Day 37, Crowden to Edale, 18 miles, 'Tales of Richard Part III, The Pennine Way ends. Finally.'
Dear gods I've been looking forward to this. After nearly 250 long and bitter miles I had just 18 more to go and I could finally wash my hands of the PW and never, ever come back again - it came as a slight surprise therefore that this day was absolutely brilliant. But then that is classic PW, the full thing takes on average 16 to 20 days to complete and there's only really 3 or 4 good days in there, it feels very much to me like an excuse for an unnecessarily long walk which links up excellent hiking days by adding 50 miles of rubbish between them. But I've moaned enough about the PW: today was great so let's focus on that instead.
As per nearly every morning we were immediately forced to climb a vertical gradient out of our camp to start the day. We met a peak district park ranger on the climb who was reinforcing the path - what a job that man has. Working outside, fixing the walkways and trails of Britain far from cities and stress, whilst using his hands to build and improve something tangible, I was truly jealous. Anyway, we made the climb and continued on knowing full well that today would be a tough and undulating walk. Strangely this made the day easier - when you know something will be tough you approach it differently, and despite this being far longer and significantly more difficult that yesterday's walk we ate away at the miles with relative ease. Black Hill fell under our feet swiftly and we soon found ourselves facing a truly mammoth climb which would bring us to the edge of Kinder Scout, one of the Peak District's more famous hills. Unlike yesterday we had ample supplies with us, as well as the aid of a slight breeze which took the edge off of yet another day of strong sun.
The climb was well worth the effort. From here we were taken around a wide and curving ridge with majestic views to our right. The path slowly became more rock strewn as huge wind blasted boulders and limestone corridors dominated the early afternoon. They were perfect walking conditions, the sun was warm but the stiff breeze that blew on the ridge kept us cool as we made excellent time, the trail here was busier as tourists took circular day walks from Edale, but aside from that minor complaint it really was a perfect day for the peaks.
We knew from a rather clever app Rich had downloaded that we only had around 100 more metres to climb for the rest of the day, and a solid 400 metres to descend, so we both looked forward to the path gradually slacking in gradient as we approached Edale. However the path refused to go downhill at any point as we approached our destination and we began to assume the app was clearly mistaken as barely a mile off from Edale Rich's phone was still declaring we had the best part of half a kilometre to descend. We shrugged it off and continued on, barely 30 minutes away from the end of the PW and a celebratory pint (or Huel).
Turns out the app was dead right. After one final climb Edale came into view and the path down was nothing short of perilous. Spurred on by the lush greenery of Edale we slipped and scrambled down the ludicrously steep path and finally, FINALLY, the Pennine Way was done.
There was only one small sign at the Nag's Head pub to note the beginning / end of England's second longest official national trail which felt rather anticlimactic, but I was thrilled to have the PW firmly behind me. Rich at I hit up both pubs in Edale after pitching our tents at the campsite. The showers bizarrely only took 20ps, giving you 2 minutes per 20p piece. I thought 5 coins would be enough and was soon aware that a full 10 minute shower is far, far too long for anyone. Another close friend of mine, Dylan, met us in the pub to celebrate the end of the trail and we drank the night away in good company, as a mutual friend of Dylan and Richard's, Steve, also made the trip down. Richard and I bought 2 main courses each which proved to be too much for Richard's belly (but not for mine), and we feasted merrily to see off the PW in style until the pub closed its doors for the evening.
As for tomorrow? The longest single day of the entire walk at a mammoth 30 miles but with the PW done and dusted I could hardly wait.