From slackpacker to backpacker in 2013

Because of a fall at the end of 2012, this year got off to a slow start. My convalescent winter was spent reading about other people’s adventures, which inspired me to plan some of my own. The injury knocked my confidence, and dented confidence sometimes takes longer to recover from than broken bones.

I first ventured out into the country again on a group trip to Kirkby Stephen in February. I discovered how out of condition I was when I couldn’t complete the first 15 mile walk. It was sad to watch everyone dashing off into the distance leaving me to meander back to base, although I did manage a shorter walk the following day.

First trip out of 2013 to Kirkby Stephen

First trip out of 2013 to Kirkby Stephen

A few weeks later in March of 2013, I planned a week of some of my favourite Northumberland walks from a base in Rothbury in order to boost my fitness and my morale. Kirkby Stephen had taught me that I needed to take things at a more comfortable pace at first. Although it was still quite wintery on the hilltops, it was really good to get out again and revisit north Northumberland.

The College Burn near Westnewton.

The College Burn near Westnewton.

As some of you will know, my big plan for 2013 was to walk the Pennine Way to raise funds for Crisis UK, so I knew I had to get back into condition. Martin Rye was kind enough to act as a mentor as this was to be my most ambitious hike to date. With advice from him and from James Boulter on my camping kit, together with many others on Twitter, I began my attempt to transform myself from a slackpacker to a self supporting backpacker and trail walker.

My Pennine Way kit

My Pennine Way kit

I made plans to do two hikes in the spring; the 65 mile St Cuthbert’s Way during the wintery April, followed by the 75 mile Cumbria Way during May. I never stop learning when I hike, and these hikes were no exception. I was able to experiment with new kit, footwear, and different kinds of accommodation. The strange weather of the 2013 spring presented challenges on both walks, with 25cm of snow in places across the Scottish borders, and hail showers on the Cumbria Way.

Woods south of Eildon Mid Hill in the snow

Woods south of Eildon Mid Hill in the snow

When the time came for me to set off on the Pennine Way in June, I was apprehensive about my achy tendons, and about camping in my new tent. I consulted a podiatrist who gave me some exercises designed to prevent tendon injury, and sought advice from people on Twitter about camping, but I was still nervous when I arrived at Edale in June.

Testing out my new tent & my down sleeping bag

Testing out my new tent & my down sleeping bag

With hindsight, I can honestly say that all the kit and exercise preparation I did, and all the advice I sought turned out to be valuable. I saw quite a few people on the Pennine Way during the summer heatwave with problems such as sunburn, heat exhaustion, heavy packs and injury, which luckily didn’t affect me during my hike.

Pennine Way route map

Pennine Way route map

I completed the hike in 20 days but allowed a couple of negative comments at the end to get under my skin, which wasn’t helpful. My advice is to avoid negative people as they will drag you down.

Some of the “areas for improvement” which emerged on the Pennine Way were my wild-camping, my mountain skills and some of the mistaken assumptions I had acquired about hiking, so the remainder of 2013 has been spent trying to address these issues.

I was lucky enough to team up with 4 intrepid wild-campers on Twitter (LonewalkerUK , Hillplodder,  Dean Read & PilgrimChris) for my first wild camp in the Peak District. After the Pennine Way, it was relaxing not to have a schedule to adhere to, and to have the logistics planned by somebody else.

Heading for my first night's wildcamping. Photo by @PilgrimChris

Heading for my first night’s wildcamping. Photo by @PilgrimChris

So many people have made the point that we are generally much safer in the hills than we are in most cities, so I have no excuses left to stop me getting out there to wild camp in 2014.

I had planned to try and fit two more short trails in to the end of the year, but responsibilities at home have put these on hold. I did manage half of the Northumberland coast path which I hope to finish at some stage.

The Northumberland Coast Path near Alnmouth.

The Northumberland Coast Path near Alnmouth.

I can’t write about this year without mentioning some of the people in it, as well as the hikes. As my ambitions to do longer trails have grown, I have realised that the best people to turn to for advice are people who have done them. It was therefore a huge pleasure to meet Sarah and Alasdair Fowler, Colin Ibbotson (Tramplite) and Chris Townsend and to chat about many aspects of their experience on some of the worlds great trails.

In October I was invited to the Lake District by the National Trust to meet Tanya Oliver (@Heelwalker1) of Fix the Fells  to see some of the vital path maintenance they do to tackle problems caused by erosion and poor drainage on the upland fell paths.

Tanya Oliver a.k.a. @Heelwalker1 surveys her new workplace

Tanya Oliver a.k.a. @Heelwalker1 surveys her new workplace

This fascinating day with Tanya also kickstarted my Wainwright bagging again in the Central Fells.

All these events have meant that the line which had existed in my brain between myself and mountaineers has started to become a bit blurred and meaningless. In November I therefore took myself to the Kendal Mountain Festival to test the assumption that I am somehow different from a mountaineer. Over the weekend I met some friendly people, enjoyed some good craic, and saw some great talks and films, so I look forward to returning next year.

Kenton Cool talk about his circuit of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse

Kenton Cool talk about his circuit of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse

Watching all these films about mountains in the snow finally persuaded me that I need to improve my winter skills if I am going to complete any longer global trails. Thus the year ended with me playing with my first ice axe and crampons at a Winter Skills lecture and booking myself onto a course. Without any injuries to contend with this winter, I have also taken up running in an effort to keep my fitness up for next spring.

At the end of 2013, many of the assumptions I had about hiking have disappeared and I find myself wanting to improve my mountain skills in the coming year. Thanks for reading and I hope all your plans for next year come to fruition. I look forward to reading about them. All I can say about 2013 really is who knew!

My rucksack which travelled with me from Edale to Kirk Yetholm here on top of Cross Fell

My rucksack which travelled with me from Edale to Kirk Yetholm here on top of Cross Fell

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About rucksackrose

I enjoy walking hiking, camping, writing, photography, creating videos, reviewing and good craic.
This entry was posted in About walking, Charity walks, Cumbria walks, Distance walks, Northumberland walks, Peak District, Pennine Way, Scottish borders walks, Walks, Yorkshire walks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to From slackpacker to backpacker in 2013

  1. The Pennine Way is a great confidence builder and I’m sure your achiement will encourage some ambitious adventures in the fells next year. So, good luck and I look forwards to finding out about your walks in 2014.

  2. rucksackrose says:

    Thanks very much David. The Pennine Way was good for my confidence and is a great walk which deserves a renaissance.

  3. Martin Rye says:

    One busy year and my how your skills and approach to backpacking has grown. Onwards to 2014. Scottish Coast-to-Coast maybe?

  4. Steph says:

    Sounds like you have had a great year Rose, you have achieved a lot and I’m looking forward to reading about your plans for 2014! One major goal of mine is to walk the Coast to Coast at some point- maybe this should be my 2014 goal…

  5. rucksackrose says:

    I look forward to reading about your C2C. It is good to make plans for the new year. I hope yours all come to fruition. I quite fancy the C2C as well but it is very popular at the moment which is what put me off this year. The Pennine Way was blissfully quiet by comparison :)

  6. Looks like it was a mammoth trek. A great post. Don’t let the negative people bring you down.

  7. rucksackrose says:

    Thanks very much for leaving a nice comment Gareth. It was a mammoth trek for me which is why the negativity got me down at the end of the walk

  8. Andrew Kling says:

    When are you coming to the US to tackle the AT?

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