Thursday, 1 January 2015

Walking Review 2014

Well it is fair to say that 2014 was another wonderful year of walking. The short Boxing Day walk around Swinsty Reservoir just nudged me over 500 miles for the year, spread over 68 walks. Although it was not a year in which I tackled lots of big hills I still managed to clock up almost 82,000 feet of ascent, the equivalent of climbing Everest almost three times from sea level!!

On Numberstones End enjoying one of my favourite views of 2014.
2014 was a milestone for me personally as it saw me celebrate my 10th anniversary of hill walking. To mark the occasion my friend Matt and I relived our first walk taking in Gordale and Malham Cove. Unfortunately there was too much water to risk scrambling up the waterfall on Gordale Scar but we still had a great time reminiscing about our early days walking together. Shame we don't get to do that very often anymore.
Reliving my first walk around Gordale and Malham
 Back in 2004 virtually all my walking activity was restricted to the Yorkshire Dales. While it is still one of my favourite destinations for a walk, these days I do like to mix things up. In addition to covering nearly all the upland regions of northern England in 2014 I also got my first taste of walking in the Shropshire Hills. Based for a week in Church Stretton I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the Long Mynd, the Stiperstones, Caer Caradoc and the Clee Hills. Definitely somewhere I'd like to go back to in the future.

The Stiperstones, one of the highlights of my visit to Shropshire

The main reason for visiting the Shropshire Hills was to bag the five Deweys (hills over 500m) in the area. Indeed, having completed all of the Wainwrights and all of the English Hewitts and Nuttalls (with the exception of a couple on Dartmoor), ticking off my list of Deweys was the main focus of my hill bagging activities in 2014. During the course of the year I completed all the Deweys in the Peak District and the North Pennines, managed another seven in the Cheviots and several more in the Lake District. With just seven left to do now in the north of England at some point I'm going to have to drag the family down to Devon for a couple of weeks, so that I can make some inroads into the Deweys on Dartmoor and also finally complete the Hewitts as well.
On the top of Shill Moor, one of seven Deweys in the Cheviots I bagged in 2014
2014 also saw, after months of hard work, an upgrade to my My Pennines website. A host of additional features were added including route maps and many more photos. The changes seem to have gone down well and in April I achieved the highest number of visits to the site in a single month with 7,922. Strangely the most popular landing page continues to be a walk I did on Winter Hill back in 2010. I do find it interesting to see what my website ranks for on Google. Perhaps the most bizarre is a photo of me and Matt on Great Pinseat taken back in 2005 which ranks as one of the top Google images for the search term 'thigh slapping'!!!

Bizarrely this photo of me and my friend, taken in 2005, ranks highly in Google search for 'thigh slapping'!
Weather-wise I can't have too many complaints despite my long standing frustration with the accuracy of weather forecasts. Although the Met Office still got it wrong on more than a few occasions in truth I cannot recall many times when a summit view was obscured by hill fog. Nor did I get wet that often - a notable occasion being an absolute drenching during a thunder storm on Haystacks. The weather was rarely that dramatic, one other occasion that is still fresh in the mind is the sideways snow while walking across Gilmonby Moor.

On Fleetwith Pike with my nephew Liam not long before encountering a thunder storm on Haystacks.
By far the longest walk of the year and the most challenging one I've done for some time was the inaugural Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge walk. Mainly to protect my knees I've generally avoided these kind of walks but I wanted to help raise money for what is effectively my local mountain rescue team. Taking part in a mass organised event was also something of a departure for me. I managed the 22 miles in 7 hours 36 minutes which I was really pleased with especially considering I'd hurt my knee a fortnight before and just ten days before the walk I was still having problems walking up and down the stairs. I may well have a crack at a few more challenge walks in 2015.

The summit of Great Whernside, the third final summit on the Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge Walk
As it always does at this time of year I not only reflect on what I've achieved over the last 12 months but look forward with anticipation to what I hope to do in the next year. I do love a list and I've already got an idea of about 50-odd walks that I'm aiming to do in 2015. These include revisiting Darnbrook Fell and Yockenthwaite Moor so that I can complete my second round of 2,000fters in the Dales. Elsewhere in the Dales I plan on doing a lot more walks in Wensleydale after a wonderful walk up on to Ellerkin Scar in December. I'm also hoping to do a fair few more walks in the North Pennines as well as making my way down to the Peak District to finally visit Kinder Downfall.

After a superb walk on to Ellerkin Scar in December I hope to visit Wensleydale again in 2015.
Finally, after a great deal of agonising, are my favourite walks, views and walking moments of 2014...

Top 5 Walks of 2014:

Click on the links to read the full walk reports.

  1. Calders and The Calf (Howgill Fells)
  2. The Cleveland Hills (North York Moors)
  3. Dale Head to High Snockrigg (Lake District)
  4. Stiperstones (Shropshire Hills)
  5. Ellerkin Scar and Mill Gill Force (Yorkshire Dales)
Honourable mentions go to Musgrave Scar, Long Mynd, Rosedale Head, Rylstone Edge, Carter Fell, Ingleborough, Ilkley Moor and a lovely evening walk on Cracoe Fell.
The direct route up Calder, my favourite walk of 2014.
Top 5 Views of 2014:
  1. Wensleydale from Ellerkin Scar
  2. Crummock Water from High Snockrigg
  3. Wildboarclough from Shutlingsloe
  4. Wharfedale from Numberstones End
  5. The 360 degree panorama from Brown Clee Hill in Shropshire
Crummock Water from High Snockrigg - one of my favourite views of 2014.
Top 5 Most Memorable Walking Moments of 2014:
  1. Completing the Wharfedale Three Peaks Walk, my longest and toughest walk for over nine years. So glad my knees managed it!
  2. Exploring the chasm of Lud's Church in the south-west Peak District
  3. The beautiful evening sunset as I descended Ilkley Moor in late July
  4. Watching Tim and his sons, Dan and Jack, sledge down Park Fell on their backsides
  5. The moment when the sun hit the superb waterfall of Mill Gill Force. An almost mystical experience.
The sun sets as I descend Ilkley Moor, one of my favourite moments of 2014.
5 Least Favourite Walking Moments of 2014:
  1. The car breaking down just short of the car park on Titterstone Clee Hill. What should have been a bonanza walking day of four walks was mostly spent waiting for the car to be fixed.
  2. My camera and tripod getting blown over on Great Wolfrey Crag. Fortunately it was only the filter that was smashed, the lens was intact but I didn't know that until several hours later when the camera shop had managed to remove the filter.
  3. Losing my brown leather hat on Grassington Moor. I'd not been sure of it when I bought it the previous year in Malham but as it got more battered I got really fond of it. I'll have to buy another in time for spring.
  4. Injuring my knee coming off Cracoe Fell, a fortnight before attempting the Wharfedale Three Peaks. For three days I could barely walk up the stairs. Amazingly it recovered and with the help of a knee support I did the challenge walk without too much difficulty.
  5. Getting the worst soaking of my life during a thunderstorm on Haystacks.
My camera very nearly copped it when strong winds blew my tripod over on Great Wolfrey Crag.