Monday, December 22, 2008

Lyke Wake Walk on x-country skis

Well until a few days ago there was still enough snow around The Lion Inn at Blakey to make it worth while getting my x-country skis out of the bag they have been hoarded for the last several years. +3c in Whitby it was -1c up here.

The last time I was up here skiing in the snow was in February 15th/16th 1986 but we were skiing the Lyke Wake Walk. From my diary:-

"Departed Scarborough Rd (not enough snow towards the coast) 1030 and arrived Lilla Howe 1230, Ellerbeck at 1pm. Other skiers were obviously out as there were several other tracks. We eventually made it to The Red Lion at 7pm, the final two hours skiing in the dark."

My companion for this trip was Jeff Brand. We had discussed skiing in the dark and according to a royal marine friend of mine, Ian Holtby who was an expert x-country skier, it would present no problems. Alas for us relative newcomers to this we found it desperately tiring as we continually had to brace and balance against falling into unseen hollows and bumps which we felt but never saw.

At the pub we met Tony Gray who had kindly agreed to drive up to the pub and leave our tents, sleeping bags, food & stove etc. Due to the amount of snow he'd not been able to bring the vehicle all the way to the pub and had carried our stuff the rest of the way on foot. Anxious to return before he got blocked in we said our thanks and our good byes. Outside the pub, in the dark and cold we quickly put up our tent and got sorted out. Hungry we looked for our food. It was no where to be seen and we learned later that it'd been left in the vehicle by mistake. Luckily I had just enough money for some pub grub and a pint! otherwise we'd have had a rather miserable night.

The following day we were off at 8:30 but despite the good deep snow cover the going was very slow and we couldn't even get a down hill run from the pub to the old railway line at the western side of the Red Lion. There was certainly plenty of snow but it stuck to our skis and prevented us from sliding quickly over the moors, On top of this problem we also found that elsewhere much of the snow had been blow off and had exposed an older frozen crust of ice which often collapsed under our skis. These two problems slowed and tired us considerably and blisters started to sap our will. No doubt having to carry our tents, bags and useless stoves did not help our morale much either. As we passed Hasty bank we noted an improvised ski tow in operation in nearby fields. The next few miles were agonising ups and difficult downs in poor conditions and the graceful down hill runs I'd hoped for turned into frustratingly difficult downhill traverses trying to avoid icey patches and falls through the snow into the heather. A cold easterly wind blew in our faces. At 4pm just before the gliding club at Carlton Bank we decided to call it a day a few K's from our objective, Osmotherly. We'd probably covered around 35 miles in total.

When we did this in the 1980s x-country skiing had just become very popular and almost every outdoor shop stocked a variety of equipment. Now some twenty years later I have yet to see an outdoor shop with any x-country equipment. There's something to be said for being a hoarder after all.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Snow - Goathland

Last week we had snow and frost. The first snow outside the mountains of Ireland I'd seen in ages. And It was something I'd missed and been looking forward to seeing again. So quickly after we arrived in yorkshire was a surprise especially as everyone was telling me about global warming!
So a walk over one of my favourite areas, Goathland & Wheeldale moor to Pinkney's Hunt was called for. As always in the snow it was difficult to find somewhere to park in Goathland but the existing car park was flat and I guessed I could drive out. Hopefully the sun which was creeping out from behind the clouds would melt the snow off the main roads on my return journey.

Goathland, the scene of the Heartbeat series had changed over the fifteen years of my absence. Pavements, shops with 'Aidensfield' signs, numerous directional signs and double yellow lines signified huge numbers of visitors. And there were the incomers. Bling or what, The Stone House with its mullioned windows now had a brand new drystone wall outside, a challenger tank parked outside and many of the fine old trees had been chopped down. Glancing over the new wall I could see why. A helicopter landing pad!!

The mere was frozen solid and numerous cairns had sprouted in my absence, some of which I demolished. The snow lay several inches deep across the fields and even deeper in Wheeldale plantation. Jilly enjoyed the deep snow and spent most of time running in every direction possible. It was her first experience of snow outside the Irish mountains.

Just over an hour after leaving Goathland I arrived at Pinkney's, a Mountain Bothy Association Hut. From the comments in the log book it was obvious that many groups were using and abusing this place and some had been holding drinks parties, leaving behind much filth and litter. I have spent many enjoyable evenings in this place before moving to Ireland but there would be little chance of spending a night here in peace anymore judging by the use it was now getting. My first visit was probably in 1965 when it was little known and only used as a shooting house for shooting parties.

We walked back via the plantation spotting many grouse and a few reed buntings on the way. In the distance I could see that a quad bike had crossed my path during my walk to the hut earlier. Probably a farmer checking his sheep.

This hut, burned down by vandals several years ago has been rebuilt. It was once an iron and wood affair and predated the second world war. The whole area had been used as a training ground and I recall being able to look at bullet holes which in many cases went completely through the sides of the hut. Needless to say there are many unexploded shells - I've found many - and several places where there are piles of discarded machine gun bullets.
All in a good day. It was like meeting old friends