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Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Shakedown with the Three Amigos

The three amigos being, in no particular order, Alan Sloman, Andrew Walker and David Wilkinson - soon to be TGO Challengers setting off from Morar into the inhospitable wilds of Knoydart ... then more and more wilds all the way across Scotland. But the Highlands of Scotland, although wilder than a Troggs single, have two great challenges for the flatlander fenboys of the south. It is very lumpy, being almost entirely composed of unfeasibly high lumpy bits. And boggy bits too. Admittedly the fens are frequently boggy, but they are at least level, whereas the cunning scot has devised a method of cultivating deep soupy bogs on slopes of sixty degrees or more. So, with insufficient time (and funds) for a trip north of the border, a brief foray into Lakeland (not the kitchen shop) was devised to prepare for these challenges and acclimatise to unaccustomed altitude. So it was that on Thursday four largish chaps squeezed in to a smallish car and headed up the M6 and to Langdale for a couple of days of walking and testing kit and body. Would either fail? Read on.

A very yellow Trailstar
 The weather forecast was for rain, thunderstorms and snow over 600m. Predictably after a brief foray around the retail establishments of Ambleside (and a visit to the Golden Rule - best pub in the town), we arrived in bright afternoon sunshine to pop up the tents at the excellent NT camp site in Great Langdale. It was here that Andrew produced his newest piece of gear - a spankng new Trailstar tarpy/tenty type thing in a startling yellow that I had not experienced since 1973, when I had a Ford Cortina in the same colour (Daytona Yellow, as I recall). The colour scheme may have been a tad retro, but not so the tent (for it had become a tent with the addition of an Oookstar inner - which I have to say is a really, really clever piece of kit that bridges the gap between tent and tarp, keeping the advantages of each for just 370gms, less the weight of the bivi bag that you no longer need).

Soooooo spacious!
Tents up, Trailstar admired, we experienced a very brief shower before heading off to the Old Dungeon Ghyll bar for a light supper and a few beers. Here we discovered Moorhouse's Black Cat - a truly excellent dark beer, and ideal session ale. One pint leads wonderfully to another with a dark chocolate flavour and a nice palate cleansing bite of hops on the finish. Yes, I liked it ;-)

We slept well and awoke to a perfect morning with sunshine and just a few clouds. After a leasurely breakfast we were packed and ready for our trundle up Mickleden to Stakes Pass and on to the Langdale Pikes for a bit of unaccustomed ascent. We were quite pleased to be on our way and in good order by 10 o' clock, as previous experiences at the ODG had left us staggering in to the bar, bleary eyed, for coffee at eleven.

But as Andrew had left his map on the car roof, we tarried at the hotel anyway whilst he jogged back to retrieve it. There was a small debate along the lines of "well, we're late anyway, and they'll be open soon", but temptation was resisted and we were soon at the bottom of Stakes Pass enjoying a brief shower (sufficient for us to postpone elevenses until we were at the top).

Alan on Pike o' Stickle
Until we were at the top ... Dear reader, you have no idea what it is like for a bunch of flaccid flatlanders who last saw a hill in the autumn to stagger up this path in the Spring. We made it though, and celebrated the ascent with a sit down and a nice cup of tea. Fortified we set off to the Pike o' Stickle where, after a bit of lunch and another cuppa, we dropped our packs and scrambled to the top to take in the terrific views. I was pleased to note from my altimeter watch that since leaving the camp site we had achieved over 2000ft of ascent. Alan promptly felt faint and said he thought that he might have a nosebleed coming on. Andrew grinned (or maybe grimaced) Dave ruminated on his unfinished Independent crossword. Then it was off to complete our tour, bypassing Harrison Stickle (one stickle is enough, really) taking in more ascent to the dizzying height of 723m (2372ft) at Thunacar Knott and on to another spendid viewpoint, Sergeant Man. This gives a wonderful prospect of Pavey Ark, Stickle Tarn and far reaching views to ... well ... the horizon I guess. Alan claimed to discern Morecambe Bay, Coniston Old Man and other bits and pieces. I wasn't really paying attention as my phone had got a signal and the messages weren't great. Barclays Bank had spectactularly cocked up opening an executors' account for my mum's estate and were now phoning back 36 hours late. Grrrrrrr, I can't wait for Monday when I can get at the useless buggers.

View from Sergeant Man
 Thence it was off to Codale Tarn to find a spot to camp. We decided on a direct route, eschewing paths, and, Challenge style, struck out across country picking our way to our objective - stared at by a party slogging up a rubbly path as we skipped down the greensward, neatly avoiding the odd inconvenient crag. We found a spiffing spot with views down to Grasmere village, Rydal Water and Windermere. Tents up, a bit of a social, supper and a well earned early bed. ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Camp by Codale Tarn
The next day was Saturday. Once we had packed and climbed back up over the ridge to drop on to Stickle Tarn our strategy in avoiding the weekend was fully justified. Honestly, the average shopping mall would be pleased to have as many people thronging the aisles. At a weekend there are numerous opportunities in the Lakes to enjoy really fab countryside far from the madding crowd (for example, when pressed to a week-end in the past, we have explored from Dunnerdale - nice pub, good campsite, no crowds). However, I guess that as we ourselves were now numbered amongst the crowds we couldn't really complain - but we did find an alternative route down that avoided the throng coming up. Amazingly, a few hundred yards off the main drag, you can still be entirely alone, so why people trudge up the fells in huge crocodiles is a mystery. Still, it keeps the rest nice and empty for us.

The week-end hordes approach!
I have mentioned the effect of unaccustomed effort of ascent on the untrained leg. That is nothing compared with the rigour of descent. Sheer bloody purgatory. The constant braking effort - especially when you encounter a path lovingly restored by those "fix the fells" jokers with all the stones sloping downwards, so that any that are wet or icy precipitate a nasty fall for the unwary. However, we survived their efforts to thin out the tourist horde by selective injury and made it safely back to the Old Dungeon Ghyll by lunchtime, in time for restorative coffees and beers before fish and chips in Ambleside and the long trek home.

After all this, the burning question is, are the Three Amigos ready for the trials that await them? Well, of course they are. They are, after all, heading for a gigantic party in Montrose, and nothing will stand between these three and a party. A couple of days lying down in a darkened room and they'll be over the shock of upwardness and ready for anything that Scotland can throw in their way.
The Three Amigos

Good luck, amigos - wish I was going too!

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Blogger Alan Sloman said...

What a lovely post.
I'm still only halfway though mine - I've spent the best part of the day massaging my thighs, drying out tents and washing mountains of sweaty clothes...

We will miss you this year, old fella. Let's hope we can all make it in 2013?

April 22, 2012 at 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My word, that's a very yellow tenty tarpy thing. Did Andy know it was that colour when he bought it! (I look forward to seeing it; can't miss it, really!)

April 23, 2012 at 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Bright yellow is the perfect colour to attract flies :)

Judging by the photo on Alan's blog, you seem to be the only one without a beer belly. Perhaps the three amigos should employ you as their Sherpa?

Your daunder appeared to be even less taxing than mine on Dartmoor. Hope the boys are in the gym every day from now on. Alan gave me a copy of their route. Challenge is the right word!

April 23, 2012 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Andrew W said...

Indeed I did Judith, I chose that colour, on the grounds that all the others were a dull green.

It's a lot less bright than my red Competition was, and also nowhere near as bright as Wendy in her lime green.

Good to see Phil that your photo of me was nowhere near as unflattering as the one that Sloman took at the start, which definitely showed that I need to lose a few Kgs. Infact as far as I can see, about 20.

I will set myself a regime to get that done by mid July.
I need a DIY makeover on my flabby bits!

April 23, 2012 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger Carl Mynott @Locomountaineer said...

I suppose that the terrain is a bit more appropriate than that of your home county - understand you are a Suffolk lad. Doesn't lend itself right well to testing the up and down-hill muscles round here does it?

Comments here have just answered I question I asked Alan, whose is the Warmlite? Couldn't recall which one was sold and which was rescued from the tearing. I lose track of all these blog posts.

Look forward to bumping in to your gaggle - around Braemar probably - maybe before. Hopefully taste some good beer. Carl.

April 23, 2012 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger Louise said...

I'm exhausted just thinking about all those lumpy bits.

April 23, 2012 at 10:03 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

No, Judith, you certainly won't miss Andy's tent! And you're right about the flies, Robin. Andrew had hardly got the tarp up before several midges were merrily copulating on his pristine yellow sheet. Or did he say midgets ...?

Carl - yes, Suffolk is a much kinder county for the casual walker, especially one as casual as me ;-)

Hello, Louise - you'll be doing more than thinking about lumpy bits in a couple of weeks. Have a great challenge!

April 24, 2012 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Mike Knipe said...

Bring back PLJ... (This reference will only make sense to people who had to do the 11+)

April 25, 2012 at 9:17 PM  
Blogger Andrew W said...

Cor.... PLJ.
Now that does bring back memories.
And.. TCP for the bumps and bruises. :)

April 26, 2012 at 12:59 AM  
Anonymous The Camping Trail said...

May the three amigos have more adventures to come. You guys look like you are in great shape!

November 26, 2012 at 8:44 AM  

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