What a pile- some amazing granite on Great Mis tor

What a pile- some amazing granite on Great Mis tor

So, the first day of our recent ‘Tor Challenge’  began. It wasn’t promising- showers and low cloud hung over Tavistock for most of the morning and into early afternoon. But, as forecast, it lifted and was dry enough to venture out by about 4pm.

My wife had spent a lot of time researching our various walks and calculating distances, heights, grid references and bearings. we were well equipped with some new waterproofs, boots, walking pole and downloaded app for my phone (which gives a grid reference for your position and, if needed, a marker on a base map). We had looked into buying a GPS device for walking, but on balance, we felt this wouldn’t be necessary for the lengths and routes we’d gone for and with my new phone app (alongside other useful apps).

We’re not the sort of people to accept new things without question, and when it comes to clothing we’re definitely favour ‘natural’ materials over man made. However, I couldn’t resist buying a synthetic ‘base layer’ shirt in a sale we’d seen a week or two before and today was it’s first outing , under my new ‘waterproof and breathable’ jacket. I was im pressed with both, as you’ll see.

Any way, we set out for what promised to be a short walk to twowell-known tors – Great and Little Mis tors, lying just to the north-east of Princetown (of Dartmoor Prison fame) and within the Merrivale firing range (we’d checked and no firing was planned). According to Philip Henry Gosse (in his book ‘Land and Sea’, 1865), the name ‘Mis’ may derive from the tors’ druidical connections, being named after Misor the British moon goddess!

The way up- and the cloud/mist descends....

The way up- and the cloud/mist descends….

The ascent was long and reasonably steep from the car park (170 metres in fact to the summit of Great Mis tor, which is 538 metres above sea level). As we ascended we saw the low cloud covering the top of the climb and were prepared for our first taste of ‘blind walking’. We needn’t have worried. a well- worn path took us most of the way to Little Mis tor, and after a quick check on my new phone app, we knew we must have been just a few steps away from  Little Mis Tor- which we couldn’t see for all the cloud/mist. sure enough stepping out in what we thought to be the right direction, it suddenly loomed up before us- I thought it was a tree at first but it’s rocky outline was soon clear.

From here, once climbing the short route to its summit, it was short walk across open ground (following the pre-plotted bearing) to the tor’s bigger brother (or sister), Great Mis tor. this has been called ‘one of the grandest hills in Devon’ and is one of the largest tors in the southern moor, but today our view to it and form it was a complete fog, so we’ll have to return another day to appreciate the glorious view.

Great Mis Tor- the fortress looms up...

Great Mis Tor- the fortress looms up…

As we approached the tor (or so we thought) two walkers emerged from the mist walking towards us and we confirmed that we were on the right track. And a few steps further on there it was, certainly a more impressive ‘pile’ than its little sibling, and standing rather like some medieval fortress awaiting an attack- especially with its flagpole which is used to indicate if the firing raneg is beign used. We scaled it without a problem and peered around the immediate area as far as the mist would allow- not very far at all. Having climbed our first two tors, there wasn’t much else to do, so we returned.

Following my fortress analogy, coming down a different route still, at first, covered in mist and so focused on our immediate terrain (a large area of fallen granite boulders), felt rather like stepping on and over the bodies of fallen warriors, whose attack on the citadel above had obviously failed. It was eerily quiet and still with no hint of a breeze, and the clammy wetness stuck to our faces and clothes.

Reaching the bottom – and a clear sky once more- was a minor relief and boosted our confidence about our preparedness for the more challenging tors to come. A good start then. and I must say a comfortable experience too, as my new ‘base layer’ and waterproof had kept me warm and dry (inside as well as out) and my new boots were proving to be the dream footwear I had expected. We may not have given this new stuff much of a test, but it was the perfect primer for the days to come, which the weather forecast predicted would be dry, and mostly clear and warm.

The forecast turned out to be correct and the rest of our week enabled us to not only experience the climbing and walking to our tor targets for the day, but to soak up the scale and beauty of the Dartmoor landscape…as you’ll see if you join me for my next instalment of our tor challenge!

Day 2 beckons….

Old School Gardener