Week 2 – ‘Mizzle? What on earth is mizzle?

Now I had heard that weather on Dartmoor can be changeable.   This is an understatement; Dartmoor has its own weather.   Today I experienced how quickly the weather can go from sunshine to rain.   Training walk 2 involved tackling the ‘roof of Dartmoor’ – High Willhays and Yes Tor – the highest points of the moor. It was here that I was introduced to mizzle. This is not mist. This is not drizzle. This is mizzle. It takes the worst part of mist (not being able to see ANYTHING) and it takes the worst form of precipitation (wet rain – you know that horrid stuff, where it’s not even raining but you end up drenched). These two elements are put together by an evil weather genius – thus creating mizzle. You cannot see where you are going, where you have been or indeed your hand in front of your face and without it actually raining, you are soaked!
Heading for Yes Tor – in the mizzle!
I was really excited about our walk today, taking on the heights of High Willhays and Yes Tor.   This really was going to be a challenge.  Also I couldn’t wait to try out my new bits of kit.   Following on from last week, I had invested in a couple of new shirts – both made from wicking material – one short sleeved, one long; a 2 litre hydration pack and a pair of walking trousers with knee zips to convert to shorts should I overheat (but no chance of that in the mizzle……). 
Week 2’s route
Our walk began with a short road section followed by a steep climb up to our first tor. After this I had my first proper encounter with tussock grass (or the “Evil Grass” as I have renamed it). Dartmoor seems to have many types of terrain but so far tussock grass is certainly the most challenging. It really highlighted the need to have proper footwear – the grass is so uneven under foot, just one wrong step could result in a twisted ankle or even a fall.  On more than one occasion, I was incredibly grateful for the good ankle support that my boots offered.   After 4km of unrelenting Evil Grass, we had a steep climb up to Great Kneeset. When I got to the top I was certainly pleased with the way my new t shirts were performing too – I was also able to swap shirts and attach the damp one to the bag of my backpack to dry on our way to our lunch stop! With the help of my hydration pack, it made it so easy to keep drinking to stay refreshed. It is so important, by the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated so I tried to keep taking sips often. Without having to reach into my backpack for a bottle of water, I found myself drinking much more than last week. Its worth mentioning here the old phrase ‘you get what you pay for’. I must confess that we had bought a budget hydration pack (not from Taunton Leisure) rather than a brand name – I wouldn’t recommend it! All new packs have a slight plastic taste to them until they are used a bit and the taste goes away. Mine however tasted foul and continued to taint the water with a horrible chemical taste and smell after many many rinses!
After lunch we tackled High Willhays.  It was here that the Dartmoor climate came into its own – within minutes the weather had turned from cloudy but dry to the dreaded mizzle!  My new lightweight goretex waterproof jacket came into its own.  But I hadn’t yet invested in waterproof trousers and  by the time we reached the top of High Willhays, my trousers were drenched and I was cold.
High Willhays
Yes Tor also brought its own trials, it is a rocky tor and climbing down from the top was tricky in the mizzley weather.  I slipped on a wobbly slippery stone and almost twisted my ankle – again I was grateful for my boots to protect my feet and ankles, certainly could have been much worse. Also, I’m pretty sure my parents wouldn’t fancy carrying me back down!
As we headed back to the car, I discussed my lessons learnt for the day – firstly good boots are so important; secondly, never underestimate how quickly the weather can change so you really must be prepared for all types of weather; and finally, I needed some waterproof trousers!   Oh yes, and I was going to spend some extra money and buy a 3 litre CamelBac!

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.htm

Kate J

Next week – Week 3 – Grizzly in the Mist

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