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Dartmoor 15.8.11

This walk was dead on a year after I lost my beloved wife to a deadly disease, dare I say, negligence. I am actually being polite there. That was as (more) deadly as (than) the cancer that Sue fought for nearly four years. It is my opinion that Sue would have stood a far better chance of surviving (and being on Dartmoor with me in person) had she been….but let’s not go there now. I must admit to wanting to strangle a tea bag on this walk.

This last weekend was a bit of a double header as Sue “effectively” died on the Saturday night, but actually died on the Sunday morning a year ago, but of course with the way our calendar works, the date was (Monday) 15th August, this year.

My aim, if it worked out was to be on Brat Tor for 9am, the time I lost Sue, as it happens I was a few minutes early. I just bet that Sue was a few minutes late:)

I set my alarm for 5am, got up, showered, breakfasted - Weetabix, cleaned fish filter, packed car boot and was on the road at 6am. I stopped once on the way, and arrived at the car park below Brat Tor at 8am. I once again breakfasted, this time on big hot bowl of Shreddies. Made a tea, gave Bess the remainder of my hot milk. Put her dog pack on along with mine and set off about 8.30.

The weather was pleasantly warm enough, slightly overcast; I wore my hat, but not sunnies. I arrived at Brat Tor at 8.50am. I sat and contemplated. The mind was, at that time rather blank.

I did the “same” walk as last time, just a small change from Brat Tor, as there was no firing I headed for Sharp Tor. The slope of Sharp Tor is festooned with rocks and boulders, so passing them was tricky. At Sharp Tor I could see where I had been last time, Chat Tor. From Sharp Tor I thought about heading directly to Fur Tor, but I could see Hare Tor to the right not far away, something lead me there.

I find that I don’t like stopping much, on the move the mind still spins and whirls away, but it doesn’t dwell, well, not as much. I do find myself nattering away sometimes. I had no real reason to stop at Hare Tor, but thought that a nibble to eat would not be a bad idea. Not sure if it was or not. I probably needed the cry that it produced. I took my pack off, opened it up and the look at the two bits of birthday cake (from the 11th) at the top of my pack set me off. I was on the far side of Hare and had to make my way around to the side so I could sit and look out over Brat Tor in the distance. I can still feel the pull of Sue, even a year on.

I sent my father a text message and Tweeted a watered down version. Lets say I was not only incredibly sad, almost shaking with grief, but I was spitting blood as well. Those responsible will not be forgiven and they definitely will never be forgotten. Not that I hold grudges of course nor am I related to elephants. Time…

Time to get going, so I headed away from Hare with both it and Brat at my back and crossed open moorland towards Fur Tor. The going was a bit boggy, but easy enough, the tussocks were not high leg tripping things.

I didn’t climb Fur Tor but found a good spot below it that I had spotted last time to have a play and practice at pitching my tent. Again I point out that whilst I have a tent, I also have a perfectly good bed at home and it will take time, practice, experimenting, playing with and a prevailing wind to actually get me to camp out in the middle of Dartmoor alone with Bess, it is not something that I am going to rush into. Spring time is in my thoughts. I set it up in my conservatory, and over the coming months as I gather up my other gear, sleeping bag and mat (don’t have them yet) I will sleep out in tent in conservatory. Well, got to start somewhere, and the middle of Dartmoor not it! Nor is a camp site, so we won’t even go there! This is my way.

This winter will also allow me to get used to wintry conditions (out in the wilds) again, not that one ever gets used to them, but sharing them with Sue helped. Also I will practice a bit of dusk / night walking. Start Cheddar and see how it feels, how much one can see. I should point out I am terrified of the dart, it really scares me. Next time it is dark, so tonight after reading this, go where it is dark and I mean dark, not with street lights around and look into the inky blackness, then imagine something primeval lurking getting ready to pounce, imagine sharp teeth and a drooling tongue. That is what I see. It’s the thought. Not being able to see anything.

I was not thinking straight as I videoed the tent, YouTube, yodaquicksilver to see them, but stupidly didn’t even think about getting my camera out! I also took a lightweight plastic sheet so I could get Bess inside for a pic, but did I!

Anyway, it was good fun putting it up, easy enough, took about 10 – 15 minutes, for a first time plenty impressed with that. They recon it can be done in two minutes. Several minutes will suit me just fine, unless there is a storm, then two minutes sounds cool. I had not really figured out the way to pull the lines taught, but I have now, and there are Velcro / loop things in the corners outside, no idea what they are for. But on the whole, it is very intuitive, even for me. I enjoyed the experience. Bess slept through the entire process so I don’t think I can expect any help from her in the future! After setting up the tent I then put on the optional crossing poles, I use these at home as they are the self supporting part, but in their “proper” role they add stability and help hold the tent super ridged in very strong winds, I think for the extra weight vs peace of mind they well worth carrying, they add nearly 500 grams. This is really a two man tent, but I will be using it as a one man and one dog tent. Like ex dog owner (Sue), like dog (Bess), leave me to carry the extra weight. See if I mind. It does help Bess having her own pack, at least she can carry my spare water and hers and her food, so things can be altered in her pack to pick up the slack, as it were. Diverting and waffling again.

Once the tent was up, I used, also for the first time on Dartmoor, my Ti Tri meths burner, it is lighter than my gas stove and canister. I am still experimenting with how much meths to use, for a cup of tea, 300ml, 15ml of meths seems about right to bring to boil / sterilise the water. I used 40ml meths for my meal later in the day, and think that was a bit too much, as I evaporated most the water! Now I am jumping ahead of myself.

I packed the tent away, a tad tricky in the light breeze that had picked up, I would imagine in a full force wind that would be interesting to say the least, esp if that hurricane force wind had driving rain, sleet, or snow in it, where’s my Calms?

From here I headed up to Little Kneeset, where I shall practice pitch next time, it is not as “flat” as below and more exposed, also further away from water, but I think I can find a space between the tiny sheep nibbled tussocks and just carry water up the hill. There is a signal for phone here, not below, also will be good to practice higher and more exposed. These, so far, are the only places I have seen that look to my untrained eye, good pitches, I don’t doubt there are others, and over the coming years I may well find them. See, all planning.

From there it is a bit of a slog to Great Kneeset and Great Kneesets Hooter, but once past that and on the way to Dinger Tor the going is much much easier and on fairly tame territory.

Having said that I stopped between Dinger and High Willhays as the sky was looking very angry, I think it wanted to let rip. I stopped and got a few shots on my camera, then it started to rain and I donned waterproofs, these stayed on until I reached the car. It started slowly, just a few drops, then steadily increased in tempo and whilst it was heavy, it didn’t develop into the storm that I was expecting, I think it held back. The mists swept across and I eventually took a quick compass bearing as the path to High Willhays is a bit sporadic, I have never been able to follow paths anyway, so just as a precaution I took it, then the mist cleared pretty much, with the rain relentlessly tapping my shoulder.

From Yes tor I headed down towards Meldon Reservoir and had to stop for a couple of rolls, even though I planned to eat my meal soon, I needed something in the fuel tank. I followed the path around Meldon, the rain threatened to turn to a storm at one point, but again abated enough to allow me to eat. If it had stayed storm like I would have just carried on to the car, an hour and a half or two away.

I stopped by the river and opened up my meths burner for the second time that day. My 40ml of meths certainly cooked the meal in bag, Wayfayrer, but also evaporated most the water away. So my 400ml of water was probably reduced to about 200ml, not really enough for my Smash potato. Still, by the time the Smash was added to the meal it was fine. Lesson, try 30ml meths, and once meths runs out, just leave the meal to heat up from the boiled water. It continued to rain all the while, but it was not heavy and did not dampen the spirits.

It did dampen the lighter though. I wanted a cup of tea. I got up to give Bess some water, and in the process of sitting back down I stood on the meths measuring cup. That is now crushed. Thankfully Amazon sell them, by the 75 odd for about a fiver! I added water to my pan, sort of guessed the meths and tried to light it, dead lighter. The rain had got to it. I always carry a Light My Fire fire steel for situations like this and was quite chuffed when many strikes later the meths went up. After tea I packed up and made my way back, Sourton Tor, then the easy path to the car park.

It was around that time also that I think the blister appeared on my little toe. I get hard skin on that toe from my day to day walking and I think that doesn’t help. I never used to get problems, when I used to walk Dartmoor with Sue, and I don’t get problems now around Cheddar on similar length walks. So I put it down to wet jessy feet at the moment. It is not particularly painful, just a pain. The left foot was fine. There was a time where both feet toes suffered, now just one, so I think that an improvement. I am using the same make of shoes as I used to and the same socks and foot beds. I have tried other shoes, but don’t find them as comfortable. I hope in time they will naturally harden up. It is of little concern.

I am not sure what I will wear in the winter on a day walk there as I am not going to want wet feet then! I used to use full on heavy leather boots (Scarpa) on the few winter walks I did with Sue, not sure I want to go that far again. I like light flexible footwear now.

I walked 26kms and got back to the car about 6.30, 10 hours after starting. I was home by 9pm. I was moving for 6 hours, according to my GPS, amazing where the other 4 hours went! It is amazing how much ascent / descent is involved, as Dartmoor is far from mountainous, but still just over 1000m of ascent.

In the end all inclusive I ate about 2500 kcals. Weetabix, big bowl of Shreddies, 6 rolls, 2 pieces of cake, 2 Elevenses, a Wayfayrer meal and Smash.

For anyone interested I have put a pack list below of what I carried, not inc. what I wore. Add 150g for 150ml of meths!

Dartmoor walk for 15th Aug 2011.

Osprey Talon 44 1088

MLD plastic sheet 70
Tarp Tent Scarp 2 (with mesh inner) 1340
Tarp Tent central hoop 228
Tarp Tent cross poles 478
Tent pegs 4 Easton / 6 MLD Ti 110
Sit Mat 33

Ti Tri MSR 85 Cone bottle (inc 150ml) 152
MSR 850ml Pot 125
Spork 16
Evernew 300ml Ti mug 44
Plastic pot with Smash potato 75
Light My Fire / Fire steel 30
Lighter 16
Whistle 9
ZipLok bag for lighters 7

Steripen Opti / case 128
Aqua Mira 97
Nalgene 32oz 110
Platy 2L 105
SatMap / case 298
Glasses / case 119
First Aid kit / case / waterproof Pod 268
Map / case 146

Arcteryx WP Coat PL blue 425
Arcteryx WP Trousers 405
Arcteryx Sqamish Hoody wind 135
Arcterxy Switchback shirt 211
Patagonia Recycled fleece vest 245
Exped Stuff sack w/p Small 46
Compass (med) 32
Silva ADC Pro 65

Phone / case 146
Spare bat 30
ZipLok bag for phone 7

Base Total 6839

Camera / case 2612
Tripod and head 828

TOTAL 10279

Water 1500
Tea bags / Marvel / sweeteners 140
Rolls (5) 530
Meal 328
Neutragrain Elevenses (4) 207
Cake (2 bits) 197
Suncream 142

Total with food /water 13323
Hare Tor (?!)
Hare Tor (?!)
Hare Tor.  Brat Tor centre / left horizon.
Hare Tor. Brat Tor centre / left horizon.
Ditto, which makes me wonder if the previous two were Sharp Tor!  Still think they were Hare as well!
Ditto, which makes me wonder if the previous two were Sharp Tor! Still think they were Hare as well!
Approaching Dinger Tor (behind me!), Fur Tor in distance, beyond Great Kneeset and his Hooter.
Approaching Dinger Tor (behind me!), Fur Tor in distance, beyond Great Kneeset and his Hooter.
Dinger Tor.
Dinger Tor.
Heavy weather approaching from over Kitty Tor to me, between Dinger and Yes Tors
Heavy weather approaching from over Kitty Tor to me, between Dinger and Yes Tors
Ditto, but from the direction of Fur Tor.
Ditto, but from the direction of Fur Tor.