Since my first hike from Barnard Castle to Middleton in Teesdale earlier in the year I’ve grown quite fond of being outdoors. I don’t mind whether it is with good friends or on my tod really, but taking some mates along definitely keeps you in good spirits, especially when the walk doesn’t go entirely to plan. I’ve probably walked less than 100 miles this year and limited myself to northern English locations, including the North York Moors, Northumberland, The Pennines and the Lake District.
Next year I’d really like to be more ambitious in terms of mileage, level of challenge and the diversity of what I get up to when I’m out in the hills. For this reason I’ve put together a list of goals for 2013.
1. Improve my navigation skills
I started a series called Skilling Up: Navigation a while ago, and have since worked on reacquainting myself with the basics of map and compass navigation during both straightforward ascents and more hair-raising, foggy ordeals. I haven’t posted anything on the subject since, but rest assured I’ll be following the lesson plans from Lyle’s book and assimilating some of the knowledge from Tristan’s to help me become a confident and skilled navigator. The series will continue as I progress through the programme.
2. Incorporate fishing into my hikes
In May I bought myself a Tenkara USA fishing rod, line and flies and have been out a couple of times over spring and summer to learn the basics. In short, no fish have fallen victim thus far. In 2013 I would love to pull my first trout and grayling out of the water, but this will naturally require a decent investment of time and more than a bit of patience – something I’m not that well endowed with. There are plenty of instructional videos online to assist me and more than enough rivers and streams in my local area that should prove the ideal hunting grounds. Once I have the fundamentals down I plan on strapping my Iwana rod to the side of my pack and terrorising the tarns of the Lake District!
3. Eat better food
I’m sure mqhiker will agree, my outdoor cooking is more miss than hit. Even with a revised version of my Camp Kitchen on board I’ve not been very adventurous; I’ve mainly stuck to freeze dried and boil-in-the-bag meals but occasionally I attempt dodgy ‘paellas’ and other ungodly concoctions. It is high time I stepped up my cookery efforts. I’m not going to attempt to be the next Michel Roux Jr but some proper tasty one-pot dinners and breakfasts wouldn’t go amiss. Look out for some of my recipes and attempts and culinary genius over the coming months.
4. Take nicer photographs
Early in the year I took most of my outdoor photos on my Samsung Galaxy II smartphone. The results were serviceable but the phone’s camera offered little control over the exposure. I took the plunge a few months ago and bought a Panasonic Lumix GF2 with a 14mm (28mm equivalent) pancake lens which greatly improved results. So far I have used the GF2 mostly in the intelligent auto mode, despite being familiar with the fundamentals of photography. Over the next 12 months I’d like to go from taking tourist-y snapshots to being a competent landscape photographer.
Those people who’ve read a few of my trip reports may have noticed that I’m slowly attempting to tick hills off the Trail 100 list. Up until the time of writing I’ve managed to conquer six of them, but with a more focused effort I’d like to take that total to at least a quarter of the overall number by the end of 2013. I’d like to throw three planned trips into this category:
- Northern Ireland – My pal Steve has invited me over to his home land next year. As a kid he spent quite a bit of time in the Mourne Mountains and particularly recommends the iconic Slieve Donard, which is lucky as it is the only Trail 100 hill on the other side of the Irish Sea. I’m sure we’ll do a bit more walking while we’re there though; the landscape looks absolutely beautiful.
- Yorkshire Dales – A trip up Pen Y Ghent in July introduced me to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge. A 25 mile, 12 hour walk staring in Horton in Ribblesdale which takes in Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen Y Ghent. Once we’re a bit fitter I’d like to take this on with the boys.
- Bonnie Scotland – I’m in the early stages of planning a week-long trip to Arran during the Easter holidays. The initial idea is to spend two or three days walking and camping, one day sea kayaking and potentially a couple more making sure the produce coming out of the Arran Whiskey distillery and the the Isle of Arran brewery is up to par.
6. Pack more effectively
Since the summer I have used a combination of Exped fold dry bags and large zip lock bags to organise my gear but there are times when I feel that my system is not as efficient as it could be. If I ended up in a situation where my concentration was impaired by bad weather or something worse would I know exactly where everything is in my pack and be able to lay my hands on it at a moment’s notice?
Also, I’ve had the Berghaus Freeflow Pro 50 pack since 2010 and after a lot of use I have identified a number of shortcomings – not least that it is too small for the amount of winter gear I’d like to take camping with me. In 2013 I’ll be treating myself to a versatile replacement.
7. Get into scrambling
Michael and I tackled Striding Edge back in May and it was a really enjoyable experience, even with a full pack on my back. There’s plenty more challenging scrambles in the UK that I’d like to, figuratively, get my teeth into. This is probably the goal I’m most anxious about, but with the right training and guidance it should be quite achievable. Plus also, how can you say no to something like this?
After a great experience at Greg’s Hut I’d really like to repay others’ efforts by contributing more than a tube of Carnation Condensed Milk to our nation’s bothies. I’m not totally sure on how I’m going to do this, but the MBA does arranged planned work days where anyone who is interested and can spare the time meets MBA volunteers at a predetermined bothy and fixes anything that needs fixing. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for this kind of opportunity.
9. Thin out
Not weight, or pack weight – just stuff. It’s amazing how much you can acquire in a year and how much is subsequently ‘upgraded’ leaving you with piles of unused and unwanted, but perfectly functional stuff. I’d like to put this to good use, either by donating it to a local scout group or by giving some of it away via this blog.
I’m just starting to read more widely about outdoor pursuits, and having recently finished Nessmuk’s Camping and Woodcraft and Hamish Brown’s Hamish’s Mountain Walk I’d really like to get stuck into more of the history, wildlife and geology of the places I’m tramping through. My book collection is small as it stands, consisting of just a couple of Wainwright’s pictorial guides and a handful of volumes on hills and mountains. There’s clearly room for growth and definitely scope for improving my understanding and appreciation of the landscapes of Great Britain.
I’ll be reporting back on how this is all going throughout the year – hopefully with positive news of progression and with some great photos tacked on for good measure.