Sunday, 9 January 2011

An obsession with lists - my walking plans for 2011

Today it was black ice that stopped me going out for a walk. My street was like an ice rink and I witnessed one driver braving the roads skid within inches of hitting my parked car. By the time the ice had begun to melt it was too late to go anywhere. After previously being grounded by a mixture of snow and ill health it was deeply frustrating to be kept away from the hills again, particularly as it was such a nice day overhead.

My plans to visit the Scout Moor Windfarm on Hailstorm Hill were 'put on ice' today
My enforced inaction over the last few weeks has meant that I've had a lot of time to think about and plan where I want to go walking in 2011. It should be pointed out here that I like lists. In fact I love them. If I can make a list and tick things off it even better. In terms of hill walking this obsession with lists manifested itself fairly early when I discovered hill lists such as the Nuttalls, Marilyns and the Wainwrights. For me a walk always seems that little bit more satisfying if I can tick a summit off one of these lists.

On Ward's Stone, a Marilyn and Dewey that I successfully ticked off my list in 2010
When I first began working on my website just over a year ago I made the decision that I needed to try and spread my walks evenly over each of the nine areas that I had broken the Pennines down into. Guess what I did to help me do this? That's right - I came up with a list of walks for 2010.

There are positives and negatives to this approach. On the positive side it is a useful way of setting out your goals for the year and acting as a reminder of what you wanted to achieve. On the negative side the list can become a bit of chain around your neck. Even by early autumn 2010 it was obvious that I wasn't going to complete all the walks I had hoped to, a problem exacerbated by the fact that I had also begun to deviate from my plans. A list that you can tick things off is great, when you don't have the opportunity to cross things off it gets a little bit more frustrating.

Killhope Law - one of the hills on my to do list for 2010 that I failed to tick off
Anyway I've clearly not learnt my lesson as I've drafted numerous lists over the last few weeks over where I aim to go walking in 2011. A major difference this year, and somewhat ironically given the name of my website, I will probably be doing less walking in the Pennines in 2011. The main reason for this is down to another list, one of my most cherished, the list of Wainwrights.

On Cat Bells - my first Wainwright
For those who don't know the Wainwrights are a list of 214 mountains in the Lake District each of which were featured in Wainwright's magnificent 7 volume 'Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells'. On 13th June 2009 I climbed Seat Sandal thus ticking off my 184th Wainwright leaving only 30 for me to climb. Unfortunately that was also the day I realised that there was something seriously wrong with my left knee. That something turned out to be torn cartilege which was repaired in an operation in December 2010.

On Seat Sandal in June 2009 - the last time I climbed a Wainwright
I've not been back to the Lakes since Seat Sandal, this was initially because after my operation I didn't want to rush back too quickly and do further damage on the steeper gradients and rockier ground of the Lakeland mountains. I also felt that after creating a website called 'My Pennines' I shouldn't then keep rushing off to the Lake District at every opportunity. While I still want to try and resist doing this I do want to try and get over to the Lakes this year and resume my quest to complete the Wainwrights.

St Sunday Crag - one of the highest Wainwrights that I've not yet visited
I'm hoping my quest to bag more Wainwrights will be aided by the other major difference to my walking plans for this year, i.e., to go wild camping. Inspired by the V-G website I had initially planned to start wild camping a few years ago but never got round to it. While I kept prevaricating Matt went ahead and bravely went out on his own and had some wonderful backpacking experiences in the Lakes and Howgill Fells.

I have now begun investing in the necessary equipment and just a few days ago bought my Terra 'Nova Laser Competition' tent and a Petzl 'Myo XP Belt' head torch. I must not also forget the ipood trowel that Matt got me for Christmas. One of the more practical tools for going wild camping it is also perhaps one of the more disturbing. Anyway I'm hoping to go for 2-3 wild camps this year starting in the Lake District and hopefully also in the North Pennines.

Sprinkling Tarn, a potential campsite for my first wild camping expedition
The North Pennines is an area I've definitely been neglecting of late. I only managed two trips last year and it was the section of my list that I really failed to get anywhere near completing. I'm not quite sure why this is, perhaps it is the long journey times to get to the areas I've not really covered or maybe (and I hate to admit this) it is just that I find certain areas of the North Pennines a little dull. Anyway I need to make a concerted effort to visit the North Pennines more often this year because if for no other reason that it is the only area in England now outside the Lake District and Dartmoor that I have not completed all the Nuttalls. High on my North Pennines list of walks to do in 2011 are Mickle Fell, Cold Fell and Burnhope Seat.

Mickle Fell - top of my 'to do' list in the North Pennines in 2011
The other Pennine area I feel I still need to visit more often is the Peak District. I've thoroughly enjoyed all my walking in the Dark Peak but the problem is again one of travelling times. For me this problem is made worse by the fact that any journey to the Peak District means driving on the M1 or M62, neither of which I particularly enjoy. While I would love to visit the south western area of the Peak District and summits such as Shutlingsloe they are just too far away to get there and back in a day so I think in 2011 my forays into the Peak District will once again be restricted to north of the Hope Valley. Top of my 'to do' list in the Peak District in 2011 are Win Hill, Howden Edge, the north Kinder edges and the Wessenden valley.

Win Hill - one of the hills in the Peak District I want to climb in 2011
I have a holiday booked in Northumberland in August so am looking forward to being able to reaquaint myself with the wonderful Cheviot hills. In order to factor in more walking in the Lakes, Peak and North Pennines I will probaby do fewer walks in the South Pennines, West Pennines, Nidderdale and Howgills. As for my first love, the Yorkshire Dales, my aim for 2011 is to continue revisiting some of the hills I walked back in 2004 and 2005. Hopefully this time on hills such as Baugh Fell I will enjoy much better weather than last time.

Hopefully when I visit Baugh Fell this year the weather will be kinder than on my last visit in 2005
Finally I will also be returning to North Wales in late spring and (back to the lists again) I'm really looking forward to ticking off some more Welsh Nuttalls. There are so many I haven't done it is difficult to choose where to start but, if given the choice of two, at the moment I'd say Cnicht and the Moel Hebog ridge. Or perhaps Rhinog Fawr and Mynydd Mawr. Or maybe Moel Siabod and Yr Aran. Oh I don't know.

Cnicht - one of the mountains I'd like to visit when I holiday in North Wales this year
So there are my plans for 2011. Just thinking about all these potentially wonderful walks has already helped me put aside the disappointment of today.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Reminiscences of 2005

I've finally finished adding all my 2005 Pennine walks on to the site so as with my earlier blog on 2004 I thought I'd share my thoughts on what was another year of discovery.

2004 will always be special as it was the year I discovered the joys of hill walking, in 2005 however I went to a whole new level both in terms of the amount of walking I did but also in terms of broadening my horizons.

Blencathra was one of the first fells I climbed in the Lake District
In my first walking season virtually all my walking was in the Yorkshire Dales, the only exception was a fairly easy walk just over the National Park boundary in Nidderdale from Pateley Bridge to Brimham Rocks.

Matt trekking through the heather to the remote summit of Meugher in Nidderdale
In 2005 I continued my burgeoning love affair with the Yorkshire Dales while at the same time sampling the walking delights in a host of other places. There were three main reasons for this. Firstly in Feb 2005 I passed my driving test. Prior to this I had been lucky enough to be chauffered about by my friend Matt as we explored the Dales together. Being able to drive gave me the independence to go walking more regularly and to go to places that Matt may not have been interested in going to.

I celebrated passing my driving test by heading out to Grassington for a walk
Secondly, my wife Lisa, following our week away in Dent in October 2004, had begun to increasingly enjoy walking herself. As 2005 wore on I found myself
increasingly going out one day with Matt and the next day with Lisa, or even on my own.

Lisa enjoying her first ascent of Pen-y-Ghent
Finally Lisa and I also bought our first tent and that year we took advantage of this by spending long weekends in places which were less practical to get to and from in a day. Our first camping trip was to Alston in the North Pennines, this was followed by trips to Hadrian's Wall, Kielder Water and then in August
2005 with our first trip to the Lake District.

Ashgill Force - one of the finest waterfalls in the North Pennines
Thus it was that by the end of the year not only had I completed more walks in the Dales than the previous year but I'd also been walking for the first time in the South Pennines, Bowland, Pendle, North Pennines, Cheviots, North York Moors, Lake District and, thanks to a family holiday in Aviemore in May of that year the Cairngorms as well.

On Meall a' Bhuachaille looking towards the main Cairngorm plateau
The latter holiday featured one of the toughest and most memorable walks of the year up on to Ben Macdui, the second highest peak in Great Britain. Walking with my father-in-law, Dave we started near Glen More Lodge and took a route that went around Cairn Gorm via Strath Nethy and Loch Avon before finally climbing to the top of Ben Macdui via Loch Etchachan. The day had started in beautiful sunshine but just as we began the final hundred metres of ascent it began to snow. Fortunately it didn't snow too long but it was long enough to cover the paths and to make us very careful of our route selection. It also meant that we decided against returning over Cairn Lochan and Cairn Gorm.

Above Loch Avon in the Cairngorms
The walk that perhaps had the biggest effect on me was when Lisa and I climbed Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks on our first trip to the Lakes. On the day we'd arrived we had been up on to Cat Bells and enjoyable though that was it was nothing compared to the next day's walk. In near perfect weather we climbed Fleetwith Pike from Gatesgarth, a steep climb but with immaculate retrospective views of the Buttermere valley. By the time we had walked round to and begun to descend Haystacks I was in my own personal heaven. It is perhaps not surprising that over the next 2-3 years it was the Lake District that I began to return to again and again.

On the descent from Haystacks with Buttermere behind me
What of the Pennines though? As mentioned above I made some early forays into the South Pennines but unfortunately almost all these walks were in fairly poor weather early on in the year so at the time the area did not make a particularly good impression. I did however thoroughly enjoy my first walk in Bowland up on to Fair Snape Fell and Parlick, this was followed later on in the year by trips to Totridge and to Pendle Hill across the Ribble Valley.

Parlick in the south Bowland fells
My trips to Alston and Hadrian's Wall yielded six walks in total. The most memorable from the Alston trip was the short evening walk to Ashgill Force, a fantastic waterfall made all the better for being able to stand behind the falls itself. All the walking in and around Hadrian's Wall was superb and the main walk we did following the wall from Housesteads to Peel Crags still rates as one of my favourite ever walks.

The Cuddy's Crag section of Hadrian's Wall
The walking up in Kielder was more of a mixed bag. Our main walk up on to the Border Ridge and Peel Fell was excellent but the next day's walk up to Purdom Pikes through thick heather and ravaged plantations was fairly dire. Memories of Kielder are not helped by the fact that the campsite was infested with midgies. I have never, and hope to never, see the like again.

On Jennie Storrie's Stone on Peel Fell in the Cheviots
As for the Dales there was some pretty bad weather days on hills such as Baugh Fell and Fountains Fell but for the most part they continued to offer some fantastic walking. Hills such as Cracoe Fell, Fremington Edge, Middleton Fell, Pen Hill and Rye Loaf Hill were all definitely worth the visit and offered further proof that there is much more to the Yorkshire Dales than just the Three Peaks and Malham.

Looking down into Arkengarthdale from Fremington Edge
So finally a year after starting work on my site I've it is now (finally!) up to date in terms of all my Pennine walks. When I started work on the site I did think that sooner or later I'd get to add in my non-Pennine walks as well. That is probably now unlikely - I just don't have the time it would take to add another 100 or so pages to the site. Instead I think I'll concentrate on adding content about specific Pennine summits.

2005 was a vintage year for walking, I'm now looking forward to wherever my feet take me in 2011.