Plantar Fasciitis And Me

This photograph of me was taken in 2016, on an unsupported, 8 day trip in Arctic Sweden. It has something about it that I really like.

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But the woman in that photo no longer exists. Since January of this year, plantar fasciitis in my left foot, has steadily erased both my fitness and confidence.

Sure, I can still manage easy day walks and short backpacking trips and I do know that things could be a lot worse,  but nevertheless I currently feel my Outdoor Future and all its associated dreams, has gone. I can see no end to this.

Sports Physios don’t come cheap either. And my faith in mine has gone. I religiously do the exercises – nothing changes. I’m encouraged to keep on with anything I want to do, after all walking is physio in itself, but still nothing changes. I’ve even tried doing very little for a few weeks – nothing changes.

I discuss the Challenge with my physio. He’s definitely of the opinion I should still go for it.

‘It’s only pain,’ he says ‘it’s bound to ache, but your fascia isn’t suddenly going to fly off your foot or anything.  Do it, have fun!’

And so I travel on up to Oban. I have a high pain threshold anyway, I’m stubborn, have the ability to generally put on a smiley face through stuff and  armed with plenty of ibuprofen I’ll be fine.

But after the first couple of hours on the first day, the pain was excruciating. Somehow, I manage to walk 18 miles to the first night’s stop, but I suspect this is largely due to the company of my good friend Rich Flint who, coming upon me in the early afternoon and realising how much pain I was in, changed his plans so that he could walk with me and keep me company for the rest of the day. He’s a star.

Well, maybe I could have gone on, maybe I could have even completed it, but in the middle of that first night I had to admit to myself that that amount of pain every day for 14 days, was just too much for me to put up with.

I’m gutted and not sure where to go from now. I’ve lost all vision of my future in the outdoors.

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#thenaughtytrip

I get a phone call from Mike before I’ve even left the house. He’s in Durham and his first train is half an hour late. This will have a knock on effect with all the connections though, so he, Dawn and Lucky The Dog are going to be very late into Clapham. He asks if I can let JJ know.

I carry on as planned. Train from New Mills to Piccadilly, train from Piccadilly to Lancaster (where I meet up with JJ and give him the news), then train from Lancaster to Clapham.

We arrive at Clapham station at around 2:30pm. The pub I remember there – The Flying Horseshoe – is no more. This means we have to walk the mile or so into Clapham to find a pub we can wait in. The New Inn does the job nicely.

A Kit Kat and a Coke for me, and beer and crisps for JJ, pass the time before Mike, Dawn and Lucky The Dog arrive at around 5:30.

Lucky The Dog has kindly organised this #thenaughtytrip Pre-Challenge thingy for us and he’s quite clearly a bit peeved at the late start. Mike is pulled unceremoniously into the pub and LTD taps his paws impatiently while Mike insists on a drink before we set off properly.

Finally, LTD manages to motivate us all out into the rain. It’s not too many miles to the first camp spot and it goes past many childhood memories for me. I know the area very well, but haven’t visited this side of Ingleborough for many years.

The Nature Trail that takes us toward Ingleborough Caves,

 

the folly thingy that I named ‘The Witches House’ when a nipper,

and Ingleborough Caves themselves. When I first went into these as a 6 year old, they had no electricity supply and so we all carried a little paraffin lamp on the trip.

There’s no time for reminiscing however, LTD keeps us route marching ever upwards and through Trow Gill.

LTD wants his tent up, his dinner and his bed.

He’s organised a good spot. Sadly, he hasn’t organised particularly nice weather.

 

The rain rains and the wind blows. I’m snug and warm though in my little tent. It’s quite late now – around 8pm – but I’m soon supping a hot tea and enjoying a tasty meal.

LTD rather begrudgingly allows us a slackpacking start in the morning. The weather is now dry, but a manic wind is giving us a wind chill of around -2C. But the clouds lift and the views improve as we make our way up ever higher.

Once moving, LTD is a hard task master. Breaks are totally frowned upon. A brisk pace is set for the day.

It takes its toll though, and it’s not long before we throw ourselves on the ground, begging for a few minutes reprieve.

We’re finally allowed a proper rest just below the summit. But the weather takes a turn for the worse and as LTD drags Mike and JJ up to the trig point, while Dawn and I watch their rucksacks, the cloud lowers, the rain starts hammering down and the wind starts blowing a hoolie.

The afternoon goes downhill from there. It’s a long trudge down to Ribblehead.

In fact, even LTD throws himself on the ground half way there, demanding a reprieve with a few chew sticks before continuing on.

It’s with great relief that we finally catapult ourselves into the Station Inn, looking like drowned rats and dripping cascades of water everywhere. And I mean everywhere. There is no longer a dry spot in the bar.

Sadly, we have to spend a couple of hours in here before it’s dry enough outside to brave putting the tents up.

A tiny drop of rain soon has us all diving back into the bar again for the evening

where LTD insists on behaving like he owns the place, settling in front of the fire for the duration. Even though the fire isn’t on.

By the time we retreat back to our tents for the night, the weather is peaceful and dry. I sleep pretty well, but wake up at around 3am as the wind suddenly gets up and deposits a load of hail on my tent. I’ve also woken with a nasty migraine.

I speak with LTD. I explain that I could continue and force myself through the pain, but since it’s not actually a crisis if I don’t finish the whole training session, would rather take it a bit easier today. LTD grants me a reprieve in exchange for a Dentistix. He’s a good un.

But the others don’t get off so easily. Quickly rounded up for today’s route march, they hardly get chance to breathe as LTD barks orders. I wave emotionally as I watch them fade into the distance.

Feeling suddenly very alone, I slowly make my own weary way to the Local Station for Local People, and wait for the next train.

 

#ghostcamp no. 3

Our intrepid band of ghost hunters were on the hunt again. Another likely spooky spot had been chosen and plans had been hatched for us to meet up on Friday the 13th. A date full of supernatural promise!

It was a rather special spot in fact – a vigil here was bound to produce some inexplicable happenings.

We’d done our research:

‘This site was thought to be popular for ancient Celtic water worship rituals for two reasons; firstly, the water is salinated, a peculiarity for an inland lake. Secondly the nearby waterfall of Kinder Downfall often appears to have the mythical quality of water flowing upwards on a blustery day.

The waters here are also believed to offer healing qualities to those brave enough to bathe in them. For those looking for eternal life, the best time to visit is at midnight at Easter, the only time of the year when the Mermaid is said to appear. If she looks upon you fondly then she will grant you the gift of immortality. Make sure you catch her on a good day though, otherwise you can expect to be pulled into the pool to your death!’

Another writer says:

‘that the mermaids Pool had a subterranean connection with the far distant Atlantis, and at 12 p.m. on Midsummer’s Eve a mermaids arose out of he pool and sang with enchanting sweetness and allured to destruction any reckless swain who had watched to see her rise.’  

Well, we had plenty of reckless swain in our group.

Photo by Dale

 

The weather was suitably grey and drizzly as we made our way there.

It all added to the atmosphere. We were very hopeful of documenting some Strange Goings On. In fact the first Strange Goings On was Pebbles – constantly staring and barking at something in the distance which we couldn’t see, while we were all putting our tents up…

We collected our water for the night from the pool, but it wasn’t salty. Which was a bit of a relief, to be honest.

The rain and the wind prevented us from vigil-ing outside, forcing us to communicate by Twitter from tent to tent.

And it wasn’t long before more Strange Goings On materialised. Once again, Dale appeared to be a conduit for random body parts.

Photo by Dale

Eerie howling in the dark had us all on edge at one point, as did the wretched sounds of a woman wailing. At this, Dale was the only one brave enough to go and look, running back almost as soon as he was out, screaming something about Jason!

Photo by Dale

What a night! We’d gathered enough evidence to move psychical research forward in leaps and bounds.

I eventually fell into a deep, dreamless sleep – but not before hearing the mournful bleating of a lonely sheep and Dale inviting it into his tent.

The morning dawned dry and warm, all spooky happenings over and done with, and the sun weakly starting to break through the clouds.

Slowly surfacing, we had a slackpacking start to the day, excitedly chatting about the Strange Goings On of the previous night.

A different route back to civilisation was taken. In the safety of numbers and daylight, we braved The Haunted Forest, Wild River Crossings and Barbed Wire.

 

Photo by Dale

Pebbles was On Point the whole way.

We were a tired but smug bunch of ghost hunters that slowly wended our way back to civilisation.

It had been a very successful night.

Doggy Sleeping Bags – Made To Order

We all know our own dogs. Some have thick fur, some thin, some love wild weather, some hate the rain, and some even love wild camping with us.

Camping with both Dixie and Tilly, we tried all sorts to keep them comfy. The summer’s not so hard, but in the cold it can be very challenging.

Blankets, fleece coats, insulated coats, foam mats – they’ve all been tried, in every combination possible.

Nothing ever seemed either just right or straightforward, however.

But since Pebbles and Islay have been on the scene, we’ve discovered some doggy sleeping bags. On sale in the States (although they have recently stopped shipping to the UK) and rather expensive, we nevertheless invested in some.

They’ve been quite a success.

If it’s hot, the dogs don’t have to be fully covered, but if it’s cold, they can be. We’ve never found the need to carry a foam mat for them anymore either. The insulation in the bed seems adequate on its own. Pebbles was even toasty warm one night when it was -5C outside.

To complement the bags, they also have summer weight fleecey PJs and winter weight fleecey PJs.

If Pebbles is fidgety overnight it is possible for her to get uncovered and I sometimes wake up when she moves and have to re-cover her, but this is only really an issue if it’s very cold. And I have noticed that on the whole, the colder it is, the less she fidgets. One of the reasons it’s good for her to have winter PJs on anyway.

Not long ago, my mate James wondered if I might be able to make one of these bags myself, for Reuben to use. It was a challenge I rather enjoyed. It would appear that Reuben has also been pleased with the results.

There has been a fair amount of interest recently in my version of the Doggy Sleeping Bag, culminating in me making some more.

They function rather like a cross between a soft bed and a sleeping bag. In soft bed form, with the sides folded down, they can simply be sat or laid in.

But if you want the dog covered, you simply have to unroll the tall sides and lay them/wrap them over your snoozing canine. Of course, if your dog sometimes prefers to sleep on its side, the bag can also be turned on its side – more like a human sleeping bag – and be used that way. In fact to be honest, it doesn’t really matter how you wrap them up, as long as they’re happy!

I certainly don’t have any grand ideas about becoming some kind of huge enterprise here, but if anyone reading this is interested in one or simply has any queries about them, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The medium sized bag that I’ve made most of (shown in these photos), has a base with a diameter of 27″ and seems to suit most average sized dogs. It weighs approximately 750g to 800g – being all handmade they can differ slightly – and will pack into a compression sack quite well.

I have also made smaller ones at 23″ diameter (approx. 450g – 500g) for terrier sized pooches, as well as a couple of larger ones – a 30″ one which weighed approximately 950g, and a 32″ one which was about 1100g. Believe me, the 32″ was very large once finished, and I don’t think me and my domestic sewing machine could handle making anything larger than that.

I am currently charging £60 per standard sized bag – I make them using the material from a ‘human’ sleeping bag, so have to buy the same donor bag whether I make a small or a medium – but a larger one (ie bigger than 27″) would cost £85, as I’d need to buy two donor bags to use.

The best way to decide which size bag you might want, is to contact me and we can discuss the size of the dog/how it likes to sleep etc.

I can be contacted via my email at chrissie.cleo@btinternet.com

#ghostcamp No. 2

In which our Intrepid Explorers, @Chrissiedixie2, @aktovate1, @GeoffCrowther1, @dribelad, @pebblesexplorer and @IslayAdvDog, conduct a vigil at a secret spot on Kinder Scout, to investigate the happenings associated with the Kinder Boggart.

In the lowering light of late afternoon, they carefully made their way to camp, high on the Kinder slopes.

They pitched quickly in the freezing temperatures and high winds, making themselves comfortable for the night, and no sooner had darkness fallen when weird things began to happen.

Information for analysis came in thick and fast.

Data was recorded and saved.

Photo by Dale

 

Pebbles and Islay remained on High Alert throughout the night.

Photo by Dale

Their sleep was fitful. Decamping the next morning was carried out exhaustedly, in a passing snowstorm.

Slowly, they made their way back to Base, thinking over what they’d seen and heard.

Photo by Dale

And by some strange happenstance, came across this mysterious stone on their way down, strange carvings alluding to ancient rituals.

The vigil had not disappointed. Now to analyse all the data back at the lab.

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Acknowledgments

With my Plantar Fashy Thingy still giving me a bit of gip, my undying thanks to Dale for dealing with Pebbles on the lead for me throughout the expedition, enabling me to still take part without too much trouble.

Brown Knoll Again – This Time With Snow

“Oh my God, look at the moon! And the lights!”

This was Fran’s third wild camp, but only the first where we had a clear sky overnight. And it was simply stunning. My photos might only be taken with a mobile, but you get the idea.

It was also the coldest wild camp yet for Fran. Trying out our new Skywatch (nicknamed the Poundland Kestrel by James) I clocked -5C with windchill in the evening and -2.9C with windchill in the morning.

The dates for this trip had been arranged since before Christmas, making for a daily study of the weather forecast in the fortnight running up to it, and the plans for where we going to go changed daily along with it.

First it was Kinder via Jacob’s Ladder, then Bleaklow via Doctor’s Gate (Judith gave me that idea), then back to Kinder again…… In the end it wasn’t the weather that made the decision for us, but my left foot.

I appeared to develop a rather sore case of that Plantar Fashy Thingy on the way back from the camp Geoff and I did with the dogs, the previous week. In fact, I could hardly walk on the way home.

Lots of googling and advice had me stretching, applying ice, popping ibuprofen and trying different footbeds, and for a brief moment I thought I was going to have to cancel Fran’s trip.

But, things did start improving. It certainly hadn’t gone, but I felt able to go out. I picked a short route though. The same one Geoff and I had just done in fact.

Obviously it was going to be somewhat nippy, so winter sleeping bags and plenty of insulated clothing were on the cards, making for slightly heavier rucksacks than in the summer. Of course the margin for error is much smaller in these conditions, so I’d always rather have something with me that I didn’t wear, than be shivering with everything on, feeling miserable.

By the time we’d filtered water on the way up, the temperature was already dropping with the fading light. Fran suddenly glanced back at one point, to notice a glorious sunset sneakily happening behind us. Magic.

Nights are still long at this time of year, so eating, drinking (tea and hot chocolate for me, but I’m pretty sure Fran had some wine as well) and watching stuff on I-Player, helped pass the hours.

Fired with enthusiasm after the wonderful sunset we’d witnessed, I checked google for the time of sunrise the next morning and we decided to set our alarms for 7am, to make sure we didn’t miss it.

I settled down to sleep. Dozing, I suddenly heard the unmistakeable, crisp sound of footsteps in snow, passing our tents. I’ve since checked the time and it was around 9:50pm. I looked out my door, but could see no-one. Shouting Fran, she unplugged her ear plugs and looked back along her way, to see a guy walking away from us, with a large-ish pack.

My first thought at this time of the evening was the Rescue Team out on a call, but there would have been a small group in that case, not a lone individual. And they would have stopped to speak, to see if we had any information about who they were looking for.

Obviously someone just out doing something similar to us. Kinder is getting very busy these days!

For once, I didn’t sleep especially well. The wind kept getting up in the night and wind noise is the one thing that tends to keep me awake. But I dropped off eventually and woke to stillness at about six in the morning.

Our planned magnificent sunrise never happened though. The day just slid quietly in, without a fuss.

It was very peaceful. Chatting pleasantly, we took our time over breakfast and packing up.

Kinder looked glorious in the ever changing, morning light.

The wind had completely dropped by now, but the ambient temperature was obviously colder than the night before as there was now ice on the paths. We even put microspikes on for a short section once we hit the track again, as all the puddles and stones were iced over.

A lone walker with his ice axe strapped to his rucksack passed us while we were packing up, no doubt hoping for a good day out on Kinder.

And so, another good camp over. Fran has a shopping list in her head for yet more gear she’d like and a date is already set for the next trip. I just get the impression however, that she might like the next one to be a touch warmer.

 

Dark Peak – Camp Near Brown Knoll

 

Light already starting to fade as we climb up past Mt Famine and South Head
Water needed filtering near Mt Famine and then carrying in to where we were aiming for
Observing the water filtering process – Pebbles knows how to do it now
Lets put the tent up right here!
Dogs are tied up while we pitch
If we feed the dogs first, they then fall asleep and don’t bug us while we’re eating
Clear views at the start of the evening
A bit of a breeze gave a windchill of -2.9C
The next morning brought wind, rain and clag – view of Kinder summit from our pitch
Again, dogs eat breakfast first and then they settle
Delicious Rainbow Porridge (invented by Dale) waiting to be prepared
Morning mum, your breakfast smells good!
Dogs are usually tied to our rucsacs while we pitch and break camp, but we had a handy fence today
Nearly ready
Final bits packed and a careful check to make sure no trace of our camp is left behind
Rain and wind all the way home, but it did clear a bit as we dropped height
Doggies were beautifully behaved and a fun night was had by all…