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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.