Böker Plus ChefYouGo and SanYouGo, 11/09/18

I’d been hunting around for a practical chef’s knife to take camping (for those camps where I’m not rehydrating a food pouch) or perhaps just  on holiday in self catering accommodation. Ideally, it would have a sheather so that I can just lobby it into my luggage without wrapping it up to protect the edge or the luggage.

The Böker Field Butcher,  designed by Jesper Voxnæs, is a splendid looking beast – top end steel, premium leather sheath, the blade is 4mm thick so probably up to feathering kindling and the like – but it’s £200 and I just can’t justify that for holiday cutlery. As it happens, Böker has a value brand (if you will), Böker Plus, which has some interesting and more reasonably priced offerings…

The ChefYouGo and SanYouGo are also designed by Jesper Voxnæs. They both come with sheaths, in rather nice presentation boxes. I had to go through a lot of YouTube footage to find actual reviews before deciding on them. (For. the. love. of. God, YouTubers, an unboxing video is not a review. Caption your content properly, you savages.) I picked the pair of them up for £106.86 and I’ve just come back from a week’s self catering holiday; can you guess what happens next? Yes, an unboxing video.

They’re both made from 440C stainless steel, tempered to a Rockwell hardness of HRC 57-58. I’m not a metallurgist, but that’s not too shabby. The Rockwell scale tests hardness by pressing a diamond into the steel and measuring resistance to that pressure (it’s a bit more complicated, I think, but as we’ve just observed, I’m not a metallurgist).  For comparison, Wüsthof knives clock in at 56-58, the Field Butcher at 58-60, my Haslinger New Generation at 61.

The scales (the grippy bits on the hilt) are black G10, with red liners, and the sheaths are black leather. There are lanyard holes in the hilts, though I’d be dubious about lanyards trailing through, for instance, raw meat. The sheaths are nothing to get excited about, to be honest, but they do what they’re supposed to. The sheaths’ clasps catch on the knives’ choils unless you hold them clear whilst drawing. There’s also no means of attaching either sheath to a belt. I’ve no issue with that; I don’t want to carry a chef’s knife on my hip (see legal note at the end). You can find the dimensions for the blades and hilts in the links above. I’ve put my Benchmade Presidio folder in a couple of the pictures for scale.

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They were pretty sharp out of the box, but I’m a fussy bugger, so I put new edges on them. I ground a 20° bevel on each side, for a robust edge, and then back bevelled to 15° (basically, I took the shoulders off the edge so that it can slip into the cut more easily). Once done, I could dry-shave the hairs from my arms.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I have quite a few kitchen knives; these were my only two for my week’s holiday. The ChefYouGo is shaped like a very compact chef’s knife and the SanYouGo like a santoku. Across the week I made: a sort of cassoulet, but with plenty of chopped veg; bavette with creamed leaks and sautéed potatoes; pork steaks with cider-braised fennel and Hasselback potatoes; spatchcocked chicken with pastis-braised fennel and (I think) sautéed potatoes (again).

The ChefYouGo is deep in the belly for such a small knife and the blade’s geometry helped me make short work of dicing mirepoix, slicing leeks, a chiffonade of celery leaf, even spatchcocking a chicken. It’s well balanced and the hilt sits comfortably in my hand. The only point where it felt like it wasn’t a big enough knife was carving the chicken breast.

 

The SanYouGo is a mad little thing – it looks like the hilt is too small to control the knife. In fact, it works really well, though I used it less than its bigger stablemate – preparing garnish for drinks, peeling and mincing garlic, slicing Hasselback potatoes and shallots.

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They both performed really well. The ChefYouGo isn’t quite sharp enough to shave my arms anymore, but did the heavy lifting so I think that’s fair. They’re great little knives and great value. My only criticism is that I think I’d struggle to use either of them for peeling. There was a speed-peeler in our accommodation, but I’d have used my Presidio had there not been. Also, if I’d been camping, I’d not have wanted to try them for any heavy tasks like feathering kindling – again, I’d use the Presidio for that as the blade is much more robust. If you can only afford one, I’d have for the ChefYouGo.

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On a related issue, I got myself a little bamboo cutting board from Totally Bamboo to take  on my travels. It’s 27.5cm by 27.5cm, has a groove around the edge to keep liquid on the board and it’s dishwasher safe. I tried using it in my lap to simulate camping, but indoors and near a fridge. It worked well enough like that, but I wouldn’t have fancied spatchcocking the chicken like that. Anyhow, it’s light and it’s stood up to the week pretty well. There are some scars on it, but I can sand it down if they don’t lift out. In any case, bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial so I’m not fretting about the scars harbouring germs. I can stick it in the dishwasher and then treat it with oil to make it all shiny again. It cost  £25 and is performing well after one week.

Note: I paid for all of these products myself and have received no remuneration.

Another (more important) note: Legally carrying knives in the UK is quite context-dependent. Broadly, if you’re using these knives for their intended purpose on a campsite then that should be alright. If you’re waving them around at other people on a campsite then that won’t be alright. There’s no reason at all for you to have them at the pub, unless you’re working in the kitchen. In addition to not being a metallurgist, I’m also not a legal professional, so maybe you should read up on the law about knives

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Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock and Velez Adventure Trousers, 30/07/18

So, I’d joined the Paramo mailing list – I can’t remember why, I think it was probably for a competition. That’s not really the point of this post tbh. Anyway, there was an offer whereby I could get £115 off if I bought both the smock* and the trousers together. So I did. That was in October and I’ve worn them quite a bit now and I feel like I can give them a considered review.

So, what did I get for my £275? Well, a smock and some trousers. I’m not going to dwell massively on the Paramo directional clothing concept here – Paramo have an entire website for that. Long story short: softer than membrane waterproofs, no rustle, easy to reproof.

The smock has an adjustable, wired hood that will just about accommodate a climbing helmet; a chest zip; kangaroo-pouch chest pocket; twin vent zips with an internal hand warmer pocket; hook-and-loop adjustable cuffs; waist drawcords. The trousers have an integral belt; thigh ventilation zips; hook-and-loop adjustable ankle cuffs; two hip pockets with zips; a zip fly.

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Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock and Velez Adventure Trousers. Shoes model’s own.

The bad things

IMG_2336The drawcords. They’re pretty flimsy and you have to pull about a thousand metres of cord though the cord-locks to adjust the hood or waist by about 2cm. The hood drawcords aren’t self-tailed. It’s 2018 and drawcords whirring in your face shouldn’t be a thing, not at this price.

The hood adjustment is a bit strange too. I can’t find a way to crank the hood in so that it protects my face from the weather without the wire brim and drawcords trying to eat my eyebrows.

I’m not convinced about the durability of the fabric. I’ve only had this kit for 8 months, I haven’t been scrambling in it, and the fabric is puckered in places (see picture).

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For puck’s sake…

The fit. I’m a pretty average 5’9″ and I got the regular fit 32″ trousers and they’re too long. I’m also a pretty average 36″ chest and the size small smock is a bit baggy for me.

The internal hand warmer pocket should be external. As it is, you have to unzip the vents and then unzip the pocket. The hand warmers on the (for example) Buffalo Mountain Shirt or the Montane Extreme Smock is a much better deal.

The good things

The hood does turn with my head. As noted, the adjustment is a bit troublesome, but it IMG_2337does move well and keeps my head dry and out of the wind. You can button it up at the chin but leave the chest zip unfastened if you want to batten down the hatches but still have some ventilation.

The fabric has thus far lived up to the billing. I’ve read that it’s a bit heavy if you run hot, but I don’t. I’ve worn it in strong wind, snow, endless drizzle and it’s done the business, and it really does breathe. In my epic fund-raising trudge for Keswick Mountain Rescue Team, I walked in continuous rain for around nine hours and my base layer was starting to get a little damp. Now I’ve tried a lot of membranes and all of them would have wetted out quite some time time before nine hours and they don’t breathe as well either. Appropriately layered, I’ve been absolutely fine. I’ve been a bit parky when I’ve not had on enough layers because I really don’t run hot. So maybe test out its reputation for overheating before you’re on the summit of Whernside in a really cold wind.

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Yes, yes, you can see my pants

The venting is effective and helps with the whole not-faffing-your-waterproofs-on-and-off thing. There are zipped vents on the thighs (not as discreet as the marketing suggests – you can see my pants) and the abdomen, you can roll the sleeves up, and open the chest zip with the hood still battened down.

Overall

Although the bad things list is longer than the good things list, I’m actually pretty pleased with this kit. I like that I don’t have to pack separate waterproof trousers. If I’m sensible with layering, I don’t have to take off the smock at all either – I can just stick a belay jacket on top when I stop for lunch.  As well as less faffing on the hill, this means I’m not dragging as much gear up and down. For dalliance on rocky surfaces or full on winter mountaineering, I’d want to look at some of their more durable garments, but on balance, I am converted. It does mean I’m going to have to invest in a smaller pack and you all know how much I hate kit shopping.

*A quick glance at my other gear reviews will tell you that I do like a smock.

Note: Sadly, I have bought all this kit myself and received no payment whatsoever.

Aeropress and Rhinowares Compact grinder, 30/07/18

It cannot, gentle reader, have escaped your attention that I am partial to a cup of coffee nor, furthermore, that I can be a bit picky about it. So, I hear you ask, how do I maintain my coffee pedantry when camping? I’m so glad I imagined you enquiring.

I’ve been making coffee at home with and Aeropress for around 4 years now. For uninitiated, I suppose you could say it’s a bit like a cafètiere but with a much finer filter (you use paper filters) and more pressure. It looks (sort of) like a massive syringe. To IMG_2332make a cup of coffee, grind your preferred weight of beans (16g for me) fairly finely, pour into the inverted Aeropress, fill with water, stir for 10 seconds, leave for 30 seconds while you fit the filter, un-invert(?) over a warmed cup and press the plunger. The bung on the plunger is sufficiently tight that you can actually achieve some real pressure as you press down. Once plunged, top up with hot water (or hot milk if white coffee is your thing). The original model was made of a rather brittle plastic, and my first one snapped around the rim of the plunger (stop it), but they’ve sorted that out on the latest version. The bung can be replaced when it starts to wear and pressure drops (so that’s what Toots and the Maytals we’re singing about).

So far, so delicious, but my coffee grinder is a commercial unit, weighs as much as Grunty and not that practical for camping. Why not just grind in advance and take ground coffee with me? As we’ve already observed, I’m a bit picky about coffee and somewhere around 65% of the volatile oils that make coffee coffee evaporate within 15 minutes of grinding.

There are quite a few decent quality hand grinders on the market – I went for the Rhinowares Compact because it comes with an adaptor that lets you grind directly into the Aeropress. To be honest, the adaptor is not really that practical – it’s slow work tryingIMG_2331 to keep everything together while you’re whirring the grinding arm round. Not to fret – I just weigh the beans in the little cup on the bottom of the grinder, tip them into the top, reattach the cup, grind briskly (it takes me around 3 minutes), take the cup back off (now full of ground coffee), tip the coffee into the Aeropress and <see above>. It’s well made – stainless steel body, ceramic burrs – easy to adjust the fineness of the grind and can be completely dismantled for cleaning.

A nice feature of the grinder is that it slips inside the plunger of the Aeropress, to minimise packed space – I also got the little carrier (the holdall of joy), into which everything fits. To minimise camping/filter paper faffage I got a couple of steel filters from Kofi. One is laughingly tabled fine (it isn’t) and the other mesh (it is). From the Has Bean website, I got a set of compact scales that are accurate to two more decimal places than I require. All packed up in the holdall of joy, it comes to around 700g. I haven’t been backpacking for well over a decade now, but I reckon I could suck that up for the sake of my habit (plus a 250g bag of beans). For car camping, it’s ideal.

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The apple is for scale, it’s not part of my kit. For reference, it’s a medium/small Granny Smith.

So that’s me set up for coffee while camping – I can grind the beans while my terrifying stove boils the water; it’s simultaneously stressful and comforting. I’m thinking about investing in a Staresso, which gets you a bit closer to what you’d make in an espresso machine. It uses some kind of hand pump to develop pressure. What the Aeropress lacks in actual pressure, though, it gains in simplicity. It has one moving part so is pretty difficult to break.

How do you get your coffee fix when you’re away from home?

Note: I bought all this kit myself and have not been in anyway remunerated for this review. Sadly.

Sharp Haw, 21/07/18, 13.5km

The hills:

There’s just the one – Sharp Haw (347m) – on the very southern edge of Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s the conical summit you can see above Skipton approaching from the bypass. I must have driven past it thousands of times and, until now, have never been up. You can get to this route pretty easily by public transport if you live anywhere in the Aire valley between Skipton and Leeds. I’d normally have a mountain weather forecast here, but look at the date and take a guess about the weather…

The walk:

From Skipton train station, Susan, Harvey and I walk across the carpark and turn right up the main road into town. We head up towards the castle, turn left along onto Mill Bridge, crossing to the north side of the road as we get to the far side of the canal. Chapel Hill draws us northwards up hill. As the lane bears round to the right, we join a footpath

that continues northwards over pasture. We cross a wall over a stone stile at the top and pause for a view of Sharp Haw summit, perched on the horizon like a tiny pap of Glencoe.

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Like a tiny Pap of Glencoe…

The path drops down past sheep (once again, gentle reader, livestock are not a reliable navigational feature) to the A65 (the A65 is). Do take care here because it can be very busy, though it wasn’t at this juncture. The three of us scarper across the road onto a golf course. The PRoW is marked with yellow capped posts that we follow until we are crossing arable farmland and then a long straight track leading to Brackenley Lane (this is oddly busy with 4x4s as though Embsay is being deserted). Turning left on the tarmac, we follow the road until we reach Grassington Road, which we cross briskly to more sheep pasture.

The footpath takes us due west north west to a much less busy road called Bog Lane. We turn right and then follow the road to the left. When it turns right again, we take a farm track west northwest(ish) across unimproved pasture. As the track bears around towards the west, a footpath runs on across the pasture. We’re onto shallow peat here, dry and dusty after this hot weather. You can practically feel it giving up carbon into the atmosphere as we walk. Around us there are soft rushes, but not much else in the way of real peatland foliage. Perhaps there was a bog here a long time ago.

We veer towards northwest and the path drags us up toward the summit cone. Someone has ambitiously run a a drystone wall across it and, given the gradient, the stile is more of a ladder. Oddly there is also a bench here made from what appears to be stainless steel.

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A much closer tiny Pap of Glencoe.

The view from the summit trig point is tremendous – a brilliant panorama of somewhere I’ve been passing through for most of my adult life but never really stopped to look at. Inevitably, Pendle Hill is lurking off to the southwest in that Lancashire, but we paid it no heed. Airedale and Cravendale is spread out around us.

We stop for some lunch on the north flank, among bilberries, looking northeast across to Rough Haw. You could trot out there and back if you had the time or inclination but we

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Harvey, smashing gender stereotypes. Photo by Susan.

haven’t so we don’t. Maybe next time. Ever the trailblazer, Harvey smashes gender stereotypes with his pink water bowl.

We drop down the northwest ridge and to our left, the ground is boggier – more rushes and now cottongrass in bloom (though it’s looking a bit knackered). We handrail a wall separating bog and woodland before dropping through a gate and down a hairpin track through commercial forest and rhododendrons. Eventually this comes out next to another stainless steel bench – must be a Skipton thing – where we turn southeast to join a vehicle track running through the pines.

The trees are far enough downhill of us that we have lovely views down the canal and across the vally. The track is sufficiently clear at its sides that enough light is let in to allow flowers, which attract bumblebees.

The track draws us around the contours of the hill, past a big hut with a veranda and some tables and what looks like a generator. No idea what that is, but looks like it should

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Between peat an pines. Photo by Susan.

be selling ice creams. It is not. Damn it. As the path loops around to the east, we drop off the side, through trees and back into rough pasture. Cutting across a dried up stream-bed, we reach walled arable farmland. We hand rail the wall downhill aways until a public footpath takes us back across to Bog Lane, below where we joined it last time. We turn downhill and then take another footpath southeast across pasture to a lane below a static caravan park. Following this south, come out on White Hills Lane, turning southeast and recrossing the A65, this time excitingly (but less dangerously) on a bridge. Again, I’ve been under this bridge an awful lot – it’s oddly thrilling to be on it.

 

At the far side, where White Hills Lane becomes Raikeswood Road, we turn right into Raikeswood Drive and right again into Rockswood Drive. A vaguely semicircular route takes down through Skipton’s outskirts to Aireville Park where we turn southeast again onto the tarmac track. This draws us over the canal and drops us opposite the station.

Kit List:

In my pack (a Macpac Amp 25): Montane Flux belay jacket, Klättermusen Vidblåin smock, OL Sheet 2, Silva mirror-sighting compass, Benchmade Presidio lock-knife, Highgear AltiTech 2 altimeter, iPhone, Veho Pebble phone-charger, 1.5 litres of water, Terra Nova 2 person emergency shelter, first aid kit, a lot of food. I wore Montane terra trousers, Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck hoodie, Millet Super Trident GTX boots.

Millet Super Trident GTX, 24/06/18

My favourite boots of all time were a pair of Millet High Roc – they were comfortable, precise and, importantly, bright red. We had many adventures together, from scrambling in the Lake District to walking in the Dales to a winter traverse of Liathach. Some of you may recall I was in a little accident in 2014. After the nearly dying, eight hours alone with a massive list of injuries,  multiple operations, and 3 years of recovery, my greatest regret  (apart from not remembering the only helicopter ride of my life) is that those boots were removed with scissors. They’d gone out of production by this point, so I replaced them with a pair of Scarpa Rebel Lite, which are lighter, nearly as good, but not red.

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So very, very red.

In the build up to my fundraising walk for Keswick Mountain Rescue Team, I started casting about for some stiffish boots that are also light and comfortable and quite by chance, I found these beauties. They tick all of those boxes and they are red. They are even redder than the High Rocs. RED. Annnnyway, I bought them online and now I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I have fairly narrow feet and fairly high arches, so I don’t generally buy boots online unless I know the manufacturer and their fit fairly well. Because I’d already had a pair of Millet (and also checked around for other reviews) I knew to go a half size up for these.

So, what did £138 get me? They’re a mid-height boot, just coming up to my ankle, with split leather uppers and a Gore-Tex lining. There’s a nice rubber rand; lacing all the way to the toe; some decent cushioning around the cuff; they’re stiff enough to take a C1 crampon; the Vibram sole has a climbing zone at the front. The leather upper has a series of ridges moulded into it – I presume this is to give it some kind of structural integrity without the bulk/weight that comes with really thick leather. The full spec is here. For some reason it doesn’t mention the redness. Apparently you can get them in black, if you’re trying too hard.

For their first trip out, I got up early, laced them up, and whipped off up Baildon Hill (yes, I also got dressed, smart arse). Front door to summit, at a pace that gave me a stitch as I

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Top of Baildon Hill with new boots and Susan’s flask. Shhh, don’t tell her.

barrelled up the side of the Hill, took 45 minutes. Surprisingly, given their newness, stiffness and my briskness, I had no blisters. There was a little rubbing around my right Achilles tendon, but that was it.

Second trip took me from Kettlewell to the top of Great Whernside and then back down via the green lane. It was a sweltering day with a bout of chilling rain two thirds of the way round. Grassy ascent, boggy descent and then that loose, stony track. God, I hate that track. No blisters – and if they were going to blister, that day had the heat for it – no rubbing and no leaks.

By now, I was sufficiently confident in these boots to make their third third trip my epic fundraising walk for Keswick MRT – 11 summits over 35km in some really foul weather. They did wet out after about 6 hours, but to be honest, I don’t know a boot at this weight that wouldn’t wet out after 6 hours. They were precise, comfortable, supportive, light and incredibly red.

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35km and 11 summits later, I like these boots a lot.

Footwear – especially over any sort of distance – is a very personal thing, so I can never say that these are the boots for you. I would unhesitatingly recommend them if you have feet like mine – narrow, high arches – and remember to go a half size up. These are my new favourite boots.

Note: I paid for these boots myself and have received no form of remuneration from Millet.

Coledale horseshoe and Newlands horseshoe, 16/06/18, 35km

The hills:

Some of you may know that I tipped off a mountain a few years ago. My life was saved by Keswick Mountain Rescue Team and, after multiple surgical-adventures, I was finally fit enough to do something for them, and looking around for a challenge. I settled on piling these two routes into half a day, together with Susan, Dahlia, Debs, Ewan, Jonathan and Mike.

Grisedale Pike (791m) is the thug of the Coledale horseshoe (and the day), glowering at

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Mountain weather forecast for the Lake District 16/06/18.

the start of the route, followed by the odd hook of Hopegill Head (770m). There’s long plunge down into Coledale Hause and then back up and round to 839m of either Eel Crag or Crag Hill (depending on whether you take Wainwright’s or Ordnance Survey’s word for it). There’s a prickly little ridge connecting you to Sail (773m) before you drop through Sail Pass and finally pick off the green cone of Outerside (596m).

Robinson (737m) is the first fell in the Newlands horseshoe, a long ridge with a wide,  hummock of a summit, much like its neighbour, Hindscarth (727m). Dale Head (753m) is the biggest of this bunch, squatting over, as its name suggests, the head of the Dale. High Spy (653m) sees the route levelling out a little as you hoof onwards to Maiden Moor (576m). Final top of the day is the lowest; Cat Bells (451m).

The walk:

It’s 05:15 when we set off from Braithwaite campsite toward the carpark just in the mouth of Coledale, on the Whinlatter pass road. We (I) have a minor navigational

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Grisedale Pike from Hopegill Head.

blooper, but let’s pretend we (I) didn’t. So, at 05:30, we take the path out of the north side of the carpark. It pushes quickly uphill through birchwood and then roughly west southwest across open hillside. This is brutal stuff, steep then level then steep then level then steep then level. The weather is awful – cold rain in a stiff wind that saps the will. It reminds me of an old Tim O’Brien line “[…] we used to say, the wind doesn’t blow, it sucks. Maybe that’s what happened — the wind sucked it all away. My life, my virtue.” Just to be clear, nobody’s virtue is affected today, but the wind draws the life from us early on. We hit the summit just after 07:15 and plough on towards Hopegill Head.

There’s a long lope down and round and back up to the next top. We drop out of the wind for a brief spell and there is some pack foofling in that respite. Below, the myrtle heath of Hobcarton Crag – part of Buttermere Fells Site of Special Scientific Interest – glimmers green even in the dull, morning light. We pause very briefly on the summit of Hopegill Head, taking in such view as the weather allows, and then off we trot over the sub summit of Sand Hill, and down into Coledale Hause.

From the Hause, we ascend gently southwards, Grasmoor looming somewhere in the murk to our right. Where the track drops down from Grassmoor summit, we turn to the east, following a pretty much unmissable path up to the trig point of Eel Crag/Crag Hill. There’s a lovely little grade 1 winter climb that tops out here, but I cannot see it. Or indeed anything more than about 10m away. Still, I’m doing this for Keswick MRT and not for the views. Which is just as well.

As a special treat in low visibility and gusting winds, the next descent is on a narrowish ridge made slippy with rain. My friends have all spent a lot less time tottering across this kind of folderol than I, and as they take appropriate care for the conditions, bunch up and slow down. If there’s a benefit to the low visibility, it’s that they can’t see the drop. To be honest, the drop really isn’t as bad as all that but as I’ve already discovered, you don’t need to drop very far at all to smash your leg up for 4 years.

Anyway, we crawl down a wet, slippy ridge and then back up another and suddenly the land gets wide again and we’re on top of Sail. Possibly. For all we can see, we could be on Grassmoor or the Cheviot or Hoth. Continuing eastwards, the well-maintained track hairpins down toward Sail pass where we turn roughly north. We curl around under the outlying ridge of Causey Pike, finally dropping below the cloud base.

Everyone is a bit tired now; the weather has taken its toll on morale. Jonathan and I almost jog up the steep, bracken-clad slope of Outerside as the others descend to the road. Jonathan sets a challenging pace and I have a stitch by the time we reach the summit. There’s time only for a a quick photograph and discussion about the route down before we barrel down the northeast side and then curl around across heather and bilberry and bracken to rejoin the track and the group. Just before I leave the bracken, I see something flicker at my feet and a male common frog bounds off through the flora. We make good time down the wide track to the road in the valley floor.

Here, those of the party who are tired and cold and injured take the wise decision to drop out and head back up the road to Braithwaite. Ewan, Jonathan and I take a jinking route over sheep pasture, to the house of my friend, Jenny, near Swinside. We cached supplies there last night, and the kettle is on, and Jenny has baked. Jenny’s husband actually managed the KMRT operation that saved my life. Thanks, Rob.

We eat cake, drink hot beverages, change socks, and generally just be indoors for a bit. The joy of new socks cannot be understated. My boots have wetted out after about 6 hours in continuous rain and it is absolutely lovely to have dry feet. We bid farewell to the dry and the warmth and head towards the Newlands horseshoe. We have averaged about 1 mile an hour across the morning and we really need to pick it up a bit.

We turn downhill from Swinside on the road and then turn left for Little Town. I’m not normally one for road walking, but I have dry socks, and I don’t have to look at every single foot placement, and it is delightful. After Little Town chapel, we turn up towards Scope Beck, following it due southwest under the terrifyingly steep flank of High Snab. I have a cunning plan to avoid that dreadful ascent by climbing up past the dam and following a long diagonal path up to the summit.

We (I) have another minor navigational blooper and we (I) miss the path in a boulder field and so we (actually we) have to turn sharply uphill and traipse up over some surprisingly steep bog. How can bog form on that gradient? The wind is still sharp and cold and the rain is doing that feels-like-it’s-about-to-stop-but-then-suddenly-gets-really-heavy thing. And, you know, I know I can finish this but it will just be stubborn misery and I’ve dragged my friends into it and

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Looking back from the ridge of Robinson.

now I (I) have made another beginner’s error with the navigation and made it all take longer. Then we crest the ridge of Robinson and look back. Through a gap in the cloud, ridge upon ridge fades back from clarity into the gloom and it is brooding and magnificent and somehow the rain is forgotten.

Re-energised by the view, we summit Robinson and begin the descent to Littledale Edge. Suddenly, around 14:30, the cloud base lifts right up from the tops. We can see Hindscarth and Dale Head, below us, Honister Pass, and opposite, Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. Gills run down the face of Haystacks, ribbons of milk against the dark of the crags.

The path curves northeast, drawing us up to Hindscarth, where we take advantage of a drystone summit shelter. Looking across Little Dale, we can (for a change) see the last summit we were on. East southeast, Dale Head beckons us. The wind is still a bit pokey, but without the rain ahead of it, it is drying us out. A pair of ravens tumble and frolic in the sky below us. Splendid.

It’s an easy, gradual pull up to the Dale Head plateau, and someone has really made an effort with the cairn here. Skiddaw and Blencathra can be clearly seen; the Helvellyn massif is still firmly capped in wet, grey clag. Away off there to the east, in the sunshine,  stands Glaramara. four years ago, I fell off the far side of that. It’s strange to see it from this angle, and in such glorious conditions. No time to linger.

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Newlands Valley from Dale Head.

The path down the eastern flank of Dale head is a steep, little affair – stone steps set into the side of the hill. It must have been a nightmare to build. We creep down, tiredness slowing us, Encumbering us with bleary caution. When my right leg was shortened, the tendons contracted with it. Although they’ve mostly returned to their original length, the outer two toes are still hooked over. They’re sort of almost hammer-toes and this kind of descent is their bête noire. Ow.

At a little tarn, we do some gill hopping as we turn due north for the pull towards High Spy. Fresh, this would be summat and nowt, but we are not fresh. Oh, no. After what seems like a geological era, we reach the cairn and…um…spy. Highly.

Maiden Moor is further way than I remember it. Everything is further away than I remember it. It’s easy going, mind, there’s just loads of it. To the north, Cat Bells taunts us with its distance. Undeterred (well, perhaps a little deterred), we plough onwards and downwards, past Black Crag and into Hause Gate.

We pause in the pass so that I can attend to my left boot – there’s been something pressing into the sole of my foot since Hindscarth. I strip off the boot and a sock to find a tiny nubbin of fluff between my sock and my liner sock. I remove it, redress my foot and continue. The strange pressure in my sole has been there for so long that I can still feel it. For. The. Love. Of. GOD…

We haul our sorry arses back up out of Hause Gate to the lowest summit of the day – Cat Bells. It’s weird to consider Cat Bells  summit a triumph, but there it is. We’ve done it. We actually set off on the right path at 05:30 and we hit the final summit at 17:30, so we kind of made it in 12 hours. I’d like to have been back down in the valley inside 12 hours, but that hasn’t happened – safety before speed. We can see Grisedale Pike from our *coughs* lofty vantage point. Gosh, it’s a long way off. We allow ourselves a little moment of elation before we make our way down the prow of Cat Bells to take the fell runners’ descent off the west flank. We hit the road down to Skelgill 45 minutes after we left the summit.

It was an extraordinary day, and I’m really very pleased that I could complete the walk. I

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Our route for the day, prepared by Jonathan using Ordnance Survey data.

expected my right leg to play up; it was actually fine. My feet were pretty sore and my thighs are still tender 3 days later – but my body did not give up. I (we) hoofed 35km distance and 2.4km ascent. I’ve done the Yorkshire three peaks three times now (41km distance and 1.5km ascent) and there’s no comparison – these two horseshoes linked are far more challenging. Thank you so much to Susan, Dahlia, Debs, Ewan, Jonathan and Mike for supporting me. At the time of writing, we (we) have raised £1,690 for Keswick Mountain Rescue Team, so thank you also to all who sponsored me. My fundraiser page is still open for another month, so if you want to help us get past £1,700, that would be lovely. Thank you also also, of course to KMRT for scraping my bloody ruin off the mountain and getting me to hospital.

Kit list:

In my pack (a Macpac Amp 25): Buffalo belay jacket, OL Sheet 4, Silva mirror-sighting compass, Benchmade Presidio lock-knife, Highgear AltiTech 2 altimeter, iPhone, Veho Pebble phone-charger, coffee, 1.5 litres of water, Terra Nova 2 person emergency shelter, first aid kit, a lot of food. I wore Paramo Velez Adventure Light smock, Paramo Velez Adventure trousers, Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck hoodie, Isobaa Merino neck warmer, Millet Super Trident GTX boots, Outdoor Designs LiteFlex gloves.

 

Mastiles Lane, 25/03/18, 9.2km

The hills:

There are no hills on this walk, but there is some uphill. The route takes an old drover’sIMG_1939 (and Roman) road, Mastiles Lane up to around 420 metres. It’s steepish in the lane, but the going is nowhere difficult. You will encounter quite a lot of cattle, though. They presented no difficulties to us, but if you’re nervous around big ungulates, this might not be your route.

 

The walk:

Susan, Harvey-the-shorkie and I park up on the road that runs up out the back of Kilnsey – I assume it once served the quarry there. There are a couple of massive lay-bys here so parking should not be an issue.

We walk up the road from the car as the strange, skirling of a green woodpecker whoops from the woods to our left. The road soon forks and we take the sinister…um…prong? We’ve left the tarmac now, new woodland on the slope above us.  The track loops around below Cool Scar quarry before turning roughly west southwest, dropping down towards a large herd of my third favourite breed of cattle, blue greys. Not for the first time in a blog post, I feel compelled to assert that cattle are not a reliable navigational feature. You should be looking for walled lane running steeply uphill.

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The blue greys will not harm you…

Susan picks up Harvey in his harness and we skirt widely round the cattle in case he decides to offer them all outside, which would be bold and (given our location) nonsensical. We traipse through the mud and/or manure and pass through the gate without incident. Above the field to our right, lapwings dance madly in the air sounding their lilting, disyllabic call. The name lapwing comes from the Old English hleaēpwince, meaning (roughly) leap with a waiver in it, which perfectly captures their hesitant, tilting flight.

 

The lane steepens before us and the exertion combines sweatily with the spring sunshine. Not for Susan, you understand, just me. Susan doesn’t sweat. Harvey floofles. Yes, yes, floofling is a verb. We pause for coffee not far shy of the crest of the lane. A brown shape on the track above us reveals itself as a skylark when it takes to the air. It’s the first I’ve seen this spring and its trilling is surely the season turning a corner.

As we crest over the summit of the lane, we encounter around a dozen backpackers in a long strung-out line, all in their mid-40s or over. I honestly had no idea how much the DofE Award demograph had changed this much since I left school.

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Looking down Mastiles Lane, Great Whernside in the top left of the shot.

After passing through the next gate (Mastiles Gate, in fact, according to the map). We turn south southeast and handrail the wall. There is a track through this field, and there are more blue greys here. They’re not at all threatening – in fact most of them are laid down – but we give them a wide berth just to err on caution’s side. At the far end of this field, we join the tarmac of Malham Moor Lane and head (very) roughly east. Looking across to the tops, I can see a herd of my favourite breed of cattle – belted Galloways. FY information, I think my second favourite is probably English longhorn.

 

Above us, the the curlew’s liquid call bubbles into the sky. They are so distinctive in flight, bowed, pointed wings and that long drooping bill.

We follow the tarmac for just over 900 metres before turning north through a gate and onto a well-established track. There’s a massive tyre chained to the footpath sign, with white-paint instructions about keeping your dog on a lead. Harvey is on a lead, so we’re good. Yours should be too. Yes, I know he’s a good boy and always does as he’s told. You know who else said that? Everybody whose dog has ever worried a sheep.

There are significant outcrops of limestone pavement around us. They’re grazed to the living end so even in the summer there’s little of the woodland flora you should expect. We stop at one of the outcrops for lunch as lapwings tilt and shudder in the air above us.

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Harvey-the-shorkie, demonstrating how your dog should be controlled around livestock and ground nesting birds.

As we continue, the track rises and then starts to drop away. Beyond Kilnsey, Great Whernside squats on the horizon. We descend, on sheep-cropped, springy turf, toward the cows we first encountered. There’s some wriggling (metaphorically speaking) through some farm infrastructure that (I think) manages and channels cattle. We have another cautious circumnavigation of the non-threatening cows and then we simply retrace out route back to the car.

 

Kit list:

In my pack (a Macpac Amp 25): Paramo Torres belay jacket, OL Sheet 2, Silva mirror-sighting compass, Benchmade Presidio lock-knife, Highgear AltiTech 2 altimeter, iPhone, Veho Pebble phone-charger, coffee, a litre of water. I wore Paramo Velez Adventure Light smock, Paramo Velez Adventure trousers, Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck hoodie, Scarpa Rebel lite Gtx, Paramo Mountain gaiters, Rab Latok gloves (they were too hot. I am a fool).