Fixed in Merseyside.

12°C, white cloud and stillness.
I rode with MapMyRide+! Distance: 74.70km, time: 03:03:39, pace: 2:28min/km, speed: 24.41km/h.

Calm between storms make for a good ride on a single speed bike. Currently, we are experiencing somewhat below average temperatures. This photo doesn’t really show how high the tide is. I am used to seeing the sea far out from the Southport sea wall.
Today was a very satisfying ride, much needed.​

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Cyclocross on Cannock Chase

14°C, sunny and strong W wind.
I rode The Jake with MapMyRide+! Distance: 57.86km, time: 03:38:32, pace: 3:47min/km, speed: 15.89km/h.

Monday afternoon on The Chase is quiet with only a few dog walkers. Actually, it’s brilliant, I saw only two other cyclists too. Not only that, but I’m getting better at this too. Precarious descents don’t seem as steep as my confidence grows.​

The nicest ride back home is along the canal. Here is a picture of a very narrow tunnel. I wouldn’t like to try this on a mountain bike with wide bars.

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Canal with coffee.

13°C, grey with soft but bearable ground.

I rode The Jake wth MapMyRide+! Distance: 24.24km, time: 01:22:07, pace: 3:23min/km, speed: 17.71km/h.​

The usual route
with today. I raised the pace on ground that allowed some give. Previous times here, the ground was so hard that jarring slowed the pace. It was a full start however. So, I put the lights on. That led to something odd on the canal. A guy steering a barge shouted at me “would you switch off the flashing light, it’s distracting me“.

How peculiar. If I did that, by the time I’d pressed the button, I would have ridden past the boat. He wouldn’t see any benefit by then. So why should I bother?
I didn’t.

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Racelite to Hixon.

18°C, sunny with light SE breeze.

I rode Racelite with MapMyRide+! Distance: 98.56km, time: 04:13:17, pace: 2:34min/km, speed: 23.35km/h.

Like wading through treacle. My legs didn’t warm up until about 15 miles. I shouldn’t be harsh on myself because I haven’t ridden for 2 weeks but in that time did plenty of exercise in hiking. Another ride or two will bring them back.

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Gold, day 4, completion.

12°C, sunny but rain at the end
A day to wait, cleanup and packing the minibuses carried on against a background of sun and a cloud inversion.​

A cold front drew over us as the day finished bringing rain, heavy rain. We waited. Then, Group B arrived, They finished first! Happy, relieved, tired and very smelly. They wanted chips. At 4pm, chip shops haven’t opened but I drove off in search, and found. Group A completed just before our return and by the end of the hour all groups were in. I was beaming contented grins at them and heaped congratulations upon them all. A fine end to the year’s expedition season.

The drive back is normally a bit of a come-down. Unlike last year, they didn’t fall asleep in the bus, they discussed the week. They recalled the day that things ‘sort of clicked’. It was Wednesday, the day they faced camping up on the moors that did it. I felt the huge, warm glow of job satisfaction from this.

there is a lesson to learn from an experience like this. It’s wider in scope then the expedition, navigation and all those campcraft skills. It is about the way we think when faced with problems. Finding blame has it’s place but certainly not within an ongoing situation. Blaming prevents clear prioritisation and adopting a working solution. That’s the posh was of saying that blame is pointless. Blame is a feature of our society, heads will roll, somebody is culpable and the buck has to stop; and so on. Maybe, but first, the problem has to be solved.

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Gold, day 3

12°C, rain of the drizzly variety. Sun later.
Our assessor gave them a low level route which was mostly the Trans Pennine Trail. The tops were shrouded in hill fog and rain fell heavily at times. We decided to walk the reverse route to meet them.

This section of the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) runs on a disused railway. The tracks are long gone rather like the Tissington Trail. Then, the railway runs through a tunnel below the Moors. The opening of the tunnel is blocked by a gate and electric fences. It’s drafty but sheltered from the rain. We sat here and ate lunch while I got the stove out for a warm brew.
As it worked out, we saw both groups about half way and only separated by half an hour. Our next idea was to head across the moorland to make a walk of it. We turned north into classic Hill and Moorland territory.TPT-vent
Just visible on top of this ventilation shaft is a walking boot. I have no idea how long it’s been there or who threw it. From here a track heads south west passed some pillars. the pillars appear to be some kind of mount for theodolites. I presume a system was set up to dig the shafts in the days before laser measurements were first used.

Anyway, our own track amounted to 5 hours 40 minutes and brightened up into the afternoon to sunshine.

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Gold, day 2

12°C, some sun, some drizzle.

Second day for my Gold groups, and it’s quite a long one. One had to be withdrawn by the first checkpoint, she had a knee injury. I tried lending a neoprene support but it didn’t work.
The rest rest her group tried to pick up the pace but still took 2 hours reach the second checkpoint. Not very encouraging.
They arrived energised but worried about failing. Picking them up in the minibus would certainly mean a fail. I really didn’t want to pick them up as much as they didn’t (if you get what I mean). So I sat them down at talked through their options. Their next checkpoint is high up on the moors and the descent over the other side would lead them to their planned camp. A few of them vocalised very unhelpful thoughts on who is to blame and the acclimatisation day on Monday. These girls have done this before. Whenever something isn’t right, they use their thinking time to blame somebody. Trouble is, that’s no way to solve problems so I cut them off mid-sentence. This is what we’re going to do…

Firstly, the training day on Monday was a half-distance walk, you carried light day packs, we provided supper which you ate indoors in a warm building with good showers and a warm bed for the night. There is no reason why you wouldn’t start Tuesday fully refreshed with dry kit. Let’s focus on what’s going to happen today.
The worst case scenario, I explained, is that you would reach the next checkpoint by 17.00. That would mean descending in darkness and we haven’t trained you in night navigation. So, I told the group that if they had not made the descent by 6pm, then they should make camp wherever they are. At the latest, within half an hour of sunset.  That does mean a stay on the Moors for the night, you are carrying all the right kit so there is nothing to stop you. I am not going to pull you out of expedition because of darkness. You can stay the night on the moors.

That’s okay because I will come to you from the north at sunset to find you. I can then check you out and fix up a water supply for breakfast. Even my colleague expressed concern at the idea of searching on the hills in the dark. We staff are trained in night navigation, well, Mr H, Mr K and I are. You will have your radio on by then anyway, as we’ve always told you to switch them from 4pm. They were terrified by the idea of staying on the moors. If necessary, I will bivvy somewhere nearby up there to keep you within earshot. Okay, so that’s the worse-case scenario.

The second worst scenario is that you arrive to leave open-access land but have ot navigate through woodland and some dark lanes after sunset. If this happens, I will come along and walk with you for the last few kilometers. I have a headtorch and a couple of bright hand-torches. You do have lights don’t you? They had.

I had their fullest attention throughout this briefing. A decision was quickly made and they grabbed their packs and got up.

They soon “got a wriggle on” and set off. As soon as it was obvious that they’d correctly chosen the right path at the nearby junction, we headed back to the minibus. i could imagine them walking at pace with the whites of their eyes visible. The drive is long round to the other side. But we parked up and started heading up. They responded on the radio very clearly- that means they are close. Actually, they were very close. The group not only passed the checkpoint but were on the edge of access land within 1 km of us! They really had got moving. All of them were dead pleased with themselves when they saw us.

There was no need to escort them to camp, over an hour remained of dusk. the camp is a nice one, it even has showers unlike the night before. Not that they could use them, not one of them had brought a towel.Kinder

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Gold expedition, day 1.

12C, dry and mostly sunny.

After a sharp climb, the groups get themselves onto the Pennine Way on kinder. We hiked up to man the checkpoint on a col near a crash-site. Both groups were later than we expected, but were happy enough.​

A nice day for us, despite much waiting around. We got a good walk up Kinder ( I went as far as Kinder Downfall) and then visited a WWII crash site. Another DofE leader appeared to do his checkpoint duty with a an open group. “Dave” his name was was a lot of fun and we met him and his group later.

At the checkpoint, when we finally met our groups, we urged them on to ensure camp before nightfall. They arrived at camp around dusk which meant setting camp in torchlight. The sun goes down early evening as we’re near to equinox.

Both groups will probably find the first night one of fitful sleep. First nights are always like that for most people. For us, the long drive back to Edale got us in at 20.30 approximately.

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DofE qualifying, Dark Peak.

12°C, white cloud start, rain later.
Gold Acclimatisation and Training day: walked a circuit on Kinder Scout to train this group since they didn’t pass their first practice expedition. Below, under “more” is a copy of their feedback I wrote to them in school at the end of July.
Today, I focused on navigation methods. They were ill prepared for their practice last July and repeated mistakes again today. At least they had lighter packs, down from 22kg to 17. However, only one in the group had gloves.
Apart from that, their progress was good for most of the day. Some compass work seemed to confuse them. They did say that they’d had no navigation training when they did bronze (this isn’t true). Some work to do then.
The day worked well generally but their mood changed by about 5pm. They allowed themselves to become tired. I don’t think they ate enough and the rain washed away any remaining enthusiasm.

The descent wasn’t well liked. It was really just a sandstone staircase. Even in the heavy rain that had started by 5pm, it should have been fun. Instead, they began grumbling. Its an infectious habit that  always spreads from the same girl. Admittedly, the weather was gloomy and the rain, obviously set in for the night. It was not however, cold.

Continue reading

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Streap, a Corbett.

10°C, rain most of the day. Milky mist with some patches of sun.
Corryhully bothy is ideal for this route. In effect, I went straight out this morning onto the hill. Nevertheless, two hours went by before I reached the first summit. At only 6°C up there, there was no reason to stay long apart from hunger. A few hollows offered shelter enough to eat sandwiches.

The next few tops are all north. It turned into a ridge walk after the next summit, Stob Coire nan Cearc (887m).
As such, there was much to enjoy, despite the rain.
The most spectacular bit was a step in steeply inclined rock that looked impassible from a distance. My mind raced for escape routes should that step in the very narrow ridge defeat me. Each of those steps is about 10m of rock. From the bealach where I took the photo, they looked vertical. They were very steep up close too, but a clear scramble was obvious. The apex of the triangle in the photo is not the summit, for that look right to the crinkly skyline- it’s there by the cliffs. I love that feeling when walking on a ridge where your peripheral vision is down a huge drop in height to the glens below. There is more of that feeling after the summit and the ridge curls round to the right. More fine views and an opportunity to read the route down in the grassy topology. At first, the descent looks like a spur but it’s actually more a low wide whale-back that climbs up to more summits. The idea then is to find a route down into the glen as close to it’s head as possible. The further forward you go, the more climbing out of the glen to the bealach and back down again. It’s a compromise between descent and return ascent. Near the top of the glen are some nasty looking steps and minor cliffs that meant a diversion north into the valley to find a safe route down. Also, the further north you meet the river, the bigger it will be. Side streams join every 200 metres to engorge the river very rapidly- that means a more difficult river crossing. River crossings can be dangerous (and nobody knows I’m here). Braiding in rivers really can help, they divide the river into several streams that are much easier to cross.
Oh, and that col! It map so mucky, all boggy between slippery boulders. That was hard and quite dispiriting at a time of failing light and indistinct paths.. Oh well, it’s all down from here.
Even the fords are currently verging on dangerous. The last one, at least, cleaned my boots.

The walk took 9 hours and at times, was the a slog. The climb was steep but the return was so difficult.
Today’s rain filled all burns and fords with roaring yellow torrents. Every possible pathway was a stream, others were buried in ponds.
A very wet day. I’m now lying in my bunk with most of my clothes drying by the fire in this bothy. There are busy voles above and the roar of water outside. The rivers are now all in spate.

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