Wednesday, 21 March 2012

News from my vetters - the route is on!

Tonight I received my vetters' comments following my route submission.  Thanks to my research and help, once again, from new found friends the route was completely acceptable to my vetters.  I had made a few bloopers with grid refs, and on one day I had my direction as Southwest when I was actually heading Southeast but apart from that I am now officially good to go.

Here is an overview of my route from Strathcarron to St Cyrus.

Just want to say a special thanks to Alan Sloman and Dave Wood for the advice/assistance in tidying up my route.  You just can't beat talking to folk who have walked the walk, can you? 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Mother Nature gets the Bunting(s) out.

I took a walk this weekend.  Not, this time, with my good pal Den (aka The Dude), but with a new buddy.
Some of you may know Dave Wood from either the challenge or his occasional musings on Twitter.  You can read his blog here .

It's always a bit of a gamble walking with someone you don't know, but from various online conversations and exchanges Dave seemed like an ok guy with whom I could go for a hike.  Dave is a backpacker and also a keen birder too.  He has completed 5 TGO Challenges, one of which was last year, so he has had his fair share of nasty conditions with which to contend.

We'd arranged to meet at a service station on the A1 and we headed up to Lakeland together from there.  Grange was our target and after a brief, and rainy pause in Keswick for some supplies and a breakfast, we reached Grange to a much drier sky.  The air was breezy, and not too cold.  The lower tops were clear of cloud, and the weather was forecast to be sunshine and showers, turning wintry later.

Dave looking back to King's How on Grange Fell
 After leaving the car, and a very short road walk Dave and I primed our trekking poles and began the ascent onto Grange Fell.  Dave set off at quite a pace, and I thought I'd got myself an incompatible walking buddy - the sort that can go as fast uphill as on the flat.  Thankfully, we took in views often enough for my lungs to catch up until my body got back into the swing of things.  The weather until now was quite reasonable, but the clouds began to form, coming in from Langstrath heavy with precipitation.

After leaving the top of the King's How summit of Grange Fell we headed onto Brund Fell, Grange Fell's main summit.  I think it was then that the weather was transformed from breezy and actually quite nice, to absolutely blooming awful.  Wind driven, tiny pieces of hail pelted our faces, stinging even through the hood of my jacket.  Heads down we joined a group of walkers as they sheltered by a wall.

Up an over to Great Crag, the weather eased once more and we were able to enjoy the rugged, and varied terrain from which both Great Crag and Grange Fell are comprised.  I thoroughly recommend taking a hike over these fells, and to maybe plan your route to halt up there for a night.  

I won't mention the slow motion tumble that Dave took on the descent off the fell.  Ooops, too late - it just slipped out.  Sorry Dave!  Actually it could have been a lot worse as the ground he fell on to was very steep indeed.  He did well to stop himself tumbling much further and doing real damage.

Descending from Great Crag
The next four (ish) miles were lovely.  The Lansgtrath Valley is a real Lakeland gem. It is the longest and remotest, uninhabited valley in the Lake District, and I would also contest that it is one of the finest.  There huge numbers of wild camping opportunities in the valley itself, it is surrounded by lovely hills, and Langstrath Beck is perhaps one of the most inviting streams I have encountered when walking in England.  Langstrath would be more appropriately placed in the Highlands.

Dave by the convergence of Langstrath & Stonethwaite Becks

Langstrath Beck tumbling into Stonethwaite

Further up the Langstrath Valley
The weather continued in its changeable ways and, having set off late we decided to cut out Allen Crags and go more or less straight to our intended pitch, right up the flanks of Glaramara.  It would be tough, steep and pathless - good training for TGO.  Navigation was less than precise, we just picked a ghyll to aim for and went for it.  It was roughly right. 

Steep and pathless it was - boggy it was too.  It was one of those strength sapping climbs when energy levels are running low and the pack weight seems to increase with each step.
Perseverance always pays off and we reached a change of angle to some much flatter ground where we dumped our packs and cast about looking for suitable pitches.  
A couple of suitable pitches

The Langdale Pikes are in the cloud at the back, there.  Honest!
Naturally during the evening the malt was freed from it's container.  Dave enjoyed his Talisker, I did not.  My choice was the rest of the Balvenie Signature referred to previously on this blog.  How comforting it was.
I left Dave to gorge himself on bread cakes and donuts and settled down for some sausage and cheese tortilla wraps, followed by a couple of chocolate bars for good measure.
I wobbled about in my tent, just a couple of measures short of a stupor before dropping off.

In the early hours I woke, the tent had stopped rattling in the breeze and appeared to have sagged.  I sat up and touched the fabric - SNOW!  The tent was weighed down with snow.  I shook it off and it slid down the fly and formed little snow banks around my shelter.  Opening the door, I looked out to heavy snowfall - fabulous.  It explained why my nose was so cold during the night!


As the daylight grew stronger, we began to surface going about our routines - cups of coffee for me, and a bit of chocolate.  We had a chat and decided to head back down to Langstrath instead of going over Glaramara and Bessyboot - the elusive Bessyboot would escape me AGAIN.

We took great care descending from our camp, which we worked out to be at just over 600m, down to the valley floor.  There were a few slips and slides but we got down without event and relished the wander down the valley that lay ahead. 

It was on our descent that Mother Nature offered her treat.  She always does when I am out on foot.  This time, she sent a lovely male Snow Bunting, followed by three or four of his harem of ladies.  They dashed up the hill towards the area of our pitch.  It was a real treat for me, and a first for Dave - he was delighted!

Once again we strolled through the splendour of Langstrath and just before we emerged onto the path by Stonethwaite Beck a Red Squirrel scampered confidently on the boughs of an old deciduous tree.  It sat for a while gnawing at a morsel, allowing Dave to get a few pictures.  Mother Nature did it again!

Observing the unwritten challenge rules, according to Dave, we paused at the little tea room in Rosthwaite for a bacon butty and a PINT of tea.  The staff there were splendid company and most hospitable, showing great interest in our day and where we were from.  I thoroughly recommend you stop by next time you pass.  You can find out more here...

We followed the Derwent from here through to Grange, around the base of Castle Crag and savoured what was left of a fantastic, if short trip to the mountains. 

It was good to meet Dave, he really added to the weekend for me.  The discussion varied from general life and ALWAYS came back to the Challenge.  It was clear to me that it was something he loves doing.  He is off for a long walk on Skye this year - check out his blog for more on that.  Next year, its back to TGO again.

Dave - bloody nice chap!

I may post some more photos when I can get some from Dave, unless he is planning to do a trip report too.  In which case I will add a link. ***AND HERE IT IS***
So, go on.  Get yourself into the Langstrath Valley.  I dare you!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

"Grab your waterproof, you've pulled!"

Shortly after 0330h this morning, I dragged myself out of bed and was going through the necessary ablutions when the mobile phone pinged after being resurrected after a few short hours.
There, at the top of the pile of twitter notifications, was the email...

"Welcome to the TGO Challenge"

I am not on the Standby List any more.  See you in the Highlands!