Dartmoor solo 4+1 day walk – Day 2

Day 2's 19.1km route. This consisted of 722 mtrs ascent and 606 mtrs descent.

Day 2’s 19.1km route. This consisted of 722 mtrs ascent and 606 mtrs descent.

Day 2 started off with some pretty bad weather, but luckily for me, this got better as the day progressed.

One of the defining characteristics of this day was the number of stream crossings I would have to make. In fact, as soon as I was packed up and ready to go, I was faced with the first crossing of the day straight away!

The start of day 2 was hampered by trying to find a safe crossing point across the stream. Blue is planned, Grey is actual. This detour cost me a fair bit of time - something that I was acutely aware of given the limited daylight hours in the winter.

The start of day 2 was hampered by trying to find a safe crossing point across the stream. Blue is planned, Grey is actual. This detour cost me a fair bit of time – something that I was acutely aware of given the limited daylight hours in the winter.

Crossing streams in wet weather is a lot more difficult than in the dry because the rocks are very slippery. Although stream crossings sound like a trivial affair, they are actually one of the highest risk procedures that I have to do for this solo walk.

The chances of slipping on hard rock is greatly increased due to the wet moss and uneven stream beds. A slippage could result in a walk-ending injury at the very worst or at the very least would ensure that I got wet.

With only one set of clothes, getting them wet in the Winter is not an option. As such, I had to pick my crossing points very carefully.

To add further drama to proceedings, I’m right in the middle of the North Dartmoor Army training areas which I know will be live the following day. This means that regardless of the time, I have to ensure that I have cleared the areas for my own personal safety.

As usual I will let the pictures tell the story!

It's good morning from Kneeset Foot! The visibility at this point is quite poor, though it hasn't started to rain just yet. I'm a happy bunny as I now have a fully working camera.

It’s good morning from Kneeset Foot! The visibility at this point is quite poor, though it hasn’t started to rain just yet. I’m a happy bunny as I now have a fully working camera.

Time to get the breakfast on. Thanks to John's tip about replacing the fin protector on the Jetboil with a titanium cup, I now have a means to cook porridge and enjoy a cup of coffee!

Time to get the breakfast on. Thanks to John’s tip about replacing the fin protector on the Jetboil with a titanium cup, I now have a means to cook porridge and enjoy a cup of coffee!

As is usual, one of the first tasks of the day is to gather water for the up and coming day. This is the view back to the tent from my water-filling location.

As is usual, one of the first tasks of the day is to gather water for the up and coming day. This is the view back to the tent from my water-filling location.

All packed up! Once again, I leave the ground spotless. I cannot reiterate how important it is to leave nature the way you found it.

All packed up! Once again, I leave the ground spotless. I cannot reiterate how important it is to leave nature the way you found it.

Straight away I run into my first problem. I need to cross this stream, but it is very deep. I have only just put on my kit, including plasters to protect my feet, so I decide not to ford the stream. Instead I decide to follow it Southward to try and locate a suitable crossing point.

Straight away I run into my first problem. I need to cross this stream, but it is very deep. I have only just put on my kit, including plasters to protect my feet, so I decide not to ford the stream. Instead I decide to follow it Southward to try and locate a suitable crossing point.

I find myself getting nearer and nearer to Kneeset Nose as I end up going more and more off course. These rocks look like ideal crossing points, but after testing the nearest ones, they turned out to be lethally slippery. As a solo hiker, I cannot afford to fall in, or hurt my self on a crossing. So instead I elect to continue my search for a suitable crossing point.

I find myself getting nearer and nearer to Kneeset Nose as I end up going more and more off course. These rocks look like ideal crossing points, but after testing the nearest ones, they turned out to be lethally slippery. As a solo hiker, I cannot afford to fall in, or hurt my self on a crossing. So instead I elect to continue my search for a suitable crossing point.

Eventually I find some rocks that are not completely covered in slippery moss. It was tricky getting to them, but I knew this was probably my best chance at getting across the stream without getting wet.

Eventually I find some rocks that are not completely covered in slippery moss. It was tricky getting to them, but I knew this was probably my best chance at getting across the stream without getting wet.

Now that I have finally crossed the stream, I find myself way off course to the East. Here I'm on the flanks of Great Kneeset hill hiking Westward with the intent of picking up my original route.

Now that I have finally crossed the stream, I find myself way off course to the East. Here I’m on the flanks of Great Kneeset hill hiking Westward with the intent of picking up my original route.

Visibility then starts to close down. As an added bonus the rain starts. From here on in it is navigation by compass and hill contours. With this technique you don't ever know your precise location, but you do know which hill you are on and roughly where you are on it!

Visibility then starts to close down. As an added bonus the rain starts. From here on in it is navigation by compass and hill contours. With this technique you don’t ever know your precise location, but you do know which hill you are on and roughly where you are on it!

For some reason I really get a buzz when I'm in these poor visibility situations. I love the challenge of trying to navigate in such conditions and the rewards when things turn out right!

For some reason I really get a buzz when I’m in these poor visibility situations. I love the challenge of trying to navigate in such conditions and the rewards when things turn out right!

Eventually my travels Westward take me to the valley separating Great Kneeset hill from Amicombe hill which is directly ahead. At this point I kind of know where I am to within around 500 mtrs or so, which in this case is good enough. The plan is to head Westward and intercept the original route somewhere near Chat Tor.

Eventually my travels Westward take me to the valley separating Great Kneeset hill from Amicombe hill which is directly ahead. At this point I kind of know where I am to within around 500 mtrs or so, which in this case is good enough. The plan is to head Westward and intercept the original route somewhere near Chat Tor.

I reach the top of Amicombe hill which is very boggy and swept with high winds and rain. The intent at this point is to initially head Westward to allow me to run into a catchment feature called Rattle Brook. From there I would attempt to locate a path that crosses it which would then enable me to get a precise navigation fix. Once I have the precise fix, it is then a simple case of dialling in a compass bearing directly to Chat Tor.

I reach the top of Amicombe hill which is very boggy and swept with high winds and rain. The intent at this point is to initially head Westward to allow me to run into a catchment feature called Rattle Brook. From there I would attempt to locate a path that crosses it which would then enable me to get a precise navigation fix. Once I have the precise fix, it is then a simple case of dialling in a compass bearing directly to Chat Tor.

Navigation +1 :) Here I bump into Rattle Brook - the catchment feature. I just need to climb down and make my crossing. From here I head Southward looking for the track that crosses the brook. I discover that I am a lot closer to it than expected as it turns up in a matter of minutes. From there I dial in a compass bearing to take me to Chat Tor.

Navigation +1 🙂 Here I bump into Rattle Brook – the catchment feature. I just need to climb down and make my crossing. From here I head Southward looking for the track that crosses the brook. I discover that I am a lot closer to it than expected as it turns up in a matter of minutes. From there I dial in a compass bearing to take me to Chat Tor.

I'm now on a compass bearing on my way to Chat Tor. The rain and mist are so bad I discover that I can actually see a lot more without my glasses on!

I’m now on a compass bearing on my way to Chat Tor. The rain and mist are so bad I discover that I can actually see a lot more without my glasses on!

I get a thrill of elation as Chat Tor starts to come out of the fog!

I get a thrill of elation as Chat Tor starts to come out of the fog!

I cannot describe the buzz one gets when the compass navigation pulls it out of the bag. Despite the weather I was a very happy chap at this point!

I cannot describe the buzz one gets when the compass navigation pulls it out of the bag. Despite the weather I was a very happy chap at this point!

As I approach Chat Tor I notice an odd orange flag and wonder what it is...

As I approach Chat Tor I notice an odd orange flag and wonder what it is…

At first I couldn't figure it out. Then out of the fog appears a lone hill runner. He says that I should expect to see many more runners soon. This flag is part of their route. In the basket is a paper hole punch which the runners use to punch their route cards. I thought I was mad, but these guys are truly bonkers!

At first I couldn’t figure it out. Then out of the fog appears a lone hill runner. He says that I should expect to see many more runners soon. This flag is part of their route. In the basket is a paper hole punch which the runners use to punch their route cards. I thought I was mad, but these guys are truly bonkers!

After an ever so embarrassing navigation cock-up - we won't go there :p I eventually dial in the correct bearing into my compass to take me to Sharp Tor. Here it is just coming out of the fog.

After an ever so embarrassing navigation cock-up – we won’t go there :p I eventually dial in the correct bearing into my compass to take me to Sharp Tor. Here it is just coming out of the fog.

The terrain is quite difficult and boggy on the way to Sharp Tor which does impede progress somewhat. Time-wise, it is now approaching midday, so I make the decision to have lunch on this Tor.

The terrain is quite difficult and boggy on the way to Sharp Tor which does impede progress somewhat. Time-wise, it is now approaching midday, so I make the decision to have lunch on this Tor.

To the North West I spot what at first I thought was a man stood on Brat Tor. But after observing 'him' for a while it becomes apparent that it is in fact a stone cross. In this case the Widgery Cross.

To the North West I spot what at first I thought was a man stood on Brat Tor. But after observing ‘him’ for a while it becomes apparent that it is in fact a stone cross. In this case the Widgery Cross.

The view to the South West from Sharp Tor. The weather is starting to show signs of improvement. The rain has stopped and the fog is starting to open too!

The view to the South West from Sharp Tor. The weather is starting to show signs of improvement. The rain has stopped and the fog is starting to open too!

This is the view from my lunch spot at Sharp Tor. The scenery does look bleak, but I really enjoy it!

This is the view from my lunch spot at Sharp Tor. The scenery does look bleak, but I really enjoy it!

With the lunch consumed, I look to the Southwest to eyeball the next destination which is Hare Tor. By now the fog and rain have pretty much disappeared.

With the lunch consumed, I look to the Southwest to eyeball the next destination which is Hare Tor. By now the fog and rain have pretty much disappeared.

On route to Hare Tor. This is the half way point between Sharp Tor and Hare Tor.

On route to Hare Tor. This is the half way point between Sharp Tor and Hare Tor.

I get to the top of Hare Tor and enjoy the view! Here I'm looking South South West over the plain that will take me to Ger Tor at around 1km in the distance.

I get to the top of Hare Tor and enjoy the view! Here I’m looking South South West over the plain that will take me to Ger Tor at around 1km in the distance.

This is the view back toward Sharp Tor in the distance. For the first time on the trip I'm starting to get some great views!

This is the view back toward Sharp Tor in the distance. For the first time on the trip I’m starting to get some great views!

I now start my climb down from Hare Tor to start the journey to Ger Tor which is directly ahead. Although visibility is good, I still take compass bearings to confirm that the Tor I'm looking at is the right one.

I now start my climb down from Hare Tor to start the journey to Ger Tor which is directly ahead. Although visibility is good, I still take compass bearings to confirm that the Tor I’m looking at is the right one.

As I approach Ger Tor I notice two horses there and evidence of some Army equipment.

As I approach Ger Tor I notice two horses there and evidence of some Army equipment.

Welcome to our Tor Earthling! :D

Welcome to our Tor Earthling! 😀

To the South and a fair way downwards I see the River Tavy. I'm a little worried as during planning this was identified as one of the biggest risks in terms of not being able to cross it...

To the South and a fair way downwards I see the River Tavy. I’m a little worried as during planning this was identified as one of the biggest risks in terms of not being able to cross it…

I now start my descent down the side of Ger Tor. The terrain is pretty steep and quite slippery.

I now start my descent down the side of Ger Tor. The terrain is pretty steep and quite slippery.

As I descend I also get a great view of Mine Leat - an artificial water way that runs alongside the River Tavy. I try to take advantage of my elevation to spot an easy way across the Tavy.

As I descend I also get a great view of Mine Leat – an artificial water way that runs alongside the River Tavy. I try to take advantage of my elevation to spot an easy way across the Tavy.

The terrain on the way down the hill is very challenging. It is slippery and covered in vegetation that prevents one from seeing how deep each foot placement is going to be. This made for some surprises and a very jarring climb down.

The terrain on the way down the hill is very challenging. It is slippery and covered in vegetation that prevents one from seeing how deep each foot placement is going to be. This made for some surprises and a very jarring climb down.

I finally get to the bottom where I'm pleased to note that there is a man made bridge across the leat! That will save on one crossing, but I will still need to figure out how to cross the much bigger River Tavy.

I finally get to the bottom where I’m pleased to note that there is a man made bridge across the leat! That will save on one crossing, but I will still need to figure out how to cross the much bigger River Tavy.

Another crossing point! Here I walked up and down the bank several times noting the least riskiest places to cross. It does take a fair bit of time, but with only one set of clothes, I cannot afford to fall in!

Another crossing point! Here I walked up and down the bank several times noting the least riskiest places to cross. It does take a fair bit of time, but with only one set of clothes, I cannot afford to fall in!

After much searching, I decide that this will be my crossing point across the River Tavy. It's a little touch and go in places, but I do make it across without getting wet!

After much searching, I decide that this will be my crossing point across the River Tavy. It’s a little touch and go in places, but I do make it across without getting wet!

I'm now across the other-side of the River Tavy and ascending Standon Hill. Here I'm taking a quick breather and enjoying the view!

I’m now across the other-side of the River Tavy and ascending Standon Hill. Here I’m taking a quick breather and enjoying the view!

Once over the initial steep part, the rest of the ascent of Standon Hill is quite shallow. The intent here is to clear the hill and look for the South Common Plantation which should present me with a very identifiable navigation reference point.

Once over the initial steep part, the rest of the ascent of Standon Hill is quite shallow. The intent here is to clear the hill and look for the South Common Plantation which should present me with a very identifiable navigation reference point.

As I ascend Standon Hill I look to the North and see these strange hill structures. I don't know what they are, but they do look impressive!

As I ascend Standon Hill I look to the North and see these strange hill structures. I don’t know what they are, but they do look impressive!

*Zoom On* To the West and a long way away, I can see the Army Rifle range.

*Zoom On* To the West and a long way away, I can see the Army Rifle range.

On the way up Standon Hill I spot this rather odd rock. It made a great walk-to reference feature!

On the way up Standon Hill I spot this rather odd rock. It made a great walk-to reference feature!

As I get to the top of Standon Hill I get the first view of Great Mis Tor. I know I'm starting to run out of time, but I also know that Great Mis Tor marks the outside boundary of the Army Training ranges that I am currently in. At a minimum I have to make it to that Tor by the end of the day to guarantee my safety, as tomorrow this Army Range will go live.

As I get to the top of Standon Hill I get the first view of Great Mis Tor. I know I’m starting to run out of time, but I also know that Great Mis Tor marks the outside boundary of the Army Training ranges that I am currently in. At a minimum I have to make it to that Tor by the end of the day to guarantee my safety, as tomorrow this Army Range will go live.

As I start to descend from Standon Hill I spot the circular tree formation that is the South Common Plantation. I now know exactly where I am! The original plan calls for following the wall up ahead to get to Lynch Tor, but I have another plan...

As I start to descend from Standon Hill I spot the circular tree formation that is the South Common Plantation. I now know exactly where I am! The original plan calls for following the wall up ahead to get to Lynch Tor, but I have another plan…

An example of on the fly route planning! Here i was supposed to follow the blue line by handrailing the wall down the hill and then breaking off up to Lynch Tor. However, I noticed that the terrain near the wall was very muddy. To avoid the mud I decide to contour around the hill. From the ground perspective it looked like I was taking a big detour, but the map shows otherwise. Contouring is a great technique for reducing the amount of elevation change that one has to negotiate. In this example, the contouring halved the amount of hill I had to climb - so it is a very effective technique.

An example of on the fly route planning! Here i was supposed to follow the blue line by handrailing the wall down the hill and then breaking off up to Lynch Tor. However, I noticed that the terrain near the wall was very muddy. To avoid the mud I decide to contour around the hill. From the ground perspective it looked like I was taking a big detour, but the map shows otherwise. Contouring is a great technique for reducing the amount of elevation change that one has to negotiate. In this example, the contouring halved the amount of hill I had to climb – so it is a very effective technique.

Here I'm contouring my way toward Lynch Tor which can just be seen in the top right of the photo.

Here I’m contouring my way toward Lynch Tor which can just be seen in the top right of the photo.

With the contouring part of the walk over, I now start the ascent up to Lynch Tor. By contouring instead of taking the direct route, I save myself 90 metres of descent and 70 metres of ascent - not a bad pay off for using that technique!

With the contouring part of the walk over, I now start the ascent up to Lynch Tor. By contouring instead of taking the direct route, I save myself 90 metres of descent and 70 metres of ascent – not a bad pay off for using that technique!

At the top of Lynch Tor! Once again Army equipment spoils the view :/

At the top of Lynch Tor! Once again Army equipment spoils the view :/

With the sun getting precariously close to the horizon, I now head directly for Great Mis Tor.

With the sun getting precariously close to the horizon, I now head directly for Great Mis Tor.

The combination of cloud and setting sun makes for some spectacular views. I know from my map that in the valley up ahead will be yet another stream that I will have to negotiate. In this case the River Walkham.

The combination of cloud and setting sun makes for some spectacular views. I know from my map that in the valley up ahead will be yet another stream that I will have to negotiate. In this case the River Walkham.

I get to the River Walkham and once again there are no obvious crossing points. With time running out I decide that the only option is to ford it.

I get to the River Walkham and once again there are no obvious crossing points. With time running out I decide that the only option is to ford it.

With boots around my neck I am now ready to ford the stream. It is quite deep and very cold!

With boots around my neck I am now ready to ford the stream. It is quite deep and very cold!

With the stream forded I take some time to fill all my water bottles as I know there will be no water sources on Great Mis Tor which I have now decided will be the final camp spot for today. This is the view Southward as I make the ascent up Greena Ball to take me to Great Mis Tor.

With the stream forded I take some time to fill all my water bottles as I know there will be no water sources on Great Mis Tor which I have now decided will be the final camp spot for today. This is the view Southward as I make the ascent up Greena Ball to take me to Great Mis Tor.

The terrain is quite tough, but I know this is the last leg of today's journey so I manage to find reserves of energy. The setting sun also helps spur one on!

The terrain is quite tough, but I know this is the last leg of today’s journey so I manage to find reserves of energy. The setting sun also helps spur one on!

Far to the South East I can see the Television Station on North Hessary Tor.

Far to the South East I can see the Television Station on North Hessary Tor.

Woot! I now have eyes on my final destination. I know that when I reach it I will be out of the Army Firing ranges. One last push!

Woot! I now have eyes on my final destination. I know that when I reach it I will be out of the Army Firing ranges. One last push!

Nearly there! A quick self photo just before I make it to the destination for Day 2. The lamp was put on after crossing the River Walkham as I know that sunlight will soon be in short supply.

Nearly there! A quick self photo just before I make it to the destination for Day 2. The lamp was put on after crossing the River Walkham as I know that sunlight will soon be in short supply.

Great Mis Tor beckons!

Great Mis Tor beckons!

With a sigh of relief I have now passed this sign which marks the boundary of the Army Training Areas. I should now be able to camp in safety at any spot from here on in. With that in mind I start looking out for good pitching spots.

With a sigh of relief I have now passed this sign which marks the boundary of the Army Training Areas. I should now be able to camp in safety at any spot from here on in. With that in mind I start looking out for good pitching spots.

This was a bit cheeky. Although this is now outside of the Army Training Areas, they have still put a structure up on Great Mis Tor...

This was a bit cheeky. Although this is now outside of the Army Training Areas, they have still put a structure up on Great Mis Tor…

This looks like a great spot for the tent. So I put the rucksack down and try lying down in various places to find the most comfortable spot before putting the tent up.

This looks like a great spot for the tent. So I put the rucksack down and try lying down in various places to find the most comfortable spot before putting the tent up.

The tent goes up just in time!

The tent goes up just in time!

The sunset is a spectacular one and made for great views whilst waiting for my food to reconstitute.

The sunset is a spectacular one and made for great views whilst waiting for my food to reconstitute.

The view out of the tent. It was great seeing the landscape transform to darkness and watching all the little man made lights come on off of the moor.

The view out of the tent. It was great seeing the landscape transform to darkness and watching all the little man made lights come on off of the moor.

In the tent munching on one of my Fuizion Meals for the night. This one is a very nice curry with spinach! Here I have snipped a fair bit of the packaging off with the First Aid Scissors to make the food more easily accessible for my spork.

In the tent munching on one of my Fuizion Meals for the night. This one is a very nice curry with spinach! Here I have snipped a fair bit of the packaging off with the First Aid Scissors to make the food more easily accessible for my spork.

The sun's final breath! It is now good night from me on day 2!

The sun’s final breath! It is now good night from me on day 2!

The final destination for day 2 near the top of Great Mis Tor.

The final destination for day 2 near the top of Great Mis Tor.

I know I’m now around 7 km short of my original planned destination and will have to make that up the following day. Tune in for the next part of this walk to see whether I regained the lost distance. In the meantime I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Laters
RobP

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About RobP

Got into backpacking in the spring of 2012. I started as a couch potato then made my way through walker, hiker and now backpacker! As you can see from below I have far too many hobbies! :)
This entry was posted in Backpacking, Camping, Dartmoor, Hiking, Multi-Day Walk, Navigation, Wild Camping and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Dartmoor solo 4+1 day walk – Day 2

  1. Robin says:

    Stream crossings are a challenge. They’re even more of a challenge in Scotland, where I generally take a pair of lightweight waders. Personally I always take a change of dry clothes in case I get soaked. Good precaution against hypothermia. Coordinating with firing is a bit of a pain, but, on the other hand, it’s kept the a North Moor free from development.

  2. RobP says:

    Someone sent me a link to a stream in the Cairngorms – and you are right, they are much more challenging. For that type of stream I would even consider taking a walking stick to aid balance.

    I often have a debate about whether it is worth bringing a change of clothes. Up until now I never had a need for them. I knew that if I fell in I would have to improvise with the layering system of existing clothing that I carried with me. If that failed, my plan was to pitch camp immediately to prevent the onset of hypothermia.

    One good thing about the Army Firings is that they are dedicated to keeping weekends free. This does help a lot with the planning and was one of the reasons why this walk started in Okehampton rather than Ivybridge – my initial choice.

    The Army part of the moor is by far the best bit in terms of rugged terrain and I have so far, always enjoyed being there. I think I do agree with your assessment, it seems that the Army presence is a double edged sword!

  3. Jim K says:

    Hi Rob
    I’m really enjoying your Dartmoor trip report. My backpacks have always centered around mountains and yet the walking on Dartmoor looks exhilarating. Plus, it’s a much easier drive from the South East, where I have the misfortune to live – I will start planning! Meanwhile, have a good Christmas and I look forward to the next installment.
    Cheers
    Jim

    • RobP says:

      Thanks Jim 🙂

      Dartmoor provides a very different experience from mountain walks. It seems to offer a greater feeling of wilderness, something that I don’t think can be beaten without going to Scotland. Plus as an added bonus, it is actually legal to wild camp there 🙂

  4. Pingback: 2013 – A Year in Review | Uk Backpacker

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