Monday, 12 May 2008

All the gear no idea

Last weekends planned trip up Pendle Hill was a miserable failure, mainly due to the after effects of alcohol and a few more spurious excuses ...however

This weekend was planned as a definite change in gear, no planned entertainment, camping overnight and two walks. The second of these walks up a well known hill/mountain. There is bound to be some obscure EU legislation about the qualification to be a mountain but my newly declared mountain qualification is....if it takes more than an hour to walk up and you need to use your hands as well as your feet then its a mountain. I suspect I didnt have enough meetings or produce enough paperwork to get that into future legislation.

The weather forecast for the weekend was at best horrid and at worst biblical. I'm a survivor of Glastonbury 98 so I had this down as not really an issue although there was a spot of flapping going on as Shad turned into a baby starling.

7 Day Weather Forecast for Skipton by three hour period

0.6 mmV Light
1.069 mmLight
1.1 mmLight
5.75 mmHeavy
8 mmHeavy
4.4 mmModerate
11.4 mmTorrential
1.12 mmLight

Sunday lunchtime arrives, as does Shad and almost early. I've even prepared the music for the journey to take into account Shads taste in music. As far as I can tell it goes like this

Puppini Sisters
Beautiful South

There are loads of really good new songs out at the moment (see list) but I just knew that non would Billy Joel and Crowded House to the rescue........worked a treat.

The only other thing of note during the whole journey are my rapidly changing views of GPS/Tom Tom systems. I've never actually bothered to carry maps in the car on the basis that all the roads join up and as long as you can see the sun you can figure out which direction you are travelling...oh and roadsigns are also quite handy. One point of caution to anyone about to adopt this revolutionary method of direction finding....its really rubbish in London. You can't see the sun because of the buildings, none of the signposts say town centre (always a give away elsewhere) and sometimes the roads just stop. Shad's Tom Tom was great though, firstly the woman on it gets really stroppy if you go in any direction other than the one she suggests, (I did and saved 8 miles and 10 minutes journey time), secondly Tom Tom pings if you go more than 10% over the speed limit...a bit like having your mam sat next to you, and thirdly this version makes animal noises....well it makes a bull mooing noise as you approach a speed camera.

I was going to suggest this sort of approach be adopted in other areas of life but realized that teenage boys already had a monopoly on various grunts.

You can easily spot the amateurs at this camping lark, they turn up at random farmhouses that have a run down caravan out the back and demand to know where to pitch their tent. Woops

Anyway the real campsite was thankfully fairly close and very well organized. Everything went to plan and we constructed a reasonable representation of a three man tent within the hour. Nevetheless as team leader of my only child society, I was now faced with a dilemma. True to form I had also packed my own tent in the car knowing that this perfect 2 man tent would meet all my camping needs but erecting it may well P off my pal. It wasn’t that there were that many problems with the bigger tent….ok Shad put the groundsheet down before putting the main tent up. It got wet and muddy but hey the Centrefeed could solve this. There was the small issue of the sleeping pods not quite being long enough or as it turned out later wide enough for the airbeds. But other than that I didn’t have a real argument.

Deep breath and I was sharing!!

Craig arrived bang on time, one and half hours later just as we had finished everything, and true to form had another brand new tent. This time it was a double pop up tent and to be fair it was brilliant, 1 minute later Craig was ready. I think its important to point out that Craig brought bugger all else, no food no beer, not cooking kit tea coffee or infact anything useful or even useless. You think guilt would have played a part in mushroom choice. (see later)

The good news is; after 10 minutes of Ultra light drizzle it was warm and bright.

We’d planned a short stroll around Malham only about 6 miles away and I was quite keen too, having broken my camera previously it was an ideal opportunity to capture the rest of the area. Arriving at Malham at this time of the day was genius, as the holiday crowds were all going the other direction and the whole trip proceeded like clockwork. Ok there was Shad being scared of heights and cowering inside the rocks and there was the odd dead animal * oh and the butty van leaving with Craigs tea just as we turned up. But other than that; lovely stroll, weather held up and all sights well and truly seen.

Then we decided to eat….none of us are known as fussy eaters, so how tricky can it be to find a pub selling food….Very bloody tricky indeed is the simple answer. If its not reserved your not coming in!!! I was humming Klaxons tunes as we approached places. But this is a better one.

The Klaxons -Golden Skans

We even resorted to a trip back to the campsite bar to see if they did food - they didnt, four stops later and we are back in Settle with the chip shop as a definite option, at least we’d be eating them in a Merc. The first pub we went into had stopped serving…and that was a relief, it was like walking into a Scooby Doo castle, they even had the spooky caretaker by the bar. I’ve since had this verified by one of my pals who’s very first comment about Settle was ‘did you go into the scary pub?’

Saved by The Crown Hotel, traditional Steak and Chips and roaring fire…result. 9/10

Quick drive back to the campsite passed Russel Harty’s school, its already our fourth time passed the Giggleswick school and its apparent that we are all short on Giggleswick facts to impress eachother with. A couple of pints of cider and then off to bed for a sound sleep. Except that the ‘not in my tent’ issue was about to raise its head. Because my airbed didn’t quite fit the unfeasibly small manpod I couldn’t zip up the side door…..this left me open to the rats and scarab beetles and hence not a great sleep. It was also proven in the morning as a huge beetle jumped off me. Lesson learned.

‘All the gear no idea’ cooked a great breakfast except that there were 3 large mushrooms and one got burned, was there any lets share the good ones? Was there heck…first come first served and you can have the solid cement mushroom mate..cheers.

The big tent packed away in no time, then we had the tiny fold away / popup tent to pack. Well Craig and Shad did, a 10 minute wrestling match ensued which entertained our side of the campsite no end. Every fold inwards resulted in a pop out pop up and pop anywhere. Katie Price would have been proud. I suspect another new tent for the next trip.

Dead animals – sorry mate but its time to break ranks on this one, Craig has a theory for a new website and although the title isn’t particularly unique the concept is…..’Dead Pets Reunited’. The simple plan is to photograph dead animals and then to post them on a website I presume with date, time, description (lots of ways of saying flat?) and place attached. Owners of missing pets can then trawl through the blood and gore in the hope of getting closure on Tiddywinks. There are some obvious flaws with this plan which I’m happy to ignore, but the whole, lets approach a dead thing which is probably smelly and take a photo is just sick. Macabre sounds like it would be a good word to use here.

(If, my disclosure of the greatest idea ever means someone else makes a fortune doing this now, then I’ll buy you a couple of pints compensation.)

So off to find a mountain, - the point where both our chins hit the floor as we saw the mountain loom over the treetops should have been a warning. Even amongst the Northern Pennines Pen-Y-Ghent stands out. The side we were due to climb looked like a cliff face even at this distance. The good news is the weather was great and the local café sold sandwiches so we had some dinner. Dinner at dinner time, tea at teatime and lunch is for Americans.

Within about 500 yards we had overtaken the older couple (there always is one) and we were off uphill. And then more uphill and then it got really steep. There was a cake stall on the way up, which was homemade cakes, help yourself and leave some money… made you feel good to know that there are some places where you can still do that. So we stole the cakes.

We didn’t and we didn’t even eat any, that’s how serious we are taking the walking. At the start of the real climb to the top we had exchanged places with the old couple at least twice but in good old schoolboy talk we decided to ‘burn them off’. Setting off at pace we clambered up the last part of the mountain, (hands required) and made it to the false top, then walked steadily uphill to the real top.
Getting to the top of a mountain is weird thing, firstly you feel relieved that there is no more up to walk , then you feel really good about it. Then you take pics and look around and maybe have dinner as a reward or just cos you’re hungry. The proper walking fraternity has this weird thing going on where they want to be the only person wherever they are, ie if you are the only person at the top of a mountain then that’s really good. This sort of comment appears in magazines and websites regularly, one guy I was chatting to last week as he was coming down said the same thing ‘oh its good there is hardly anyone there’. ‘I was in a nightclub there was hardly anyone there its great’ We went to the match hardly anyone turned up? I think I quite like people to be about.

Anyway it was good, you could see for miles, they had a trig point…essential for photos and they had people, loads of them all sitting on the other side of the wall having diner and all looking pleased with themselves. Just for the record we did beat the old people to the top.

There was a shortcut option at this point which headed back to Horton, but as we had positively run up the hill in 1.5hours we went on for hill 2. Plover Hill. This part of the moors is well known for having a few bogs on it and we were about to find them. After about 10 minutes of jumping bogs, walking through puddles and generally picking our way through, Shad suddenly morphed. He was like one of the characters from Heroes revealing his superpower, which was ‘turning into a bog leaping hobbit’. It was awesome to watch as he ran and leapt and somehow got through the whole lot leaving us miles behind. (I did try shoving him later just so one went wrong.) and I bet he's got pigs feet.

World Famous Grouse is the only thing I really knew about grouse until we suddenly saw one, then two, then three then loads, we were surrounded by these gurgling creatures…maybe they were dangerous. As animals go 7/10. We also saw a very large fox stalking one, but I think the wind changed direction and the fox got one whiff of eau de hill climb and was off toutes vitesse. (apologies to my French teacher). Then we came across one of those vandalized signposts, both directional signs had been broken off so we had to resort to map reading…we were in trouble now. Well hobbitman would have been as he set off down the hill towards the cliff edge, fortunately we won the vote 2-0 (hobbits don’t vote), climbed the style and set off downhill. Just as we reached the edge the whole valley opened up below us, it was like one of those scenes from Jurassic park …ok without the dinosaurs but it was a very very empty valley just full of grassland and huge trees.

The cliff edge here (escarpment probably) was pretty steep and we clambered down to the bottom. Heading back to Horton now, we got to see Hull Pot, which is basically a huge hole in the ground with a bit of a waterfall going on. What I really liked about it was that there was absolutely no warning signs and no fencing. In fact I think this is the part I’m really liking about walking, the complete lack of rules, cameras, safety devices etc and no bloody signposts (even the good ones –directional). If you had come across Hull Pot at night there is definitely a 50:50 chance you would just walk over the edge and meet with cheerio time as it really is a vertical drop with no warning.

I had a bizarre conversation his week about inviting the four horsemen of the apocalypse to a dinner party 'so what do you do?' 'death' oh. I hate this sort of small talk so perhaps I would enjoy the party. I'm going to explore this party option a bit further.

There is a bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal on the A49 near my house which has the daftest safety feature ever. Halfway across the bridge at pavement level there is chickenwire or something like it, nailed on, to stop you jumping in. Mind you if your determination to die was strong enough to carry you the extra 2 yards you could be happily plummeting to your death on the Cheshire half of the bridge. I’m not sure whether it’s the poncy Cheshire folk who run the council and reckon the working class can’t be trusted on their half of the bridge or whether the working class are hoping that drug snorting Cheshire-ites (good word) accidently tumble in whilst off their heads. Wire on the right.

So back to Horton, or rather back to the pub and another one of those splendid ciders they do in this area. There was one other almost Python moment in the pub, where a chap of about 46 yrs old popped his head round the other bar and said to the barman ' eye lad I aven't travelled far, just from Sheffield, why would you want to go abroad when you can get everything you need in Yorkshire'. At least he looked embarassed as he caught my eye. I'm pretty sure Manchester would count as foreign. Anyway all counted out and all counted back in and a successful reasonably healthy trip.

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