Rucksack Readers; Coast to Coast Guide Review

Rucksack Readers: Coast to Coast, St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay (2018).

This new edition of the Coast to Coast walk guide is produced in line with the range of Rucksack Reader editions from this Edinburgh publisher.

C2C Guide
Rucksack Reader Cover: Coast to Coast

This Coast to Coast Guide is printed on weatherproof, biodegradeable paper and the spiral bindings enables the user to open it out flat. It is published in high spec full colour with photographs by Karen Frenkel. It also contains introductory sections to aid planning and preparation, well researched background information and a thorough final section of further information and references.

The walk is divided into 16 daily stages with concise directions, route options, altitude profiles and 1:55,000 colour maps by Lovell Johns. At 220mm x 150mm and 295g, the guide should fit in most garment or rucksack pockets, although it is slightly on the tall side for me. There is the option to download the Daily Stages section of the guide as a pdf which could be used during the walk as an alternative to carrying the book.  There is also some additional content and a downloadable GPX file available from their website.

On the whole the book has been thoughtfully produced, addressing some of the physical problems many walkers will have experienced with walking guides (rain damage and spine deterioration). I also appreciate the thoughtful extras such as the downloadable pdf guide and GPX file which allow the walker to get everything they require in a one stop shop.

Many walking books are self consciously low spec on the reasonable assumption that they will take a bit of rough handling during a walk. It is therefore quite nice to find a guide that subverts the trend by proving that quality doesn’t have to be sacrificed to durability.

This was a free review copy available on request from the publisher.

A day with Terry Abraham

The chance to part with a small amount of money when Terry set up his fundraising page for his current film about Scafell Pike, was a way to demonstrate my faith in his abilities as a film maker and to pick his experienced brains about wild camping.

wasdale
Camping in Wasdale

Terry has assembled a huge cast of characters for  “The Life of a Mountain – Scafell Pike”, from mountaineers to mountain rescue, farmers and a shepherdess. All have a connection to Scafell Pike and the narrative of the film explores these connections. Terry’s ambition was to film a year in the life of the mountain which is the highest peak in England and one of three of the highest in the UK.

I travelled to Nether Wasdale in the Lake District to spend a day with three of the National Trust Rangers responsible for maintaining the hugely popular route up to Scafell Pike. Apparently 40,000 people, including many 3 peaks challenge teams, take this route each year and the footpath is key to their success.

Fix the Fells Rangers

Terry and the Rangers filmed a day at work on the route to the summit during April. Although there were many signs of spring on the lower part of the route, the summit was still shrouded in low cloud.

Hampered in my climb by an asthma attack, I still met all sorts of people during the day, from young children to a 79 year old man, who said this was going to be his last climb. All these people made me realise what universal and enduring appeal this mountain has.

Daffodils at Wasdale

The Scafell Pike film generated a lot of interest within the outdoors community following the fundraising drive and Terry’s previous Cairngorms film with Chris Townsend in 2013 (which received a commendation at the Kendal Mountain Festival).

I feel certain that the project will bring Terry the recognition he deserves. The film premiered at Rheged in Penrith on Saturday 10th May 2014 and tickets quickly sold out for the first screening. The download / dvd are available online. An abridged version of the film was shown on the BBC4 on 14th January 2015 to record audiences.

From Slackpacker to Backpacker

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. 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.

College Burn
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. With advice from some people about my camping kit, I began my attempt to transform myself from a slackpacker to a self supporting backpacker.

PW Kit
Backpacking kit for the Pennine Way

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.

Eildons
Snow on the Eildons

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 had consulted a podiatrist who gave me some exercises designed to prevent tendon injury, and sought some advice about camping, but I was still nervous when I arrived at Edale in June.

image
Pennine Way practice in the garden

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 few 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 and my mountain skills so the remainder of 2013 has been spent trying to address these issues.

I was lucky enough to team up with 4 other wild-campers on Twitter 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. 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.

Alnmouth
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 trail walkers Sarah, Alasdair, Colin and Chris 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 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. This fascinating day with Tanya also kickstarted my Wainwright bagging again in the Central Fells.

Tanya Oliver
Tanya Oliver surveys her workplace

All these experiences have meant that the line 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 meet some more mountaineers. 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 in the future. Watching 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 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.

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. All I can say about 2013 really is who knew!

Cross Fell
Summit of Cross Fell

Back on the fells

I am pleased to say that my visit to meet Tanya Oliver and find out more about the Fix the Fells team, kick-started my fell bagging again after a fall last year put things on hold.

It was a pleasure to complete this short hike of what my book calls the Greenburn round. This route starts at Grasmere and includes Helm Crag, Gibson Knott, Calf Crag and Steel Fell in the Central Fells. Armed with my trekking poles (still an experiment), a fulsome packed lunch from Grasmere YHA and my new Harvey mountain map of the Lakes, there was nothing for it but to strike out again. As I continued along the route, I could feel my confidence and enjoyment in the fells returning.

Helm Crag in the Central Fells

New videos of the Pennine Way

I have now found time to make some detailed videos of my Pennine Way walk for Crisis UK, as my highlights video had to be edited down so much. I hope these new videos will appeal to some of you. They include the complete walk as well as various sections of the route including the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, the North Pennines, Cumbria, Northumberland, the Scottish Border.

All my distance walk and trail videos can be found on this Long distance walk playlist. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Rose