Day 1’s walked route of 9.4 km with 503 mtrs of ascent and 281 mtrs of descent. (Click for full sized map)
Before I proceed any further I’d like to take the opportunity of congratulating London Hiker for winning the hiking category for this year’s Trespass Awards. 🙂
Some newer readers may be wondering why I class this walk as a 3+2 day walk rather than a 5 day walk. The reason does make sense, at least in my head!
The + 2 refers to partial days. Normally my walks are all +1 walks as I like to leave the last day with a lot of slack in it. However, for this one, I knew that I would be arriving reasonably late and I also knew that there wasn’t a lot of daylight too. As such I planned the first day to be a partial one.
In the event, my planning was spot on; I got to the planned camp spot just as the sun was setting, an achievement that I also matched the following day. I guess that my planning has matured to a point where it is now reasonably accurate with regard to timings.
The photos for this walk were all taken with a waterproof Olympus TG4 camera which did remarkably well given the conditions. In fact I’m pretty sure that my Sony camera would have packed up on day 1 due to rain ingress. One day manufacturers will realise that many photos are actually taken outdoors…. 🙂
As usual I took many hundreds of photos, almost one every hundred metres or so. That way when uploaded to Facebook they form a virtual walk that I can take myself on at any time.
Alas, space is limited on the blog so I can only publish a select few at vastly reduced sizes.
So here goes, the first photo journal for 2016:
Okehampton! Back in familiar territory! In the distance one can see the Moors through the low cloud and rain.
I think I have exhausted all the possible routes on to the Moors now. So I plump for a simple one up the road past the Railway Station.
It is all up hill from the bus drop off point, but I soon get to the foot bridge that crosses the A30 road. Once over, I consider myself on Dartmoor proper.
Once across, the plan is to negotiate some fields to get me to Tors Road.
Tors Road should be just at the top of this hill. It seems the lack of hiking last year has impacted my fitness despite regular training. Either that or I’m conveniently forgetting how difficult hill walking is 😉
I’m now on Tors Road. The plan is to head down it for around two hundred metres, then hang a left at the first turning to take me toward Lower Halstock farm.
I’m now on the turn off heading broadly Eastward toward the farm. I know that as I near it, there should be a public footpath turning off it to the left.
The weather has been non stop rain so far. This will continue on for the rest of today’s walk.
I’m now nearing the farm. This was my exit route off the Moor on my last walk. However, I’m now looking for a footpath turnoff to the left.
As I head down the hill I spot the signs marking my turn off. The plan is to ultimately get me on the latter stages of the Tarka Trail which I have used many times in the past.
To get to the Tarka Trail I need to handrail this stream eastward until I get to the bridge that crosses it.
Ah, the ‘Bridge’! These wet stepping stones prove too slippery to safely use. Instead, I elect to take my boots off and just ford across the stream.
I have now crossed the stream and after towelling myself off, I get back underway. We are now heading toward the forest that should intercept with the Tarka Trail.
On the way to the Tarka Trail I spot my first Dartmoor Ponies. They seem completely oblivious to the rain!
There’s the forest up ahead. It should now be down hill to the East Okement River and the Tarka Trail.
I’ve never taken this trail before so I’m naturally quite interested to see where it comes out on the Tarka Trail.
When I get to the East Okement River I’m surprised at the water levels and the raging torrents. I guess the excessive rain we have been experiencing is starting to take its toil on the land.
I soon get to a familiar bridge that I first used on my first ever Dartmoor walk back in 2012, though back then it was the height of summer, with very different weather conditions.
The first task is to climb the hill to get me onto the main track leading Southwards further into the Moor.
It doesn’t look it here, but all the tracks are water logged. Putting one’s foot down results in a pool of water forming. My sieve-like Salomon boots have started leaking a long time ago, so I’m not particularly worried about the water.
After heading South for a bit I turn Eastward to face Belstone Tor. I need to climb right over that and back down the other side to get to a fording point that I need.
As I ascend the winds and rain are picking up. This is the view Northward toward Tors End Tor.
It doesn’t take too long to get up there, though the lack of recent hikes is really showing itself in my Gluteus Maximus muscles. I guess that’s a group my exercise regime fails to cover.
Another view Northwards toward Tors End Tors, but this time from the top. The winds are very strong up here and seem to be coming in from the West. As a result I’m quite keen to clamber down the other side of Belstone Tor to gain some sort of shelter and protection.
The view from the other side of Belstone Tor looking Eastward. Things are much calmer on this side of the hill. In fact it is quite amazing what a difference crossing the ridge-line has made. Down below is a main track that I need to get me to the only Fording Point for the River Taw.
The descent is littered with many slippery rocks. The ground itself also proves to be relatively slippery too. This makes the descent a cautious one.
I get to the bottom and proceed Southward. The plan is to continue in that direction until I see a turn off to the left that will take me to River Taw’s fording point.
There’s the turn off! Time to head to the fording point. In the distance, through the looming cloud and rain I can just make out the peak of Steeperton Tor. The plan is to camp at a stream located at its base.
I get to the ford where once again I’m taken aback by the water levels. Normally the river has a depth of a mere cm or two here, but right now, the water comes up to my lower knees.
After a relatively cold ford, I start to proceed Southward. There are no trails at this point, but navigation is reasonably easy, just head for Steeperton Tor peak at the centre of the picture.
The ground is exceptionally boggy, which does hinder progress somewhat. The winds are also quite high here too due to the exposure from the West. I’m hoping that as I near Steeperton I’ll get some wind protection from Oke Tor which is located off picture on the hill to the right.
The glasses came off a long time ago. The combination of wind and rain meant I could see a lot more without them on. The new attachment on the left shoulder strap is a camera stowage point. Although designed as a quick release stowage, I rarely use it, and elect to keep the camera in my hand instead.
As I get nearer to Steeperton Tor, my predictions about the wind start to become a reality as the hills on all three sides start to provide shelter. The next task is to look out for the stream and locate a decent place to camp nearby it.
I find the perfect spot and get the tent out ready for use. It is now starting to get dark, so I guess my timing was pretty spot on 🙂
Putting up the tent is like riding a bicycle. It goes up exceptionally quickly, despite not having been used for almost a year.
The first task of the day is to fill up my water bottles ready for camp. These are supposed to be small, slow flowing streamlets, but the weather has put paid to that!
Filling the bottles up takes time as I always filter my water. I get a great feeling of elation when I have completed the task and have a luxurious 3 litres of water on tap 🙂
Back to the Akto Tent. One of its best features in these conditions are the reflective corners. These make locating the tent in poor light very easy.
Today’s supper is going to be a Mountain House Macaroni Cheese!
Prior to adding water, the freeze dried meals never look very appetising…
To get the meal prepared I need to boil the necessary water first. The JetBoil Sol makes very short work of this.
After 10 minutes reconstituting with the water, the freeze dried food is transformed into a very good meal!
With the outside temperatures taking a nose dive, I decide to take a last look out of the tent before closing it up for the night.
The Amazon Kindle Voyage proves a worthy companion during the long nights of the Winter. With its built in backlight, there is no need to use a head torch. btw, Bonus points for anyone that can identify the book 🙂
The camp spot for the end of Day 1. It is in a very sheltered position, nestled between 3 hills. Being out of the wind does make a big difference!
So that ends day 1’s trip report. Tune in next week for Day 2’s crossing of the Northern Moors!