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Thursday, 14 June 2018

Bagging By The Clyde–An Ill-Wind

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Hill-baggers who, by some stroke of fate find themselves in Lanarkshire, as opposed to Lancashire, who’s only experience of said Lanarkshire is a quick trundle up the M74 may be surprised to find that the countryside around Junction 13 at Abington services holds some excellent hillwalking. Baggers who are specially fond of wind turbines will be ecstatic to discover that the Clyde wind “farm” has something over 200 turbines, some very high masts, lots of lovely roads to make walking between the hills so much easier and some kind of huge electrical buzzing installation thing with tin huts, plus various vans, cars and tractors. It also has a very fine population of hares who’s existence, I suspect, is being somewhat protected by all this industrial activity. It’s an ill-wind.

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Outside of the Clyde windfarm, the hills are quiet and heathery and quite beautiful and some are heavily managed grouse-moors although, it seems that the wind-farm peeps have their eyes on even these and, in places, the grouse-shooting infrastructure is showing early signs of dereliction. It’s another ill-wind, at least for grouse and anything that’s not a grouse.

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Me and LTD just had six hot and sunny days based a bit to the left of Abington and had six bagging walks based on Abington (free parking, pub, off-licence and pie shop), Crawford (Castle, shop, pub, transport-type cafe, roman fort and road) and Leadhills (Pub and shop, railway museum, lead miners’ library and grouse-moors).

In all I bagged 22 hills of various categories (won’t bore you with a list) and LTD bagged 23, the extra one being Culter Fell which we climbed along with the son-in-law and which was somewhat shortened by an impending thunderstorm, which eventually impended and scared the willies out of LTD. I wasn’t too bothered cos I had an adequate supply of dutch courage in liquid form. I’d been up Culter Fell before y’see, so it doesn’t count as a bag for me.

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I’ve been predicting the Great Drought of 2018 since 1976, only altering the actual date during specially cold and soggy Junes, of which there have been many during this intervening period – usually followed by a string of atlantic storms coming off the ..er….Atlantic, only ending in a week of warm weather during early September. Such are the perils of planning a sunbathing holiday on an island with the same latitude as Alaska. Although it doesn’t go very dark for long in summer – as I say, it’s an ill wind.

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We returned to Pietwowers via Jedburgh, it being the occasion of the first birthday of a grandson who’s smiles aren’t all rictus ones.

Wot fun. Ad quite cheap too.

LTD is ecstatic to be home and has taken to his cosy stink-pit, although he does get dragged out for a daily doggy-walk or two and yesterday, for instance, we managed all of nine miles during an extended trundle over Dowfold Hill and Crook Golf Course and then a four mile ramble around Witton-le-Wear with Crook Ramblers, which was all very nice.

We’re now intent on getting on with more routine stuff and we have some guided walk reccies to do and a summer solstice “do” to do at the turning of the summer, during which we can all look forward to the nights drawing in again, dark and cold mornings, cocoa and crumpets and slipping on one’s arse on night-time doggywalks..

It’ll soon be Christmas. (Its that ill-wind again)

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Sunday, 3 June 2018

TGO Challenge 2018 Summary and Pics

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Like wot I said in my previous post, this year I’m, not going to go into huge detail about my 2018 TGO challenge because there’ll be a sufficiency of accounts on other people’s blogs and, in my case, I did most of the walk in the comnpany of John Jocys who at this very moment in time (what other kind of moments are there, I wonder?) he’s producing an excellent series of blogposts describing wot he did on his holidays and, from Kinlochleven onwards, that’s pretty much what I did too. I did eat different stuff, though and had no problem in sleeping noisily, mainly due to the anaesthetic effects of cheap whisky.

Hennyway – This is it, in summary.

I covered a total of 205 miles. This was 5 miles shorter than my original plan. I also climbed about 28000 feet of upness. I camped all the way apart from the last night which was in a cottage in Johnshaven. All but two camps were “wild” (ish) – that is, excluding the campsites at Kinlochleven and Grantully and the pub paddock round the back of the Drovers Inn at Memus. 9 wild camps in all.

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My original route went as far as Black Corries and then high above Rannoch Moor, back down to Carie and then to Aberfeldy, Pitlochry, Glenn Shee, Glen Doll, Tarfside, Fettercairn and Tangleha. I followed my original route from Kilchoan, over Ben Resipol, through Glen Gour to Ardgour, to Corran, West Highland Way through Kinlochleven to Black Corries and then low level to Rannoch (it was bad weather anyway, so I would have gone this way in any case) – to Kinloch Rannoch – Aberfeldy (back on route) – to Grantully – Kirkmichael – Glen Isla – Memus – Brechin – Johnshaven. So the main difference was a diversion from Grantully and I avoided the very fine hill-walk over Cairn Mairg. I’d decided, at some point around Kinlochleven, that I would be making my route a bit easier somehow and since JJ had not received his maps for the rest of his route, it wasn’t a hard decision to team up – I had the maps and he had an easier route than my original, although we were a bit ahead. So, after some initial route-marches, we calmed down and did a couple of shortish days to put things right.

The fact that we were wearing matching kilts was just coincidence, although it did casue more fun on the West Highland Way (see previous posts)

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This was my fourteenth TGO challenge and, perhaps I will go for the 20, although at a maximum of only one TGO per year, I will be very very old on the 20th one, if I ever get there….  And this was the best TGO for weather since my first one in 1998. I only got wet twice, in fact, and it only rained for half the day on each occasion and on one, maybe two nights. In the main, the weather was beautiful and sunny and not really too hot. It got warmer as we progressed Eastwards, but in the main the walking conditions were perfect.

I’m happy to say that I sufferred absolutely no damage at all, lost just 2kg, one of which I’ve found again – although by the final Thursday I’d probably lost quite a bit more. But pigging out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including generous quantities of beer and wine, I suspect that some significant kgs were returned to the system. I did have a brief attack of squitters the night after Kinlochleven. This was just a temporary blip, though.

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It was, in fact, a very enjoyable TGO challenge, mainly in the excellent company of Mr Jocys who tends to talk to passers-by when I tend not to. This, of course, made the whole thing a lot more fun. He also remembers people’s names when I struggle, often with some lurking embarrassment that somebody knows me, recounts tales of whatever it was we did on a TGO a few years ago, when, to be honest, I have no idea who they are.

Anyway – a right good do. I’d do it again. Next time I’ll stop measuring a day’s walk when the count gets to 26 kilometres (dhuhh)

Some pictures

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Friday, 1 June 2018

TGO Challenge 2018–In a Kilt.

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There’ll be quite sufficient day-to-day accounts of Peep’s (?Peepsies) TGO challenges in the blogosphere, many of which will have links provided  by the peeps at Newtonmore wot do the organisation (Sue and Ali). So, I’m not going to do that. In fact, since me and John Jocys started at the same start point and our routes coincided from Glen Gour to Kinlochleven and then joined forces from then on, he’s doing a fine job of describing the route on his blog, so I don’t really need to, innit?

So, I’ll just provide a brief summary and then bang on almost endlessly about how fab it is to do the chally in a kilt and, in a subsequent blogpost at some point in the future, provide a bunch of pictures.

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Day 1 Got up, walked a lot, got tired, met somebody who’s name escapes me for a mo, but I met them in almost identical circumstances four years ago, had me tea, sipped cheap scotch, dozed off for twelve hours. It didn’t go dark.

Day 2 (see above)

Day 3 (see Day 1)

Day 4 (see Day 1, but had a shower, washed undies, killed a tick)

Day 5 (As Day 2) Met somebody else.

Day 6-13 …….. ghasp….

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So, I got the train to Oban (First class ticket from Durham to Glasgow only cost £19.40 and this included a breakfast. (get in…)) and discovered JJ lounging in his kilt in the Oban-Craignure ferry terminal and we travelled together to Craignure, then Tobermory and, next day, over to Kilchoan and walked together for about 2 miles.

I then walked to Kinlochleven via three tearooms, Ben Resipol and a pub over the next few days where I met Mr Jocys once again. I met only one other challenger during this time, in Glen Gour – a chap who claimed to be from Essex but who was not highly groomed, with perfect teeth and in the process of a difficult relationship with his girlfriend. (Yes folks, I did watch The Only Way is Essex on one occasion. I was drunk, obviously) The chances of meeting one of these snowflakes up Glen Gour seems unlikely. This lad just bashed on and, strangely, was followed by another walker who seems to have disappeared in mysterious circumstances. He went into a fold in the landscape, only yards nehind the Essex lad, and didn’t appear at the other side. Most odd.

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At Kinlochleven, being somewhat knackered, I decided that my planned route was too hard. It had twenty-mile days with far too many contours. As it happens, JJ had nee maps (as they say in Crook), and I had. So I decided to do his route, told him, and he agreed. So thats what we did. The details are in his blog, a link to which is at the end of this blogpost (don’t want you drifting off till I’ve completed my diatribe, innit?) He’s doing a cracking job, so I don’t need to and, in any case I have something else less important to say about kilts.

JJ got these kilts from the USA and they’re made from micro-fibres (or micro-fibers as the colonials would have it). We decided to do the chally in the kilts.

Prior to the TGO challenge, I also wore my kilt on several walks, covering about 75 miles on trundles in the Yorkshire Dales, Lakes, North Pennines and Cheviots and a Crook Ramblers walk near Darlington.

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For an Englishman who has absolutely no Scottish blood, but does have two Scottish grandchildren, and living in a kiltless society in a no-nonsense, but generally very decent working-class County Durham town where the wearing of unusual clothing could be seen as a bit of an affectation, putting on a kilt and getting the car out for a trip to the hills does require a modicum of bravery. It would seem. It would also seem, though, that nobody really notices. I’m not sure why this is.

In general, the bit we worry about is other people’s reactions to a beardy bloke (or any bloke) wearing what amounts to a dress in public. In practise, English people out on the hills don’t say anything at all. Maybe they’re too polite.

In Scotland, reactions are mainly positive. “Fair play to wearing the kilt” said a young lad in  a pub in Tobermory. There were no explicit negative comments, although a ned shouted rude words from a passing car by Backwater reservoir, but his insult was in the singular and there were two of us, so I can’t put much weight on it. I suspect he would have shouted anyway, and, probably continued shouting at pedestrians, cattle, sheep, trees, his old Mum and a stray dog during his journey back to his stinking hovel somewhere in Dundee where the “F” word is a common adjective. I expect he was probably wearing really scaggy undies too. Trust me, I’m an expert on this stuff. I used to work in a casualty department.

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Women in Scotland were explicitly rather lustful about the kilt. Some of these were foreign tourists. “ Oh My gawd, Henry, look, it’s my first kilt. Oh my gawd, there’s another one! Are you Scaddish? Can I take your photo?”. This kind of thing happened several times between Kinlochleven and Kingshouse. I kid you not. Ladies from Ilkley were happy to fondle JJ’s knees. And girlies at the scene of an accident near Brechin involving the accidental trimming of several kg’s of ash tree onto a car by a high-sided vehicle declared, on seeing the kilts during the clean-up operation that they wouldn’t help, but would “just watch” Phwoar

So, despite misgivings about public reactions, there’s nothing to be bothered about. The kilt can be worn with no issues.

And then we come to (mainly) male acquaintances. There is banter and ribbing. Much of it is adolescent. Some of it is sexual. Some joking is to be expected and be recieved in the usual “matey” kind of way. Some of it goes too far and, I suspect, reflects the insecurities of the banterer, particularly where it’s persistent (is banterer a word?). A text from TGO control joked that a contract had been put out on me and JJ for wearing petticoats under our kilts. There were several comments about cross-dressing, one of which came from a female wearing trousers (dhuhhh). I don’t mind a bit of banter – and, in fact, the male British standard is to insult your male friends on a regular basis in a fairly robust kind of way, When you stop doing it, they think you’ve fallen out  with them. Some of the kilt-based banter is a bit creepy, though and has hints of desperation about it.

The simple fact is, that kilts give you very brown legs and are very well received amongst women. And this is no bad thing.

Moving on to the actual walking: A lightweight  neo-waterproof kilt is probably the most comfortable garment anybody could possibly want to wear for the hillwalking. The sheer freedom of being able to move the legs unencumbered by trousers is remarkable and probably adds some distance to whatever distance you could comfortably walk in trousers or shorts.

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In  very rainy weather, I also wore the traditional overtrousers which went on easily over the kilt. In shoiwery weather, I don’t bother as my legs dry out quickly, and so does the kilt.

At night I had a Crivit full base-layer which includes a top with a hood as a pair of toasty jim-jams. These are less than £9 from Lidl and there’s nowt wrong with them. I coped easily with several ice-coated nights in the akto.

In hot weather, the lightweight kilt is Just The Thing and wafting breezes are a comfort and a joy.

Whether or not to wear undies is a personal choice. JJ did and I didn’t. This saved me some weight and some laundry.

On the question of insects, particularly ticks – I didn’t get any. And I didn’t take any special precautions. I did have a nightly inspection and was armed with a tick remover, just in case. I also didn’t get bitten any more than in shorts, although sitting on wet grass can be “refreshing”. But skin dries out quite quickly

For toileting, a quick pee can be had just by lifting up the front (applies to men) but you have to be more careful with the number two’s. 

After two weeks, the outside of the kilt was looking as fresh as a daisy. The inside, however was a fetid mash of seething putrid gunge and required a bit of a wash. A week is probably more than sufficient before a serious wash is needed. You have to be careful with the washing, thouigh, and I’ve been handwashing the kilt with Asda gentle handwash and then drip-drying. The kilt has leather buckles and sewn-in pleats, so, some care is needed. This is probably impractical on very long walks, bt at 300 gms, it’s not impossible to carry two kilts.

My advice, to men and women alike, is to get a sports kilt for the hillwalking in spring, summer and autumn. Be brave and put it on (women probably don’t really need to be brave in this respect)

I’m still wearing mine for hillwalks (I have washed it now, ta)

There were four kilted men on the 2018 TGO challenge. I would like to see more than this. Peeps are missing out. Other peeps will poo-poo this – some a bit nervously but in a manly, joking kind of way which also impunes the masculinity of anybody who might decide to do the same.  Be a man. Get a frock…. 

KIlts: kilts from the USA as sourced by JJ  hillwalking kilts

John’s blog with TGO chally stuffJJs blog

Sunday, 6 May 2018

More TGO Challenge Training–or The Dog on the Tyne Is All Mine All Mine

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Although I missed the training target for walkies with contours, I did manage this walk, on a warm and windy Saturday. The idea was to walk 20 miles and I chose to do this route wot I’d done a couple of times before because I knew it was 20 miles. Simples, innit?

The route starts at Garrigill, follows the South Tyne Trail alongside the River South Tyne, heads up through the Moorhouse and Upper Teesdale NNR by Troutbeck to Dun Fell Hush, crosses Great and Little Dun Fells and Cross Fell, down to Greg’s Hut and along the fairly dull return to Garrigill following the Pennine Way.

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This gives a walk of 20 miles with 3100 feet of ascent on mainly very easy walking, which is coming quite close to my hardest days on the planned TGO chally route – a bit longer than any of the days, but with about 500 feet less of ascent. This has given me a bit of confidence.

And, having established that a kilt will be a main part of my kit, there’s a effect on the weight of the spare clothing I’ll have to carry, partly enhanced by a very lightweight RAB wind-shirt which will replace a heavier RAB anoraky-type jacket and a merino buff/hood for headwear. So, I’m losing a coulple of KG’s here.

Speaking of losing Kg’s , having implemented some long-disused elements of willpower and using my long-standing obsession with measuring things and drawing graphs with the data, ( this helps with inspiration) I’ve managed to be starting the 2018 TGO challenge about 10kg lighter than when I started the 2017 TGO challenge. Losing any weight on the actual walk may well result in me disappearing altogether…. The upshot is that I’m finding walking on the hills much easier than this time last year, so providing I don’t get asaulted by a stag, or poison myself with Bad Cooking Strategies, I’m fairly hopeful of a good result. (Nothing is absolutely certain when it comes to the TGO, other than getting the mind relaxed into the need to Chuck Away the Wristwatch, Just Keep Going and Never Pass A Tearoom it is, in fact (almost) All In The Mind. We shall soon see, anyway.

Poeple and Things  met on the walk across Cross Fell:

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A lass on a bike with two black dogs

A hill-farmer  with a baby on his back sorting out some sheep – we had a brief conversation about what a cold spring it had been

A keeper who thanked me for having the dog on a lead.

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Nobody for hours and hours…… whilst climbing up by Troutbeck

Lots of walkers on the Pennine Way. LTD licked a stranger’s legs on the summit of Cross Fell (I would get into serious trouble for this kind of thing but he seems to be able to get away with it) – He was rewarded by the woman’s hubby donating the remains of his tuna butty.

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A bottle of Budweiser in Greg’s Hut. Ta for this. It was very nice. I sat outside and admired the view.

Little patches of snow on the North side of Cross Fell – LTD ate some.

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Piles of grouse-shooting equipment beside the Pennine Way, and every small beck or syke holding a trap on a log. New roads…. vehicles……plastic paths so the shooters don’t get mucky boots – general industrialisation for the fun of walking about dressed as Edwardian gentlemen shooting at flocks of grouse and/or anything else that moves.

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Frog-spawn in the pools in the sinkholes.

A woman waiting for friends, late from their walk from Dufton to Garrigill. I suggested that they could be another hour so so, given the distance involved.

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And I felt fine at the end of it all – I could have walked much further, I think. So, that’s a good sign. The conditions were excellent, though – warm and sunny but with a bit of a headwind going up by Troutbeck. (Lots of cracking camping spots up there by the way)

There will be no more walkies for me till next Friday, when I start the TGO (there will be doggy walks but you don’t want to know about the intricacies of poo bags, LTD’s friends and enemies or why we keep doing the same routes….

In three or four weeks time, blog readers of this blog, and many others will be thoroughly sick of hearing about the TGO challenge and I’m thinking about that, but I can’t ingnore it. I may just look for Warples.