Dont take this seriously….because i dont !!

Long distance walks

Adjusting to a new pace of life – Cleveland Way Day 1

So things have changed a lot in the last 12 months meaning my time has now become more precious than ever. No more can I just decide to disappear for a week into the hills, a promotion to the big league at work means I now need to plan my personal time well in advance to make sure I don’t leave this hobby of mine behind for the rat race.

With this in mind I have devised a cunning plan that will let me hike the Cleveland Way in 4 days and still have time to chill with my little clan at the same time. With my base set at Osmotherly camp site in our glorious new caravan I intend to break the walk into 4 very long days over and fit it around family time on selected weekends. It kind of goes against my goal of through hiking all of the national trails but a compromise had to be made. I will still carry my full kit which some might think is a little perverse considering I wont be using my tent but it makes me feel like i have tried to stick to my original ideals even with the new format.

So Day 1, back end of May I set of from Helmsley at 7am knowing I had to cover 30miles or so to get to my destination in Carlton to meet with the family. I thought I would be more or less walking alone and I was for the first section of the walk which takes you up to the top of Sutton Bank, weather was good and I was moving fast after a long lay off. I think I reached Sutton bank at 9am and there was a huge charity walk heading off along the national trail. They had an hours head start on me and they numbered about 100. I have walked this section of the trail many times so i decided to sack the usual photo/relax points and just plough through the trail.

The weather took a really bad turn for the worst at abut 11am and it turned really windy with rain lashing in constantly. By the time I reached osmotherly I was chilled to the bone. I popped in the Queen Catherine for a bowl of soup in front on the roaring log fire and warmed up for an hour. The walk between Osmotherly and Carlton is a lovely walk when the sun is out but I had no such luck with the weather and was soon back in the heavy cloud with rain whipping up the escarpment of the North York moors into my face. Sometimes hiking isn’t fun and this clearly wasn’t. By the time I reached Carlton bank I couldn’t even be bothered to stop and wait for my lift so I just jogged down into Carlton to meet Tom, Leanne and her family in the Black Bull Inn for dinner. They menu was Thai food, the beer was cold and I was happy that I’d battered in some 33 miles and managed to keep the rest of the clan happy at the same time.

Next up Carlton to Saltburn when my diary sees fit.

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Lyke Wake Walk

I’ve always wanted to do this walk since my dad hiked it for charity many years ago when I was just a wee lad. The walk itself is a 40mile slog starting in Osmotherly and ending in Ravenscar via a high moorland route across the North York Moors.

When Paddy rang me up to see if I fancied it my reply was “when”?, and so a plan was hatched and without a thought it was upon us. Now as you may of noticed I’ve been a little lapse with my blog for sometime, mainly due to the fact it’s hard to write an outdoor blog when your not actually doing anything in the outdoors. With my new job now going extremely well I can announce the return of the adventures of ukmase.

We used Cote Ghyll campsite in Osmotherly as our base and I brought along the Outwell Nevada tent for some luxury, it easily fit 3 people and 2 dogs. We hampered down for an early nights sleep but I was hardly slept thanks to Pepper being a little excitable.

We set off on the stroke of midnight in true dirging tradition and headed of into the dark, cold moors that lay before us. The first part of the walk follows the Cleveland way for some 12 miles, the ground underfoot is great but there is a lot of ascent involved. It was quite breezy on the escarpment of the NY moors but the sky was lit with a perfect array of stars.

After a quick hot brew stop near clay bank we were soon at Bloworth Crossing, from here we struck off into the heart of the moors following an old railway track. The mist rolled in the second we left Bloworth Crossing and it was the thickest mist I have ever seen, I was struggling to make out the puddles in the track, I must admit I was glad to have Paddy with me, manly because my head torch battery ran out and secondly because I would of been shitting myself if id been walking solo.

By the time we had reached the road which the lion inn sits on it was just getting light, however the mist was that thick we missed the lion Inn which was our meet up point with Gill and the chance to pick up some food. This was the low point of the walk, Pepper was hungry and I only had jelly babies to give her. Anyway we struck off out into the moors again with empty bellies.

The path now turned into ruin and we were soon splodging through bogs, I would recommend changing into wellies for this section. The going was really difficult and sapped a lot of my energy, at some point we crossed the North York Moors railway and Ella Beck just before our last check point for a very well deserved rest break and some hot soup. Pepper looked knackered and I covered her with my coat but she soon jumped up when we headed back out for the last stretch towards Ravenscar.

The last section seemed to take forever and we were moving quite fast, it was dark for the last 15 minutes of the walk and by the end i was pretty weary. It took 18 hours and a lot of hard graft on some of the sections. I swore never to do it again but I’m starting to think a few weeks on that a summer crossing would be nice and a lot quicker. Well done to Paddy and Pepper and thanks to Gill for supporting our crossing.

I did this walk in non waterproof innov8 trainers, no issues really but it did mean on some sections I had very cold and wet feet mainly due the continuous bogs which never gave my feet the chance to warm up and dry out but on the plus side I wasn’t having to lug big heavy boots for 40 miles.

Its good to be back in the thick of it.

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Hanging Stone Leap

I have been meaning to do this challenge walk for a while now so waking up with a hazy Peroni hangover at 6am I decided to get my arse in gear and head off out for a big hike.

The Hanging Stone Leap is a yearly challenge event and GPS details can be found here at this excellent site. I opted for the 24 mile option in keeping with where I want my hiking to progress to this year.

8:30 am saw me waved off by Leanne and Thomas, Pepper joined me again and we headed off in deep mist. The first part of the walk head’s out of Guisborough southwards and climbs up through the woods to Highcliff Nab a rocky outcrop with great views over Guisborough. Some heather moorland scenery took us all the way to Kildale, here is the splitting point of the two walks (9miles&24mile).

I headed South East through Baysdale and past the picturesque Hob hole. This is the first time I have headed this far into the NY moors and it offered a landscape of rolling heather moorland. I must set aside some time to explore the inner reaches of the moors instead of sticking to the escarpment. I had reached just over half way and I was getting hungry, setting off on a big hike without food is a mistake I wont be making again!!

Great Hograh Moor was particularly boggy and my Sealskin socks failed. I must remember to write-up a blog post slating this product. The converted homes at Baysdale Abbey made me slightly jealous of their superb location, maybe its time I called the estate agents. I was glad to pick the Cleveland Way back up as my iphone was down to 10% battery due to a lack of planning and the memory map application was my only means of navigation. I was soon back to Kildale and ready for the last leg of my journey.

The final part of the walk takes in 3 of the best areas to view the Tees Valley from Captains Cook monument, Hanging Stone and Roseberry Topping. However the latter was a final tester in the legs before the easy stroll back into Guisborough and the Rugby Club which marks the end of this great walk.

This is a great walk and has numerous aspects to keep you amused along the route. I was particularly impressed with Great Howgarth Moor. The terrain includes small country roads, forest tracks, National Trail and boggy heather stomping. It took me just less than 8 hours which was bang on my target of 3mph. Its nice feeling the strength building in my legs again and the after effects didn’t have me hobbling around the house.

Not many pictures due to forgetting to juice up the iphone.


Normal service resumed

Osmotherly to Roseberry Topping is my favourite section of the Cleveland Way, so it seemed the obvious choice to restart my hiking adventures after a slow Christmas period.

The high winds of the previous night had dropped so off I trotted with Pepper my trusty walking partner. We gained height out of Osmotherly and were soon hiking along the escarpment of the North York Moors.

Dropping down from Carlton bank i popped to my favourite cafe for a breakfast bun. Lord stones cafe is a great place to stop for refreshments, the cafe is built into a rocky outcrop and is well worth a visit.

The Wainstones on Hasty bank are a hot spot for climbers but today a sea king helicopter was using it to practice flying manoeuvres. Pepper had her own tricks to practice and I taught her two new commands and she managed to walk past several sheep without tearing off in a mad frenzy.

The hike into Kildale took it’s toll on my legs and feet, I started to feel tired after 20 miles but I knew I was lacking fitness after my long flu lay off.

A lot of people where enjoying themselves around Captain Cooks monument especially Pepper who found a few dog friends to chase about. By the time I reached The car park near Roseberry Topping I was ready to call it a day and I was glad when Leanne turned up to take me home.

It took me exactly 9hrs to hike 25 miles with numerous ascents and descents. 3mph average is a good start considering there was 4776ft ascent. I took 3 – 15 minute breaks and carried a light pack. I am aiming to train myself to be able to handle a National Trail with a a daily mileage of 25+ miles per day.

Kit wise the inov8 320s fit well into the faster/longer approach. The race pro 30 pack is great as a day pack, i am still wondering if its big enough for thru hiking. The last thing I want to do is get sucked into the realms of the gram counters.


Great Glen Way Day 5 – Drumnadrochit to Inverness 18 miles

 

We pooled all our food and made a hearty breakfast, Paddy had the thankless task of raising Gill from her pit. I decided to head it Drumnadrochit and track down Nessie. A local shop owner told me to try the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre and I have got to say it was really interesting, plenty of actual facts disproving the myth rather than pandering on a legend. However escaping the gift shop was another story all together.

Paddy & Gill hooked up with me after the Nessie visit but I decided to push onto Inverness alone as I wanted a bit of solitude and to really motor along the track. The guys didn’t take offence, they have been hiking with me long enough now to understand I need my own space every now and again.

The hike out of Drumnadrochit was a slog uphill through a pine forest, which then turned into open moorland with great views of the surrounding areas. This is without doubt the best part of the whole Great Glen Way and even the Old Drovers road was good underfoot. I reached the outskirts of Inverness around 5pm and finished my walk at Inverness Castle at 6pm. Inverness was just starting to get lit up for the night so i waited in a real ale house and ate Haggis for the first time.

Paddy & Gill joined me at 8pm and we celebrated the end of another long distance trail before heading back to the hostel. Mental note – never let Gill book a hostel ever again. I got stalked by a homeless bag lady and it looked  like a homicide had taken place on my bunk bed the previous night. The Highlander Hostel gets 1/10 for me.

Final thoughts on the Great Glen Way

  • Its a perfect winter long distance trail and even the harshest weather would struggle to hanper your efforts
  • The last section to Inverness is without doubt the best days for hiking.
  • Take your time to explore Inverness, Fort Augustus and Drumnadroichit.
  • Morags Lodge in Fort Augustus is a really great hostel to stay in.
  • 4-5 days is the best option for a crossing, although i might try a 2 day attempt nextyear.

Hope you enjoyed my little report, now what shall i do next, any ideas ?

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Great Glen Way Day 4 –Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit 14 miles

A great night’s sleep in the hobbit village meant I couldn’t wait to get started and a crisp morning’s frost was the first I had seen for a while. Invermoriston’s local post office provided me with breakfast and we spent some time chatting to the owner of the Clog & Craft shop. The falls of Moriston and the old Telord Bridge were the main points of interest in this sleepy little village.

 Today’s hike actually involved some ascent, a huge 1970ft, please ignore my sarcasm here, but the Great Glen Way is as flat as a pancake.  It did mean though that we enjoyed the best views of the trip so far and we actually bumped into a few fellow hikers who were hiking the full trail but in the opposite direction.

We took our time today and enjoyed the views, we even stopped for a hot soup break at lunchtime and basically chillaxed. Some days it’s just nice to swanker along the trail without a care in the world leaving all your troubles behind you. By the time we reached Borlum Farm Caravan Park it was just starting to get dark. We pitched up and made a hearty meal before heading into town.

 The Loch Ness Inn provided us with a few pints and the Poachers Inn was our last stop before heading home. Unfortunately Gill in the space on 15 minutes became inebriated and it took a huge amount of effort and patience to get her back to the campsite in one piece. The last two photos tell there own story. Gill has now been demoted to the B-team of drinkers whose ranks include lightweight Larry, Shirley Shandy and Peter Pissedabed.


Great Glen Way Day 3 – Fort Augustus to Invermoriston 8 miles

A well planned short day meant even the worst hangover would struggle to knock us off course with our schedule for hiking. As it turned out a few headache tablets and a shower were enough to shake off the previous nights excesses. Morag’s Lodge is well worth a look for hikers, one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in.

Today’s hike was pathetic in distance terms and we laughed at the thought of people tracking us on the social hiking web site. The walk itself followed Loch Ness although we rarely had a good view because of the conifer forest blocking our view.

After the gruelling slog (hangs his head in shame at the distance) we reached am excellent Loch Ness Holiday Park that had a new addition to its accommodation that we took an instant like to – Hobbit Village. The Hobbits are little log structures and offer a fridge and kettle and enough space to sleep four comfortably on built-in-beds. Each lodge is named after a character from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, ours was named Shelob though thankfully it was free from spiders.

I spent the evening learning to fish on the Loch but only managed to catch a rock, still it was a great way to finish the day.

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Great Glen Way – Day 2 Gairlochy to Fort Augustus 23 miles

I woke about 6am quite chilly and decided to get up and about rather than dwell in my tent. I made brews for everyone to kick start the day. After breakfast we packed up and headed out back onto the trail for what would be our longest day of walking on the whole trip.

The day started by walking along the banks of Loch Lochy to still winds and open skies. Just past Clunes we stumbled upon a quite magical area of woodland called The Fairy footpath that had been created by local school children over the last 3-4 years. We spent about an hour wandering around the grottos and displays made by the children, the troll prison was my favourite display. The footpath is just off the actual national trail but you can easily spot it if you keep your eyes open for the huge red spotted mushroom.

Laggan was the next stop and the Loch was perfectly still as we worked our way along the Great Glen. Laggan lochs is the berthing spot of a special pub / riverboat called ‘The Inn on the Water’, rotten luck meant it was closed on the day we passed. Just a mile further along the trail is an outdoor centre which we stopped at for a swift pint to break the day up.

We still had 9 miles to go and time was getting on, my best attempts to hire a boat to take us to Fort Augustus hade failed miserably so we pushed on along Loch Oich which is the smallest of the three lochs. Loch Oich provided a quite stunning sunset backdrop to the end of our day, looking back at the pictures I took it was a quite magical time.

When we reached Fort Augustus the chippy was just closing but we managed to refuel before heading to Morags Lodge. This hostel is a very lively place and perfect for some Saturday night revelry. Quiz nightstarted with a test of strength for one member of each team, holding a pint of water above your head for as long as possible. I saw off the competition from the fellas but an Australian girl had the beating of me, I wonder if she worked the land back in Oz because she had biceps to tame a crocodile. I introduced Paddy and Gill to a favourite drink of mine Distaronno and by the time I headed back to my room I was well quite merry to say the least. I awoke the next day with a space hopper beside my bed and no recollection of how it got there.

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Great Glen Way – Day 1 Fort William to Gairlochy 11miles

Two late trains meant I arrived at Glasgow queen street with a whisker to spare. Paddy and gill joined me for the final leg up to Fort William but the cloud spoiled what should of been a very picturesque train journey.

We arrived in Fort William at 16:00 and the rain was lashing down, waterproofs on, buddy beacon set and we hit the trail. The walk out of town was uneventful except for a great view over the loch.

The area of Caol provided is with sustenance in the form of sausage and chips. Back onto the trail and darkness closed in as we wandered past neptunes staircase which is a series of eight canal lochs at Banavie.

If I had night vision I would describe the broad gravel track that flanks the Caledonian canal on the way to Gairlochy, however I skipped eating carrots at school and have paid for it ever since.

We reached Gairlochy caravan park about 20:40 and pitched up, hot chocolate and brandy capped off the days events.

Reading the twitter messages before bed made me laugh nearly as much as Paddy thinking his new toy is faulty. Hehe never leave your neo-air unattended , some tricky man might let some air out.

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Great Glen Way – LIVE

On the 22/10/10 I will be setting out on the 73 miles long-distance route from Fort William to Inverness that is the Great Glen Way.

I will be attempting for the first time a new concept in blogging which will allow you  to share my progress live on a map with embedded tweets, photos, blog posts and audio clips.

This has been made possible with a great new site http://new.socialhiking.org.uk/ who have developed the idea into its current form.

You can check my progress out by clicking on the link below – if you have a twitter account you can join in by leaving replies to my tweets @ukmase

http://new.socialhiking.org.uk/maps/os/ukmase/Great-Glen-Way/500