Spring in Cham and reflections on Wainwright’s “Coast to Coast”

I am back in the Chamonix valley; first day back actually. After a quick shop at the supermarche this morning, we were anxious to get out on the ski slopes because the weather was so lovely, sunny, and very warm. We went to Les Houches because it is the nearest resort to us. The school holidays have not quite finished, so there were a fair number of people around. But the only congestion we found was in the car park at Prarion. The snow is still in excellent condition despite the high temperature. It became a bit slushy towards the end of the afternoon, but there were very few places where the earth and grass was starting to show through. Spring had truly arrived in the valley with butter- and hoverflies straying into our way while we were skiing and a great deal of bird song whenever we passed by trees.  From the top of the Bellvue Cable car we had a particularly fine view of the new Gouter refuge at 3835m standing precariously over a void. The picture is from the refuge website and shows what a wonderful construction it is. The view we had from the ski slopes was impressive but did not capture its grandeur quite so well.

I have been thinking recently about Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk I did over 8 years ago. I had been commenting on another blog, by somebody (http://30waysofwalking.wordpress.com/) due to do the walk later this year, and thought I might offer some considered thoughts for anyone thinking about doing it. The Coast to Coast Walk was suggested by Alfred Wainwright in a book published in 1973 (there have been more recent additions with some changes of route). It starts from St Bees on the Irish Sea coast and finishes at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast of England, passing through three National Parks. It is roughly 200 miles long. Wainwright encouraged people doing the walk to select their own route so the mileage will always be approximate. It is not waymarked and a moderate level of navigational skill is necessary unless you take one of the many guided tours. In my view, given this navigational ability and the time to book accommodation etc. taking a guide is not necessary. If you have experience of navigation you will not even think of doing the walk without a map. Even if you are being guided, you are likely to find maps will enhance your enjoyment of the walk. Harveys produce two maps that cover the whole route at 1:40,000 scale. But please do not think you can just use a guide book; you might get away with it but then again you may get badly lost. I think it is a wonderful walk and experience, and would encourage anyone to try it. You need to go prepared for all weathers; sometimes these can all occur within a single day! For those who do not like carrying a full pack there are ‘packhorse’ services available which will move your bags from one overnight stop to the next, while you walk there carrying very little. There are several places on the route with quite limited accommodation, so I would strongly recommend pre-booking. Wainwright suggests you should dip your boots in the sea at the start and end of the walk and you might also like to carry a small stone from one side of the country to the other. My advice is to walk from West to East. This is partly because of the prevailing weather but also because the Lake District early in the walk is an inspiration. Finally, please be careful with your belongings. One of my walking friends had her purse stolen from a dorm while she was in the shower. Her sister was on an adjacent bunk but she may have nodded off.

English: The end of the Coast to Coast Walk Th...

Image via Wikipedia

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7 Responses to Spring in Cham and reflections on Wainwright’s “Coast to Coast”

  1. Thank you for your most excellent tips! We are excited and nervous about the trip. In terms of navigation, what type of compass did you use? A friend has lent us his Garmin eTrexH. We need to spend some time practicing with it. Is there a particular compass that you recommend?

    If any other readers have tips about the Wainwright, feel free to drop me a comment on my blog.

    • seclectic says:

      You will probably find a file of waypoints for the coast to coast walk on the web and you could load them into the garmin. Because the files are often very big and I do not want all waypoints I tend to only keep those that I judge to be at key junctions on my walk and include those for the places I am staying overnight. I do not think any special compass is required but I prefer one that I can both lay on a map and see through (transparent base) but also you can hold up to your eye and align with some distant object. If you are going to rely on the gps do not forget to take spare batteries. One other tip keep a diary it is so easy to forget!

  2. Reblogged this on 30 Ways of Walking and commented:
    Thanks to seclectic to posting his experience about walking the Wainwright! If anyone has done this walk before and can offer any specific suggestions, I welcome your feedback. I am particularly interested in things you wish you had known and things you wish you had brought. As always, I am especially interested in any encounters you may have had with the Black Adder http://30waysofwalking.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/facing-the-black-adder/

  3. You have noted very interesting points! ps nice site.

  4. guy says:

    I have done it by myself over 4 different trips from Canada, taking about 4 days a stage. I found it better this way because I tended to get blisters. I could not have done the whole thing nonstop because of blisters. No encounters with black adders. If you are concerned, get some gaiters. They keep your legs/ankles dry. Get waterproof hiking boots, good top quality rain gear(not plastic).Do lots of reading for research on the C2C. I used garmin nav with sd format of the C2C. Had bags delivered by Packhorse(very good) half the time. The other half backpacking. Choice of b and b’s are important. Mostly good though. Can camp . I did some. Get yourself in shape by hiking several miles a day in advance of the hike. Have fun. Go to the pub if you feel inclined and share your stories with other hikers. Getting lost is easy. Good maps, gps with sd of the c2c will enhance the experience.

    • seclectic says:

      Hi Guy
      Thanks for your comments “30 Ways of Walking” might be interested in your experience on C2C. In my experience the blister problem can usually be solved by having well-fitting walking boots and good socks, but you probably know this already!
      I have a garmin also but do not know what you mean by “with sd format of the C2C” I usually just waypoint important points on a walk and use those together with a 1:25000 map.

  5. Thanks, Guy! Please visit my blog http://30waysofwalking.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/learning-to-use-a-compass/ I am writing about the process of preparing for the Wainwright Coast to Coast and often post questions for those who have already taken the journey.

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