The Big Chill

It’s been about 70 days of great weather. Plodding along the wall, the season has been slowly changing, passing the odd tree and seeing the light yellow leaves sea – sawing to the ground, the grass brown and dry, fields of corn plants with their long bone dry leaves, scraping in the wind sounding like thousands of chip packets being crunched. Fields of dry headless sunflower plants curled over, looking like a plantation of walking sticks. Bent over figures of farmers, toiling and collecting anything remotely eatable for the livestock. The signs are there, things are going to change. I thought to myself, maybe it’s the drought in this area, the worst in living memory. Oh no!

A distinct chill was rearing its head the last day or so. As the darkness approached, I crawled into my green tent, getting ready to bed down, had the usual 15 min fight with my sleeping bag, losing again and spent the next few minutes doing the Houdini trying to get myself out of the knot. Just as I managed to escape to my personal applaud, there was that rock right under my now very boney butt. Unable to mine this out, I curled around it and passed out, running really makes you sleep well.

6-30, It is still dark, but time to get changed and hit the wall. I first had to get all my gear out of the plastic bag (to keep it dry from condensation) and then push it into my sleeping bag to warm it, and then wriggle into it. With the task completed, I stuck my head out of the tent like a turtle surveying that all was clear to move on, only to get it abruptly wrapped by a wafer thin sheet of frozen condensate sliding off my tent. I retracted, fighting the menace out of my neck, and tried again. This time I sent my foot out to scout, tapping my foot around, all was clear. I crawled out. The big chill hit me, it felt as if someone had left the blast freezers door open. I looked around, the ground was frozen white, and the grass had a metallic silver reflection in the morning sun as it labored over the horizon, hardly managing to radiate any heat into the crisp morning air. Looking towards the ring of mountains around us, I could now see the first snow had fallen, a light dusting marking the valleys we were now heading for. The winter is here.

With the mountains comes the winter, but also the most incredible sections of the wall now lay ahead of us, only 2 days away and after 2500km our real journey is about to begin.

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