Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Lions Summer Walk - GB0LSW

A bare week after we completed the 2nd, reverse, crossing of the Lyke Wake, myself and Bob found ourselves again poised on a start line. This time, we had support - water, bananas, high viz vests and a number each! We were outside the new 'Cast' theatre in Doncaster town center, about to start on the Lions Summer Walk, a 12 mile route to end at TS Gambia, the Sea Cadets center in the town of Thorne.

For this, we had arranged our second 'mobile' amateur radio special event license, with the callsign GB0LSW. Bob would operate on 145MHz FM, using a handheld, whilst I, mentalist that I am, would run HF with the PRC-320 on my back!

Well, armed with some water and bananas, we finally got set off, one what should have been a really quite easy walk for us. That said, I was lugging a 10kg field radio!

The first problem presented itself within about 3 minutes of starting - the route, instead of going around past the old Odeon (Gaumont) cinema site and Christ Church onto Thorne Road, as i'd expected, went instead through Priory Walk which is a covered walkway! All well and good when your no taller than your hat, but a bit awkward when theres a 2.4m whip antenna sticking up above your head! The solution was to have Bob hold the antenna down as we went under what used to be the Park Lane nightclub.

From there we passed Christ Church onto Thorne Road towards Doncaster Royal Infirmary. Soon the folly of a HF mobile station became aparent. I really had not realised that there were so many trees along the route, and low branched trees at that! We had to alter our course slightly to prevent snagging the antenna.

Anyway, we started calling on the radios. As a result, we slackened our pace and were soon overtaken by almost everyone else!

The first support stop was at the Wheatley Hotel. From there, we headed around Sandal Park and over into Clay Lane, before heading into Edenthorpe. At this stage, Bob was managing a few contacts on 2m, whilst I was getting precisely nowhere on HF!

But the going was easy, especially compared with our jaunt on the North York Moors the week before! We passed through Edenthorpe, by our old school, and up to the roundabout and the A18 to Dunsville. Somewhere along here, Bob made contact with the special event station at the Doncaster Aircraft museum. Despite then arranging a sked for me on 18MHz, we were barely able to make the contact.

We passed into Dunsville, an interesting section where Bob had the annoyance of a pirate station to contend with!This idiot kept trying to say he was nearby and was coming to give Bob a kicking! I'd have loved to have seen it happen! But his signal strength made it clear he was not anywhere close and getting further away!

The second rest stop loomed, this was at Hatfields club, and we were being marshaled by uniformed Sea Cadets and Instructors. By this time we were in need to sanitary facilities, so we took the opportunity to drop the radios and have a rest. Ice cold fruit cordial was available which was very refreshing. At this point I was offered the spare battery that I had had Julie and Sam take on ahead, but decided to forgo it, instead depositing it in Bobs pack whilst he was in the lav,

From here there were just a few miles to go. As we made our way towards the marina area, Bob found an England flag on the ground that had fallen off of someones war. It was soon flying from the tip of my antenna!

The route then took us over the motorway via  a service bridge, before back down to join the fast and unpaved road to Thorne. This section was rather tedious, simply because it was long and straight. It was also not the nicest of roads to walk along, and little to see once your past the prison!. We tried a few band changes, and Bob had a go operating the HF for a while, but with still no luck, and an unexpected RF burn for Bob!

But then, we were on the outskirts of Thorne. And soon, we were at the landing on the canal, with just a road crossing to go to the end! There we were met by the mayor, and awarded our medals!

We were not quite the last to finish, but not far off. Having dismantled the antennas, and stowed the kit, we enjoyed a much deserved pint or two!

We always seem to end up in a mess!
The radio aspect was disappointing though. One idea for next year, is to see if we can set up the station at the end point (presumably the TS Gambia again?) and then myself and Bob will complete the walk in advance of everyone else starting it, so we can then run the station during the actual walk from more efficient equipment and antennas.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Lyke Wake Walk 2016 - 2nd Crossing - Report

I know I have left this too long, but finally, heres the report on our 2nd crossing of the Lyke Wake Walk, on the night of the 18-19th June.

There were two key aspects to this crossing - a dawn start, and the reverse route!

The plan was simple, and indeed cunning. We would arrive at the 'end', Ravenscar, late evening on the 18th, get some sleep, and then set off around midnight, complete the easy section from Ravenscar to the A177 in time for dawn to break and light the way through the awkward section past Fylingdales. A brief SOTA activation of each of the two summits as we passed and then a steady drop down into Osmotherley in time for tea and medals.


It never 'quite' goes that way when me and Bob go walking!

The day started well, we got into Osmotherly and parked Bobs motor up. I was driving the first run since Bob doesnt like the way my bad leg has a tendency to go hard on the gas. From there we made our way to Whitby, and raided the Co-op for food, managing to cram sandwiches and whole quiche down (each!), plus staggeringly big bars of chocolate. To avoid the temptation to visit a pub, and to also avoid having to pay for parking, we carried on to Ravenscar, and got parked close to the normal finish line.

At the start - Vegetable rights and peace!

As we arrived, we noticed a minibus parked up. Thinking this might be for one of the known regular supported walks, we wandered over for a chat. It turned out it was for a crossing by one of the schools in Scarborough. As we chatted, their first finishers came in, a teenage girl and boy, hand in hand!  We congratulated them on a fine effort.

As we checked kit and got ready to rest up, more support teams began to arrive, plus more early finishers. And thats when we made our first, and (quite nearly) fatal mistake!

... we decided to crack on!

The temptation to A) congratulate and B) encourage / wind up, the incoming walkers as we passed them, was too much! We treated our feet, although with our nice new boots which now fit properly, little was needed in this, had a pee, and hauled our, predictably, shockingly heavy Bergens on.

So, in daylight, we set off to walk the reverse route. Encouraging the tired and worn walkers coming the other way as we went with calls of 'not far now', 'nearly done, keep going', and telling them that we'd just finished and were going back for the next group we were guiding across!

It was remarkable how some of the walkers really did look about to die! But we did also notice, just how muddy they were!

It turned out that the recent rain had not yet drained. Many parts of the walk, even at this early stage, were muddy and slippy.

Bob was asking every group we passed if they were someone (I forget who). I think we did eventually meet that person. We also met one of the club officials!
 Bouyed by this, we very quickly reached the A177. We failed to become squeshed walkers as we crossed, and so did our usual feet check and carried on. But it was now becoming much slippier, and we were rather surprised at just how muddy it was, considering the day itself was lovely.

As dusk fell and the light started to fade, we could see RAF Fylingdales in the distance. Around about this time we decided, it was time for some music!


One of our handheld transceivers happened to have an FM broadcast receiver built in, so we found a station playing decent music and carried on, although in true fashion there was a short interlude whilst Bob evacuated himself.

Bob having a 'philosophical' moment

The radio would become our companion on this walk. It was actually really nice to have some music, as we walked through the night. Indeed, the morale boost it provided helped offset the fact that, although the weather was perfect, the ground conditions meant that it was particularly tough going.

Dusk falls on the BMEWS

Somewhere short of Flylingdales, the paths became indistinct, and very muddy. We began to slide and stumble. Despite headtorches, we found finding the correct path became tricky. Bob took a bad slip and went both legs into a bog, unfortunately, the bit between his legs was solid ground! Quite a painful experience that would later prove to have been damaging.

We began to have to make quite embarrasing course corrections as the path became invisible, and finding ourselves on the wrong side of a nasty section of bog each time!

At some point around here, I managed to put my entire left leg up to the knee, into a post hole, and then fall forward onto my right knee. This simple incident would prove disasterous to our efforts and ultimately to our crossing times.

An yet, we were so far going well. We had plenty of energy, and were in great spirits. We'd conquered the first of the nasty ravines with little more discomfort than the damn midges. Eller beck was behind us, and we were safely over the A169 road and heading through the nature reserve to cross the North Yorks Moors Railway.

By now it was pitch black, and we were guided only by our GPS and torchlight. As we began the approach and decend to the 2nd ravine of Wheeldale beck, and the site of the roman road, things took a sinister and un-nerving turn! We began to hear dogs barking. Then vehicle movement up ahead. Now, such things occuring in the middle of the night, on the moors, in the presence of a pair of ex-infantrymen, instantly put us on guard. As Cat on Red Dwarf would say 'It doesnt smell right!'

And it wasnt. The vehicles, and their occupents, were out for one reason - they were hunting us! As we came to the beck and the stepping stones, we saw another lamp aproaching. We were confronted by an irate owner of one of the houses beside the beck. Intent on intimidation, and voicing his annoyance that people might dare to walk a public path on a national park during the night, our fear was that he would set his dogs on us.

I have absolutely no qualms of pointing out the exact location, and hence the house in question, for future walkers to be wary. I had intended on reporting his actions to the police. I can understand a landowner in such a remote location being wary, but it was quite clear that we were walkers.

We got clear of the roman road as fast as was possible, and away from this idiot. But we now had the worst of the boggy sections to cross, and boy was it wet! However, it was begining to become light, we were now able to dispense with the head torches. We stumbled and slipped, cursed, jumped and sank our way through, until eventually coming out onto the metalled road. We were now close to Fat Betty, our breakfast and selfie stop!

A quick adjustment of laces

At Fat Betty we stopped to eat, and cold chow mein is a fantastic taste! (im not being sarcastic there, it really was nice!). Changing socks and checking feet was done in relay, fighting the onset of cramp. A few piccies were taken, and we enjoyed a rest sat in the glow of the rising sun.
The creeping Insanity

Breakfast at Fat Betty's.
From here we made our way down (or up?) the road to the Lion Inn, luckily quite firmly closed at that time in the morning, and passed over the back to join the Rosedale railway path.Now, on our first crossing, this winding track seemed to go on forever. This time was no exception. We began now to tire a little. Soon, the long drawn out slog of it began to rival the climb up Whernside! By the time we turned off to join the Cleveland way towards Urra Moor, it was becoming seriously tedious and boring! My gawd its a long, long way when its all uphill!

Our spirits were still good though at this point. Bob had been texting the radio stations overnight, and shortly after we crossed Urra Moor, totally forgetting to carry out the SOTA activation as we crossed the summit before we realised, we found the bench at the start of the decent down to the B1257. Another sock change and a bit of scran here. But by this time, things were just starting to go awry! As a result of our falls earlier, we were both beginging to hurt, and lots of painkillers were not helping enough. My left knee was becoming serously painfull. But, one fantastic moment did occurr whilst stopped here - we got a mention on Radio Cleveland!

Checking feet after Urra Moor
We were still in good enough morale at this point to be annoyed by the idiots who let their dogs run off lead on the moor, despite the presence of the sheep. But as we descended, and more so as we began the climb up the steps towards Cringle Moor, our injuries began to take their toll. For Bob, painkillers were effective, and he was able to maintain his pace. For me, although the painkillers did their job, and my knee didnt hurt too much, it was rapidly stiffening. Each step became an effort.

Once up on the moor, walking wasnt too bad, but I could no longer maintain my usual pace. By the time we were negotiating our weary way through the rocks of  , we were both slow, but I was now finding it increasingly difficult to bend my knee. We were becoming very slow. Now, Cringle Moor and Drake Howe effectively form three ridges, and the colls between are deceptively steep. As we looked up to the summit, we realised that there was no way I would be able to ascend, without causing myself serious damage. We opted to take the lower level path slightly to the north, even though this meant the ups and downs of various ancient waste tips. Progress was laboriously slow.

We rejoined the Cleveland way path near Mouries pond, and limped into the Lord Stones cafe. Every movement for me now was a challenge, including sitting down on a bench, and then getting up again to go and buy something to eat. As we moved off, I had been reduced to the pace of an asthmatic tortoise. I told Bob to just crack on, that way at least one of us could maintain a good time, but Bob insisted on remaining together. This we did until the summit of the next hill. Here we stopped, took a look around, took a look at ourselves, and realised that somewhere in the last ten miles, we'd left our morale and enthusiasm behind! We looked pretty much how we felt, and we felt terrible. I finally convinced Bob to forge ahead, with the argument that I only had to follow the path from now on and that I might be slow but I wasnt actually dying, and he slowly started to pull away as we went down the hill. I crept my way painfully down, and soon was tackling the horrendous set of slippery steps in the woods. I stopped upon a mound just before the farm, as my GPS batteries had given up. I changed them, and finished off the last of the Jerky and the coke i'd got at the cafe.

On the drive back to Ravenscar, Bob told me of his adventures -

After leaving me, he started heading down the hill at a bit quicker pace. Finding he could actually move better at a jog than walking, he started to run! This he managed to maintain, after a fashion, until he hit the banking up to the woods after the river crossing, which sapped some of the energy reserved he still had. He'd also had to stop and check with a local which way to go, after his GPS decided to have a wobble.
Having made it up the slope and into the woods, he was once again able to make time. On arriving at the car park, hot, sweaty, stinking, he found he was in the midst of masses of families, all smiling and laughing kids. And one now very knackered and rapidly stiffening Bob! He then opened the car, removed his boots, and hobbled barefoot to the ice cream van. The happy families had to then endure the sight of a steaming, crumpled hobo ramming a '99' down his neck!

After a brief rest I carried on, soon I was over the road and the stream, the bridge of which was rather awkward to cross! But now, I just had to get into the woods, and a couple of miles later would be on the road down to the car park and the end! Once in the woods, I again began to enjoy the scenery, and even managed to increase my pace a little. I'd sent Bob a few updates by text (our radio batteries being long since dead!) with a rough ETA. At one point, I took a slight detour instead of following the expected path,a nd was worried that Bob might have retraced his steps to meet me. But, I had told him to get to the car and have a kip.

The final Marker Stone

As I came to the end of the woods, with the last length of Coalmire Lane ahead of me, I noticed a car parked by the gate. The Pen-Y-Ghent cafe sticker in the rear window indicated it was Bob (im hopeless at recognising cars). I fell against the wing, knocked on the window, and asked a half awake Bob "Whens the next bus due?"

We had made it.

After a brief rest, we headed back to Ravenscar to collect my car, only going the wrong way and into Middlesborough the once. We were shattered. And we stank. But we had completed the Lyke Wake Walk for the second time, and by the reverese route.

Our crossing times were appalling!  Although Bob managed a bit better than me, but even so, we made it within the available 24h. Recovery seemed to be much faster than the first time - I could actually walk the next day! But both of us, even as I write this report in early October, nearly four months later, retain the remnants of the injuries we picked up on that day!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Did I mention our charity?

You know, I cant remember! Well, i'll mention it again!

Our charity for this years Lyke Wake Walk - Reverse Route challenge on the 18-19th June is Meningitis Now. Oh look, theres even a link to their webpage on the side of this blog! How lucky is that?

I tell you what else is lucky, theres a link to our sponsorship and donations page as well! So you see, you can read all about our three peaks walk, then just pop over the mouse pointer a few inches, and in a click or few, you can make a pledge to support us on our walk and the great work that Meningitis Now does in supporting families hit by this devastating illness.

And, look, see how nice I am to you? You dont even need to drag the mouse that far! Just click here - http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/Walkingenglishmen

and give us some of your money!

Go on, you know you want to! It all feels just soooo heavy in your wallet doesnt it? Go on, lighten the load on your hip pocket, and your conscience!

The Yorkshire Three Peaks....Again!

Due to a date calculation error, the planned walk of Trollers Gill with Sam couldnt happen, so I asked Bob if he wanted to try something else...

'Y3P', was his reply. So, on Monday, we yet again headed to Horton in Ribblesdale, a little later in the morning than normal, and after Bobs customary visit to the public conveniences, parked up behind the pub, and started to get kitted up.

The weather was excellent. 'T-shirt tabbing' straight from the off, however, the forecast was for showers later in the afternoon. After a protein shake and banana breakfast, I dropped a £2 coin into the honesty box for the parking, and we headed off around the church.

The walk to the foot of Pen-Y-Ghent was about as uneventful as it gets, other than having to keep moving aside to let the farmer on his quad bike past, as he did his rounds feeding the sheep.

Heading up, the fine weather had us working up a bit of a sweat. There seemed to be very few people about, and most of those were coming the other way!

It wasnt long before we were tackling the first scramble. In the fine conditions this proved no problem.

Once at the summit, we paused to play a little radio. Pen-y-ghent is a SOTA summit, and we needed just four radio contacts to make it an official activation. Well, these were hard to come by! We had to resort to the big telescopic antenna, but eventually Bob bagged the needed contacts.

As we set off again, we passed by the chaps you can see in the background in the picture below, at this point it was realised that Bob knew one of them, who lives not far from him!

Pen-y-ghent done, we began the descent down to the long tedious drag over to Ribble Head. In the nice sunny weather, and with our nice new comfy boots, this seemed no hardship, and we decided to make a small detour to visit Hull Pot.

This ancient hole in the ground is seriously scary! I cant imagine what neolithic people thought when they came across it.

From Hull Pot we backtracked to rejoin the path and headed toward the Ribblehead viaduct, just visible in the photo below, with the imposing bulk of mistress Whernside dominating the horizon.

At the road junction we avoided the sarnie waggon and decided to just have a snack, tighten the old laces and crack on up to Blea Moor Sidings, to get up the horrendous slog that is Whernside.
Crossing over to Ribblehead viaduct, you can see Ingleborough through the arches, a reminder of whats to come

Its over there!
As the weather had been good for some time, all the water courses were mere trickles

Even the paved slog up Whernside didnt seem as bad as last time. But then, last time the weather was abysmal. As we climbed Whernside this time, it became apparent  just how amazing the views from its summit are! The whole of the Dales, and the peaks of the Lakes, could be seen, as could the sparkling waters of Morcambe Bay and the Irish sea. A slightly less attractive sight was that of a lamb with its eye hanging out.

At the summit, we had a spot of lunch, and Bob changed socks whilst I tried for the SOTA contacts. This time though it seemed everyone was busy elsewhere. Desperate attempts were made to get a spot onto the online alert system, but the only one that worked, via a Facebook page, was sadly too little too late. Bob had a brief run in with a self appointed member of the frequency police, who berrated him for 'not proper procedure' whilst at the same time breaking his own license conditions by not giving his callsign. Despite all attempts, including Bob bagging a summit to summit contact with an activator on a hill in North Wales, we gave up without getting enough contacts to qualify. But, we'd been stopped for about half an hour, time was marching on, and despite the warm weather the slight breeze was making us cold as it dried off our sweat. Without changing my socks, we moved on and tackled the nasty rocky descent.

Yet we still felt good, it seemed all easy going. But dark skies were brewing to the North. The breeze was holding them off, but it was becoming obvious that we were on borrowed time with the weather.

It started to rain, slightly at first, then heavier, as we approached Ingleborough. It was quite heavy as we hit the wall.

NO photo ive yet seen does the wall justice! Like the one above, they all look a much  gentler gradient than is the case. By the time we were half way up, and reaching the scramble near the top, the heavens opened in a torrential downpour.

We had waterproof jackets on, but the effort of the climb meant we were as wet inside as out, but also hot, and with laboured breathing and misted glasses I completed the wall a little behind Bob, and to my dismay realised i'd forgotten that the wall doesnt go to the summit, but just to a slightly less steep section! As we headed back down the other side for the final four miles to Horton, the ground was just a mass of fast flowing rivlets. The only consolation was that at least it wasnt sideways blowing sleet like the last time!

By the time we reached Sulber Nick, probably one of the worst parts of the walk generally, everything was a sea of mud, every rock was slippy, and I was so wet that even my underpants were damp. I also had a very cold left nipple, which turned out to be an open pocket in my jacket that had filled with rain water!

Caked with mud, we left the rain behind as we descended, and having passed the two wooden signs that tell you how far to Horton it is but lie like a cheap NAAFI watch, finally had the roofs of the railway cottages in sight, and Pen-y-ghent in front of us on the horizon. Just a couple of miles to go.

By the time we descended towards the railway, with the beautiful but toxic waters of the Blue Lagoon off to our right, our own body heat had started to dry us out a bit. Bobs bunion was pissing him off a tad, and i'd developed a sore spot under the ball of my right foot, due I believe to choosing to not change to fresh socks. As we crossed the bridge in Horton to head up the main road towards the Pen-y-ghent cafe, it was clear just how much it had rained, as the previously gentle river was a raging torrent below us.

We reached the car, ending our walk just inside the challenge time, at 11h 30. Not our best time, but we had set out to have a steady bimble and not push hard. We both gently steamed as we packed our kit away and took off our boots in favour of trainers for the drive home. The sore spot on my foot was clearly from sweat, something changing socks would have prevented. But apart from that and aching legs, oh and a little extra sunburn, and being decidedly moist, we were none the worse for it.

On the drive home, Bob tried to kill me by feeding me a ridiculously hot spicy sausage, and we decided that, having done the Yorkshire Three Peaks many times now, we would reserve it for an annual test, and from now on look at walking some of those other summits we could see so clearly from the top of Whernside.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Last Monday - Win Hill, Lose Hill, Mam Tor and the Great Ridge

Not content with 20 miles and moderate sun stroke on the Sunday, me and Bob headed back out to the Edale valley on the Monday, this time to the other side, to complete a circuit of the Great Ridge.

Parking at Nether Booth, at first glance the 13 mile route looked a bit of a stroll. And so it seemed until we passed through a farmyard to the foot of the ascent onto Win Hill!

All was nice pleasent road and path walking for a while, lots of lambs and calves to look at

After the first farm, came the first steep ascent. And boy was it a bugger! But once up 300m or so, the land leveled out for a gentle wander up towards the summit of Win Hill

Up there, as Bobs pointing out! After a while, the track turns toward the true summit, which entailed a little scramble

Win Hill surmounted, it was back down into the outskirts of Hope, a rather steep descent, during which we not only practiced our navigation skills a little more, but also brushed up on our Fire Control Orders and combat medical techniques! Something neither of us have used for decades.

The climb to the summit of Lose Hill was also a goodly steep walk, made a little worse for me as the path for a good part was at an angle that was not condusive to pain free walking to someone with one leg longer than the other! A ten minute rest was had half way up though whilst we had a good natter with an old couple coming down

And, at the top of Lose Hill, it was time for lunch! Pasta, lucozade, and bizzare long Polish sausage, all enjoyed in the vicinity of a rotting sheep carcass. Rock n roll!

From here, the path was fairly easy, although varying from rubble and ruts to stone paving, across the Great Ridge to Hollins Cross and then up onto the summit of Mam Tor, and its constant supply of day walking tourists and gale force winds


With the hills now done, we took the track beside the road back to Edale. Our route, with three miles still to go, took us toward the Nags Head, but as we passed the railway station I noticed the Penny Pot cafe was still open - 'fancy a brew?' says I.

A nice pot of tea later, and we settled into the last few miles across farmland back to the car, which by this time was surrounded by chickens. Despite the factor 50 sunblock we'd used that morning, we were still burnt to a crisp.