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Head of Langdale

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A few months away from the hills was needed to make a big push with my new job. But I couldn’t wait any longer so I set off for Langdale on Friday with my trusty walking partner Pepper laid on the backseat of the motor.

Friday night was spent in the ODG, the Cumberland sausage was a real let down and I don’t understand why they changed the old recipe. On Saturday I woke early, cooked breakfast and packed my gear into the car. We set off around 8:30am and the clouds were covering a view of the tops. The pull up to Pike of Blisco showed my lack of mountain legs and we were treated to a cloud inversion of sorts at the summit. Unfortunately that was the last view I would see until I was back in langdale valley.

Cold Pike didn’t cause any problems but navigation across the top of Crinkle Craggs was a nightmare, even so Pepper did rather well for a dog and quickly picked up the art of scrambling. Bow Fell was next and I must return here to tackle this in full winter conditions. Esk Pike was next and Angel Tarn looks like a top place for a wild camp. Pepper got thrown in the tarn after she decided to roll about in a pile of mud, lessons were earned by the young pup.

One more Wainwright completed the days bagging and it was quick stroll up Rossett Pike. By the time I reached the valley the sun was out and I took a quick video to capture the setting.

Legs are aching now which means one thing, I need to get my arse in gear with training for the Welsh 3000 challenge in July.

Danby – The Moors Centre

Thomas cutting loose


We headed to Danby in the heart of the North York Moors to check out the Moorland Outdoor Centre. The weather was hardly great but we picked up a Moorland quiz for 50p – excellent value when it makes a day trip into an adventure for a 6 year old.

After completing the quiz we took a stroll over to the remains of Danby Castle about 30 minutes walk away. There was plenty of mud to splodge about in, shame the castle was shut though.

The moorland centre itself has plenty to keep children happy and Thomas loved the indoor climbing wall for under 8’s. A bit on hang time later and we headed to The Jolly Sailor for a pub lunch with lovely home cooked chips. Good day out despite the dismal weather.

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.

How not to hike a National Trail

My first ever attempt at a National Trail was back in July 2008. I hiked for three days along the Cleveland Way and reached the coast before quiting because of a foot injury. I learned plenty of lessons from this trip although i came close to quitting hiking altogether after my failure to complete the trail.

I wont bore you with too much detail but here are a few areas i got totally wrong, hopefully other people thinking of doing a National Trail can learn from my mistakes.

Pack weight

I carried far too much weight and although i had no problem carrying the pack, the weight eventually caused a foot injury. The 70 litre pack I usedwas full to brim.

  • FOOD  This accounted for most of my weight. I  had opted to take army ration packs which are extremely heavy compared to a say a wayfarers meal, but carrying 5 days worth of food was stupid, I could have easily bought food on the trail each day. Planning  your restocking points is vital when thru hiking.
  • WATER Each day I would fill up my 3 litre platypus with water which seems like madness now, a bit of planning each day on refill points would have saved me lugging an extra 2 litres of water.
  • CLOTHING Carrying 3 changes of clothes is a luxury hikers cannot afford.
  • EQUIPMENT –  My 2-3 man tent was twice the weight of a solo tent. Down sleeping bags are half the weight of the cheap bulky synthetic bag I carried.
  • 

Planning

Dont under-estimate the effects a thru hike can have on your body if you are not prepared.

  • TRAINING – I thought I could just turn up on the day and get straight into hiking, 20+ miles per day. If you are going to do high mileage you need to train and the only way to do this is by putting miles on your feet.
  • MILEAGE –  Unless you have trained to walk long distances I would not recommend hiking over 15 miles in a day. Think about adding a rest day to play with and keep it in the bank just in case you need it.
  • RESTOCKING Plan where you need to stop to restock supplies you could also think about sending a parcel ahead to pick up on route.
  • NO YOUR LIMITS And stick to them, you’re not going to get any extra recognition for hiking a trail in 5 days when your body can handle it in 7. If you want to push yourself do some extra training preparation.
  • WHICH TRAIL Dont go for a big hike for your first National Trail try something shorter like the Wolds Way or the Hadrian’s Wall.

I hope you found these tips handy, they will be second nature to experienced hikers but I hope they find their way to a beginner who may find them useful.

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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.

FC Hikers 2nd Birthday

Time flies past and already its the 2nd anniversary of the FC Hikers. Its been quite a busy year for the guys and gals of Team FC which included several meet ups, a team of 4 completing the TGO Challenge , 5 National Trails being knocked off and many other mini adventures.

Quite a few people ask me about the name, Fight Club Hikers, it sounds like we are a crazy bunch of mentalists who battle it out on the hills of the UK. But the name itself came about as a wind up on the LFTO forum. The name goes against the kind of mundane stereotyping of folk who enjoy the outdoors, heck nothing winds we up more than the old adage of ramblers with wooly hats and flasks of tea.

Anyway a few people thought we were trolls stirring up trouble on an internet forum and hatched a plot the would see us all barred for the forum. To be fair we did play a few wind ups on that forum but it was all harmless and always in good humour. Mind you at the time if you dared to share a differing opinion from the all-wise and powerful Trail magazine team you were instantly labelled a trouble maker and we actually ended being barred  from the LFTO forum. We took a lot of shit from others but it kind of bonded our friendships and actually motivated us to get out there and let our feet do the talking instead of sitting around glued to our PC’s arguing about whose got the best tent or which waterproof is the best.

Were not a secret club more a group of mates who enjoy getting out into the hills and having a good drink afterwards. We don’t take ourselves seriously and always try to have a laugh along the way. We bounce ideas off each other and more than often then lead to little adventures in the outdoors. That’s it really – FC Hikers, take us or leave us.

ANYWAY less of the history and more of the present. We met up at the Lakes over the weekend for our 2nd anniversary bash (any excuse to hit a pub). In attendance were Titanium Dude, Buzzingirly, Peter Crawford, Wibble69, Darksy, Pieman, Der Alte plus the 3 dogs Woodstock, Millie and Pepper.

The Swirral camping barn was our base camp for the weekend and we started to arrive at 3pm on the Friday and the beers were flowing by the time Paddy and Gill turned up at 8pm. It was good to see Darksy again who I met on my first ever forray into the hills about 4 years ago.  Wibble arrived in style by getting his car stuck in a ditch, it took a few recruits from the Travellers Rest pub to free it. Pieman turned up clutching a box of red wine which made him an instant hit with Gill. We spent a cold night in the barn plotting our route and basically sharing banter into the small hours of the morning.

Waking up we were greeted to a snow-covered lakeland, brews and breakfast was consumed and we headed into the hills wrapped up well in winter gear. The walk itself took us up to Sticks Pass, Stybarrow Dodd ,Raise, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywagon Pike and back to The Travllers Rest pub via Grisedale. Darksy took an alternative route via Swirral edge. It was a prefect day for winter lakeland walking and we were treat to some amazing scenery from the uppermost slopes.

After the walk we headed into the Travellers Rest pub and spent the night filling ourselves with ale and fine food, Der Alte turned up after making a perilous journey from down South. Plans were hatched for new adventures and last orders were soon being called. We trudged back to the barn and I drifted off to sleep to sounds of others snoring.

Hope you enjoy the pictures.

A report on Piemans blog http://northernpies.blogspot.com/2010/11/helvellyn-weekend-with-fight-club.html

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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