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.

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