Today, I went to Kepier wood and found that the frost had gone overnight and so had the ice, this was replaced by an inch or so thick, yellow, clay-like mud. I was to find that this sort of mud can be worse than ice. I got down the tarred path into the wood and crossed the area where the ice had been. The path ahead was a dull yellow in colour but I did not expect what happened next. Walking normally I strode onto the yellow path and immediately went flat having almost done the splits. I sat there for a moment wondering "What the Hell!!!!". As I crawled to the nearest tree I found that this yellow path was slimy to the extreme. Having hauled myself vertical I moved cautiously back to the path, placing a stilt gingerly on the yellow. I brought the other stilt forward and placed it just a couple of inches in front and put my weight on it. As soon as I did, it started to slide sideways and I picked it up and replanted it on a slightly different patch, again put my weight on it and stiffening my muscles which managed to stop its attempt to slide from under me. I twisted my foot to try and secure the stilt then brought the other stilt forward and placed it again just a couple of inches in front and almost at once I went down again as both stilts launched sideways without warning. Having hauled myself upright again, I went back and tried again, this getting up and falling down continued for about 20 times. Then a man came along walking his dog and offered me a hand, but even with his support the stilts were sliding in all directions an several times I nearly flattened him also. We decided today was not THE DAY and he continued his walk while I took to the leafy and grassy side of the path and headed home. Even here I had to be very careful as there were hidden tree roots and patches of slimy mud under dead leaves. Back at the car I was very muddy all over, but nothing hurting and no damage done. Endurance about 2 hours with tons of adrenaline. Must try again tomorrow!!
Feb 3rd 2006
Went to the wood again this morning. After heavy overnight rain everywhere was quite muddy. Got to the yellow clay path with a little difficulty, with stilts sliding a little at every step before finding solid ground. I shortened my stride to just a few inches and stepped onto the yellow clay - nerves jangling. First few steps were no worse than the rest of the path with the stilts sliding gently but easily recoverable. I managed quite well for about 100 yards finding that the extra water rather than thawing mud slime was making the mud walkable with care. However the path was level. After the 100 yards, there is a fairly steep incline. I got up it fairly easily and continued on the level for another 200 odd yards, sliding often but recovering well. Got to the fence at the end of the wood and decided against stilting through the field full of cattle. I rested for a while, had a drink then set off back. Once again the path though slippery was walkable with care and I managed the 200 odd yards without any major problem but then came to the downward slope. Previous experience told me that going down hill is far more difficult than going up since you cannot see where you are planting the front peg when leaning back to maintain vertical balance. So how to do it? I decided on descending sideways so that I could see any obstacle or potential slippery bit. About halfway down the lower stilt launched without warning while the upper stilt was off the ground and I sank to my knees. Crawled back to the top and used a tree to get vertical again and tried the descent facing the other way. Again about halfway down I found myself on the ground having lost traction with both stilts at the same time. I repeated the process of getting vertical then tried going straight down having picked my route at the top. To my surprise I managed the descent without too much difficulty. Now brimming with confidence I set off back along the yellow mud. A bit too confident because as I lengthened my stride the mud took over and I took a heavy fall without warning. Hauling myself upright again, I was a bit shaken and with nerves jangling again and body shaking I gingerly stepped back onto the clay and very gently and with very short steps headed home without further mishap.I learned about too much confidence from this morning, no damage done and looking forward to next attempt.
Feb 24th 2006
Oct 21st 2007
Just a note to keep you up to date. Early Thursday morning I went stilting for the first time for a couple of weeks. I was wanting to try out the new stilt feet made from mountain bike tyre which I fixed fore and aft on the stilt foot. I had a great time at Bowlees and found the new feet gave me much more confidence (maybe too much!) than with just the toe-stops. I went to the Muggleswick 2nd path I know where I have not dared to go before due to its being so very steep and made from yellow clay. I found this new path fairly difficult but with several near disasters I managed to get to the bottom without mishap. Coming back up was much easier, so I tried going down again and managed a little more easily this time, on Friday morning I went out again and went to the same new steep path. There had been a little rain overnight and quite a heavy dew. As usual, I checked my route before mounting the stilts and all seemed fine if just a little greasy, so I noted that I would have to be a little more careful today! Once on the stilts, I went down the old path first and had no problem so I went to the new path. WOW - it was very slippery. I set off very gently going down sideways and had several minor launching. I had got about half way down when suddenly the lower (left) stilt just took off with me and slid about 2ft down hill. I could not recover and headed for the ground backwards. I attempted to twist round to my knees but only managed about half a turn landing heavily on my left hip and lower ribs. I lay there for a while before crawling to a nearby tree and hauled myself upright. I was quite sore and when I set off again I had a pronounced limp and I was shaking with the adrenalin rush. I decided I would not try the site of my fall again today as the shakes would not allow me to plan each step carefully and the clay was so very greasy, so headed back up the hill. This time going up was very difficult with several slips and slides back down the hill and a lot of recovery work needed to stay vertical. For once I was actually relieved to get back to the top. Today I am still stiff and sore. This is the worst fall I have had for several years, but I cannot wait until I am fit again so I can go back and master this most difficult of hills. I am planning to change the stilt feet again and this time put the bike tyre across the stilt foot side to side, on top of the fore & aft tyre to see if it will increase my safety and restrict the sliding and launching that I get when going downhill sideways. What do you think? Still enjoying my adventures!
Dec 27th 2007
I have just been back to my old hill at Muggleswick where I fell heavily around 2 months ago. Having been attempting to stilt on ice first(see posting under ICE)where I had to use my quad-skate toe-stops to enable my staying vertical at all, I arrived at the hill with the quad-skate toe stops on he feet. I found while walking my route the frost had made the path surface hard but with sticky mud just under the surface. I put on the stilts and set off down this very steepest of hills, finding the grip quite good with only very gentle attempted launching. I got to the point of my heavy fall 2 months ago and the adrenalin started pumping and apprehension set in. Very gently I placed the stilts going down sideways as before as it is far too steep to try going down forwards. Suddenly the lower stilt launched down the hill and I staggered, arms flailing wildly to try and stay upright, but I was unable to control the slide and had to drop onto my knees. Using a nearby tree, I got vertical again and continued down the hill avoiding the place where I fell. With heart pumping hard and whole body shaking gently, placing the stilts safely was very difficult. After several more "nearly but not quite" moments I reached the bottom, and set off back up the hill. All went well until I reached the spot where I fell and I found that the spot was actually so steep that it was unstiltable and placing a stilt anywhere on the path was causing a launching. So I avoided the area and went up the grass, then back onto the path and back to the top. A great day at 2 different sites with 2 different obstacles. I really enjoyed the adventures. Total time up high about 2 hours. 6 falls but no injury. I cannot wait to go back and try again. Watch this space....
Jan 20th 2008
Yesterday morning I went out to my favourite steep hill at Muggleswick. Inspecting my route as I always do before stilting, I found that the overnight heavy rain had made the path quite slimy. I chose my 20 inch pegs, kitted up and set off. The level path was a bit unpredictable with every step producing a small slide. When I arrived at the hill, I chose my intended path, placed one stilt on the slope and immediately did the splits as the lower peg launched down the path at speed. I hovered at the point of no return for a few moments fighting balance and trying to find a secure position for this lower stilt before dropping to my knees. Oh dear! Just too slippery to contemplate today. So I packed up and drove the 12 miles to Bowlees in Teesdale. The sloping car park is covered with dead slimy leaves and the footpath over to the flight of steps is a mixture of mud and smooth flat rock. Once again I chose my 20inch pegs and wandered round the car park finding plenty of grip with the mountain bike tyre feet. I then set off along the path and found the mud squelchy and slippery and the rock wet and slimy. After several "nearly but not quite" heart stopping moments I got to the steps only to find they were under repair with some sheets of wood covering the treads. I stepped up onto the first step and promptly fell! The wood covering was slimy to the extreme and totally unstiltable. Having got vertical again I made my way back to the car park and headed home for breakfast. Duration about 1 hour up high, 2 falls, no injuries, and I looking forward to my next escapade.