The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Ooops - Slipped And Bought A New ...

My sleeping bag collection currently comprises:
Marmot Angel Fire – good to -9*
Rab Quantum 400W – good to -5
PHD 300 (Short) – good to 0
(Those are the official ‘good to’ figures; for me the PHD one is about right, the Rab one a iny bit optimistic and the Marmot one a bit more optimistic.)

The Rab and PHD ones I like a lot. Admittedly, if I had had the PHD one first, then I would have also got a Minim 400, rather than the Quantum 400, but there really is little about the Rab about which I can complain.

For a while now I’ve been lusting after a Minim 500 in Drishell and with a half zip to replace my Angel Fire. Theoretically it should be good to the same temperature, but the important factor for me was that the Minim weighs in at just 850g. Off the top of my head I thought that the Angel Fire weighed in at something like a bulky 1150g.

On Friday morning I nearly succumbed whilst browsing the PHD website. I got as far as adding the bag to my basket and proceeding to the check out, but when it came to clicking the button to complete the order I had an attack of conscience and started questioning whether I really needed to spend £200 on yet another sleeping bag just to save 300g and a bit of bulk – particularly when I haven’t used the Angel Fire very often (although that may be because it’s so big and heavy). Being very restrained, I left the online store without making a purchase.

On Sunday, I carried all of my down sleeping bag collection downstairs and started some serious contemplation (but it didn’t involve a spreadsheet, so I didn’t stoop to my usual levels of sadness).

The decision was made when I stuffed the monster bag into a stuff sack and weighed it – something that I don’t believe I had ever done before. Perhaps I was just in denial and wasn’t prepared to carry more than the advertised weight and thus convinced myself that it wasn’t heavier than that. Either way, I was shocked to place it on the scales and to find that it was nearly 1.5kg! That’s more than a quarter of the entire base-weight that I carried on Friday and Saturday!

The decision was made. The Angel Fire will be disposed of and an order was placed for the Minim 500.

So, in the last month that means that the kit collection has swelled by: a TN Voyager Superlite; a pair of Scarpa ZG65s; an OMM AR25 and a PHD Minim 500. Good thing that I’m now a gainfully employed person, eh?

(*Hmmm, just noticed that the Angel Fire, which was definitely advertised as having a comfort rating of -9 when I bought it a few years ago is now only stated to have a comfort rating of -3. I may have felt that -9 was an overstatement, but it's definitely warmer than that!)

Monday, 30 March 2009

Carneddau Lack of Photos

I did take a few photos over the weekend. Not many, but a few.

However, I completely failed to download them and I'm now in a different town to the camera.

So, I may download them later in the week, and if any of them are worthy of sharing, I may post them.

But, in the meantime, I'm afraid that it's just blocks of text.

Carneddau Quickie - Part 3

With tea drunk it was as a party of four that we left the bothy. Our timing was impeccable: the sun that had briefly broken through whilst we were indoors was once again covered by cloud and soon hail was in the air again.

We had not gone far before Alan and Robin decided to cross over to the other side of the valley and take a direct route back towards parking area, from where they would head over to Capel Curig. Given that we had only walked 2.5 miles from the parking area on Friday, I was after something of a longer walk on Saturday, and walking back towards the car so early in the day didn’t seem like it would achieve that. So, goodbyes were said as, in the absence of any advanced route planning, we chose a hill at random (small hill that is; in fact, more of a lump on the ridge really; we were avoiding the bigger tops on the basis of the wind strength and the lack of visibility) and set off to walk up it.

It was not only good TGOC training, but also a good test of the waterproofness of my new new boots (must blog separately about the problem that led to the replacement if my shiny new boots), as we yomped across country over tussocks and through bogs, steadily making our way up onto a ridge.

Our day continued on the same theme as each time we reached our next objective we picked another within our sight and set off towards it. As is Mick’s tendency, he did at one point pick out our next objective, only then to veer off in a different direction. Sometimes in such a situation I question why he’s heading in a different direction to the one he’d just indicated and sometimes I don’t. This time I didn’t and just trailed on behind (oh, I miss being fit!) and it wasn’t until we reached two rocky outcrops that he explained that he thought they looked more interesting than the lump for which we were heading – he just failed to communicate the change of plan to me!

Being blown around on top of our fourth lump of the day I dug the anemometer back out of my pack. Fifty miles per hour was the answer. There was something of a windchill accompanying it too, so we didn’t hang around too long, but found a bit of shelter before tucking into the snack-bar supplies.

It didn’t take us too long to run out of lumps along the ridge, so we took advantage of the good visibility down low (actually, by this point the higher tops were often out of the cloud too, but we weren’t moved to retrace our steps back along the ridge towards them) to come up with a vague plan as to how we were going to get back to the car.

The plan was easily executed, albeit with quite a lot of prickling when we had to wade through overgrown gorse along one (significant) length of path. I was thankful to be wearing Paramo; I hate to think of all the tiny pin-pricks of holes that may have resulted in GoreTex.

The temporary fine spell we had been enjoying waned as we rounded a spur on the other side of the valley. Suddenly it was cold again and the clouds were threatening to throw more hail at us. Then, before we knew it we were back on the track we had followed on our outward journey, from where it was just a hop, skip and a jump back to the car.

It was only 1pm, so it hadn’t been quite as long a walk as I had been after, but in terms of quality it was right up there. Not only had we tackled a good variety of terrain, but the lumps that we visited were perfectly lovely – and no doubt overlooked (no pun intended!) by the majority as they make a bee-line for the bigger tops.

Having unnecessarily carried lunch with us, a picnic was had before we set back in the direction of home and whilst Mick did the driving I did a bit of catching up on my sleep. Home was reached almost exactly 26 hours after we had left – so as trips go it really was a flying one, but a good one all the same. We’re planning something equally brief for next weekend, albeit it will be closer to home, so less time will be spent driving and (hopefully) more walking.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Carneddau Quickie – Part 2

By the time we made it to where Alan and Robin were pitched they were ensconced in their tents cooking tea, so just a quick hello was had we started looking around for somewhere to pitch – which was not as easy as it might have been with the soft, wet, tussocky and sloping ground (Alan had resorted to using his trekking pole as the rear peg for his tent – and it was sunk to three quarters of the way down its shaft – eek!).

After much faffing, we opted to perch upon a man-made lump which the others had discounted for being too hard a surface to get the pegs in. However, we only had titanium skewers with us, which would have been less-than-ideal in the bogginess, but were fine for working between the gravel and stones about an inch below the grassy surface of this flat-topped knoll.

Now, I should probably mention that it was a bit breezy. Even having put two pegs in the back of the tent before we started pitching it a hearty gust just as we had raised the poles tried to blow the tent off the hillside and in the process removed both of the pegs. When we couldn’t find one of them, we assumed that it had been catapulted down the hillside and was thus lost forever – a trifle annoying as this was the first outing of Susie and thus these were brand new pegs!

Water proved to be a tiny bit of a problem as the deep streambed next to which we were pitched had obviously for a long time been dry. Still, it was a lovely evening for a stroll up to and around the llyn to find a good stream, which is exactly what I did whilst Mick went to assist Alan with his surfeit of Whisky.

Much chatting was then had until simultaneously the light faded, I got cold and my stomach started rumbling so off I toddled to sort out some food, apply a down jacket and put on a head-torch (although not in that order).

By 8pm we were snuggled up in our sleeping bags, with an earphone of The Subtle Knife each, watching the tent periodically flattening on us from the tail end and with the sound of rain (or so we thought) hitting the nylon.

At 10pm the rain hadn’t let up and I was in that horrible camping scenario of really needing to use the en-suite whilst being very reluctant to do so in the rain. My procrastination was long enough that a brief respite in the weather finally came and Mick and I simultaneously dived into our clothes and for the door. Then we stopped dead as we saw the snow on the ground. A good blanket of an inch or so. Didn’t expect that!

In terms of the amount of sleep achieved, I think that the night has to go down as the second most sleepless of my camping life. The noise of the wind combined with a lack of exhaustion (if I’d walked 15 miles over hills the day before then I’m sure it would have been a different story) conspired to stop me from doing anything beyond occasional dozing.

Finally, at about 6am I dropped off and knew nothing until I woke up at 7.10, when I opened my eyes to find the front pole of the tent bent down to just above my face – which is most certainly not its correct position. It took me a few moments to work out that the wind had got stronger and had swung around in the night such that it was now hitting us head on (the anemometer held out of the front vent recorded 35mph; with hand freezing we didn’t wait for a big gust to measure that). Lying there watching the tent deform every few minutes, I suspected that we may have incurred a few curves in our poles!

Trying to make a cup of tea in the porch seemed futile in the absence of a windshield so the decision was made to make our way down to nearby Dulyn bothy for breakfast.

With uncanny timing we found ourselves ready to do battle with the wind and a flysheet just as Alan and Robin emerged to do the same with their tents. Depitching proved that we had indeed incurred curved poles in the night: every single one of them – one quite remarkably (but thanks to having taken the old poles from Vera I didn’t have to suffer the distress of a lost new peg and bent new poles!).

Wandering over to Alan and Robin we shared our immediate plan with them, and they opted to join us in the bothy for a cup of tea, so off we all set together and not long afterwards we were indoors and out of the wind – and questioning why we had all just spent a disturbed night in our tents when there was a perfectly good bothy less than a twenty minute walk away! (The answer being of course that if we had stayed in the bothy we wouldn’t have such a story to tell about our night of snow and gales.)

With tea at the forefront of our minds, Alan and Mick went off to gather enough water for thirty cups of tea (getting a bit carried away there), whilst I faffed with a stove and tea-makings and Robin decided to modify his layering. As a result of the latter two activities when Mick walked back into the room it was with the question “Should I be worried about walking into a room to find my wife alone with a man stripped down to his pants and just getting dressed again?”

And I think that’s as good a place as any to break the tale for now.

To be continued*…

(*My goodness, how much can a 20 hour trip to the hills be strung out?!)

Saturday, 28 March 2009

A Carneddau Quickie

Quite a while ago Blogpacker Robin announced that he was going to be popping out for a long weekend in Snowdonia this weekend and indicated that he was amenable to people joining him. Alan quickly said that he would join the party and it looked for a while like it would be something of a micro-meet.

Being the far-from-organised people that we are, it wasn’t until last Sunday that I suggested to Mick that a trip to the Carneddau would be more interesting than yet another yomp over the Chase and proposed that we make the journey just for a quick overnight, with the intention of tying up with Robin & Alan. The wonders of modern communication were engaged and by mid-week I had the details of the proposed parking place and campsite.

In an extraordinary display of disorganisation it wasn’t until 10am yesterday morning, whilst Mick was busy working, that I started gathering together all of the gear we would need (disturbing Mick for some input, like “Which sleeping bag would you like to take” (I ignored his answer and packed a different one for him) and “Do you know where your mug or my hat is” (he didn’t; I subsequently found my hat in my (cheap, plastic) mug, but Mick’s (titanium) mug is still missing).

By approaching noon (having been distracted by all manner of things, not least some very tasty cake), I had all of the gear in a heap and was in the midst of conducting an experiment as to whether I could fit everything I would need for a coldish-weather backpack into my 35 litre OMM Jirashanca*. To complete the experiment I needed food and that was my next obstacle as we were rather lacking in supplies of food suitable for a backpacking trip.

With time pressing, speed and laziness prevailed and so I drove the mile down to the village to ransack the village store for such unappetising but light foodstuffs as Pasta n Sauce, plus a box of muesli bars.

Five minutes later I was home, having ascertained that every car parking space in the village was taken. Harrumph – we didn’t have time for this!

Five minutes later again, I was whizzing down the road on my bicycle (only whizzing because of the wind being strongly behind me; coming back was a bit more laboured!).

At the time that I had hoped to be on the road, I was just cooking a less-than-lightweight fresh pasta and sauce (seems that our local shop doesn’t sell even unappetising lightweight stuff any more) and stuffing the Hobson’s Choice of breakfast bars into our packs.

Then Mick got tied up on some work calls and then I realised that we ought to have some lunch before we left, and then when, over an hour later than intended, we finally got on the road we got stuck in horrible traffic and then we got caught in more horrible traffic, followed by a little more horrible traffic.

As a result of all of that, it was somewhat later than intended when we pulled up into the allotted parking area and so we wasted no time in donning our packs and making like rats up drainpipes along the track.

Three minutes later I was huffing puffing and we slowed down from the rat-up-drainpipe pace to something more sensible, and at such a pace we happily continued, marvelling at the lovely afternoon that had materialised and marvelling even more at the stunning surroundings.

Three quarters of an hour later two tents and two figures were spotted on the hillside ahead of us in roughly the area that we had expected to find Alan and Robin and so towards them we headed.

To be continued…

(*The 35-litre pack was just an idle experiment. My intention, with a couple of hours on my hands, was that I would then unpack and put everything in my OMM Villain to make sure that it wasn’t too much of a squeeze. When that couple of hours mysteriously disappeared in the blink of an eye I didn’t have time to switch packs and in any case had decided that everything fitted just fine in the smaller pack – and without even having to hang anything off the outside. The result was a very comfortable couple of days with a tiny pack weighing in at just under 6kg without water.)

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Kinder Downfall

You may recall that two and a half weeks ago I had a slightly unsuccessful trip to Edale, when I really wanted to visit the Downfall, but failed miserably (about which I am still disappointed).

Other people were not so unsuccessful. Within a week pictures of the downfall had been featured on the blogs of Northern Pies Mike, Doodlecat Phil and Phreerunner Martin. All of those pictures were enough of a blow to my failure. Then tonight Mick arrived home from work and thrust his memory stick at me.

On it he had not just photos of the Downfall a few days after I was there, but also the following movie (courtesy of Phil (no, not that Phil, another Phil (whose permission to reproduce I don’t have – do shout if you object Phil))):

I’m a little less disappointed having seen the movie. There is not really a stream of water in the downfall is there? There’s just a single bucket of water. It tries to fall down, gets caught by the wind, goes back to the top and tries again – and repeat.

I still hope to get to see the Downfall in action one day and hopefully it will have more water in it than on 21 May last year, when it was more of a Kinder Tiny Trickle:


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

A Shock To The System

For the last eighteen months there has been little strain on my brain. Seldom have I had to think beyond issues such as ‘where shall I walk today’ or ‘right to go up hill or left to go down?’. I’ve certainly not had the call for lengthy concentration on complex issues.

Then, yesterday I rejoined the world of work.

In fact, I rejoined a company I left seven years ago, where the general assumption is that I recall everything that I knew all of those years ago.

My head hurts.

Still, it’s nice to be re-meeting lots of nice people who I haven’t seen for so long.

The bad news, of course, from the point of view of the Blog is that with Mick working up North and me working down South, there’s going to be significantly less time for walking this year.

Countering that, however, is that if all goes well I will have the pennies to go and buy kit that I want and to fund next year’s walking plans.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Edale – Day 2

Tuesday 10 March

My day started early and by 7.30 I was sitting back at the Upper Booth car park, with a sodden tent in the boot of the car and hoping that the rain, which should have cleared through by now, would soon abate. I gave it until 7.45, then decided that rain or no rain I needed to make a move.

Despite the rain lingering, the wind had dropped, and it was much warmer than Monday had been (when I had not only had the unfashionable buff arrangement about my head, but had also managed to keep my fleece on under my Paramo for the whole day without overheating; what happened to spring?).

The road-walk to Upper Booth Farm (at the road-end) had seemed interminable the day before, so this time I opted for the route over fields. It involved lots of mud and being mobbed by sheep (yet ignored by cows and horses), but was far nicer than tarmac.

Just past Upper Booth Farm I left the Pennine Way (which I’d only joined a matter of yards before) to head up Crowden Brook. It was only when the path joined the side of the water that I realised that whilst I was sleeping the night before it must have rained quite a lot (as was forecast, I just didn’t notice it). Crowden Brook was a torrent of brown/white frothiness and it did cross my mind to wonder whether my intended route would be feasible.

At the first point where the path crossed the water I managed to get across slightly further upstream, and when it crossed back I also managed to find a suitable place where I didn’t feel like I was risking life and limb.

The third time that it crossed (because of a landslip), I started losing my nerve and although I’m sure that I could happily have leapt from one visible rock to another, more than a mere step apart, when faced with only a trickle of water between them, I couldn’t bring myself to make the jump when faced with the intervening torrent. Instead I hoped that the ground above the landslip was reasonably stable and having scrabbled my way up the bank made my way across its top edge.

My nerve didn’t rejoin me as I got further upstream and after a bit of rock hoping up the middle of the stream (the left side looking rather too tricky with the high water), I found myself having to cross to the other side – which was not where I wanted to be. I could see a clear path on the opposite side, but even with my good vantage point I couldn’t see an easy way to get there. The only other option was to make my way up a ridiculously steep grassy bank, interspersed with rocks – from where I got an excellent view of the waterfall (see the video snippet in the post below).

It was a rather more exhilarating ascent than I had expected, but certainly a worthwhile route which I would happily repeat, and whilst a little less water in the brook would be good from one point of view, the raging torrent did give make it all the more spectacular.

My second objective for the day was to pop over to Kinder Downfall. When we passed by last year it was during a very dry spell. The legendary bogs of the first few days of the Pennine Way had been completely absent (even Black Hill was bone dry), and Kinder Downfall didn’t even have a trickle of water doing any seeping, never mind falling. With everything being so wet at the moment, I’d decided the day before that I really wanted to revisit the landmark to see if it does get wet occasionally.

Having taken leave of my senses, it seemed sensible, when looking at the map the night before, to follow the line of the RoW marked on the OS Map from the top of Crowden Clough, over the plateau to the Downfall. I knew that the plateau is legendary for its bogs and being a bit of a navigational challenge, and yet still chose it as a reasonable plan.

Given the lack of features up there, the poor visibility in which I found myself didn’t seem to offer any great impediment, and with compass in hand off I set.

About a third of the way across I concluded that although it was undoubtedly a good test of navigation:

1) I was risking irretrievably losing myself in a bog

2) It just wasn’t fun; and (perhaps most importantly)

3) My painfully slow rate of progress was eating too far into my available time.

Before I turned back I needed to satisfy myself on one front, so out came the GPS, just to see how I’d been doing. I was quite pleased with the answer, as although I was a bit further forward than I thought I was, I was still on the right line.

Once back at the top of Crowden Clough I was making a bit of a meal of finding the path around the edge (which seemed like a good and obvious path yesterday, so I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find it), when suddenly the cloud lifted and I could see not just one but two paths – one contouring the hill and the other climbing steeply upwards.

The obvious thing to have done at that point would have been to check the map, but what I actually did was think “Well I don’t remember a steep descent to this point yesterday, so it must be the other path”. Quite clearly, looking at the map would have been the smart thing to do and would have taken just a few seconds.

Fortunately I’d not gone too far on the contouring path when I realised my error, but rather than backtracking (again!) opted to follow it a bit further to find a good place to make my way back to where I should have been.

It was looking like it wasn’t my day when, popping back out at the top in the midst of a boggy area, I found myself faced with far more unavoidable bogginess than I recalled encountering the previous day (looking back, it was a simple case of taking a different line through the mire). It was at this point that Mick chose to phone me to check that I was still alive and well and hadn’t been eaten by monsters during the night. I don’t think he was quite expecting the ‘fed up with peat up to my knees’ rant with which I greeted him!

The bog was soon forgotten by the time I got onto more solid ground, and when I got to the junction with the Pennine Way I had a choice: I could take the 6km out-and-back detour over to Kinder Downfall, or I could just call it a day and head down.

I really, really wanted to go to the Downfall, but countering that were the factors that I wanted to be away from Edale early enough to pop into Terra Nova on the way home (and preferably to avoid the worst of the traffic), and after three days of walking and, more particularly, the bog-yomping, I was rather tired (and, in the absence of Mick to act as chauffeur, it was quite imperative that I stay awake the whole way home!).

So, reluctantly I started down Jacob’s Ladder, even though it was still so early in the day that the masses were still ascending.

Three days later I’m still disappointed about not making it over to the Downfall. Yes, I know that it will still be there another day, but will it have water in it on that day?!

The stats for the day were 7.5 miles walked with 1600 feet of ascent. Hopefully it was an indication of the toughness of many of those miles, rather than of a lack of fitness, that it took me the best part of five hours (without any breaks) to cover them.

(As things transpired, my biggest navigational exercise of the day was still ahead of me. My top tip is that if you need to visit Terra Nova, it’s worth getting directions from them first. I got there in the end, and handed over Vera’s inner which I’ve returned under the lifetime guarantee, having established last week that (as I suspected last October) the groundsheet has become completely porous.)

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Edale – The Pictures

I took very few photos whilst I was out, but those I did take (together with some small movie clips) over the two days, I have put into a little You Tube Movie Clip Thingy. With lots of title slides, I managed to pad it out to a whole 2 minutes 10 seconds!

Here it is:

Edited to say: Mick just pointed out an inconsistency between the movie clip and the post below. The movie clip says that the maximum wind speed was 35mph, whereas below I said that it was 38mph. Thirty eight was the correct number. I noticed my error in the movie clip as soon as I had generated it, but it takes so long, once a change has been made, to regenerate it that I wasn’t moved to make the correction.

Edale Day 1

Monday 9 March

After an early start from Halifax and a bit of a scary drive (involving a narrow road with more hairpins and ridiculous gradients (and often the two combined) than is reasonable on a single road) I was in the car park in Edale by about 8.30.

Contrary to my intentions, my stay there was very short; having found that I didn’t have enough pennies to cover the charges, the map was considered before I continued on up to Upper Booth in the hope that the car park marked there would be cheaper. It turned out to be free, which was a bonus indeed.

Shortly afterwards I was battling my way up the road and for the second day in a row I was wondering whether what I was doing was a good idea. Indeed, being repeatedly stopped dead in my tracks by the headwind whilst still being in the valley bottom, it wasn’t so much a question of wisdom, as one of possibility. If I was struggling down in the valley then what chance did I have on the top?

Still, I had got up early and made the journey, so I figured that I may just as well make my way up Jacob’s Ladder just for the exercise, even if I conceded defeat at that point, so along and then up I headed, marvelling at the scenery as I went. It may have been windy, but the day was clear.

Spying a long row of white aggregate sacks along the Pennine Way beyond the top of the paved path of Jacob’s Ladder, it was obvious that path improvement/anti-erosion works are imminent; as I got closer I found that there were also piles of the typical Pennine Way slabs, waiting to be laid. In advance of the works taking place, I yomped my way through the mire and soon the path flattened out as I started skirting the edge of the plateau.

By good fortune once up high the wind direction was favourable to my intended route and only occasionally did I lose the protection of the hill and find myself being battered about.

A few people were out and about, but as the one couple with whom I exchanged a few words said, it was just too cold in that wind to be standing around chatting. They weren’t wrong either. On the way up my ears had been suffering, and having omitted to pack my Mountain Cap (well, we are in spring, aren’t we?) I improvised by wearing my pink buff as a cowl, with my beanie over the top. I was aware as I did it that I must look a sight, particularly with the combination of bright pink buff, orange jacket and purple mitts (such a fashion leader, me). Still, it did the job even if I did look remarkably silly.

Good path gave way to much peaty bogginess in the vicinity of some of those fantastically sculpted rocks which are typical of the area. The bogginess coincided with a bit of peckishness, which turned out to be bad timing. So busy was I eating an Eat Natural bar as I picked my way through the mire, that I lost concentration on the terrain and found myself with both legs up to mid-calf in the black stuff. A mighty effort and two loud squelches had my feet free, but not before the water had seeped over the top of my boots. I made a mental note to pay more attention!

I must have been somewhere between Crowden Brook and Grinds Brook (once again on firm ground) when I turned back and saw someone making their way up the former; it immediately appealed to me as a route and a plan for the following day (if I decided to stay the night) was forming in my mind.

For this day, though, my plotted route had me descending to Edale via The Nab, and as I approached Ringing Roger I could see a path that would take me to that route. However, the route I had plotted saw me walking a short distance further along the edge, and I decided to stick to the plan.

Alas, the earlier lesson about paying more attention hadn’t sunk in, because I was merrily making my way towards the next spur when I realised that I had overshot my intended path by a hundred yards or so. Now that was unfortunate, not because of the backtracking per se, but more because it had just started to hail again and in turning back I was heading directly into the wind. Ouch!

Down I went, on the way making contact with Mick to try to find out what the weather forecast was for the following day; if it was going to be wet and windy then my stay over/go home decision would become simple. It was difficult to hear what Mick was saying as he was competing with the noise of the wind, but I gleaned that the heavy rain overnight was due to have passed through by 6am, and that the day would be calm.

Once down in the valley a pause for lunch was had at a bench which was blissfully sheltered from the wind before I made my way into Edale itself. I didn’t linger in the village, but just walked on through, before taking field paths back to Upper Booth.

Then I really did have to make a decision about whether to stay or go. My goodness, I dithered over that decision. The location of the dithering even moved, after a while, to the car park of the campsite. Finally I abandoned the decision making process and just checked in, followed swiftly by choosing a pitch and making my home (Wendy).

One of the causes of my earlier dithering was that, having finished my walk by just after 2pm, I was concerned that I would be bored sitting in a tent for six or seven hours until bedtime. The time did get filled, with a book and the radio, multiple cups of tea and some food, then a walk up to the phone box (in the rain, which had by then started) for my nightly 8pm chat with Mick, then it was back to my little home, and bed, with my alarm set for an early start again the following morning.

The stats for the day were 9.5 miles with 1500 feet of ascent. The highest wind speed I recorded was 38mph. Oh, and I was carrying a nearly-full backpack, just for the training.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Pen-y-Ghent Trip In Pictures

We got out of the car and the local sheep population got very excited at the prospect of the arrival of breakfast. It was enough to make them forget that they’re supposed to run away from people and instead they ran towards us:


A photo was then taken of our main objective of the day but, not being great photographers, the camera was allowed to do all of the work and it decided that the stone wall in the near-distance was what we were trying to capture, and thus Pen-y-Ghent itself is a bit fuzzy:

P3080023aNot very long later, after being battered by a couple of hail storms and a bit of a breeze, and having made short work of the two steps (much easier than I had expected them to be), we made it to the top:

P3080026a From where we started on our way to Plover Hill:

P3080027a Shortly afterwards the weather closed in a bit. The mistiness persisted until we had just started our descent. There were also a couple of more violent hail storms. During the last one of these, Mick decided that he wanted to get a photo of me, and called me so that I turned to face the hailstones head on. He then complained when I started yelping ‘ouch ouch’ and turned away, just as he clicked the shutter. This was the result:

P3080029a Nothing caused me to reach for the camera for a while (or if I did then the photos are too poor to show here), but just before we reached the Pennine Way we stumbled across Hull Pot and it turned out to be an unexpected highlight of the day:

P3080033aAfter making it down to Horton and after a pint of tea apiece, we set off back in the direction of Pen-y-Ghent, getting a better shot of this side:


Despite the apparent fineness of the weather at this point, it soon turned a bit nasty again and it didn’t clear until we got back to the car, where we enjoyed the picnic we had carried with us, whilst indulging in a bit of people-watching.

In case anyone missed it, the narrative of the outing was here.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Three Days

In the last three days I’ve walked 27.5 miles (Sunday 10.5, Monday 9.5, today 7.5).

Okay, so that’s not headline news really is it? I’ve walked that in a day before, but some of these 27 miles were tough. There was wading through peat bog, being stopped in my tracks by strong winds and being battered by hailstones (but, needless to say, I had a good time regardless).

In the process, I have exceeded last month’s cumulative ascent, got a third of the way towards equalling last year’s number of summits and achieved the first camping trip of the year.

And now I’m very tired indeed, so for now I shall wander off to my bed. Tomorrow, I shall try to combine a few coherent words with some of the photos.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Not The Chase!

Against our recent trend, we shunned The Chase for this weekend’s training walk. On Friday night a thought had popped into my head as to what I fancied doing instead and having checked the weather forecast it didn’t seem too bad (sunshine and wintery showers, with a bit of a stiff wind), so I put my plan to Mick and having obtained his nod, off we set last night to better place ourselves in Halifax.

As we left Ma-in-Law’s, at an unreasonably early hour for a Sunday morning (on my current lazy-girl scale, anyway), it was snowing. As we drove away, the blustery wind was making it difficult to keep the car in a straight line.

“Do you think that this is a good idea?” I asked Mick. He didn’t give me a direct answer, but neither did he suggest that we modify our plan, so onwards we drove along blissfully empty roads.

An hour later we had passed through Settle and arrived at the intended place on a little road, at Rainscar. Happily, although the wind was strong and hail showers were passing through at regular intervals, the top of Pen-y-Ghent was completely free of cloud.

That was certainly an improvement on our visit last year, during our Big Walk. On that day the weather was truly awful, with very low cloud, heavy rain and winds gusting to 50+mph. We had come over Fountains Fell and having seen the cloud covering Pen-y-Ghent swiftly decided that there was little point in going over its top, as it would purely be an unnecessary exercise in saying that we had been there.

Instead we had battled the wind and made it down to Horton, where you may recall that we spent the night in uncomfortably close proximity to flapping-tent-coughing-bird.

Today was looking decidedly better. In fact, I do believe that it’s the first time that I’ve ever seen the top half of Pen-y-Ghent, and a pleasing hill it is too.

By 9.45 we were on the top, enjoying magnificent views, and gate-crashing the solitude of a chap who had been enjoying the summit shelter to himself. We were soon joined by four others, but no-one stayed more than a few minutes.

Whereas the others all made their way straight back down off the hill, via the Pennine Way path, our route saw us heading over to Plover Hill.

As the going became increasingly boggy and rough, so the cloud came down severely curtailing our visibility, and prolonged hail-storms hit us. We agreed that this was Good Training; far superior to anything we could find on The Chase. Of course, the low cloud immediately lifted as we started to descend. Isn’t that so often the way?

Only one other person was passed during the four or so miles between the top of Pen-y-Ghent and rejoining the Pennine Way on the way into Horton. There seemed to be plenty of people going up and down the hill, but it seems that the choice of the majority is a short circuit to just the single top.

Just before rejoining the Way, an interesting feature of the landscape ahead of us caught our eye, and we took a short detour to visit it. Hull Pot, the map told us that it was called and we agreed that this place, where the wide beck suddenly falls down a significant chasm in the ground, was a highlight of our day (I shall post photos of it later in the week, once I’m back home).

Having paused for a pint of tea in Horton, we set back out to follow the very path that we had taken into Horton last year, which saw us heading back up the side of Pen-y-Ghent. The first person that we passed as we headed up commented about conditions further up, but we managed to resist any smug mention of the fact that we had already been up to the top (which no doubt would have seemed a strange statement, in that we were apparently on our way back up there).

Our route was not back to the top, however. As our path came to a junction with the Pennine Way, we turned right instead of left and back down to the car we headed, being battered by increasingly furious hail-storms as we went.

It was a mighty fine outing, and the stats for the day were 10.5 miles walked, with something like 2500 feet of ascent and each carrying packs heavier than was necessary for a day walk, but not as heavy as full backpacking gear would have been.

As a bonus, we arrived back in Halifax to one of Ma-in-Law’s legendary roast dinners, which involved the consumption of more of her fantastic Yorkshire Puddings and roast potatoes than it is reasonable to eat in a single sitting.

Friday, 6 March 2009

The Joy Of A Parcel

Prologue (and stick with it, there is a relevance): When sorting out my late Mother’s belongings last year, I delegated dealing with her jewellery box to my sister. I didn’t think that there was anything of particular interest in there, and left to my own devices most of it would have gone to a charity shop and the rest would have found a bin. I knew my sister would put a bit more thought into its disposal.

A year has passed and a couple of weeks ago my sister told me about her trips to a local jewellers. She had found a couple of items that she thought might be worth something in scrap value and took them for an opinion.

The jeweller went into raptures about one item in particular. It was a watch strap of which I have no recollection, which was apparently of particularly good quality. Completely out of fashion now and thus of no retail value, but made of solid gold, which did give it a scrap value. My sister didn’t have the requisite ID on her at the time to complete the sale, so went away.

A week later, she returned to the news that the price of gold had changed. “Well, I’ll take what I can get” she said. “It’s gone up” said the jeweller. The previous price she had been quoted had increased significantly.

We’re not by any means talking mega money here, but her phone call told me that by her sale of the gold I had now enough magic money to buy three quarters of a tent. And, as we all know, the rules do say that magic money has to be spent on something frivolous.

Perhaps it was fate that just a few minutes before this phone call with my sister, I had been reading an email from Terra Nova saying that they were selling off 2008 Voyager Superlites at a third off, with an enticing price of £244. Unusually, that meant that Terra Nova was selling its own tents at a lower price than shops sell them.

A few days ago I placed an order.


A van pulled up outside and in exchange for a signature, a cardboard box was obtained.

That the legend on the side of the box said ‘Superlite Bothy 2’ was of some small concern, but I figured that they were reusing packaging, and that also explained the overly large size of the box compared to the size of the item I hoped that it contained.P3060021 Keys didn’t cut the mustard, but once armed with a pair of scissors the box was open and there at the bottom of it was the correct item:

P3060022a A comparison was required, and it took me a while to reunite the various parts of the existing Voyager in its original sausage shaped bag:

P3060025a It probably goes without saying that I was sad enough to weigh both items (hey, I wouldn’t be keeping the new one if it wasn’t an adequate weight saving). The result was surprising. According to my scales the 2.19kg Voyager (which I’ve never before weighed) was 2.23kg (perhaps the mud adorning it added a gram or two) and the 1.85kg Superlite was 1.94kg.

P3060024a P3060023I can’t possibly admit that I was then sad enough to weigh each of the component parts, finding that the poles in the original were 10g each lighter than the identical ones in the superlite (and yes, I’m afraid that I did weigh each of them and the trend held true). Mick caught me weighing the individual stuff-sacks and told me I was a geek…

With the weighing and comparison over with (favourably so), out into the garden we went. It took a tiny bit of faffing to work out the clips-versus-pole-sleeve construction, but we’ll soon have it down to a fine art.

P3060029a The result is unsurprising. In dimensions, it is identical to the standard Voyager. Hopefully the floor will prove to be a bit more waterproof (I finally conducted an experiment last week and ascertained once and for all that the floor of Vera has completely ceased to be waterproof; next week it will be winging its way back to Terra Nova under their lifetime guarantee).

Technically, we didn’t need to add another tent to our collection. We already had Midi, Big, Wendy, Vera and Dora (and Dora, at four months old hasn’t even been used yet). But, as I said, it was magic money and Susie (as she is now called) will see lots of use, starting out with two weeks across Scotland on the TGOC.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

A Change of Trousers!

Spring has sprung.

It’s not the presence of crocuses and daffs that lead me to that conclusion, nor the buds on the trees bursting into life.

No, it’s the fact that this morning, faced with a gloriously sunny day, I shunned the Paramo Cascada trousers in which I have lived for the last five months, and instead reached for my summer trousers.

This was no half-baked switch to summer, I went the whole hog and also shunned my Paramo Velez smock (in which I have also been living) in favour of a light windshirt.

Then, without any experimental poking of a lightly-trousered leg out of the door to gauge temperature, I set off to walk to the Post Office the long way, via the local fields. Recklessly, there wasn’t a hat or glove in sight either.

In contrast to this sudden summeriness I opted for completely over-the-top footwear, deciding that it was time to cut the tags off my ZG65s and give them their first outing. I’ve been loathed to wear a stiff pair of boots on our longer, and rather fast-paced, outings on the Chase, but a 4.5 mile stroll over fields seemed like a suitable time to give them their first introduction to the shape of my feet.

The outcome was happy all around. I was perfectly warm enough in my lighter clothing. My feet were happy in my new boots. My boots didn’t object to the shape of my feet. And, Mick’s newly acquired car is now all taxed and legal, which means that as of his arrival home tonight, I have my own transport again.


Sunday, 1 March 2009

Even Yet More Same Old

Unsurprisingly, what with it being a Sunday, and in particular with it being a Sunday after a hectic few days, we took the easy option yet again today and stretched our legs on the Chase. Only 11.5 miles today (Mick was claiming a footwear problem), but as usual, we did it at quite a lick.

The first notable point about today’s outing was that the holes in our car park have been filled in. I would call them potholes, except that doesn’t quite convey their size. These troughs were big enough to loose an entire car in and it was getting increasingly difficult to weave a route through without grounding. I doubt that the cheap fix will last long, but in the meantime, we don’t need to find a new parking area.

The second notable point was that there was shooting going on at the club that abuts the Chase in the vicinity of Beggar’s Hill. Here’s a couple of video snippets that I took along that stretch. The pictures are uninterestingly of our shadows – it’s the audio that I was trying to capture.

The third thing, which we could not help but notice, was that the number of people around the Visitor Centre today. It made the last couple of busy weekends look quiet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many cars parked there, or so many people milling, before – even on equally warm and sunny early-spring days. Despite the generous provision of picnic benches around there, it took us a while to find a vacant one at which to have our second lunch.

The Fluidity of Plans

Last Monday evening, after some considerable hours of indecision (and much consideration of weather websites and train timetables), I decided that on Tuesday morning I would pop up to Edale for a couple of days.

My bag was soon packed (thankfully everything was in its correct place in the kit room, rather than strewn all over the house) and I was ready to go.

No sooner had I packed than I noticed that last Wednesday evening was the day of Martin & Sue’s talk on the Dolomites* at Stockport Walking Club and realised that I could feasibly manage to get there whilst still being able to do all the other running around the country that I had scheduled in for Thursday and Friday. At approaching 10pm I bought myself a train ticket to Stockport and then unpacked my just-packed bag.

Fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon, there I was on the train from Sheffield to Stockport with my head in my book, completely ignoring everything going on around me, when the train unexpectedly slowed down. Up popped my head and out of the window I glanced - and was taken aback by the scenery. “Where is this?” I thought and tried to recall where I was going from and to, so that I could consult my woefully-lacking mental map. I hadn’t managed to come up with an answer when we passed through a station – Edale. So, that lovely scenery was exactly where I would have been for the previous two days, but for my change of plan. I vowed to return there soon.

Yesterday I hatched a plan. I would get up at 5am tomorrow morning and cadge a lift with Mick, who, on his way to work, would swing off the M60 at Stockport and drop me somewhere in the vicinity of the station. From there I could get a cheap train ticket and two hours later be in Glossop, from where I could walk over Kinder Scout to Edale.

Not put off by the ridiculously early start, a couple of hours ago I toddled off upstairs and once again packed my backpack.

Just then the phone rang. It was my sister reminding me of her hospital appointment tomorrow. Of course, I immediately said that I would go with her. I always attend her appointments with her, and I know not why this one wasn’t in my mental calendar.

Five minutes later my bag was unpacked for the second time in six days. No great loss really – the weather really did look quite awful for Tuesday. Maybe when I finally do make it up to Edale (and hopefully I will eventually) I will be blessed with some fantastic weather, but it won’t be this week.


(*Incidentally, Martin & Sue’s talk on the Dolomites was excellent. I now have yet another destination added to my wish-list – but that always was going to be the danger of going along.)