2 Feb 2011

Northern Dartmoor

Saturday morning the small carpark in Belstone seemed busy but the village was quiet as usual. I left the village past the church and joined the Tarka Trail for a short way.

I dropped down to Cullever steps and then followed the tracks towards Yes Tor. It turned into a bit of a foggy flat day, the kind when it is difficult to tell what time of day it is. I always seem to be a bit apprehensive at the beggining of a trip, unsure what is ahead and if this is a good idea.  As I got higher the wind and interest increased The grass was covered in a thick frost.
High Willhays in an easterly wind
The ground was frozen hard so when I reached Sandy Ford it was the first time I got my feet wet.  From the ford I climbed the steep hill to Kitty Tor and across to Great Links Tor.

After Ger Tor I followed the sheep tracks down to Tavey Cleave.  Be careful where you come down to the leat. As I found it is a bit of a scramble along the rocks before I get to a crossing point.

Tavey Cleave is a beautiful gorge with steep sides, towering rock piles and a crashing stream. I followed Amicombe Brook up stream until I found a suitable spot for the night.

A very cold night, my small thermometer read -5 deg C at some point.  My old 3 season sleeping bag did not really cope despite wearing most of my clothes, so I was glad when it started to get light.  After warming up the gas cannister in my jacket pocket I used the stove to defrost my boots and make porridge.

I think I agree with Phil about the unsuitability of Sealskinz socks for backpacking. Once they do get wet they take ages to dry and in winter freeze over night if you are not careful (see foreground of picture below). I am going to stick to merino wool which dries quickly and keeps you warmer.

Sunday was a much brighter day with perfect views across the moor. I reached Fur Tor and had a second breakfast sitting in the sun, out of the wind.

Fur Tor
The next top was Cut Hill, here I met Joe and Einstein.  They have started (and made a great start at ) the great challenge of climbing 300 tors in 12 months for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

I headed north to Hangingstone Hill, Wild Tor and then up to Steeperton Tor.  This is the best approach to Steeperton Tor, you get the views across Taw marsh and the surrounding tors but the climb is much more gradual.

I took the direct route down Steeperton Gorge and, after checking out the bottom of the gorge for possible camping spots headed down towards Belstone.  Finishing off a great trip with egg and chips at the Whitehouse cafe.