The Vault Regulars

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sheep folding at Naden.

 A couple of the jobs on the house list were done, well almost done. So as a treat for good behaviour i allowed myself a little walkies today.

 A few weeks ago when i was plodding with the East Lancs LDWA three of us hung back from the procession and when nobody was looking we did a parachute roll into a side ditch until the guards others disappeared from view. We discussed a little Marylin called Hail Storm Hill 476.64m. that was only a short distance over to our left or east as some would have it.
Descriptions and whereabouts of hills can be found here.

 The only trouble was that none of us had a map! So unfortunately we wondered around and took some nice pictures of what we thought was Hail Storm Hill but in fact it was Top O Leach. It was my fault, i take the blame. Martin said that bit of ground over there looks higher, but there you go, my mistake.

 So it’s been on my agenda to put it straight and today was the day. I was prepared. No mistakes today. I’d never live it down if i missed a top when the sun was out. “Sun”, did i hear you say!
Well yes, where i was the sun was out but south Manchester looked dull.
I carried equipment only surpassed by GCHQ to ensure the mission was a success.
 I also wanted to go and have a look around the old Ding Quarry and see if any wild camping sites offered themselves. Obviously water is high on the list for any wild camp so the spring marked on the OS map just to the east of the quarry was something to search out.
 The quarry, dormant now, used to provide stone for house building and floor flags in Victorian days.

 The walk up Rooley moor road is a bit tedious when you’ve done it a few times, so i wanted to detour onto the moor. I passed a fellow walker, sweat dripping of his nose and chin. It wasn’t surprising as he was walking in wellies and had a quilted waterproof and a rucksack from the seventies. I went over to a low hill called Top of Pike. There was quite a large cairn for such a meaningless hillock.
Views were good all round but south Manchester still looked overcast, rainy even.
 I could see the spoil heaps and the “fingers” as they are called where waste had been discarded from the quarry. Once in the quarry i was quite surprised at how big it is and just how much stone must have been extracted. Very little remains there now, a few left over buckets, derelict storage containers and the walls of buildings long gone.

 Inside one of the buildings was the remains of an old Dome Tent. A wild camper! 
I headed off slowly through the quarry looking at the the rock and the heaps and holes and wondered what it must have been like to work here years ago when the wind was howling and the rain horizontal.
They must have been hardy souls. I was in no rush and enjoyed my wander. 

 I could hear the call of a Curlew, unmistakeable, and quite close i thought, although i didn’t see one all day. I checked the map and skirted the quarry edge making for the spring. With the area being quite dry it was easy to spot. But it was not inviting and i wouldn’t fill my water bottle from it. It would be hard to spot if the weather had been wet as there is plenty of boggy ground surrounding it.

 Right next to the spring i headed north on a clear track, with a couple of way marking posts. I passed what looked like an old railway platform. It must have been an important part of the quarry to have built such a structure here. A tramway maybe? Not sure.

I was soon at the top of the hill, Hail Storm Hill. This was it. Just prior to the top i found a pair of ladders and a tow rope, neither in good condition. I can only assume that a 4 x 4 had got stuck and these pieces of kit extracted the vehicle from the gloop.
Looking at the map the actual pinnacle of Hail Storm Hill, if thats what it can be called, is not obvious. I presume the old building, now a shelter is what people call the top but just to be on the safe side i also went and did the high ground marked 476m and 477m,.
 Shelter on assumed Hail Storm Hill top.
View from spot height 476m

Another bit of a gloopy trod brought me to the new wind farm road which i headed off down to the mast on Higher Hill. I just went there to see the views as i had never been on that edge before. 2 off road motor bikes passed me quite noisily. I was sat down just off the road and i don’t think they even saw me. 

It was a really pleasant day, hardly any wind, certainly no rain and beautiful golden moorland.  Still not much sign of new growth around. Colours reminded me more of Autumn rather than Summer.
As i headed for a wall which crosses the top of Naden Brook i noticed a female Wheatear, it was sunning itself i think, but it stayed long enough for me to get the camera out and take a photo.
Female Wheatear in spring plumage.

 There is no path shown on the OS map for a route along Naden Brook but i have walked up the brook before and i knew i could exit at the bottom and so i decided to walk it again and pick a nice sunny spot for lunch.
Just as i crossed the brook i found my first dead sheep. Probably succumbed to the fierce weather that been up here over the last few weeks. I bet it fell through the snow and couldn’t get out of the bog.
 An early bath
 A youngster didn’t even make first bath
 One bath too many
 This poor girl was still alive but in a very bad way. I went over to check her expecting her to get up and  move away. Hardly a flicker apart from a shallow bleat and a flicker from the eyes. My thought was lambing but she was in a bad way and not like i had seen a ewe lambing many times before. I wondered if she was breach or struggling with birth so i checked and that wasn’t the case. She was in a strange position to, half down a hillside and upside down. She had been pecked by the crows and Ravens. There was nothing else i could do. She was not for moving.
 Sadly i moved on, i would tell a farmer if i saw one later.

 Just before i got to the bottom of the brook i picked a good sunny spot and sat down for a coffee. I kept thinking was there anything else i could have done for that poor ewe but there wasn’t, i knew that really.
 I enjoyed my stop and the peace and quiet, no sounds, nothing. 
Lunch Stop
 Tranquility with good views
 Descent to Naden Higher reservoir.
 There are a group of 4 reservoirs here, Naden higher, middle and lower and then Greenbooth. I decided to take the east bank simply because i hadn’t been that way and also my route back to Rooley Moor rd exits east just after the dam of Middle reservoir. Joining the path to the left of the footbridge (Photo above) i was joined by a lamb only a few days old. It followed me along as though i was going to bottle feed it. As i crossed the fence it bleated, trying to get through the wire fence. It didn’t manage it and i moved on.

My little follower.
 Around the corner the light was lovely and i just had to stop and take in the scenery. I couldn’t believe how warm it was. I was in a sun trap and enjoying every minute. The birds, the reflections on the water, watching the clouds change the light on the fell sides. So peaceful.

 Strange rock formation, or were these drill holes?
 As i watched a couple of Peacock butterflies landed close by and as i went to pick up the camera they were off. Five minutes later one came back and landed on the same spot. This time i was ready.

 What a fantastic wild camp spot! And plenty of water.

 Greenbooth reservoir.
My last photo before getting back to the car. What a spectacular day. Lets hope for more of this weather.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Around the Ogden reservoirs

 Sheila unfortunately had to work Saturday and therefore our usual 10k walk with Dorothy had to be postponed. I checked the forecast for Sunday and it didn’t look too good. The Met office predicted 60% chance of rain with temperatures of 10 degrees but with the wind chill it was to feel like 5 degrees.

 Dorothy said that if we wanted to get off somewhere on our own and do something higher, then she would stay at home. I decided we could do both, get Dorothy out and do something a little higher but not too taxing.

 I decided that a walk around the Ogden reservoirs near Newhay fitted the bill. If that predicted rain came then it would be easy enough to detour back.

 Usually the small car park near Lane Bottom fills up pretty sharpish, but today there were only 4 cars there. I wondered where everybody was as the day, although bitterly cold and felt more like 0 degrees, was still clear and inviting.

 We set of walking east away from the car park and soon hit footpath diversion signs. The water board were doing improvements and we pedestrians were pointed a little south and up through some trees. The path was good and far more interesting than the lower road walk we had taken on previous trips.

 We saw some mountain bikers ignore the diversion signs and from our lofty positions watched them, thinking any minute now they are going to have to backtrack and follow our route. But they were having non of it. They removed the gates blocking the route and carried on regardless. They did reposition the gates, bless ‘em. Rules for some, i thought.

 We rejoined the route adjacent to the dam road between Piethorne and Kitcliffe reservoirs and we carried on east to the last of the reservoirs (Nameless as far as i know). The path from here has a number of options where depending on time and fitness you can extend the walk as much as you want. We went north to Cold Grieve but then left the path and took a sheep trod leading towards the old quarries at the back of Norman Hill reservoir. As height was gained the breeze became stronger and i was wishing i had brought my warmer hat. My ears were tingling and hands were tightly gripping my shell jacket sleeves.

 I knew there was a good path north of us that goes to Windy hill and the communications mast but how we get to it was a bit challenging, there was quite a high dry stone wall in the way and we had Dorothy to consider. I tried in vain to find stepping stones or a stile and so we had to cross a footbridge and head west to exit by the dam. Fortunately the moor was very dry, we have had no rain to speak of here for what seems like ages now. In fact the reservoirs were quite low for this time of year and unless we get some rain soon there are going to be hosepipe bans before the summer even comes. And worse still grass fires.
 Just as we crossed the dam outlet i spotted some frog spawn and next to it a dead frog. A life for a life i thought.

  When we met the path at Ben Heys we found it to be a sheltered spot and an ideal place to stop for a coffee. Good views across the M62 towards Blackstone Edge.
One of the flasks of coffee we took was unusually tepid. The other one boiling. Both flasks have always been excellent and the contents came out of the same kettle at the same time, so i need to find out whats going on. Very strange.

 A couple of fox terriers found us and explored our surroundings for any food. They were just too late, we had finished. The owners gave them short shrift when they caught up but they were causing no problems really.

 The sky was looking ominous and getting darker by the minute. The breeze had changed direction and had picked up a little. We decided to get a move on as the first spots of rain were felt.

 Heading west along the Rochdale way (Tunshill Lane) we passed a large group of people with old style SLR cameras and huge telephoto lenses. Not what you would normally see hikers carrying, so i can only assume that it was a photographic club out taking advantage of the good light which was highlighting the gold and straw coloured moorland under stormy skies. Ideal for black and white photographs.

 On the way back to Ogden reservoir, we were nearly run over by 2 more youths on mountain bikes hurtling along and one biker coming the opposite way was equally annoyed at there total disregard for walkers. So thanks to that lady biker for showing consideration. She carried on with a side to side shaking of her head.

 The rain never got more than a spit and although the sky was looking more and more like it was going to down pour, we got back back to the car dry.
A very enjoyable couple of hours.

 Some pics from the walk.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Luna Venado sandals

Pricey but light at 200 grams per pair, size 9. And of course very packable.

 Sometimes i think i won't post this item or that, because in my opinion, it's too expensive. But i've learnt that price isn't everything, if it's what you want.

 If you need a solid pair of sandals, handmade in the US, available in UK, then these are about as solid as they come.
With numerous other sandals of this type, you feel every stone underfoot and really they are suitable  only as beach wear.
 With these Luna sandals, you can run, trail walk, cross rivers without the fear of loosing them thanks to the ATS strapping option on them or limping home because of something that has been felt through the sole. Also ideal for standing in showers on campsites.

There is a choice of 4 (1 option pending release) types of sole and prices vary between £69 and £82.
The sole unit on the Original has 6mm of Vibram neoprene or 7-8mm when combined with the foot bed and the thickness increases through the range as does the cost.

 Two types of footbed are offered. One a Pittards leather and the other MGT or Monkey Grip Technology. MGT would certainly be best for UK hiking conditions.

                The black MGT footbed.

The US webpage is here if you want more info and the UK webpage of Minimalist running gear is here. if these suit your needs.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Gear round up from Lammermuir's trip.

Here is the gear I used on our Herring Road trip.

This is my only 1 person tent. I really like it now the door has been modified. My only wish is that I would like the inner door to be 2/3 solid 1/3 mesh and the outer door have a 2 way zip. Currently the inner is all mesh. I realise that the weight would rise slightly, but it would be better for UK conditions.
 Other than that, it's an excellent shelter, fast to erect and under 1kilo.

Sleeping Bag.
PHD Minim 500. in drishell. (Bought in the "make your own" sale last year. So i can’t include a link for it.)
Rated at -9 degrees C.

I took this bag simply because of the overnight temperatures we have had of late. I am not a backpacker that takes a lighter bag and uses additional clothing to boost the warmth. I don't like sleeping in clothing and therefore the bag has to do the job.
We had temperatures down to -7 degrees C and the cold woke me, admittedly it was around the shoulder area i felt it. I did put on my North Face belay jacket and then I dropped off to sleep again. So I would say the -9 rating is the absolute limit for me. We certainly didn't expect such a low temperature as we had, so i was pleased i brought this bag along. I wish i had ordered it with a shoulder baffle now. I wonder if i can get one retro fitted over the summer? Mmm. email to PHD pending.

Sleeping Mat.
 Superb kit. I have the medium length mat, weight 460gr. The pump bag is very light and it fully inflates the mat in 3 fills of the bag. 

I also use a sheet of 3 mm foam. The type I use is manufactured for use under laminated flooring. 2m x 0.5m, weighs 85 grams. The additional warmth and insulation it provides is worth every gram. Unfortunately you can only buy this insulation in large pack sizes. costs £20. But there again it will last you ages and you can make all sorts of kit with it.

My full pack weight including food for 4 days was 11 kilo.
I found the shoulder straps very uncomfortable. I compared the straps on Judith's Osprey Exos and the Osprey is far better at spreading the load across the shoulders. The Exos straps stayed solid and flat whereas the Creon buckled. I tried altering the back height but it didn’t make any difference to the straps. I will have to make some changes to them or otherwise the pack will not get used.
The Creon only has 1 hip belt pocket. I would have liked 2.
The sack size, shape, design and quality is good and I had no problems fitting all my gear in and the pockets are near perfect.

The biggest problem I had was with the spring steel rod that creates the air gap between the sack and your back. It kept springing out of position and was uncomfortable. It would wear your outer shell if left unspotted.
I have emailed photographs to Mammut to see if it can be resolved.

 I have numerous stoves, gas, meths, solid. I chose the Spider, again because of the expected low temperatures and with the Spider having a pre-heat tube it would be reliable. 
It was a good choice. The Spider is not by any means the lightest stove but with it also being a remote canister stove it makes it ideal to use in the tent porch if necessary.

Gas, I took Primus 4 season and in total I used 66 grams of gas, i also kept the canister in my sleeping bag at night.
Pan used. Evernew ca-251 ti.
To light the stove I use a fire steel. It is completely reliable.

I took 2 insulation jackets. TNF Zephyrus and PHD Minimus.
I didn't' need to take the Minimus in all honesty. The Zephyrus was good enough especially when used in conjunction with my outer shell.

Outer shell.
I had a new shell jacket I was reviewing for a company. It won't be on the market until Autumn. I will do a separate post on this, once I have the ok off the company to release it.
It's a shame that it won't be available for this years TGO challenge.

Overtrousers. (Note, it’s over -trousers not over-pants.!)
Rab Bergan’s. Not the best waterproof overtrousers considering the price of them. They do leak a little around the knee seams but i can live with them. I have re-proofed them a number of times but nothing resolves the ingress. They are not damaged in any way and show no signs of wear.

If i was to buy a new pair they would probably be the Berghaus Paclites.

Trousers. (Not pants).
Columbia Silver Ridge convertibles.
I just enjoy wearing these. For me they are perfect for the temperatures just now. I have numerous other pairs of walking trousers including Montane and Rohan to name a couple, good trousers in there own right, but I always seem to come back to these. They can get a bit sweaty in summer but then they do convert to shorts.
The belt loops are wide and the pockets large and secure.

Base layers.
I wore 2 base layers rather than 1 base and 1 mid. I get too warm if i wear a conventional mid layer.
Rohan long sleeved ultra silver tee. At 95 grams. I enjoy wearing it, you hardly know you have it on.
On top of this I wore a Trekmates Merino zip top.
I have a number of merino tops from Icebreaker, Katmandu, Aldi and the Trekmates is the best. It's not the thickest top but it seems to be the warmest and the most comfortable. Don’t ask me why because i can’t work it out. Great value for money in comparison with the Icebreaker.

Bridgedale Trekkers. I have tried others but always come back to these. (I havn’t tried Teko socks as yet though.) I am also not overly keen on Merino socks i find that they give/stretch a little too much.

Meindl Softline.

Petzl e-lite.
Very lightweight and does a good job.

I took my Satmap Active 10+.
I didn’t have a route mapped on it because i had no idea of the route, apart from the Start point and the end point. I used it a couple of times just to see exactly where we were but Mike was keeping the way close to his chest. Well that was where his map case was anyway.
It was useful to get grid references of camping spots.

That’s about it. except for the small items of kit which are pretty insignificant. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Herring Road Pt 2.

 Day 3.

By the time i had got settled down and finished tea. Real Turmat Beef and potato casserole followed by Apple and custard it was 8.45pm. The temperature had taken a real dip and unfortunately, not much of a sunset tonight due to the cloud in the west.

 Mike was pitched far enough away that i could only just hear the snoring. Well i’m pretty sure it was Mike anyway. And i dropped off listening to James Taylor on the mp3 watsit. I didn’t get to the point of turning it off so the next thing i knew it was starting to get light over the horizon. I checked my watch and the temperature was -2 degrees C. It didn’t seem that cold overnight, so i guess it probably dropped another degree or 2.

 Within 15 minutes of me sticking my head out of the tent door the sun started to appear above the slopes in front of the tent. I checked to see if anyone else was up but all doors were shut.
It was a sunrise but not the greatest and within 10 minutes or so the orange disc had disappeared behind the increasing cloud cover.

 Dawn or pre-dawn even, the birds were doing flypasts and the sounds were reminiscent of tundra regions. I lay there for a while comfy and warm just listening to the Curlew, Lapwings, Grouse and Geese. As i opened my tent door to pay a call of nature, 2 hare’s shot out from there hiding places and quickly disappeared again.

 Striking camp, it was obvious today was going to be dull and overcast. Not a bit like yesterday. I had a brief look at the archaeological site nearby and the marker stone and then we headed off along the windfarm track. The old path to Dye Cottage runs parallel to the new track and as the new track was clear of snow, decided to stay on it.

 Somehow, probably due to being obliterated by snow or by chatting we missed the turnoff to the bridge over the Dye water. It was only a short detour that got us back on track. There was no swearing, honest.

 The route north between Lamb and Black Hills was particularly hard work and numerous short breathing stops were had which gave us a few chances to look back. The weather was deteriorating, black stormy clouds had taken over the view and our ridge walk of yesterday was disappearing fast.
 We carried on over the watershed and headed for Killpallet. Here the snow was the deepest so far being higher than the fenced enclosures and almost topping the gates and stiles. At one stile, i cleared the snow from the steps and as i dropped down the other side my right leg went down a good 3+ feet and with the momentum and the weight of the backpack moving forward, i collapsed in a heap unable to turn or get out. My knee felt sore as it doesn’t normally bend in that direction.  I lay there a few seconds and tried to twist myself onto my back. Eventually i made enough space down the hole to pull my booted foot out.

 Thankfully there didn’t seem to be any damage done and we carried on to the bridge where a minor road crosses the Killpallet Burn. It was brew time or more like lunch time. I checked the knee and although there was slight bruising it wasn’t painfull. Just lucky i guess.

 The temperature was now 3.5 degrees C and not sunbathing weather. We were soon away.
The path over to Whiteadder reservoir was very wide and made for vehicles. It was extremely muddy and clung to the boots. Passing through the glen between Southern Law and Priestlaw Hill is quite pleasant and would be a good place to sit on a fine sunny day.

 More snow and then down to Penshiel where we were greeted with a barking pack of Alsatians. Fortunately the owner came out to see what the noise was about and we passed with no bother. Further up the minor road Mike knew of a good place to camp along the Writerspath Burn. A sheepfold that he had used before. Unfortunately on this occasion it was more like a pond.

 We looked for some flat land adjacent to the burn and although rabbit holes were abundant it was the best place and here we pitched for the night.

 A breeze was building and i inadvertently pitched with my doorway open to the breeze. It wasn’t fierce and so decided it would do for tonight. it was just after 4.00pm, an early stop.
It wasn’t long before the group had succumbed to some shut eye.

 I awoke about 6.30pm hungry. It was cold, felt like zero but it was still 3.5 degrees. I made coffee and then had MX3 foods rice and chicken, and soon after turned in with the door open. It wasn’t long before a Barn Owl flew by and scoured the opposite hillside for a meal. I believe the owls are having a rough time at the moment due to the snow lasting far longer than normal.

Day 4.

 Fortunately i didn’t need to exit the tent during the night and it was quite warm. Warmer certainly than the previous two. As i opened the tent door snow slid off the tent and engulfed the porchway. That was a bit of a shock. At no point during the night did i envisage that it was snowing. Mike said it definitely wasn’t snowing at 2.00am.
 I looked across at the others and they were still covered. It was still early so i went back to sleep for an hour.

 It seemed to take me ages to pack up today for some reason. Just one of those days. Mike was already packed but JJ and Judith hadn’t started as yet. I took my time and re-packed.

 Once away it wasn’t long before we were in deep snow again. Pristine, untouched and crisp. We were heading into a new windfarm which believe it or not the powers that be had erected tourist information boards and had put a heading "Enjoy Scotland’s Outdoors Responsibly”. What planet do they come from, that thinks creating wide roads through heather moorland, felling plantations and erecting 80+ wind turbines is acting responsibly.

 Navigation through Crystal Rig wind farm is actually difficult and more so in bad weather. You would think that having spent so much money that they could ensure that the signage for the path is 100% accurate and in place. It’s far too easy to wander off track when the snow is covering the route. It’s also very boggy in parts.
 We checked the map and the GPS a number of times but considering the windfarm wasn’t on the map or the GPS i was quite pleased we could actually see where we were heading.
 I think it would be advantageous to stick to the new roads, where at least you would keep your feet dry if taking a little longer to exit the other side. (But that’s only my opinion).
 Once through, the day brightened up as did the view although again the wind was bitterly cold. We caught a glimpse of Bass Rock out in the Firth of Forth and then a short time later Dunbar came into view. 

The snow was still quite deep as we descended the eastern slopes towards Redscar Burn and Hartside.

 The hills were now behind us and the end was near. A few miles of road walking passing through Spott and the Witches Stone, brought us in Dunbar. Mike had parked the car in the station car park where we dropped the bags before demolishing fish and chips in Central Cafe.

 Then to our surprise we were taken to a bothy of great grandeur. It came with a chauffeur and running hot water and flushing loo’s.
The fire was lit and all was well. After a trip to Asda for a couple of celebratory bottles of vino fallover and a meal in the Sharmin tandoori. I think that’s what it was called. We were Chauffeured back, to an evening of good conversation and rhetoric.

Considering all things, i believe it was the right decision to change the original Plan A route of 70km to Plan B at 50km. The snow conditions definitely slowed us down and also drains energy much faster in comparison to no snow conditions.
It would have been a disaster so close to the actual TGO Challenge if there had been any muscle tears due to pushing too hard. The muscles were certainly stretched and my achilles tendon problem cleared up during the walk. It might come back over the next few weeks but for now it’s great to have no pain.

Gear was tested, some new gear worked well and some didn’t and was disappointing. I will do a gear round up soon.

 Thanks Mike, JJ, Judith for making it a walk to remember and not forgetting Becky of course. 

Plan A in the summer?

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