Category Archives: Fitness

Kinder with Ziggy

Here comes the sun!

I have been known to criticise the tyranny of a sunny weekend, meaning that you can’t relax when the weekend weather is good – you have to make the most of it, whether you want to or not. Now this may sound a bit miserable, so I’m trying to be positive. This weekend the weather was beautiful so I “decided” to do something with it. Lady Hughes was working this weekend so it was just me and Ziggy for a quick sprint up Kinder Scout.

The forecast was excellent, so I threw my rucksack in the back, with Ziggy’s bed – he likes to ride in style – and headed off to the Peak District. I wanted to travel light this time so I didn’t take my camera – all pictures done on my phone I’m afraid. But hey, it’s what’s behind the camera that matters!

Once there we could see some cloud on the tops but the forecast said it would burn off as the day went on, just a little haze, and this proved to correct – you see, sometimes they get it right.

Now I’ve climbed Kinder Scout many times, from many different directions but this is still my favourite, the ‘up’ bit is a short sharp shock and then it’s over, there’s a little scramble and the the views are great. We walked up through Edale, past the Nag’s Head Pub (official start of the Pennine Way), up Grindslow but quickly zig-zagging right up the Nab for a scramble up the rocks towards Ringing Roger. If all this sounds a bit confusing, get an OS map and check it out.

On the top, you get wonderful views and a perfect place for a break and a bite to eat.

We then followed the path round the edge of the plateau, heading west before going over Grindslow Knoll and then making our way back down into Edale for a medicinal pint at the Rambler’s Inn – it’s compulsory apparently, reinvesting in local economy and all that.

Ziggy was on the lead for most of the walk as there were sheep out but on the tops, well away from any livestock, I let him for a few stretches. Hi recall has improved but still isn’t perfect. Either that or he just fancied going with some other hikers for a bit.

My fitness is improving (I think?), but I underestimated the sun a bit and burnt my arms – but hey-ho, at least I had my hat. No sunstroke for me, thank you very much!

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Not sure what Ziggy made of the Peak District as this was his first visit and he’s actually from Bulgaria – but he seemed to like it.




Beating the Fog on Win Hill

Still some snow left up on the hills so Clare and myself decided to go for an old favourite, Win Hill.

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Win Hill sits in the heart of the Dark Peak just across the valley from Losehill. Legend has it that two medieval armies camped on each hill prior to battle the next day – I’ll let you work out which one won.

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Driving in from Manchester, I almost considered calling the whole thing off as there was thick fog limiting visibility to approximately 100 yards. I’ve done a lot of hikes in mist and fog and they don’t present any great challenges for me, but standing on top of a mountain staring at grey clag instead of sweeping vistas can be a bit frustrating to say the least. Sometimes I’ve thought that I might as well have walked round an NCP car park considering what I could see. All this went through my mind as I peered into the nothing and drove on, however, we were committed and you never know it might clear.

Driving past Mam Tor, that’s exactly what happened – it cleared.

Like pulling back a curtain we went from whiteout to blue skies and miles of snow-covered hills, in a second, it was a stunning.

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After carefully descending Winnat’s Pass – lovely smell of burning brake pads – we made our way to Hope and the start of the walk.

Not a particularly long or hard walk, this, but with my current fitness level and the added challenge of steep compacted snow to conquer, it was enough for me on this day.

Once on the tops we were rewarded with panoramic views of Kinder Scout, Stanage, Ladybower Reservoir and Derwent Edge. The actual summit of Win Hill is a little outcrop of rock giving the impression of mountain top on a much smaller scale – great one for kids this one, similar to Shutlingsloe.

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We sheltered from the wind and ate our sandwiches, basking in the surprisingly warm sunshine – once you’re out of the wind!

All of sudden it became quite busy with lots of people appearing from nowhere and swarming all over the rocks, so we packed up, took a few more photos and started off back to towards the car.

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Walking down we could see the fog starting to pour over the top of Rushup Edge in the distance. Like an overflowing bath the fog had reached the hills and been held back, building up until it finally spilled over into Edale Valley – good time to get down we thought.

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Quick stop at little café and then back into the car. Driving back we climbed Winnat’s Pass and straight back into the gloom and 75 yards visibility. This stayed with us all the way home, so dense it was amazing to think there were blue skies not so far away.


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Walking the Cliffs at Stanage

Last day of my time off work so Clare and myself set off for the longest inland cliffs in the UK – Stanage in the Peak District.

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Weather was hot so Stanage was a good choice for a hike, as you can get excellent views of Man Tor, Win Hill and Kinder Scout without much of a climb.  My fitness needs some work so I was grateful for as little ‘up’ as possible, especially in the summer heat.

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Stanage is a gritstone cliff, couple of miles long, and as such is a Mecca for climbers from all over the world. This day was no exception with bodies clinging to the rock almost everywhere we went. We used to take our boys climbing here years ago and no matter how busy it was you could always find a climb – as long as you didn’t mind a bit of a walk to get to it.

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We would take a picnic and spend the day taking turns to climb the easier grades – good times, I’m tempted to dig out the gear and start again.

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The walking was easy and the breeze took the edge off the sun so we had a great time strolling along the cliff edges and taking in the views.

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We passed climbers and walkers and a couple of fell runners too. We even spotted one guy running backwards and forwards along a lower path. Watching him from above we wondered what he was doing. He’d run fifty yards and then turn back and run not quite to were he started, gradually progressing but covering the same ground several times over. Eventually we spotted a girl plodding along behind him. It must have been his girlfriend and she wasn’t quite as fit as him so he would run off and then turn back every so often so she wouldn’t feel abandoned – he knows how to show a girl a good time eh?

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Great weather, great walk and just the kick I needed to start working on my hill fitness.


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Ice Climbing in the Heart of Manchester

Don’t worry, climate change hasn’t caused a new ice age in the North of England – not yet anyway!

Ellis Brigham on Deansgate have a refrigerated indoor ice wall and I thought I’d give it a try, so I booked a one hour ‘learn ice climbing’ session.

Imagine if the freezer compartment of your fridge was 20 feet tall and you had to climb to the top to get the oven chips down, well that was what this was like.  It is kind of strange though to be ice climbing with various shoppers stopping to watch you through the windows next to the stairwell.  This is how Clare managed to take the photos by the way, and also explains why some of them have a reflection of the shoe department in them.

The first challenge is getting into all the kit.  Extra thick socks, stiff B3 boots, C3 crampons, over-trousers, anorak, harness, helmet with visor and mountain gloves.  With all those layers on, it was quite a relief to sign the disclaimer and step through the thick fridge door into the minus 10 degree chill of the climbing wall.

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My instructor was Bikky, a real Nepalise mountain guide, whose normal working environment is the high ranges of the Himalaya.  I dare say cajoling a middle-aged mancunian up the inside of a two-storey fridge wasn’t quite as challenging as summiting Mount Everest but it certainly didn’t show as he was cheerful, encouraging and very knowledgable.

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We started with the flat wall where Bikky taught me the correct technique, which we developed further as moved onto the gulley section and then finally onto protruding ridge section.

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At this point I was starting to tire and my forearms were burning as I struggled to grip onto the pickaxes and balance on the narrow section of wall.  You have to twist your feet inward as you kick into the ice or else your feet just ricochet off.  I climbed this section twice and both times I lost balance and came off, but luckily Bikky held firm as I managed to traverse back to where I came off and on to the top.

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Another issue as the hour progressed was the helmet’s plastic visor  that protects your eyes from fragments of ice.   As I huffed and puffed my way up the climbs, mine started to mist up.  Back on ground level I tried to wipe the condensation off with my glove but it wouldn’t go.  Bikky laughed and explained that it had frozen, so I was climbing with a frosted glass windscreen – obviously the reason I fell off twice and nothing at all to do with my clumsy balance issues!

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Staggering back out, I was stopped by a small girl who had been watching and wanted to tell me that I’d done very well, so I’d impressed at least one person – which was nice.

Overall, an exhilarating experience which I heartily recommend and may well do again soon.  And it is kind of cool to be able to say I was taught how to ice climb by an actual himalayan mountain guide from Nepal – many thanks Bikky.

All I need now is for that ice age to get organised so I can move on to the bigger stuff.


Mam Tor and the Great Ridge

First real hike of the year so we (the current Mrs Hughes and myself) decided to pick an easy one to start with. Mam Tor in the Peak District and then along the ridge to Lose Hill before turning back. Not an epic, by any stretch of the imagination, but still a beautiful walk with some dramatic views of the high peak.

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I always find it interesting how the further you get from the car park, the more the clothing of the people around you changes. The denim and trainers start to disappear and are replaced by Gore-tex, boots and map cases. Just as sailors always knew they were close to land by the appearance of certain birds, I know I’m getting close to a car park by the appearance of more jeans and football shirts. Clare and I have started to fondly call these people the ‘100 yards from the car park brigade‘.

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There was some debate whether to wear gaiters but I confidently stated that it was a good path and we wouldn’t need them. This was to prove a mistake as the paved section of the path ran out about half-way and then the mud started.

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Now I don’t know about you, but I like mud. I think it’s a badge of honour. Which is, of course, why I chose to wear cream trousers to really showcase all the crap that splattered my legs for over three hours. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it (much like the swamp that stuck to me).

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Anyway, the weather improved through the day and my fitness seemed to be fine, though my right knee did start to play up a bit on the last descent, but, hopefully this is just a teething pain as I start to get my hill fitness back.

I’d much rather get fit doing things like hiking than going to a gym.

I used to be a member of a gym until it suddenly dawned on me that I was driving to a place, where I paid money, to go on machines, that simulated everyday activities like running and walking up stairs. I did this for hours whilst staring at a television like a laboratory rat. It was after I’d been to Africa, where I’d seen how the people in Tanzania lived, that I started to feel very uneasy about my gym membership.

Looking down a 100 yards of treadmills with all these people walking and running but getting nowhere It all looked very wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I still occasionally consider joining a gym, but very soon that uneasy feeling returns and I think again.

Whenever I feel like exercising. I lie down until the feeling goes away.

Not early, but my advice is start with a walk.  If you can walk somewhere beautiful then all the better, but if you can’t just get outside and go for a stroll, then work up from there.

Unless of course, you currently live in an active war zone.  In which case you may need to go somewhere else – like a gym!

Here’s a few more pictures taken on the way – let me know what you think?

Until next time,


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Indoor Climbing

First adventure of the year, indoor climbing at Awesome Walls, in Stockport, with my wife Clare.

I used to climb regularly, but as with many things I’ve let it slide for a while now as I’ve become more sedentary and succumbed to the seductive lure of the sofa.

I was never a brilliant climber but I enjoyed it, which I think is important when you’re looking for a fitness pursuit, as you’re (hopefully) more likely to stick with it.

So how did we get on?

Well, though I was creaking a bit and obviously not up to the standard I used to be at, I did better than I expected.  Real climbers please close your ears for the following bit – we started with a grade 2 climb, with small children sneering at us as they raced past, but we worked our way up to grade  4+ for Clare and grade 6+ for me. Which is pretty good for day one I think – that’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

More importantly, we had a good time and a good workout, so we’ve agreed to set a regular appointment each week. Though I’m expecting to improve, I don’t think we’ll be climbing El Capitan this year – maybe next year if I have the time.

So, that’s week one and our first little adventure, hopefully just a warm up for better things to come.  Have you started anything new for 2014?  I’d love to hear if you have.