I got an invite to try out some snowshoes up the Dale (That’s Weardale, folks..). Now I’ve often thought, whilst struggling through some North Pennine fresh drift, often up to the naughty parts and occasionally a bit deeper, that a set of snowshoes would be just the thing. Then the snow either melts or turns into some lovely, hard neve and , what with the stupid cost of snowshoes and everything… I never get around to it.
Bruno also has had trouble with deep snow and, even though he loves the stuff – enough to try to eat most of what he finds – on occasion it’s all been just too much even for superdawg. Unfortunately, they don’t do snowshoes for dogs. At least, I don’t think so.
But here are some ex MOD snowshoes – ideal for transporting huge and muscly Royal marines and their huge and muscly bergens across the arctic wastes, so they should be Ok for a not-quite-morbidly-obese ex member of the Ermysteds Grammar School for Boys climbing set (aka those of us who couldn’t catch a cricket ball and who hated being beaten up by enormous over-trained latin-speaking rugby forwards from Form 4(a) The clever gits. But I digress.
We set off up Ireshope Moor by first parking the knipemobile (not known for it’s ability to negotiate a snowy road) badly in a thawing bog. The snowshoes were strapped on, tightened, adjusted, strapped on again after they’d fallen off, adjusted, tightened, tripped over and pointed uphill into the murk of a blast of warmish air over the arctic wastes, thus causing not only drizzle but also hill fog.
We battered uphill, dragging blue plastic sledges behind for the descent. This was predicted to be quick and easy and not at all dangerous due to the softness of the snow cover (which is why the snowshoes were useful)
I was impressed by how good these things were – and , apparently, only Thirty of the Queen’s pounds from a local forces surplus store.
We coffeed and chocolated in the lee of a bijoux and anti-socially locked shooting hut before continuing a bit higher to the flat bit at about 660 metres above sea level. (Apparently, according to “scientists”, this figure gets lower every day and will soon be 659.99 metres unless we allow the Scottish hills to be converted into windy power stations. … But yet again, I digress…)
It was sledge time. Matt hurtled off at 4.4 mph. I decided to go head first, placed the sledge on the slope , got on, and….. nothing happened. I pushed with my arms. Something happened. I got tired. I decided on a more convenient posture. I sat on the sledge. Less happened than had been happening before. I pushed with my arms. I got tired. I got off. I walked, pulling the reluctant sledge behind. On a steeper bit I tried again. I reached a speed of, perhaps, 2.3 mph. I pushed with my arms. I got tired. I stopped. I got off. I walked. Sledge sulked behind.
Steeper ground, now. I got on again. Nothing happened again. I pushed. We slid. Gracefully, as one, man and sledge in a partnership of speed; hurtling Northwards, contours and startled grouse flashing by at..er…… 3.4 mph. After a full 200 yards, things slowed to a stop. I pushed with my arms. You know the rest.
I tried the other sledge. This was better. I almost got a nose bleed as the air rushed past at 4.1 mph. Maybe I should have used kph. This would have been a higher figure and, therefore, faster.
I blame the snow. It was too soft and wet. Icier snow and harder snow is required. Snow shoes were good, though. I’m off to Darlington to get some.