25 March 2023

Between mine and steep street

One week to the race! The steepest street in the world race was the highlight of my racing season. With its emphasis on running up a steep hill it was right up my street. And having finished as third woman the year before, I was keen to see if I could at all repeat that this year. Last year, I had been doing hill reps to prepare myself. Admittedly, I took it a bit too far, and ended up with an ankle injury. But this year everything was quite different! I prepared for the race by desperately trying to shake off a cold acquired in a mine. I was full of snot, and my voice was faltering. I stayed at home for two days (no need to spread this cold) and didn't do exercise at all. I just went to bed early and hoped to get better. Not a great run-up! But what can you do. That will teach me making stupid decisions underground. There's only one way to find out what affect this sub-ideal preparation will have on my performance on the day!

24 March 2023

Kit replacement

Camping kit doesn’t last forever! I hadn’t needed any big replacements recently, but I knew my sleeping bag liner was at the end of its life, and an increasingly high number of my tent pegs were banana-shaped, if not Zorro-esque. And on the last night in Yorkshire I had broken my trusted spork. So I know I needed to get myself to an outdoor shop at some point.

When I came out of a mine with Sharon and Lydia, the latter asked me if I was okay to swing by an outdoor shop on the way home. And I certainly was! And they did have sleeping bag liners, tent pegs and sporks. Of course they did. So that came together quite nicely! I am ready for the new camping season!


23 March 2023

Very vertical mine trip

After a successful trip with Sharon in a mine in the east, and with Lydia and Toby in a mine in the south, there was enthusiasm for more. And it came together well. Lydia, Sharon and I were all available one Sunday, Lydia was keen on doing a very vertical trip near Llanberis, and Sharon has enough equipment to make the trip happen. Initially, Kate would join too, but something got in the way. Miles wasn't available.

I had been a bit worried about my throat for a while. It never really felt good! It didn't feel like an oncoming cold or tonsillitis or anything, but I didn't feel good either. And on that morning, it felt marginally worse than before. I would have to be careful!

I gathered my stuff and picked up Lydia from Bangor. Together we drove to Llanberis, where we met Sharon. She had cleverly put all the kit we needed in three bags, so we could share in the load. And I am a thirsty person, and during the first half of the day I am also quite a hungry person, so I also had a bag with supplies. Luckily, I have a rather big bag, so I could put my share of the equipment and all my food (and Lydia’s) and drink in that bag. It was quite heavy, but it wasn't far to the entrance!

View from the entrance 

We got in, and quickly found the first pitch. Sharon rigged it like the wind. It was a bit wet, but not too bad. And we got to the second pitch pretty much immediately. At the bottom of that there was a bit of horizontal exploration. It’s a pretty mine! And a metal mine, so nice staining here and there. 

What I saw near the bottom of the second pitch 

What they saw (pic by Sharon)

The next pitch also lead to a level where some exploration was possible. And I was considering my options! The next pitch was allegedly quite wet, and I was feeling my throat. I didn’t think getting soaking wet and cold would improve it. I did discuss this. Sharon went down first. She said it was just like rain. Not too bad. 

Lovely bucket

Lydia admiring some blue staining

Sharon looking at a hole in the floor

Lydia in a level with green staining on the floor

Lydia went second. And then I followed. It was very wet! And when I touched down there was nowhere we wanted to go. The level had quite high water. We didn’t fancy going into it. But that meant we were all three huddling on a very rainy square meter. Why not shout up coming down wasn’t worth it? Coming up would be wetter. 

Lydia went up first. I was wearing a thicker furry suit! It felt like it took her an hour. Then I went up. It was so wet! And a 34m pitch is hard work on the best of days. At the top I knew my voice had gone. I asked Lydia to shout “rope free” for me. And told her to move up the next pitch. That would speed things up! 

We made our way out. One pitch was a pain as I was the first up. The rope didn’t want to feed through my chest jammer! And then you have to manually pull it through. That’s really hard work. But that situation sorted itself. I wanted to be in between the others; then they could do the comms. They had voices! And a mine with falling water is a noisy environment. The message only partially came through, though; Lydia shouted at me several times from a distance to ask me how I was doing. She had good intentions, but was clearly not thinking that one through. 

When we got to the top and Sharon was de-rigging I figured I’d just go back to the car. I had by far the heaviest bag anyway! They could carry the rest. And when I got out the wind had picked up. I was soaked to the bone so I was feeling the cold! I was so glad to be able to slip into something dry. 

Soon the others appeared too, and we all changed into something dry. Me in silence, obviously. This was not how I had wanted the trip to end! I was seriously regretting that last pitch. But one learns. I knew I had to get home and take it very easy for the rest of the day. But it is a nice mine! Where you can have a lot more fun with ropes than in your average Welsh mine. I would like to go back there one day in a dry spell, when the pitches are not so wet, and that lower level is a bit more inviting. I could imagine the others feel similar! 

22 March 2023

Bigger game

I came home from the cinema and what did I find? A dead rat in the kitchen! I had never before seen evidence of my little not-so-brave cat handling anything that fierce. She regularly brings in mice and shrews, and very occasionally a small bird. Once she brought in a live pigeon. And that is bigger in volume. But a rat! That’s a different kettle of fish. They are much more intimidating.

The cat was nowhere to be found. Not unusual; it was the sort of time she likes being outdoors. But often, when she is outside when I get home, she soon spots my presence (the turning on of lights?) and comes bolting in. Not now! I was a bit worried.

Soon she appeared. All cheerful and hungry! Would my scaredy-cat be on a slow trajectory of becoming more assertive? Or did she just find a particularly poorly and resigned rat? Time will tell!

21 March 2023

Noise instead of dust

In Welsh class, some attention was dedicated to a Welsh film that had come out: Y Sŵn, or the noise. It sounded interesting. I had also seen in an email that there was a public lecture coming up. It was about the struggle for compensation of quarry workers with silicosis. The title explicitly involved the word ‘llwch’, or dust. And then I had a look. They were at the same time! Now I would have to choose.

I chose the lecture. That would be a one-off. There might be another opportunity to see the film! I could potentially see it on the Saturday night. So after work I ate my sandwiches and went to the building where the lecture would be. It was closed! And there was no one to be seen. Was something wrong? And then two other ladies appeared, with the same mission. Then I checked the email again and realised the lecture was actually a week later. But that decided it; I would just go to the film instead. That started half an hour later.

The film was about an event that is very famous in Wales, but that I had never heard of before coming here and learning about Welsh history. In Wales there was a noteworthy movement fighting for the Welsh language and more autonomy for Wales. One of the important people in this movement was Gwynfor Evans; for a long time the leader of the Welsh National party, and the first MP of that party in Westminster. The movement had had a boost in reaction to the flooding of the Tryweryn valley. And it had been campaigning for a Welsh language television channel. The government had promised that that would come, but then in 1979 it change its mind. And especially the Society for the Welsh language took exception to that.

In an attempt to change the government mind back, there were rallies and protests and delegations sent to Westminster and whatnot, but nothing seemed to help.

And then Gwynfor Evans made a drastic decision. He announced that he would go on hunger strike if the government wouldn't change its mind back, and stay on hunger strike until they would. And if they wouldn't, well, that would be the end.

Long story short; it worked, and the Welsh channel is still going strong. 

So what was the film like? I enjoyed it! The story had got a bit festooned with unlikely details for dramatic and/or comedic effect, but I didn’t mind that too much. They also didn't shy away from having archive footage mixed in with the re-imagining with actors. And I have no idea how close they stayed to the actual Gwynfor Evans, they did give a plausible rendition. And it increased my respect for the man. What a dedication to a cause that was so close to hopeless! I'm glad I went. I don't think I can make the dusty talk next week, but this way at least I've got some Welsh culture in!

20 March 2023

Climate change teaching done

One week to the Easter break! It always feels like such an important milestone in the academic year. And this year, a module that kept me especially busy was our climate change module. The year before I had completely changed what I teach, so this year I had to improve on that. I never get things quite right the first year around. And I am sure next year I will still be tweaking. But on the Friday of the second last week before the Easter break I had my last lecture. So now I can go into the last week with student contacts with that off my plate. And it feels good.

I am still teaching on my rather wide-ranging Earth, Climate and Evolution module. And there also is teaching in the tutorial module, and the fieldwork module in that week. But that will probably all stuff that I can prepare for without haste. Great! And of course the Easter break is not really a break; for instance, my big job will be to prepare for the dissertation presentations conference. But I can work on that with less interruption than normal!

18 March 2023

Main University building has a courtyard again

One of these days, I was teaching in the Main Arts building. I walked past the courtyard to get to an entrance. This had been fenced off for months! There had been massive work going on there. And suddenly, the fencing was gone. I didn't expect that!

New! get an idea of what it was like in this post

I know I don't always give my undivided attention to communications from the University, but I had expected there would be so much hoo-ha about the courtyard being accessible again I wouldn't have managed to escape the news. I was clearly wrong!

It's only a minor thing for me as I'm not in that building particularly often, but I was glad to see the work finished. I think it looks good! Even though I missed the nice greenness of the lawns that were there before. Maybe this was a climate adaptation measure? It is possible that in heat waves, the grass dies, and in very wet periods, it becomes very muddy. And paving over grass exacerbates flood risk, of course, but let's not go into that.

The courtyard being accessible also means the library now has disabled access. The temporary access route involved a few steps…

Later I had to visit the library and saw the place in sunlight. Even better! 

View from the library entrance 

I wonder if there will be some official opening. And if not, we will see this space undoubtedly used to its fullest effect in the summer graduation ceremonies! I'm sure it will provide a good backdrop for pictures…

17 March 2023

Impeded therapy

When I told one of my friends I was going to have therapy in Llanrwst, he had his doubts. Wasn't that place under water all the time? I acknowledged that that risk was real, but I didn't worry too much about it. And for weeks on end, everything was fine.

Then one rather wet day I drove to the village via my normal route, came to the famous bridge in the middle of town that I always cross, only to find it closed. Oh dear! I parked up somewhere and sent my therapist a message. Soon after, she phoned.

She knew the bridge would be closed, so she had driven around! It seems not to have occurred to her did I didn't know it was closed. So now what? We just agreed on a different meeting point: in Capel Curig, a lot closer to home for me. This did mean, though, that I drove past two point of interest I might otherwise have visited on the way back. One was the outdoor shop in Betws y Coed; I had decided in Yorkshire that some of my gear was beyond repair and needed to be replaced. And why drive to go to a shop if you drive past on the way to somewhere else?

The other one was the hotel that was renovating. I would have liked to pick up a bit more firewood! I hadn’t the week before as I had had my boot full of bike. Pity to miss two opportunities in a row! 

The weather was appalling. At some point my therapist suggested we just turn around given that we were both battling against the horizontal rain. That doesn't really help conversation! So some of the time we were just standing still in a spot where some trees provided shelter. It was by far the worst weather we had had since starting this!

The weather that day

When we were done, I decided to first drive home and put on the some dry clothes. I had not bothered with waterproof trousers so I was soaked to the bone!

We agreed that in the future if she realises the bridge is closed, she will draw my attention to that. That will avoid the sort of fruitless driving around we did this time. And this session didn't yield things like a new sleeping bag liner, nor firewood, and it did necessitate a change of clothes, but I was glad we still had managed to at least get the therapy part sorted, which of course is the essence!

16 March 2023


I had seen the weather warning of snow that was in force, but I figured that would probably mainly hold on higher ground. I live really low down in the valley! But when on a Friday I opened my curtains, I saw a white world. Really really white. That surprised me! 

I decided to go into the garden and take a few pictures. How often will I see it like this? And then I went to have breakfast.

That day I was expected on the main campus. I grabbed the bike with the winter tires again! And I'd made sure I would leave on time. These conditions are not good. 

I pushed my bike to the road. There I got on. It was actually quite warm, so the traffic had turned the snow on the road to slush and water. That was far from ideal! I didn't need the spikes, but I was getting soaking wet. When I could turn onto the bicycle path I did, but there I felt that the snow was quite deep and slushy, so very slippery. Spikes don't work on slush! 

I turned back and just drove. That worked fine! My car didn't like getting off the very snowy parking lot very much, but did it; once I was on the road everything was fine. I don't really like being chased off my bike, but I think I made the correct call. 

When I got back the mountains looked absolutely glorious. The day after, it was rainy and snowy. And the day after that, all snow had vanished from the view from my house, and in the morning it seemed to be proper spring, while in the evening it turned into thorough autumn. Never a dull moment here in North Wales! But I do have some nice pictures of what my garden can look like at its most wintry…

What I saw first thing in the morning

Deep snow! By Bethesda standards.

15 March 2023

Dog rescue

It had been a hectic week! If you go off on a jolly for a few days, you tend to come back to a to do list the length of your arm. I found myself preparing for my teaching of the next day until quite late in the evening some evenings. But on the Wednesday, I had got quite some teaching out of the way, and there was not an awful lot immediately afterwards. I had that lovely feeling that I was up to date with things, that everything was under control, and I was really enjoying it. And then my phone pinged.

It was a message from the rescue team. There was mention of a dog having fallen down a hole! I didn't yet say we had to go there. The location was given as a village some 50 minutes east.

Sometimes when there is an issue with a dog, one person can and does sort it out. So I wasn't sure if I was going to get called out! But I was. So I grabbed my kit and drove east. 

When I got to the site, the dog was already being hauled up by people who had got there quicker. Read how it went here! She was fine. And very cute.

From the Daily Post. Copyright NWCRO.

I had basically driven quite far east and got to bed way too late in vain, but that is how these things go. Although I did mull over how this rescue had gone through the eyes of someone who is expected to become a controller. There were several things I thought we could improve on! Not really on charm levels of the casualty, though. I hope the lovely dog will have a very uneventful life from now on!

From the NWCRO Facebook page 

14 March 2023

International Women’s Day 2023

It was March the 8th again, so international women’s day. The university always organises something, and if I can I attend. This year it was a panel discussion with internal women. And I was there.

The room was largely empty! And of course the vast majority of people there were women. In that sense, it wasn’t very encouraging. But we’ll have to struggle on! There is still a lot of work to do. Maybe we should have an international men’s day event too? Maybe that would attract all genders. And only if we have everyone on board, we can make serious changes…

The VC opens the event

13 March 2023

Students on secluded beach

 It is early spring, so inevitably, we would be doing the field day on the beach. The one I do with my friend and colleague Lynda, where we look at glaciofluvial sediment exposed in a cliff on a beach in southern Anglesey. Normally we do that first thing in the morning, but this year the tides were against, and the students would only leave the main campus at 11:30. So I had the morning for other things. And at about 11 I took the School’s pick-up truck to the layby by the path to the beach.

When I got there, the water was still too high to get onto the beach. I texted Lynda to say I would have to set out the sections for the students to log while she would give them the introduction. I just had some sandwiches, and then the coach with the students appeared.

No beach! 

By that time, the water was so low the first part of the beach was accessible. But only just! There is a stream that enters the sea, and normally there is enough space to walk behind it. But since last year, it has moved inland; the only way of getting onto the beach now was to clamber over some big boulders by the meander in the stream. Not very inviting!

Stream inhibiting access to the beach

I set to work. I always pick a number of sections that I find interesting, mark them out in chalk, and hammer in a peg with a section label next to them. And I had just about enough beach to mark out to the usual number. Then I went back to where Lynda was talking to the students.

Just enough beach to get past the promontory 

Sediment selfe

She rounded off, and the students went off in their groups to log the sections, and we walked around checking on how they were doing. It was a gorgeous day! It was cold but sunny.

We had to be a bit quicker the normal, as this late start meant we had to do everything in slightly less time. So after not too much time, Lynda did her final spiel, and this first group of students went back to their coach. I waited with Katie, the PhD student we had for support this year, for the second cohort to arrive. And then we did it all again!

Lynda ties it all together 

One thing that was noteworthy that this year, there were practically no other people on the beach, undoubtedly due to the stream getting in the way. That made going for a quick unobserved leak very easy! 

The beach got big later on! 

The second group was a bit colder than the first; the sun was vanishing behind the cliff, so all sections were soon in the shadow. We made sure to be done by five. 

What struck me this year was that the students are really reluctant to make a sketch of the sections. That really is the way to document them! But so many students said they just took a picture, and then took notes in their phone. But how do you know afterwards where you put your unit boundaries? I kept telling them that making a sketch forces you to make decisions, and you can base these decisions on as close a scrutiny of the cliff face as you want right there. Once you are back home and trying to do it in hindsight, you can't anymore. You are inevitably running into trouble!

I am sure that times are not far off that all students know how to draw on the pictures they take. If you do that, it's okay! You have the picture, and then on top of them you have the decisions you made about the interpretation. But nobody was doing that. I did manage to convince a fair number to make a sketch, but undoubtedly not enough!

When we were done I didn't have big problems getting the pegs out again; sometimes that is a bit of a job. But not this time. And then I could drive back to campus again!

I had stupidly left my access card in my other trousers, so I couldn't get into the building to drop off the keys. I just waited around until some better-organised person appeared, and asked them to let me in. And then I could go home! Next year again…

12 March 2023

Bike gets some love

My commuter bike makes a lot of miles! If I have a day where I only travel to the office and back, that covers 14.5 miles. If I travel both ways via Bangor, that that takes 18.5 miles. And the shorter way, unsurprisingly, has more hills. If you do that almost every day, your bike suffers with some wear and tear.

Since I had bought it, some one and a half years ago, I hadn't had it serviced. I had replaced the brake pads twice (or rather, I had Martin do it once and done it myself once), and oiled the chain many times, but that was basically it and that is not enough!

The big bicycle repair shop in town, Evolution, which looked after my road bike, is so successful they refuse a lot of work. And I had emailed the repair shop in Mynydd Llandygai to ask if he would be willing to do it. It is a Mountain bike shop, but maybe he was willing to also have a go on the commuter bike? I didn't get a reply. Not as far as I could tell, anyway.

Jaco alerted me to the existence of another repair shop, called Mud Cows; this one in Menai Bridge. I contacted it, and they were happy to take my bike on! So one morning when I had to drive to work anyway for reasons of having therapy in Llanrwst early in the morning, being in the field until quite late because of the tide, and then still being home on time for my Skype dinner with Jaco and Marjan, I made sure to have my bike in the boot. In between therapy and work I dropped it off. 

I wasn't quite sure what needed doing, but the repair man had a look there and then. His judgement: new chain, new bits of the rear wheel (it had started showing movements it shouldn't), new front brake pads. Especially that wheel will be crucial! 

I look forward to getting it back spic and span. And unless I don’t like his work, I’ll be coming back there! Very good to have a bike repair shop that takes on random commuter bikes near the office…

The somewhat dissembled bike in the repair shop

11 March 2023

The grand reveal

It looks like my date and me have a bit of a habit of doing things in a strange order. He has already appeared on the blog in the hike posts. But he hadn't been announced yet! There were some conditions not yet met for me to take that step, but between the hike and me starting to release blog posts about the hike, they were. Hence that careful readers of the blog already know that his name is Dave and what he looks like. So although that limits what is still there to actually reveal, I did think it was well worth a blog post of its own. This looks like it is turning into quite a big change in my life.

So who is Dave? He is an outdoor instructor turned software developer who only lives 10 minutes on foot away from me. He has two teenage children who both live part-time with him. He is a very active climber, and normally is also an active runner, but an injury is keeping that very limited at the moment.

In spite of the evident differences (e.g. his parental status and climbing talent) we have so much in common that I sometimes think he may not even have noticed the quirks that made me wonder if I had manoeuvered myself well outside of society and the dating pool. I know he has noticed (and not necessarily enjoyed) that my house is a bit on the cold side, but that I use my wood burner as an important source of heat, try to use as little drinking water as possible for purposes that don't require drinking water, don't eat meat, try to avoid plastic, don't watch television, et cetera et cetera are all things that I think he just considers totally reasonable things to do. And with greatly overlapping interests, we will be able to sometimes do the things we enjoy together. So I suppose it is easy to see why this seems to work! And there obviously is also a spark. Quite a substantial one. Otherwise none of that would be relevant. 

Things have been going fast. After all, our first meeting was this year, and it is only March! And we have already met each other's oldest friends. And I have met his sister. And now he has his announcement. 

There are still loads of important and even rather basic milestones to reach, but I have faith we will indeed reach them. I think I can say we are both serious about this. I hope we have the wisdom to make this a long and happy relationship. And if so, his face will be popping up here now and again for many years to come!

A beautiful picture (I think) that Dave took of us on top of Ingleborough

10 March 2023

Spring swamp hike 2023: day 3 &4

When I woke up on the third day of our swamp hike I noticed there was snow lying on the tent. Snow! I had noticed it has been cold the previous night, but this was a bit more than I expected. Dave was dead to the world next to me, so after a while I got dressed and got up. I figured I could take some snowy pictures of our undisturbed camp! And I did. I also noticed very cute tracks in the snow of the grouse we had heard around the tents.

A cold morning!


Soon, Henco was up as well. As usual. So we started making coffee. It was cold but also very beautiful! And one by one the others appeared too. The last one to come out of the tent was Dave. He could now meet everybody else! And although he is an experienced outdoorsman, he hadn't brought anything to sit on, so he joined Roelof on his generous mat. And we had a nice snowy breakfast. We also decided to walk into the valley and then decide on whether to climb Ingleborough or not. We weren’t all that prepared for snow. 

We packed up and left, in the direction of the Whernside summit. We got there in no time. And did some frosty summit selfies. Then we descended, which was less straightforward than it should have been. That path is slippery! And it wasn’t even icy. 


Whernside summit selfie!


Henco contemplating the way down

In the valley we sat down for coffee. We also finished the spekkoek, of which we had only managed to eat half the day before. It was a new concept to Dave! And by then, Ingleborough was already snow free, so we decided to just go for it. So we crossed the valley, having a look at the little chapel on the way, and started the way up on the other side. We saw some amazing limestone pavements! And we chose one on which to have lunch. Dave had brought some extra supplies.

Coffee. Pic by Henco

Busstop? Lime kiln? Both?

Limestone pavement! Pic by Henco

The way up was steep but not actually very high! It didn't feel like much of an effort. And at the top we did a few more summit selfies. Two of the three local famous peaks conquered within not much time!

The way up

Ingleborough selfie

Our plan was to just descend until we found a good place to camp for the night. Inevitably, we would be quite close to Ingleton, but so be it. We approached a beautiful farm from which it was unclear from a distance if it was inhabited. If it wouldn't be, that would be a great spot! But on closer inspection it was a B&B. So we decided to camp on a field a bit higher up on the hill. There was no water there, so we made sure to fill all our containers in the stream close to the path before we went there. And I had a good wash before I joined the others.

Last camping spot

I also thought it was time to bring out my whisky. So far it had remained untouched! The first night we had had beer, and the second night everyone went to bed at seven. But now there was nothing getting in the way!

That night it was my turn to cook. I made pasta. Normally I would have sausage in that; I have had the habit of many years to drop my vegetarianism if I am hiking, because it is just so easy to make any food taste good with meat. Just carry a chorizo and you're sorted. We were now so far up the path of being Guardian-reading Wokerati that I had decided against that. Luckily, it was still good! Although I feared it wasn't enough. Beginner's mistake. But I have dropped a hint to Dave that he could make himself popular by bringing things the rest of us wouldn't be crazy enough to have with us on day 3. And he had! He actually carried a bottle of wine, and what was needed to turn it into mulled wine. And he served that with chocolate.

As usual, we went to bed quite soon after dinner. And I slept well! And in the morning we had the usual routine of Henco and I making coffee. It was a rather relaxed breakfast. We knew we were close to the village. There was no hurry, we could be generous with fuel, and didn't have to bring much water with us. And we enjoyed the much milder weather than we had had the previous night. 

After breakfast it was a very straightforward walk back into town. We first headed for the cars. I enjoyed putting on some civilian shoes there! And then we went back to the café where we had started. And altogether we enjoyed their breakfast menu, their lunch menu, their cake menu, and there we are offering. I think we were good customers! But all good things come to an end, and the Dutch contingent had to catch their boat. So we said our goodbyes. Soon again, I hope!

When the Dutch were gone I first brought Dave back to his vehicle. And then we decided to give the hike one little appendix; we drove to Dent for a half pint. Such a gorgeous village, and it also is the birthplace of Adam Sedgwick! But then it was time to drive home. The first spring swamp hike ever was now truly over! But I think it was a good one!

09 March 2023

Spring swamp hike 2023: day 2

On the morning of the second day of the hike, I woke up at approximately my normal time. And I was the first! I did not quite expect that; the others were basically living in a different time zone, and we are one hour ahead of me. But so be it! I could take a few pictures of our beautiful camping spot, and tidy up a bit. We had left some ginger (used for tea) and rice (spilled) on the ground. All very biodegradable, but not pretty! Then Henco appeared, and we could start making coffee and the rest of breakfast. And slowly the others appeared. Including Maaike, whose birthday it was! 

The weather looked a bit uncertain. But it was dry and that is the most important thing! It also was less windy. So after breakfast we packed up and set off. My tent was soaking wet; it felt quite heavy. And my original plan had involved a loop towards the village of Dent, as there was a pub on the map, but the day before we had walked so much faster then I had anticipated, that I figured we would reach the village before the pub would open. So we decided to skirt past it. We were on some track that started good but got more uneven and swampier along the way. And along it, we had a coffee break with birthday muffins!

Towards Dent

Soon after, we steeply descended into the valley. It was actually quite nice to walk in green fields for a while rather than yellow moor land. 

Beautiful ruin in the valley. Pic by Henco

We also had to cross the river. The path towards a bridge was not very clear, so we decided to ford it. And shortly after doing that we reached the Craven Way. That would take us all the way to the sleeping spot I had had in mind. It was a rather high ground, but it seemed to make sense with regard to the distance to cover, and it did have water.

It actually mattered that we did not stray too far from this designated spot. As it so happened, I had been on the phone with Roelof a while before the hike, and I had told him about my date. Roelof had asked if he would join us. I doubted that; it seemed a bit early, and logistically complex. But I did float the possibility. And in the end, the decision had been made that he would join us for the last two days. That meant he would have to find the location where we had pitched our tents. So we would have to be where we had planned to, or be somewhere with signal so we could tell him otherwise. But my phone did not have much signal; I relied on the higher ground for that.

I will do a separate post about my date, by the way! This is not the space for that.

At the beginning of the Craven Way we had lunch. And I took the opportunity of hanging my soaking tent over a gate. I am sure it was kilos lighter when I later packed it up again! And then we accepted the way up. The views got even wider. And emptier when we turned onto the ridge, and all last walls and gates vanished, and just heather remained! And then we reached the tarns that were our goal. It was a bit exposed, but the wind was not strong. And we found the spring that was on the map!

Lunchtime! Pic by Henco

Still some sign of human interference

Empty land just below the tarns. Pic by Henco

After some walking around we found the most sheltered spot. We pitched the tents. I pitched only my outer tent as we may want to sit inside for dinner. Then there was another round of washing. This time only three of us braved the water! And I was taking the coward approach and kept my crocs on. 

It had only been 3:30 when we reached the spot, so we had plenty of time. We first did a round of tea. And we had a look at the map; my estimate of when the Dutch contingent would have to leave had been a bit optimistic. We needed to cut the last day short, and that also affected the second last day. We made some sort of adjusted plan. 

Tea before dinner

Then Henco started making the starter: prawn crackers. Having climbed a lot more than the previous day, we were all hungrier! So we we are quite happy for Henco to cook the main dish not much later. He made rice with peanut sauce. Very good! And there was ‘spekkoek’ as afters.

After dinner and tea, everybody else decided it was time to go to bed. It was 7 pm. I would have liked to as well! But my date, who should be getting a name by now, would arrive that night, and I wanted to welcome him. So I periodically walked a few meters to where my phone had signal, to see if he was already imminent. And as long as he wasn't, I just completed my tent, made my notes that form the basis of these blog posts, and read a piece of newspaper I had brought. And then the message came he had left his car! He would have to walk up the flank of Whernside, and then down the ridge to us. And I intended to walk towards him. I set off, slightly aware that I was on my own in the dark on a swampy path, in an area where the weather can change rather rapidly. But nothing went wrong. And by the time I reached the wall the path goes over, I saw a light. Dave! For that is his name.

We greeted each other, and then went back to the tents. Mostly we did that without lights. There was a bit of a moon out! I sometimes switched it on if I saw some swampy bits and wanted to be sure I could jump over them in a sensible way, but Dave didn't seem to need that. And without issues we got to the tent. And it was 10 pm already, so we didn't waste time and got into our sleeping bags snappily. Another day done! And I fell asleep listening to grouse roaming outside.

07 March 2023

Spring swamp hike 2023: day 1

The day came to get into my car and head for the Yorkshire Dales! So I did. I had checked the route on Google Maps and I was off. It didn't seem complicated. And it wasn't! I once had to stop to get some fuel for the car and refuel myself as well, but otherwise I just drove straight to Ingleton. The others said they would be a bit later for reasons of traffic. So I had a coffee in the café that was our meeting point, had another look at the map, scouted a bit for potential parking spots, and went back. And then they appeared! It was so good to see them all. This year it had been Roelof, Viking, Henco and Maaike who ventured west.

Close to where we met

I figured Roelof, who had driven the entire way, probably wanted at least a coffee now. And that was true! He also wanted lunch while he was at it anyway. It was good that I had looked a bit at the map. We might be setting off later than I thought! And we sure did. Some of us had ordered some quiche, but something had gone wrong with it in the kitchen, so the staff apologised and asked us to order something else. It took a while before we were done! But then we paid and finally set off. Initially, only to a parking lot where we could leave the cars for the duration of the hike. But then for real. Viking took first map duty and lead us out of town. Initially on asphalt, but a few kilometres out of town we ventured onto a path. It was grey weather, but that was okay. It was a swamphike, after all!

Off we go!

My bag looks heavy (pic by Henco)

I did remark at some point that I would find it a bit embarrassing to confess to my 17-year-old me, who would just have met Roelof and Viking, I still consider myself therapist fodder. I think I would have hoped that I would have my stuff sorted out by now! And it is not as if it is uncommon to have therapy at my age, but Roelof remarked that he did think his 18-year-old self would be quite chuffed with how his life had turned out so far. And in spite of what can still be improved in my life, I totally agreed! I think that overall, fresher me would be quite impressed. It would be nice to be able to tell her about all that.

The landscape was very wide and open. Very empty, as well, but very clearly distinct from Snowdonia. And that first day, which we started rather late, the only thing we did was basically walk into Kingsdale, a valley almost due north from Ingleton. We were first on a path on the east side, and then we crossed the valley. That was a bit nerve racking; the stream we had to cross for that was bone dry. I know this is the Yorkshire Dales, and rivers might very well go underground at any moment, but still. I like having access to water! But when we got to the narrow road on the other side and followed it for a while, the water came back. We quickly made sure to refill our bottles before nature changed its mind again.

Empty landscape

Crossing the dry Kingsdale Beck

All sorts of weather (pic by Henco)

Later it had water

My plan had been to find a place to camp somewhere in this valley, so we just kept walking until we found a good spot to pitch up for the night. It was quite windy, so the thing we were mainly looking for was shelter. And we found a little copse with a stream in it: Wet Shaw. That would be it! Roelof found a particularly beautiful spot in the copse and we decided to pitch our tents right there.

Our camping spot

I did my usual thing of first pitching the tent, and then going for a wash. The stream was very shallow, so I used my mug to throw water on myself. And all the men followed suit. Maaike is not really that way inclined! And Viking had brought beer for the first night (it's very heavy to carry, but he knew the first day wouldn't be long) so after my bath I could enjoy a lovely Belgian beer. Very good!

Roelof was the first one to cook dinner: vegetarian butter chicken. Quite an achievement. It was amazing! And I was peckish again (after that pub lunch) just in time.

It was great to catch up, but it was also cold and dark and damp so we didn't stay up late. First day done!