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Tony Hobbs | profile | all galleries >> My Walks. >> A quick step through Dartmoor's hail and snow storm and sun. 13.12.11 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

A quick step through Dartmoor's hail and snow storm and sun. 13.12.11

Taken from my mobile phone. Come on Sony get that NEX 7 out!

I set off at 8.45, 15 minutes later than I was ready for, due to a downpour, so decided to sit it out in the car then headed towards Hound Tor with a hail storm soon pummelling my very being. Those horizontal wind driven hail stones are painful! Even Bess was being stung by them. Did I want to be here, should I turn about and head back for the sanctuary of the carÖ

I woke at 3am very comfortable in my bed and the thought of getting up at 5am did not appeal. My brain was telling me to turn 5am alarm off and the weather man was saying the same thing. I didnít get back to sleep, and very reluctantly got up at 5am, showered, breakfasted, cleaned pond and was gone by 6am.

I was following a path that was sort of heading for Hound Tor, but was also missing it and with my head bowed to try to prevent my face being stung by hail I missed the turn off for the Tor. I immediately knew something was wrong as there was no path below my feet so my befuddled brain instructed me to check the GPS, quick, easy and a shameful way to navigate. The path was to my left, visible from where I was! I had passed the path that would have taken me to Hound Tor. Looking at the GPS snail trail makes it look like a deliberate move. It wasn't.

Once I reached a stone circle, a little disoriented and looked about I could see Hound Tor and headed for it. A look at map and compass would have confirmed this, instead I confirmed it with GPS. The hail stopped and I was able to unwind a bit. But it does show that even if you think you know where you are and where you are heading try to confirm it, and try not to rely on memory alone. My mind simply wanted this walk over with.

Having said that it was a magical place to be when the sun came out and light the distant hills a golden hue. I had the moor to myself. There was from here, in fact to here, good tracks to follow and I knew the way. I seldom even reached for my map. In good visibility, this walk is as easy as it gets. Thankfully no mist fell so visibility when not being fired at by hail pretty good. This was virtually the same walk as last time in the mist that was a slow labour of navigation, this was greased lightening.

I donít think I have ever completed a walk so quickly. 20kms. Total time 5.25hrs. Time moving 4.25hrs. Ave speed 3.8kph. Ave moving speed 4.8kph, max speed 9kph. Not quite sure what I was doing in the one stationary hour! I donít think I ever stopped for more than a few minutes at a time!

Wild Tor was ticked off. It was surprisingly beautiful with flecks of white on the ground. I did have a cursory look about to see if there was anywhere to pitch a tent, but it all looks very rough to me. Also very very wet. The ground for the whole walk was swimming in water. Cold wind-swept water that later in walk would chill my feet.

I followed the path to Hangingstone Hill, stopped here and ate a roll. But as my feet quickly chilled I only ate half of it.

I packed the remains of my roll away (they were in the outside front pocket Ė I never once entered the pack on the whole walk! It was the MLD Burn, a frameless pack and I was very pleased with it.), drank some water and headed in a direct line to Whitehorse Hill.

There is an easy path that works around to this Hill, but it was not easy to see with a light dusting of snow on the ground, but as I could see the Hill, I headed directly to it. This part of the walk was very marshy and many sidesteps were taken. I waded many bogs and quickly got an eye for which would take my weight and which wouldn't. I made good time across here. It was dry (as in no rain), but windy and my feet continued to chill. Bess kept right on my tail, I would look back and she was on my heels.

The going was wet and occasionally slippery, my poles prevented me going down twice at least. Those bogs can be slippery buggers.

I had put my waterproof trousers on at the car and despite it not raining at this point I kept them on as I was not overheating, and I must admit, I didn't want to stop. I think a Hell Hound would not have stopped me in my tracks. Iíd have just brushed passed it, get out my bleeding way!

Quintinís Man was next then Stats House was on my hit list and the area around that was very tussocky, thank goodness there was a good path to follow.

Between Stats House and Sittaford Tor there is a bog that needs crossing. Bess went in it and very nearly didn't get out. Her hind quarters were under water and being held on by boggy mud. By the time I had worked my way around she had pulled herself out, looking very sheepish and vigorously shaking water and mud off her rear end.
It was about here that Bess also swapped from tail end Charlie to point. She lead the way from here. Bess has an incredible ability to know when we heading towards the car. The whole rest of the walk she was way ahead.

I helped Bess over the stile at Sittaford and we headed down to the stone circles. My original idea was to head through the woods, as previous walks, but a path bypassing the woods looked a change and easier going. This took me past Teignhead Farm. I was tempted to revisit the farm, but I just didn't feel up to the detour. The one and only time visiting there would have been this route in reverse with Sue in probably 2003. Since then we / I have been in this neck of the woods many times, but always through the woods, no pun intended. So whilst this was a sort of a short cut it was a part of a journey only taken once. Despite appearances, I was enjoying the walk, in some deep recesses of my mind I was, really. I was very glad I had not chickened out. The views, whilst limited from here are quite stunning, especially when the sun shines through a bleak menacing sky.

Once I rounded the edge of the forest, toes nearly dropping off due to the cold I could see Kestor Rock. Again the going was easy, with a very clear path, this was regularly trod, but incredibly wet. I really have never seen so much surface water. In places higher up it was turning opaque. An other few days of sub zero temperatures and it may well freeze in places. I recorded a temperature of -1c down here and a wind speed blustering to 30mph. I did not think to take measurements higher up!

If I had been in company, going slower or had much further to go I would have stopped, dried my feet and swapped my neoprene socks for my spare Sealskinz. That way at least my feet would have been dry and cold rather than both wet and cold. Knowing the car was only a short distance away, I plugged on.

I followed the path to the two clapper bridges and up over Scorhill. Cresting Scorhill my tummy was starting to protest as was my body. I reached the car by 2pm. The quickest and earliest I have ever finished. I finished off the other half of the roll I had started a few hours previously and downed some more water. This was really an exercise in how not to walk.

A black cloud appeared overhead and I was not sorry I was at the car. I made a tea, loaded my gear in to the car. Took Bessís pack and coat off and she jumped straight into the car. But as she was shivering I got her out and used three of my towels I carry in the car to dry her legs and belly off, her back was pretty dry. OK, I rubbed her down quickly, tossed that towel and two others on the back seat and she quite happily jumped on the back seat. She was no longer shivering.

I was annoyed I had left my spare shoes at home, I took my wet shoes off and put on warm dry socks and drove home in them.

Despite everything, I was very glad I made that walk. It was well and truly worth it. Another experience of Dartmoor.
On the path from Scorhill Down towards Hound Tor.
On the path from Scorhill Down towards Hound Tor.
Ditto.  Flooded path / track.
Ditto. Flooded path / track.
View from near Hound Tor.
View from near Hound Tor.
Steeperton Tor from path between Hound / Wild Tor.
Steeperton Tor from path between Hound / Wild Tor.
Hound Tor.
Hound Tor.
Wild Tor.
Wild Tor.
Wild Tor.
Wild Tor.
Hangingstone Hill.  Snow and hail.
Hangingstone Hill. Snow and hail.
Hangingstone Hill.  Snow and hail.
Hangingstone Hill. Snow and hail.
Kestor Rock and stone circles by path.
Kestor Rock and stone circles by path.