Wow, this is exciting! Writing the final tor-baggin blog. When I write again I will have (hopefully) succeeded in my climb of Mount Kilimanjaro!
Today’s walk from Dartmeet is extra special for me, being my final training walk on Dartmoor of course, but also it was on this walk so many months ago that I decided to apply for the Kilimanjaro Trek! This also means that it’ll be a really great test to see how much my fitness has improved over the past few months. I do very much recall almost having a heart attack halfway up to our first tor – Yartor Down. Let’s see how I fare this time!
Heading up from Dartmeet we have a straight climb of 120m to Yartor Down – it’s challenging and tough but no heart attacks or palpitations so this must be a good sign. The first thing I notice is that I can keep going now – last time, I found myself having to have the odd rest to catch my breath; today I don’t feel the need. The second thing I notice is how much the bracken and ferns have grown in a few months, luckily I’m not wearing shorts this time!
Our next stop is Sharp Tor, we could go the direct route but as this involves a 70m descent into a valley and a 70m ascent the other side, we elect to walk around the contour. This does mean also that we get to see some lovely hut circles which are along the path to Sharp Tor. The path we are following is actually the ‘Two Moors Way’ so it’s great underfoot and also a really easy route to navigate. We will actually be spending a lot of time today on the Two Moors Way. Sharp Tor is just as pretty as I remember. I have found that some tors on Dartmoor only have the odd rock at the top – Sharp Tor however LOOKS like a tor. Huge piles of rocks on the top – it’s just stunning!
Heading back to the Two Moors Way, we head across to Mel Tor. From Mel Tor, you get wonderful views across the Dart valley to the River Dart Nature Reserve. You can also make out the Vennford Reservoir in the distance. The rock piles on Mel Tor also provide an excellent windbreak for our coffee and banana refuelling break. We also got free entertainment in the form of a very excited Pug dog who seemed to want to explore every inch of Mel Tor regardless of where his owner wanted him to go!
Next up was a slightly more unusual tor – Hockinston Tor. I was very glad of the GPS to help in the locating of this one – we followed the path along until we appeared to be directly above the tor. Now we just had to descend directly down to the tor – simple right? Wrong! Upon leaving the path, the lovely smooth Two Moors Way – we were faced with bracken and gorse as far as the eye could see. Ouch – this was going to sting! The tricky part was that although we knew we just had to descent straight down for around 100m, we just couldn’t find a straight route through the gorse and bracken. This is where the GPS really came in handy – eventually we found a small pile of rocks amongst dense forest which we decided to claim as Hockinston tor!
Back on to the Two Moors Way, we followed it around to Tor #96, Aish Tor.
Our final tor before lunch was an interesting one – Leigh Tor. Approaching the tor it didn’t seem like a particularly high one – according to our OS map it was around 150m. As I began to climb the tor, using my recently learnt rock climbing skills, Pablo called back that I wasn’t to look down the other side……. Now when someone says this to you, what do you immediately do? Yup, I looked down. Oh my how I wished I hadn’t! We were climbing a pile of very big rocks which rose around 50m; on the other side – the side we weren’t climbing – the sheer drop was around three times that! I was very grateful that my boots were grippy and that it hadn’t been raining! That could have been entertaining otherwise! After clambering back down and waiting 15 minutes for Cecilia to stop photographing cows and berries, we retraced our route along the Two Moors Way heading back to towards Mel Tor and our first post lunch tor, Bel Tor.
Whilst tucked in a small dip eating our lunches, Cecilia recounted a story from being in North Wales and of having to hide in a small dip for hours on end waiting for mountain rescue dog in training to find her! All recharged and raring to go, we headed off for our final three tors – the first of which, Bel Tor, is actually on private land. So we got as close as we could (ie the gate marked Private Land) and claimed Tor #98. Poor Cecilia at this point was suffering with her cold a little, she explained that this would probably be how climbing Kilimanjaro would be at the altitude!
Our penultimate tor of the day was Corndon Tor, this one was another great stamina test for me as it’s a fairly steady hill to climb but it does feel a little relentless. Again, I was rather pleased with myself to be keeping a steady pace – no need for rest stops or breathers! My training has definitely paid off!
Finally from Corndon, we headed to my final tor. Number 100 and my favourite ever tor – Yar Tor. It is my favourite for a couple of reasons – firstly, I just think it sounds Devonian – Yar Tor (go on, say it now….see? it sounds proper Devon doesn’t it?) and secondly at the top, someone has taken the time to build what looks like a maze. It’s a pretty simple maze, you just follow the swirl and you get to the middle but I love the fact that someone did that! And there you have it – 100 tors bagged.
Today has been such a great day – I have a great sense of achievement to have completed my 100 tor challenge. Plus it has really given me such a boost to know that my fitness, my stamina and my determination have all improved hugely over the past few months. I have found that there is good kit and bad kit and generally learnt that spending a bit more gets you the good stuff that really works and makes the days out so much much more enjoyable.
So that’s me done for now – next stop Kilimanjaro! I must say a very huge thank you to Taunton Leisure for their very fabulous support and for publishing my musings over the past few months. The biggest thanks of all though go to my awesome trainers – Cecilia for the physical training and to Pablo for the mental training. There is absolutely no way I could be doing this without you both (errrr actually come to think of it, I really wouldn’t be doing this without you both – you talked me into it LOL).
And to you all, thank you all for reading my exploits. I do hope I have entertained a little and perhaps inspired someone to take up their own challenge! And as I said at the very beginning, if a self-confessed chocoholic film-buff couch potato like me can be bitten by the outdoors bug; anyone can!
Wish me luck!
If you would like to help support me in my challenge, you can sponsor me by visiting www.justgiving.com/kate-ainsley
If you would like more information about the amazing Save the Children FAST project, please visit the Save the Children website on www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/fast.html