Thursday, 12 January 2012

Never be afraid to change your plans Pt.2...

So where did we leave it last time?  Oh yes, I was awash with whisky and spaghetti bolognaise by Ladybower...

So we were both awake before dawn, but the first hints of light were beginning to materialise to the northeast.   The pocket rocket was fired up and a brew on the go within a few minutes.  Breakfast was one of those flapjacks that you will have seen on an earlier blog.  Not great, but the chocolate chips helped.  Black coffee always helps to kickstart me in the morning, in more ways than one, so a trip to the wilderness toilet was had.  The turf was replaced and a huge rock placed over it to ensure it didn't escape.  I resisted taking a photo - some things are best left unrecorded.

Today we had decided to walk the shore and join the road at the Ashopton Viaduct which would take us around to the westernmost point of Ladybower.  After the shoreline section, the road was not pleasant, although the A57 was thankfully very quiet with it being early on a Sunday.  

I think my wife must have been praying, because the teawagon on the A57 was there, open and a steaming cup of tea was ready for us to purchase.  A smashing chap runs that wagon - and I urge you to stop by if you are driving through.  Some nice fellas were in front of us, be-gaitered and ready to go off hiking.  One of these men appeared addled, and was clearly confused that he had lost something, but was making no sense when I questioned him.  He was ushered away by his 'pal' who I asked what he had lost - he too said he didn't know.  We came to the conclusion that he had some form of dementia.  That thought stayed with me and troubled me for a while after we left the lay-by.

After being caught short again, I had to catch up with Den who had walked on slowly ahead.  Every time I looked up - he looked back over his shoulder, and started running off.  This he did about a dozen times, until I finally caught up with him.  How we laughed.

Looking back down the Woodlands Valley over to Ladybower
The road section, despite seeming endless, was not and we crossed the bridge in the Woodlands Valley, just to the north of Hope Cross on the OS map.  There was a slight uncertainty as to which was our path onto Win Hill - our main target for the day.  A short walk ahead confirmed there were no other paths to take and that, coupled with the fact that Len's Path was clearly signed as a route onto the Roman Road, removed any doubt that this steep and dirty trail was the one we should take.

Len's Path, that's Den by the way, not Len
Occasionally we saw dirt-bikers, all of whom Den asserted were off-duty superbikers having a day of fun.  In fact I think we saw all of the following according to Den:

- British Superbike
- World Superbike Champion
- MOTO GP Champion
- TT Champion
- Eddie Kidd
- Evil Knieval

Each of these were on their DT50's with muddied out number plates.  I resisted the urge to stop them for their autographs.  Didn't want to bother them on their days off.

The initial distasteful appearance of Len's Path (now known to me as Den's Path) gave way to a really lovely route which became so at what appeared to be a small settlement at around SK164867.  For some reason I failed to take a photograph here, but I couldn't quite work out what these places were other than long deserted homes.  I wondered if the owners might have been cleared as in the Highlands.  
From these mysterious steadings the path leads through dense conifer plantation (which may or may not confirm my clearance wondering).  Despite my having a real dislike for dense conifer plantation, the path was a joy to walk, being sheltered from the wind and full of atmosphere.  Punctuated with lush and verdant grassy clearings to the southwestern side, this latter section of ascent eased off in steepness as we gained the ridge.  

The coniferous tube of Den's Path
The ridge took us by surprise for it was substantially broader than we expected.  The Roman Road section was largely easy walking and this was borne out by the myriad Sunday walkers in trainers and bomber jackets that materialised shortly after we popped out above the conifer line.

The views over to Kinder were fine at first, but Mother Nature seemed to have her felt pens out and quickly coloured everything to the west in grey.  She spared us for some time along this never-ending, long tongue of a hill.  It was a lovely place to be and I felt like I could have walked along it for hours.   I'd say from the point where we joined it, to the summit rocks, was around 2.5 miles of loveliness.  
There was a varied, sandy terrain of neatly grazed grass, interspersed with tussocks of tougher grasses, and heather in places.  There were several pits which dotted the top of the spur-like plateau and we wondered what they might be.  Evidence of open-cast mining - but of what?  Sink holes?  We remain clueless. 
The highest point is marked by Hope Cross which seems to have had its top stone removed and all that remains is the upright and a metal spike where the top stone once rested.  At least that is what I can glean from a quick Google search. I might have been looking at the wrong marker post I suppose(?).  Anyone got any better info?
Den on the Roman Road - summit bound
Some you Win.  Lose Hill from Win Hill

Grass, Heather, Sand, Erosion, Mist, and Den
After a brief spell of more closed in mist, the air cleared and the winds got up to full strength for the first time so far, the air being compressed on the prominent summit rocks of Win Hill itself.  We'd looked across to this pointy top some ten years earlier and vowed to 'do' it one day.  We never expected it to take us 10 years.  I suppose the Munros and Wainwrights got in the way.

The summit moment was poignant, but brief due to the gale-force battering we were getting so we set off downwards for a steep and very careful descent to Yorkshire Bridge. 

Den in his lovely new Spyder jacket.  The armed guards weren't far away
on account of its ludicrous value.   
Me at the Trig - you'll not believe the number of times that Garmin knocked me on the head.
Note to self - reposition next walk.  It didn't even get switched on!
Although a fabulous setting, the conditions underfoot were less than fabulous - ankle deep mire most of the way.  And folk were coming uphill in shiny white trainers!  I should add that a good many of them were not smiling.  
My trusty Fizan poles had had a good outing and continued to prove themselves by making this descent far less troublesome with them in hand.

We regained our knees for a spell at Yorkshire Bridge and I phoned home with a quick progress report whilst Den caught his breath with a much needed roll-up.  Nuthatches were shouting in the trees above us and as if to tease us, remained disguised by their silhouettes or hidden by the boughs.  A little way up the lane all manner of small songbirds erupted from the trees by the road and my eyes scanned for the cause.  In that moment the culprit, a male sparrowhawk, burst empty-handed from a bramble and flew off along the line of trees.  Doubtless cussing the wasted energy.  There's usually a moment like this on our walks, a real treat.

The next couple of miles along the peakland lanes were a bit of a slog, but I enjoyed getting into the rhythm with my poles.  I paused often to suck up the views down over Bamford, I remember thinking that it was a shame it would soon be over. 

Shortly before we reached the parking spot at Dennis Knoll - a honeypot for Stanage climbers - Den noticed the car, stile a mile or so away.  It was a welcome sight, and given that I couldn't see any bricks supporting the axles, I was all the more pleased.

We slumped into the car, checked the map for a while, scouting a pitch for the night, and headed down into Hathersage to fill the tanks and resupply.  After driving about looking for suitable spots to camp close to the road, we decided that we'd head for the North Lees campsite and pitch there.  It was a little soggy, the facilities were clean and serviceable - although the lights in the loos seemed to be switched off overnight and only came on after dawn - go and figure that one out.  Oh, and there was no cold water either.  Bear this in mind if you are thinking of staying.

Therein lies the tale of my first bit of backpacking in what seemed like an age.  How quickly one can get back into the groove.  Quite apart from the fact that our initial route plan was dumped on day one, we had a great walk, a good wild camp, and a memorable weekend outside.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much a I did recording it.
Finishing where we started, beneath Stanage Edge.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Never be afraid to change your plans Pt.1.

Den and I started off on plan, arriving at Hathersage by mid morning.  We wove our way up the lane to Sheepwash Bank beneath Stanage Edge.  The plan was roughly as follows:

1) Get up onto Stanage Edge, walk along it.  

2) Down to the A57, cross it.

3) Up to Derwent Edge, walk along it.

4) Find somewhere to camp up high.

5) Wake up, go down to Ladybower.

6) Over to Hagg Farm (why anyone would want to farm them, I've no idea), then up onto Win Hill to camp 

7) Return to car via the lanes, and paths.

7 easy stages in the wonderful English hills.  The reality had us telling a somewhat different story....

We huffed and puffed, straight out of the car yomping through the bracken, and sloppy sheep trails up to Stanage Edge buffeted all the while by the Westerlies.  Quickly we noticed we both had a permanent list to the Port Bow.

Looking over Dennis Knoll to the Pennines beyond
The going was good underfoot and the views tremendous, we had got lucky.  The sun was shining, and the air was dry.  The hoolie that was blowing, though, made my smooth blue line into a rather wiggly one.  Den and I bounced off the invisible wall of wind, into gritty puddles, and off into the heather.  We could barely even hear the kwok-kwok-kwokking of the grouse over the sound of the rushing air.  Ok, so I might be being a tad over zealous, but I have to - I'm building up to a route change!
Den on Stanage
No really, it is!
We got to the northern end of Stanage Edge, an 'Edge' I've wanted to walk for years and never have and hoofed our way quickly down the be-littered A57 to make our way up to Derwent Edge which we hoped we might get most of the way along before pitching for the night.  The lower altitude, and position away from the edges had made little difference to the effect of the 'breeze' and we paused for a breather, and a bit to eat in the shelter of a stone wall somewhere by Moscar House.  We were both thinking the same thing....  ....we'll camp low tonight.  But where?  

Our thoughts bounced around for a bit and we eventually decided to knock the edges on the head and stay low for the rest of the day. 

Heading up the track by Moscar House, shortly before the decision at 'The Wall'
We pointed out noses more or less South and picked up a footpath that would take us past (but not into) the Ladybower Inn.  We'd find a spot on the western shore of Ladybower, which we generally agreed would be sheltered from most of the blusteriness.
A relatively short section of road walking across the Ashopton Viaduct saw us onto the shore(ish) path of Ladybower itself.  

Plan B was to walk the entire western shore, north of the viaduct scouting for suitable and discreet spots to pitch.  It was still relatively early, with a few hours of daylight left so we knew we would have to linger for a while before getting the tents up.  After earmarking a few ok spots, and one cracker, we pootled up to the picnic area at the northernmost tip of the reservoir.  

Cups of tea were purchased and consumed, I had a large and Den a regular - for I am large, and he is regular.  After discounting the picnic area itself as a spot to settle for the night (on account of the CCTV cameras and millions of people and rangers office, etc. etc.) we retreated to the cracker spot we had seen on the way up.  Still in daylight and frozen stiff on account of the wind chill, we loitered without tent for what seemed like a yonk or maybe more.  You see, we needed the light to fade enough to conceal our camp making activities.  The whisky found its way out of its bottle by about 4pm and strangely we found the courage to say 'sod it', and pitched the tents anyway.  We had a few excuses at the ready, just in case an officious type tried to move us on, but thankfully they weren't required.  
Den's trusty Vaude from my trusty Tarptent
By 7pm we were both asleep and although our spot was sheltered, we came in for a bit of a gusty battering nonetheless.  Many very strong punches of what seemed like gale force winds hit us that night, but in spite of these attacks, we snatched a good few stretches of slimber between us.  I suspect the Whisky and the rather large helping of Spaghetti Bolognaise helped me on my way.  I spent the waking moments wondering what it might have been like had we stayed on the tops.
This was my rushed attempt at one of those TerryBND shots

I think that'll do for this post - I'm getting tired of it myself so I'll stop for now and do part 2 another day.  Bet you can't wait ;-)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Standby Number 15... ....have your route ready!

I contacted John Manning yesterday and got a super quick response informing me of my progress up the standby list.  
I have moved from number 17 to number 15 since 18th November.   John tells me he is awaiting something in the way of progress himself.  His second child's impending arrival is currently 3 days overdue.  I hope you will join me in wishing John and his family a safe and swift delivery of the latest in the Manning clan.

Ok so getting back to the standby list, it's not exactly a massive jump but it is progress nonetheless and it certainly seems like I'll be making the trip north in May.

Confident of getting to number 0 on the list, I have been tweaking my route a bit with a little help from my new found challenge friends and I have to say that their feedback seems to have made it all the better.  I have got a rough idea of where my overnights will be.  I have been encouraged to be flexible in this regard, and to ensure that I have some B&B numbers punched into my phone should the need for such a pick-me-up arise.  

I am leaning firmly away from the Lairig Ghru and towards Glen Feshie,  mainly due to the fact that I have been through the L. Ghru a few times already and want the Challenge to be something of a voyage of discovery.  Its also due to the fact that I then don't have to bother with an official FWA, although given the weather that some experienced in 2011, and the feisty nature of the winds of late, I might have a wee back up plan tucked up my sleeve, just in case.

I'm still going over the Monadhliath but a little bit further south to avoid the Dunmaglass wind turbine construction works.

Braemar features for a couple of days with the main purpose of finding some of the folk who have been helpful to me so I can buy them a beer in thanks.  Up to Loch Callater Lodge maybe for another pause over night, or maybe to press on over Jocks Road.

I've stuck with Jocks Road because I am curious about it, and like high passes.  I have the FWA for this route out to Glen Gelder to Glen Muick before rejoining my original route at Tarfside.  

From there I will make my way to St Cyrus via North Water Bridge, following the many challengers who have gone this way before, some of whom will doubtless be doing so again this year.

I've made a significant improvement to my pack weight, bringing it down from well over 15kg, to less than 12kg with 3 days food on board.  Base weight is more like 9kg now and it does feel liberating.  I'll test out the revised kit set-up this weekend and see how I get on.

Be great to hear what you folk are up to, so do post a comment if you can spare the time.

Night night, off to dream of long days and short nights in the hills.  

I'll leave you with a couple of pictures that make me smile, alot.

Me on Ben Hope for the Summer Solstice in 2008

Me and the wonderful Mrs Mynott on The Cairnwell in April 2008