From Ben Nevis to North Cornwall, New Tents and failing water filters. A promising start leads to a not so productive end of this Summit or Nothing Quarter.
The Penultimate Quarter of 2018… Already?
I cannot believe that its October already – into the last quarter of the year, and to be honest, the last couple of months have been pretty non-eventful in the world of Summit or Nothing. Both Nathan and myself have struggled to meet up a lot, in fact, we didn’t even see each other at all in September, and it looks like we are going to be most of the way through October before we finally manage a hook up.
But, some things did happen, and here is where we take a looksy at the previous quarter – July through September.
This was probably the most eventful month of the year for us, certainly for this quarter anyhow. In the height of the summer, whilst the majority of England was soaked in abnormally hot sun, and the nation rallied behind its football team during the Russian World Cup, we took up the challenge of a hot and sweaty hike and Wild camp around the Hound Tor area of Dartmoor, taking in the sights of Bowerman’s Nose, Jay’s Grave, as well as some fantastic tors in this popular, yet extremely beautiful part of the world.
The heat would be a curse, however, attracting insects and horseflies that feasted upon Nathan and kept us awake all night in the open to the world tarp-shelters that we chose to camp in. Nathan, in particular, is especially receptive to the infections that insect bites have to offer, and within minutes of embarking on our hike, he fell foul to a bite and from then on in his walk was overshadowed by the possibility of getting more.
To top that off, the heat also accelerated our water consumption for the day, and we both stopped to refill our waters from a stream, and within a day, Nath was particularly ill, even taking time off of work (a rarity if you know Nath), and although he cannot prove it, he feels strongly that the culprit for his ingested infection was the MSR Trailshot, or possibly his misuse of it. Regardless to say, he soon joined me in purchasing the extremely reliable Sawyer mini.
Apart from the insects and the water poisoning, the day was absolutely stunning. Some of the most inspiring scenery yet, and we even treated ourselves to a pub meal at Widecombe On The Moor in between hike and wild camp. We chose to camp on Hound Tor, and when sharing the stunning sunset pictures we had taken in the week, we were soon informed that Hound Tor is actually a NO CAMPING area!
This is not the first time that this had happened, and our trust in the myth that Dartmoor is free for wild camping was questioned again. In fact, we found out that there exists a camping map, and from here on in, we will ensure to consult this before pitching up again.
July also saw the purchase of something that we had wanted for ages – a new drone, and we finally found one at a reasonable price (the moderately priced DJI Spark) and both chipped in to purchase one for the channel. Numerous practice flights around my home and the coastline of Bude and Widemouth had set me up to test it out on the coast, and the first time I took it out to get some cool shots of the coast, was the weekend of the 14th July, when I walked 12 or 13 miles between Treyarnon Bay and Newquay!
An absolutely stunning part of the coast, I was sure to get some fantastic drone shots here, right? I chose a spot in between two beaches, up on the cliffs, where there were few people about.
No sooner had I got it out of my backpack when a gaggle of stealth surfers appeared on the cliff top and chose to watch me make an absolute tool of myself with the new drone. To say I failed would be an understatement, but at least I hadn’t crashed it, I guess! I soon tucked it back into my bag and continued along my way, opting to not take it out again that day.
The day was another scorching summers day, and I spent most of the day looking down at the turquoise oceans of these seemingly tropical beaches thinking to myself that I should have taken up surfing or swimming as opposed to hiking. This part of the North Cornwall section of the South West Coast Path was well worth the hassle of melting in the extreme heat, and although it was just before the influx of summer tourists flooded the beaches, there were plenty of people out making the most of the beaches and the clifftops alike.
The biggest event of the month, and in fact of our year, was the completion of our very first challenge – ticking off the last of the three great peaks of the UK, and the biggest overall. Ben Nevis, the mountain hike that we had been working up to since we started Summit or Nothing back in April 2016. We traveled up on Friday the 20th July, a twelve-hour journey from our end of the country, but as always, a good laugh was had as we made this momentous journey.
We were booked in to stay in the hostel beneath the Ben Nevis Inn, just outside of Fort William, something that Nathan (never a fan of being near people) was absolutely mortified with as we first arrived at our budget digs (for an outdoorsman and adventurer with military training, Nath certainly makes a big song and dance about sleeping anywhere other than his bed). He didn’t enjoy the first night in their either, as a party of hikers partaking in the ‘actual’ three peaks challenge (as in 24 hours) woke extremely early in the morning and didn’t make a lot of effort to keep the noise down and kept making it clear that in future he would fork out for a hotel.
Anyway, in the morning, the weather was in, a low cloud cut off the top half of the mountains from where we were. We were contemplating the more adventurous CMD Arete route – but I was a little dubious, especially as visibility wasn’t that great and I am a complete pussy when it comes to heights, or more precisely sheer drops, or even more precisely, falling from them, and in the end I managed to persuade Nathan to take the pony path (or as one of the women in the party of 3 peakers called it – the Flip Flop route.
Regardless, I was happy to just get up and down the mountain and would have been gutted if we traveled all this way just for me to clam up halfway across the CMD ridgeline. Besides, by the time we had packed our day packs, then unpacked and packed our larger packs, then unpacked them and overpacked our day packs to bursting point (to say we over thought what we needed to take up with us would be an understatement, especially when we saw many others going up with nothing more than jeans, trainers and Lidl carriers bags), the morning was practically gone, and as our hostel sat at the foot of the pony path, it was the easiest thing for us to do.
The climb was arduous, of course it was, but I think that thanks to the many miles of Coastal Path, I was able to keep my momentum going for much longer periods before needing to stop, and managed to keep at a pace a little closer to Nath’s. Again, this was a popular mountain, hundreds of people of all ages and sizes and races partaking in their own individual challenges. Some we spoke to were struggling, some were doing it for the umpteenth time, some for charity, some just to say that they had.
We made it up in good time, and, as a bonus to our belated departure time, we were lucky enough for the cloud to have risen above us all the way, giving us a clear view by the time we finally hit the summit. We literally had about half an hour at the top before the cloud dropped again, and had us swamped in mist for the majority of the way down. There was also a dramatic mountainside rescue taking place, and the helicopter was grounded for most of the time due to the visibility whilst the team hiked up with all the gear.
We had planned to take in another mountain on the second day, but as the weather loomed in and was even heavier cloud coverage than the previous day. We didn’t take long to decide that another Tryfan in the mist misadventure on a much taller and isolated mountain could lead us to need the mountain rescue ourselves, and so we agreed to cut our trip short. Besides, the Monday’s holiday traffic promised to be excruciating, and so we left on the Sunday instead, giving us both the Monday to acclimatise before heading back to work.
July was also the month that we were approached by a company to test out a product, the NatureHike Cloud Up 2. The fact that it was a two-man tent worth £130 was absolutely amazing. We were both dubious of whether or not it would amount to anything, or be a complete dud, or whether there would be a catch, and when we first took the tent out of the packaging to have a look at it, comparing it in weight and size to my usual 2 man tent, the Vango Banshee, it seemed like a bloody good bit of kit. But this was literally just a first look unpacking kind of experience, and it wouldn’t be until the following month that we finally got to take it out for a camp.
The summer holidays were a bit of a letdown, both in general and also for Summit or Nothing. It seems that each year, in the South West at least, the day the children break up from school, the weather changes, and Summer 2018 was no exception. Besides the bad weather, both Nathan and I were soon sideswiped by the trivialities of life, and as time, as it so often does, soon swept, weeks passed us in the blink of an eye.
I was supposed to get out loads over the summer and knock off masses of the coast path, but in August, I didn’t even manage to get out once. But, time was spent with the family, we did have a couple of excursions, and I managed to get the kids out walking here and there, but after a stint of Family Fun Adventures in previous years, I find that these family days are far more special without the camera.
Nath was soon propelled into even more DIY at his home, and it wasn’t until two thirds through the month that we finally managed to hook up and get ourselves back out onto Dartmoor for a Hike and Wild Camp on Hangershell Rock. I was testing the Naturehike, Nathan, once again, opted to kip under his tarp! A trip to the most Southern Dartmoor, and what seemed very much like Dartmoor’s end, had us taking in a few tors, Westren Beacon, Ugborough Beacon, Sharp Tor (where we intended to camp) and Hangershell Rock (where we ended up camping).
A fair amount of miles were done on today’s walk, over some really featureless moorland in places, and although it was hardly a sunny or warm August day, it was dry. We decided to camp at Sharp Tor, which was a good few miles from the car, and we stomped along some of the two-moors way to find it, only upon arrival our plans to camp were scuppered when -’Shock-Horror!’ there was another wild camper in our spot, so we trotted on back to Hangershell Rock where we set up camp just in time for the mist and wind to catch up.
It was a night of extremely whipping wind, and made for a good debut for the new tent which I was pleased to announce withstood the winds, although it did get noisy at times. Nath had a particularly hard time trying to sleep, but, for once, he did seem to appreciate the night’s Dartmoor legend, the legend of Jan Bowers, which went down well in general actually, and if you haven’t already heard it, you should definitely check out the video and see what all the fuss was about!
Well, Summit or Nothing never even made it out once this month, which happened last year, but you – the viewers – wouldn’t have noticed as I had dragged out our Brecon Beacons videos to an excruciating extent. I don’t know if you have noticed or not, but this year, I have tried to keep our outings to four videos (as a maximum) and aiming at ten minute videos instead of the 5 minute videos that I was chucking out last year.
Well, this year, when we hit that lull, I decided that we wouldn’t recycle old videos (well, maybe just one – our Cranmere Pool), but I announced that we would be taking a short break, and after two and a half years of constant weekly uploads, I would say that we had earned it. Also, we have built up a fantastic audience base (passing the 1500 mark in September) and feel that now we don’t need to push so hard to try and convince You Tubes algorithm to spread the word (not that it ever really did – most of our viewers and new subscribers have come from pushing Summit or Nothing into every corner of the internet.
But, despite Nathan and myself not managing to get out together, I have been fortunate enough in September to grab myself a couple of coastal walks and also a day put to Tamar Lakes for a leisurely six-mile stroll, where I tried something new – producing a video without music and capturing the lakeside autumnal ambiance. It actually turned out really well, and having no real time restraints or trying to play keep up with Nath, it also allowed me to spend a lot more time thinking about the shots I was taking. I hope to do more of this kind of video in the future.
Having the time off from our hiking always gets me mucking about with other things, and I thought that I would take it upon myself to design a Summit or Nothing Calendar, so from selecting twelve of our best screenshots and photographs from our three years of hiking on moorland, coasts, and mountains, this was a little bit of fun for me to create, and hopefully we manage to sell a few to you, good people!
But, all that being said, September wasn’t a bad month for my coast walking. I firstly returned to North Cornwall, and continue the coast path South, starting where I had left off in Newquay, and heading down to Perranporth. Having not walked for a good few weeks, and also just getting over a bit of a virus that knocked me for six in the weeks before, I didn’t know how far I would manage. In the first three miles I was almost defeated and considered ending the walk there and then, but after a quick bite, a cup of Coffee-Chocolate and a quick play with the drone I soon picked up and managed the ten or so mile walk to Perranporth.
It was another great stretch of coast, and a moderate walk, taking in some great sights as always, a quaint little ferry ride and a lengthy stretch of beach which I was dreading (nothing worse than hiking through soft sand) but was actually ok. The Perran Sands stretch of beach ended with a quick look in some pretty cool caves.
On the following walk, two weeks later, I finally managed to finish off the relatively dull stretch of the coast path in around the estuary between Westward Ho and Saunton that I started back in June. This was not just painfully dull, but, being mostly on the tarmacked Tarka Trail cycle path, it would also prove to be painful on the feet too. I started where I walked from Fremington to Saunton (I was aiming for Croyde, but for about three miles before Saunton I was in absolute agony, and so I rounded the trip off at Saunton Beach.)
At the back end of September, the last foray into coastal walking, and a weekend away with Don-Don once again, without the kids. We had enjoyed our weekend of hiking back in May so much that had managed to persuade Nan to have the kids once again, and planned a two day outing continuing my Cornish Coast walks, day one was to be Perranporth to Portreath, where we would stay again in the luxury of a B&B and then on the Sunday trek between Portreath and Hayle. Funnily enough, the weekend that we booked was the weekend that we had first got together ten years ago, and Donnah had thought that I had been very astute in planning it for that weekend, unbeknownst to her that it was nothing more than a coincidence.
Unfortunately, as the weekend arrived, it was strong winds and torrential rain all day on the Saturday so we opted to start Christmas shopping in Truro instead, and then hit the coast on the Sunday. It started as a very wet and windy stroll, but wasn’t too long before the rain subsided at least, and we took in twelve miles of the historic coastline, where Cornish Wheals and tin mines dotted the rugged landscape above a boiling sea. We both enjoyed the day, and arrived windswept at our car in Portreath. So, despite only completing 12 out of the 24 miles we had planned it still was a stunning walk and did us both the world of good to get back out together on the coast.
So now the total miles of continuous miles trodden along the South West Coast Path stretches for 150miles between Saunton in Devon and Portreath on the North Coast of Cornwall. Taking in the other walks I have done between Minehead and Lynton and Brixham to Kingsweare a grand total of 185miles of the Coast Path completed!
So despite the lack of Summit or Nothing videos to post thanks to two empty months, I feel comfortable that there is a wealthy back-catalogue for the new viewers to catch up on before we produce some more footage. Hopefully, the final quarter of 2018 will see some great winter hiking and wild camping from us, and give you more great footage.