Jun 12 2010

Walk 11: Walking On Water

Looking South East towards Water Crag

route: water crag from tan hill
Date: 12th june 2010
distance: 5.5 miles
ascent: 696 feet
time: 3 hrs 30 mins
walkers: carol, dave, graham, leanne, sandra & simon

Today began with the long drive up to Tan Hill for the twentieth peak on our list, Water Crag. When I put together the initial list of peaks, it wasn’t even included, but as I researched a little more I felt this, along with Knoutberry Haw, Sails, Birks Fell, Bush Howe, Fountains Fell South Top and Green Hill should be included. The only difference with this particular peak was the fact we would have to plan an extra walk in just for this. All the others had been included with existing plans. Water Crag would have been ideal to do at the same time as Rogan’s Seat, but that had already been done back in February so another long journey was on the cards. After a brief mix up with meeting arrangements in Reeth, we finally found each other (as we didn’t have phone signals) on the road that heads through Arkengarthdale, from Reeth to Tan Hill. We parked up within a hundred yards of the famous Tan Hill Inn and began to prepare.

The pre walk team shot was taken then we set off towards our goal for the day. We were confident that today would just be a little walk due to the fact we were already over 1700ft above sea level and therefore didn’t have as far to climb as we normally would. The early stages were nice and simple as we followed the footpath beyond a building with some sort of antenna on it, although nobody had the foggiest idea what it may have been used for in the past. Personally I was more focused on the curlew that circled overhead providing us with a wonderful soundtrack to the early part of the walk.

From here the terrain gradually got worse as we left clear tracks for worn away grass. In places the path wasn’t exactly clear so we picked our own route and made our way across the numerous humps and bumps we encountered. At one point we came across a reasonably sized valley of what looked from above to be damp, squishy, bog.

We looked left and right but there seemed to be no way around it so that only left one option. After a brief discussion we volunteered Graham to go first as we all watched. If he made it across successfully we could follow, and if he didn’t we could laugh, then fish him out.

It made me laugh as the rest of us didn’t move a muscle until G was across, but once he was we all followed in his footsteps. To be honest the crossing was far better than we initially anticipated.

From here we continued to climb gradually although the going was considerably slower now. The reason for this was the uneven ground and the threat of twisted ankles, or possible worse. From time to time we would pause and regroup, before pushing on again.

As we reached the start of the last little kick up to the summit the incline became steeper and we began to fan out. Beaky led the way and myself and Graham followed at a distance, with the girls yapping away somewhere behind us. As I began the last real climb I heard a squeal from behind and Carol was laughing hysterically. She had lost her left leg in a particularly soft patch of ground. The problem was she couldn’t pull it out and the more she tried, the deeper she sank. Graham had to go back and pull her out which no doubt earned him a few brownie points. Carol, if you are reading this and forgot to repay him, now is a good time. G, you owe me a tenner for putting that!

I pushed on, up the final few yards until finally I reached the summit plateau, where I could see Beaky stood next to a big cairn and away to the right I could also make out the trig point.

I headed towards the trig and Beaks made his way too. We walked the last few strides together and we had now completed half of the Yorkshire tops. We stood chatting for a ten minutes or so before G and Carol came over the hill, followed ten minutes later by L’Autobus. The top was pretty plain, although there was a shelter of sorts a stones throw from the trig. We could see Rogan’s Seat a short distance away and although we could have done the two together (if we had known) it was nice to be back in an area we had previously visited. Sometimes in the interest of ticking things off a list it is easy to lose sight of what walking should be about. For me the whole idea is to enjoy and explore various locations at a pace that suits everyone rather than stick your head down and go as fast as you can. I guess if that was the plan we would just plan long walks taking in as many peaks as possible to get them done quicker. That isn’t what it is all about for me or the Rambling Badgers though. Once we were all at the top we had our usual lunch break and I asked the troops a quick question.

With our time at the top nearing an end, we packed up and headed off in the direction of the cars. We soon encountered lots of little trenches that must have been cut in for drainage. I certainly can’t believe they were natural. Taking care not to fall into one, we descended from the top and back across the lower, wetter slopes. We spotted a vole or some small creature scurrying about just ahead of us and took great care not to stand on it, although I am sure it would be much quicker than I am. From here we could soon see the radar station, NASA ground control or whatever it was away in the distance. All we had to do was plot a path back to it and we were almost done.

Along the way we saw a few little frogs or toads that no doubt loved the underfoot conditions. The combination of wet ground and tussocky grass made for hard work for us, but it raised plenty of laughs as we watched each other struggle along. I won’t repeat some of the insults flung at each other as we commented on our less than graceful movements. Everything as always was said in the right spirit and we were all enjoying another fabulous day out. As we continued we experienced varying types of ground with some being very wet with small streams running over the grass, whilst other areas were like small valleys, that often needed hands to help climb out of.

As we moved on the high ground in between these gullies Beaky managed to walk too close to a grouse that flew off making him jump in the process. This in turn caused a chain reaction of about 10 other grouse that flew off causing most of us to jump. It is all over in a split second but it really does make you jump when they fly off like that. Once we had crossed a few of these little valley like obstacles we ended up back on a more solid footing and paused for a while to regroup before the final half mile or so back to the car.

From here we made good progress and we were soon back on the track that led us to the Tan Hill Inn

We changed our footwear and headed to the pub for a beer in the highest pub in Britain. It had been another enjoyable day. The urgency of earlier had vanished and we decided against rushing back for the afternoons World Cup matches. Instead we celebrated the fact that we had completed half of the forty peaks we intended to do and in less than 4 months. For a group of people who never went walking before this we had done really well and it felt special. I don’t know why these little psychological milestones mean so much but it was definitely good to know we were counting down from here on. The walk itself hadn’t been one of my favourites but I had enjoyed it just as I had enjoyed all the others. Maybe one day I will do a walk that I hate. Maybe that will mean the end of my walking adventures. I certainly didn’t expect that day to be any time soon and I certainly wasn’t going to waste time worrying about it. Today I had reached the half way point of my challenge, and that was all that was on my mind. The doubts could wait for another day…

Sir Edmund


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