Making a Right Hash of it!

A Quite Unusual New Running Experience

For many years I have noticed runners with ‘Hash House Harriers’ on their running vests prefixed with nationwide locations to their name. Bizarrely, despite having an occasional momentary wonder about the meaning of the name, I had never yet discovered it…….until……

The hashing ‘hounds’ hareing off “On On” the trail…

A spontaneous visit to Tamar Valley’s weekly ParkRun which was having a takeover week by the Tamar Valley Hash House Harriers resulted in, not only my premier ParkRun experience, but also an invite to join the ‘hashers’ for their next weekly ‘hash’ ….I had it on good authority that the ‘hares’ this week were particularly excellent – a bit worrying as I mostly follow a vegetarian diet!

Be sure to give the ‘Chalk Talk” your full attention!

To clarify my confusion a little the enthusiastic Harrier recruiters explained some background. The Hash House Harriers (which from here on I will refer to as HHH or H3 in an effort to avoid repetitive strain injury from all the additional typing) is an international group of non-competitive running social clubs, with a strong emphasis on the social. So social in fact it is jokingly said that they are a drinking club with a running problem! ( I say ‘jokingly’ 🤔?!) An event organized by a club is known as a hash, hash run or simply, hashing, with participants calling themselves hashers or hares and hounds. The important thing to understand is that these are merely titles and there are no actual animals or indeed ‘hash’ involved!

A Dark Disappearance into the Depths of Dartmoor

It was all originally formed in Malaysia in 1938 when groups of British Military Officers and ex-pats began meeting on Mondays to run in the style of a British ‘paper chase’ in an effort to run off the indulgent excesses of the weekend. After fading away during World War II it restarted during the late 1940’s and in the 1970’s did the equivalent of modern day ‘going viral’ and gaining huge popularity.

Back in the day setting up a group constitution it was stated :-

Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare and finding the trail, harriers reaching the end of the trail would partake of beer, ginger beer and cigarettes.

Perhaps NOT the best healthy lifestyle advice, though the objectives of the Hash House Harriers as recorded on the club registration card dated 1950 were :

  • To promote physical fitness among our members
  • To get rid of weekend hangovers
  • To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
  • To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel

There are now over 2000 3H groups globally so a member can get their fix wherever life takes them.

The Tamar Valley Hash House Harriers ready for the off!

So… how do you hash?

The best thing is you don’t have to have a clue what goes on the first time you show up, just follow the madness and soon you will be picking up the meaning of the flour symbols scattered around what seems to be a ridiculously erratic course, understanding the loud cries of ” On On”, probably getting poked in the eye by an errant tree branch and before you know it, sitting in the pub looking dazed and confused and wondering what on earth just happened! A fundamental point of the hash is to be fun and to never be taken seriously. There are zero cares for PB’s or Split times on this run. But they are certainly getting something right as some of the Tamar Valley H3 members I spoke to had been hashing for over 30 years.

Always expect to get your feet wet….and possibly your hair!

A word of jovial warning – levels of ‘wildness’ can vary from group to group with some groups considering themselves “one of the tame ones”. If you are of a more sensitive disposition it might be prudent to find a tamer group for your first experience to avoid potentially being traumatised for life. The course is often no holds barred and forget about sticking to paths – crawling under low overhanging trees through woodland is deemed fair game and watercourses and rivers perhaps just cause for a mere, momentary pause, simply to confirm the route you understand – no one cares about looking for a bridge! I got lucky this first time, returning safely back with ( relatively) dry feet and all my limbs still attached, an outcome that is not entirely guaranteed.

Getting a bit side-tracked on the annual ‘red run’ – and this is BEFORE the pub!

A couple of people whom, it may be insinuated, have slightly sadistic tendencies will volunteer as the ‘hares’ – their job being to lay the trail for the group to decifer and follow. Symbols with various meaning are made on the ground with flour, sawdust or chalk. Then the whole group dart off chasing this trail of floury ‘breadcrumbs’ shouting fairly indeciferable instructions in code back to the rest of the group. . If i had remembered amid all the excitement to start my Strava recording I have no doubt the route would have looked something like this….

As clear as a ball of string!

However, within this madness true genius lies for the creation of the course enables everyone to participate, from super fast cross country sprinters all pepped up on sugar to ambling walkers stopping off for a nice cup of tea along the way. The course plays out so that the speedy spurters get sent off around a big old loop to meet back with the steady shufflers who were on a more direct trajectory. False trails are laid to further fox the eager beavers and give tentative trotters a chance to catch up thus ensuring the whole group stay relatively close together for the duration. Furthermore, though there is some very basic and extremely minimal guidance to hash etiquette normal race rules do not apply and shortcutting , far from being punished, is highly encouraged, though may receive some additional ribbing in the pub if it becomes a common and, more annoyingly, successfully tactical habit. To give you an idea, an example from the Tamar Valley H3 ‘rulebook’ reads as :-

Always try to keep at least one hasher between you and anything which looks at all fierce such as bulls, pit-bull terriers, landed gentry, geese and pigs.

In the interests of safety a ‘scribe’ is elected to act as mother hen, noting all hashers and checking them all safely back in at the end of the hash . H3’s NEVER leave a hasher behind! However, if you do intend to join the group at the pub afterwards you are then on your own so be sure to plan ahead.

Hash House Harriers : Never to be taken seriously!

There is also some unique hash code lingo to get to grips with. As a “Virgin” or “Just John” who doesn’t know their “shiggy” from their “dead trails” listen up to the “chalk talk” before the off, so you can correctly negotiate a “check”, avoid a “check back”, respond appropriately to an “RU” and most importantly keep “On On” to “On home” so you may go “on down” to the “circle” where there may be a “down down” afterwards. Easy for me to say,

Nothing better than a bit of a sing song and a beer after your daily run!

Remember, it is all a bit tongue in cheek and regulars are known by cheeky ‘hash names’ which can be a bit risque to say the least – likely harking back to hashings’ beginnings in a more politically incorrect time. Hashing newbies cannot name themselves but will earn an appropriate name by some head nodding achievement or wild stupidity demonstrated along the trail. Indeed, new hashers should beware of trying to influence their own hash name for risk of being re- christened with a more offensive or inappropriate name. In contrast, any rebels trying to gain a shocking monica will more likely be awarded a softie hash name such as “Twinkle”.

A tea ‘naming’ ceremony?

The highly prestigious Toilet Seat Award for some well sustained hash longevity

Personally, the elements that I enjoyed most about the hash ( aside from “on down” at the pub after ) was being able to run around after dark with no concerns about navigating or worrying where I was, just following the group ; the stop/start nature of the run and the fact that there was so much to focus on that there was none of the ‘this is hard work’ feeling which often accompanies a more convential run ; and that it was just pure, childlike, adventurous, fun!

Hashing chapters also don’t confine themselves to just two feet. Following roughly the same principles you can join a group Hashing by Bike or even Snorkel Hashing – I would be VERY wary of this latter malarkey!

It was lovely to see Charlotte , aka “Footloose” receive her tea pot celebrating 100 hash’s

I can absolutely and heartily recommend visiting one of these fun, mad, highly social events. Look up your local H3 chapter, leave any inhibitions at home and go along and have a fantastic “virgin hash”. If you have been a little alarmed by what you have read here don’t loose hope as there do exist many levels of H3 and very ‘family friendly’ groups are out there if you would rather avoid too much innuendo strewn banter. Checking out a charters website and having a read of one of their hash mags will give you a full ‘heads up’ of where they sit on the scale of Carry On style cheekiness.

See you at the ‘On Down’ 👍🍻

Huge thanks to the Tamar Valley Hash House Harriers for making me so welcome and introducing me to this zany pastime as well as their very kind donation to the Running the Summits fundraising for Mountain Rescue England and Wales, the Mountain Rescue Search Dogs and Fix the Fells.

⊙Photos (mostly) courtesy of Tamar Valley Hash House Harriers. Small disclaimer : apologies for any slightly risque double entendre phrasing in this blog – I can only put it down to the bad influence I have been under. (Ooo’err)

251 Mountains – the Zen post.

You wait for a post then two come along at the same time. So much has happened since I last wrote that I didn’t know where to start or what to write about to update this highly neglected blog site so I decided here to put down some ‘keeping it real’ thoughts after yesterday passing the 250 mountain mark and 25% completion of the Running the Summits challenge. If this post sounds a bit too touchy feely and you prefer your yang to your yin check out the alternative 251 Mountains – The Wahoo post 👊

Right now, the Brecon Beacons are just outside the window. I can’t see them, lost as they are to the clouds, curtains of rain drifting across my view of only the very lowest of the lower slopes. Even the sheep are huddled close into a tree sheltered corner. It’s the third consecutive day of unfathomably and distinctly eclectic weather – one of deep snow and teeth chattering wind chill, one of warmth and clear sunny skies and today, one of wet, claggy cloud and sheets of rain. I was well overdue in taking some time out to get caught up on those real life chores – refilling water supplies, doing laundry, scraping all the farmland muck off the campervan and responding to weeks of emails. Yet, still, early this morning I peeled on my slightly damp, offensively smelly running gear, eager to be out, hauling my (as yet still not athletically-toned) bum up a mountain or two. I think it has become a mantra.

It is said about the Camino de Santiago – a favourite long distance escape of mine – that there are three stages to the endeavour. Firstly the physical, as our body aches and suffers at the sudden increased demands put upon it until it miraculously adapts and grows stronger.

Free from the physical distractions the second stage is the emotional as our minds gradually move from doubt, fear and questioning to perspective and acceptance. Finally, the third stage is that of the spiritual where, only because we have passed through the first two stages and shed the unnecessary can we now fully experience a total awareness, immersion and gained sense of freedom. While specifically aimed at the experience of the Camino I strongly believe that any adventure, large or small can be a great metaphor for life with many lessons to be learned.

Zen and the Art of Adventurous Living?

Now, I still think my body has some considerable ongoing work at Stage one (as mentioned, I had been expecting to, at least slightly, resemble the streamlined physique of an athlete by this point) and trying to run uphill just doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. To be fair both of these issues could be explained by cake.


Possibly the reason I do NOT look like a finely honed machine!?

But even with a lingering toe or two in stage one I do feel I have made some small progress to the great blue orb of enlightenment. I have indeed discovered that this, as all adventures in life, can best be described using that oft spouted clichéd saying ‘It’s been a journey’ (and is going to continue to be a journey for some considerable time as I still have 749 summits to run). But as well as dipping my toes, usually unintentionally, into bog, rivers, bog and more bog I also feel I have been dipping them into stages 2 and 3 and learning a thing or two. (just not how to avoid bog!). As in life, we do not move cleanly from one stage to the next but there is a blurring of the edges and knock backs when new challenges fall out of a cupboard and smack us in the head (also metaphorical – if I have grasped the correct use of the concept!?)


Patch – The Enlightened One

Super-enthused adventurer Anna McNuff wrote a wonderful poem (1) along a similar vein telling of a journey that begins doing battle with nature – setting out to conquer, before becoming beaten down by nature’s far superior and ambivalent….well, nature! Eventually, this traveller no longer passes through or against but travels with and in this natural environment. This is the journey I have been really hoping and expecting to make and I am already becoming familiar with the elements (literal and metaphorical).

On the 251st Mountain summit, I sat for a long while (as long as was possible before extremities started to go numb) fully absorbing the views, the solitude, the peace, the simplicity and vastness of the landscape around me, calm and happy to be right where I was, unencumbered by concerns or stresses. As the terrain and climatic challenges grow greater it is liberating to gradually become confident and at ease in your surroundings as you learn and use new found skills and understanding. There is still an awful lot to learn but hopefully I am becoming willing and humble enough to listen and appreciate all that the mountains have yet to teach.

On a literal note I am throwing in a reminder that my Mountain Joggist Extravaganza is also in hopes of raising a few well needed squidlies for the amazing volunteers of Mountain Rescue England & Wales, Mountain Rescue Search Dogs(the doggy rescuers formally known as Search and Rescue Dog Association England!) and Fix the Fells.

Please spare a pound to chuck in the bucket if you can HERE😁 Thank You

It’s also really easy to donate by text too…. just text TOPS50 followed by an amount to 70070 . Thank You❤

(1) PS. Anna McNuff’s poem is featured in the book Waymaking – an anthology of prose, poetry and artwork by women who are inspired by wild places, adventure and landscape.

Happy trails 😊👣🐾

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251 Mountains – The “Wahoo” post

You wait soooo long for a new post, then two come along together! So much has happened since I last wrote that I didn’t know where to start or what to write about to update this highly neglected blog site so I ended up with two posts – two sides of an adventure coin if you will – to fully celebrate passing the 250 mountain mark and 25% completion of the Running the Summits challenge. If too much wahoo’ing and air punching is not your bag check out 251 Mountains – The Zen post 🌱- it also has cake👍

Talking about bags there are now 251 in the proverbial summit bagging backpack. 749 mountains still seems like a very long way to go, and it is, but reaching another milestone is always a good time for a little pat on the back and check list run down –

  • Feet still attached? check✔
  • Knees still operational? check’ish✔
  • Shoes still in one piece – gaffa tape assisted bandaging allowed? check✔
  • Flapjack stores still brimming? check✔…..hang on, might need to double check….back in a minute…🍰

Before this challenge grew into 1000 Mountains (i.e. after too much wine and chocolate was consumed in one sitting resulting in a state of falsely percieved super hero omnipotence sparking the ‘here’s a great idea’ moment!) it was set to be a challenge to run the mountains of England to prove to the doubters that ‘yes we do have mountains in England’! Using the initial criteria, that meant 180 Mountains. Sounded like a great adventure indeed. But then, after the aforementioned loss of absolute sense moment, it got A LOT BIGGER. Changing the criteria to include those lumpy places classified as Hewitts, Nuttalls, Marilyns and Wainwrights also doubled the number in England. If you want to ‘get your anorak on’ about how all these classifications work and the wonderfully lovely art of hill-bagging there’s a whole other post about it HERE (don’t forget to come back though👍)

Still only part way through the English and Welsh Mountains there is still Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man’s single but lovely mountain yet to visit. Not to mention all the people who run, bike, hike, walk the dog, work and live in those majestic places yet to meet. I have already been lucky to meet so many extraordinary, kind and fascinating people simply because of my journey into the high places of Britain.

Physically so far, including my moment of madness ‘Virtual Everest’ by elevated treadmill and a brief ‘holiday’ to climb Mount Toubkal for New Years this challenge has had me climbing a vertical elevation gain of almost 70,000 metres , more than seven times the height of Everest, which makes it close to a miracle that my knees are even still attached to my body and haven’t fled in anger to a warmer, flatter place…….like Peterborough (if Peterborough was in southern Spain!) 

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Meeting inspiring everyday runners, adventurers, mountaineers and athletic legends

Tough at times, taking on this challenge has also given me a real “GET OUT OF BED“📣 🛌 alarm every morning for those times when otherwise I probably would not have got up in the cold, pre dawn to spend the day in the pouring rain and wind squelching through boggy miles of bog drenched bog!…….and that’s a GOOD thing😁, because those ‘type 2 fun’ days are some of the most memorable (though not always ‘wished to be repeated’) days.

Since I began this whole running adventure challenge shenanigans another world has opened up to me too which has resulted in me doing things I would never have imagined (aside from running, running up mountains and…..er, running!) . Meeting lots of adventurey folk like those above, being mesmerised by incredible stories of relative derring do, public speaking, writing for magazines, becoming nifty with crampons and ice axe ( there’s a whole dance routine video to prove it!), tasting 20 different flavours of flapjack, running with Joss Naylor for goodness sake! – all things I still can’t believe have happened. I can only share the notion to always be open to new opportunities….and GRAB THEM, because you never know where it might take you.

One of those ‘so glad I got out of bed early’ days!

I have also been lucky to meet and spend more time with some incredible Mountain Rescue Team members and witness Search Dogs trainees progress further through their training. They are now becoming so much more than adorably cute puppy faces as they advance through the various stages of training on their way to becoming qualified, registered Search Dogs fully skilled to work with their handlers to help the team save lives.

It’s always hard to find words to describe how amazing these teams are

Talking of which…. ( aha – you say- here we go) – although I have reached 25% of my mountain challenge target we are still a long way from reaching 25% of the fundraising target ( nearly 20% short as it happens – facepalm emoji!)

So if you have a few shiny coins rattling around in your winter coat lining/ down the back of the sofa/ car door cup holder/ you get the idea,

dig ’em out and sling’em int’ bucket RIGHT HERE – GO ON!, GIVE IT A CLICK😉 👍 You know you are epic!

It’s also really easy to donate by text too…. just text TOPS50 followed by an amount to 70070 . Thank You❤

Happy trails😊👣🐾

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Not every Marilyn is a Munro

Many people have compiled lists of the hills and mountains of the British Isles over the last 130 years, so much so it has become a British hill-walking sport to tick off the various collections, a pastime known as ‘Hill-Bagging’ or ‘Peak Bagging’. In my #RunningtheSummits 1000 Mountain challenge I will need to become a fairly obsessive participant of this activity but there is no definitive 1000 mountains collection so how do I go about compiling such a lengthy list of my own for this challenge?

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Mike Knipe has a very amusing detailed blog delving further into this bizarre British pastime featured on the UKHillwalking website.
20180607_091304Standing on the ‘pointy bit’. CAUTION : always bear in mind, getting down is much tricker than getting up!

It started, as these things do, with the question over a pint or two “What makes a mountain a mountain?”……some time later and after much debate, disagreement and admittedly a little drunkenness, the question had not been adequately answered so I later turned to that font of all knowledge- the modern, universal library……Google!

20180607_150548Some baffling trigonometry behind measuring a mountains height – points deducted for not showing my workings out!

There seemed to be a consensus of agreement that to constitute ‘mountain’ status in Britain a peak needed to be 2000ft (609.6metres) or higher. Question simply answered you might think…..well, no. This was where the clear black and white line ended. Because there are many humps and bumps along a ridgeline for example that can easily be argued to be part of the main summit as opposed to mountains in their own right. In order to make some sense of this jumble of peaks, ridges, bumpy shoulders (technical term!), crags and outcrops various lists began to be compiled to categorise the peaks into orderly groups of hills that could be qualified, quantified and best of all, ‘bagged’. How we British love lists. I am a dedicated list maker myself so this particular, logistical part of the challenge really got me keenly reaching for the coloured marker pens.

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My Multi Coloured Map of English Mountains and hills  – happy hours of plotting on the Viewranger App!

Now if a person wanted to climb a large number of the highest mountains in Britain they really need not look much further than Scotland which hosts way more than its fair share of fabulous high and wild places. But my objective with the Running the Summits challenge was to showcase a broader selection of peaks throughout the Isles and to highlight the fact that Yes, we DO have mountains in England.

Screenshot_20180605-204556Some fairly ‘mountainy’ looking peaks in Britain

So the first list that I decided to use for my 1000 mountains compilation is the ‘Hewitt’s’ , an anacronym of sorts…Hills of England, Wales and Ireland over Two Thousand feet. This list was compiled by Alan Dawson and the contenders were originally quite aptly called ‘Sweats’. The additional criteria that secures a peaks place on the Hewitt list is a topographical prominence of 100ft (30’ish metres). In simpler terms that’s basically the amount of height the summit has over the surrounding ground, i.e. the ‘pointy’ bit that makes it stand out! There are over 500 Hewitts spread out across England, Wales and Ireland so my 1000 mountain list was immediately half full.

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I then added ‘Nuttalls’, named after John and Anne Nuttall who compiled the list published in their books ‘The Mountains of England and Wales’ – all of which also qualify for mountain status by height, but these peaks only need 50ft (15m) of ‘pointy bit’ at the top to qualify as a Nuttall. Whilst all Hewitts are also Nuttalls, the full Nuttall list of 444 mountains adds a further 126 summits to my compilation.

20170327_001431Ingleborough – one of the highest peaks in Yorkshire and part of the popular Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge, an all round top day out followed by cake and a pint of tea at the Pen y Ghent Cafe in Horton-in-Ribblesdale – just get round before they close!

During my research I also came across an opinion that as well as peaks over 2000ft, a peak over 1000ft, if it had considerable topographical prominance, i.e. stuck out like a sore thumb, totally dominating its surroundings, it could, loosely, in some circles be considered a mountain. I have since misplaced my reference for this argument but I am sure it was hidden somewhere in the pages of the mountainguide.co.uk which, incidentaly lists 10,000 peaks throughout the British Isles and is a fabulous source of reference and hill-shaped vital statistics, if you like that sort of thing. One list that would include such attention grabbing peaks is the ‘Marilyns’ (the name a pun to the Scottish ‘Munro’s’ – there is no such list as ‘the Mansons’!)  This extremely voluptuous list of 2010 peaks in the British Isles, also compiled by Alan Dawson includes all hills with a prominence of at least 500ft (152m) (i.e. ones with extremely outstanding ‘pointy bits’) regardless of their overall height. I felt some of these peaks deserved a place in my list, after all – my challenge, my rules!

received_10160169254685234Pen y Ghent lost in the clag – a Hewitt, Nuttall AND Marilyn all in one!

All the Marilyns of England, Wales and Ireland above 2000ft are by default also Hewitts, but for the purposes of my list of 1000 I will be including an additional number that stand between 1000ft and 2000ft in England and Wales qualifying as ‘Mini Mountains’. This classification group also gives me the chance to travel a little more widely around England too as all of the 2000ft+ mountains bar two are situated in the National Parks of northern England.

20180607_093550They might not be mountains but Chrome and Parkhouse Hills are as pointy as a witches hat.

I’m not sure exactly how many Marilyns I will include yet as I am still scoping out the illegal ones – those hanging out on private land – which I will probably be avoiding, not least because carrying bolt cutters would heavily encroach upon my ‘fast and light’ policy.

Then of course when we look to the Lake District which hosts by far the majority of English mountains we have that wonderful list, the ‘Wainwrights’, which just brings a romantic sigh from the mouths of hill walkers everywhere – a list of 214 Lakeland peaks, just to confuse matters further, locally known as ‘fells’. These 214 fell tops are a definitive group with no statistical criteria. They were illustrated and written about by Alfred Wainwright in his collection of guides to the lakeland fells for no more than aesthetic reasons and constitute some of the most beloved mountains and hills of the region.

20180606_205528The view from Haystacks – Alfred Wainwright’s favourite fell

Wainwright bagging is also a very popular activity, which would probably have been much to the chagrin of the mild mannered, shy man himself who cared little for any form of rushing around in the hills, list ticking or bagging. I have long admired his simple, uncomplicated lifestyle and love and knowledge of the Lake District fells so it seemed fitting to finally reach the summits of all of these places that I have previously only dipped into, as a part of this challenge.

20180606_205705Kirk Fell looking non too inviting…

Many of the Wainwrights fall into other categories – Hewitts or Nuttalls giving them full mountain status for the purposes of my list. Some are also Marilyns, classing them as ‘Mini Mountains’ and a few aren’t on any other list but I have chosen to include them, adding another 62 (dubiously classed) mountains to my list. All the Wainwrights stand above 1000ft bar one, Castle Crag, which I intend to summit to fully complete the Wainwrights ( i’m sure the idea of leaving just one hill on any list un-bagged would surely send an ardent peak bagger into a state of incomprehensible shock) but Castle Crag will not count officially towards my 1000 Mountains.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0853.JPGSmall but beautiful – Neither a mountain nor a mini mountain by the criteria but Arthur’s Seat surveying Edinburgh is a firm favourite running hill.

So that’s alot of peaks already throughout England, Wales, all of Ireland and the Isle of Man. But no journey around the Mountains of the British Isles would be complete without a hefty dose of  Scottish mountain magic. In fact, if I just wanted to reach the sublime total of 1000 Mountain summits, more than enough contenders –  around 2100,  could be found in Scotland alone.

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Scotland has a whole other set of list for fervent hill-baggers. The mightiest of all the mountains here are those that reach the lofty status of ‘Munro’ , named after Sir Hugh Munro who produced the first list of such mountains in 1891. A ‘Munro’ is a peak of 3000ft or more regardless of relative elevation. Despite much debate about the ‘true’ peaks and subsidiary tops and re-surveys over the years with more accurate equipment there are now 282 Munros and 227 subsidiary tops.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1131.JPGAs a break from the mind boggling lists and numbers – a gratuitous pic of Patch on Christmas morning brewing up on the summit of Stob Mhic Mhartuin ……………..now back to the numbers

‘Corbetts’ of which there are a nice round 222, are mountains between 2500 and 3000ft with the added criteria of 500ft (152m) of prominence. Then there are ‘Grahams’, named for Fiona Graham and often referred to as lesser Corbetts, standing between 2000 and 2500ft with the same relative prominence of 500ft, of which there are 224.

20180606_211314Just a glimpse of the poetic Ben Lomond overlooking the waters of Loch Lomond

The final chunk of my 1000 Mountains list will consist of a wonderful selection of the most well known, favourite, legally accessible! and best suited to hill-running mountains from the lists of Munros, Corbetts and Grahams.

20180606_212428A drizzly day cannot detract from the unmistakably dramatic silhouette of Suilven

Even after all that I still have some spaces dedicated to iconic little peaks which are much beloved by local standards but fail to make any list. This was inspired by my recent discovery of a diminuitive but attention grabbing peak called Roseberry Topping on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. Known locally as the Yorkshire Matterhorn this little peak caught my eye driving south from Northumberland to the Yorkshire Coast to meet friends for Sunday lunch. From a distance it looked like a huge mountain, totally dominating its surroundings and I had something of a ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ moment as I became totally entranced by this peak and in danger of hypnotically sculpting it out of mashed potato during Sunday dinner to the, no doubt, bemused confusion of my friends. (this reference won’t make any sense at all if you haven’t seen the classic 80’s film which was actually in 1977!)

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As the road took me closer and closer I had to stop to make a detour run to its summit – just because you do! Roseberry Topping, aside from having a great name stands over 1000 feet and I was sure it must be a Marilyn but its prominence must fall short by a few metres because it doesn’t make the list – harsh judgement! I know there are other local ‘Matterhorns’ around the country and I think it is a shame to miss out on them just because they don’t quite meet the box ticking statistics. Such aesthetically pleasing peaks will always be firm favourites among anyone who loves the outdoors even to those who are content to only admire them from the bottom. So – my challenge, my rules – a handful of such peaks will make it onto my list of 1000. I am already aware of a few of these special places but if you happen to have a mini-matterhorn overlooking your back yard please get in touch and let me know!

20180605_201638The ‘Yorkshire Matterhorn’

Incredibly, the lists still go on, probably enough to keep the fanatical bagger occupied for several lifetimes over, scaling Simms, Donalds, Deweys, Hardys, HuMPs, TuMPs, Lumps and Bumps (the last two I just made up!) but for me it is time to put my tired feet up and enjoy the views.

Screenshot_20180605-204418.jpgOverlooking the Miner’s Track  from the PYG path on the flanks of Snowdon

disclaimers :

some of my feet to metre measurement conversions might be not entirely accurate to the centimetre but are rounded to a more….well…..rounded number for the purposes of this piece. Some, though, are entirely accurate to the fourth decimal place, just to keep you on your toes.

This is also designed to be a gentle overview when it comes to these classifications in order that most readers should retain consciousness. If you are a list ticking, stats devouring fanatic on the other hand there is literally a figurative mountain of info on the subject on that highly reliable source Wikipedia!

Finally, my use of the term ‘pointy bits’ is probably over selling many mountain tops but ’rounded hump’ did not sound quite so enticing.

My #RunningtheSummits 1000 Mountains in 365 days challenge is not just entirely for my own amusement or merely just some perverse attempt to torture my knees but also has a goal to raise a mountain of cash to support our Mountain Rescue Teams, Search and Rescue Dogs and Fix the Fells, all incredible volunteer manned charities that are the real heroes of the high places. 

Please donate a little if you can  – just click on the big heart below to donate…..thank you 😊👣❤

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Why run 1000 Mountains?

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After my seemingly spontaneous decision to take my #RunningtheSummits Mountain Challenge to a whole new level it seems only fair to answer the big question……why???

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When I had the idea to take myself off on a little jog over the 180 Hewitt classified ‘Mountains’ of England that in itself seemed pretty daunting and to tell the truth I found the whole idea quite scary – I only had to climb a mere THREE summits on my #3PeAksRun, on all of which I experienced bad weather and some challenging conditions, and this was summer time on the most visited mountaintops in Britain with good paths and rarely a place to find yourself really alone. Of the hundreds of other mountains around the British Isles many are much more remote, difficult to reach, pathless and far less visited places.

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I do have a strong background of hill walking, a reasonable level of experience and have taken several courses in summer and winter hill skills and navigation, but I still hold a very cautious and wary respect for the mountains as places where I have often been tested. I relate it a little bit to the person who dives into the ocean proclaiming themselves a strong swimmer – it doesn’t matter how strong a swimmer you are, you will never be a match for nature!

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But at the same time, being in the mountains has brought me moments of my greatest joy, and certainly nowadays, running trails. As trail, mountain and fellrunners will surely attest, there is nothing quite like the feeling of freedom and agility of moving quickly along a technical trail skipping lightly from rock to rock. When the trail stars align the experience is that of a sublime dance with thd landscape. Then again, when they do not and you faceplant into a tree it can smart a bit!

So the decision to attempt to reach the tops of 1000 Mountains was not taken lightly. But I was feeling that the challenge needed to be something bigger, something to really test my mettle, but also a (dare I say) ‘journey’ to experience and learn so much more about our high places. I wanted the whole experience to last longer and have the opportunity to involve many more people. I had also set a ridiculously big fundraising target and felt it needed a challenge to match.

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I also seemed to be getting signs ( I know, sounds a bit sketchy) – but I kept coming across inspiring adventures of others, relating to their motives and experiences while my own growing obsession with mountains was quietly cultivating away. I was beginning to get strong emotions attached to random hills and was discovering I could recognise many peaks from photos of their ridgelines or surrounding landscapes as easily as old friends. The time was right to spend some serious time in the hills!

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I recently came across a trailer for the upcoming film ‘Edie’ starring Sheila Hancock which is the story of an elderly woman fulfilling a long held dream to climb a mountain in Scotland. The mountain in question is Suilven, an enigmatic peak which had held me quite entranced when I finally saw it for the first time last winter while spending some time in this remote corner of Scotland. I was equally as inspired by Sheila Hancock. Although the story behind Edie is a work of fiction the true story is that Sheila at 83 years of age did indeed climb that mountain proving the films tag line that it’s never too late.

assynt-suilven-autumn-glencanisp-lodgeThe majestic Suilven – photo credit James Barlow Photography

A final and far more straightforward reason to up my game to 1000 Mountains is simply…..because they are there? Not in a flippant sense but because we actually have so many incredible peaks in the British Isles and it seemed a shame to limit my adventure to so few of them. Climbing only those classified as Hewitts did seem to mean missing out on so many beautiful summits so the #RunningtheSummits 1000 will include peaks classified as Hewitts, Nuttalls and Scottish Munros…..all meeting the loosely accepted definition of a mountain by rising to a minimum of 2000 feet, and Marilyns, which include some lower hills but they do all have an elevation of at least 150 metres relative to the surrounding terrain making them really dominate their surroundings – true ‘mini mountains’. I also plan to include some people’s choice favourites that may not have made it onto any peak-bagging list! There have already been some fantastic hilly recommendations!

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Perhaps a bit of a cliché but #RunningtheSummits has all the potential of an adventure of a lifetime for me and I can’t wait to begin. But what I am most looking forward to is seeing some of you guys out there in the glorious British hills and meeting more of the incredible people who voluntarily give their time to help others as part of the Mountain Rescue Teams, Search Dog handlers and Fix the Fells – the real heroes of this story!

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Please join this mountainous adventure by following this blog, liking the facebook page and supporting the mountain charities by donating a little if you can.

 
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Happy trails – see you on a summit!  Tina and trail dog Patch😁👍👣🐾

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Mountain, Camping or Expedition Meals sorted with TentMeals!

 

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Jess and the amazing team at TentMeals are now supporting me during my Running the Summits mountainous challenge and I am hugely grateful because not only are they a fantastic small team who really care about their customers, their products and the environment they also make super scrummy camping meals!

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In their own words they are…

…wholeheartedly dedicated to making the best expedition food – meals that are delicious, natural, high energy, lightweight and easy to prepare.

Meal selection. Credit @coachmacca

Each packet is nutritionally packed with the good stuff ( no nasty additives or preservatives) and are suitable for vegan diets. What really amazed me though was how truly tiny the packs are! They looked very small on the website but when they arrived I was amazed – absolutely perfect for squeezing into stuffed backpacks and keeping things fast and light! Conversely, when prepared ( which was also even more quick and simple than I could have imagined) the meals bloomed into very satisfying portions. I am a pretty big eater and thought I would have no troubles wolfing down the large ( its all relative) 800kcal packs but even I had some laters leftovers. On an energetic day on the hill these would make the perfect recharge dinner.

Cooking up a Blueberry Burst breakfast. Credit @pcolledge

The meals also require much less cooking than I expected which also means they are very quick, easy and light on fuel usage, all of which is great at the end of a long days’ running (or hiking, climbing, trekking, kayaking, ski touring, SUP’ing, canoeing or long distance space hopper’ing!) Basically you just add boiling water to the pack contents and leave for the required time….though in practise I did prefer to bring the meal back to the boil before eating. You can even prepare them with cold water so if your fuel runs out, your stove is playing hard to get or your stormproof matches are losing a battle with gale force winds you can still have a tasty and nutrient rich meal at the end of the day.

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I am particularly impressed with just how easy the meals are to prepare – there IS basically no preparation! This is going to be such a joy at the end of long running days during this challenge – I can set up camp by which time dinner will have virtually made itself! Finding, carrying and preparing ingredients became quite a chore during my #3PeAksRun and I often missed out on healthy well balanced meals because of it.

Almond Jalfrezi curry. Credit TentMeals

The Tent Meals facebook page is also full of quick and easy recipe idea posts that maximise energy or protein intake for when you can pick up fresh ingredients on your adventures.

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Tent Meals also supply trail mix packs and some base dried ingredients, especially useful if you like to throw an extra handful of veggies into your meal as I do. This makes them a one stop shop for your outdoor adventures nutrition whether you are planning an overnight wild camp or an arctic expedition. No need for any more end of day squashed sandwiches!

credit Will Goodall Copestake. Almond Jalfrezi

 

But don’t just take my word for it –  check them out for yourself at TentMeals.co.uk or bring a spoon and catch up with me at dinner time on one of my 1000 summits! (would love it if someone actually did that!😁)

Happy trails 👣

Super Support from the Queens of Flapjack!

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WARNING: this post contains copious amounts of made-up adjectives, excessive exclamation marks and gratuitous flapjack photography!!

I am totally flapperjacked to announce the wonderful squishy hearted folk at Flapjackery are as super amazing as their scrumilicious flapjacks and will be supporting me in my Running the Summits quest.  As many of you know,  flapjack is my go-to fuel of choice so I am very excited to be powered by some the absolutely finest flapjack in the country, nay,  the world! ( I have tested a LOT of flapjack…..(Ellen Cattanach and Val Allport- your homemade flapjacks are still totally brilliant!))

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I discovered my new gurus at the inaugural National Running Show at the NEC in January (tickets are now on sale for 2019!) , but heartbreakingly never got to taste their oatilicious wares as no sooner had the show opened than the entire weekend’s stash of gooey, chewy, flapjack goodness had been snaffled by avid runner fans of the mighty oat! But Flapjackery were not to be beaten, travelling a late night round trip from Birmingham to Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor back to their kitchen to stock up with a new batch for runners at the second day of the show where remarkably, once again, just a few oaty crumbs remained by the time I made it through the crowds to their stand!

 

Discovering that runners would happily wade their way through a soggy 10k bog run to get their hands on these proper lush treats, Flapjackery recently had a record weekend fuelling runners and visitors at the 2018 London Marathon Expo.

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Flapjackery founders Carol and Sally, both passionate about flapjack (totally understandable!)  took an idea 6 years ago and really ran with it. In their own words…

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We take the humble oat and raise it to a luxury level by adding top quality ingredients and a dash of madness to create our range of luxury Devon flapjacks in interesting flavours in huge chunky pieces, with a range suitable for vegans and lactose intolerant now available. British oats, locally sourced West Country butter and fairtrade brown sugar are some of the reasons our flapjacks taste so good.

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What’s not to love?good, wholesome, nutritious and lovingly made ‘real food’ fuel – perfect for outdoor adventures!

I will be chomping away on a piece of Flapjackery heaven on every mountain summit, I’d love you to join me though I’m not sure if I’ll be willing to share😁

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Now, if you are thinking…

‘Where can I get my hands on these flapjacks of irresistibleness?’

as…obviously, you must be,

check out the Flapjackery website. You can try these uberlush treats for yourself by ordering online or they may be attending a show or exhibition near you soon!

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But don’t just take my word for it…reviews of Flapjackery flapjacks are full of words like    ‘WOW’  ‘AMAZING’  ‘GORGEOUS’  ‘IRRESISTIBLE’.

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Sorry, but I am all out of mouth watering flapjack photos for now but listen out for the next adventure on this Mountain climbing, downhill windmilling arms, running madness challenge as the time gets closer to start…..Running the Summits!

 

P.S. SSShhhhhh…..nobody tell Patch about the flapjack!

 

My #RunningtheSummits Challenge is raising funds for the Mountain Rescue Teams of England and Wales, The Search & Rescue Dog Association England and Fix the Fells. Please support their incredible, selfless work via my fundraising page at VirginMoneyGiving.com

 

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Introducing Running the Summits!

So….one or two people have been asking me

“what’s your next challenge?

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Well, I cant deny I had been thinking about a few ideas for a new, challenging adventure. The #3PeAksRun was a run into the unknown in the sense that i had no idea if my body would hold up to such intense multi day running and, indeed, just two days in I was almost convinced that it wouldn’t. But one of the points of this challenge was to push myself to see if I could go beyond what I thought I could do. More than one person suggested that I couldn’t pull it off but we never know what we are capable of unless we give it a go.

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With that in mind I plan to attempt a bigger, tougher trial by mountain starting in 2018 –

Running the Summits –A jog over 1000 Mountains of the British Isles in 365 Days

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It’s quite a leap from 3 mountains to 1000 so this will be a real monster of a challenge and I dont mind admitting I’m trying to construtively channel the fear on this one. Our diminutive mountains may lack a little in stature but they certainly pack the punch of far loftier peaks in terms of challenge. Even in summer conditions our mountains can possess huge difficulties with terrain, weather conditions and navigation. When I summited each of the 3PeAks, the conditions were far from ‘summery’, each one shrouded in mist and cloud and I struggled through poor visibility, high winds, rain and hail – imagine that 1000 times!

With this new adventure I hope to raise further funds for the phenomenal work of our Mountain Rescue Teams and Search and Rescue Dog Association England as well as the double award winning volunteer manned charity, Fix the Fells. Though Mountain Rescue Team members would never refer to themselves as heroes the work they do must certainly be described as heroic not to mention the huge amount of commitment and sacrifice they make and the unwavering support from their families, friends and colleagues in order for them to carry out this work, and all for no financial reward. These highly skilled volunteers involved in Search and Rescue are called to a myriad of situations – lost, injured or disoriented walkers, climbers or runners, school groups, missing children, vulnerable people suffering from mental illness and depression, avalanche victims, flood or weather related rescue or downed aircraft to name but a few and the teams are receiving more callouts every year!

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What can YOU do to help?
Support my mountainous challenge by donating to these charities at

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Vicariously share the journey with me 

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SEND FLAPJACK!!

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I look forward to seeing you on the trail ( virtual or actual👍)
Tina and TrailDog Patch 😁 👣🐾

 

‘3PeAks’ Patch, the Pudding Puppy’s Grand Cake Tour

So, a few of you might have noticed, little Patch likes cake…….alot!!! (nothing to do with me, honest…can’t stand the stuff personally! I am certainly never one to equate my Strava calorie count literally into the difference between a slice of shortbread and a double helping of sticky toffee pudding…..nope, not me!)

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Impossible to choose…Rainbow Cake? Coconut & Lime? Courgette & Avocado…really?

Patch began his tour in Wales with a traditional offering of a fine slice of Bara Brith…pretty good run fuel really and delicious with lashings of butter (or so i’ve heard) …and the local Welsh Cakes from Betws y Coed are worth a detour any day of the week!

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Upping the stakes on the next cake break Patch went for this delectable slice of coffee and walnut….his argument being fair once again…nuts are healthy run fuel, there’s fruit on the side and coffee has great ‘perky up’ qualities for any endurance event..fair point well made there, Patch!

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Already in England it was soon time for more cake trials and alongside Esthwaite Water in the Lake District a slice of Lemon soaked Drizzle Cake came highly recommended! Aside from the fact we were outside getting a good dose of fresh air with our dining Patch was effusive about the health benefits of Lemons……something about its many nourishing elements like vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A,vitamin E, folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus and protein………ALRIGHT Patch, just eat the cake already!!!

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Al fresco caking…watch those ducks Patch, they heard about the lemony health benefits!

Still in ‘Lakeland Cakeland’ we were doubling up on the cake days with this little slice…..a soft, chewy Cherry and Coconut Slice….proper lush! ‘Nuff said!

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Sadly for Patch there were times when I just had no time or appetite for cake (impossible to believe, I know) despite the tempting choices for ever on offer!

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Sorry Patch, we just popped in for a water top up!….wait a minute, Honeycomb Golden Nougat Cheesecake……!

Soon we had made it to Scotland with so many traditional delicious, sweet delicacies… shortbread, tablet, cranachan, clootie dumpling, dundee cake, tipsy laird, irn bru and deep fried mars bars!! Patches choice at the start of the West Highland Way was this gooey, zesty Orange, Ginger Whisky Cake…however, I was completely addicted to the homemade wheaten bread… definitely a taste sensation, and I had to keep returning for more. I would have probably taken some away for later if it wasn’t likely to become a bag of crumbs in my pack, not to mention I had just collected another supply parcel from the post office and my pack weight had bulged by another 1.7kg already! Maybe we needed to start cutting down on the cake?

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Incredible, homemade wheaten bread at the Tea Cosy Cafe, Milngavie…i need the recipe!

With every cake tour extravaganza there has to be an element of judging favourites. This little number at the St Mocha Coffee Shop in Balmaha was a clear winner for Patch and I….. Cinder Toffee & Scottish Tablet Cake…. need i say more?

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The King of Cakes…

Of course this journey was not all about cake. Flapjack was my main fuel of choice and along with a very generous donation of the little oaty treats from the generous guys over at Graze.com many people brought me some homemade varieties to top up the stores on route. Clear stand outs were a wonderfully sticky traybake variation pack with nuts from @SARDAEnglands Val and Brian and a perfect classic recipe plain flapjack from Ellen Cattanach…..thank you soooo much.

 

Sadly our days of burning 6000 calories are now at an end so the cake consumption has to be reined in, but they will all long be remembered…

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A rare moment when Patch is NOT eating cake!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the cake pics even if you didn’t get to tuck into the goodies themselves.  #3PeAksRun is supporting outdoor volunteer charities. If you can spare the PRICE OF A SLICE please donate to Mountain Rescue Teams HERE

 

Patch, step away from the giant mushroom…..that is NOT a cake!!

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Hopeless….

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🐾