Week 7 – How many tors can we fit in one days walking?

Now then, last week’s blog title about gorse might have been a little misleading but rest assured I am very justified in calling todays walk ‘How many tors can we fit into one day’s walking?’ the answer is 17 – yes 17!
Today’s training walk was all around Merrivale and took in many (yes I’m saying it again, 17!) tors both sides of the B3357 Dartmoor road. Smusie and Sneve were also joining us again! It was also my first training walk with my new backpack courtesy of the fantastic people at Taunton Leisure.
My new backpack is an Osprey 35l ladies pack. It has so many zip pockets and awesome features but my main reason for the new backpack was the sweating issue. When you are out hiking, climbing and walking you are bound to get hot and despite all of my fantastic wicking layers, I found that my back would always be the hottest and the sweatiest. I figured that this was because the backpack was settled right against my back. Both of my wonderful trainers already had Osprey backpacks with air vents called AirSpeed suspension (this is a LightWire alloy frame with a 3D tensioned breathable mesh backpanel) which allows air to pass between your back and the backpack itself. It doesn’t stop you sweating but it certainly makes things much more comfortable and cooler. 
A wide range of Osprey Rucksacks are available from tauntonleisure.com
I actually went in store to be fitted for my backpack – it’s really important to make sure that you get the pack that fits you so I knew that I needed professional advice. I, for example, have quite a short back so I went for the ladies size to make sure that the pack isn’t too high to obstruct my head and neck movement (as it did when I tried Pablo’s one for a trial) and equally, you don’t want it to be digging into your lower back. So in store, I tried the ladies pack on and had it filled with around 5kg of weight, just to make sure that it was comfortable. The new pack also has two zip pockets in the head pouch – one is a perfect size to fit your first aid kit and a ‘sit upon’ for sitting on damp grass during lunch! And other top pocket is ideal for storing keys (it has a key clip too so they won’t fall out – genius!), phones and your map and compass. With my new pack, I’m good to go.

Camelbak – an essential bit of kit for any serious walker

So heading off, very pleased with my new piece of kit; we parked at the pump house near to Rundlestone and set off towards tor number 1 (of 17 you know) of the day – Rundlestone Tor. We had a nice leisurely stroll up to Rundlestone and on our way assisted a lady trying to herd her sheep back in from the field. How daft are sheep? I thought they were all supposed to follow each other? Well, there is always one isn’t there?! And here she was hiding just the other side of the hedge from her fellow sheep!! From Rundlestone, we followed the path straight up to North Hessary Tor – some of you may know but this is where the local television aerial is. We had such fantastic views from here – we could pretty much see our entire days route.

Next up was Hollow Tor, Foggintor and Swelltor – all of which were within former quarries. These were fascinating to the boys in our party of course whereas Cecila, Smusie and I were far more enamoured with the ruins near Foggintor. Here we saw a former house wall which still had the windows and doorway – for anyone who is looking for a house project, Foggintor is the place for you. Stunning location, all the property needed is a roof, floor and three more walls. From Swelltor we had an exciting little descent down a very large pile of very large rocks into the former quarry. So far all of my rock experience has been climbing up – it’s actually just as challenging getting down!
With everyone safely into the quarry, we headed for Kings Tor (again, an ironic tor as I saw no Kings). On our way here we decided to make the most of a great photo opportunity, you were able to walk all of the way around one side of the quarry, which when zoomed in on the camera made us look just like we were on Striding Edge in the Lake District!! Our final tor in this little section was Hucken Tor which again has beautiful views across the valley to our next destination – Vixen Tor. Although to get to Vixen Tor we were to walk along a bridle path which followed the path of the River Walkham. It was refreshing to have lovely easy terrain under foot. We followed the path up to the road (the B3357) and walked along the road a little way before heading back along another bridle path but on the other side of the river.

Lighweight walking trousers, such as TNF
Meridian convertible pant make all the difference

Following this new path, as we approached Vixen Tor we saw that this was cordoned off as private property so sadly we couldn’t quite climb to the top. However as we did have our picture taken alongside it – so I’m counting it towards my 100 tor total! Next up was a straight line up to Heckwood Tor and on to Pew Tor. Heckwood had a lovely pile of rocks to climb – we took lots of pictures on this one! Pew Tor was our lunch stop and we were all very grateful for it. At lunch, I also discovered a fab feature on my new backpack, in addition to top entrance to the main capacity, there is a cheeky little zip on the front to get at it too. Which means that I didn’t have to empty the majority of my backpack, just to get my sarnies! Awesome!

Lunch stop over we descended a little to reach Feather Tor before joining up with another bridle path to head back up to the road. This time we crossed the road before heading up to the firstone of our three Staples of the day (Little, Middle and Great). We had a straight climb up of around 70m ascent to Little Staple before heading on a further 50m to Middle Staple. From here rather than carrying on to Great Staple, we took a little detour to collect up another tor on our list, Cox Tor.
Cecila was once again in charge of photos and considering than on Arms Tor, we all had to hide behind a rock with only our arms in the air; the boys in our ground were looking slightly concerned!! But panic over, everyone’s modesty was maintained 🙂 From Cox, now we headed to Great Staple Tor to complete our Staple trio and onward to Roos Tor.
For some reason, and even now I cannot recall what possessed me to say it but I uttered the now immortal words ‘I’m actually finding todays walk easy going’. It was at this point that I was shown the climb that were heading too on Pablo’s GPS. When you input a destination on the GPS, it calculates the route you’ll be taking and can provide, if so desired, a climb profile. This one, heading to Great Mis Tor, looked like a steep diagonal line. It’s fair to say that I had a little sense of humour failure at this point and upon finally reaching the top of Great Mis, I was indeed a Great big Mis(ery)!! This will teach me to utter those words; from now on I vowed only to say them once safely back near the car! But after the big climb of the day, up to 538m we had a lovely stroll back to the car taking in our final (and SEVENTEENTH) tor of the day, Little Mis Tor.
It had been a fantastic day and a fantastic route with a big bump up on my tor bagging numbers.
So things learnt this week –
Never ask your trainers how many tors do you think we can fit in a day!
Never comment how easy you are finding the walk just before your penultimate tor.
And finally, just like CamelBacs, goretex waterproofs and lightweight walking trousers; a backpack with an air vent makes ALL the difference!
Kate 🙂
Next week – Are these really hills? Lake District versus Dartmoor.
If you would like to help support me in my challenge, you can sponsor me by visiting http://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

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