Day 2’s route of 19.6 km with 628 mtrs of ascent and 633 mtrs of descent. (Click for full-sized map)
Day 2’s primary goal was to put me close enough to fellow bloggers at Crockern Farm, so that I could visit them the following morning.
The biggest challenge of the walk would be to ensure that as I headed Southward, that I remain on the correct side of the West Dart River before it becomes unfordable. It would only take a simple mistake to end up on the wrong side, which would probably result in missed visit.
As a result my normal relaxed attitude to navigation had to be dropped for a slightly higher precision approach 🙂
The walk took me up to around 600 mtrs or so where the winds were quite brutal, the profile can be seen below:
By Dartmoor standards there was a fair bit of hill climbing involved. With the strong winds, these type of elevations really didn’t help at all!
In terms of weather, the day started off with rain, then it got better to reveal some blue skies, but alas, it wouldn’t be long before these were replaced by drizzle and snow.
As usual the Northern Moors proved to be a tough proposition, but I have crossed it many times now and kind of knew what I was letting myself in for 🙂
Anyways, I’ll let the photos take you on a virtual hike!
I wake up to rain outside. As a result I elect to pack the sleeping bag and down jacket into their dry bags. Both of these items of kit, whilst exceedingly warm, are rendered useless if they get wet.
Time to get the breakfast on!
It’s my usual standard fare. Hot muesli (much more effective than porridge), a wheel of cheese, some coffee and a small cake.
After breakfast it’s time to boil water for my vaccuum flask. The winds have picked up so I have to partially close down the shelter whilst boiling the water. The top part of the door is left open to provide adequate ventilation for the stove.
Luckily, the rain eases off, which means that I can pack the tent as-one. This makes makes pitching it at the end of the day much easier. Once again I leave the ground in pristine condition.
I’m now all kitted up and ready for today’s 19 km walk!
The view Northward toward the direction that I had hiked in on during the previous day.
Time to get on with the climb Southward. To my right is a stream which I’m hand-railing upwards. I know from previous visits that the fording point for this stream is exceptionally boggy – even on a good day. As a result, I’m keen to make the crossing before I get there.
The flooded trees quite clearly show the exceptional water levels due to the incessant rains. I’m rather conscious that all the streams that I will be crossing today will be deeper and will be flowing faster than usual – this necessitates additional care.
To my right is Steeperton Tor. I need to make my way around its Southern flank, but before I can do that, I need to find a safe way across the stream.
The terrain by the stream is starting to look relatively difficult up ahead. As a result, I decide to hang a left up the hill and get some elevation under my belt.
As I climb up, I try to keep an eye out on the stream for any potential crossing points.
The climb up is a relatively prickly experience thanks to the thistles. These are actually relatively rare on Dartmoor, but they always seem to be strategically placed where one needs to go!
A look Northward back towards this morning’s old camp site toward the centre of the picture. The weather at this point isn’t too bad at all. Certainly an improvement from the previous day.
I soon get to the top. As predicted, the ground looks much easier to traverse. The plan is to head back toward the stream once the ground near it improves.
To my right, Steeperton Tor continues to tease me and remind me that I’m on the wrong side of the stream!
After I converge back onto the stream I manage to locate a great crossing point. This is the view after crossing over.
The original plan was to go around the Southern flank of Steeperton Tor. But instead, I elect to go right over it. I wanted to avoid the boggy areas by the stream and I wanted to get a representative sample of today’s wind speeds to see what it was up to! This is the view back toward the stream after a relatively steep initial climb.
The climb up is through typical Dartmoor terrain – grass tussocks! It’s quite difficult to convey how hard it is to cross this type of terrain with a heavy rucksack. You really need to go out there yourself and give it a go!
Soon the terrain starts to flatten out and I manage to get eyes on the rocks of Steeperton Tor. Not far to go now!
I’m now practically at the top. Although I’m sheltered from the winds by this rocky outcrop it is still rather blustery up here!
I’m now on the windy side of Steeperton Tor looking at the view Northward. I elect not too hang around due to the winds.
The next stage of the plan is to follow this trail Southward. It should intercept an Army track. In the distance on the left is Hangingstone Hill.
After a rather boggy descent I soon intercept the Army track. The plan is to follow it Southward until I reach a junction breaking of Westward to the right.
A look behind me back toward Steeperton Tor.
This track has so much running water that it almost qualifies as a stream!
Up ahead past the flooded area is the turn off to the right that I need. Time to break Westward.
This track should take me to a fording point across the River Taw. I have never been this way before, so I’m not too sure what to expect in terms of depth and current.
The fording point after having crossed it. The water levels were almost up to my knees on the deeper sections. But once again, the hiking poles help me plot the shallowest route across. The biggest pain with this crossing was the sand and grit. It’s very important to clean one’s feet properly prior to putting one’s boots back on, otherwise the sand will start acting like sandpaper!
The plan is to follow this track to a point where it meets another main track. From that junction onwards, the rest of today’s walk will be cross country only.
As I head Northwestwards I catch sight of an Army outpost. I guess these could be lifesavers if a hiker ever got caught out by the weather. In the far distance is Yes Tor, the second highest point on Dartmoor.
I eventually make it to the junction. It is now time to head cross country! This leg will take me Southwestward toward an unmarked hill at 521 mtrs where I will then proceed Southward toward Great Kneeset. I don’t know about other hikers, but I always feel a little odd when I initially abandon a well made track for the wilds! But this feeling soon subsides once I settle down into the cross country walking.
Here I find an animal trail which is broadly headed where I need to go. This saves having to negotiate the tussocks for the modest cost of a wetter ambulatory experience!
I soon get to the top of hill 521. I now orientate myself toward Great Kneeset which is the hill off in the distance. The plan is to head downward and towards it. But before I can climb it I will have another stream crossing to negotiate.
Down below I can see two groups of hikers. The group on the right look like they have successfully negotiated the stream. I elect to head toward their position, as there is likely to be a good crossing point there. The group of people on this side of the stream seem oblivious to the other group’s successful crossing and seem to be trying to locate a crossing point of their own.
I get to the point where the other hikers were. The water here seems slower than the other parts of the stream, but the downside is that it is wider here.
I get to the other side where I’m genuinely surprised by the depth. In this case it got deeper as I approached this far bank. It was almost at a point where the water was lapping up to my rolled up trousers. To my right, on the opposite bank, the other group of people have still not found a crossing point, despite many attempts.
After towling myself off, I break out the flask as the rucksack is already off my back from the stream crossing. The hot coffee is most welcome in the cold. Note that I have kept my waterproof trousers on so as to combat the cold and retain body heat.
After the coffee it’s on with the climb of Great Kneeset!
Nearly there! Honest! Or at least, that’s what I was telling myself 🙂
The view behind me is glorious. I take the time to memorise the lay of the land in that direction as this would form my exit route back off the Moor.
I get to the top and note rather disaprovingly that the group of hikers had left orange peel on the ground. They can be seen to the top right of the picture forming a tight knit circle, presumably to try and gain some shelter from the wind and aid communications. For some reason I find their extended group huddle mildly amusing, despite its practicalities!
It’s now back on with the walk. The plan is to head Southeastward toward Black Ridge up ahead. Then from there I will break Southward toward Cut Hill.
The terrain is criss crossed by many boggy areas like this one. These need a combination of detours and Super Mario like jumps to get across. I find myself continually scanning the ground ahead so as to find the least path of resistance.
I’m now on the final ascent for Black Ridge!
The top of Black Ridge is criss crossed by many gouged out peat passes. These are actually great places to shelter from the wind, regardless of its direction.
A mini-cairn marking the top of Black Ridge at 573 mtrs. In the far distance is Fur Tor – the Queen of the Moor. The other group of hikers were last seen descending Westward down Great Kneeset. I’m guessing they are headed toward Amicombe Hill as that is the only point where they can do this without having to cross a stream.
It’s now a 2.5 km walk Southwards to Cut Hill. It is the tallest hill in this area, so is easily identified. I elect not to head directly toward it. Instead I put in a gentle curve to the left to allow me to contour my way there. This saves me from having to lose elevation unecessarily.
On the way to Cut Hill there are a few streamlets to negotiate, but they pose no problem, just a quick hop across. Plus, they are a great source of water!
I’m now on the final ascent stage of Cut Hill. Today’s walk is more or less down hill after I reach the top of this hill.
I find myself glancing to the right quite often. The view in that direction is pretty good, especially with Fur Tor as the centre piece!
Just like Black Ridge, Cut hill is topped by many peat passes which provide some welcome respite from the harsh winds.
On crossing the ridge line I get my first decent view Southward.
The next stage of navigation is critical. The plan is meet up with fellow bloggers at Crockern Farm tomorrow morning. To do this I have to ensure that I’m on the correct side of the West Dart River before it becomes too deep and wide to cross. I have to ensure that I stay on a South Easterly course…
I’m now on my way to Flat Tor. The winds are really strong here. To add further menace to proceedings, the sky starts to get perceptibly darker, all rather too quickly for comfort…
Snow!!! It’s started snowing. Or to be more precise, it’s a mixture of hail stones and snow. Looks like things are about to get interesting…
I notice that the visibility is starting to drop like a stone. I put in some last minute compass checks before I lose my visual cues completely.
The high winds make the snow and hail rather painful. This part of the walk is turning truly epic!
The downpour is so ferocious that it doesn’t take long for it to start to settle.
I’m not a fan of the Army range markers. However, in conditions like these, they make excellent navigation features.
The plan is to follow the markers Southward until I bump into the West Dart River. At this point it will be a mere stream, but it will provide me with a navigation fix and it will provide additional confidence that I’m navigating Southward on the correct side of it – vitally important if I’m to visit Crockern Farm tomorrow.
The visibility starts to open up again. It looks like I have got through the worse of the downpour.
It’s now a case of heading South Eastward toward an unmarked hill at 539 mtrs elevation.
I’m not sure, but I think this is the view toward Rough Tor to the Southwest. I really should take more notes!
The hill climb up the unmarked 539 mtr hill is relatively easy. I’m keen to see what’s on the other side, as I should be picking up Lower White Tor as the primary navigation point to take me toward Crockern Farm.
Although the weather is improving, it still lapses into the odd down pour. The one constant, are the high winds. I wish that I had the presence of mind to film this part of the walk to impart to readers just how bleak and foreboding this section was.
Nearly at the top of the 539 mtr hill!
This is the view behind me to the North – or at least I think it is 🙂
To the Southwest I can still see Rough Tor, which provides further reassurance that I’m on the correct side of the West Dart River.
Nearly at the top. *Crosses fingers* that Lower White Tor will come into view! Otherwise there might be a need for some re-planning!
Another view toward Rough Tor to the Southwest. The wall running down the side of the hill beside it provides further evidence that this is indeed Rough Tor and that I am in the correct place. On Dartmoor, one can never have enough confirmations of position!
*Drum Roll* I cross the hill crest and there it is, Lower White Tor directly in front of me! Navigation +1! I’m now quite relieved as the navigational picture has resolved itself with no doubt as to my precise position. From this point onwards it will be a very easy down hill stroll going from Tor to Tor until I make the final camp spot.
The view down the West Dart valley is outstanding. As a bonus, I know the planned camp spot for the day will be in that valley. Today’s walk is nearly at an end!
Up ahead are the ruins of Brown’s House another perfect navigational marker!
It’s now time for the final hill climb of the day up to Lower White Tor.
To my right is Rough Tor and its characteristic wall. That wall marks a crossing point of the West Dart River that I have used many times in the past.
The sun’s proximity to the horizon is definitely making itself known. I estimate that I have around an hour of daylight left. With only around 2 km downhill left to do, it looks like I should arrive on time!
It isn’t long before Lower White Tor comes into view. It is the first of three Tors that I will be following into the West River Dart valley.
Higher White Tor! I have wanted to visit this Tor for a long time, but its positioning makes a North-South crossing of the Moor quite difficult, due to roads and the numerous boundary fences that litter the area.
I elect to find some shelter from the strong winds and finish off the last of my hot coffee.
When I take off the rucksack I’m quite surprised by the build up of ice on it! When I sit down, I can’t quite believe that the coffee is still piping hot – Thermos make some pretty decent flasks – even if there is a premium to pay. I also note, that in my drive to keep walking, I had forgotten to stop off for lunch. Even the on-the-go snacks have barely been touched. I start to wonder if I’m carrying around too much food….
After drinking the coffee I make my way up the rather boggy hill to the next Tor – Higher White Tor. There should be a boundary running behind it, and if my Google Maps Satellite reconnaissance during the planning stages was correct there should be a means to cross it too… I know, I do tend to over-plan 🙂
Higher White Tor! Another first!
There’s the wall and the way over. The combination of exceedingly strong winds (the strongest so far) and the darkening skies are proving a real problem for the Olympus TG-4 camera. As a result I’m finding that many of the images taken from this point onward are blurred. These, alas, are the best ones available…
Once I clear of the wall I get a great view onto Longaford Tor down below. The plan is to head to that Tor, then start my descent down to the West Dart River ready to make camp.
The wind and rain make this section of the walk quite difficult, despite the fact it’s downhill on relatively flat terrain. The map indicates several stone rows off to the left, but alas, I do not catch sight of them. Maybe next time?
As I get nearer to Longaford Tor its imposing size starts to become apparent. This has to be one of the biggest Tors on the Moor (with the possible exception of Great Links).
Longaford’s rocks in greater detail!
As I start my decent down toward the river, I catch site of the Weir that I camped by on a previous Winter trip here. On that walk I was due to visit these Tors, but couldn’t get across safely. This was one of the reasons why I was being very careful navigationally speaking to ensure that I ended up on the correct side of this river.
As I descend, the winds start to ease off. I guess the Beardown Tors across the way are starting to provide some shelter.
I soon get to the wood-line of Wistman’s Wood. However, I note that this Northern extremity of the wood is not on the Ordnance Survey Map! I sometimes do have cause to wonder if they are cutting costs….
Down below on the right I spot what looks like the perfect pitching spot. But as I get nearer it becomes apparent that the green patch of ground is extremely waterlogged. As a result I decide to get closer to the river to see if I can find a better spot.
There is a boundary wall between me and the river, though luckily I spot a gate and head straight for it!
The approach to the gate is exceedingly boggy. I realise that tomorrow’s exit from this area is going to start with very wet feet right from the go!
Eventually I find this patch of grass. It is very small and is sloping down toward the river. However, it is the best spot of ground in the vicinity. Luckily, I have a lot of experience with regard to the Akto Tent’s precise dimensions. It will be a tight fit, but it should be a goer!
I get the tent up and then pop off to top up the water bottles. To the left of my foot is a cascade of water running over the grass. This is very handy as it means I won’t have to lean over the rather busy river to fill up the bottles.
Darkness is definitely setting in. It seems that I have arrived just on time!
Home from home! The Akto tent only just fits into the space that I had found. The slope was greater than I anticipated which necessitated the packing of items under the air mattress to try to level it off. Nevertheless, this fails to work and I end up sleeping with my sleeping bag being squished up against the tent wall!
Time to get some water on the boil for this evening’s meal. Finding a level enough spot for the stove was rather challenging. In the end I had to place it rather too close to the tent for comfort. Whilst waiting for the water to boil I start to notice that there is a big hole in the ground in my tent’s vestibule. I hope I haven’t inadvertently camped on some animal’s burrow!
Can you tell what it is yet?
With the falling temperatures I unpack the down jacket – possibly my favourite item of kit as it provides instant warmth. The Olympus Camera’s flash is so weak that I have had to turn off the head torch to take the shot!
It’s Chilli Con Carne from Mountain House! I know what you are all thinking. ‘It looks like puke’. But trust me, it does taste a lot better than it looks!
I’m now all fed and watered, so it’s time to turn in for some reading followed by an early night!
Day 2’s camp spot was in a very sheltered area alongside the West Dart River. The perfect placement for my visit to Crockern Farm the following morning!
That’s it for Day 2’s Northern Moor crossing. Tune in next week for my visit to Crockern Farm and to discover why the walk got cut short.