September 30, 2016

The Colorado Trail pt1 – Waterton Canyon to Kenosha Pass

by backpackingbongos

Days 1 to 6

Colorado Trail segments 1 to 5

Lowest altitude – 5,522 feet    Highest altitude – 10,929 feet

Section distance – 71.7 miles    Cumulative distance – 71.7 miles

Section ascent – 12,416 feet    Cumulative ascent – 12,416 feet

It was well before dawn when I left the micro basement apartment that I had rented via Airbnb for three nights in RiNo, Denver. The streets usually filled with hipster beards and tattoos were deserted. The area is still a bit rough around the edges so I hurried the few blocks to the Light Rail station. The ticket machine spat out a handful of change in coins which was annoying, extra ballast for my rucksack until I hit the first town.

The first train whisked me to Union Station, where I changed to one that would take me to Federal Station. There in the still pre-dawn light I met with David, my own personal Trail Angel. David had answered a Facebook post that I had placed a few weeks before, asking for a lift to the trailhead at Waterton Canyon. He offered his services and once I arrived in Denver he invited me into his home for dinner and took me sightseeing around the local area. This included an acclimatisation (acclimation in the US) drive to the summit of Mount Evans.

David dropped me at the trailhead just as the sun was rising, bathing the large sign in a warm glow. He soon left and I found myself alone with nearly 500 miles of trail stretching before me. I have to admit that I found it a bit daunting!

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The first step on a long solo walk is always the hardest. The fact that I had spent close to a year planning and sorting out all the practicalities meant that the easiest part was now in front of me. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and enjoy a few weeks of glorious scenery. I just had to make that first solo step.

Waterton Canyon is probably the least exciting part of the whole Colorado Trail. It’s where Denver meets the mountains and a popular recreation area. I wanted to be there at dawn to beat both the crowds and the heat. The temperature in town the previous couple of days had exceeded 35C. Not very pleasant for a heavily laden Englishman.

The trail follows a gravel road alongside the South Platte River for the first seven miles. It’s the home of Bighorn Sheep which sadly I did not spot. In fact the whole valley was devoid of any nature during the three hours it took me to walk it. Early in the morning it’s the natural habitat of lycra clad cyclists and runners.

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For me it felt like the trail started properly once it left the gravel road and became single track as it entered the forest. I started the first of what would be many long and tiring climbs up multiple switchbacks to gain and crest a ridge.

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I knew that the first three sections of the trail are popular with mountain bikers, therefore I started on a weekday to avoid the crowds. The trail was still busy with cyclists, although it has to be said that every one of them was polite and courteous.

My campsite for the night was dictated by water, or rather the lack of it. Apart from the South Platte River at the start there was water only at miles 8.7 and 16.8. It was midday when I reached the first creek, far too early to camp, therefore I decided to push on and do nearly seventeen miles on the first day. Normally I would ease myself in a bit more slowly, but as I found out water and weather was to dominate most of my schedule over the following six weeks.

Segment one ends at the South Platte River Trailhead where camping is not allowed.  Thankfully a few hundred metres before the river there is a large sloping meadow and several camping spots. It was wickedly hot as I pitched the Hilleberg Enan and I spent a while wedged under a bush trying to seek shade. Later I walked down to the South Platte River to collect water. It felt weird taking water from such a large river in less than wild surroundings. I however just had to trust my water filter, plus I would soon be filling my water bottles from much worse sources!

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When flying west and wanting to get up early, jetlag works in your favour. After a very hot and stuffy night in the tent I was up and packed before the sun managed to peek over the steep valley walls. It’s rare that my mind and body is so wide awake at such an early hour, but my body clock was seven hours ahead. I managed to work this to my advantage for most of the trip, getting into a routine of up at dawn and bed when the sun went down.

However on that second day I had a big incentive to be up early. I had an area which was the site of a huge forest fire to cross. This meant that there would be no shade available for one of the hottest sections of the whole trail.

Getting to the burn area involved a long climb through the silent forest, the switchbacks making easy work of the very steep slopes. They take the longest possible route to ascend and do so at a reasonably gentle gradient, at least doubling the distance. However it is an efficient way to climb when carrying a heavy pack.

It turned out that there were two burn areas separated by a cool shady forest that remained untouched. Thankfully it was still morning and cool when I passed through the first, although the devastation was evident.

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It was good however to return to the trees for the middle part of the day.

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I then crossed into the second burn area during the hottest part of the day, the two photos below show the same hill from different angles.

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It was not only the heat (in the mid thirties Celsius) that hikers on this section have to contend with, it’s the lack of water. It is ten miles between water sources meaning that my pack was heavy with three litres when I left the South Platte River. I was down to my last drops during the hottest part of the day.

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Thankfully the North Fork Volunteer Fire Department comes to the rescue after those ten miles. A short distance from where the trail hits a road is a firehouse building and a very welcome tap. If it wasn’t for that tap it would be at least another three to five miles to a reliable creek.

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I spent at least two hours in the shade of the building with another CT hiker. It was great to sit and chat whilst hydrating and cooking a late lunch. I have to admit that I am rubbish at names and didn’t take any photos of hikers that I met along the way. It was always good to have the company of like-minded individuals though, however briefly our paths crossed.

I had decided to only walk a mile or two past the Firehouse before finding a dry camp (a camp without access to water). I therefore filled up with six litres and set back off into the heat and strong sun.

Once a comfortable distance from the road a clearing was found and the Enan pitched. It was yet another uncomfortably warm night.

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One of the main things that I was worried about was food and bears. There would often be signs at trailheads providing information on how you should be storing your food.

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My chosen method was to place everything smelly inside odour proof bags from REI and then put inside an Ursack. The Ursack would then be securely tied to the trunk of a tree.

The first few days of the trek have merged into one in my mind. Landscape wise they were very similar. A series of thickly forested ridges were climbed with the odd grassy clearing appearing. Every day the hills would get slightly bigger and I would sleep at a higher elevation. It was a great way to get my body acclimatised to the altitude, slowly and steadily.

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The Lost Creek Wilderness was the first of six wilderness areas that I would pass through. During the early stages these were the parts that I enjoyed the most. Firstly cyclists are prohibited from these areas and secondly the trail would have a more primitive feel to it. Most of the time cyclists were polite but you still had to keep your wits about you, otherwise you would get the fright of your life when one came hurtling round the corner. In the wilderness areas you could properly relax and let your mind drift.

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With good mobile coverage I was using social media as a bit of a crutch to stop feeling lonely during the first few days on the trail. Unless you have done it, most people probably don’t understand the mental impact of heading into unfamiliar territory on your own for weeks at a time. My lowest point on the trail came when it seemed just about everyone back at home decided to tease me about bears. Nearly every message that pinged through had an image of a bear, stats about bears or news stories about bears. I got close to quitting and going home, that was the level of impact it had on me at the time.

My message now to folks is simply this. Try and live your life without being an idiot!

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At mile 49 the trail enters and follows an unusually straight six-mile meadow, an opportunity to escape the trees and enjoy a large open section. After feeling hemmed in by pine and aspen it was good to see the sky and horizon, even though the sky was dark and threatening rain.

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At one point I had to shoo several cows off of the trail, thankfully they were more docile than the stampeding beasts back in the UK. They had decided to occupy an open area where I had planned to camp. With that and the sky looking like it would storm I bashed my way back into the forest, finding a sheltered pitch on a bed of pine needles.

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The next day as I followed the trail up the meadow the sun broke through the swirling mists revealing some of the mountains that rise above the treeline. I was now above 10,000ft for the first time so thankfully the heat was not as intense as it had been. It was cool in the shadows and dew had moistened the grass.

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My aim on day five was to find an attractive camp spot about five miles from Kenosha pass. That would then give me a short walk to the trailhead the following morning before attempting my first hitch hike in the US. Johnson Gulch fitted the bill perfectly and was my favourite pitch in this first section of the Colorado Trail.

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I found a flat area with nice soft grass (pitching on good quality grass is a rarity on the CT!) with a stand of young aspen trees to provide shade. It really was an idyllic spot and after pitching early I spent a very lazy afternoon simply lounging about and drying damp kit from the night before. I think that it was the first time that I felt truly relaxed since the start.

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A few times during the late evening and into the night it looked like a big storm was developing. The clouds were towering above me and I could actually see them grow by the minute. However they moved away leaving clear skies and cool temperatures. Once it was dark my tent would occasionally be lit up by distant flashes of lightning, although I did not hear any thunder.

The six miles from camp to Kenosha pass took me much longer than anticipated. Not because the trail was tough but because I kept being distracted by the views. Every few hundred metres I would take off my pack and sit in the sun and just stare. I was now properly in the Colorado High country and from that point on much of the trail would be above 10,000ft. The crystal clear skies and lack of humidity meant that I could see for miles, including the mountains I would be crossing in the next section. However before I could do that I needed to do a few more miles of trail and journey into town to resupply.

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US Highway 285 came as a rude shock after a few days in the woods and mountains. It was busy with fast traffic, from which I was reliant on a lift into FairPlay twenty miles away. I crossed the road and stuck out my thumb. To my surprise within five minutes a car had pulled over and I found myself heading into town with Janet and Janet, two Colorado Trail veterans.

**I did this trek to support the work of the John Muir Trust, and in particular the John Muir Award. Details of the fundraising page can be found here.**

September 25, 2016

Boulter, Colorado

by backpackingbongos

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486 miles.

89,354 feet of ascent.

37 days on the trail.

7 zero days*.

29 nights wild camping.

15 times stood at the side of the road hitch hiking into town.

1 day of snow.

3 blisters.

2 pairs of shoes.

Possible alien activity.

Plenty of thunderstorms.

No bears.

*A zero day is a day when you are not hiking on the trail. It’s usually spent in town resupplying, so you often end up walking large distances anyway!

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July 23, 2016

Colorado Trail gear list

by backpackingbongos

I have to admit that selecting gear for the Colorado Trail (CT) has been a bit of a Challenge. I’m away from home for eight weeks so am packing not only for the trail, but the time that I’ll spend either end and in towns along the way. The weather in the Colorado Rockies is notoriously unpredictable, a different proposition from say the High Sierra. In the lower elevations at the start of the trail temperatures are currently in the low to mid thirties centigrade. As I climb higher they should be much more manageable and in the low twenties centigrade. I will be spending most of my time above 10,000ft which means that nights can be on the chilly side, perhaps as low as freezing in some areas. I’ll be finishing in mid September which is definitely Fall (the Aspens are meant to be spectacular) which means the possibility of the odd snow fall at elevation. The main weather pattern however will be almost daily thunderstorms as August is the Monsoon season. These can be potentially life threatening if in the wrong place at the wrong time due to frequent lightning strikes. Temperatures can also plummet very quickly with large volumes of rain or hail and strong winds.

Basically I need to be able to cope with pretty much any and every weather condition!

I don’t, never have, and never will consider myself a lightweight backpacker. This trip is as much about enjoying camp each night as well as the actual walking. If I can comfortably carry my pack I’m happy! I was reading a CT trail journal last night where a young lad with a tiny base weight said that he would not talk to three other hikers on the trail as they were ‘traditional’ backpackers………….

Anyway, this is what I will be taking:

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Packing:

Montane Grand Tour 55 – This is probably the most comfortable pack that I have ever owned. It fits my back well, is reasonably light and has enough capacity to hold a weeks worth of food on top of my kit.

I like to keep everything organised so I have a selection of waterproof stuff sacks, plus a pack cover to keep the rain off. I’m a new convert to pack covers as it stops my rucksack gradually getting heavier during prolonged rain. Possibly overkill but I’m happy to carry that extra 100 grammes.

It is important that all my food and toiletries are bear proof whilst I am sleeping, I plan to ensure that these are not kept inside my tent. I have purchased a bear proof bag (Ursack) that will be tied to a tree a short distance from camp. Inside everything will be in odour proof Opsaks which I will purchase from REI in Denver. I don’t want to be losing my food a few days walk from town!

Shelter:

Hilleberg Enan – This is my current favourite tent for use outside of the winter months. It’s light, can be pitched in a couple of minutes and has a small footprint. I much prefer a full tent with inner to a tarp or mid. I have made a footprint out of Tyvek as I suspect that many of my pitches will be on bare earth, especially at established camping spots.

Sleeping:

PHD Minx + MLD Spirit Quilt – The PHD Minix is a hybrid bag with a synthetic base and down upper, it has no zip. It’s very warm and comfortable for its weight. It won’t however be suitable for temps close to freezing as I tend to sleep cold. Therefore to boost it I will be taking along the lightest MLD Spirit Quilt. As I am only taking light insulated clothing this can also double as camp wear if worn cape style. It will also keep condensation off my down bag when camping in cold and damp forests.

Thermarest X-therm – Warm and very comfortable for the weight, as long as I don’t get a puncture!

Clothing packed and worn:

All the clothes that I am taking with me are designed so that they can all be worn together if the temperature really dips. I don’t have a main insulation piece as such, the quilt will serve that purpose in camp.

My sleep wear is head to toe Merino, both for its warmth and also for its anti-stink properties. There is nothing better than having a set of clean and dry clothes to change into for camp and sleeping.

During the day I will either wear a lightweight pair of shorts or the Montane Terra Pack Pants, which are the lightest in the range. The long-sleeved Rab Aeon t-shirt is very light and comfortable in the heat and dries quickly if I need to wash it between towns.

X-socks weigh next to nothing and I feel are the best things to wear in trail shoes. Their light weight means that I can wear one pair and carry two. They get a bit crunchy after a couple of days so will need a rinse between towns.

Those trail shoes are Salomon XA Pro’s, a good compromise between a flimsy trail runner and a stiff walking shoe. They are the beefiest shoes that I have worn for a while so I hope that they last the distance. I recently did a 50 mile backpack in them and remained blister free, I hope that remains the case! I am taking a couple of pairs of spare insoles to mix and match due to different thickness and cushioning. When its hot I have a thin 3mm pair to give extra room in the shoes.

Tilley Outback – I am a new convert to Tilley hats. It’s really comfy, keeps the sun off my head and neck and means I don’t need to put my hood up in light rain.

A bog standard 100 weight micro fleece is about as versatile as it gets, warm when wet and easy to wash. A very light down gillet pairs well with it.

When in Sarek I found that my Rab Cirrus windproof was a lifesaver to keep the mozzies off me. I’m not a fan of insect repellant and I found that it prevented my arms, neck and back being bitten, especially when sitting in camp. Apparently there are some big horseflies this year on some sections of the CT!

Underwear is always Merino for me, it keeps smelling fresher for longer than any other material!

Cooking and drinking:

I had been intending to take the Flatcat Gear Bobcat alcohol stove which is very light and with fuel being readily available in the States. However there are lots of fire bans in place in Colorado which means that any stove without a shut off valve is illegal. These fire bans come and go and it can be difficult to know if you are about to head into an area with a ban. Therefore I am going to go with My Jetboil Minimo. This is much heavier but is a joy to use with water brought to a boil in a couple of minutes. It will roughly be a week between resupply points which means that it will use less fuel than the Bobcat over that time. Therefore weight wise they pretty much cancel each other out. It just means that I will have to be on the ball with regards to purchasing fuel.

For water I will have a couple of fizzy pop bottles for water attached to the shoulder straps of my pack. The rest will be carried in 2x 2lt Platypus’ in my pack. I think the longest stretch without water is about twenty miles. During the day I will filter using the Sawyer Mini, whilst in the evening I will bulk purify using Aqua Mira. All water MUST be either filtered or chemically treated!

Survival:

It has taken a while to decide what to take in terms of guidebooks and maps for navigation on the trail. Some people say that the trail is easy to follow and you don’t really need to take anything. I do however like a good map and like to see where I am in relation to the landscape around me. Therefore I will be taking four paper maps that include all but the first three days of the trail. As a backup I have the Guthook iPhone app which has mapping and will show where I am on the trail via GPS. Most importantly I have the Colorado Trail Data book which tells me where water sources are located, resupply points etc. All this paper weighs nearly half a kilo but I feel that it will enhance my hike.

My first aid kit is pretty comprehensive and put together myself. It should be sufficient to deal with the usual cuts, burns and blisters.

I’m taking along a Spot2, both to let my wife know that I am OK each day but also incase I need to call for rescue. It will also be used to track my location on a map which I will set up through Social Hiking.

Hygiene:

When hiking for days in hot weather it is important to keep certain parts of your body as clean as possible, otherwise chaffing can really spoil your day. It can be much more painful than blisters. The plan is to have a wash each day so I am taking a cloth and a small travel towel. Dr Bonners liquid soap goes a long way so I will take a small bottle along. It’s also good for washing clothes. Lanacane anti-chaffing gel keeps everything gliding along smoothly!

Gadgets:

My iphone will be my lifeline for keeping in touch with home and the outside world, although a signal will be unlikely in the mountains. It’s unlocked so I will purchase a SIM card once I arrive in Denver. I can phone home through WhatsApp when I get Wifi in towns. It will also be my back up camera as it takes pretty decent photos.

Sony RX100 iii – This is a cracking little camera which takes good quality photos whilst remaining small and light enough to fit in a hip belt pocket in my pack. I’ll be shooting in RAW as this will give me more control over how to process the photos when I get home. I’m taking a spare battery which will hopefully mean that I’ll have enough juice between towns.

Kindle – The joy of backpacking is spending lazy afternoons and evenings reading!

Powergen 12000 – This small power pack will enable the iPhone 6s plus to be charged about three times. I can also use it to charge the kindle if needs be. When in towns I have a folding Mubi plug with both UK and US adaptors, plus cables to charge everything.

The only thing to add to all this lot once in the US is up to a weeks food at a time, a canister of gas and a couple of litres of water…………

 

July 20, 2016

The Dales south to north – a Monsoon backpack pt2

by backpackingbongos

The Yorkshire Dales had vanished overnight. In its place had been left a ghostly world of damp swirling mist and heavy dew laden grass. It was not the most pleasant of experiences pulling on damp clothes and sodden footwear. My dry tent clothes were carefully wrapped and packed away, I was already looking forward to getting changed later than evening.

The track named Gilbert Lane runs north for several miles across open moorland, almost due north to Wensleydale. It was deathly silent as we made our way through the mist, bar the odd cry of a Curlew.

The miles were quick to the large village of Bainbridge where we made a beeline to the nearest cafe. Unfortunately cafes in tourist places turn out to be tea rooms, which mean smaller portions for high prices. We bagged a table and had lunch number one whilst my feet steamed with socks failing to dry.

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Rain was threatening again as we set off back into the hills. To get to the evenings planned camp we had to cross the moors that separate Wensleydale from Swaledale. A walled track led us steadily upwards before it deposited us in the middle of a field full of cattle.

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The bridleway then became the figment of a cartographers imagination so we left the invisible line and climbed steep slopes up into the cloud.

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It became wet once more so in full waterproofs we trudged through the mist towards the top of Oxnop common, where we found a ruined mine building to shelter in for a while. It was pretty damp and miserable on the summit.

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It was with some relief that we descended below the clouds at exactly the spot where I had planned. That was more down to technology than skill to be honest. Waterproofs came off and were quickly put on again, it was a real chore wearing them whilst so warm and humid.

We squelched through the hamlet of Ivelet and found a well hidden pitch on the moors above. To be honest we could have pitched anywhere and remained invisible in the mist and low cloud. It was another unpleasantly warm and humid night, the tent quickly getting wet with condensation. I was very thankful for those dry clothes.

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With no wind the only noise on the moors the next morning were the birds, including the strange drumming sound of a snipe. We were up and packed early again, heading for the landrover track that contours high above the River Swale. The sun was gradually winning its battle with the clouds, the scenery finally revealing itself.

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The view along upper Swaledale to Keld and beyond is an impressive one. Nine Standards filled the horizon and we knew that we would have to climb over its high shoulder before we could descend to Kirkby Stephen and journeys end.

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Whilst descending Swinner Gill we faced the tide of Coast to Coasters who must have set off from Keld that morning. It was a real international procession.

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As we reached the outskirts of Keld, a familiar figure with two dogs waved at us from the hillside above. It turned out to be Chrissie’s husband Geoff, who I am disappointed to report did not have ice-cold cans of pop or any form of treat to share with us. I just got my face licked by a labrador instead.

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The remote farm of Ravenseat in Whitsun Dale was a hive of activity, with Coast to Coasters streaming in and out. The baggage transfer companies must be making a fortune as most only sported small day sacks. We shared a table with a couple of Americans whilst Chrissie demolished a cream tea with much vigour. The farm has been on the telly box a lot recently with the shepherdess saying the word ‘ewe’ numerous times in an exaggerated Yorkshire accent.

With rumbles of thunder in the distance we made our way along the Coast to Coast path up onto the plateau of Nine Standards. After spotting a funnel cloud we were ready to leg it to lower ground if the storm got any closer. It was a long and very boggy trudge.

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We missed out the summit itself, instead picking up a track over Hartley Fell and down to Ladthwaite. The rain finally put in an appearance and after walking through wet waist-high meadows there was no point in putting on waterproof trousers. The only memorable moment on the navigational challenging field paths to Nateby was a near death experience with a herd of frisky cows. They came charging at us at full pelt whilst we were far away from the safety of a fence. We stood our ground and shouted whilst waving our hiking poles, thankfully they changed course at the last moment.

It was all worth it though when we finally reached the best tea van in Yorkshire for a large slice of much-needed cake.

July 4, 2016

The Dales south to north – a Monsoon backpack pt1

by backpackingbongos

The last of the light was fading as I parked the van high on the moors near the Tan Hill Inn. I had set off from Nottingham in shorts and t-shirt but I found the breeze soon whipped away any semblance of warmth. To the north, banks of cloud were rising and falling over the high escarpment, a wave of white covering the distant A66, muffling the sound of traffic. I made up the bed in the Doblo and lay there with the side door open watching the cloud lap upon the moorland shore.

I had hoped for an impressive cloud inversion in the morning but it was not to be. Instead it was a world of murk as I packed away the bed and pointed the Doblo in the direction of Kirkby Stephen train station.

You would have thought that no one had ever seen anyone brew coffee and eat a bowl of bran flakes outside a railway station before. It probably is not the done thing. I had plenty of time to relax and sort myself out before catching a train south to Settle. The aim for this long weekend was to meet Chrissie in Settle and then walk back through the Dales to Kirkby Stephen. A good leg stretcher and preparation for the Colorado Trail.

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83 kilometres with 2700 metres ascent over four days.

Chrissie and I started from the very busy Settle station and within minutes had stopped at a cafe to pick up cold drinks and lunch. There was not a cloud in the sky as we toiled up the steep track that would take us onto the limestone plateau. Even early in the day the heat was punishing.

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A path led us to the south of the impressive Warrendale Knotts and Attermire Scar, however it was far too hot to even contemplate exploring this area of limestone cliffs and caves.

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There was a minor bit of excitement where it looked like a cow had got itself tangled in a wire fence. We dumped our rucksacks and bravely approached the hefty bovine beast ready to use our trekking poles for defence if we needed to. As we got close the cow simply walked away. It was all a ploy to make us look silly.

The Yorkshire Dales in early June is a riot of yellow with all the meadows in full bloom. It’s a stunning sight, although not the best when you suffer from hayfever.

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When trekking in limestone country in hot and dry weather you need to bring along someone with a large and effective water filter. Chrissie fitted the bill nicely in this respect and we were soon drinking cool and clear water from Malham Tarn. It meant that I could leave the nasty chemicals in my pack.

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The honeypot area of the tarn was left behind as we climbed past Middle House Farm and onto the old track of Monk’s Road. the idea was to follow it for a while and then pitch at a spot where I had my fingers crossed there would be a trickle of water.

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Sadly the trickle had dried up leaving just the odd puddle. Chrissie’s super filter made short work of this and we found a grassy pitch nearby with great views over Cowside Beck. The grass was fragrant with herbs, the most pleasantly scented pitch I have ever had.

The sky began to darken, haze slowly blotting out the views. It was close and muggy and I kept my fingers crossed that it would not storm.

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A light rain fell during the night and the humidity was ramped up to what felt like one hundred percent. My sleeping bag had remained unzipped throughout the night. Early the next morning wet tents were packed away and we walked back up to the Monk’s Road which was followed down to Arncliffe.

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It was too early for the pub so we sat at a picnic table on the village green and ate snacks whilst a soft rain fell. Even standing still I felt like I was suffocating in my waterproofs. Neither of us was looking forward to the long climb over Old Cote Moor.

As if reading our minds the weather gods looked down at our discomfort and punished us the best way that they could by giving us a heavy downpour. I was soaked inside and outside my hard shell as we crested the moor and dropped down into Wharfedale.

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Chrissie said that there was an excellent cafe in Starbottom but it failed to materialise, I hid my inner tantrum well. Instead we were the first people to visit the rather frosty pub where we dripped all over the floor and squelched to a seat by a window. It stopped raining for the full hour that we were inside. Pints of sugary coke and a big bowl of chips lifted the spirits.

The Monsoon rains hit us on the outskirts of Buckden, just as we has started climbing again. It was heavier than any rain in the UK has the right to be. I consoled myself with the fact that I was not as miserable as Chrissie looked.

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With the power of Google maps I had located an idyllic looking campsite on the moors above Cray. A nice grassy swarth next to a meandering stream. Google maps however failed to show the thistles which covered every inch of the close-cropped turf. We therefore filled up our water bottles and tramped back up hill to a more exposed pitch.

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It was good to change out of sopping wet clothing into my tent outfit, it’s good for morale to know that dry clothes await in the bottom of my pack. Another very warm and humid night followed, with barely a breath of wind to keep the condensation at bay. I wasn’t looking forward to putting wet clothes back on the following day.

Part 2 will follow shortly (ish).

You can read Chrissie’s version of events here.