What’s in my Sack?

Again, due to being unable to dash down the A66 to bag a peak or two cos of shifts etc I’m unable to do a blog about a walk, but I wanna keep it running so I thought I’d write about something related, and not depressing like my last one.
I’ve noticed whilst Kel and me have been clambering up the elusive 214 and also on our days out on the Teesdale and Weardale ways, I carry what looks like a heck of amount of kit. On the ‘Dale’ ways I really think I could ditch a few items from my day sack, but I feel the need to keep it packed as for the lakes.  My theory is if I take a tumble and the weather closes in, I might have to spend a night on the hills before I get casivaced off. So I carry the kit to keep me warm and fed/watered until at least mid day the next day. Call me paranoid but if I’ve learnt something in my time in the forces, it’s to always expect the unexpected.  It boils my pee when I see families up the higher fells with just one day sack between them with only their bait in.  I’m sure some people think “mountain rescue we’ll be there if we need them” so let’s walk light!!

So this blog is simply, What’s in my sack!” The title is meant to be an attention grabber and I do know that most of you will go “oooo errr missus” but it is important to know what’s in my sack (oh pack it in, sniggering at the back!).

Ok, let’s start with my sack ( I said pack it in).  I didn’t scrimp with the cost, I’ve only ever had two others before so I think quality is the way ahead when it comes to day sacks. Mine is The North Face ‘Terra 30’ which is not the lightest but it’s like a Tardis and the back system is good for me. I’ve not had it too long but it’s a great piece of kit and should last. Pockets and storage everywhere and the waterproof cover easy to hand and a colour which would be excellent if you ever want to be found in bad weather. 

Starting form the top, the flip lid is accommodating,  I don’t like the zip across tops as I feel you lose valuable, easy to reach storage without the lid to hide away the smaller items I carry.

In the lid, I’ve got the first aid kit (you have to have), two hand warmers, my faithful compass, mini torch and a multi function knife which I’ve had since joining the army, over twenty years ago. I also have the waterproof cover for my mobile. A lot of people think that’s over the top but out of all your kit, the mobile phone Is your life line, plus you can tweet on route, he he!

The side pouches have my Berghaus hat and gloves which are excellent for taking the chill off my head and hands, also my buff. Please note it of the camouflage variety as I cannot seem to get rid of my forces past, sad git I know.

In the front pocket is always my Multimat used for sitting on when stuffing my face with the fine fair Kel always knocks up for our walks. Also in that pouch goes the map of the day, plus the relevant AW book so I can identify the surrounding peaks once at the summit.

The main compartment is reserved for the following:

Quilted ‘softy’ jacket which I’ve had for ever.

A ‘Rab’ fleece to take the chill of the start of a walk.

A ‘Rab’ wind proof jacket that is invaluable for bait stops to take the chill off a sweaty back and the lining is really cosy.

Petzl head torch, I’ve had this forever and really should get a new one as this one needs the old big square battery at the back of my head (maybe Xmas list?!).

At the bottom area which is sectioned off I keep my waterproofs for ease. And as winter has arrived I’ve added big skiing gloves, boot spikes and a balaclava to rob the nearest ‘Deli’ when Kel gets peckish.

So to sum up, I carry a lot, but I won’t be the daft halfwit which wastes much needed money calling the mountain rescue because they’ve ‘got tired, or hurt my ankle’. I can survive a night on the hill, maybe two, but I wont look like a bell end end I call the emergency services cos I’m cold up a hill!!

PS.  Ive got a whistle and a safety blanket in amongst everything else for the worse case scenario!!

The other side to Northern Hiker & the Next Job…..

Generally I blog about the hills or something related to the outdoors, but as I woke this morning, after finishing a varied 5pm till 4am shift, I nestled my cup of coffee and sat and switched the TV on. Sky news (as always) was on and I was greeted with the news that four cops in the south had been involved in a serious incident leaving three badly hurt with stab wounds. It made me think that could’ve been me!
I know a lot of people, especially on social networking sites, who would probably have a small smile on their faces when hearing a cop being hurt and I guess it’s their right. But I would like to share a story of a wet foggy night in the summer of 2009, where I would think my colleagues and my efforts didn’t go unrecognised and maybe even the more hardened cop haters would appreciate.
Light was fading and my crew mate and I were sat in the canteen bolting food down our necks before our rare break was yet again interrupted by our radio’s. It wasn’t long before the familiar voice crackled over our pocket sets, “any unit free to attend a RTC on the A19 south bound?”
One last mouth full as we stood up and headed to the patrol vehicle, I wacked the ‘blues and twos’ on and headed towards the busy ‘A’ road that is the main artery through the North East. About two minutes later we parked at the bottom of the flyover and headed up the grass embankment to meet what I can only describe as carnage. Hollywood would have had a job recreating the scene which met my mate and me.
Immediately a female came running towards me screaming “my boyfriends stuck, he’s stuck in that car”. She pointed to a Corsa which had another car on its roof, squashing it flat. I looked up the road and saw my mate running with another male to the rear of the mixture of cars, tankers wagons and buses which were now inside, on top, underneath and squashing each other. I could here vehicles still skidding and colliding into each other in the distant fog further up the flyover.
“Please get my boyfriend out”, the girl stood screaming at me as I was still taking in the extent of the damage, and what might lie in the mangled wreckage.
I ran over to the Corsa and thought, “this isn’t good”, the car was crushed beyond recognition and I was amazed how the girl got out. The drivers side was flat as I jumped over the bonnet and looked into the drivers seat. I saw a male with the top half of his body slumped over the dash board and legs jammed under the steering column which had been squashed, basically in a bad way. The girl looked at me from cross the bonnet with a “is he ok?” look. I thought there is now way he’s survived this, I put my hand into the smashed mess and grabbed his right shoulder. “You ok mate?”, no response, “mate, you ok?”. I gasped when, and I still don’t know how, he turned his head which I thought was pinned onto the dash and gave me a ‘thumbs up’. I said “yes!!” and told his girlfriend to keep talking to him and I’d send a medic. I looked up the trail of destruction and the only other uniform I saw was my crew mate running from vehicle to vehicle finding people still breathing.
I then heard screaming coming from the wagon which had hit the rear of a car, forcing it onto the roof of another pushing the car through the windscreen of said wagon. I ran passed the cars and the occupants were miraculously only slightly hurt and climbing out of their vehicles. I looked up into the cab and saw a bloke covered in blood screaming, which I was glad about, as everyone knows, it’s the quiet ones you worry about. I saw through the blood the cause of all the bleeding, his forehead was sliced open and hanging down over his face. I also saw his shins were now the shape of a ‘W’ as they were forced under his seat smashing both. I’ll tell you something, I was never so pleased to see a fireman. I turned around and saw his blue uniform and said, “I reckon he needs cutting out mate”, yep, I’d stated the obvious but I think I was allowed this one occasion. A male then tapped me on the shoulder and said, “can I help mate?”, I turned and saw a well built lad with a green T-shirt, with a familiar badge on his chest ’23 Para” and the wings, I was pleased he would know what to do as the casualties greatly outweighed the small number of paramedics who were running round like headless chickens.
“Keep him chatting while I get a paramedic” pointing to the wagon driver. Eventually, and it seemed to take an eternity, a full compliment of emergency services were in attendance and I could help the fire lads get the wagon driver out. Boy did that poor bloke scream when we moved him.
I spend the next hour moving wreckage and people from the best part of 35 vehicles involved. I did have to smile when I came across a Mini lodged entirely under a tanker thinking no one could’ve got out of that alive, only to find the driver sat on the barrier to the side of the road unhurt.
Some people were not so fortunate and it would be unprofessional and heartless to tell the account if full, but as I was reunited with my crew mate, both blood soaked and sweating like we’d just finished a marathon, we did what everyone who is thrown into incidents like this, that is to make light of it and not talk about it.
The incident was taken over by ‘specialists’ and we had a quick wash and change of clothes and onto the next job.
The ‘next job’, could be anything, and I mean anything! I’ve been kicked, punched, bitten, hair pulled, attacked with knife and an axe. I’ve been pushed downstairs, attacked by dogs, driven at and spat at, twice the offending saliva has landed in my mouth and I’ve had to spend the next six weeks wondering if I’d caught Hepatitis.
I apologise for the lack of pictures for this blog but as you can probably guess, I didn’t have my camera with me.
The incident on the A19 that summer night made me think, I might not have the most popular job in the country & the police service spends a lot of time in the bad press, but it’s a thankless job & I enjoy it (most of the time).
Spare a thought the next time you see a patrol car hurtling through the traffic, or when the siren breaks your sleep in the middle of the night. That cop is alone mostly, at the end of his/her journey, there may be an infant death, suicide, a gun, a knife, a broken bottle, twenty people fighting with weapons or a fatal domestic incident. To some people that’s a way of life which is only in the papers or on the TV. To the fatigued but adrenaline filled body wearing the uniform sat behind the wheel, it’s the ‘next job!’

Thanks Kel…

Being brought up in Sheffield, I often had chance to go into the Peak district at the weekends with my parents and have a few nice walks around Froggatt Edge and adventurous walks down the Derwent around a place my parents (and many others) called ‘The Surprise’.
I joined the army and spent a lot of time hiking in the Cotswolds and South Wales. I would say I have put some miles in and seen some gorgeous countryside. I’ve even had the pleasure of taking part in an expedition in The Rocky mountains, hiking in the Oman, Italy, Norway, the list goes on.
Then I met my girlfriend Kelly and we shared the love of the outdoors. However, she found it hard to believe I’d never set foot in the Lake District.
“All this adventure in your life and you’ve never been to Keswick” she would ask and seemed bemused by my negative answers.
So about 2 and a half years ago we set off for Keswick,apparently a place I’d “never want to leave”. As we drove along the A66 I caught my first ever sight of Blencathra and nearly crashed the car.
” I think I better drive” were Kelly’s words as we pulled over and swapped seats. I could not take my eyes of these majestic mountains and hills I was encountering for the first time. As we got closer to Keswick, the words “ohhh look at that one” must have left my mouth about a dozen times as I jumped around the car pointing at different peaks.
Then it happened, just before we took a left off the A66, Kelly pointed at the most beautiful mountain ever, she announced with a cheeky smile, “that’s my favourite, that ones called Skiddaw!”
My chin hit the floor, I looked at her and she said, already knowing my answer, “so, do you like it here??”
Two and half years, 30 Wainwrights and probably the same amount of visits later answered her question.
I will never be able to thank her enough for introducing me to the Lake District, we have been known to drive there and back in a day to get my ‘fix’ of this beautiful part of the country.
And you were right, I never want to leave the place, thanks Kel!

Hallin Fell

Friday, 28th October 2011 and our visit to the Lakes was nearly over, tomorrow we would be driving the depressing direction on the A66 back to reality and work.  We decided, Kel & I, to have a little wander up Hallin Fell.  Not the biggest in the area but we decided to not pick a big hill and have an easy day.

The weather was quite fine and the sun was shining as we drove through Pooley Bridge and down the east side of Ullswater to Howtown and parked about 25 metres up from the cattle grid.  Our plan was to quickly scale the tiny hill then have a relaxing walk around it and hopefully get some good photos.

I looked up the hill side and saw a few routes, as well as the paths marked on the map. We walked a bit further up the road to the brow of the raise in the road and took a right up the grass. We had chosen a different route than any on the map, normally a ‘no no’ but it was well used so we thought what the hell.  It was quite steep up the grassy slope and hearts were racing almost immediately.  The grass was fairly dry so Kel managed to stay on her feet, which was good, as I don’t think she could take another day on her backside which had its fair share of bruising after Dale Head.
So we headed up the east side gained height quite quickly, to be honest it was a bit uneventful and I didn’t even have the added entertainment of Bambi on Ice landing on her face every five minutes, so I decided we’d have a little scramble. 
 Theres a small crag just before it levels out on the east, so I told Kel to head up towards it.  The ‘path’ levelled out slightly first and it had a bit of a drop, well, a lot of a drop to the right which made Kel stop. “Are you sure this is the route?” were uttered a few times as Kel held her arms out to balance and seemed a bit nervous. I reassured her if she fell, it wasn’t a sheer drop and she’d bounce a bit if she did stumble off. I’m getting quite used to the names I get called now when we have a bit of a scramble, or have to negotiate anything less than a metre wide, the air around Sharp Edge is still blue from our last visit. 
 Anyway, we shuffled to the top of the rocks and set off towards the summit.  The view was stunning as we looked north east up towards Pooley Bridge.  It wasn’t long before we were at the top and joining a couple of families around the Obelisk. 
The weather was sunny and Kel got her camera out of my day sack and happily snapped away. Ten minutes was enough for us at the top and decided to go down the ‘family route’ and came off the hill and joined the road passing Hause Farm.  The small road had a couple of holiday cottages with cracking views up Howe Grain and we met the bridge that crossed Howegrain Beck, very picturesque.  We took the path to the right and were soon climbing again as we followed the farm fence line.  About half way up we spotted a gate in the fence, “Thought you said there wasn’t a path through the field” echoed down the valley from her, as I remembered her pointing to another gate as we came down the road.  I had said there was no right of way through the farm which would have cut out half of the ascent we were now negotiating.  A cheeky scowly smile met my “ooooh yeah” as we walked past the gate, which clearly shows a path leading to the first gate.
We levelled out and kept to the path heading west, hugging the fell heading towards Hallinhag wood. Half way there we spotted the Great North Air Ambulance hovering above Ullswater, it made a couple of swoops then disappeared. A few more steps and we heard a familiar sound to Kel & me, a siren!  It seemed to be coming from Howtown but was getting closer.  Then it appeared, Mountain rescue hurtling down the road on the other side of the valley heading to Sandwick. We turned and looked at each other, looked into the sky at the clear blue, and said, “ehhh?!”. Our looks would have confused any onlookers but we both thought the same, the weather was gorgeous and we were confused as to what could’ve happened. The vehicle went out of sight and the siren stopped. We shrugged our shoulders and hoped everyone was ok, then entered the Oak dominated Hallinhag wood and was met by a slippery descent to the lake side. I grinned as I thought “this is it, she’s bound to go on her arse here”. Then, just as I’d finished saying the words in my head, I heard the immortal words “whooooosh ya f**ker!” as Kel’s right boot swung up waist height and her left leg was just about to join it.  I had noticed a couple of wires running down the wall, on the edge of the woods, one normal and the other, ‘barbed’.
It was like slow motion, as my clumsy fiancée headed for an almost certain bounce of the muddy slope with her ‘portable cushion’, her left arm instinctively went to grab one of the wires to stop her fall. I watched as her hand stretch out and thankfully found a tight grip on the smooth wire, not the rusted barbed inches above it.  She swung from the wire but managed not to hit the mud with her already sore rear. After checking to see if she was ok before I laughed, we got to the lake side without incident and decided to have dinner on the shores in Sandwick Bay. 
 To our suprise, the Great North Air Ambulance was on the grassed area in the bay.  The pilot was on his phone but no sign of any crew. We put two and two together having seeing Mountain Rescue a few minutes ago and thought someone was in trouble. We sat on the grass and ate our sandwiches wondering what had happened. Moments later the rest of the crew came down the route we had taken through the woods laughing & joking, with some other rescue guys and no casualty in sight.  They had a quick chat with the pilot and then jumped in the copter and flew off up Ullswater, not before doing a cheeky fly past everyone sat at the bay.
So we set off back to the woods and carried on with our walk, “must just have been an exercise” Kel said as we went through the gate.
The lake was quite still with only the ripples created by the Steamer to disturb its surface. The route was quite populated due to the nice weather and we must have done the usual hikers ‘nod’ followed by ‘hiya’ about 20 times before we reached the exit of the woods. Before that, we both stood on Kailpot Crag and took in the scenery wishing we had another week here and not heading back to Durham the next day.
The half hour walk back to the car was only marred by me slipping on a rock and bending my bad knee backwards, which tickled to say the least.  As I had been bird spotting all week, Kel turned to me and shouted “Look, at that in the tree” I was amazed to be that close to a Kingfisher (which we had seen earlier in the week flying by) “is it?” i asked as Kel was killing herself laughing.  I got closer and realised it was a blue glove someone had left on a branch! By then I could really taste the mandatory pint after a walk,today was to be at one of our favourites, Pooley Bridge Inn.
We reached the pub, sat down and withthe usual mixture of quaffing nuts, having a pint, people watching  and chatting as Kel carried on with her relentless quest of finding an internet signal on her phone.
Not the biggest or exciting of hills, but it’s another Wainwright crossed off the list.