Thursday, 30 May 2013

Broken tent poles and England's highest point

A few days walking in the Lakes. Always sounds spiffing doesn't it? And indeed it is. Even when it rains (as it often does of course) and when you have to engineer some half-baked, Heath Robinson type repair as a result of a broken tent pole, in previously mentioned precipitation, for a crappy tent where the inner pitches first and ... oh well you get the picture.

And that is the point. In spite of suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (oh OK I know it's MY fault for continuing to use a crappy, albeit light, tent and, yes, I know it rains a LOT there) the Lake District is ALWAYS spectacularly rewarding for the walker and cyclist.

It's many, many years since I've climbed Scafell Pike and so I wanted to revisit it before next months 3-peaks cycling challenge along with @bruciestokes who is doing the challenge with me. Last time I did the full day route from Eskdale and so the route from Wasdale was unfamiliar and so it seemed a good excuse idea to check it out.  The original plan was to load up the bike, take it on the train and cycle to the campsite at Wasdale Head but I'd overlooked the fact that it would be half term and the trains would be packed! I was right and glad that I chose to go with rucksack only and camp on the western edges of the fells within walking distance of a train station.  I'll not dwell on the fact that I took a wrong turn and a 1 mile walk to the camp site turned in to a 4 mile walk!  I'll also skip over the whole tent pole episode that unfurled upon arrival other than to say that it involved a lot of swearing and then much appreciation to the camp site owners at Shepherds View who had some similar poles that I could fashion in to a useable repair.

The location of the campsite also gave us the opportunity to explore Muncaster Fell. This has to be one of Lakelands best 'little hills' although we didn't have much of a view given the persistent rain from low scudding clouds.

Our route up Scafell Pike the next day started in pleasant sunshine from The NT car park at Wasdale but the view of the peaks themselves was non-existent and so we knew it would be cold and cloudy at the tops.  We took the route up via Mickledore which involves a steep ascent up red scree about 2/3 of the way up the mountain. It's very hard work but affords you good views of Lords Rake and Scafell to the right. Well it would have done if we weren't in the clouds by that point. After following the cairn signed path to the summit and regretting not packing gloves we enjoyed the view (!) for a short while, forgot to drink the whisky from the hip flask, and imagined that, rather like the French, we were looking down on England.  We descended down the main path to avoid the tricky scree on the Mickledore scar. Using walking poles seemed to definitely help my knees on both ascent and descent and I was absolutely fine the day after too. I don't like using them but this serves to show that needs must when the Devil takes a small crap on your musculoskeletal system!

I'm sure my rucksack felt heavier on the way back to Sheffield but then everything in there was soaked anyway so I'm not surprised. Definitely a sign of a typical trip to the Lake District.

View over Eskdale from Muncaster Fell

View along Wast water to cloud covered Scafells

Most recognisable cairn in England?

What boots are for after a days walking!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Injury woes

Bit of a setback with a knee injury over the last 7-10 days has meant zero training rides/walks :-( Not brilliant timing when you consider it is now little more than 1 month until the 3 peaks challenge commences.

I've struggled with patellar bursitis for quite a while. It has been a transient problem and hardly bothers me save for trying to kneel down.  This time, for some unknown reason, it flared up badly, became very red and painful, with pain spreading down my tibia and infection leading to enlarged lymph nodes in my groin which were equally uncomfortable. 'Like having a 3rd bollock' was Cath's rather erudite observation!  Blood tests and some high strength antibiotics (on last day of course today) ensued and at last it is now on the mend with the swelling and discomfort on the wain.  I'm not sure the antibiotics actually helped to do anything other than give me a pounding headache. Normally you expect infection to clear up fairly quickly during a course of them but this time it is only on the last day of them that I'm seeing an improvement. Odd.

Anyway, I'm glad that this appears to be no more than a temporary setback. I was slightly worried that it might lead to postponement of the challenge but I'm not contemplating that now.  Will rest it for this week and get back on the bike/in to the hills again next week for some gentle recovery stuff to get back in to the groove.

Friday, 3 May 2013

A spring cycle camp and evening walk

Spring arrives at last! Sun is out, a bit of warmth and leaves on the trees finally making an appearance. In honour of this I decided to pack the panniers and venture out in to the Peak District for an overnight camping trip and a quick skip up and down Kinder Scout for good measure.

I love the Peak District but I don't really explore all of it that much. Most of my walks centre around Derwent, Kinder Scout (my very favourite place) and Bleaklow and so it was no surprise that I didn't spend long thinking about where to cycle out to. The very first thought that entered my head was 'ooh, cycle to Edale, pitch at Fieldhead campsite, walk up Kinder, pint at the Old Nags Head, cook my tea, drop of whisky, sleep, cycle to work in the morning and then onwards back home. Job's a good 'un! I'll try to be more creative next time.

s24o? I've seen the term s24o before. It stands for 'sub 24 hour overnight'. It doesn't seem to be a widely used term in the UK (it's more of a US thing I reckon) but it refers to cycling out somewhere reasonably close after work, camping overnight and then cycling back the next morning. It's a great idea. The general idea is that you don't need to pack much at all but I had to add a bit as I also planned to go for a walk. So I included a pair of trainers (walking boots on an evening like this would have been overkill) and a change of clothes. I knew the temperature would drop to 3 or 4 deg C at night so I also took my bulky 3-season sleeping bag instead of my mini, lightweight summer bag. I also decided to take my stove and some food too as I wanted to avoid spending on dinner and breakfast. Bottom line was that I ended up filling 2 large rear panniers! Oh and a hefty D-lock on top. So much for packing light!

An early work start meant I could finish mid afternoon and I cycled out in warm sunshine on the undulating roads from Worksop through Chesterfield, Newbold and Barlow towards Owler Bar. The climb up Horsleygate Road to Owler Bar had me sweating and grabbing low gears with the relatively heavy load but after Fox House I could enjoy the descent in to Hathersage and on to Hope.
Looking down towards Hathersage
Cyclists were 10-a-penny on the Hope road. All bombing out to do their Winnats/Mam Nick circuit. Needless to say they all passed me easily but did I care? Not one jot.

The Edale road was bathed in sunshine and I pushed along at a leisurely pace knowing that I was in no hurry and wanted to save my legs for the walk that followed.
Glorious spring late afternoon sunshine

Yes I know I'm carrying a lot for a 'one-nighter'!
After arriving in Edale at 5.40 (quite quick for the 35 miles) I had pitched my tent and got changed by 6.20. I had meant to bring a very small rucksack for the walk but had forgotten. No worries - all I had to do was carry a water bottle and stuff camera, wallet, phone and keys in my pocket. The walk was really the purpose of the journey and I was looking forward to it. There wasn't time to do a long trek as I needed to be back down and cook my tea before it got too dark. Plan was to ascend Grindsbrook, follow the edge to Crowden Tower and descend there to the Pennine Way and back in to Edale; something between 6 and 6.5 miles.

The walk was superb. Perfect light and not a soul around. Nothing but the calls of Curlews, Ring Ouzels, Grouse and Meadow Pipits to keep me company. Can't get better than that.  The descent along Crowden Clough is beautiful. I've never been this route before but it is definitely recommended. Steep in places but lots of fun. I was back at the Old Nags Head by 8.50 pm and after a swift couple of pints was cooking my tea (chilli and rice) by 9.20.
Looking back down Grindsbrook in gorgeous evening sun

Yes I'm sweating. I'd fairly sprinted up!
Here's a vid from the top of Grindsbrook. I'm sure you'll agree that it was a perfect evening up there:

The path towards Grindslow Knoll

Crowden Clough

Con trails over a Kinder Scout skyline

Well deserved!
After making a dent in the hip flask (Jura Elixir: very nice indeed) and deciding on a Stevie Ray Vaughan playlist on the iPod I was soon asleep. As is the norm, I woke a couple of times in the night, really wanting a pee but I couldn't be arsed to get out of my bag and decided that a full bladder was the lesser of two evils. The nearby rookery woke me properly at about 5am :-( Noisy buggers!

One thing that was definitely a blessing on this outing was my recently purchased Exped Air Pillow. It is super light, compact and very, very comfortable. It made a huge difference to my usual camping discomfort where I simply ram clothes into a stuffsack. Well worth it!

After a brew, a spot of breakfast and another doze I packed up and was on the road back to Sheffield via the great climb under Bamford Edge and Stanage. I thought I might see Ian Loasby on the road but he'd decided on a different route. Hey ho. After sitting at my desk for a few hours my legs had stiffened a little by the time I left for home but a nice tailwind pushed me back in the same sort of time I'd expect to commute anyway despite the full panniers!

So, a 75 mile round trip on the bike, a hill walk in glorious evening conditions, a lovely overnight camp and great training for the cycling the 3 peaks challenge next month. I'll definitely be doing that again soon.