Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there


Twitchhiker Challenge Day 1 – Roseberry Topping
18/08/2009, 00:27
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There you are, admiring the gently lolloping hills and moors, when the gods reach down and pluck at the land, leaving the peculiar and entirely unique Roseberry Topping upsetting the horizon. This 200 million year-old outcrop of sandstone, admired by both the Vikings and Captain Cook is visible across the Tees Valley, and today is equally as popular amongst day-trippers, families, fitness nuts and overweight writers wearing the wrong shoes.

I didn’t know they were the wrong shoes, obviously – I didn’t deliberately set out with that intention. The problem was that there was no right pair of shoes. As a man, I only own three pairs; my trainers which are almost multi-purpose with the exception of climbing big hills, my posh shoes for weddings and funerals, and a pair of hiking boots I bought in New York four years ago and hadn’t worn since. I could have sworn I’d broken them in. I hadn’t as it turned out, at least not until today.

Twitchhiker - Roseberry Topping #2

From its base, Roseberry Topping looks immense – a fist of rock punching through gentler slopes of brush and woodland. Then you catch sight of toddlers playfully making their way up the rubble track to the treeline and realise the climb can’t be too difficult. And it isn’t – if you’re set on reaching the summit in the shortest possible time, you’ll be there in half an hour. But where would be the fun in that? As you climb to 320 metres above sea level, glorious views of forests, farmland and unkempt moors sweep away from you in all directions.

The climb can be breathless in places, but you’ll stop so often to admire the view near and far that you’ll barely notice. At least that’s what I told myself as I wheezed my way up the rocky path. Despite what you may think, you don’t get fit sitting in a comfortable chair and frequently bothering the fridge.

The view from the peak made it all worthwhile. To the West, the wave of the Northern Pennines can be seen while to the North, the grumbling North Sea peeks from behind Guisborough Moor. Roseberry Topping is an island in a sea of unspoilt beauty, and there are few places worth making quite the effort to be stranded on.

Twitchhiker - Roseberry Topping

Although I shot several minutes of video footage from the peak, the wind was gusting which means there’s nothing but static for a soundtrack, but you’ll find plenty of images on TwitPic and on Flickr. Tomorrow it’s the second challenge as chosen by the Adventure Generator and Twitter – bouldering and rock climbing in Durham. At least they’ll have some proper shoes for me to wear.



The Englishman who went up a hill

Today was the first day of voting for The Twitchhiker Challenge – five days of what is likely to involve strenuous exercise, blisters and occasional loud swearing. Every day next week I’ll be attempting a new activity in North East England, and today the good people of Twitter voted on the first, which I’ll turn my hand to next Monday.

From my time travelling in March (that should read time spent travelling, disappointingly), I learnt that if there’s an easy way to do something, and a way that’ll cause me the most pain and suffering, then Twitter prefers to choose the more “life-enhancing” of the two. So when the Adventure Generator provided the opportunity to shoot guns, drive like a maniac or spend three hours walking up hills, it was obvious which would top the list:

The Twitchhiker Challenge - Monday's vote

Next Monday I’ll be hauling myself up Roseberry Topping in the Tees Valley, and in all honesty I’m looking forward to it. Growing up in the South of County Durham, I’ve spied this thrusting jut of rock on the horizon since I was a kid but never climbed it.

Older than the dinosaurs by a clear 100 million years, it’s been inhabited by mankind since before the Bronze Age. Roseberry Topping was named by the Vikings who settled in the area, and formed part the landscape enjoyed by Captain James Cook in his childhood. The history of this place is as breathtaking as the views:

Twitchhiker - Roseberry Topping

It’s not a particularly difficult climb, and the suggested route is only four miles long. Having said that, I’ve already started training this afternoon, by having just three sausages for tea, instead of four. I’ll be jogging to the summit, don’t you worry.