Friday 25 April 2014

Barry Bucknell Lives!

Nice New Guying System

When I had to go out to work for a living I was driven to seek promotion after promotion for one reason only.  I needed and wanted to earn enough money so that I never, ever had to open my car bonnet or to go into a branch of B and Q or the like again.  My intention was to be able to afford “to get a man in” to do it.  Or as Mrs Fellbound sometimes says, with that tone that appears to be suggesting something more than the actual words she uses, “get a real man in to do it”.  So my dizzy climb to the top of the greasy pole of public servantry was a result of nothing more than my inability to do anything practical under the bonnet of the car or at my non-existent work bench.

However, after studying the Yellow Pages I was unable to find any man or woman listed who could do for me in relation to some desired modifications to my Scarp 1.  I had thought of sending a train ticket and a wad of fivers to employ Robin, as he is the master of modifications when it comes to the Scarp 1. And he seems actually to enjoy doing these things.  But selfishly he had headed off to Dartmoor to have a final pre-TGO Challenge jaunt.  Thus, I was in the awful position of having to do it myself.

   The problems:       

  • The Scarp has nowhere to hang your wet smelly socks to dry after a day walking through bog in trail shoes.

  • The Scarp’s supplied guys appear to be extremely short, putting a strain on the pegs and limiting the choice where you can stick the peg – a potential problem in rocky ground.  Further, the hoop has no supplied guy lines.

I am not certain whether the short guys really are a problem. One assumes that Henry Shires at Tarptent knows what he is doing.  But my own doubts were heightened by the various sharp intakes of breath from fellow Pre-Walk Daunderers when they saw just how short the guys were.  They said little but their stolen glances to each other said it all.  One gust of Scottish wind and that tent will reach Montrose a week or so ahead of poor old Fellbound on the TGO Challenge.  Alan suggested I replace them with an Akto style guying system.  In the end I opted for something simpler.  This was because my poor little brain wouldn't have coped with that and also it might have mucked up the postioning of the crossover pole eyeletes which are attached to the standard guys.  In any case, for me these modifications were already as challenging as would have been undertaking open heart surgery.

The solution:

  • I bought some Dyneema from Bob and Rose. “Dyneema” means expensive string but it is very good.

  • I cut a piece off and tied it across the inner as a washing line for my smalls. This required me to know how to use a pair of scissors and tie a round turn and two half hitches. Thank goodness I had been in the Scouts.
  • I removed the existing guys and replaced them like for like but over double the length.  This requires knowledge of how to tie an overhand knot and correctly thread a linelock.  It was quite technical but I Percy Veered and it seems to have worked.

  • I added guys to both attachments on the hoop.

  • I have also done this clever thingy with some guy line, linelocks and my trekking pole to help with stability and to give more clearance between inner and outer, which should help reduce condensation.  This wasn’t, of course, my idea.  Others do this.  I saw it on Steve's brilliant bloggy you tube thingy-me-bob of him putting the Scarp up on Hindscarth in the Lake District.  I would recommend you check this video out, not least for the catchy folky background music.  The photo below shows this set-up reasonably well.

I sealed the cut ends of the Dynamee with a lighted match. I decided this was best done straight after cutting and not once the cord was attached to the tent.  This was to avoid conflagration nightmare.

Trekking pole thingy guy
All in all this has added 80gr in weight.  And more pegs but I will not bother with spare pegs now as the two trekking pole thingeys are not strictly necessary so I will have pegs for those which could become replacements for crucial pegging points.  Also, I have ditched some of my blue pegs for grey as Martin has advised me that the blue paint is heavier.

The cleverest bit is that I replaced one guy at one end with different coloured Dynamee.  This shows me which side of the Scarp is the “head end” as the inner door is at one end of the tent.  This should help when putting it up. If I can remember “red is for head”.

That’s enough about modifications. It's doing my head in, as Phil Mitchell or Ian Beale might have said.

Now, which way is Scotland?

Monday 21 April 2014

The End of the Daunder: Reflections on Companionship and other Heady Matters

Early morning brew

I awoke, as is my habit, very early.  This was after a good night’s sleep in the Scarp 1.  It’s a good shelter.  Apart from its practicality of design, and robustness in the blustery conditions we had experienced, it also has a nearly white inner and a light grey outer.  This, combined with the longer end struts, makes for a lovely light and airy feeling.  It seems far more natural than the yellow inner and dark green outer of my Akto, much as I like the latter.  A joy of wild camping is waking early when the sky is clear, opening the tent and porch door and brewing up whilst still in a warm sleeping bag, and drinking tea in the silence, punctuated only by the noise of the wind and birdsong, contemplating the beauty outside.  And this is what I did, watching the sun rise over the flank of Brae Fell, the other side of the narrow valley that separates it from Longlands.
On Longlands Fell

Croydon does a mysterious and joyful dance as he counts his Kryptonite tent pegs and realises they are all still there

Slowly the group came to life, and we enjoyed a leisurely shortish walk back to lovely Caldbeck.  The Daunder had been planned from the start like a military operation by General Sloman.  It went as all British military operations ie setbacks in the early stages followed by marvellous victory as all comes together at the very end (and even without the help of the Americans on this occasion).  So the weather was perfect, the scenery was perfect, the lambs looked lovely and we arrived at the Oddfellows Arms just a few minutes after opening time and the beginning of the lunchtime menu.  We refreshed ourselves, walked the mile down to our cars back at our starting point, and then set off for home – the southerners back down to Cockneyland and Lynsey to Wetherfield.  I had the long 12 miles trek back to my cottage.  When I write “trek” I am being metaphorical, for I went in the car.
The art of Daundering: never pass a bench without sitting down

Caldbeck: Andy points his backside at the camera.  An end of Daunder ritual, perhaps?

Since leaving University, the best part of 40 years ago, almost all my hill walking has been done alone.  Not by choice, more by circumstance.  I am not a natural socialite, but do enjoy walking with others, as long as the group is not too large (the 6/7 of the Daunder would be an absolute maximum in my eyes), and when people have something like the same levels of fitness and pace.  Going solo does give one a particular perspective on life.  I find that I become more self-absorbed and reflective when I walk alone.  That can be a good thing; it can also be hell at times.  It is good to go at one’s own pace, to stop when one wants to, to choose one’s own route, to savour the sound of silence and the sounds of nature.  But going solo can, for me at least, also lead to more anxiety if the going gets difficult or the conditions become bad.  It can be good, on such occasions to have companions with you to share decisions, to laugh about difficulties and, even more, just for general companionship, even the companionship of silence, when nothing more needs to be said.  I think that to get the best from our beautiful British hills and mountains one needs to do both: to walk alone at times but also to walk with others on occasions.  I will be seeking out more opportunities to do the latter over the coming months and years.  I hope that sometimes the opportunity will arise to walk with some of my fellow Daunderers again.

Sunday 20 April 2014

The Daunder Continues

Camera faff on the track from Skiddaw House

I was woken on Day 2 of the Daunder by the sound of Alan Sloman’s vacuum cleaner.  He was up early, apron on, clearing the debris of the previous evening’s party in Trinnie.  As all Trailstar watchers know, theirs is one heck of a large footprint, and cleaning them out with a dustpan and brush would not suffice.  Only a genuine Dyson cleaner is up to the job.

After a leisurely breakfast, washed down by a couple of titanium mugs full of tea, I was ready for the off at the appointed time of 9.30am.  So were all the others.  All except one.  Croydon.  He was scouring the ground all around the patch where his Laser Comp had been pitched.  He had managed to lose one of his pegs.  "Let’s bugger off and leave it" was the general consensus, but Croydon was not having any of this.  “Search”, he commanded urgently, “search”.  As we kicked aimlessly at the tussocky grass and heather he explained that this was not just any old tent peg.  It was a special one.  Not just because it was of a steely grey colour, one which would set my eyes off nicely, but it was also valuable.  I think he said that he had bought a pack of 6 for about eight hundred quid and each one weighed little more than a thousandth of a gram.  I suspect they must have been the latest type from the USA, made of kryptonite or somesuch.  Time went on.  Alan took charge.  He started to calculate where the peg would have 'pinged' to, working out the wind direction, exact wind speed and the angle Croydon had stuck it in the ground the previous evening.  But to no avail.  There was no kryptonite in sight.  After much fruitelss searching we dragged Croydon off on the walk.

It was grey, with low cloud and mist.  Dry(ish), but still pretty windy.  Yesterday’s schism may not have been forgotten, and resentment may still have been seething below the surface of those wearing orange PHD smocks, but it was now no longer being mentioned more than three or four times an hour.  Thus, we acted like a well oiled machine and, in best TGO Challenge spirit, the team decided that the foul weather alternative (FWA) would be taken.  I am not certain if it was the weather or the fact that the FWA went passed a pub that motivated some of my comrades.  I merely have my suspicions that some felt that the team needed to be even more well oiled.
Dash Falls
Dead Crags on the left with Binsey in the distance

We headed along the track from Skiddaw House to Dash Falls where lots of pictures were taken.  Phil reminisced fondly about the holiday he had been on when, aged 8, he had first visited these falls.  After quite a bit of daundering ie sitting behind walls, we arrived at the road and turned left then right for Bassenthwaite Village and, ultimately, the Sun Inn.
Happy Bunny - the clue is in the picture

From left to right - bitter, bitter, lemonade, bitter, bitter
I can be very naïve at times.  I assumed the plan would be a quick pint, perhaps a bowl of soup, and then we would make tracks.  We had a walk to complete.  But it was now that I realised that I was with at least two others who wanted nothing more but to sup beer and whisky until dusk, and probably well beyond.  I best not name names.  There was almost another schism, but eventually Phil and Alan, having drained at least three pint glasses each, some whisky and then some more whisky, gallantly (that is a euphamism for 'reluctantly') agreed that we would leave before dark and we hit the road again.  In Phil’s case this was literally.  He claimed there was a pothole involved.  Fortunately, no serious injury was sustained.  At one point I suggested to Phil that he look back to a magnificent retrospect of Dash Falls. "What do I want to see that for again", he snapped.  "I saw it when I was eight, and again this morning.  That is quite enough for me".  A less charitable mind than mine might have thought that Phil was still cross at his pub stop having been unnaturally curtailed.

We had originally planned to camp high on Lonscale Fell.  The wind was still very strong and credit, where credit is due, Alan found us a good spot lower on the leeward side of the fell.  We got our shelters out.  Croydon had a big smile on his face "look chaps, that missing kryptonite peg was in my peg bag all along".  Oh how we all laughed.

The wind gusted and the rain came and went but all was right with the world.  Well our little bit of it at least.

Friday 18 April 2014

Walking in the Slipstream of Legends

The first night. The boys from the smoke putting their tents up - (try not to notice my very badly pitched Scarp cunningly pitched in the lee of a shed)

Last year saw me do my first TGO Challenge.  This year I received the honour of an invite to the annual Pre-Walk Daunder which a number of TGO Challenge regulars organise each year.  Being young, well relative to the regulars, and foolish I accepted.   After weeks of sleepless excitement I turned up at our pre-arranged meeting place, a nice little farm camping spot near Caldbeck in the Northern Lakes, at the appointed time.  And within two hours the others started to arrive.  Well ok, I had only had to travel 12 miles to get there, whilst others had come from much further afield.    

Pete arrived first.  He introduced himself.

“How do”.  I’m Morpeth”

“Hi, I’m David.  Where are you from then?”

And do you know.  By an amazing coincidence Morpeth came from Morpeth.

A flash car full of dodgy looking blokes arrived.   To go by the accents of the occupants it seemed that they had come up from the East End of London.  They were real cockney diamond geezers.  My mum taught me not to speak to southerners but this would have been impolite so I did, but I kept my wallet hidden.

“You all right mate?  My name’s Croydon”

"Hi, I’m David.  Where are you from then?”

It’s just incredible. By an amazing coincidence Croydon came from Croydon.

The coincidences just kept on coming.  Here was a bloke called Walker, who does lots of walking.  There was another chap called Sloman.  And he likes to make the group rest regularly and not go too fast.  There was someone called Pooler.  Now as any classical scholar will tell you, the surname Pooler is a corruption of the Latin word “puella”, which is what the Romans called girls.  And lo and behold Lynsey, for it was she, was a woman.  And finally, we had a Lambert. And we were camping in a field surrounded by new born lambs.  I didn’t half feel left out with my ordinary name, I can tell you.

We ate in the Crown at Hesket Newmarket.  Someone asked the waitress what the seasonal vegetables were.  “I don’t know what they are called, but they are green”, she replied.

Over the meal I told Alan of some good wild camping spots for the next day.  This was, he suggested, unnecessary.  He had looked at various satellite photos, courtesy of NASA, and had identified a brilliant spot.  I can’t remember his actual words but they went something like this  “It’s a beautiful bit of manicured turf, about the size of Wembley stadium.  Perfectly flat, but well drained.  A crystal clear babbling stream runs adjacent.  Views to die for.  We can get the tents up, then I’ll get the croquet mallets out and we can have a game before the cheese and wine do at 8.00pm”.

I was up at 6.00am the next day, and ready for the off by 8.00am.  The others emerged from their tents shortly after, and we were ready to walk by 9.30am. To be fair to them that was the agreed time.
On the way up High Pike

We headed up High Pike in lovely weather.  At first.  Then it became marginally inclement ie almost impossible to stand up because of the wind, or to see because of the mist.  Oh, and it may have rained.  Somewhat.  It was lovely walking though. I normally walk solo and it was a nice change having companions other than Hyperdog to talk to.  Having said that I often get sense out of Hyperdog. That's a joke, Andy, and not aimed at you.  No not at all.
Sheltering near the top of High Pike - Phil, Lynsey, Croydon, Alan and Andy.  Not certain why I'm not in this photo
Morpeth turned back, still suffering the after effects of an illness.  We carried on, enjoying the cairn shelter just below the summit and, later, the Lingy Hut.  Alan and Phil looked like they were set there for the afternoon.  Getting quite cold, Lynsey and I prodded them with walking poles until they got up.  Well we didn’t realise that the purpose of a Daunder was to daunder.

Handsome chap in a hat

Waiting in vain for a train

The weather cleared as we headed towards Skiddaw House.  Alan and Phil were bringing up the rear.  "We’ll head off this path about 500 metres from the house", shouted Alan.  About 1 km before the house we turned round.  Alan and Phil were already well off the track heading purposefully through deep, tangly heather.  The rest of us reluctantly followed.  We caught them up as they struggled to cross a stream with steep sided banks.  The remaining four of us walked a hundred yards upstream to an easier crossing ie the bridge back on the main track.  The heathery diversion had been unnecessary.  We followed the track whilst watching two specks in the distance blundering through the heather.  They stopped.  Croydon took out his field binoculars, probably first owned by Field Marshall Montgomery.  “They are putting up the tents", he announced.  We headed off through the heather.  Andy stumbled badly on his bad knee and suffered loudly and colourfully.  Croydon and Lyndsey suffered politely and quietly.  I muttered dark thoughts.  Phil and Alan were now heading back up a tributary stream towards us.  They hadn’t found a suitable spot.  I headed out of the heather followed by the others.  We were now back on the track.  The heathery diversion had been unnecessary.  Yes.  Again.

It is so peevish to say I told you so, but I may have used these words, no more than a dozen times I might add, as we eventually pitched at the very spot I had mentioned the night before and again every few seconds as we had bashed through the heather.  But once I had some food inside me I was much happier, and even more so later on as we partied into the early hours (ie almost 9.00pm) at Trinnie’s place.  For the photos of that you will need to read Alan Sloman's blog.

Andy playing esoteric rock music to imaginary fish
It was a very good day.  We had covered no great distances – 16.5km, with 734 metres climbed - but I learnt later that for a Daunder that is as respectable as one of  the Archbishop of Canterbury’s afternoon tea parties.

Lying in my pit