Friday, 17 April 2015

The Lyke Wake Walk Challenge

So, were going to be walking the Lyke Wake Walk - so what? Its just a 'walk' isn't it? Whys it so special? What makes it a 'challenge'?

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The name 'Lyke Wake' comes from old English, and in particular northern Yorkshire dialect. Many of you will be familiar with the modern use of the term 'wake' - a funeral bun fight! But the term is much older, coming from the fact that before modern medicine, many diseases could produce symptoms that mimicked death, deep coma etc, so a body would be laid out, and a 'wake' held - that is, the body would be watched day and night, for several days, to be absolutely sure they were dead.

The old Yorkshire dialect name for a corpse is the 'Lyke'. After completing the wake, the Lyke would need to be taken to the cemetery. In the bleak remote settlements of the Yorkshire Moors, the parish church could be a long way away. If the Lyke was that of a high status person, they would perhaps be taken to Rosedale or Whitby, to the abbeys.

Over the years, routes became established across the moors, wherever possibly keeping to the high ground or contours, over which the Dirgers, the old term for mourners, would carry the Lyke, to reach the church or abbey. This strenuous procession would cross the moors, leading the deceased to their place of interment.

The Lyke Wake Walk pays homage to these dirgers and their processions, by crossing the moors from Osmotherly in the West, to Ravenscar in the East, following the same routes and terrain as the old dirgers would have. What makes it so strenuous and a challenge is that the route crosses the entire moor! Some 65km (40 miles)

The challenge, is to complete the route in under 24h.

The two Ordnance Survey maps that cover the route are the 1:25,000 scale OL26 and OL27. The route starts at the left of one sheet, and ends at the right of the other!

Some of the route now follows disused railway tracks, and a section has recently been reopened that diverts away from the Lion Inn, at roughly halfway, and shaves a couple of km off.

Above is a Google Earth image with the route marked. The route crosses the two main summits of Drake Howe and Round Hill, passes to the north of the Bilsdale TV transmitter and Rosedale abbey, crosses the North York Moors Railway, skirts the PAVE-PAWS early warning radar station at RAF Flylingdales, and finally deposits its weary wanderers beside a rather nondescript communications tower a mile or two from the sea.

The route does cross several roads, and many walkers arrange for others to meet them on these crossing points to replenish food and water, have a rest, and sort their feet. These are known as 'supported' crossings.

We will be 'Unsupported'

That means we will have no one to meet, except possibly at the finish! Therefore we must carry with us all food, foot care, and especially water! We have calculated that we need 10 litres each minimum - thats 10kg plus of fluids to carry each, on top of other kit! 17-20kg starting weight would seem likely, and thats heavy! Of course, as we go, it will become lighter as we use up the water.

Unsupported also means that there is no way to quit! We cant just jack it in at one of the road crossings, as there is no one to get us back from them. For us, once we hit the trail, we are committed to getting through to Ravenscar.

This image shows the climb were up against. The worst of it is in the first 15 miles, roughly to the top of the second summit. We will be looking at completing as much of this as possible as a night march, getting it out of the way as early as possible.

If we complete this in under 24h, not only do we raise much needed funds for MAG, but we also become eligible to call ourselves Dirgers, and are members of the Lyke Wake club. I for one am looking forward to adding that black coffin badge to my walking hat!

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