I’ve always had a bit of a thing for maps. I could spend hours looking at them, exploring the wilds from the comfort of home. When it came to using maps to navigate, apart from a few basic school geography lessons, I was self-taught. This had its disadvantages, mainly in sticking only to well marked paths as I had no confidence in my ability which limited the walks I would do. The advantage was that I had no idea about how pace or time, or how to use a compass other than to know which way was north, which meant I had to interpret what I could see around me to what was on the map.
Now I have been taught ‘technical’ navigation, I need to practice before my assessment. The best way to do this is something called micro-navigation. If you look closely at an OS 1:25000 map, there are tiny details, perhaps a few millimetres in size on the map: micro-navigation is finding these on the ground. The trickiest can be something called ring contours. Contour lines, orange on an OS 1:25000 map, show the height change on the ground in 5 metre intervals. A ring contour is a small patch of ground that is just high enough to breach the next contour: the challenge is that this could be that the ground around the ring contour is 4.9m higher than the last contour and the area in the ring contour is 5.1m. Now cover this in heather and bilberry bushes and it all gets interesting! This is where pacing comes in: if you know how many steps it takes to walk a distance you can measure how far you need to walk on the map.
So that was today’s entertainment! There is a special kind of contentment when you look at the map, look around you, then back at the map and smile quietly when you know exactly where you are. And then you have definitely earned cake.
Starting out from Malham in the Yorkshire Dales, Sarah and I crossed the Aire and walked along field edges and dry stone walls heading towards Gordale Scar. After a gentle mile, we came to Wedber Woods, rich with mosses and the first bright green leaves of wild garlic. Pausing at Janet’s Cave waterfall, with its deep clear pool that on another day would be inviting for a swim, we left the woods up the rough steps to the road.
Onward to Gordale Scar and the steep limestone cliffs which funnelled us to a second waterfall on Gordale beck. The beck was running high and the limestone wet and slippery so, after snacking on boiled eggs and peanuts, we turned and stomped up the road to Lee Gate. An easy walk over grass cropped short by Swaledale sheep brought us to High Stony Bank. Unsure how clearly marked our intended path would be, we measured the map and paced the distance to find an old sign and we set out across the pathless moor.
Though the sky remained grey the moorland was alive with the dancing Lapwings, serenades of the Skylarks high above us accompanied by Curlews hidden from view. We stopped for lunch on a boulder drinking hot Vimto and eating sausages and home made trail mix. After the obligatory dance pose, we faced the challenge of fording Gordale beck which had turned the bridalway into a wide stream. With a little careful planning and use of walking poles our socks remained dry and we began to head back south. A herd of Belted Galway cows, complete with ring-nosed bull paid us little attention and after another short stomp on tarmac we met the Pennine Way.
The dance pose
Melanie Rabbit on the moor
Heading off on the Pennine Way
It was here, a few metres from its source at Malham Tarn, the river Aire disappears without fuss underground to emerge a mile away at Malham Cove. The polished limestone of Ing Scar demanded concentration as we wound down to the limestone pavement above the cove. Stepping across the stones like chess pieces moving across the board, we made it to the steps. Weary but happy with thoughts of the cake waiting in the car for us, we followed the Aire back to Malham.
Start time 11am, 5 hours 35 minutes, 16.6km with 303m ascent.
It’s been a real mixed bag of weather for February walks. Only one was an official Rando’ Girls walk with Sarah and her friend Amar in the Roaches: what was was supposed to be a nice easy explore around the fascinating gritstone turned out to be a short, sharp walk in horizontal snow. Keeping it short kept it mostly Fun Type 1 with some Type 2 thrown in to make it worth while! Located in Shropshire on the edge of the Peak District, the Roaches have been loved by climbers since the early 1900’s. On more clement days, its fascinating to watch the climbers as you walk along the foot of the cliffs. Mindful of the snow, we parked at in the valley bottom before following the river Dane and Black Brook steadily climbing through Gradbach wood. Leaving the woods, we walked along open moorland crossing the road to Roach End. The Magic Tent (my orange shelter) was pulled out for lunch and we sat inside munching boiled eggs and drinking hot Ribena, warm and dry out the weather. Fed and watered, we walked up through the snow and wind to the trig point. We called this a success and turn back to retrace our steps to the car. 8km, 3 3/4 hours, 385m ascent/decent.
Melanie Rando Rabbit doing some navigation
Amongst the Roaches
The dance pose!
Just a few weeks before (technically in January, but I’m ignoring that) in Capel Curig, Viv, Nick and I were treated to glorious skies over Snowdonia as we finished a walk that started in snizzle (snowy drizzle). After a slow start in the excellent Moel Siabod cafe, we headed out through forest to avoid the worst of the rain. We lunched on a deserted forest track before finding the lovely isolated Llyn (lake) Bodgynydd before heading back past Crimpiau through hills with a glorious mountain-y feel to them. 16km, 5 1/2 hours, 558m ascent/decent.
Faerie dell in Mynydd Deulyn
Hot choc for Viv and a sausage for Leelu!
The dance pose!
Cumulus clouds over Snowdonia
The last weekend of February was another non-Rando Girls weekend back in Eskdale in the southern Lake District which has a very special place in my heart. The weather was due to be epically awful, so a short stroll on the Saturday was planned and an anticipated soggy Sunday walk too. Saturday we set out towards the river Esk, which was in spate (sudden flood) and after some changes of route from flooded paths we had a suitably awe-inspiring, but safe walk. Sunday we were up and out to avoid the rain. High winds kept us from the fell tops but Eskdale moor is a beautiful place with great views of Illgill Head, Eskdale Fell and Kirk Fell (if they hadn’t been in the clouds). An unexpected cuppa at Burnmoor followed an invite from the Burnmoor Lodge club, which is undergoing restoration. Having walked past it and wondered who owned it its great to see it is loved and has a great group trying to get it to a basic but usable state. I’ll be adding that to places to stay! Keeping low we followed the river Mite along it’s valley, stopping for lunch before heading up over Brat’s Moss. Site of ancient habitation, there are stone circles and cairns it was especially atmospheric in the strong winds. A steady stomp brought us down to Boot and back to civilisation and a pint at the Woolpack inn. 13km, 6 1/3 hours, 734m ascent/decent.
Standing wave in the Esk over the stepping stone
Herdwicks sheltering from the wind
Melanie Rando Rabbit at our lunch spot
Sarah turning to stone in the cold wind
Late on the 17th of January, I headed back to the hut in Llanberis for my Hill and Moorland leader training. I was super nervous; a combination having no idea of how my skill level would compare to others and desperately wanting to do well made my poor head churn for the whole drive over from Cheshire. I’ve faced tough courses before through work but this was different: this time it was for something I really, really wanted to be good at…
The weekend of the 14th January was spent in the club hut part way up the tourist path on Snowdon. Sadly there was little snow to play in but the friendship and food and general joy of being around inspirational YesTribe people spurred me into starting a video diary of my adventures and training. Enjoy!
walking under the awe-inspiring clogwyn du’r arddu
Video diary of my thoughts on my Hill and Moorland Leader training
I don’t like running. Correction, I don’t like training runs. Consequently, when I ran the Thunder Run for the third time a couple of weekends ago I had done very little training, not great when its a 24 hour relay race round a hilly 10km trail. I was the token slow runner on the team, managing 3 laps of 1hr13, 1hr14 and 1hr28. The last was the dawn lap starting at 4am which is actually my favourite: starting in the dark with a head torch and finishing in the misty dawn under a pink sky. I’ll be honest, the first lap was awful. Running under a full sun in high humidity; I was so hot my skin was tingling and I had to keep willing myself forward repeating the mantra “it’ll be over quicker if you keep running, it’ll be over quicker if you keep running”. I got cross and a bit weepy and then told myself off for being silly and that perhaps, in retrospect, a bit more training would have helped.
Lap 1 at the 8km mark looking a lot better than I felt. Photo credit @PJHImages
Campsite with the course running through the wooded hills
Dawn on the trail
Now that the Thunder Run is over, I’m having a bit of a think about what’s next. First up, I have found a personal trainer, Jo. Part of my problem is I get so confused with conflicting recommendations I have read on how I should or shouldn’t train I end up making an excuse and not doing anything. Which I realise is a rubbish excuse. I’ve thrown myself upon the mercy (or not) of Jo to tell me what to do, when to do it and how much. So far it’s working, simply knowing Jo will check up on me is making me go out and just do something. So, what next? I need to be honest with myself, I like going for a run but training hard for running just doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm. When I look at the sports I love: climbing, hill walking and dancing, they all as much about mental and technical skills as they are about pure fitness. The obvious alternative to running is cycling. I’m lucky, I live close to good trails and quiet roads, I’m an engineer so bike maintenance appeals as well. Inspired by the film The Way, about the Camino de Santiago, I planned to walk the 500 miles in the Pyrenees however I’m unlikely to get the leave from work: but maybe I could cycle it in a fortnight. A plan forms…
In the Tough Girl Podcast on the 12th April 2016, Parys Edwards talks about being the egg not the potato: it’s the same boiling water that makes the egg hard that makes the potato soft. The Thunder Run was a boiling water moment for me, though I don’t feel very tough yet I think I’m almost soft-boiled. And in my world there’s no better way to start the day than with a nice dippy-egg.
Waking up after sleeping off the final lap
Tea always tastes better from a stove
The medal on the track