My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 34

June 06, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 22 – Princetown Loop

Time to up the pressure. First trip with 30 kilos wasn’t bad but it wasn’t brilliant either with the average walking stats just about holding up against the minimum required of 3km per hour trip time and average walking speed of 4.5km per hour.

I decided to make two back-to-back walks to see how big an impact two consecutive days would have. With a lighter weight (around 24 kilos) it didn’t seem to have a massive impact however it’s amazing how much a difference 6 kilos can have. I was preparing for some pain!

The route this time had a few challenges with terrain but on the whole, it was generally steady walking.

First target from parking at Princetown was North Hessary tor. Picking up the path behind the brewery and following it past some nearby houses the sign posted direction soon brings you out at the foot of the hill with the tor and the landmark mast at the top.

It’s roughly a 1 in 5 hill so while not massively steep it’s enough to get the heart pumping straight out of the blocks.

This was a steady climb with a few “mini stops” by that I mean a 30 second breather to catch my breath and juggle the weight. Yep, you will be surprised how much those straps can cut into the shoulders even after such a short distance. There was going to be a lot of mini stops!

The weather although not brilliant was good for walking. A cloudy start with a breeze blowing keeping the temperature cool but not too cold.

A quick nose around the ongoing work on the mast, I hope they put it back the way it was when they started, there are some very deep tractor tracks and churned up ground, I assume from the vehicles delivering and moving gear around.

Hollow tor is visible from here with some faint looking sheep tracks leading off in that direction. Picking the tracks carefully over the tufted grass and some wet areas it wasn’t long before I reached Hollow tor. On a good day it’s worth taking some time to look around, there are some terrific views. A quick spin round and it didn’t take long to get back to Rundlestone tor. Not a spectacular tor but as it’s close to Hollow tor it still provides an excellent viewing point.

It’s then only a matter of meters to reach the path connecting the mast station to the main road, which you then cross to pick up a path leading all the way up to Great Miss tor. Unlike the track starting at the old school house remains car park, this path goes past some old buildings and then straight onto the grass rather than a stoney path to the top. Personally, I prefer the grass underfoot.

It’s a reasonable distance but not difficult to walk so just a matter of time before you get to the top.

Great Miss id impressive by its size alone and spreads itself across the top of the hill. You could spend some time looking around and admiring the view but today it wasn’t that good a weather to sit around and wanted to stay on mission. A quick water break and an early snack before I headed down the hill to Little Miss tor, which I quite like taking photos of. It’s not far from Great Miss so the area is great for exploring.

From here a direct line walk to a “skirt” and a stream source running into the Walkham before handrailing the wall to the main road just above Merrivale. It’s not difficult terrain and I’d far rather do that than walk on the stones!

Following the road right and just before the bridge there is a footpath taking you left past Hillside and heading for Longash. I would recommend taking a walk on this path, it’s a cracking route and provides some stunning views on both sides up the hill toward King tor and across the valley to Vixen tor. It also takes you right under Hucken tor which just happened to be my next target.

Now the problem having half an eye on the surroundings and the other half on the “mission” plus being interested in photography means it’s far too easy to be distracted. Especially when many of the fields and moor are covered in bluebells.

You have to stop as you may not get another chance, even if it’s on the phone camera! As the weather was improving a bit and the sun was now breaking through the bluebells looked stunning, and in the hawthorn and you have scenery to die for!

I was aiming to stop for lunch at Swelltor, so after far too long taking pictures, I quickly headed up over King’s tor and across to Swelltor. It was still breezy so I sank myself into a ditch for cover and tucked into what would become lunch for 14 days on my challenge. Definitely not gourmet food, sardines, peanut butter and some pecan nuts. I sure know how to live!

A quick detour to tick off Foggintor quarry and I was heading toward Princetown on the old railway track. At this point the 30 kilos were really starting to let my body know it was there. It wasn’t getting any lighter, and the shoulders would certainly bear testament to that! About two thirds of the way round and I could feel the fatigue setting in already and the pace definitely felt like it was slowing.

Dropping off the path in order to cross back over the main road at Devils Bridge meant a ten-minute trudge through the grass tufts which slowed me down even further.

From here there is a pretty good visible path taking you to Hart tor and past some old firing range artefacts. No time to explore today though as I continued to climb up to Hart tor.

Not hanging around I could easily see Cramber tor and a clear path to it. Mini stops were becoming more frequent and adding to the “stop” time which was now becoming an issue as I couldn’t seem to get any real big distance covered without stopping as the bag weight was really impacting. For the first time I could feel my legs taking the strain, too early to let me down surely.

Hart tor brook lies between the two tors and surprisingly isn’t that easy to cross unless you find one of the old rusty metal strips bridging the stream. Clearly, I hadn’t, I was too high up the brook but managed to find a place I could step across. Generally, head for the single large boulder by the brook and cross in that area.

The climb to Cramber tor seemed to take some effort on this occasion, can only be weight related as its never caused any issues previously. It’s a small tor but its position does give some reasonable views and ais an easy tor to find. It gets used quite a bit for navigational practice I believe.

The next stop is the trig point to the East and luckily this is a straight and simple walk, neither does it take that long to reach it.

The good ting of heading off from the trig point if you’re looking to reach South Hessary tor is a direct line of walking takes you around to the right of the couple of head points of the Hart tor brook, which can be messy in or after wet weather.

The slight down side, it’s more grass and tufts with no easily visible tracks or cattle tracks to follow, not a massive problem but it just slows you down. The sun was out now and was warming up, I’m not good in the heat, never have been so the combined impact of tired legs, bag weight, heat plus still over an hour left, meant I was starting to hurt!

It was good to finally reach South Hessary tor and onto the, “walk of doom track” as labelled by me. This time though, I was really more than happy to trudge back on it. South Hessary in my view is a great tor to photograph and has some great views over the open moor so well worth a visit. After a quick snack I headed toward Princetown dragging my feet as I went, yep, there were times when I was literally scuffing my feet. I know, not good and probably shouldn’t own up to it.

At this point going through the gate and into Princetown just couldn’t come soon enough. I definitely felt like I had done some training, I just hoped that when I looked at the GPS it would tell me I had done a reasonable distance in a reasonable time. Past the shops and visitor centre and to the car, bag in the boot and half sitting in the boot with it. Boy, it was good to get the bag off for the day!

 

Now for the moment of truth. How well had I done?

20.8 km (12.5 miles), ok the distance was roughly what I expected, I definitely didn’t want to do less.

My average walking speed time was a surprise, I really didn’t think I had maintained any real sort of speed over the day. I was happy with that, so far so good.

Overall trip average speed did take a dip though, just under my target 3 km per hour. No doubt this was due to the increasing number of “mini stops” I was making. The bad was definitely feeling heavy across the day.

While I made 20km, I did feel tired. To make the other 10 km required on each day of the challenge, could I have made it?

Probably because I would have to, but it would have been tough and taken longer than it should.

 

Conclusion, I can make 20km with 30 kilos on my back, but it was a tough walk. More training required but running out of time!

Stats,

Total distance 20.8 km

Total trip time 7.00 hours duration

Average trip time 2.9 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.7 km per hour

 


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