After the struggle of last year’s Challenge, disrupted by hayfever that went so rogue it turned into full-blown asthma, I’ve been determined to make up for it this year. With the summer following the Challenge largely wiped out by getting the condition under control and finding a new normal, no sooner had I tentatively started backpacking again, than it was pretty much the end of the season. Coupled with an intensive period of art-focused rather than outdoors-focused activity, I went into the winter still in not great shape.
As is common, New Year came around and the inevitable statements were made about getting in shape. I re-started Parkrun on the first Saturday of the year. Despite some initial calf cramp problems, cured by a good pair of compression socks, I’ve started to get into the running, and have even been out mid-week. (*Whispers: I may even have started to enjoy it a tiny bit*). The hiking, though, has been sadly lacking.
I did make a point of finishing off the Essex Way in January, but that’s all apart from a 15-miler on the North Downs last weekend. Paul meanwhile has been regaling me with tales of weight lost and walks done. He seems determined to make up for last year’s withdrawal a couple of weeks from the start line. But he got me thinking that maybe I’ll be the weak link this year.
So far, each year before the Challenge I’ve been able to slot in a shakedown trip, or two: a section of Cambrian Way and a 4 day Dartmoor backpack in 2017; a short trip to the Lakes last year. It’s becoming a bit of a tradition, but to date the focus has been more on honing gear choices than training as such. This year’s trip felt like it needed to be more about training, or at least testing what sort of condition I’m in. After all, my gear is pretty stable, and the only decisions that really need to be made are clothing layers – ie whether to lean more towards a colder or warmer set of weather.
After all the shenanigans getting ready for my art exhibition at the start of the month, and then helping a friend with her exhibition which immediately followed mine, I’d managed to rack up a couple of months without any significant time in the outdoors. Other than a brief snatched camp out locally, but then a tent hidden between a farmer’s field and a landfill site is hardly quality outdoors. It was high time I got out into the hills.
A hectic schedule of work, art fairs and the like suddenly opened up and I found I had a 3 day window to get some time on the fells. The forecast was for cold, so the winter bag was packed. … Continue reading A Mooch About the Middle
Barely am I back from my cruise to Greenland, Iceland and Norway (more about that if I get around to it in due course), then the post-holiday gloom of returning to work hits full face. A lack of decent walking opportunities on the cruise, means it’s 3 months since I did any form of backpacking, and I’m itching to get out. One break from work quickly spawns the need for another. Continue reading “Unexpected Joys in the Clag”
The date was in the diary, the pre-order had been made, the accommodation had been booked. Then the unthinkable happened – Andy Beck’s book launch was pushed back from the weekend of 4-5 March to the equivalent weekend in May. … Continue reading March in the Lakes – Part 1: Viewpoints
After a couple of weeks in which preparing for and holding my first art show proved to be pretty much all-consuming, I was keen to get out into the landscape again, and to do so before winter started to rear its ugly head. By which I mean not the winter of crisp days on snow-covered hills, but the winter of rain and gloom that is the more normal state of affairs. Memories of a successful late autumn trip to the Lakes a couple of years ago were in my mind as I looked at the forecast to identify a likely window. The forecast appeared to be predicting conditions of valley mist and warmer on the tops themselves, or in other words temperature inversions. This was an opportunity too good to miss. Continue reading “Above the Clouds”
I really should have been on the Cambrian Way, but I just didn’t fancy it. For once I wanted to do something I wanted to do. It’s been 6 years since a truly memorable trip to Eskdale, and a couple of years since a less successful one – I was itching to retread some of those paths, re-see some of those views and above all to immerse myself more deeply into the valley by spending some nights camping out there. So I did. Continue reading “The Eskdale Escapade”
From far and wide they came – the south west, the south east, the bit in the middle, and one on foot from Langdale – the Social Hikers gathered near Keswick for our third crack at the 10-in-10 and 5-in-5 in aid of MS Society. Now less a gathering of people who know each other online but had never met face to face, increasingly these meets are bringing together established friends. Old banter and jokes are reworked and the fun continues where it left off last time. Continue reading “The Gathering of the Clan”
The sky was dumping large amounts of water as Colin picked me up and we headed onto the motorway network for the long journey north. A combination of rush hour and large amounts of standing water made for unpleasant conditions, but the gradual change to better was discernable with every mile further north. A quick stop at Keele Services to pick up Cath and we were on our way, the day now getting nicer and nicer. As we entered the National Park, we discussed the original plan involving a camp near Ullscarf, and then a better plan emerged.
This trip had been in the diary for a very long time, ever since the day I signed-up to support Terry Abraham’s Blencathra film in March 2015. With me opting for the VIP premiere tickets package, this meant I knew pretty much what I’d be doing this particular weekend. Hopes of a more extended trip faded as other, art-based, priorities won out leaving me with a Friday to Monday trip. It would be long enough though…
Dirty cloud obscured the rising sun, with just a small distant patch of orange beyond Great Mell Fell and some reflected colour to the west to betray the start of a new day. A cacophony of barking, baying and yelping accompanied the start of my climb above the kennels at Gategill, and I could still hear them some time later from hundreds of feet above. Continue reading “On My Tod”