A few weeks ago as part of my ongoing campaign to challenge myself, I walked to the Mount Toubkal. At 4,167 m, it’s the highest Mountain in Morocco, and, in fact, North Africa. At 4000 metres, it’s a good deal higher than the next highest thing I’ve climbed – Ben Nevis (1344 metres) – the highest mountain in the British Isles.
To be fair, whilst this all sounds very impressive, I have to now put this all in perspective and explain why I don’t think it’s such a big deal.
Ben Nevis isn’t a very difficult mountain to walk up (by its easiest route!). It’s physically tiring if you’re not used to walking up things and that can be tough, but the main path is well made, well marked, relatively gentle and so long as you go slowly, the weather is good and you’re well dressed and determined you’ll eventually summit. It’s really that simple.
Toubkal isn’t quite that simple, but it’s close. There is a walk in from Imlil (or Aremd [2000 metres] where we’d spent the previous night), to Nehtmer where there are mountain huts and where most groups camp via a well marked, well trafficed (I mean, people, mules, goats etc!) path. From Nehtmer (3207 metres), it’s only about 2km/960 metres) away.
Think about that, Ben Nevis is 1344 metres and you climb it in one day, almost from sea level. With Toubkal you only have to do 960 metres on summit day, and perhaps 1207 metres the day before. Maybe think of it as two Ben Nevis’s on consecutive days.
Toubkal does have some challenges that Ben Nevis doesn’t: Altitude and Sun. On a lucky day, you might have an issue with sun on Ben Nevis, but on Toubkal, once the temperature gets up, it gets unpleasant. The altitude also starts to become noticeable. At “lowish” high altitudes like this, if you can expect a few things: you find it more difficult to breathe or you notice yourself being out of breath faster than you’d expect, and you’ll start to notice gentle signs that you’re high up. You can also expect to experience “gentle” mountain sickness symptoms if you’ve not acclimatised enough – in my case, mild headaches.
The cure to being out of breath is to walk R-E-A-L-L-Y slowly. The cure to mountain sickness symptoms is, well, in the short term, drinking lots of water. It’s a complex subject, but drinking lots of water makes a big difference. That was I think the only time I managed to completely drain my 3 Litre Platypus – everytime I noticed I had a headache, I drank. One of the other guys and I had quite a lot of fun singing acapella kareoke of popular songs on the way up this hill and noticed that, for me at least, the singing was keeping the headache at bay. I dread to think how much everyone else must have wanted to strangle us given they must have had rubbishy headaches and then had to suffer our rubbish singing.
To be honest, I don’t think “climb something high” was a very good challenge to set myself. Height in itself, is not necessarily very challenging, or very enjoyable.
I had a great time in Morocco, I greatly enjoyed walking through the mountains, I’m glad I reached that summit, but I don’t think the fact it was 4,000 metres high was what made it.
I’m going to consider this challenge done, but with a note to make sure that challenging things I do in the future are actually difficult, and don’t just sound difficult.
A couple of weeks ago I had a spare few extra days and wanted to go and do a longish hill hike. The Peak District is the most accessible and I was busy til late afternoon so I figured I’d get the train to Edale, then walk up the Pennine Way through the night.
I walked from Edale station, to Upper Booth, up Jacobs Ladder, onto Kinder Low, past Edale Rocks, along the edge of the Kinder Plateau, past the downfall, past Mill Hill. Over the Snake Pass, up to Bleaklow Head – at this point, dawn broke and I got to enjoy the view.
I then head down past the Wain Stones towards Torside Clough. I was pretty tired by this point so I threw up my tent in a shallow depression out of the way and slept for 10 hours… until 4pm!
I then walked along the Pennine way, across the Torside Reservoir Dam to Crowdon and took the easterly path up to Black Hill… which was incredibly boggy. Dusk came just before the summit.
On the way back, I was able to walk along the Pennine way,which fortunately is paved, because I really think more peat swamps in the dark would be been highly unpleasant. Ultimately, I got down to Crowdon by about 1am.
From Crowdon, I walked back across the dam, along the Longdendale Trail, off , up a little road, between the twin reservoirs, up Padfield main road and all the way down Woodhead Road to Glossop.
I did a bit of a videoblog, there’s not a whole lot to see, but it’s nice to document the highs and lows of the journey. My camera messed up slightly a few times so a few clips didn’t really come out too well.
Distance: 29 Miles/47km
Ascent: 4243 Feet/1293m
Notable summit: Kinder/Bleaklow/Blackhill
Walking Hours: 18.5
Sleeping hours: 10
Daylight Walking Hours: 6
Headtorch Walking Hours: 12.5
Over the past few years, I’ve done a lot of hiking, been to many places and see a great deal. To document it, I started editing together some of my clips several months ago. This is the result – thanks for stopping by for a look!
Switch it to HD, make it fullscreen, let it buffer, sit back and let it go!
Special Thanks to:
The University of Manchester Hiking Club
For the tolerant, friendly and down to earth approach to hiking which has enabled me to see so much and share so many great moments. Thank you all for some great times!
I also really appreciate the enthusiasm of Jonathan Heathcote, Josh R, Jonnie Balls, Polly Plowman, John Colvin and Marek Isalski for agreeing to be test audiences and helpfully offering constructive feedback during the final phases of editing.
Locations (in order of appearance):
- Ogwen Valley, Snowdonia.
- Stickle Tarn, Great Langdale, Lake District fade Stickle Tarn, Great Langdale, Lake District
- Near Boot, Eskdale, Lake District
- Glen Coe area, Western Scotland
- Loch Lomond, Scotland fade Loch Lomond, Scotland
- Nearish Avimore, Cairngorms, Scotland
- Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Lake District
- Buttermere – from in the lake itself, Lake District
- Stanley Ghyll or something, near Boot, Eskdale, Lake District
- Near Glen Coe, Western Scotland
- Goredale Scar, Yorkshire Dales
- Near Glen Coe, Western Scotland
- Ogwen Valley from 1/3 of the way up Tryfan, Snowdonia
- Great Gable/Scarfell/etc visible from the hill on the southern side of Wasdale that isn’t Scafell, Lake District
- Red Tarn and Striding edge from the summit of Helvellyn, Lake District
- Near Glen Coe, Western Scotland
- Sharp Edge, Blencathra, Lake District
- Jack’s Rake, with Stickle Tarn below, Great Langdale, Lake District
- Scrambling on Tryfan, Snowdonia
- Lyn Idwal, Australia Lake, Bristly Ridge, from the far side of Tryfan, Snowdonia
- Close up of my face, on Cairn Gorm
- Failing to practise Ixe Axe arrests and generally messing around in the snow, just before Charlemagne Gap, Caingorms, Scotland
- Near Glen Coe, Western Scotland
- Tryfan (ULGMC hut in foreground) from the Ogwen Valley, Snowdonia
- Ogwen Valley, Snowdonia
Several weeks ago I went on a walk with UMHC, up Catbells, Maiden Moor and High Spy from Grange:
I’ve been up Catbells before – in fact my first ever walk with the club was up Catbells from Keswick, but this time, we were dropped off at Grange and walked along the valley before ascending the hillside.
The weather was lovely – warm, clear and a surprising amount was on display for those who knew what to look for. Skiddaw, Blencathra, Derwent Water, Keswick were all laid out below us. The peaks of the mountains were lightly dusted in snow, yet at our height, it was ice free and actually reasonable warm.
It was at this point that my camera’s zoom lens really came into it’s own with me being able to get wonderful shots of scenery that one rarely sees from the other side of the valley and almost never sees in sunlight. There’s something quite magical about being able to look around, recognise and name so many peaks from such a low vantage point.
The walk was relaxed yet with people who also wanted plenty of time to stop and admire the views. I think this is the first time that I’ve really just thought “wow” when looking at Lake District landscape.
Ultimately, we descended before Dalehead and followed the stream back into Borrodale, where we followed the river up to Seatoller where the coach was waiting for us.
I’ve just got back from spending a week hiking in the Cuillins on Skye. We were based in Glen Brittle and I made this video with the footage I took:
The Eighty Three Bus,
Overtakes me once again,
please let me ride you!
After we started, there was this guy who seemed intent on running it, but didn’t know his way to Oldham Road through the centre, so I jogged with him across the city centre to Oldham Road where I let him move onwards at an incredible pace, whilst I resumed walking to catch my breath. From there until Failsworth (Checkpoint 6), I only encountered one other Bogler – a lady who had also been jogging a fair bit.
Walking and jogging…
Staple bogle essentials.
Checkpoint seven soon!
On the stint between Checkpoint 6 and Checkpoint 7 I overtook a good number of clearly exhausted Bogle Strollers. One lot seemed to be limping so badly I jogged across the road and gave them a bunch of chocolate bars from my bag; their eyes showed their appreciation which they didn’t seem to be able to find words to express.
After Checkpoint 7, I noticed a lot more Bogle Strollers, many sitting on walls, comforting friends… or just plodding along. I’d been told that between Checkpoint 7 and 8 there were some hiking club strollers which I really wanted to catch up with. Once I reached “checkpoint” 7.5, I met up with them and found they’d dropped out. After stopping for a brief chat, my first snack and a friendly face, I headed on for Checkpoint 8 at Kearsley.
Shortly before Checkpoint 8, it started raining, which, given I hadn’t brought waterproof trousers with me, was unwanted, and quite depressing. Ultimately though, the rain broke away to sun and there was a DOUBLE RAINBOW.
Sunshine through the rain,
an inspiring sight to see,
a rainbow of hope.
From there on, I started to really notice that I was no longer up to short periods of jogging downhill and was it was beginning to lose it’s edge. I was largely walking following the signs the Bogle team had put up on lampposts and occasionally falling back to my map/route instructions for the bigger picture. Somehow however, I managed to completely walk past Checkpoint 9. From then onwards, then on, I suspect my average speed dropped quite a bit. I started to find people overtaking me, rather than the other way round. As I walked through Salford, I started to notice bunches of youths apparently eyeing me up and so I pressed on to checkpoint 10, just 2.5 miles from the finish line, and then onwards towards the finish.
The Bogle tired me in ways I hadn’t previously anticipated. I knew it would be a physically tiring time. I knew I’d have to tell myself just to keep going and that I was going to finish it. I didn’t expect the fatigue and stress of the previous few weeks to be brought close to the surface due to Bogle fatigue and for me to feel like I inexplicably was going to burst into tears. This, I was completely unprepared for.
I finished The Bogle at 17:57. About 8 hours, 37 minutes, 26 miles after I started – an average speed of about 3mph. There were no blisters or other injuries.
You can still sponsor me here!
Last weekend, I went to Patterdale, in the Lake District on a weekend trip. It’s nice to get out of Manchester, and even though the weather wasn’t fantastic, there was still plenty to do.
A more energetic group wanted to do St. Sunday’s Crag, Fairfield, Helvellyn, Striding Edge, which sounded good and strenuous and exciting, but wasn’t my idea of fun given the icy conditions about about 500m.
Fortunately, I really wanted to explore the landscape to the east and so, with low lying cloud looking like it was going to obscure most felltop views, we left the bunkhouse in Glenridding, and walked north along the side of the valley, next to Ullswater.
Once we reached Martindale, we started up Winter Crag, Beda Fell, Beda Knott. The original plan (in green) was to go on to Angle tarn, but time was running tight and we weren’t sure on the light, so in the end we cut shot and dropped back down into Patterdale and headed home!
The next day, we headed up Loughrigg Fell near Grasmere from the car park at Rydal. Although the walk was quite easy, the weather was much better and the views were stunning.
Someone had brought along a horse’s head, so we had a lot of fun, wearing a horseshead whilst walking up the hill. One thing we learnt very quickly was that “why the long face” became unfunny very quickly, but the expression of surprise and confusion on people’s (strangely, mainly adults!) was hilarious.
As you can see, it was good weekend!
Last summer, I went on a week long cycle tour around Skye and Rasaay. In preparation of doing so, I figured it would make sense to test the new kit I’d bought for the expedition with two day “dry run” in the Lake District.
I got the train to Windemere with my Bike, cycled up to Langdale. Dropped all my kit into a rucksack, and, as it was getting towards dusk, I started up the hill and made camp by Stickle Tarn where I made this video:
The trip was actually very helpful. At the time I was using an all-in-one frayed pannier thing, held in the centre with what was essentially a large elastic band. On my cycle back to Manchester, this elastic band somehow managed to come undone and, whilst I was cycling, wrap itself around my back axle and gears. This lead to the rather unpleasant moment where my Bike started braking and I couldn’t work out what was wrong. It was on a section with double white lines and I had cars behind me so when I had to pull into the side and walk my bike (lifting the back wheel off the ground) to somewhere I could pull in, it wasn’t the most pleasant experience! Ultimately, I had to cut the rubber band off bit by bit as it was well and truly wrapped around the wheel.
This spurred me to go and buy some nice snap-on, snap-of Altura Orkney 85 panniers which turned out to be just what I needed!
Last March I went hiking with UMHC to Langdale for the first time. This was the first time I did, Jack’s Rake, Harrison Stickle, Pike o’Stickle, Pavey Ark etc.
I made a bit of a video that day and it came out rather well. It did help that it was a beautiful day of course:
Back at the beginning of January, Ronni and I walked from Chinley to Manchester, right along the A6 as training for long distance roadwalks.
Chinley is about 20 miles away from the centre of Manchester so we got the train to Chinley at 6.30 AM on a Monday morning and walked in the dark to the A6 and then as dawn broke walked through Furness Vale to New Mills.
From New Mills, we pressed onwards to Hazel Grove where we shot this video:
From Hazel Grove we head straight on to Stockport and arrived about 10am. From there it was just a long slog for the last 10 miles up through Heaton Norris, Levenshulme, Longsight and Ardwick and finally into the centre.
I think we did 3mph for the first 15 miles but on the last 5, I’m pretty sure I slowed to 2mph. I’d not had breakfast or anything to eat yet and was struggling by that point.
All in all it was a good one, long but has helped me establish how I can cope with long distance, flat walks.