Goodbye 2017.

In some ways we are very much into the New Year now. Back to work and back to school for everyone, although I still feel in something of a period of transition. I’m still eating Christmas chocolate for starters.  But January is definitely here with the gym adverts, diet programmes and good intentions all round.   I’d say this means it is time to get back to the running but I did a lot of running over the Christmas holidays. 47 miles during my 10 days off work which for me is a lot of running. I’m feeling comparatively lazy now that the new year is here and life has returned to the normal routines.

Before I write about my plans, or should that be lack of plans for this year, I want to stop and reflect on 2017. For all of it’s faults and my problems, it was a good year for life and running.

I ran 732.5 miles in 2017 with 79,334 ft elevation gain. I’m very happy with that elevation gain. I didn’t realise until I checked the stats from last year but I did 100 more miles this year compared to 2016.  I’m never going to set myself a target number of miles for the year because injury and illness get in the way.  Considering I’ve had both injury and illness in 2017 those numbers make me very proud.

Here are some of my highlights:

  • Bought a house and moved to the most amazing part of Yorkshire which happens to be dream trail and fell running country.
  • Running my first Wainwright, Place Fell during a camping trip to Glenridding.
  • Finished the Snowdonia Marathon in just over 5 hours despite thinking I wouldn’t even make it to the start line.
  • Made new running friends and had some excellent adventures. 2017 was the year of post race pub shenanigans, good run chats and car shares to further away races.
  • Trip to Mull and actual views from the top of a Munro!
  • Survived my first multi-day event, completing all 4 Tour of Tameside events. I came 8th out of 23 finishers in my age category which isn’t that impressive but it means a lot to me as I gave those races every last bit of energy I had.

 

 

A Long Weekend in the Lake District

For my Dad’s 60th birthday at the end of September he decided he wanted a week away in the Lake District, and we were invited to join my parents for a long weekend in Windermere.

This trip is a great example of how accessible the Lake District is by public transport, especially if staying in Windermere itself. We set off from Huddersfield on the train at 4.30 in the afternoon and arrived in Windermere just before 7, changing trains twice along the way.  Advanced purchase tickets and a two together rail card made it cheap as well.

Old Man of Coniston

On the Saturday we decided on a family walk up the Old Man of Coniston. Well my Mum decided and I’m not sure everyone realised how big a walk it was going to be. As we were with the family we drove to Coniston for this walk. Whilst I love exploring the Lakes by public transport, and Coniston is completely accessible by bus, it was quite nice going in a car. It was little strange though, I’ve never been in a car in the Lakes before. It was certainly nice at the end of the day not to have to wait at a bus stop!

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The walk was wonderful and we were VERY lucky with the weather.  Steep in places and tough on the legs. Not much peril, with no exposed edges or scrambling but it wouldn’t be a mountain walk for me if there weren’t a couple of moments of mild panic and fear.  The views were stunning from the top.

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Walking up a mountain with the whole family was a very different experience for me. For starters there was a little picnic at the top. My Mum even made sandwiches! My brother brought a selfie stick so there was also a family portrait. Usually my mountain walks don’t include much time for hanging about at the top. As we were with my parents the pace was gentle and we took plenty of rest stops. I definitely want to do more family walks as it provided the perfect opportunity to spend time together away from the chaos and distractions of everyday life.

Missing the Mountains

There is currently a serious lack of mountain adventures in my life.

It is June already and I’ve hardly been on any trips away – only the big trip to Mull in March where I climbed Ben More – and I’m definitely missing the mountains

Various things have got in the way of trips away this year. My significant person started a new job so hasn’t been able to take as much time off, my job has become super stressful and busy so it is more difficult to take time off at the last minute (crucial if you want to do stuff when the weather is nice, rather than booking time off well in advance and keeping your fingers crossed!). Plus we are trying to move house which has meant not wanting to go away in order to deal with viewings, estate agents, solictiors and all that stress.

The tent is still to get an outing this year which was not the intention when we upgraded to bigger, better tent last year. So the second half of the year had better feature plenty of camping trips! Even if we have to just go off into the Yorkshire Dales after work one night.

There is nothing worse than knowing you have to go to work on a beautiful sunny day, when wanting to be out in the mountains, but new houses don’t pay for themselves. Fingers crossed for a good window of weather and chance for time off work – at the same time. Definitely do not want to waste all my annual leave on rainy days.

For now I’ll just have to look at all the photos from last year…

 

 

Ben More: An Island Monro

Despite the doctor advising I get plenty of rest rather than exercise, I couldn’t ignore the chance to bag my first island Monro during our holiday to the Isle of Mull last month.

I caught my first glimpse of Ben More on the bus journey from Craignure to Tobermory the day before, after arriving by ferry from Oban. The previous couple of days had seen the arrival of fresh snow, and on our journey up north through the Lake District everywhere was looking very white. Ben More was also still sporting the snow covered look.

Thursday morning we set off to drive to Ben More, spotting a couple of happy otters on the way.  We climbed from Dhisig going by the relatively straightfoward up and down route. The weather was glorious. Such a contrast to my usual mountain experiences.

I was fearful of the bog factor on this walk however the ground was generally good at the start of the walk. I suspect it would be very squelchy  after endless days of rain.

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Intrepid stream crosser in action!

The going was steep however once past the boggy lower slopes, the path was a good rocky path. The only issue was snow and ice leading to deviations from the path, however we managed to weave our way upwards without trouble.  I struggled with the conditions in places. My experience on snow and ice is very limited, so combined with the relentless steep climbing, it was a challenging walk.

After what felt like many hours, we made it to the sumit ridge, and then on through thick fresh snow to the top. Stunning views made it all worth it, although I always struggle to fully enjoy the top of a mountain when I’m feeling anxious about getting back down again.  It was amazing being able to see out across to lots of islands in one direction and then over to the bigger mainlaind mountains in the other.

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Getting to enjoy stunning views from the top of a mountain

Getting back down was fine. A couple moments of shuffling on my bottom were required to navigate particularly icy sections but as always I need not have worried so much about how I would get down.  I’m always better coming down than going up mountains!

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Looking back on Ben More.

Kinder Scout

We had snow at the end of last week. Not much, and not really proper snow. It was wet snow that quickly turned into horrible slushy ice. So running wasn’t going to happen on Friday or Saturday. Instead we decided to take the train out to the Peak District and walk up Kinder Scout. We got a train from Manchester to New Mills and then walked to Hayfield to start the proper walk. The snow out in the Peak District did not disappoint.

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Winter conditions in the Peak District

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Approaching Kinder

I underestimated the challenge of actually climbing Kinder in winter conditions. We wanted a short walk so ascended via Kinderlow End. Which is actually quite steep, and a challenge when the path is covered in snow and ice. I will admit to getting into a panic and not believing I could get up the steep ice-covered rock steps. A lovely man on his way down gave me some words of encouragement and I made it to the top. The views were definitely worth the momentary tears.

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It was bitterly cold but I had worn enough layers to keep the worst of the wind chill effect at bay. The only regret was bringing the wrong gloves. I had a glove mishap on the Friday night and accidentally left one outside in the snow all night. So in a panic before leaving the house of Saturday, I grabbed the first gloves I could find. Turns out my running gloves are no match for the freezing temperatures of Kinder in January.

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The snow on Kinder was proper deep snow. Despite my lack of confidence with my winter skills, snowy Kinder is my favourite Kinder. Snow and frozen ground means you can happily march along without fear of getting trapped in a peat bog.

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Making my way through the snow drifts

We descended down a much nicer route, and followed the bridle path back to Hayfield. The walk was only 7.5 miles (plus 3 from New Mills to Hayfield) but I felt I had definitely earned a pint and pub food.

Ben Lomond: My First Munro

Last week we went on a city break to Glasgow. But it’s not a holiday for us if there isn’t a mountain involved, and whilst in Glasgow it seemed a good opportunity to do my first Munro.

We don’t have a car but thankfully Ben Lomond is accessible by public transport, as long as you visit between March and October when the Cruise Loch Lomond water bus is operating. The alarm was set for 5.50am.

Coach at 6.50 although we were delayed leaving due to the closure of the A82. Thankfully the bus diversion didn’t impact us as we were travelling to Tarbet, which is where the road was closed from. We made it to the water bus with lots of time and that was also running late, but the crossing over to Rowardennan didn’t take long.

 

When we set off the weather was lovely however that soon changed! We had been debating whether to do the walk on the Thursday or the Friday. We opted for Friday as the weather forecast sounded promising however it wasn’t to be. We took the main path which is a good well made path, with only a couple of extremely muddy sections near the start. I always find the steep uphill climbing tough, and this was no exception, with my tight calf muscle feeling like it would snap at any moment.

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On the way up!

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Another summit without a view!

The weather turned and suddenly we were battling through cloud, rain and wind. It was freezing and we stupidly didn’t put our waterproof trousers on. Once we reached the top I was starting to get very cold and shaky, so on went the waterproof trousers and I felt so much better. I thought there wouldn’t be much point in putting waterproofs on once soaked through but it’s amazing how quickly soaked trousers dry out once waterproofs are on over the top.

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The clouds are clearing

The cloud started to clear on the way back down, revealing stunning views of the landscape, however it was too late to return to the top. If we hadn’t had a boat to catch I would have turned around and walked back up again.

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The top of Ben Lomond finally shows itself on the journey home

One day I’ll get some dramatic views from the top of a mountain.

Backpacking Adventures in the Lakes: Buttermere to Braithwaite

A new tent and a promising weather forecast meant a quick break to the Lake District was required at the start of last week.

To make the most out of a short trip, some backpacking was required, which is not my favourite way to do things but worth it to get a big walk done. No luxury of a car here!

Day One

Day one was mainly travelling. Left work at lunchtime, and after a couple of trains and buses, we were at the campsite at Buttermere by 5.  Tent up and then a quick stroll up Rannerdale Knotts before a massive dinner at the wonderful Fish Inn.  Rannerdale Knotts was hard work, my legs felt very tight and tired, which did not leave me feeling overly postive about the next mornings big walk. An enjoyable little walk though, with a bit of scrambling practice too.

Day Two

After a light camping breakfast of bananas and my homemade flapjacks, we packed up the tent, and set off around 9am. The aim was to be in Keswick before 4 in time for some food before the bus at 6pm.

Our route from Buttermere took in Whiteless Pike, Wandope, Eel Crag (Crag Hill) and Grisedale Pike.

The start of the walk was tough with the large heavy rucksack. A lovely walk but very steep and I was glad to have my walking pole. The heat was already quite intense even at 10am.  The views were wonderful though. It was time for a well earned sit down to enjoy a second breakfast of more flapjacks and an apple.

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Whiteless Pike

Next was Wandope, and then a pleasant stroll to the top of Eel Crag. The views were stunning. I couldn’t believe the beautiful weather.

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View from Eel Crag

The descent from Eel Crag was where it all went a bit wrong. Instead of taking the longer but nicer route down we went down the steep scree covered face to Coledale Hause. It started off ok but then turned into scree hell. I can see why Wainwright doesn’t really mention this route, and some Googling on my return has revealed very few mentions of this route online either.  I was genuinely scared, kept falling over and took a very long time to get down the steep slope.  In the end I took my rucksack off and dragged it down because it was making me feel far too unbalanced. I didn’t take any photos of this route down as I was concentrating all my energies on staying on my feet.

The descent from Eel Crag survived there was just Grisedale Pike to climb. By this point I was exhausted, overheated and a bit grumpy. Grisedale Pike was wonderful though. Although Keswick still seemed a long way away. And it was! The walk down from Grisdale Pike to Braithwaite just went on and on and on…

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View from Grisedale Pike

By the time I got back to Keswick I was very pleased to not have to carry my rucksack up anymore hills!

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That rucksack

 

Snowdon

My second of the three peaks was Snowdon, following Scafell Pike back in May. I did Snowdon in early June, ages ago now, so this is a shamefully late write up. Snowdon has been a cursed dream for me. I’ve had many a family holiday to North Wales (growing up with Snowdonia as our closest and easiest to get to National Park) however hadn’t made it up Snowdon. Usually trips have been sidelined by the weather.

Well the weather wasn’t going to stop me this time.

Our base for the trip was Caernarfon which is perfectly located for Snowdonia adventures with the bonus of affordable accomodation and a couple of great pubs. It is also well connected to Snowdonia by public transport, essential to my trips as I can’t drive. The original plan was to go up Snowdon via the Rangers Path and back down the Llanberis however things didn’t go to plan.

We woke up to a grey, wet and thoroughly miserable day. The Sherpa bus which goes via the Rangers Path would have meant waiting around town with nothing to do in the rain, so we decided to do the Llanberis path instead, simply because the bus times were better. My thinking was that it really wouldn’t matter which path we took if the weather stayed disgusting.

So to Llanberis on the 88 bus and then up Snowdon we marched.  The weather could have been worse but it wasn’t particularly pleasant so we powered our way up to the summit.

I found the Llanberis path to be was a nice easy walk, steep in places but a decent pace was maintained. (*disclaimer here to say it is still a dangerous mountain and people should be prepared for the worst even when following a well made path!!). In fact I started to wish I was in my running gear rather than my walking gear. Then I probably could have attempted to run bits of it.

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I very much enjoyed watching all the trains going up and down the mountain. What a marvellous piece of engineering that is, although it has it’s downsides.  I wasn’t impressed with having to queue up to climb the final bit to the summit, with all the people who had just popped up on the train.

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At the top we couldn’t see a thing and it felt like a luxury to have a sit down indoors and use a toilet.  A luxury but also the most bizzare mountain experience. Mountains should not have burger bars, gift shops and toilets at the top of them. I now have a little more understanding of how Bill Bryson felt when doing his Appalachian Trail walks (as written about in Walk in the Woods), where he keeps finding car parks and gift shops up mountains that he has broken himself walking up.

I’ll definitely be back to tackle some of the more interesting and challenging routes up Snowdon.

Backpacking Scafell Pike: A Story of Smashed Sunglasses and Shattered Confidence

Last month, on a Friday in May, I climbed Scafell Pike for the first time. Not only that but it was my first time backpacking up and over a mountain then camping for the night.

We chose to take the Borrowdale route from Seathwaite for the ascent followed by a descent to Wasdale. Camping at Wasdale without a car was always going to require a walk to get there so why not tackle England’s highest mountain.

It started out as a beautiful day. We began the walk at around midday, after an early train up from Manchester to Penrith, breakfast at Morrisons, a bus to Keswick and then the open top bus to Seatoller. From Seatoller it is just a short stroll down a lane to Seathwaite and the start of the walk. An easily doable public transport route to Scafell Pike as long as all the connections go to plan.

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A beautiful start to the ascent from Seathwaite

The initial climb was steep and tough, especially in the midday sunshine, and whilst carrying a large heavy bag. Despite it being a sunshine filled Friday the route was quiet. The only other people encountered were small groups of Three Peak Challenge climbers who were zooming up and down without pause to take in the surroundings.  We didn’t need to rush like the Three Peaks crowd, although getting to the campsite in good time was an aim for the day, there was time to stop and sit for a while. We took a break upon nearing Esk Hause to eat pork pies and fruit, and admire the stunning scenery.

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Taking a break to admire the views

A lot of the route it is on easy to follow paths, with only the final stages involving more tricky terrain. The large boulderfield at Ill Cragg was a test of my abilities, again thanks to feeling unbalanced with the addition of the rucksack.

Having made it over the boulders, I then tripped over a rock on a lovely grass covered easy part of the walk. It was one of those slow motion, head over heels falls. If I hadn’t been carrying a bulky heavy rucksack I probably would have stayed on my feet but the weight of the bag pulled me forwards. I landed on my face but thankfully I was wearing sunglasses which took the force and broke my fall. Smashed sunglasses and a grazed slightly bruised face were the extent of the damage, it could have been a lot worse. I was able to carry on although feeling wobbly from the shock of the experience. Chocolate covered kendal mint cake to the rescue! Falling over definitely left a dent in my mountain walking confidence. Every move was a careful one from that point onwards.

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Struggling onwards with the giant rucksack

The final scree covered slope on the final approach to Scafell Pike wasn’t much fun either but with the help of my walking stick I made it up. It was quiet on the summit. Only us and a Three Peaks marshall. I’m told this is unusual so it seems I enjoyed a rare moment of quiet on Scafell Pike. Although the weather was much nicer the next day I was glad not to be heading up with the huge crowds setting off from Wasdale.

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View from the roof of England

The descent down from the summit to Wasdale was a long and painful one. By this point in the day my legs were tired and everything was aching, again the massive rucksack was not helping. The path down was straightforward and easy to follow however it felt like it would never end. The weather had turned grey and gloomy, so I was very happy when we finally reached the campsite, although the weather didn’t allow for a lazy evening sitting outside the tent. However an enjoyable evening was had in the Wasdale Head Inn, eating lots of delicious food with a couple of pints of great ale.

Since this walk I’ve purchased a new better fitting rucksack for big trips. I definitely don’t recommend attempt to backpack over a very big mountain with something bought online over a decade ago to go to a music festival. Lesson learnt there.

Next time I’ll write about Day Two of the Wasdale backpacking trip, involving a walk from Wasdale to Boot, a steam train and more pubs.