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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Forever Stars–TGO Challenge

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Its about that time that peeps doing the TGO Challenge finalise their packing, send off parcels and say goodbye to their love ones for the setting-off on the TGO Challenge.

I’m attempting a crossing this year with my son Jim-Jams from Glenelg on Friday morning. And we’ll be travelling in hope rather than expectation – it’s James’s 3rd crossing and my 13th, so we’ve no doubts about how difficult it might be.

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The difference this year, for The Lad anyway, is that he’s doing it for charity. In this case, it’s Forever Stars, a bereavement suite in Nottingham for parents who have lost a baby, either at birth or just after birth. In a previous life, I worked on reception in an A&E department at Airedale General Hospital – as a mere lad, and one of the things that helped me grow up a bit was witnessing the absolute devastation wrought by a neo and peri-natal deaths even though , in the three years I did that job, I only had contact with, maybe, three or four of these, one of which was specially traumatic and sometimes, occasionally, haunts me even now.

So, it’s a good cause.

Brief info about Forever Stars is here

If you feel like relieveing yourself of a few squids you can do so here, in support of Jim-Jams’s cause. Click here

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Some Buttermere Baggings

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The Very Next Thing for me, but not, unfortunately, for LTD, will be the TGO Challenge and I’ll be setting off on Thursday morning for the long journey to Shiel Bridge and then Glenelg, meeting The Lad in Inverness, probably in a pub, I shouldn’t wonder…

In the meantime, I thought I could slip in a day in the Lakes, although there’s no time to do anything else before Thursday.

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And so, I unloaded LTD in the reasonably-priced (£4) car park at Gatesgarth and we wandered up the fabulously enjoyable West-facing ridge of Fleetwith Pike. I’d forgotten just how much fun this climb can be, specially on a really nice, sunny day. It’s an absolute joy when the legs are working properly, which they seemed to be on Tuesday. It has some easily scrambled bts, fine views and a couple of shoulders for the sitting about on.

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On the top, there was a nithering gale blowing off the North Sea I shouldn’t wonder and we bimbled over to Fleetwith’s subsidiary top Black Star, where we found a cosy nook in the sun and out of the wind for a boiled egg salad butty and a choccy bar.

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With wind-assistance, we wandered over to Little Round How – a rocky eminence just next to the main path to Haystacks and achieved by a short scramble up grippy slabs, followed by Green Crag, another rocky tor next to the path. So far, I’d bagged just the one new top and LTD had scored four.

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Boggy bits followed for a half a kilometre splodge to Great Round How. Great Round How in much bigger than Little Round How, obviously. Great Round How’s main face appears fearsome, but fearty walkers can go round the back. We went round the back.

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Another half a km or so brought us to Seavy Knott – Knott to far off the Coast to Coast route and sporting cracking views of Ennerdale and, specially, Great Gable and Pillar.

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We now headed for Haystacks South East Top at 544 metres and another unnamed tor at 545 metres. The 600 or so metres from Seavy Knott to the 545 metre top is even more of a joy than Fleetwith’s West ridge. A thin path winds it’s way through rocky blocks, boggy bits and small tarns and, on the day, was empty of humans (apart from me, that is) whilst the main path up to Haystacks was heaving with Wainwright-baggers keen to geta  bit of dust in their eyes, or, at least, on their boots.

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Our final top of the day was , in fact, Haystacks, which oddly, we had to ourselves. LTD had 8 new top ticks in his bag (actually, he doesn’t own a bag), and I had four.

We celebrated by allowing LTD watch me drink a pint of shandy at the Riverside Bar.

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Arriva Bus services celebrated by demolishing the bridge parapet at Grange and closing the road. A pair of stranded bus passengers  and their little dog were transported to Keswick since I was in a good mood….

Only six miles and 2800 feet of ascent.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Spending the Bank Holiday in the Ettrick Hills

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Me and Dawn… Dawn and I had a bit of a trundle around the Ministry of Defence ranges at Otterburn the other day. (This is not too risky at the moment as no firing is taking place and members of the hoi-palloi can wander reasonably freely, specially if they stay on the public rights of way.)
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Anyway, the point is that it transpired that Dawn was intending to wander off somewhere remote and tussocky to spend the bank holiday and, after some discussion we cooked up a plan to have a static camp somewhere quiet and carry out a few forays into whatever hinterland we could reach from the tents.
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And so, Saturday lunchtime, we abandoned the knipemobile in Moffat High Street and followed the Southern Upland Way/ Reivers and Romans route into the forests bordering the Ettrick Hills. It began to rain and Saturday Afternoon Lassitude began to set in, so, after about six miles, we spotted a spot in the little valley holding Birch Sike and put up the tents. The Birch Sike site was well defended by steep and slippery slopes, old, rotten forest brash with new plantings and deep and unfiendly heather and tussocks. Only night-time deer visited us.
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We stayed till Tuesday and despite the fact that we were in partial view of the Southern Upland Way and it was a bank holiday, we saw only a small handful of people passing by – maybe five or six in 3 days.
Saturday night dinner was chicken tikka with basmati rice followed by chocolate sponge and custard and quite a bit of Glen Moray. Slept well.
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Foray #1 (Sunday) was a walk up to Selcoth Burn where we thought we might have camped but didn’t make it on Saturday. This would have produced a some fine camping spots, specially in the large sheepfold there. Maybe another time…  After this, we pressed on to the summit of Loch Fell at 688 metres, and then, it’s outlier, West Knowe, returning via a stupidly steep descent on grass and bilberry for a dinner of corned beef hash with petit pois, onios and cheese and (for me) christmas pudding and custard. Yes, folks, none of this dehydrated stuff for us….  Finished the whisky supply, unfortunately.
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Foray #2 (Monday) was the bagging of Ewelairs Hill, a 525 metre heathery lump approached via a stupidly steep path from the ruins of Garrogill, a shepherd’s house which would make a fine bothy if somebody chucked a lot of money at it. This time , we used the Romans and Rievers Route wot nobody has ever heard of, but it seems to go from near the village of Ae to just outside Hawick and links with various other long-distance routes. A blurb about it is here. No other walkers were seen today.
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The afternoon was spent snoozing in the warm sunshine they have in Scotland at the moment.
Tonight’s dinner was beef bourguignon and smash (yes, I know..) followed by lumps of cheese cos I was fullup, innit? No after dinner drinks left. Me and LTD shared some cheese.
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On Tuesday, we walked back to Moffat where the car was still where we’d left it. On the way home we visited the wooden hut cafe near Tibbie Shiels and met a (?French) walker who’d waved at our tents a couple of days earlier. Small world…..
A fine and relaxing time – just 21 miles covered and 4700 feet of ascent.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Daundering–Going For a Schism Part 2

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Daunderish re-unification took place at some flattened grass overlooking ancient Norse farming settlement of Rosthwaite where, it was noticed by senior daunderers armed with maps, that there was a pub. This was probably going to be significant.
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But, for now, the number of Daunderers was back to it’s original 14. That is to say, no extras had been recruited and, even more significantly, nobody had yet died.
The seeds of Schism Version 2:2 had been sown, though. Some participants in yesterday’s foolish heroics in the wind-blasted crag-girt high summits and over-affectionate groupings of contours were expressing doubts about whether they could do it again today.
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Others, from the more sedate, I should say, sensible, calmer, decrepit senior citizens were already rejecting the dribbling lust for ascent expressed by our more athletic members and were almost openly discussing beer, chips, early pitching of tents and the avoidance of anything remotely resembling a slope.
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At Seatoller, just by the bus-stop, the group once more rent itself asunder in a similar way to which members of the PLP might do every few weeks.  A left-leaning group headed for Glaramara whilst a right-thinking selection headed for the heady pleasures of the Riverside bar at Rosthwaite. Foolishly, me and the Lad, seduced by stirring tales of derring-do and the promise of a walk which would be only marginally harder than our TGO chally Day 1 and about the same as TGO chally Day 2, went for Glaramara option along with five blokes.
Happily, the sun beat down in the way it often hardly ever does in an English April and we slugged and heaved our sweaty way up the long ridge to the final scramble to the very top of Glaramara at an almost nose-bleeding altitude of about 780 metres.
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The walk was a pretty standard tour of Glaramara, although visiting only three of it’s many tops plus Allen Crags, with a descent of the very lovely Langstrath via the very lovely but insidiously filthy Angle Tarn and down to the campsite at Stonethwaite. Additional mileage was added with a little limp along to the Riverside Bar – a bar which accepts dogs, many of whom entered into random barking competitions. Its always handy, I find, to have a loyal companion who is always available and willing to help out with the tidying-up of any dropped chips or wayward splashes of gravy. I meantersay, food waste attracts mice, so this is really a public health service, according to LTD.
Thus, we achieved a daily mileage of some 14 miles with 3500 feet of ascent. More macho estimations of distance and ascent were available at the time, but were wrong.
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And in the morning, Schism 3 occurred after a bit of a ramble along the Cumbria Way. This was caused when one part of the Daunder, heading off at some speed towards Braithwaite, ignored an open tea-room whilst others of a more relaxed attitude had bacon buns and tea. Later, whilst Flash Daunderers similarly ignored a bar, those  with more creaky knees  and who had had hot and salty bacon made to ensure their survival by having a bit of a relax in the sun with a nice, cool beer at the Swinside Inn. Others had lunch too. It makes me choke with pride and emotion to witness such dedication as this. (sniff…)
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Eventually, everybody turned up at Braithwaite and went home.
We’d done (that is to say, me and the Lad had done) 30 miles and 6600 of the Queen’s Imperial Feet of Up. Others had done other things. Hopefully, everybody was happy with whatever they’d done.
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Thanks to Messrs Sloman, Lambert and Butler Williams for the invite and organisation and for clever way that the route was designed to allow for the two styles of approach to TGO chally training [koff] and to all the others for the company, the good-humoured whingeing and for laughing at the joke about the vacuum cleaner. And thanks to LTD for his midnight dog-gas and  3:00 a.m running-about-barking  dream. This was fantastic entertainment in a small tent. No, really….

 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Daundering–Going For a Schism Part 1

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Every year, just before a TGO challenge Mr Sloman and Mr Lambert organise a little bijoux ramblette involving walking about with tents, camping, tea rooms and public bars. Usually, or, at least, in the past, these have been very relaxed affairs with little in the way of heroism or, indeed, danger of injury or exhaustion. Last year’s first day from Dufton over Cross Fell to the wilds of Upper Teesdale was a bit hard, though, specially for an old fart like yours truly what with the thighs still flabby from a winter of carousing and general sitting about in warm places away from the driving sleet battering the Knipetowers battlements. Was this a sign of things to come?

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I was very pleased to be invited, though, along with The Lad and, I expected a nice, gentle ramble through sylvan green spring-girt pastures with gambolling lambs and with robins and warblers warbling in the flowery scented hedgerows. This dream would only be broken occasionally by the soft tones of an attractive member of bar staff asking, in sultry tones if I required another foaming pint and some free peanuts and would I mind if some more logs were to be stacked on the fire? This was all despite a “route sheet” which had names of Big Hills on it and unusually high totals of mileage/kilometerage and ascent.

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Planning of this year’s Daunder, had been outsourced to a private provider who had devised an athletic, striving and go-ahead course over several huge mountain ranges, suitable for the athletic, go-ahead, striving yoof-like half of the Daunderers who turned up in technical trousers and and far-away gazes a bit like they used to have in the male underpants section of Kay’s catalogue.  This would become Group 1 after the schism. I should point out that a few of these are even older than me, but have clearly lead a life free from sin and strong spirits, leading to levels of fitness that really shouldn’t be allowed at that age. A lesson for us all, I should say.

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A schism was inevitable since another half (some would say, the other half) held individuals who could be described as being more senior and wizzened, traditional, sensible and, indeed, flabby and it was these who decided to do something else. Something more Daunderish. Something more relaxed and beneath the claggy glaur that was hiding the hills on that fateful morning and which appeared to be in some serious danger of lifting unless we made a swift decision to take an easier course quite soon.

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Schismism was also possible due to the unique qualities of the proposed route which consisted of a couple of loops, a bit like an untensioned reef-knot and so allowed short-cuts to be taken. And it came dangerously close to campsites and pubs which also tempted the temptable to afternoons of debauched carousing and pub lunches involving chips.

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I was in the second group on Day 1. Group 2 shortened the route quite a bit and finished our efforts in mid-afternoon by putting up our tents and having a bit of a snooze in the drizzle of a mid afternoon at a blustery pitch at Dale Head Tarn. Nevertheless, our efforts were  still reasonably respectable at 7 miles and 2300 feet of upness, in contrast to the more athletic 28 miles and 47000 feet of ascent of the other group. We couldn’t help notice, when they passed our camp late that afternoon that several of them were carrying heavily pregnant ewes on their backs just to make their efforts more like a Bad Day on the TGO chally. Indeed, one unfeasibly tall group-member was carrying a shepherd, AND his  senior collie, Jess AND an 18kg bag of sheep-nuts,  but few had seemed to notice the rocks with which we’d loaded their packs earlier in the day. Still, they seemed fairly fresh, although reluctant to join our spartan camp. They carried on for a more sheltered spot about a mile away.

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We met them the very next morning  - of which more will be told later. When I’ve thought about it. I expect that other bloggers will be blogging about this later. Some of what they will say may well be true. [taps nose and winks].