As they say, however, a picture paints a thousand words, so see for yourself...
Well I never quite got round to the epic Morocco write-up!
As they say, however, a picture paints a thousand words, so see for yourself...
If you can, get yourself over to Pateley Bridge to see Joseph Hayton's new sculpture 'Pillars Past'. It represents - using the images of real local people - the three main pillars of Nidderdale's heritage: agriculture, mining, and religion; with a nod to a more ancient past via its standing stone-like structure.
The three pillars will be strikingly familiar to anyone who's walked in Nidderdale and the surrounding area - we offer a walk ourselves named 'Moors, Monks & Mines' along a very similar theme.
Click the link below to see more about Joseph's sculpture and how it was influenced by our fascinating heritage!
Yorkshire Post: Carving a Name for Pateley Bridge (Video - 2 minutes)
I lead on a voluntary basis for HF Holidays, the UK’s biggest walking holiday company. So far it’s been on a moorland basis but last weekend I had an impromptu trip to Coniston – always a pleasure – to fill a last minute vacancy on a mountain assessment in the hope of upgrading my authorisation level from moorland to mountain. I’m pleased to report I passed! The real achievement though, regardless of the result, was the extent to which I surprised myself through the confidence I didn’t know I’d gained.
Two years ago, I didn’t make the mountain grade because my ‘micronavigation’ was nearly always accurate but not quite fast enough – ‘fluent’ as we call it. At the time, although I thought I had a reasonable amount of mountain experience, I’d never navigated or been taught to navigate on terrain quite like this. Empty, featureless moorland? No problem. Bring. It. On. Knobbly, lumpy, volcanic jumbles, where it’s impossible to walk on a bearing and where the squiggled contours just look like a small child has been let loose with an orange pen…? Wow. In hindsight, I suppose ‘mostly correct’ was something of a compliment!
There’s also the steep ground element. I’m a wuss. Full stop. There’s been many a time where I’ve pitied the poor soul that’s ended up looking after me on an exposed scramble; and Crib Goch is a name still capable of striking terror into my very being.
So having not touched any micronav since my ML (Mountain Leader) training in October, I walked into this assessment with three Big Questions: Had I improved at all since that first foray into what I’ll henceforth call ‘knobbly ground navigation’? Could I prove my ability not just to handle steep ground but look after others too? And worst of all, could I live up to the expectation of excellent leadership skills having already led for six whole months with HF last summer?
It turned out these two days would be a pivotal moment in my outdoor career, and Friday 29th May was most certainly the day everything changed.
Sometimes, when you start out in a certain position, you put yourself into a metaphorical box and it’s difficult to climb out (if you’ll excuse the obvious outdoor-related pun there). I’ve always been the nervous one, the one with the shortest legs, the one with the worst upper body strength… And I’ve always used those excuses as an advance defense in anticipation of those embarrassing moments when you have to ask for help or beg someone not to leave you at the back. You expect the moments to happen, so they do, and people rally round kindly showing you the way out, and you never know whether you could have done it on your own, after all. When you’re the one looking after other people, it comes together beyond belief.
I’d been stuck in a mindset that prevented me from realising, for a very, very long time how far I’d come in my scrambling abilities. Through a series of trips with friends, ML training, and a one to one scrambling course, somehow I’d finally managed to drag myself out of that terrible progress-defying state of mind. It wasn’t the scariest or longest section of steep ground on the HF assessment – barely a scramble - but instead of worrying about the unknowns ahead as per my usual tactic, I was enjoying myself so much that the steep ground came upon us, I launched myself into it, looked after the group, and there we were at the top of Steel Edge. I hadn’t batted an eyelid. In fact I’d relished it. The difference? I’d promised myself that no matter what came up, I would face it head on and look after the group as well as possible. At the top of that ridge, after years of “I’ll never be a real mountain leader” and scrambling scaredy-cattery, I allowed myself to see the light at the end of the tunnel...
And the Knobbly Ground Nav? Well, the biggest thing I learnt on that assessment two years ago, and the biggest difference between WGL (moorland terrain) and ML nav, is to read the contours. Never mind compasses and things – you’ve got everything you need in those orange squiggles and if you can learn to read those, you’re laughing. I’d spent the subsequent two years endeavouring to navigate all my walks by contours first, everything else second and I guess the habit developed to a subconscious level. Again, it was on the second day of the assessment that I realised I hadn’t taken a single bearing or paced anything. I’d sneaked a few confirmatory glances at the compass for map orientation purposes, but on the whole I’d simply watched the contours on the ground like a hawk as we moved around, subsequently removing the vast areas of uncertainty that tend to creep in when you to have to ‘relocate’ (work out where you are) from scratch. And that was the big one: somehow I’d developed a relative fluency I’d never tested until that day.
Navigational fluency and accuracy (by my previous standards): tick.
Confidence leading on steep ground (likewise): tick.
Completely different outlook on mountain leading potential: tick!
The Morocco trip report is still forthcoming!
In the meantime these are some photos from a recent guided walk. I don’t have a great deal of images from these walks as I can get a bit snap-happy once I start, which isn’t conducive to productive leadership, but here are some from a smashing day out on the Muker-Keld-Swinner Gill walk. It’s one of my favourites in the Dales, a landscape full of rugged rockiness and an overwhelming feeling of desolation only enhanced by the now-deserted remains of its human interactions in a previous life. A fair amount of water in the becks prevented our little excursion to Swinner Gill Kirk (a hidden waterfall and cave with a little story all of their own…) but we did extend the route instead a little further up Swinner Gill itself and had a great day. As a bonus, the iconic wildflower meadows were just starting to really come into their own as they welcomed us back to Muker at the end.
It’s a special area for me as my family - prior to leaving Swaledale around 100 years ago with the lead mining, for Nidderdale where we’ve been ever since - once lived in the small cottage attached to the Farmer’s Arms in Muker. There’s a few of my ancestors in the churchyard, and indeed you can visit Harkerside itself - a whole section of Swaledale preserving the name's Norse origins many, many more generations ago.
After my last entry pondering all things ultrarunning related after my week at Trail Running Magazine, I wanted to share a few more links and stories.
One run that really got me inspired lately was Andy Jackson's Coast to Coast in 3 days, which culminated on my first day at Trail Running. I haven't met Andy but heard of his run through his other half Rachel, and his connections with Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association (UWFRA), and that's why it caught my imagination.
As a regular walker, (occasional!) trail runner and particularly now as a walking leader, my local fell and mountain rescue teams (MRT) have become a vitally important reassurance personally, and in planning to deal with emergencies when leading in the hills. Perhaps I should reiterate that this is a worst-case scenario reassurance, and never an alternative to good planning and incident prevention!
It just can't be stressed enough, over and over, that these people are highly skilled, highly trained, highly experienced, and 100% volunteers. Even team leaders like Andy who've dedicated not just years but decades of their life to the cause. In the Dales, our rescue teams have to deal not only with incidents on the hills (walkers, climbers, runners, cyclists, animals & more!), but under them - our limestone hills are riddled with miles of exciting caving routes. What many people might not also realise is the urban input of MRTs - at a major incident or large search, volunteer MRTs are often called in to help, working just as tirelessly as paid Police and other services, yet with perhaps with the most specialist search and rescue techniques. MRT teams throughout the country are, of course, pretty close to my heart as far as charities go.
So it's seriously impressive that somebody who clearly already gives so much for his team was willing to take it one, pretty extreme, step further. To raise funds towards UWFRA's much-needed extension to their Grassington base, Andy decided, following a series of successful ultra races including the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc, to up his mileage in a more personal challenge. Alfred Wainwright's famous Coast to Coast route is around 190 miles long and walkers should allow around two weeks to complete it. Or, you could just run it in three days with around 3 hours' sleep per night!
Following the live tracker and Rachel's Facebook updates after a day spent researching and reading about various other ultra challenges, and consequently with the armchair ultrarunning fascination running pretty high, it was pretty exciting to see he'd successfully completed a mission I can't even begin to comprehend. It wasn't easy on the support team either and their achievement should be noted too!
How does it feel to run 190 miles in three days? Well, for that I'll have to hand over to Andy, warts and all: visit Andy Jackson's Running Blog
If you're feeling the MRT love though, for whatever reason, or you've just read Andy's write up and feel it's worth a bob or three, please follow this link to donate to Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association:
Andy's JustGiving page
Alternatively, if you fancy a challenge yourself, why not try UWFRA's Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge on 28th June?!
Dales Rescue Teams
Of course UWFRA isn't the only rescue team out there in the Dales - click the following links for more information on our amazing teams, all of which require our support:
Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team
Cave Rescue Association
Yorkshire Air Ambulance
Mountain Rescue England & Wales
More crazy runners
If, like me, you find all this long-distance running stuff a bit intriguing and/or inspiring, here's a few more blogs to check out: some well-known runners and some just ordinary guys and gals :)
Steve Birkinshaw - crazy, crazy attempt to run all 214 Wainwright peaks in the Lake District in 7 days, this is what I spent my first afternoon on Trail Running researching!
Janson's Bob Graham Round - a fellow 'Rocktart Runner' on his journey towards the iconic Bob Graham Round - a week to go as I type and I'm looking forward to following the adventure! Go Jans!
Lizzy Hawker - the name that introduced me to the concept of ultrarunning when I saw her win a 24-hour challenge on telly a couple of years back, not long after her UTMB success. I began working at a women's sports shop shortly afterwards but none of the ambassadors they chose came close to seeing Lizzy wipe the floor with the fellas she beat by miles that day. Guess trail running was just too muddy for that particular brand.
Scott Jurek - possibly one of THE most famous ultrarunners in the world. News came in while I was at Trail Running that he was in the UK and looking at the Bob Graham. Bouncing with excitement for editor Claire when she got to go and run with the legend himself!! As for the BGR? I believe the verdict was 'Even tougher than Hardrock!'
And for even more inspiration, give Trail Running Magazine a try :)
Last week, me and my mate Nikki climbed the highest mountain in North Africa.
Before I launch into that adventure though, the last few weeks have been pretty epic too…
In a nutshell (albeit maybe one of the larger species), I’ve learnt basic Italian, passed the HF Holidays three-day assessment to lead in their Italian resorts (yippee!!), spent a weekend in Ribblesdale leading the Yorkshire Three Peaks on a freelance basis and launched the first few Feet in the Clouds walks on Ingleborough and closer to home in Nidderdale, more on which another time.
On top of all that though, and pretty damn exciting in itself, I spent a week in Peterborough on ‘grown up’ work experience (‘internship’?) with Trail Running magazine, and got to dip my toes into the wider Bauer Media pool of Country Walking and of course my old favourite, Trail. The three all sit together in a corner of the HUGE open plan offices holding around 80 of the UK’s most well-known glossies and special interest mags.
I’d been familiar with Trail Running for a while and while I’m not the world’s most motivated runner I do love whizzing (OK, shuffling) along the top of the moors, I’ve done my share of Lakeland Trails and I'm doing Kielder in October – my first marathon!
And in a similar fashion to armchair mountaineering, I’ve become fascinated with tales of insane trail and fell ultramarathoners, with Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run and, unsurprisingly, Richard Askwith’s Brit classic Feet in the Clouds (and yes, I got his permission!) all recently adorning my bedside table.
It’s a ‘sport’ of almost mythically superhuman proportions in comparison with glorified popular disciplines. It’s also unbelievably accessible in that these people are just ordinary lads and lasses who work all week then just happen to run up and down 42 peaks or so on the weekend for fun. And it’s all through commitment and love of the hills. Anyone could do it. I know regular hillwalkers and runners who’ve decided they might just do a bit of trail running, then a few more miles, perhaps a marathon… could chuck a few slopes in now I guess… Oh! I appear to be doing the Bob Graham!
Not me, you understand: I don’t have the motivation. True, I’m also not super fit, I don’t have a healthy physique, I’m not long-legged and I don’t skip up and down hills like they aren’t there... but those are not the issues. The beauty of ultra and fell running (after the scenery of course!) is that it’s about Keeping Going. Who cares if you can’t sprint? I know that if I run regularly, I get better, I put in more miles, and my limits lie not with ability but at the point where complacency inevitably, for me, overtakes dedication. I know that when I keep training, I never get faster, but I do go further. And further. And throw a couple of long distance walks into the mix and my stamina goes through the roof. So I’m addicted to ultrarunners’ adventures because, in those moments with those guys, I honestly believe: that could be me too. Even short-legged, slightly overweight, asthmatic, anaemic me.
So. Anyway. Wasn’t this post about working on a magazine?!
My first day was spent primarily proof-reading and editing text – and although it might sound monotonous, I’m afraid I’m one of those red-pen people. I love proof-reading! It’s also kinda fun as a newbie to get a first read of all the new stories, gear, events, features, and really get under their skin. If you like the subject you’re working on – great! It’s like reading the magazine for free! At the end of the day though, my first assignment was go: some chap called Steve is doing a big run, will you interview him? Ah – the ultrarunning digression was relevant, you see!
Joss Naylor, the legendary Lake District fell runner and shepherd, ran all 214 Wainwright peaks in a little over seven days. 28 years ago. He still holds the record and nobody else has been daft enough to try it. Oh yeah? Meet Steve!
In June, Steve Birkinshaw is going to launch an attempt on Joss’s record. Surviving on 4 hours’ sleep a night, eating on the go and with a streamlined route plan, can he top his Dragon’s Back win (a 5 day mountain race from north to south Wales) and change the fell-running history books? This normal guy from Threlkeld who works and supports a young family? It’s all incredibly exciting and you can read about it in the next issue of Trail Running magazine! ;)
What struck me throughout the week at Bauer was how easy it was to feel at home in a large office again when you have the right people. Subject matter makes a monumental difference - we might have been sat at computers in the flatlands of Peterborough, but when all day is spent living and breathing running and mountain talk, with runners and mountain folk, it’s about as good as it gets without physically being Out There. And they’re a great team too, which I genuinely enjoyed being part of for a brief few days. Even the crazy week of constant running/walking/pilates and even swimming with the Stamford Tri Club (excellent coaches!) that happens when you try working with Claire, Trail Running’s editor!
I’d also been sort of expecting the whole ‘stuffing envelopes’ side of work experience, so as a slightly older-than-average intern it was brilliant to launch straight into actual editing, interviewing and writing – and to get the feedback and advice required when you’re interested in the outdoor media but don’t really know much about working in it.
All in all great teams, great experience, great advice… and I never thought I’d say this, but: a great week in the office!!
The next issue of Trail Running is out 8th May.
You can catch both Joss Naylor and Steve Birkinshaw - along with TR Editor Claire Maxted - at the Keswick Mountain Festival from 15-18 May 2014: www.keswickmountainfestival.co.uk
I've been enjoying lots of trips out & about recently - route planning, risk assessing, checking out the friendliest pubs and best cakes etc...
After a great trip to Upper Wensleydale & Swaledale a few weeks ago, I managed to time a four-day trip to Ribblesdale extremely well, coinciding it with the spell of amazing sunshine and cloudless skies last week. Four days in Ribblesdale, freezing on the tops, yet came back to people asking if I'd been abroad. A good start to the spring!! (Incidentally I'm hoping to top up the tan again in a few weeks but more on that another day.)
The highlight of this area is of course that famous trio of fells, the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Of course not everybody wants to do them all on one day, so during my visit I had to recce three extended routes taking each peak individually... but as I'll be offering the Three Peaks Challenge, I couldn't really get away without risk assessing that one too!
As you can imagine, four days, fifty-four miles and six peaks later (particularly the 24 miles and 3 peaks all on day 2), I was definitely ready for a rest!
As anyone who's been to Ribblehead will know, it consists of a railway station, a pretty damn impressive viaduct... and a pub! You'll get a friendly welcome at the Station Inn from proprietors Alan and Jo, and there's accommodation for all budgets - B&B, bunkhouse and even free wild camping behind the pub. If you prefer a wider choice, Horton-in-Ribblesdale is six miles down the road with a couple of pubs and plenty of accommodation, but there's nothing like opening your curtains in the morning onto the stunning moorland of Ribblehead; nothing but open space between yourself and the lofty heights of Whernside, Yorkshire's highest peak. I stayed in the bunkhouse - not bad at £10 per night and my friend was able to bring her dog too. Oh and as for the cakes I mentioned - wherever you're staying, be sure to pop into the famous Pen-y-ghent Cafe in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, home of the Three Peaks Challenge!
If you haven't been to the area, put it on your list! Feel free to give me a shout for route recommendations, or of course you can keep an eye on the Walks Programme page or Feet in the Clouds' Facebook page for guided walks on Ingleborough and Whernside launching soon. Finally, for some extra inspiration, there's a handful of snaps at the top of this entry from day two: the Yorkshire Three Peaks from Ribblehead.
Welcome to the new Feet in the Clouds blog! This will be my personal blog covering my outdoor adventures both personal and business, and is a continuation of http://hurricaneharker.wordpress.com, which will now serve as my archive.
Watch this space for more photos and write-ups!
This is Ange's blog covering both Feet in the Clouds and personal adventures in the hills and mountains! For more info click here.
Click here for older archives via Wordpress blog