer crossing, relatively light boots are an advantage. I wore the Aku Tribute 2, and was very glad to have them. They are a semi-stiff soled, relatively soft leather hiking boot. I had used them over a period of months before, putting them through their paces in the Scottish Highlands and on the local moors. Due to Aku’s quality construction and components, the support and shape had not faltered, (its worth noting, that with cheaply constructed boots, they tend to lose their support and shape quickly, especially under hard use). While the Tributes leather is soft, they have built a decent amount of ankle support into the boot too.
You could do the route with approach shoes, (Scarpa Vortex being a good example). However, while the weight would be less I felt there was an advantage to an ankle boot for the walk. Firstly, tired legs make mistakes and some of the terrain is uneven and/or slippy and I felt the protection was worth the weight. Secondly, in case of rain, there is considerably more water protection, that last thing you want is wet feet over that distance. So footwear choice is critical and ultimately lighter well-constructed walking boots are my advice. Wear them in and make sure they are comfortable. I did almost expect blisters at the end, but to my surprise, I had none. With a few sore spots, my Aku Tributes really did me proud and proved the correct choice for the task.
Sock choice as arguably as important as footwear. A good quality new walking sock is in order. Why new? Well, invert an old, well used sock. If it is well used, you will notice that the terry loops, (the part the gives the cushioning and helps with moisture remove, the business end so to speak), is worn off on all the foot to boot contact areas. In practice this means the sock is no longer working as it should and will not give you the best, which is needed out of a sock over 40 miles. Weight, (or thickness), is a personal choice. I went with the Bridgedale Wool fusion trekker, (which was called the Endurance Trekker). It’s got new wool, instead of the more usual merino. Why? It does not compress as much over longer distances. It isn’t as soft though, so for shorter walks the merino fusion trekker tends to be the sock of choice. It’s a mid-weight sock too. I was tempted by the Bridgedale Light Hiker, but decided the extra cushioning was worth the weight and the potential discomfort of the extra warmth. I also paired them with a Bridgedale Coolmax Liner sock. All these do is wick moisture from the foot and I felt this was desirable given the distance. The other arguable advantage is friction reduction. Two socks are really a matter of choice, it’s what works for you. And that’s my main advice, find what works for you, (but also avoid cotton and old socks).
After that, the other layers are down to the weather forecast on the day. Ours could not have been better, with no rain forecast and some cloud cover. It turned out to be sunny for the most with a fresh breeze blowing us towards the coast. Therefore, I took a trusty Paramo long sleeved Cambia base layer top, a fantastic Paramo Futura windproof smock for a thermal layer and some trusty old CMP light climbing stretch trousers. All very breathable and light. Breathable been the watch word whatever the weather. Also all tried and tested. No known rub points. All known to be breathable, not just claimed to be.
I also wore my trust Tilley LTM5 airflow hat. I love this hat, it’s been a companion on so many trips now, keeping the sun and most of the rain off my head for many years. You can see our video review of it here. A good sun hat on a day like we had been wise. Not a baseball style peaked cap, but one with all round rim protection.
Finally on clothing, shreddies! Yes, the last bastion of the unbreathable unmentionables. A good friend of mine finally invested in some technical, breathable boxers and has never looked back! People can obsess over out-layers, but the most important, for breathability, is the next to the skin base layer. They may seem expensive, the good one, (like the Tilley Coolmax boxers), but they are worth every penny.
That leaves bag and what some would see as an optional extra, poles.
Bag choice first. Light is the order of the day, but not so light as to be ineffective at load-baring. I went with the Deuter Speedlite 20. I looked at the Speedlite 10 and 15, but these don’t have very well padded straps compared with the 20 and since I intended to carry three litres of water, I wanted something that would handle the weight. That said, I’m normally a fan of good hip-belts, to transfer the weight into the hips, (being a fan of the Deuter Futura 32). But I was really carrying the bare minimum and pack weight was an issue, (the Speedlite series don’t have hip belts for load transference, just stability). I even looked at a Camelbak Ultra racing vest, but it weighed the same as the Speedlight 20 and I felt that it was more suited to the task. The bag breathed well and carried the load well. I never ended up with any strap marks or rub-points either. So light, but effective is the key and the Speedlite range is defo worth a look.
Poles; to me these are not an optional extra for a walk like this. They give all kinds of protection and have many additional endurance benefits. I won’t go into them here, (but will write a separate article on this another time). Just think that the upper body is helping the entire effort and you are more stable and kept in good posture, (if they are used right- pop into the shop for a free lesson if you’re unsure). I used some fairly old Leki carbon fibre ones. They are about as light as they come and reliable, (a theme you might be picking up in this blog).
Paul, who joined us at the half way point, forgot to bring his lovely Leki Albula Lite AS poles. Speaking to him since, he deeply regretted this. He stressed his left knee on the way and it is still giving him problems as I write this. It took me a while to convince him of their benefits, (many years ago now), but he has never looked back. They remain an enigma of British walking. They are ace. Get a pair and use them, you will not regret it!
Sun cream is an obvious one, but one that can save significant pain and injury. I would advise putting it on before you leave the house.
I haven’t covered water-proofs as I didn’t need or indeed carry them. I would have used Paramo Analogy waterproofs if I had, both trousers and jacket, (if needed). They are ware-all-day in the rain as I have found time and again.
Then there’s food, calories for the walk. I use carbs here. I used our new Mule Bars, which I found tasty and filling. I could write another blog on calories for walking. Little and often carbohydrate is the key in my experience. But one of the problems here, is nutritional science is very complex and we have our own needs. My gut is different to yours, so tried and tested by you is the key. Little and often is my advice, avoid big meals and long stops. Don’t have a beer at the pub!
Worth the weight, is the absolute watch word for kit. It must be worth its weight!
The walk is ace. I really enjoyed it. I will be back to do it again. I hope to do the full there and back in 48 hours one year, but that will take significantly more training than this times effort. I will do a winter crossing, (or at least attempt one). That’s how much I enjoyed the route. It really is a top route and if you’re looking for a challenge walk, for whatever reason, the Lyke Wake Walk should be on your short list.