My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 38

June 13, 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 25 – Two Bridges Loop Take Two

Following my school boy error, the previous trip I made sure there was no firing at Merrivale today before I set out to complete the route I should have done previously!

This time however I had the company of Anton, I usually do these alone, probably best that way usually. Means no one can here me groaning under the weight! But at least this way I had validation that I am actually on the moor training!

As it happened it made a real nice change to have someone to walk with and a welcome distraction from the aches and ailments I usually focus on.

The weather forecast was grim again with fog forecast until around mid to late afternoon so again it would provide a good day for navigation testing.

Once again, the walk started in full waterproof gear, it was difficult to establish just how wet it was or would be. Fog without the misty wet rain, misty wet drizzle or both with rain.

The familiar route up to Crockern tor and the almost straight line out to Brown’s House ruin was straight forward but due to the thick fog/mist it was necessary to take a bearing between each of the tors. This proved to be a wise choice as our “intuitive assumption” at Littaford could have sent us forty-five degrees away from Langaford tor, our next target.

Chatting as we went the time went pretty quickly and we soon reached Browns House ruin for the first snack. There was nothing to see until that point but there were suddenly signs the fog may be thinning and even lifting as Rough tor came and went into view.

Bagging up the easy track down to the West Dart river was completed where we faced the first of our river crossings of the day. Water levels were surprisingly low I thought providing some easy boulders above the water liner to step across. Now for the big slope the other side.

I gave the health warning to Anton that I would be slow up the hill with likely a couple of mini stops on the way, just to set the expectation!

As always, I always think of the worse and try to deliver the best! It didn’t seem too long before we were at the top, I felt pretty reasonable to be fair. Maybe the company made it easier?

The fog was definitely lifting at this point and the line of boundary posts could be seen right to the edge of the hill with Crow tor to our left. The fog was still rolling in and out so bearings were the action of the day. What could be worse than heading off and the fog drops leaving you stranded regarding direction. That would be just embarrassing!

The fog remained “thin” making Crow tor, crossing the stream and up to Bearsdown tor comfortable to navigate.

Taking advantage of the improved visibility we pushed on to Lydford tor and down toward the Cowsic at Broad Hole. Again, water levels were surprisingly low making the crossing quite simple. Across the other side which is usually incredibly boggy and wet, although being wet, was by comparison to earlier walks pretty good to walk around.

It was reaching lunch time now and a decision was required to break before or after we climbed the hill to Conies Down tor. There were no “ego’s” on this trip it was all about getting us both round the route, so, we decided to climb the hill and lunch at the top.

Just as well really, as we reached Conies Down tor and found a place out of the wind the fog dropped in without notice. Suddenly everything had disappeared again. Perfect Dartmoor weather, the sort that can catch the unsuspecting out in a big way if not careful.

During lunch I think it must have rolled in, lifted and rolled in at least three times.

 

Lunch over and time to move out. The weather was now heavy mist, I say mist because it was about fifty meters visibility and a heavy wet drizzle with the mist. Back on with all the gear then.

At this point the power of the mind was put to the test. When we had a clear slot looking across the valley we could see Devil’s tor, our next target. However, now the mist was down a bearing was most definitely required.

The thing was, the bearing appeared to be pointing far further North than I remember seeing the tor. Time to put our thoughts to one side and trust the compass. I have done this before so had a rough idea of direction from Conies Down to take. As we got lower the mist thinned and I could see the river below. The bearing was pointing across the river at a point where a large boulder was placed, a useful marker.

 

The idea was to drop to the boulder, cross the river and use the bearing to walk a straight line across the hill to the Beardown Man standing stone. This wouldn’t become visible on a clear day until you breach the top of the hill. Walking up the hill and maintaining the angle we walked and adjusted our line with the expectation of seeing the stone right in front of us.

Well, I can tell you, I felt really good when we came up over the top of the hill, the mist/fog was still lifting, and the standing stood was there bang on the bearing we had taken. If the mist had been down and we were solely on the bearing it was a great comfort to know on this occasion we would have fallen over the standing stone.

It was great when the weather cleared, albeit for a limited window, a chance to get the leggings off. I hate wearing leggings! Devil’s tor in hindsight isn’t that impressive for me. If it wasn’t for the standing stone it would struggle to be any attraction in my view. Just a useful marker on the landscape!

Anyway, taking advantage of the clear spell we marched onto and back to Rough tor to complete the loop. Whether it was the company or the training at this stage I was feeling reasonably good. I guess the walk to Rough tor can vary as there are no distinguishable tracks so each time you cross it can be on a slightly different line. This time we seemed to have a pretty easy route across.

Oh, and time to give the water filter its first test. With a dodgy stomach I have great hopes that this filter will deal with any bug or virus that may be out there! I'll let you know.

 

It was now a simple task of back tracking the earlier route, apart from the weather that on reaching Brown’s House ruin on the way back the fog decided to pay another visit, and this time it was heavy!

Back to the map and compass!

Lower White tor, Higher White tor were duly ticked off and bang on course. Longaford appeared, now this is a big tor and we knew we had to walk around the whole thing and somehow position ourselves right in the middle of the tor the other side we arrived on. Simple! One snag, even when we were right next to it we could barely see the whole of the tor.

When I arrived home, I was very curious to see how accurately we had achieved this, the answer, not perfect. However, when we headed to Littaford we sensed we were heading off the ridge so we needed to find a path leading left to pick up what is in effect the main visible track back to Littaford.

By the time we reached Littaford our ongoing “logical” adjustments meant we had reached Littaford exactly where we had expected and needed to. Great news!

 

Now here something very odd and not very clever happened. A clear bearing was taken between Littaford and Crockern tor. A bearing from Littaford to Crockern duly captured in the same way as the others. Off we went, compass in hand following the bearing. Through the “outcrops” and on. It should have been a straight line, no change to the compass or what we thought our direction.

Concentration had clearly “cracked”. As we moved forward the sense, we were dropping off the hill became apparent. Then the mist starting clearing, we were looking down toward Two Bridges rather than Parsons Cottage. Turning, we could now clearly see Crockern tor about one hundred meters left!

I still have no idea how we were tracking a bearing that started on line and fell off the hill! I’m going back to retrace with the same bearing to try and work it out!!

The only good thing was, when taking the bearing, because of the fog, I had also accounted for any deviation and if we went too far left or right, we would encounter a wall and could easily reposition. A fail safe that kept us ultimately on track but I’m still none the wiser why we dropped right so far!

Now on the point of finishing and a little wet we tried finding the “chair” at Crockern tor, failed, I got bored looking and we dropped down to the car.

Overall, apart from the last embarrassing hiccup the day had gone really well with navigation and walking with a full pack. We totted up 20 km which was fine and felt pretty good at the end so I’ll take that. What I need to account for though, the average trip time is averaging less at approximately 2.7 km per hour which means the weight is currently having an impact and could add one and a half extra hours each day. I'll need to monitor this.

 

Anton still thinks I mad though!

Thanks for the company Anton and the extra pictures of me! Makes a much easier day and takes the mind off the weight and aching feet!

 

Stats,

Total distance 20 km

Total trip time 7.5 hours duration

Average trip time 2.6 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.4 km per hour

 

 


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