No longer caring how ridiculous I look

Hey, that went a bit quick!

Ok, I know it’s not the slightest bit original, but I felt the need to write a year-end wrap up of what’s happened this year.  I’ve tried it before in less eventful years, but this year I’m really looking back at a year quite unlike the previous one, and looking forward into next with barely concealed excitement.  But I’m going to keep the over-the-shoulder part short and focus on what’s in front.

The past

I made myself unemployed in February, after 15 years at the same company.  I’m now freelancing to give me the flexibility to walk more.
I walked the Cumbria Way at the end of March/start of April.  Originally a training walk for the Coast to Coast and Cambrian Way (neither of which I actually did), it became my main LDP of the year.  But I was glad I customised the route to take in more high ground, only coinciding with 70% of the official route.  My tweaks involved detours via the Beacon Fells (south of Coniston), Holme Fell, Latrigg, Skiddaw and Bakestall, and I tacked on an extra couple of days Back o’ Skiddaw for some exploration using YHA Skiddaw House as a base.  From a warm and sunny first afternoon, the weather deteriorated, hitting its worst at the highest point of the walk on High Pike, and only becoming nice again on the final afternoon.   The turning point of the walk for me was Stake Pass – I climbed up to it in the teeth of strong wind and rain, and came down into Langstrath into emerging sunlight over one of my favourite fells, Eagle Crag.  That was when I knew I’d make it.  I even found time to paint during the trip, and so here’s the least bad effort – a picture looking back at Eagle Crag from that watershed day.

Eagle Crag
Eagle Crag in watercolour

I returned at the start of April and almost immediately headed off again, this time with family in tow, for a week in the North York Moors, where we all climbed Roseberry Topping, and from the summit I then raced the others around to Captain Cook’s monument, me on foot across the moors, everyone else in the car.  Happily I arrived nearly 25 minutes before them.  The walk across the moors was great and really made me want to explore more, and possibly even do the Cleveland Way one day.  Having generally had bad experiences with moors in the past, I seem to have come to enjoy the solitude and emptiness they offer – I just need to do it when the weather’s not too challenging.

Back home, I sat out April, cast my vote in the referendum on 5 May, and headed straight from the polling station to Snowdonia for a week’s walking and peak bagging.   I returned home with a haul of 18 summits – 5 of which were Trail 100s, and 17 were Nuttalls – culminating in a brilliant day on the Nantlle Ridge.

Nantlle Ridge
Nantlle Ridge

I also returned home with badly bruised coccyx having used the side of Cnicht as a playground slide.

Home a week, and I then headed off on my annual chunk of the South West Coast Path with my Dad and Brother.  A tricky section this year from Dartmouth to Plymouth, involving several river crossings and plenty of accommodation challenges.

A quick dash up to the Peak District for a long weekend gave the opportunity for a couple of hours on Stanage Edge.

The next big trip was to the Lake District in July, where I did a trek from Keswick to Seatoller, in a big circle to mop up the rest of the North Western fells, Ennerdale fells into Wasdale, then over Lingmell to Borrowdale.  I then finished off with a quick couple of days on the good side of Helvellyn and my first time on Striding Edge.

Returning from the lakes, I was into the school holidays and family based stuff so walking suffered a bit.  But as I started to look around for suitable contracts I also chipped away at the North Downs Way in a series of 2 day chunks.

Overall, I clocked up:

  • 456 miles
  • 23,306m of ascent
  • 8 days, 23 hours and 2 minutes of solid walking
  • 105 new summits, including 8 Trail 100s, 42 Nuttalls, 40 Wainwrights, 6 Outlying Fells, 13 Marilyns, 14 Deweys, 23 HuMPs, 68 Birketts
  • 11 Tarns
  • 44 individual walks/walking days
  • 9 trips
  • 3 injuries – Coccyx on Cnicht, face in Ulverston, ribs whilst Orienteering

This is my best haul since I last took an extended break in 2007.

What I learned this year:

The other things that have really taken off this year have been my blogging and tweeting.  My blogging was helped massively by canning my own WordPress hosting and taking the easy option of a WordPress.com site.  But also, the Blackberry app meant that I wrote my blog entries up at the end of each day’s walk, and didn’t fall behind.  I’ve also got so much more involved on Twitter, to the extent that I spend very little time on Facebook now.

The future

Well, one thing’s clear: 2012 probably won’t be quite as active as 2011.  I simply won’t be taking most of the year off (or at least that’s the hope), and am planning to be around during the Olympics, so I won’t walk as much.  But I do expect to walk across a wider range of seasons, as I’ll be aiming for a decent trip in between each contract, so I may not be far off last year’s total.  At the moment, plans include:

  • Snowdonia at Easter – a family trip, but hoping to get a couple of pure mountain days in.
  • South West Coast Path in May – Plymouth to St Austell (at least) or Falmouth (hopefully).
  • My Coast to Coast from Lake District to Holy Island.  When I can fit it in.  But this is the big aim for 2012.
  • Lake District – at least one trip to knock off some Wainwrights.  But I might also revisit some old favourites and do some more Outlying Fells.
  • North Downs Way – going to finish the bugger so that I can start a new local LDP.
  • Some wild camping (at last).  Call it a New Year’s Resolution if you like.
  • Orienteering.

If I manage all this, I won’t be far off this year’s total walking days.  So let’s see what happens…

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