My journey to reach the roof of Africa


Hiking in Hope

DSCF0649A 7.45am start as Jeff picks me up for the drive over to Hope in the peak district where we met up with Paul and Debbie around 9.30am. Conditions were mild but windy as we got kitted up for the circular route around the Hope valley which we expected to be around 8 miles in distance.

The first section was low level across fields as we made our way over to the neighboring town of Castleton. From there we began our ascent up the side of the valley up the narrow and rocky “limestone way” up past Peveril castle. Progress was noticeably slower on this steep, wet and tricky section as the ground was difficult to get stable footings on. After what felt like forever the limestone walls opened out and we made our way back onto open ground across higher fields dotted with sheep and lambs.

A few more miles in brought us out over a high fell road and to the base of Mam Tor where we paused for lunch.  Looking up at the route to the summit we were envisaging burning calves and puce faces however as we got closer we found that whilst is was certainly steep in places the inclined felt more manageable due perhaps in part to the stone path work that had been laid.  The views from the blustery top were magnificent as we gazed back down into Hope valley on one side and over the Edale valley to the other.

After a quick photo stop around the summit trig point we were off along the hills ridge line for the next few miles as we descended and then rose again over multiple smaller peaks. In this manner we worked along the northern side of Hope valley until we made our final descent back to our starting point in Hope village.

From today’s hike I think everyone’s fitness is coming on nicely and we all seem to be handling ourselves and equipment with aplomb. With just over 6 weeks before we leave for Kilimanjaro we only have a four more weekends where we’re all free to train together.

I’ve posted the climb stats (which seem shorter than 10 miles Paul’s phone recorded using the same app) and uploaded photo to the Kilimattjaro facebook page.

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Fancy A Quickie Up Darwen Tower?

IMG_0190Jeff and I got a cheeky little evening hike in today up to Darwen Tower.  The circular route was about 4 miles and took around 1 hour 15 mins although the climb stats from my phone say otherwise for some reason (I think I was in “bike” mode rather than “hike”). There was a good mix of elevation changes so we got a bit of a work out.  From the tower we enjoyed pleasing vistas over Lancashire  to the North West coast and across to Pendle Hill in the North East. I’ve posted a few photos in an album on the Kilimattajro facebook page.

We’re planning to get more of these weekday sessions in as the nights get longer and our June Kili climb approaches – 54 days to go at the time of writing!


Night Hike

Last night we did a night hike over our perennial favorite Pen-y-ghent organised by Mark Reid of Team Walking.  We booked this walk many months ago with a view to getting some prior experience of handling ourselves and kit in low light as preparation of the final ascent night on Kili.

We met up with Mark and the rest of his group at the Crown pub in Horton-in-Ribblesdale around 6pm and Mark gave us all a quick briefing around the route, expected timings and also the differences to expect when walking at night such as allowing your night vision to develop by protecting your eyes from direct light, using your other senses to augment your understanding of your environment etc.

Conditions were mild and the first part of the ascent was done just in T-shirt and long-sleeved base layer top but as we reach higher ground the sun began to get low in the sky and the temperature dropped. Off comes the backpack and outcomes my fleece. I’m now getting reasonably adept in changing my layers quickly and more importantly anticipating when to do so.  This means I’m keeping comfortable without overheating too much.  We reached the summit just after 8pm and stopped for a hot drink and snack as the sun set.

All the snow has now gone and the steeper section of initial descent is now much easier and quicker to get down although you still need to be controlled in your pace over the areas of looser ground. There was still plenty of ambient dusk light as we came off the mountain but as we reach the lower flanks the light began to fade and out came the head torches.

Most of the pathways are limestone and so of a light colour – that certainly helped pick them out in the moonlight / torchlight. We took a 15 minute detour to walk over to hull pot – an impressively sized sink hole when the water course disappears underground into the local cave systems.  While we gained a sense of scale under the moonlight I think I’d like to go back for a look and photography of it during the day.

On the final few miles back into the village we turned off the torches and just walked in the moonlight. Most of the pathways are limestone and so of a light colour – that certainly helped pick them out in as we made swift progress. I’ve posted the hike’s map and  stats and some photos on my Kilimattjaro facebook page.

Throughout the hike Mark interjected our stops with commentary about the landscape, questioning the group on our thoughts and understanding of the environment we were in. He’s clearly a passionate advocate of the benefits of getting outdoors and his views and philosophies come shining through in conversation.

Things I learn from this hike

  • With just a little moonlight you don’t really need a torch at all.
  • Low power mode on my head torch is more than adequate to illuminate my foot fall
  • I don’t yet know how to take photographs in night time conditions and so need to read up on that

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Pen-Y-Ghent (and a bit)

A return viDSCF0532sit to Pen-Y-Ghent today this time with Paul and Debbie too. A cool, still morning fooled us into wrapping up in multiple layers but as soon as we got working up the inclines we quickly warmed up. Off came the coats and thick fleeces to be left with just base layers or micro fleeces with zips down and sleeves rolled up. Whilst the peaks are still wearing plenty of snow it did feel like some spring weather might be making an appearance at last.

The assault to Pen-Y-Ghent’s summit from the south is almost one continuous climb with just the odd dip here and there that cheats you of your hard won gains. You can see profile on the climb stats. The final section is steep and rocky, initially with rough stone steps and then almost scrambling up rocks. By this point the guys had worked up a sweat and Debbie however was of course like all ladies merely “glowing”. The assent still felt as tough as last time I did it but whilst I was hot and certainly breathing harder my legs weren’t too bad at all –It felt like the gym work must be paying off.

An early lunch at the top was a welcome break and I feasted on my tuna salad pitta followed by a Cliff energy bar and a quick cup of coffee. I took the chance to have another play with my camera. I’ve just picked up a Lowepro Apex 60AW belt mounted case which now means it’s quick and easy to grab my Fuji X10 rather than taking off my back pack to get it. I also tried the monopod camera adapter on my walking poles – it was a fiddly job so I don’t think I’ll be using it much whilst trekking but perhaps for night shots in camp when I’ll need a slower shutter speed and must minimise camera shake. I’ve posted some of the day’s photos on my Kilimattjaro facebook page.

The descent was over snowy and slippery ground and so our poles were very useful as we slowly picked out way down the side of the mountain. There were plenty of people out on the hills today including fell runners who I have to have a begrudging admiration for their fitness, even if I do think it’s a crazy pursuit. One fell runner was bounding up the hill in the snow wearing nothing more than trainers and running shorts. Mad bugger!

As we got to lower ground we detoured a few hundred feet from the path to show Paul and Debs a small waterfall and sinkhole. We then elected to take a more circular route to add few more miles to our walk before making our way back to Horton in Ribblesdale and a well-earned cup of tea in the café.

I’m not free next weekend so my next hike will be in two weeks for another Pen-Y-Ghent return but this time at night!


A windy walk up Pendle Hill

883988_10151522008539421_1007958666_oA sunny but cold Good Friday holiday had us stepping out to tackle Pendle Hill. It’s not a particularly high hike at 557 metres (1,827 ft) but it does offer a steep ascent when approaching in an anti-clockwise route from the village of Barley to the east. Although it’s less than 20 miles away from home it’s the first time I’ve been in this area of Lancashire.

Jeff and I car shared and met up with Paul, Debbie and their energetic 1 year old Labrador Wallace. A quick cup of tea from the Barley Café set us all up nicely before we headed off through the village toward the hill. The first mile of the walk is almost flat as you follow a stream through some farmland up towards the base of the hill. From there we took the right hand path to the summit which consists of very steep steps which as we rose became more and more snow covered.  The wind really picked up of the final 100 meters of ascent, it was biting cold.  Once on the top we sheltered behind a stone wall to have an early lunch and grab a drink.

Visibility was superb and we had stunning views over towards Yorkshire where could clearly make out our previously walked Pen-Y-Ghent and Ingleborough mountains in the dales.  Once rested it was good to get moving again and warm up as we climbed back over the wall and off to the trig point at the summit plateau’s highest point for quick team photo opportunity.

My navigation was a little off as we began the decent and I missed our planned path and cut the corner to bring us down off the hill on a shorter route. Note to self – don’t assume, take a compass bearing to check! Unfortunately the ground was pretty boggy in places as we got lower down and one of us slipped and took a knock to their ankle. 2 ibuprofen and using walking poles for stability seem to help and we all took a gentle pace down onto firm ground. We followed a hard surface track alongside lower Ogden Reservoir back into Barley village where we finished as we started with a drink from the café.

I’ve posted some climb stats and facebook photos. All in all a short walk but with a good steep accent to help our training. This could be another candidate for a weekday evening walk once we get sunlight later into the day as the summer approaches.

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Ingleborough in the snow

DSCF0474Yesterday the team and I tackled Ingleborough, Yorkshire’s 2nd highest mountain.  We met up in Horton in Ribblesdale , got kitted up and set off at around 10.30am.  We were taking a direct ascent route to the summit and would re-trace our steps back down. Jeff had walked most of the route the previous week so armed with his map and prior knowledge he led the way.

It was cloudy and cold in the lowland area but as we began to climb we soon got into light rain and reduce visibility. The ground was very wet and some snow still around which combined with all the limestone poking out around the place slowed progress in areas. We stop for a lunch break but once stationary soon began to feel the cold so soon packed up and got moving onwards and upwards for the summit.

As we climbed higher the rain turned to snow and we entered cloud which dramatically reduced visibility. This is where Jeff’s previous trip up Ingleborough paid off as he led us on paths around some of the more arduous ground. The paths steepened and we were now walking on quite deep snow. Out came the walking poles to help get us better purchase and stability. I found this part of the walk the most challenging as was very slippery walking on compacted snow as my boot tread soon clogged up.  Eventually after some considerable effort and what felt like an age we made it on the summit plateau where we marked a large rock at the top of the path just in case we struggled to find our way down in the poor visibility.

Hot drinks, snacks and a few quick photos at the top before we all turned tail and set off back down.  The initial decent on a snowy track certainly focused the mind. By this time there was quite a few walkers coming up and down the narrow path and when added to the poor vis, snow and steep drop we all took it nice and slow using our poles.   As we began to get lower the cloud base rose and we started to see the path ahead to re-trace our route. It seems a lot longer walk on the return for some reason but we pressed on to get back to our starting point. You can see the walk’s stats and map here.

This was my first outing wearing new Berghaus Mera Peak jacket and PacLite Shell overtrousers both of which worked great for me. I found them light, breathable and kept me totally dry. My £2.99 fleece gloves where less of success as once damp they really didn’t keep my fingers warm. I’m still researching what gloves to buy – Jeff had some nice waterproof breathable ones with a removable liner which looked the part. I’m also going to rent some mountaineering mittens for the Kili climb as I’ve read they’re best for the extreme cold of the summit attempt.

A challenging but enjoyable walk and good training for us all. 3 months to go!


Time to Get Personal

I recently signed up with a personal trainer at the gym. Kristy’s friendly persona belies her ability to push you to the edge in your training. I thought that the initial workout the gym gave me at sign up was tough but doable but now my work outs are at a whole higher level (as are the post work out aches sometimes!) Kristy’s going to work with me for the 3 months running up to the climb to help me build up both my cardiovascular and endurance fitness. I’m doing 1 hour of personal training a week with her and each session is varied so it doesn’t feel monotonous and is tailored to my goal of being ready for Kili by June. On top of that I’m trying to get in at least two other exercise sessions per week either at the gym, hotel if I’m traveling or out for a hike at the weekend.

So far so good, my lower body seems a little better than upper but even after just a few sessions I can already notice the difference in my fitness. The “plank” abdominal exercise that I couldn’t even do a few weeks ago are now achievable to hold a short time (but they’re still really tough!). I’ve taken a “before” body shot photo but I won’t subject the world to that until closer to the climb when I intend to have something better to compare it to! It’ll be interesting to see any difference. This Friday I’m going to try a “V-Cycle” spinning class which is an instructor led high energy exercise cycling which was recommended to me to help with my cardio and of course legs.

My weight loss has certainly slowed down but I am continuing to make progress but now each and every pound of weight loss is worked for. This morning I weighed in at 15st 4lb (97KG).

With only 3 months to go I need to get the best out my Kilimanjaro preparations and having a personal trainer is certainly helping me work towards that.