Thursday 21 October 2010

Dirt under my fingernails

Folks may wonder what I have been up to recently? However, an ongoing medical problem is causing some difficulties which reflects on my lack of trips. Of late I find I am becoming more reclusive, to try and prevent myself going totally stir crazy I have been doing a few bits of wood carving, as illustrated in the photos and have a couple of other pieces I am working on. Back in the summer I was asked if I would help somebody out with their allotment; recently I have been mainly working there on my own. Some people have the idea that once the summer harvesting is over that there is little to do in the allotment. How wrong they are, recently  I have been pruning back fruit canes, there are vegetable beds to clear, grass to cut, compost bins to turn and new ones started, It is a busy time prior to the onset of winter and of course through the winter months there will be plots to add compost to and dig, tools to sort and thoughts will be turning to the spring planting. This morning I was expecting something in the post and decided to walk up to the allotment early and spend a couple of hours working before heading back for the postie. It was early when I left, earlier than I actually intended at around six o clock. There had been a heavy overnight frost and the morning felt quite chilly and I found myself walking along the early morning streets at a brisk pace to warm up, car roofs glistening in the light of the street lamps. The early morning light was just breaking when I arrived at the allotment, the ground was white with frost and everything was still, my breath steaming in the cold air. Soon the distant horizon was a fiery blaze of crimson  as the early morning sun heralded a new day. Birds gradually became more active, a woodpecker close by chattered loudly, pigeons where busy scavenging the plots for food, parakeets, birds which are becoming common in London, screeched harshly.Noisy beasts but colourful; a fox ambled by, looked at me, yawned and continued on his way.A robin hopped around following me as I worked, I forked over a bit of ground to allow him to search for his breakfast. This morning I was working in the fruit cage cutting grass with long handled shears. Much of the grass was heaped up to be added to the compost heap in stages; too much at once and it can compact and become slimy. Potato haulms,, some runner bean plants that had to cleared, a few handfuls of horse manure and and a barrowful of clippings where added to the compost heap and that was my time up.Normally I scrub my hands in the water but, however, seeing the layer of ice on the surface I decided I would wait until I got back to the flat before washing them.                                                                                                                                    

Thursday 26 August 2010

Wood carving

One of these days I will put up a complete album of my carving work. These are a few pictures of a piece of work I was asked to do. The wood is elm, with a burr, the bowl is hand carved and  measures roughly two foot long, three and a half inches deep and ten inches wide. Just as a matter of interest, my flat is tiny, which makes my wood carving difficult; also, living in a block of flats I have to consider the neighbours. Recently though I have been assisting someone with their allotment and a lot of work on this latest bowl was done there. Carrying tools back and forward each day was not too bad but working in the small potting shed when it rained was not so easy!
A baby dish from a goldfield burr

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Yorkshire circuit

Before anyone says it, yes, I know, it is Yorkshire again; well for me it is fairly accessible and Kirkby provides a handy jumping off point. Much more importantly though is that I can get fairly cheap rail tickets with careful advance booking. Mind, that does commit me because cheap tickets are non refundable, so if the weather is bad so be it. Also, of course, Yorkshire does provide some fine walking.
Thus it was on the Thursday that I was heading north, arriving at Kirkby Stephen at twelve thirty. By the time I had wandered down to the town and picked up a few bits and treated myself to a packet of chips it was early afternoon when I headed out. On my last trip I had noticed the old railway track and wondered if it was feasible to follow part of its route. From what little information I could gather, it seemed there was a footpath along the old trackbed as far as Hartley, what lay beyond that I was unable to find out. Making my way over to Hartley was quite straight forward and I was encouraged to find that there was permitted access beyond there. This provided some fine fairly easy walking, the one downside was the myriad of flies that where most bothersome whenever I stopped. Unfortunately my hopes where dashed when I got as far as Rookby Scarth, Private, keep out, no access, notices where predominantly displayed. A quick check of the map and I decided to skirt around the area by following the line of the fell by Howgill. A bad mistake as it turned out, I would have done better following another track up the fell and then cutting across country. As it was I came down toward Howgill Foot which meant crossing some rough pasture on the way through; I noticed the cattle grazing in the field and saw that there was a bull with them. He was perfectly happy about me passing by and posed no problem. The trouble arose as I came in to sight of the farm, it had been extensively modernised and done up, none of the usual farmyard clutter, everything just so. My heart sank, I could sense trouble and so it proved, a woman came dashing out of the house all in a fluster. "Excuse me, where do you think you are going, you are on private land?" Her voice was modulated and bristled with indignation and hostility, no broad Yorkshire accent here. Quickly I apologised and explained that I had just come down off the fell etc. She was not mollified one bit, and proceeded to give me a lecture about trespassing and wandering through fields where there where dangerous bulls and so forth. My thought was, give me the bull any day in preference to this woman. she then escorted my through her pristine garden out to her drive, (I could just as easy have walked around the farm buildings) with instructions to proceed down her drive to Heggerscales and not to deviate off the road. So folks, if wandering anywhere near Howgill Foot, be warned, there be dragons roaming loose!. With my rough plan now thrown out of the window I still Had several miles to cover. It meant a longish walk, mainly by road, around to Wrenside farm and then around by the river Bolah and up to Fell Intake where I finally have managed to stop. That has been a long afternoon of walking and I am glad to have finally stopped.
Friday 6th August
Have stopped early because of the weather. The weather was dry this morning but a heavy dew had soaked the tent and so I had dawdled a bit to allow the worst of the wet to dry off. Following the path, which was faint at times, I made my way around by Woofer gill, Greenhope Howe and up Potter side to cross the road and then continued up and across to High Greygrits. Although not cold, a blustery wind made it feel quite chilly sitting by the trig point. Also I knew a weather front was due to come through and the thickening cloud and dark, blue black bruised sky off to the west indicated it was fast approaching. The quarry, marked as disused on the OS map, is in fact still in use for stone extraction; thankfully no one was working there today. Walked up to the track that leads up to Kettlepot Gill. The track looked newly laid and I suspected it was not the original track to the old mine workings further up. In fact I had a little difficulty in actually finding the old track and passed it before I realised , only after some careful study of the map was I able to figure out where it descended to cross the gill. In several places the old line of track is now washed away. By then thin drizzle that had started as I walked up the hill was now turning to heavier rain. Not seeing the point of continuing in worsening weather I found a spot for the tent and camped. By late afternoon the weather had briefly eased and I went off to explore the area but saw little indication of the old workings but did manage to find a rough indication of where the old path ascended the hill on the other side. The rain now is sluicing down, a pity, I wanted to photo the traps put out by keepers, poles laid out across the beck offering a bridge for any small creatures, in the middle though was an open cage, with, I suspect, some form of bait and a snap trap to catch what some game keepers consider 'vermin'; one trap had a stoat in it, dead. Why? all to do with the grouse shooting, old habits die hard and the grouse is considered the golden bird, grouse shooting being big business. It is not a case of sentimentality but it angers me.
Saturday 7th August
An odd start to the day, the rain had mainly passed, leaving only a slight drizzle. Last night I had gone over my route, there was nothing difficult in it, just a matter of heading up the hill to Cocklake Rigg and across to the path that comes around by Robert's Seat. For reasons I cannot explain, I hit a block, just did not want to do it, started up the hill, stopped, dithered but did not feel comfortable at all, totally illogical and to add to the irrationality of it all I ended up going back down to the road and followed it up to Tan Hill, very strange! Mind, it was not a bad walk, as road walks go, the drizzle had passed through and it became dry and quite pleasant. From Tan Hill I turned on to the path I originally had planned on taking, it was a lovely bit of walking too, up over Robert's Seat, with fine views and open, airy spaces. Dropped down to Ravenseat in Whitsun Dale, a farmhouse that offers coffee and scones and has a small campsite. Resisting the temptation of coffee I pushed on; the coast to coast route comes through here and is sign posted but is not marked on the OS map thus care is needed otherwise one is following the route that leads to Nine Standards. The direction I wanted was over to Birkdale, a less trodden path although easy enough to pick up. A heavy shower had me back in waterproofs; the shooting hut looked tempting and not being locked I nipped in for a quick break and to allow the rain to pass. Following the contour of the hill around above the road I made my way down the valley, the plan was to take the track that heads up through Little Sled Dale and camp high and continue on up to the ridge in the morning. So much for plans, 'Private, no access, no footpath' signs where predominantly displayed; a vehicle higher up the track dissuaded me from tresspassing. This is open fell side not agricultural land, the grouse shooting season is due to start shortly and the keepers obviously did not want folk disturbing the birds. It is not that I am anti hunting, per se, however this is not hunting but slaughter of thousands of dumb birds that are pampered exclusively for this moment. Hunting to put food on the table is another matter, as long as the animal/bird is killed cleanly, swiftly and humanely; it is a case of kill it, cook it, eat it; grouse shooting by the favoured few falls far short of that. Harbouring dark thoughts about fancy folk who take delight in such activities, I turned and headed up the hill toward Birkdale tarn. Someone by now will possibly suggest I am an inverted snob, so be it, I am working class, what you see is what you get, a peasant of the soil. Found an ideal spot to camp by the tarn, it has actually been dammed at one end and I pitched the tent close to some old workings. Looking about the workings they suggest more of mining activities than quarrying, there are some indications of at least one filled in shaft. Ambled off to wander around the tarn, not too bad close to the shore but some very boggy ground. Saw curlews, a hawk hunting overhead, raucous ducks where kicking up a rumpus out on the water, otherwise it was a tranquil spot. The area is also a favourite spot for the grouse, they have quite a wide ranging vocabulary, not just their crazy 'go back, go back' alarm calls, but a variety of soft bubbling murmurings too, at times almost cooing somewhat like wood pigeons. Came out of the tent and the demented birds exploded in all directions, total pandemonium.
Sunday 8th August.
Today was quite a long one, a heavy dew had soaked the tent overnight and the morning had dawned calm and still; this in turn meant the midges where out. Followed a track made by a farmer's buggy around the contour of the hill to the old quarry, once more marked on the map as disused, but actually still in use. Dropped down to the river Swale and followed the footpath to High bridge, another small campsite which I skirted. From there another footpath over Clumperstone Hill and down to Angram, passing through a field of frisky heifers. It had been tempting to walk in to Keld but I felt that may have meant too long a day. A strange occurrence at Angram, the footpath come out at a fork in the road with a house being extensively rebuilt, right on the junction; a guy stared at me as I stepped out on to the road, being polite I said 'good morning' to him, he just glared at me, turned around and stalked back in to the house heavily slamming the door behind him. Gosh, I know I can look a bit wild after a few days on the hill but not that bad as to scare folks, most odd! From Angram it was a quick shuffle down to Thwaite and then back up to join the Pennine Way that leads over Great Shunner Fell. Much of the route has been paved with great stone slabs, it detracts a bit from the walk, although it is understandable, the heavy usage the Way gets obviously leads to erosion. The wizard of oz kept going through my mind, follow the yellow brick road. Despite it being a long pull up it was good walking but it was good to get to the top . There is a stone built windbreak on the top, no trig point but a survey marker thingy; I was glad to take a break and have a study of the map. After some pondering it was an easy decision to follow the path and then turn off down East Side and find somewhere to camp. The pit and tips marked on the map look as if they where relics of coal mining activities; finding somewhere to pitch the tent looked problematical, I prefer to be out of sight and out of mind as it where, with forestry operation close by I was reluctant to set up camp. There are some amazing sink holes in the region, a couple looked as if they may have cave systems, it would be interesting to find out if there are any caves, certainly there must at least be water carved passageways? Finally, after a certain amount of faffing around, I came back up the hill to Humesett Crags and have found a nice little spot. Water was a bit of a problem but I found a trickle and am now a happy camper, glad to get my boots off and sit down with a cuppa. Part of my route for tomorrow has been scuppered, my intention had been to take the bridleway down to Cotterdale, however, the forestry works have closed the bridleway. Must admit, I am wearied this evening.
Monday August 9th.
Another short day, my route was a tad circuitous, first following the PW down Wensleydale toward Hardraw and then taking the path back along to Cotterdale, a lovely path providing a pleasant low level walk. From there it was a case of back along the river, the other side though and following the path across to Thwaite Bridge House. It was tempting to follow the higher old road but I do not think my body would accept it, I was running on a flat battery and felt tired and my legs where protesting a bit. There was bad weather brewing over Wild Boar Fell and it was heading my way. Reaching Yore House farm, I noticed they did camping, checked it out, very basic, a strip of grass by the river and a loo back up the drive; one camper van and tent on site. Heavy rain scudding across decided me and I opted to stay put, very unusual for me but seeing I am heading out tomorrow it is the easiest option.The farmer's wife is a nice friendly lady, which is always a bonus. Passed two bulls today and five rams no problem.
Rain on and off during yesterday afternoon and through the night so I probably made the right choice. Dawdled this morning, the train from Garsdale is not until 1300hrs and it is only a quick walk up the road. Was entertained by some very low level flying both by the RAF and army helicopters. The people in the campervan where quite amused this morning to see me heading up the drive to the loo with my cook pot full of hot water for a strip wash; there is a sink in the loo but no hot water. A good scrub down and clean clothes, joy. Possibly if I head this way again it could well be the Howgill Fells?

Friday 2 July 2010

Bushcraft saunter

A flurry of messages hurrying north and south and Rachel arranged to pick me up in Chesterfield on the Monday. We headed over to the Peak district in the Hathersage area; the day was hot and we where a tad lethargic. Rachel had an area in mind for an overnight stop, a peaceful, wooded area. In fact it was at one time the scene of a massive industry, a quarry that covered many acres, now quietly returning to nature. Evidence of quarrying was everywhere, gigantic millstones lay half buried in the undergrowth, scattered wily nilly like giant quoits; man made terraces and old tramways, rock faces gouged and blasted. Finding an idyllic grassy spot among the prolific silver birches, we pitched the tarps. Casting about we found a large boulder that, when moved aside and checked to make sure no wildlife was being disturbed made for the basis of a fireplace. Before anyone screams irresponsibility, fire risk was foremost in our minds, the fire pit that was created was on a part of an old stone laid trackway, the surrounding grass was carefully peeled back and there was water on hand at all times when the fire was lit, the fire itself was kept small and when finished with was thoroughly doused, the boulder and grass replaced leaving no trace. Rachel is an excellent bushcraft cook and dinner, note, dinner not supper, was fresh fish baked in hot embers, roast vegetables and baked potatoes, a sumptuous meal. It rained during the night but we where snug under our tarps.The early morning was surprisingly a tad chilly but the day soon warmed. A cup of tea and a breakfast of Dundee cake, it was meant for the previous evening but we both had eaten enough; it made for a good breakfast. A stroll back to the car and then off for a short walk across the moors rewarded with the treat of an ice cream. A wander around a local gear shop, gear porn is addictive and many items where ogled and fondled and then it was back to Chesterfield. A short but good trip out with an enjoyable overnight stop.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Update on the tent front

One of my niggles with the small tent I use, the Shangri La 1, is the pole in the front. This tent is designed to erect using trekking poles, however, I find a pole slap bang in the middle of the tent front restricting and annoying. Having an old nesting pole A pole lying about I tried it on the Shangri, it works well but is heavy. Now I am trying just the A pole apex, which is still quite heavy for its size, despite being alloy, in conjunction with the trekking poles and it seems to work fine. Presently I have been attempting to form an A pole apex from fibre glass, so far, two lumpy prototypes. Ideally I would get one moulded in carbon fibre, if anyone has any suggestions please give a shout. Before anyone asks, the rear pole is also being experimented on, having an old carbon fibre pole lying around which has lost its bottom section, I butchered the remaining two sections, removing the handle completely the end section now fastened on the extending pole as a foot. This has bumped up the weight of the overall tent slightly but has provided more comfort and adaptability. By the by, any stove enthusiasts out there in the London region, I have an old Optimus 80, a strange Stesco possibly an MSR, all working, there is also a bialladin lamp for restoration or spares, interested? Send me an e mail.

Monday 14 June 2010

Hard travelling

Dramatic sculptor

Ribblehead viaduct

Arten Gill viaduct

Yorkshire is one of those areas, where, if I juggle things carefully, I can purchase cheap train tickets; beside which, it offers some good walking county with with high open rolling moors. Having done little in the way of walking of late and with motivation at a low ebb there was a need just to get out and see if I could still hack it? Thus it was I travelled up on the Monday.
7th June, camped OS map OL19 GR 808070
Changing trains at Leeds I linked up with Rachel to hand over a few bits and received a large portion of cake in return. Arrived Kirkyby Stephen station at 14 30; the station is a mile and a half outside Kirkby and walking in on footpaths probably adds another half mile or so. However, I wanted to pick up a few last minute snacks and nibbles and possibly get something to eat before heading out. A cafe had delicious foody smells wafting from it but it looked busy and looking at the weather I did not want to linger; instead I settled for a limp and indifferent cold pasty and a soft drink, a poor substitute. A bit of careful navigation was needed to follow footpaths that came around by Ladthwaite, including a lovely path that wound through woods by Ewbank Scar; the undergrowth thick with lush, verdant plant life, clumps of wild garlic infused the air with pungent odour. From ladthwaite it was easier navigation on bridleways to come around to Hartley Fell. My main concern was finding water, there was little of it and the trickle I have resorted to using looks a tad suspect, the rocks around are stained a rusty colour and the water itself has an oily sheen; however, needs must. My timing in getting the tent up was spot on, I had been watching a steady build up of thick dark clouds, bruised and pregnant with moisture, the first heavy drops of rain began to fall as I scrambled inside. A mug of soup and a nibble of Rachel's delicious cake and I was fine as the rain pattered down.
Tuesday8th June. Same map, GR825 043, approximately!
Steady rain through the night and with no sign of a let up this morning; a long, hard perusal of the map had me working out a plan B., However, as is my want I do not always work to sane and sensible ideas. Packed up and walked back over to the track and started heading back down to walk a low level route, paused, looked up at the scudding mist and cloud on the tops and for reasons unknown, through plan B out of the window and decided I could at least head up to Nine Standards. The rain got heavier and the murk thicker as I slowly headed up. Passing the old spoil heaps and disused shafts it is thought provoking to consider how men once laboured on these high fell sides using the most basic of tools, picks, shovels and wheelbarrows and often wet and cold, their clothing rough and inadequate to protect them from bad weather. To see Nine Standards suddenly looming out of the clag was spooky, huge stone cairns with their original purpose uncertain; certainly they are no modern folly, there are apparently records of them going back as far as the sixteenth century and at one time they where even larger. Having made the top I decided to amble on a bit further; the viewpoint at Nine Standards rig was out of service in the swirling cloud, was surprised to see that the trig point was a humble little stone built affair that needed a bit of repair. Although not marked on the map, this is part of the coast to coast route from Kirkby through to Keld. Not feeling too bad I continued onward with the path; a check of the compass assured me that it was heading roughly in the direction I wanted to go and sure enough my wandering led me around by White Mossy Hill and Lady Dike Head. Despite the conditions I was content to just amble along, the air around me was vibrant with the strange, haunting cries of ground nesting birds, curlews and lapwings where all around me. Coming down by Millstones the visibility improved and I could actually see where I was heading and soon joined the bridleway that led around to Whitsun Dale; I went in the other direction, down to the road in Birk Dale. Risking the water from Rowantree Gill, I settled down with my back resting on a sign post and dug the rest of Rachel's cake out of the pack. In the prevailing conditions that slab of cake was the most delicious thing imaginable, thanks Rachel, much appreciated. It was obvious that the weather was deteriorating, the rain was now steady, plus, not having done much walking recently, my thighs where aching a bit. Following the road up a bit higher I swung off toward Coldbergh Side, picking my way around some nasty bog and after a bit of faffing about found somewhere to pitch the tent. As I was casting about finding a camp spot a pheasant took off in front of me, which was surprising, even more remarkable there where several in the area. Pheasants are not normally high upland birds, they are more associated to woodland areas that offer them cover; most peculiar! Water was once more a problem, there where several trickles of water forming small streams but the rocks where deeply stained an orange rust colour and yet again the water had that oily sheen to it. Obviously there must be some form of mineral content that is leeching in to the water system! As I filled up the water bladder I noticed the rain increasing and as I struggled out of waterproofs before getting in to the tent, the rain began to deluge down, solid great walls of water battered the tent; there was little option but to brew up with the tent battened down. The wind has been north east all day, pushing the temperature down and now it was growing even more chilly.
Wednesday 9th June, same map, camped GR 808938, approx.
Rain continued all night, getting in and out of the tent for the loo several times in the night can be difficult in such conditions. By early morning the tent was enveloped in thick grey, dense cloud with the rain continuing unabated and a blustery north east wind was steadily buffeting the tent. on such occasions getting packed up and underway takes that much longer; everything is carefully packed in the rucksack from within in the tent, then it is a case of boots on, get dressed in all the foul weather gear; once that is completed the inner tent is taken down and packed, tent unzipped and a scramble out to face the elements. The outer tent is swiftly taken down, given a shake to get some of the water off and unceremoniously bundled up and stowed under the rucksack lid; despite the conditions a check is still made to ensure nothing is left behind, it would be too easy to overlook something like a tent peg. With no visibility it meant having to rely on the compass to make my way out to the road; having already taken a bearing before leaving the tent. There was one downside to this though, thick, deep bog; forget the concept of doing a dog leg or two and coming back on course, what had just been boggy ground was now deep quagmire. Often the ground swayed like a water bed when it was stepped on, scary but doable if crossed with care, a couple of times though I went in deep, the bog monster can be a voracious beast! It was exhausting work but eventually I hit the rough track I had noted yesterday, made by an off road quad machine, once that was found I knew it would lead me down to the road. All previous plans where now scrapped; it was not a day for the high tops. An alternative day was now put in to action, this meant a few miles of road walking down to Nateby. The summit of that road was a wide open, bleak place to be, with tendrils of thick cloud coiling around me and rain beating a staccato tattoo off my waterproofs, I pushed on at a steady pace. Once the road descended a bit though, rifts began to appear in the dense greyness, ragged tatters of rain sodden cloud torn aside to reveal the steep slopes of the fells, blobs of off white where sheep hunkered down seeking what shelter the could. The calls of curlews pierced the air, like ghostly spectres they appeared and disappeared around me. A car slowed down, the driver checking me over, I gave him a wave and a grin to let him know I was ok. once down by Nateby the weather had moderated, the wind had eased and the rain was now more drizzle than anything else. Followed footpaths and bridleways over to Mire Close Bridge. The river Eden was at least running clear and I took a chance on topping up with water; yes, I know I ought to have filtered it but filter systems cost money I cannot afford. There are quite a few inter connecting bridleways and footpaths in the area and it requires regular map reading to stay on course . It was pleasant walking, the lowland pastures lush and verdant, hay meadows thick with clover, buttercups adding a splash of vibrant colour. My lack of fitness was making itself felt, thighs ,knees and ankles where protesting. Possibly I could have snuck in somewhere out of the way, however, I prefer not to camp in lowland farm areas unless really stuck. Coming around by Mallerstang I could see the bridleway snaking away up the side of the hill opposite and inwardly groaned. A pause for a quick drink and nibble at Thrang Bridge and then on to the bridleway. In fact the climb up was not that bad, a slow, steady plod. A large upright object on the brow of the hill beckoned me on; I was puzzled as to what it was, it was not marked on the map. Finally all was revealed, the object was in fact a large sculptor standing proud and tall, (see photo); a very prominent landmark. What had been just a gentle drizzle down in the valley was now a wind blown wetness, however, I was still below the cloud base that covered the tops. The old trackway was delightful walking, wide open limestone country, lovely vistas despite the weather. With time getting on and the fact that I had been on the go for some eight hours meant that I was on the lookout for somewhere to camp; it was case of marrying up a source of water with a place firm enough to take the tent and hopefully providing a little shelter from the rising wind. A limestone outcrop offered a little protection but not much, in fact I have rigged the tent fore and aft with extra guying for extra protection:the wind is now shaking the tent violently. Water was from a nearby gill that had several pools of fairly clear water. Using my baby cup, I gently scooped up the water to fill the water bag, taking care not to disturb the sediment at the bottom of the pool. Oh my, what sheer and utter bliss to be out of the waterproofs, boots and socks off and laying back with a hot drink.
Thursday 10th June, camped OS map OL2 GR 791860.
A blustery and cold night, had to throw my jacket over the sleeping bag in the early hours. Once more it was a case of changed plans; my original idea had been to head down toward Wensleydale and then cut off up and over toward Dent. However, the high tops where still wearing a dark grey bonnet of thick cloud and my route would have needed careful map and compass work across open country, doable but I did not feel up for it. The morning was not actually wet, at least it was not raining but just a damp mizzle. Resorting to plan C; I headed back up the track to High Dyke: now a series of sheep pens but at one time had obviously been a farmstead. In theory there where a couple of footpaths here and indeed there was footpath sign and that was about it. As I headed down through a couple of fields ,a group of young cattle came lolloping across, milling around me; no problem, just typical bovine curiosity, they readily parted as I pushed through them. Further down I picked up a rough track where the farmer had been up and down a few times. This led me around to Blades farmstead, another haphazard footpath sign pointed vaguely across boggy marshland, had me pausing to configure the map to the ground. A bit of careful navigation and I found the bridge marked on the map and continued on to another farm, across the road, through another field, across the railway and more fields to Garsdale. With the weather still murky higher up I stuck to the road up past the station; a nasty little climb out of the valley and soon I was back in drifting mist and general dampness, not unpleasant walking though, despite the fact I do not enjoy road yomping. This was different country in some respects, the road was flanked by drystone walls, gates had 'private land' signs on them. Even when I turned off on the bridleway that ran around by Crosshills Wold and Greenbank, there was a sign up about permitted path to Great knoutberry Hill and so forth. It was pleasant walking though and I was content to just amble. My aim was to camp before descending in to the Dent valley. Finding an idyllic spot, I was tempted but it was on view from the track and I had visions of some farmer spotting me and having words. Indeed, as I sat there a couple of farm vehicles trundled through, my preference is for 'out of sight, out of mind'. Ambled around to Dent Fell and descended out of the mist and managed to find a nice little spot out of the way by Arten Gill. An early enough stop but camping lower down would be difficult and as a bonus, the weather appears to be clearing up. Generally speaking I am not feeling too bad but my knees and ankles are painful, so it is good idea to settle back with the book and not do too much.
Friday, Ribblehead bunkhouse.
Woke this morning to thick mist in the Gill, however the wind had finally changed and a breeze was coming in from a westerly direction. Dawdled a bit this morning before packing up, a heavy dew had soaked the tent but I managed to get the worst of the water off. Amazingly I did not need foul weather gear and could get underway in trousers and jacket; the mist lifted too. It was pleasant walking down to Arten Gill viaduct and the upper Dent valley was beautiful in the morning light, peaceful and tranquil, lovely just to potter along. Following the footpath from Bridge End and along to Dent Head farm, there is a rucksack hating turkey there, so be warned! The path continues up over the Bleamoor tunnel, it is only a short uphill section really, but I almost ground to a standstill, my knees went all wobbly, had to dig deep just to keep them moving; was glad to sit down at the first air shaft. Actually the three air shafts that now remain where three of seven excavation shafts worked by sixteen gangs of navvies, using explosives, picks and shovels to excavate the tunnel; the spoil was raised to the surface by steam powered winches; great spoil heaps of the hewed rock bear mute testimony to the labour involved. Folk often remark on the engineering marvel of the Ribblehead viaduct, I wonder how many consider the labour involved, some two thousand navvies, an army, men who where housed in shanty towns on sight and they had to be fed too and provided for. Also workshops had to be built, tramways too to transport the bricks which where also made on sight, stone was brought in from nearby quarries. There was no health end safety in the eighteen hundreds, labour was cheap and men died. Also, the rail company put different sections of the whole rail build out to tender, the contractors who where accepted worked to a fixed price and there was no payment until the job was done. The contractor who took on the viaduct and tunnel section lost everything, he went bankrupt. It was tempting to camp but the thought of a shower and clean clothes made the idea of the bunkhouse an attractive one. In some respects possibly a mistake, there was large marquee in the car park of the pub but I paid little mind to it. Booking in and grabbing a pint of lemonade the lady mentioned that the bunkhouse had been fully booked for Saturday because there was a scooter rally taking place, hence the marquee. Fortunately I had a section of the bunkhouse to myself but it was a long night. The scooter folk who had arrived on the Friday afternoon and evening where nice enough people but I preferred to keep out of the way and the music went on until around 2am.
Saturday. The train was not until early afternoon so went out for a stroll this morning; it was unbelievable, it was like something out of a horror film. The whole area was heaving with people, great phalanxes of bodies streaming up the road and heading upwards on the Blea Moor bridleway; the herd instinct in overdrive. Groups of guys, all muscle, bronzed, tight shorts and t shirts, very macho; what made me laugh though was that the majority all had big boots to match, Scarpa mantas and even several pairs of La Sportiva's, amazing! At the other extreme where several pairs of light trainers and even a couple of lasses in flip flops. It was the stuff of nightmares and I wandered off across country to join the sheep by an outcrop of limestone.

Sunday 9 May 2010


Hull Pot

Hull Pot

Cam Beck

Wild camp
WednesdayMay 5th. Camped OS map OL2. GR815772.
Travelled up from London, arriving in Horton in Ribblesdale by mid afternoon, had a cuppa and a nibble in the cafe, good cafe but oh, the prices. Headed out on the Pennine/Ribble way, making my way up toward high Birkwith moor. This, in many respects, was an experimental trip, niggling, ongoing health problems have caused a few difficulties and have ruined any fitness I had; plus a minor op last week, have made me cautious. However, cabin fever was settling in and no matter what I had to head for the hills. Thus it was I settled in to a slow but steady pace, just enjoying the views and the fact that the weather was not bad.Being limestone country I was aware that water could be a tad difficult but I was surprised just how dry things where. Coming across Low Birkwith Moor I saw a meander of slow moving water; it was the first trickle that looked half decent, earlier water sources had been quite disgusting, oily, stagnant and slimy looking. By now it was around five, (1700hrs) and wanting to have a faff around with the tent
to try out a slightly different configuration I stopped. Finding a suitable spot to pitch was not that easy and I was fairly close in to the forest when I found a place. Tent up, faffing over with, brew on, wonderful, or so I thought! Had heard a vehicle on the track but I was just out of sight as intended. To my surprise a figure all dressed so fine in camo and cradling a rather large, high power rifle, came bursting out of the trees demanding to know what I was doing? That seemed rather obvious, however, before I got a word in he he gave me quite a tirade, was camping illegally, all wild camping is illegal etc and warned me that if I remained where I was I could be hit by stray bullets because they where shooting in the woods. There was no point in arguing with the chappie and I was quite prepared to move on. He asked where I was actually heading for and seemed a little non plussed that I had no fixed destination in mind. When I said that I would push on down the track to High Greenfield the guy got very irate, stating that I would be trespassing due to the fact the forest and track where private and also that I stood a very high chance of being shot. There was no way I was going to argue with him but I firmly pointed out he was in the wrong and there was a sign posted and defined public bridleway through the wood and also there was no warning signs or anything and that in turn is surely illegal. He was having none of it though and gave me a few more warnings and dire threats before stalking off to skulk in his little spot in the wood, but I had marked his position and gave him a little wave when I left; little boys and their toys! As I packed up I wondered if if he had bothered to warn the local farmer as there where sheep grazing close by. Strange thoughts where going through my mind as I moved off, of sheep wearing tin hats and wearing flack jackets, dodging all those stray bullets; it would make a great sketch on Shaun the Sheep. It crossed my mind too that if I had got shot folk could say I went out with a bang??What puzzles me though, over the years I have met a number of stalkers and keepers, the majority have been professional, skilled people who know their trade and even if I have not always seen eye to eye with some they have never resorted to acting like a spoiled schoolboy throwing a wobbly. Listening to the fusillade of shots later in the evening I would question if the shooters where indeed professional at all; the first shot would send any self respecting beastie running for cover; maybe it was a new way of tree pruning????????? An official complaint has now been made to the national Park authorities.
Thursday. Camped same map GR 805795
Rain by early morning, cold rain driven by an east north east blustery wind, lingered for a time in the tent before packing up and moving on. Once out and moving the rain was fairly light but the driving wind made it a tad unpleasant. Made my way over to Ling Gill, a deep, fascinating gorge, tried to find a way down in to the gorge but it really is not accessible from the top end. Checking the map at the bridge I could see I was in for a rather long plod over the moor; instead I turned off and picked my way up Cam Beck. Finding a suitable spot for the tent I pitched camp and the went for a wander up along the beck and around Cam Fell. By early afternoon the rain had eased to just a few showers. It is surprising how little water is actually flowing down the beck, I can only assume the majority is underground due to it being limestone country. A lazy sort of day but my intentions for this trip had never been ambitious. It may be cold and a wee bit wet but there are a plethora of plovers, curlews and other birds in the area; also saw a couple of voles.
Friday, same map GR 824747.
A cold night, my baby thermometer was hovering at around+1, making me glad I had brought my down vest, my jacket thrown over the sleeping bag gave me a bit of extra warmth too. With the ongoing niggly problem I am having, it means having to get up several times during the night to go to the loo; thus I get snugged down all cosy in the sleeping bag only to lose that warmth every time I have to get up, it gets tedious. The rain had returned overnight but showed signs of clearing by morning. Being in no hurry I was content to dawdle and was chuffed when the rain did stop and allow me to set off in the dry. Not wanting to do too much I backtracked over to Birkwith moor. From there it was an amble over Burnrigg and Black Dubb Moss. it was amazing how dry the ground was and walking was made easy, even over the boggy bits. The blustery wind continued, pushing the temperatures well down. Bird life was abundant all around me and a couple of grouse almost gave me a heart attack when they exploded from under my feet, stubby wings whirring like crazy and their manic cries of 'go back, go back'. Pen-y-ghent loomed large on the horizon, a large hump back hill; however, I was not heading for it. Instead I swung off to follow Hull Pot Beck down to where it disappears underground and found a suitable place to pitch the tent. The beck is strange in a way, one moment there is a steady flow of water, the next all that remains is dry river bed, the water just ups and vanishes underground. It is odd walking down the water worn rock that consists of the dry bed; Hull pot is a humungous hole in the ground. To be honest I expected a cave or some form of opening in the side of the hill instead, as I wandered along suddenly there is this great gash, the very hillside rent asunder, a yawning chasm below one's feet. There must be an amazing cave system under there somewhere! After pitching the tent and making sure it was snugged down against the buffeting wind, I went for wander up Whitber hill, on the way looking for the caves marked on the map. No sign of them though a jumble of rock may indicate blocked entrances. Sell Gill beck was bone dry; it was just a gentle stroll and a lazy wander back to the tent for a cuppa.
Saturday. Was awake early and sat nursing a cup of tea gazing at Pen-Y-Ghent; it was so tempting to head up there, certainly I had the time, probably I would have had to take it easy on the steep bit, uphill on steep bits I currently struggle a bit; however, I had been warned to take it easy. (You see Rachel I do listen, sometimes!) Instead I just lingered for a while longer before packing up. The morning was dry but the wind had again pushed temperatures down enough to warrant hat and gloves. It was only a couple of miles at most down to Horton in Ribblesdale and my train was not until early afternoon. Wanting to have at least a small walk I headed back up Whitber hill on the footpath and then headed across diagonally toward Blackber moss and down towards the footpath I came up yesterday. From there it was down to the bridleway and an amble back to civilisation.
On this trip I had taken a chance on my choice of gas cylinders and had opted for the smallest one available; it was enough, just, i ran out just as my morning cuppa came to the boil. This time around I was using theGolite Shangri La1. Golite have gone back to basics with this tent, at one time ridge tents where the norm and several designs had the tapering rear; Saunders still make their own version. Also, modern day ultra light folk are not the first, back in the early part of the 1900 hundreds, 1910 for example, people where experimenting with tents made from silk and they proved strong and weatherproof and weighed ounces rather pounds. Size wise it is a roomy tent for one with a good porch area, the downside of this tent, apart from it being single skin, is that it is designed to be pitched using trekking poles. The concept is ok but in reality a pole slap bang in the middle of the front of the tent is not that good. Having faffed around with quite a few ideas and configurations, including using the poles externally and suspending the whole tent from a taught line between the two; my conclusion is that if you want a go fast, ultra light tent with no frills just for overnight stops and little else then this would suit fine, however, if you start adding an inner midge net and such the weight is instantly doubled; unless of course if you use one of the small ultra light midge nets. The Shangri 2 is an ideal tent in many respects but its baby sibling is not quite there. At present I am working on an idea to modify this tent and may also be putting the sewing machine to work by making an inner for the winter.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Bushcraft and trig

A windswept Rachel, glad to find a trig point where it should be. The rope was for the dog, (honest!)

Yorkshire moors

Hobo stove with brew on, Rachel will be making a 'proper' fire to cook on, the camouflage sheet is a poncho over the kitchen area
Rachel having fun with her lines
Setting up bushcraft camp There is a certain frisson of excitement to be stepping out of the door with a rucksack and having no certainty as to where the day will end and shelter for the night be found. Rush hour was just getting underway as I headed across town on the underground.The tube, a mass of humanity, heading for offices, another day of toil at their city desks; more hours of the same, repetitive tedium. People, blank faced mutely suffering the crowding of personal space, jostling, shuffling to board the packed compartment. Many hide behind the freebie newspapers that abound; women hastily applying their makeup; I have never managed to make a decent job of doing my makeup on public transport and yet many women deftly apply mascara and eyeshadow with casual dexterity as the train sways and shudders through the tunnels. With my travel stained clothing and scruffy rucksack, I stand out as something different, an oddity in the days humdrum existence; eyes scan me from head to toe and then dismiss me.
St Pancras has recently had a massive rebuild and the connecting tunnels from Kings Cross a veritable rabbit warren. St Pancras station has a very long central concourse and great throngs of humanity where sweeping through. A virtual tidal wave of literally hundreds of people where relentlessly all heading in the one direction. Swimming against that mighty host was a daunting prospect, hesitate and you would be swept away and it took steely determination to plough on through. Standing by the barriers waiting for the message board to announce which platform my train would be at, I watched as more trains disgorged yet more people; all of them, as if by some primal homing instinct, heading in to the city, an ants nest, a mighty organism, man, the herd animal.
After a flurry of messages back and forward Rachel and myself had agreed to meet up in Nottingham. Rachel has, among her range of outdoor activities, a hobby of collecting trig points, what she does with them I dare not ask? A good enough reason to get out and explore and it certainly enhances the map reading skills. However, the plan was for Rachel to pick me up in Nottingham and from there we would head out, find a couple of trig points and then find a place to set up camp in a certain area of woodland.Having duly met up by late morning as planned, we set out. The afternoon was spent travelling to a variety of locations with some interesting walks through woods and fields, seeking out illusive trig points. With two trig points duly recorded we discreetly took to the woods for an overnight bushcraft camp. Bushcraft camping carries much the same ethos as any form of wild camping, leave no trace,be discreet and cause no damage. There are differences though; often a tarp of some form is used in place of a tent; these can be slightly heavier than the ultra light tarps and and much larger. The benefits are many though, the volume of space under a large tarp is immense, my tarp is 3metre by 3 and Rachel's is even larger; they offer full protection from any weather, making them ideal for winter and at the same time offer all round vision of the surrounding woods and I have often seen deer close by. In summer a lighter and smaller tarp and bivi bag often suffice.
As soon as camp was set up my small hobo stove put to use for a brew of tea while Rachel bustled around gathering wood for what she considers 'a proper fire'. Open fires are not for summer in the woods, with all the risks of a potential forest fire; at this time of the year there was no real risk and all traces would be removed the following morning. Heavy, blustery showers where sweeping through, the wind roaring in the tree tops but we where snug. When travelling solo my food is basic, lightweight dried rations; Rachel though likes to cook and prepared a sumptuous and delicious supper with caramelised prawns and baked potatoes. As is the norm. with me at the moment I had a broken nights sleep, having to get up eight or nine times during the night; at least I had time to listen the noises of the night, the call of owls, the bark of a fox, night creatures scurrying and scuffling through the leaf litter.
The following morning, after a leisurely start, Rachel introduced me to yet more joys and also the headaches of trig hunting. At one point we found ourselves revolving in circles in a brand new housing estate not even yet marked on any map. We could only surmise that the trig point, if it still existed, must be at the edge of someones back garden? It would seem trig points are illusive animals, two at least on Rachel's list had been removed by local farmers. Some lurked in the depths of hedgerows, as found out when we sought one in the middle of a pristine looking golf course. In all due respect to the golfers, no one raised an eyebrow or challenged us as we cast about, map in hand seeking the skulking trig. At another point, wandering along bridleways Rachel's keen eyes spotted a stoat, we also managed to spot a baby one too. Muddy fields where carefully negotiated, up bridleways, down paths and even roadside trig points, we sought them all at points, north, south, east and west, Rachel is a determined lass and was a sight to behold as she pored over the map, muttering incantations under her breath and having some strong words concerning farmers who remove her sought after object.
Rachel was tired after a long session working nights and we retired to her place that night. The Saturday morning saw us out once more on the hunt. Rachel had hijacked ( borrowed) a dog to accompany us during the course of our days rambling. This time we where heading for the moors above Keighley. Some fine moorland walking, wide open spaces, the dog though was not versed in the ways of hill walking and was a little flummoxed when confronted with a high dry stone wall. He accepted though, with great equanimity, the indignity of being scooped up and passed over the wall. A lovely walk with fine views, blustery but dry. After a quick lunch we where soon heading rapidly up another hill to bag yet another trig; well at least the dog was, closely followed by Rachel, with me in the rear doing the granny shuffle, huffing and puffing. It was good to be out though and an enjoyable few days where had.

Thursday 11 February 2010

Flame and fumes

Vapalux Bialladin

Quite a while back for some unknown reason I purchased a couple of paraffin pressure lanterns; well the seller wanted to get rid of them and I made a ridiculous offer which, to my surprise was accepted. One turned out to be a fairly modern vapalux and the other was an ancient bialladin in very poor condition. Both where put away in the back of the cupboard as something to be worked on at a later date. Recently I dug them out and began some work on them. The old bialladin has had new washers fitted and a replacement hood but I am a tad hesitant in actually lighting it. The vapalux looks almost new and after checking the washers, testing for pressure in the tank, I fitted a new mantle. To be honest, I rather think the person who sold it had little idea of how these beasts actually work. Finding nothing outwardly wrong with it apart from a broken mantle, which I replaced there was only one option, actually firing it up. A quick trip to the local diy shop, unfortunately I could only buy paraffin in 4litre containers, some meths and I was ready. Lighting these pressure lanterns does involve a certain procedure; firstly, the new mantle has to be set fire to; a nice bit of smoke and scorched sort of smell wafted around the flat, next came the priming, air release valve open, meths poured in to priming cup and lit, leave well alone until almost all flame has gone, screw shut air valve and a few tentative pumps, splutter, splutter, more flame, a bit of smoke, some fumes and the lamp purred into life. After that it was case of bringing it up to full pressure and seeing what would happen, the lamp ran excellently, chucking out loads of light and heat and that slightly pungent odour that the lanterns give off. Whew! when I get up courage the ancient lamp will be worked on too, doing these sort of things on the draining board is possibly not the best way however, I have little option.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Wild women

Rachel and I had agreed to meet up for a few days over her birthday. Rachel, being in nursing, which can mean long hours and low pay, had asked that I arrive on the Wednesday late afternoon, which I duly did, stopping over at her place that night. It can be fair to say that Rachel is an enthusiastic outdoor woman, ever keen to learn new skills; thus it was that on the Thursday, after picking up essential bush craft supplies of eggs, bacon, sausages and other items of food, we headed for a wood not far from leeds. It was to be Rachel's first experience of a night out, bush craft mode, under a tarp and in a bivi bag. It was cold as we made our way through the woods, being unsure of what equipment Rachel had, meant that I had packed a extra gear and some of it did come in useful but it meant extra weight. A river threatened to bar our way but the lass was having none of it and swiftly picked her way across, whereas I struggled a tad, my old leaky boots swiftly filling up with icy water. Another river crossing and then a quick heads together to decide where to pitch; the original choice was a mite exposed to the rising wind that was sweeping down the valley; finally we opted for a fairly level space tucked in close to the wood. With the light fading fast, we divided duties and while I erected the tarps using a network of guy lines, Rachel bustled around swiftly bustled around gathering firewood. With impressive skill, using her little tinder bag and steel striker, no matches here if you please, she soon had a fire blazing merrily; equally noteworthy was the fact that she did not make a common mistake and produce too large a fire. With a compact but hot fire burning well, glowing coals where soon produced and Rachel popped in tin foil wrapped chicken and potatoes. An excellent supper of crispy chicken and baked potatoes washed down by a mug of hot chocolate. Sleet and rain, driven by the rising wind scudded down the valley but we remained comfortable. As yet the medical problems I have been experiencing made things a tad tedious during the night. Pheasants clattered off in the dark protesting loudly, something had obviously disturbed their roosting spot; owls called to one another and a dog fox barked close by, possibly he had been after the pheasants? We where awake early and did not have time to linger, Rachel's car had a hot date with the garage for it's mot before we headed up in to the Dales. We had to hustle a bit but still had time for sausages and mugs of tea before moving on. Mot over and we took to the road once more; our destination was Malham. Unable to book in to a bunkhouse or camping barn we opted for the luxury of the youth hostel and we managed a room to ourselves. Having booked in we headed around to the pub for a meal; a very rare thing for me. The night was clear and frosty with the full moon riding high; being a practical lass, Rachel made sure a few lengths of climbing rope where to hand and she kept a wary eye on me!!?? There was a heavy frost overnight, however the morning was bright and crystal clear, the clarity was amazing with stunning views of the Dales in all directions. Our first goal was Fountains Fell, the initial start from the car was a chilly one with a biting northerly wind, but the ascent up the fell side soon warmed us. The ground was heavily frozen and many areas still had quite a quantity of snow which meant some marvellous walking as we made our way upward plodding on a long avenue of hard packed nieve that would have made an excellent ski run. We joked about having failed to think about hijacking the hostel metal tea tray, it would have made an ideal sledge. Despite the cold and piercing wind, temperatures where well below zero, we where loath to leave. The panoramic views from the top where breath taking; it has been a long while since I last experienced such a mix of awesome weather and grand scenery. Our next objective was a nearby trig point, a strangely addictive pastime, akin to bagging tops but somehow different. On our way across we spent time deciphering tracks in the snow, a fox, the outline of where his tail had brushed in the snow, quite distinctive, also the spot where he had pounced searching for some unsuspecting creature below the snow cover. The spot where a hare had diagonally crossed a bank of snow and over a wall; the prints of a largish bird, quite probably a grouse and strange little runs of earth where moles had tunnelled very close to the surface. From the trig we descended to a bridleway that would lead us back to the car. Gates through the dry stone walls where heavily banked with snow which made for some interesting manoeuvring to cross them. A good day out in superb conditions. The following day was a short walk to bag another trig point and then journey back. Altogether a good couple of days out, varied and interesting and with some good company too.

Monday 11 January 2010

Ignomious retreat

My attempt to get away over the Christmas period had been thwarted by inclement weather; National express had been apologetic but the A9 being blocked by snow and ice had meant service cancellations. Finally, in the first week of January, I managed to get away; once more heading north towards Aviemore. This was the first time in two years that I had packed my full winter kit and I was excited at the prospect of some decent winter weather. However, on the run up I was experiencing problems. For the last couple of years I have been experiencing an on going bladder problem; despite two operations things have still not been resolved and I have to yet again go back to see the surgeon. Travelling overnight on the coach I made several trips to the loo and was a tad concerned. In Aviemore I made sure I drank fluids before heading out, as per usual I really did not feel like eating, just managing a bun out of necessity. The weather was amazing, Aviemore was snow bound with over a foot of snow, great banks of snow on each side of the road which had been cleared by snowplough; pavements, forget it, it was a case of legging it down the road and jumping in to the snow bank when traffic approached. Normally I have a quite regular route when heading through the Rothiemurchas; this time though I had no option but to follow a more circuitous route. Had a look at one path, or at least where the path would have been; I could see where deer had been floundering around belly deep, tentatively tried it but with snow over three foot deep in places it was no go. It was an awesome walk through the forest; a clear sky overhead with a pale, late afternoon sun, deep snow blanketing everything and not a breath of wind meant a cathedral like hush to everything, silence utter silence, wonderful. What would normally take me a couple of hours to walk took more than twice as long. That is normal in the depths of winter; everything takes that much longer. Stopping a few times for the loo did not help matters; not easy in sub zero temperatures and wearing salopettes over my paramo trousers.It was obvious I was not going to make much distance and with time getting on and temperatures dropping, I stopped before I even made the Rothiemurchas bridge. Setting up camp in deep snow can be interesting, a flat area has to stamped down to allow a level area for the tent; by the time I got that sorted, got the tent up and some blocks of snow ready to melt for a drink, my baby thermometer was reading almost minus ten. Thermarests do not work well on ice and I find it essential to pack spare jackets and so on under the sleeping bag for insulation. My hopes that drinking plenty of fluids may have eased the bladder problem, it sounds an anomaly but lack of fluids actually acerbate the situation. Unfortunately it was not to be, the whole night was spent in and out of the tent, the problem was heightened by the fact that I was getting severe cramp each time I tried to get dressed and ram my feet in to half frozen boots. Often I ended bare footed and just dressed in a pair of thermal bottoms that I use as pyjamas in cold weather; each time meant a return to the sleeping back and trying to rearrange my insulation layers while shivering violently. Temperatures by early morning where hitting minus twenty three on average and I was getting numb, somewhere I had stepped beyond the shivering stage to the early stages of hypothermia. Dug the gas cylinder out of the sleeping bag and started melting snow to get some hot fluids down me. My first inclination was to pack up and move on, get thawed out, set up camp and rest up a bit. However, I was having difficulty co ordinating as I packed up and it was soon obvious I had little choice but to head out. That was a bitter pill to swallow. A couple of cross country skiers that I met on the way back where very concerned because they thought I was a tad wobbly and suggested calling the mrt; however I felt I was in control of things and assured them night was okay. Once back in Aviemore it was a case of a bus to Inverness and fortunately the ticket office there very kindly changed my ticket to allow me to travel that same night. To be honest I am worried, my winter trips have always been special and I love getting away but if this problem is not sorted, well, life is going to be difficult