Sunday, 31 August 2014

Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

This blog is written by Mark for a change:

Being UK’s top Wherigo finders (by quite a margin ), the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Wherigo was obviously on our to-do list and it was also our oldest unfound Wherigo in the whole of the UK.  So, it was just a question of when to do it.  Donna was sure she’d be able to do the walk but wasn’t so confident about the twelve hour time limit (not to mention a knackered knee) so drempels (our 20 year old son)  said he would accompany me as he was really keen to complete the challenge .  With the end of the summer drawing closer and drempels due to return to university in Aberystwyth next week it was a case of now or never... er... I mean next year.

Filling in the form with the departure time
Over the preceding days, the weather forecast was looking favourable - light cloud.  Sounded ideal in fact. OK, it might spoil the views a bit but at least it wouldn’t be too hot or too wet.  We live 168 miles from the starting point in Horton-in-Ribblesdale so we then had to decide whether to drive up the day before and stay somewhere locally or just make an early start.  Early to bed early to rise and all that!  Bed at 20:30 and I got up at 01:45.  Lunch made, breakfast eaten and bags packed we set off at 02:40 arriving at the cafĂ© at 05:45.  Once we’d decided where to park and found some change for the pay and display machine we finally filled in our ‘clocking in card’ and departed at 06:10.  The Wherigo requires the player to 'clock in' at the start on a virtual clocking-in machine and then clock in again at each of the three summits and finally when back at the cafe.

I’d read a few accounts and it seemed like the most usual route was to go anti-clockwise going up Pen-y-Ghent first.

We overtook a group of walkers and then had almost caught up with a second lot when we took a detour to find Pen-y's-Bottom. Onward and upward to Pen-y-Ghent.

 It’s a bit of a scramble towards the top and we caught up with the group in front on this final ascent.  ‘Clocked in’ with the Wherigo , took a few photos at the trigpoint and set off to find the two caches. The first one, Pen-y-Ghent, was easy but the other one was very close to a dry stone wall and we couldn’t find it.  We also decided that stopping to look for caches was spoiling a good walk.
Not as knackered as I look

The section between Pen-Y-Ghent and Whernside is an eight mile slog, I gave another cache a 30 second search before DNFing it and we walked straight past the next one even though it was only a hundred feet or so from the path.

Ribblehead Viaduct
The route on the approach to Whernside sweeps round in a  U climbing all the time.  We thought we were making good progress having overtaken quite a few other walkers but our efforts paled into insignificance when a couple of men in their mid 50s stormed past us.  We were about five hours into the walk and they had started an hour or so after us. It was their 23rd or 24th time doing the walk and they’d expected to finish at around 7 hours!

The ascent to Whernside is well made with flagstones.  The top was very busy with an organised party heading in the opposite direction having arrived there at the same time.  We clocked in on the Wherigo, photographed the trig etc and stopped for a bite to eat before setting off again.

We made an exception at the next cache, Whernside, and diverted form the path to it for a thankfully quick find.

Descent down Whernside

The path down Whernside is very uneven and Ingleborough in the distance looked very daunting. The path eventually levelled out and the path improved. The pub looked very inviting but we pressed on.

Next stop was for an Earthcache at Braithwaite Wifes Hole.  I’d been here once before when I was younger (1st August 1980 to be precise) and had been very amused at the name because my best friend at primary school was called Braithwaite!
Ascent up to the ridge on Ingleborough

We paused for a bite to eat before embarking on the evil looking ascent up to the ridge on Ingleborough.  The climb was slow but not too difficult and we were soon on the ridge and heading towards the trigpoint.  Clocked in on the Wherigo, photos at the trigpoint and then decided to look for the two caches at the summit after all, these were Ingleborough Summit and Ingleborough. Although I had decided earlier that we weren’t going to bother with the caches, we decided that these high terrain ones were too good to miss as we were already there anyway.
Ingleborough Trigpoint

The route from Ingleborough back to the cafe is about 4.75 miles and it was 4.75 miles of sheer pain. The path is extremely uneven my knees felt every single knee-twisting step.  Drempels was by now having difficulty walking due to a couple of blisters on his toes.  We got talking to a couple on the way down, they had only been up Ingleborough and I said that we had done the three peaks starting at Pen-y-Fan!!  Well, it certainly felt like it

After what seemed like forever, we finally arrive at the cafe at about 16:45 and had a well earned pint - only orange juice though because we were driving home again shortly.

24½ miles - 10 hrs 32 mins
So, we did the 24½ mile walk in 10h 32m. A bit slower than I’d hoped but not bad for a first attempt and at least we were well within the 12 hour limit. 

Arrived home at 21:25 having driven a 334 mile round trip.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Great Cotswold Walk

The GCW series has been on our to-do list since it was first published in April 2013, so I was really looking forward to finally doing the walk.  We decided to do the whole series in one go so were keen to fit it in before the dark evenings.

We arrived in Ablington (#37) and set off on the walk just after 7.30am.  We chose to start in Ablington as this would keep our options open if we decided not to complete the whole series - but I think we both knew that wasn't going to be an option

The walk was in beautiful scenic countryside and through some pretty Cotswold villages.

At #17 we befriended a black Labrador, we expected to meet its owner but no one appeared so we waited and waited and still no one appeared so we decided to continue on the walk in the hope the dog would know its own way home.  There was no one for miles around and no houses nearby.  So we continued on until we got to the lane at #13 then we knew we had to do something about the dog as the lane was really busy, as much as we'd like to have given the dog a home we knew someone would be missing such a gorgeous dog.  So we decided to walk back up the road until we came to the nearest house, which luckily wasn't too far out of our way.  The owners didn't recognise the dog but they offered to take it in and take it to their local vet to see if it had a microchip.  We really hope the dog found its way back to his owner.

When we reached Quenington we met nottins walking in the opposite direction - he was also hoping to do the whole series.  We enjoyed a good chat before going our separate ways and wondered where on the walk we would meet later in the day.

All the caches were fairly straightforward finds, some of them took a little longer due to nettles but on the whole they were placed to be found - which is just what you want on a walk of this length.  We met a few other caching teams along the way that were doing shorter sections of the series.

A few of the fields we walked through contained bovine beasts but none of them were any trouble at all.  Most of the series was on well marked paths.

When we reached #76 we stopped for a drink and a bite to eat at The Catherine Wheel Pub in Bibury - we can highly recommend their 'sandwiches'.

Gloucester Sausage and Red Onion Jam Sandwich - Scrumptious!!
It's well worth a visit to Bibury, we visited back in early 2010 and it's a beautiful village to explore.  Arlington Row is particularly beautiful and there is a picture of it on the inside cover of every UK passport (everyone rushes to look at their passport )

Footpath closed on Tuesdays
Then it was onto the last 5 miles which was no problem after the pub grub.  At #73 we bumped into nottins again and enjoyed another long chat before going our separate ways again.  It's always good to meet other cachers and make new friends

 The light started fading quickly but luckily we had our torches.

This has to be one of the most disconcerting signs we have ever come across on a walk in the dark.  We entered the field with extreme trepidation and once we'd squidged through a few cow-pats we spotted the silhouettes of the cows and our hearts were beating out of our chests but we knew we only had another mile to go and we'd be at the end of the walk, if we could just make it through the field alive!  We had to stop to look for #41 halfway through the field, it was extremely disconcerting to look up and see a row of eyes looking at us in the torchlight - a great photo opportunity but unfortunately taking photos was the last thing on our minds.

No one wants to come across this sign in the dark!

We thoroughly enjoyed the walk, we hadn't done a walk of this length for quite some time and it felt great to achieve it easily - so we're not as unfit as we thought we were  - Bring on the next one!

23 ½ miles - 13 hours 20 mins - This included, half an hour or so trying to find the owner of the Labrador, an hour or so at the pub and quite a bit of time spent talking to other cachers along the way.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A CITO and our 17,000th!


On Saturday we had a trip over to Marston Moretaine to attend a CITO event organised by aliandtone.  The CITO was held at the Marston Vale Forest Centre and Millenium Country Park.

Novel idea for a log book
We were soon issued with a bin bag and map of where we needed to pick litter and off we went for a couple of hours wombling around picking up lots of rubbish.  We returned to the Forest Centre at the end where everyone was returning with their bags of rubbish - someone had even found an old child's bicycle that looked like it had been pulled out of the lake, probably by a fisherman.

Old bike
It was good to make new friends and also catch up with some old friends that we hadn't seen since we were rival Team Captains at Piratemania IV.

 Enjoyed lots of chatter about cake and upcoming events before popping into the cafe to sample the carrot cake - well after all that talk of cake what do you expect?

The centre was an excellent venue for an event with a cafe, free wifi, toilets, shop and even bike hire.  After the CITO, we put our litter pickers back in the car, got out bikes out and spent the rest of the day cycling around the Millenium Park on the cycle friendly trail finding all the caches which were all really well thought out.

Conkers already??

The sun shone most of the day (apart from one short, sharp rain shower). 

A really top day out, didn't want it to end.


We had really been looking forward to doing Spunky Spider's new series - SS's Stroll - and this was the perfect day for it as the forecast was sunshine all day.

Our 17,000th
We realised we would reach our 17,000th milestone this weekend and knew this would be a good series to do so decided to do the series as a celebration instead of choosing just one individual cache.

What can we say without giving too much away.  This series had everything and more, a great walk in good countryside, no cows, a trigpoint, a nice variety of hides and sizes, some of them very ingenious, a lot of thought has gone into setting up this great series.

Monday, 18 August 2014

A 'Giga' Weekend in Munich

Back in early April I heard there was to be a new icon and heard rumours about the Giga event status. We waited patiently for the announcement by Groundspeak which was made on 22nd April and as soon as I saw it was to be held in Munich I told Mark that we were attending - just a small problem with work getting in the way before and after that weekend so we knew it would have to be a quick fly-in and fly-out trip.  Two days after the announcement from Groundspeak we logged our will attend and had arranged flights and hotel - we had to move quickly as hotels were booking up very fast.

The weeks flew by and very soon it was time to go to Munich.

German beer on the plane to get us in the mood

We left Birmingham airport 17:50 on Friday for a 1 hour and 40 min flight with Lufthansa to Munich - we didn't need a hire car this time as the Munich public transport system is excellent - we bought tickets to hop on and off the S-bahn and U-bahn trains all weekend - the underground railway operates on 8 lines and serves 96 stations and all the trains were perfectly synchronised which made getting around a doddle.

We checked in at our hotel at 22:15 and were instantly greeted by a group of Danish cachers who informed us that there was rumoured to be 10,000 cachers in attendance at the event.


Up bright and early and breakfast at 7am in the hotel with many other cachers.
At 9am

The focus for the weekend was to attend the giga event, meet lots of cachers, do as many of the lab caches as possible, find all the Wherigos and Webcams and the only Virtual in Munich, pop into the odd biergarten or two, have frequent Kaffe and Kuchen breaks and generally have a good time.

We got to the event venue nice and early and chatted to cachers from all over the world while we waited for it to open.

The venue had to be able to cope with over 5,000 cachers so the Olympic Park was chosen.  An impressive venue that was constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympics.  After the close of the Olympic games the stadium was used mainly for football matches and served as the home stadium of the FC Bayern Munchen and TSV 1860 Munchen teams.  Since the opening of the Allianz Arena in 2005 the site is used almost exclusively for cultural events.
A few pins from the UK

When I ordered the geocoin I had no idea what size it would be, I'd just assumed it would be normal event coin size but it's quite large and I will have to buy some larger sleeves for my folder.

We spent a few hours talking and mingling with lots of cachers, quite a few we know from the UK, some that we'd met at previous mega events in Europe and many that we'd never met before.
Signing in

There was a great selection of stands for geo-shopping and amongst other things I treated myself to a pen that could write on wet paper, I'm sure that will be getting a lot of use.
Duck race!

The forecast wasn't great for Saturday and we spent a fair bit of it dodging the torrential showers which was a real shame for the organisers that had put together a brilliant event and gone to so much hard work at a fantastic venue.
Lots of entertainment and games

By lunchtime it looked like the rain had set in so we decided to leave the Olympic Park and hop on and off the tube and find some caches.

We were a bit concerned when we heard how many cachers were set to attend but on the day it wasn't a problem, the venue and location could more than cope with the numbers and the event itself was extremely well organised - also the weather not being so good probably kept the flow of people coming and going a little quicker than if it had been hot and sunny.

Next to the Olympic park is 'BMW Welt'  -  which is an exhibition/visitor centre situated next to the BMW Headquarters - as this was free to enter we decided to have a look around while we were waiting for another torrential shower to pass.
Completing a Wherigo with Bruno24

Towards the end of the day we headed out of the main city on the tube to play Rubis Geburtstagsschatz wherigo.  Just as we'd set off and were heading to the first stage we were greeted by a fellow cacher, Bruno24 and his young son, they were trying to find this wherigo as they were on an icon challenge for the day.  They had reached the second stage twice and could not find where to go next, they were about to give up so we joined forces. We were a little concerned that the cartridge wouldn't work for us either but luckily we had success in triggering all the zones and once we'd gone the correct route they had success too.  It was really good fun doing the wherigo together and we were really pleased to have been able to help our new friends Bruno24 as this was the last icon to get in their icon challenge for the day.


The forecast was for sun all day today so we took a risk and left our waterproofs at the hotel.
Oh go on, you've twisted my arm.

We spent the day finding lab caches, playing a wherigo that took us high up into a tower, talking to lots of cachers, doing a webcam cache, having Kaffe and Kuchen breaks, finding the only virtual in Munich and generally walking our legs off! 

There was an unofficial event arranged late afternoon with the UK attendees at The Englischer Garten, a large public urban park, it was lovely to meet up with most of the cachers from Simply Paul's Giga or Bust Bus.
Unofficial meet-up with UK cachers

Thirsty work all this walking

One of the attractions in the park is an artificial stream that flows through the park and a standing wave is produced by a water pumping mechanism - surfers line up along the bank taking turns to surf on the wave - you had to see it to believe it! - There's a cache here, Surf is up in Munich, otherwise I doubt we'd have known about it.

These are just the highlights from our trip, I can't believe how much we fitted into our weekend, we walked our legs off around Munich, we didn't find all that many caches but the experience of going to the world's first Giga event was something we'll remember forever.

Going home - At Munich Airport