Friday, 25 April 2014

Something Different

After a few short rides the other week I was keen to do something a bit different for a change so headed over to the Lakes to grab a few more Wainwrights.

I'd last done some fell walking over a year ago and had been stuck on 199 fells since then. One thing that has been a constant for some time is that the Northern Fells have taken up the majority of those fells left to do, usually they accounted for over half of the remainder.

With seven fells yet to do in the group this was still the case. As seems inevitable they were spread out in to three groups, two of these groups formed the eastern most fells with a group of three and one of two. A fine target for the day.

After a leisurely start I parked up in Mungrisedale at around 10am with quite a breeze blowing. Wainwright's recommended route up Bowscale Fell was at the other end of the village so a bit of road walking later and it's a steep climb up through the gorse. As I got higher on the ridge, the wind got stronger and stronger, by the time I was on the summit it was comedy "lean in to the wind at 45degs" strength. It was also pretty cold - so much for the nice spring day promised by the forecast.

The walk to Bannerdale Knotts is pretty uneventful being just a broad depression across boggy ground. Somehow I got my line wrong in dropping off from the summit and ended up traipsing over tussocks to gain the bridge over the beck. Though there were lots of people on Blencathra, the fells I was on were fairly quiet - I met maybe a dozen people in total. The last of the group and the lowest was Souther Fell, just a long broad ridge to the summit then a steep descent back down to Mungrisedale with a long detour to avoid a field.

Bannerdale Knotts from Souther Fell. I think it's a currick in the foreground.

I was fed up with the wind so rather than head for the next two fells just to the North I decided to head over to Thirlmere and climb Raven Crag. I'm sure I'd been to the top of this before (the summit is very close to the top of the crag of the same name) but hadn't noted it. It's a completely different walk to the northern fells - enclosed rather than open, short and steep rather than long and gradual. As I approached the summit area a couple were heading down. A quick chat, they were Wainwright bagging like myself, and the father says: "I follow you on Twitter"! Really quite bizarre, rather embarrassingly I didn't recognise him nor did I ask his name.

The summit of Raven Crag, Brown Cove Crags just below the clouds.

It's a long while since I've suffered from DOMS but being totally unused to fell walking I had sore legs for the next three days. Oh well, just 11 tops to go.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Lofty Ideals

Last week I had to use up some of my annual holiday as I'm only allowed to carry a limited number of days from one year to the next. Time to finish off some of the jobs left over from last year. Main one on the list was boarding out the loft (fancy name for a bit of space between the ceiling and roof).

First stop on the Saturday morning was the builders' merchant. "I'd like some 50mm x 50mm carcassing please." "No!", "What do you mean - 'no'?", "We've run out, we can get it to you when we get a delivery some time next week". Oh, well. I ordered all the materials, nearly £300, I needed and hoped it wasn't going to be delivered too late in the week.

The materials duly arrived on Wednesday morning (with associated grumpy driver) and once off-loaded it was down to work. The general plan was: move all the rubbish, I mean rarely used items, from one side of the space; remove the old insulation from between the joists; screw lengths of the 50mm timber to the top of each joist to create enough depth for the insulation; put in the new insulation; cover with boarding. Of course being a roof meant that a good proportion of the work was done on my knees reaching in to the further recesses beyond the purlins. Things weren't helped by the house not being square so the boarding had to be cut individually.

With all the material outside the house there were several trips up and down from the loft to measure, cut and fit all the timber. By the end of the first day I was knackered - I hadn't done a full day of physical work for some time and it showed. Still I had half the area insulated and boarded out and the rubbish, err - rarely used items, neatly stashed away in the area behind the purlin.

Day two was a little more awkward as the sections of boarding all had to be cut to fit round things like the ladder hatch and in order to avoid having tiny slivers of boarding (it came in 2440x600mm sheets) there were a few medium sized pieces laid. By mid-afternoon I was done. I even had one piece of boarding left over that I could use as a shelf at one end of the loft. Time for a cup of tea.

The finished loft. 

Down in the kitchen I was about to put the kettle on when I heard a "drip ... drip ... drip ...". Looking round there was a small puddle around the multi-fuel stove! Aaagh! Working my way back upstairs, there was a wet pipe in the airing cupboard so back up in to the loft. Everything was dry. Even more puzzling was that I'd boarded the area around the pipework the previous day so couldn't have knocked it recently. A panic call to my wife to find out which plumbers they used at her work and a further call to the plumber - he couldn't get to us until the following day. I needed to stop the leak - it wasn't huge, maybe a cupful an hour, but it would do damage unless I got it stopped.

The pipe was the cold water feed and quite large, as a guess I reckoned a wine cork would fit the outflow in the cold water header tank. It did! So immediate problem solved. It didn't explain why the leak had suddenly started though.

When the plumber arrived the following day the size of the hole in the pipe bore no relation to the rate of water leaking out. The pipe passed through the joist at the gable end and I reckon that it was the joist holding the pipe together. Previouly there was no pressure on this joist as it wasn't where you'd walk when in the loft but now with all the joists linked together by the boarding there must have been just enough flex to disturb things. At least it didn't take too long to find and fix.

Back on the bike I've had a few rides, some even spring like though it's back to being cooler at the moment. Last Sunday Andy had sorted out a lumpy ride over the southern part of the Etape du Dales - he's in training for the Fred Whitton. The full ride was about 90 miles. Heading out of Skipton my legs felt decidedly dead - I wasn't too bad on the flat but as soon as things started going uphill I was straight out of the back of the group. By the time we got to the top of Fleet Moss I decided I'd had enough and headed back home. It was hard enough getting back up the last hill before home, I certainly wouldn't have managed the Coal Road up from Garsdale Head. Just one of those days I suppose.

With the clocks going forward evening rides are almost no lights needed now. Tuesday was a lovely night so I went for a quick blast on a flattish loop round Gargrave. Thursday was really mirky and it was lights front and back for safety's sake.

Whether it's a hangover from the layoff following my op or my training not being particularly effective I've struggled with plain speed this year. Now to go faster on a bike you can do two things: pedal faster in a given gear or use a bigger gear. I've been doing the former, preferring to "spin" rather than "grind" but there's a maximum cadence rate above which you aren't particularly steady plus even a little below that rate it is actually quite hard work to keep the revs up. A good indication of this is the fact that I've never even used the smallest three cogs on the cassette. So I've been trying to ride a couple of gears above where I normally do. It's definitely hard work but my average speed on the two rides this week is nearly 3kph higher than on previous similar rides. Early days yet though.