Thursday, 11 March 2021

February Fill Dyke


February was quite snowy and mainly sunny and quite beautiful in lots of ways, but I felt that travel restrictions ought to confine me to Crook and, maybe, at a push, Wolsingham. As far as fitness is concerned, things did come together quite a bit - there's another chart below which shows that finally, or maybe , eventually in week 4 I managed more mileage than in the same week last year. Other weeks It rained in week 3 and the snow melted and the dykes filled....  I put this increase in activity down to Li Yang. Li Yang poo-poos the idea of a walk which is less than 15 miles and would much prefer 20 or 25. We walked quite a bit together up to the summer of 2020 then lockdowns, holidays, fine malt lassitude and, general couldn't be arsed took over. But she popped up again, and some longer walks have started taking place since then.  

The chart below shows miles walked each week during February  in 2020 and 2021. Week 3 was pathetic but week 4 won the prize. (Doesn't include LTD's routine doggy walks)

In other news, the TGO challenge has been postponed from early May to mid June/end of July. JJ is OK with this, subject to the timing of some medical interventions and, if I'm honest, I prefer June in Scotland, partly becasue it doesn't really ever go dark. I like daylight. What can I say? The timing of this has squished up against my 70 hills plan and, I've been considering this and..... (picture of car crash follows...)

...I've been considering this at some length and it strikes me (the idea, not the car...) that the Lake District will be absolutely heaving in the summer of 2021 and, not only that, but that many of the heavers will be feckin eejits and many of these will be fly-camping  or, as some would incorrectly label it, "wild camping" And they'll be doing their usual thing about abandoning their cheapo tents and general stupid amounts of debris and, frankly, shite, often in the true meaning if the word and, basically, I can't be doing with this. So I've decided to have a go at the 70 hills in 2022, hopefully with a May 2022 TGO challenge as a fitness- enhancer.

So, this means that I have more time for jaunts in May and July 2021. I'll be doing some Crook Rambler stuff, but most of this is on Sundays, leaving midweeks free to wander freely , providing pandemic becomes endemic....
The picture of the burned-out vehicle by the way was taken on Doctors Gate road. It was one of three. Apparently, the fashion at the moment is to drive at a stupid pace over the bumpier bits of the moor - quarry spoil heaps, in fact, until the car becomes disabled or otherwise irrecoverable.... and then set fire to it. Given the comments above about the prospects for Cumbria in the summer of 2021, it's hard not to conclude that the British are a nation of moronic arseholes. I do know that this is mainly not true, although, it has to be admitted, that the arsehole population is quite high and, in 2021, they probably won't be going to Spain for their holibobs. 

But now, spring is springing. The sun has finally appeared through the Pietowers bathroom window, the snowdrops are running to seed and some of the daffies are flowering. The Pietowers population of sparrows (there's about 40 of them in the hedge) are attacking each other, there's a cheeky robin and a couple of little wrens and I've just bought fifty quid's worth of dehydrated food just in case I might want to nick off and camp somewhere a bit discreetly. Its probably best if this isn't mentioned to anybody just yet and I wouldn't go anywhere too far away or anywhere dangerous..... 

Monday, 1 February 2021

January - Sick and Tired You've Been Hanging on Me


January, mainly was a "propah" winter as far as globally-warmed winters go. Plenty of snow and plenty of ice. This was Just Rubbing It In. Perfect hard neve formed towards the end of the month as a result of some freeze/that cycles and a large amount of snow over on the Weardale Fells, all of which shone bright white from a distance in any sunshine that happened to be going.  And that was the problem with January. The temptation to sneak up to the far-distant parts of Weardale and go and play on the deep and hard snow tempting. But I didn't. Instead, me and LTD were confined to the immediate vicinity of Crook, with the odd adventure from Wolsingham. This was doing my training for a BIG walk in July no good at all.

The chart above (which, I believe is the first chart ever to appear in this Pieblog) shows this year's mileage as compared with last year's mileage by week. As you can see, whilst there was a good start, fueled by enthusiasm and some remaining Christmas cake and booze, things didn't really get going. This was partly due to some really poor weather and partly due to the shackles of Covid 19 rules and partly due to an inability to get up early enough to do a long walk. I did manage a couple of ten-milers and even a fifteen mile walk, but 2020 had a 20-miler.......  The Christmas cake and fine malt whiskies are now used up.  The bottom lines are that  in January 2021 I walked 116 miles as opposed to 159 in January 2020 and I need to do more, not less.

The task ahead is further complicated by what appears to be a further complication. The idea was to do a walk covering 70 mountains in my 70th year in July, starting on the 10th of July (10X7=70). Part of the training regime would be the 2021 TGO challenge which is planned for May 2021. But now, the organisers have announced that maybe, only maybe, though, that the TGO challenge could be moved to June or July. My priority would be to do the TGO challenge whenever it happens and, I believe, JJ has the same view. So, I'd have to do the 70 tops later on - probably September when the schools are back and the warmth and daylight are still with us.
I have the list of hills and a provisional route (the second attempt at a route) Thus, the attempt would begin at Haweswater and end at Langdale after performing a kind of figure-8. I would probably camp, mainly wild camping but with the odd campsite and fish and chip shop. I would aim to take LTD with me, which also provides another logistical challenge.......
This challenge involves Lucky's supply of kibble. The problem is that kibble can only be bought in quantities which are too big to reasonably carry. LTD can carry about 3 days supply and I could carry a similar extra amount, but at some point, re-supply would be needed. I might have to suggest to Mrs K that trips to Keswick  and Eskdale in September (Or July) would be Just The Thing.
Its all still in the planning stage - I might add a day or two as rest days. In the meantime, I think I need to do a really long walk or two....

Finally - the charity bit - last time I did this sort of thing, I managed to raise a fair amount of spondoolies by using those "reviews" that bloggers used to get to do, in which they got given free kit and had to write about how nice  and sploshingly good value for money whatever it was a company wanted reviewed. The companies were really very open to the suggestion that they send two bits of whatever kit it was and let me sell one and keep the other.... but nobody asks for reviews any more....  So I'm occasionally having a "trying-to-think-something-up" session and not being very successful about it, yo be honest. Some people raise charity cash by just asking for it, but I'm not really keen on that. I like people to get something in exchange.... other than a brief feeling of smug saintlyhood...  Not that there's anything wrong with a brief feeling of saintlyhood...

Monday, 11 January 2021

What Should I Do With My 70th Year?

One thing is for sure that I'll never have another 70th year. I might well be at the summit here and, as it's probably all downhill from now on, I was thinking that I should mark the year with something special, somehow. And maybe do something charitable such as re-establish my fundraising for Mind wot I did a few years ago and which was mildly successful, though I say it myself. The idea that I came up with, one boozy Christmas night whilst being locked-down, was to climb 70 2000 foot hills in one continuous expedition. Withe a tent. And a small black and white dog. The most convenient place to do this would be the English Lake District. This is because it's quite handy for knipetowers and the hills are generally (that is to say, most of the time)  grouped together in closely-packed, friendly groups. And in-between there are outdoor shops where dehydrated food and equipment can be bought should the need arise. These outdoor shops are also in small towns which are fully equipped with hostelries, pie shops and off-licences. I though this was a smashing plan.

And then I had a desultory look at an on-line map of Cumbria with all the Hewitts and Nutalls marked on it and added up some of the distances and ascent. And I thought....."bugger"  This looks quite a hard thing to do for a 69-year-old, fat, type 2 (the best type) diabetic with a dicky ticker and a lazy dog. And, not only that, but the entire country is currently in lockdown and we're not supposed to travel very far for exercise, so access to hills with closely-packed, not to say over-friendly contours is not only verboten but also anti-social, unpopular and a bit dangerous. So training for this could be difficult. Training needs to be up big, steep hills with lots of uphill and over several consecutive days and this sort of thing isn't available just now.

But we travel in hope. In May 2021 me and JJ are booked in to do the TGO challenge and, whilst we don't have a specially hard route, 14 days of walking with big packs should be really helpful. This is planned for May, so the big hope is that it will actually go ahead. It will be a close-run thing I suspect. All digits are crossed. In the meantime, I'll just have to walk as much as possible. Maybe I'll be able to sneak up Weardale soon for some walking in deep snow.

As far as the charity fundraising is concerned, I'll try to use the same strategy as last time - the philosophy being that whatever I do will avoid the "sponsor me on a jolly" type of thing in favour of a presumption that contributers will actually receive something in return. I'll need to think about this. Last time there was some level of sponsorship for my involvement in the North East Skinny Dip. If people paid enough, I would keep my pants on. Just like everything else, the event might take place, and, if it does, all other things being equal, I will take part.

 All the pictures in this post are from very recent local doggy walks. None of these are enough to get fit enough for climbing all those hills. I need to walk further at least and, hopefully, I'll get enough mojo to work on this starting now.. or at least, soon.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Lucky The Dog Escapes From The Fireworks Damply

England went into a sort of semi-ignored lockdown just before Gunpowder Plot (we nearly forgot) - and so, we had to do our anti-firework camp a couple of days early, which was a shame because the weather on our re-arranged date was, frankly, 'orrible. On the A66, it blew a hoolie and chucked it down with the wipers going on Very Fast. But at Dufton, the air was still and the sun was shining. This was Good. We set off up the Pennine Way aiming for High Cup Nick. The intention was to camp at Maize Beck where there's a beautiful little limestone gorge into which we could insert ourselves for a couple of nights out of the way and sheltered from any further windy blasts.
Oh no..

Our Akto very near Maize Beck. Hillfog rolling in again

The Gorge at Maize Beck

We weren't more than a mile and a bit out of Dufton when it started raining. Bits of sunshine promised that this was Just A Shower. But it wasn't. The sky darkened and the mist rolled up the hill. And the rain battered down. Iy had rained quite a bit in the days before, so some little becks which normally, a little fat beardy bloke with an old black and white mongrel could just stride across with one mighty stride, became a gamble. Like a spillage of alphabeti spaghetti, a slip could spell disaster and a wet tumble over the whin sill crag into oblivion (the word "oblivion" should ideally be delivered quite a lot like Riff Raff in the Rocky Horror Show. Practice it now..."Oblivion"

When we arrived at Maize Beck it was in spate and it was still raining with a Big R, so instead of camping on one of the little beckside platforms I opted for a little dip next to a cave a few metres awat. The cave had a short section of beck emerging , running along for ten metres or so and then disappearing down a hole, presumably to emerge in the wall of the gorge a bit lower down. The akto went up smartish, the wet dog installed, water collected, brew on, shot of rum, tea and darkness. It rained  heavily all night and a new spring appeared just behind the tent. LTD moved not at all, other than to shuffle into a new position. The long night wore on cosily but with some drippy condensation. And in the morning it was raining. We were all clagged in. Doggy walks were short and taken reluctantly. Snoozing was the best thing. Brewing was the next best thing. And eating. And reading. And the radio. All with the constant nearby roar of the becks, the machine gun fire from Warcop, and the occasional boom of artillery. LTD doesn't seem top mind machine guns and artillery..... and he snoozed on.

Another night past. The drizzle stopped and the moon and stars appeared, the rushing clouds making them seem that they were on their way somewhere quite quickly. 5:00 a.m and brewing up followed by a moonlit doggy walk, followed by a return to cosy bags and a grey and creeping dawn for another snoozette - Interrupted at some vague, semi-concous point by the sound of shouting , grouse calling and shotguns. Then machine gun fire again. I peered out. Half a mile away I could see a bloke with a flag tramping through the heather. There was a grouse-shoot in progress. In the cold and sunny morning and to the warlike sounds and booming Maize Beck, we left.  The odd thing about this stuff is that when you're leaving the hill and everybody else is just setting off, it feels as if I'm doing the wrong thing. Lockdown would start at midnight. There would be no more of this kind of stuff for a while.

 Incidentally - I just couldn't get control over the justification of the first paragraph of text and one picture had been selected by blogger to be ignored when it came to resizing it. So the text is all at one side and, as far as I can tell, is determined to stay there and I've deleted the picture. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

The Wettest Town in Wales, Rain, Lax Navigation, Rain Covid 19 And Yet More Rain


Last October me and Mrs Pieman had a holiday in the Preselli Hill and very nice it was too. The October before we were also in mid Wales in October and it rained and rained and rained. And it went dark. So, this year we booked to go to Wales a bit earlier and we booked in January - a bit before Covid 19 began. We booked for the end of September. In the intervening months, Covid 19 died back a bit. But then, at the end of August it started coming back. In September, bits of South Wales , Lancashire, West Yorkshire and North East England saw increasing cases and some "restrictions" were put in place. Advice, though, said we could go on holiday. So we went.

One of the  things on the Things To Do list was to bag just three Nutalls that had previously escaped my attentions. This would bring my Nutall-bagging total to just one short of all the Nutalls In The World, the final one being Pillar Rock, which could well prove a bit of an issue at my age and with my knees. Or even without my knees, but certainly with my lack of desire to fall off anything very rocky. One of these Nutalls was was Ysyfell Wen Far North Top. I had been within a shoelace of it on 17 October 2008 when I was on the very nearby Ysgafell Wen North Top - just a bit North of Ysgafell Wen, in fact. But I'd missed it and gone off towards Cnicht or something. And so with rain looming on the weather forecast and the Welsh Government forming plans to ethnically cleans North Wales of all nymphs and faeries, I set off in bright sunshine from a cottage in Tanygrisiau to bag the very top of the Far North Top of Ysgafell Wen. LTD was in high spirits, and so was I.

Our way lie via CwmOrthin with it's slate mines, Allt Fawr and Moel Druman, where we stopped for a long while to chap to a chap taking photographs, but who's knowledge of the area seemed limited to Moel Druman and a few local tops, Nice chap, though and we were joined by three lasses from Caernarfon who pronounced the hill names and Tanygrisiau properly and we all stomped off individually  to the summit of Ysgafell Wen, a lovely top with spiky bits. And then, I went to Ysgafell Wen North Top, which was the very next top.... except, it wasn't. Then I went to Ysgafell Wen  Far North Top, except I didn't, I went to the North Top, which I thought was... er.... look, I'm not Bear Ghrylls. Sometimes I get things wrong. I congratulated myself anyway and LTD celebrated with two gravy bones that I'd saved for him specially for the occasion.

And so, we wandered off smugly into a rather nice wild bit, bagged the diminutive but craggy and with a big drop down the far side (not the Far North Side) Craig Llyn-llagi, just by the lovely tarn Llyn yr Adar, and made our way back to Tanygrisiau for plonk and scoff and a ticking frenzy on the wife's laptop. (This is not a euphemism by the way) And then, as the ticking progressed, the penny dropped. I hadn't bagged Ysgafell Wen Far North Top at all. There's an extra top up there. I'd counted three and there were four. Bugger. I would go back.

In the meantime, the Welsh Government closed the border with Conwy on pain of £100 for going anywhere near and it rained as predicted. Two days later and with Another Plan, me and LTD went to Dolwyddelan in order to sneak up on Ysgafell Wen Far North Top from round the back, thus not repeating the previous route and also bagging three other tops on a little round.  This went well for a while. I had lazed in bed a bit late, though and just past Coed Mawr farm, we encountered suckler cows with calves. LTD has a nasty habit of barking at cows, and sucklers notoriously don't like dogs and can get quite aggressive. so we used up some time to sneak around various rocky tors and tussocks  out of sight of the cattle and continued on soggy paths to Bwlch Rheidad - a bwlch being the same sort of thing as a bealach in Scotland, a Hawse or Hause in Cumbria and a Pass up the Khyber (not a euphemism either by the way). Things got rougher along the very soggy ridge to Cerrig Cochion and the stupidly steep heather and rock of Meirch ( another very nice hill) and then, on towards Ysgafell Wen Far North Top. 

Except, my GPS said it would take me 40 minutes to get there at this speed, and forty minutes to get back and a few hours to get back to my car. It would be dark. The spirits of the mountains would emerge and rob me of my roasted cashew nuts (no euphemism here). I would be doomed to wander the tussocks for ever, looking in vain for my little dog , who would have run off as soon as he had discovered that he'd eaten all of the gravy bone supply. I had to abandon the surge towards Ysgafell Wen Far North Top. Bugger again. Instead, we wandered over Yr Arddu and down through the woods to Roman Bridge where the romans had built a bridge to take the train line over a small beck on it's way to Blaenau Ffestiniog, the wettest town in Wales in 121 AD. Flushed by this success, they thought about having a wall between Northumberland and Roxburgh and the Scots would pay for it.

The it rained just the once. And during these five or six days we did a bit of tourist stuff. LTD had a run on the beach and various small Tumps around Blaenau were bagged damply. And during this time, Plan C was formed. This involved driving to Blaen Nanmor (for some reason, the OS have missed the "T" out of this place name - maybe it should be Blaen Nantmor??) where, on a narrow single-track road there was a car park giving access to a short path of just a couple and a half of the Queen's Kilometres, the very summit of Ysgafell Wen Far North Top could be acquired for the List of Hills Wot I Bagged. Except I got a mile or two up this road and came across a sign. It said "Road Closed" I turned the knipemobile around with some difficulty and proceeded grumpily back towards the main road. Maybe it was a sign (Course it was a sign - it was a big yellow metal sign in Welsh and English) But a stop in a layby showed that I could park at the foot of the Watkin Path that goes up Snowdon and  go from there, adding just a couple of kilometres to the route. If there was space, and it was getting late, so Snowdoneers might have packed the place, a Plan D would be Just The Thing.

And it worked, although I did find myself on the top of Ysgafell Wen North Top again, congratulated myself again, gave lTD another gravy bone in celebration and then realised that Ysgafell Wen Far North Top was, in fact ....over there------------->  So I went over there and climbed to the top. LTD had another gravy bone and I resolved not to tell anybody about how hard this hill had been to climb. So we went home via an off-licence in Penrhyndeudraeth. disturbing a buzzard "tidying-up" a dead sheep for the second time. I did detect a certain element of surliness about his demeanor. Incidentally, at 4:00 pm, on returning to the car park at the foot of the Watkin Path up Snowdon (remember that one?) two well- wrapped up but otherwise very badly equipped walkers were seen to be setting off to climb Snowdon. At about five o'clock, it started raining again, the cloud had already been swathing the high tops. I wonder if they got away with it, and decided, instead to go to the pub. Or are they still up there?
In the meantime, and in-between various bouts of wet and windy weather, the WElsh Government had been railing at having written to Boris Johnson about keeping saxons off their land, and being ignored by said Boris and were thinking about closing the border and declaring war on East Anglia, but having no actual tanks, decided that it would have been too dry for them anyway.  

So, finally we decided on an easier bagging task - a group of five lovely and bijoux tops not too far from the forbidden land that was Conwy. These were just off the road and consisted of various lovely, rocky tops including Craig y Garreg-lwyd and it's North Tope (doesn't seem to have a Far North Top, although it does have a bit of a "stopper" crag on the way which requires a short diversion - the excellent Y Garnedd and the steep and craggy pudding Garreg-y Fol-Gron, and, finally , just across the road, and defended by very soggy moorland and a little crag, Cerrig y Leirch. So, just two Welsh Nutalls to go.  I might never make it.

Incidentally, the pics in this post aren't in the order that they're supposed to be and bear no relation at all to the text, apart from the fatc that they were all taken on this trip. Blogger just won't let me move them - if I try, they just disappear... poof! Gone! Nobody knows where......