I thought I would write a post regarding my love of walking Trails (listed under the Trails tab) to try and inspire you to walk a trail. After some cogitation I came up with the following factors which have inspired me:
You gain a sense of progress which is rare in real life
The world is a beautiful place
The kindness of strangers who want you to succeed
The unique perspective it provides on the places you walk through
The community of other hikers
The perspective it gives you on life’s problems
Nature, nature and nature
The sense of freedom and independence it can give you
But somehow this still didn’t convey my love of walking long distance paths. So, here are some pictures:
…..which is when I realised that I could fill a book.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With hindsight, I can honestly say that all the kit and exercise preparation 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.
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 social media 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.
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.
In November I 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 planning 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!
2013 has been an vintage adventure year with three solo trails and a return to the Lakeland fells. Although my hiking has been confined to this country, I have experienced everything from deep snow in April to intense heat three months later, which has presented some challenges. I have also met and listened to some inspiring people, with fascinating tales to tell, so lots to learn and write up in my review of the year, coming soon.
My thoughts are turning to my (completed in July 2013) Pennine Way walk for Crisis UK. Behind the scenes, I have been preparing for this walk. This has included assembling a kit which will hopefully meet the needs of the walk.
The main aim of my kit is to ensure that I can reach my destination in comfort. I have learned to focus on comfort and weight as the key factors for success on my walks so far. Some companies have been generous enough to offer discounts on some of the items I needed most. In particular Gossamer Gear in the U.S. offered me a discount on their 65L Mariposa rucksack which is one of the few of that size weighing in at less than 1kg. This is less than half the weight of my previous rucksack.
I have also been finalising my walking schedule in order to be able to book my accommodation for the journey. I am hoping to do about 18 days walking plus 2/3 rest days spread out along the way. As usual the accommodation has ended up being a mixture of hostels, bunkhouses, B&Bs and campsites. As I am not yet up to speed as a wild camper I have opted for campsites which give me the option of support, provisions, basic facilities & being a bit more sociable if I have the energy!
My training for the walk is going to plan. I have a range of warm up exercises to do which hopefully will keep me injury free. I also did 5 days of walking in north Northumberland in March 2013, the 70 mile St Cuthbert’s Way walk in April 2013, and I am planning the Cumbria Way for May 2013.
One highlight of the St. Cuthbert’s Way was stopping for the night in Kirk Yetholm which is the official northern end of the Pennine Way. This boot garden was a sobering reminder of all the previous people to have attempted the walk and of how tough the walk will be. I hope that I make it back here in a better state than some of these boots.
If any of you can afford to donate to CrisisUK to speed me on my way I would be very grateful.