Skiddaw Bivvy

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Keswick and Derwentwater – it was quite a bit darker than this photo suggests.

Friday evening. S has a class on the climbing wall in the Sports Centre at Lancaster University. It had been a busy week: S had been the Artful Dodger in his school’s production of Oliver (which was brilliant, although I may be a little biased). I’d also had a late evening at work, so hadn’t managed my usual evening walk(s). What’s-more, the nights had been hot and sticky, at least by local standards, and I’d been finding it hard to sleep. Driving home with S I had an inspiration – a way to get out for a walk and get a cooler night. Back at home I hurriedly grabbed something to eat, threw some things into my rucksack and set-off for Keswick.

I parked in the high car-park behind Latrigg, which was quite full. There were several occupied campervans which I guessed were staying the night, but numerous cars also. A couple approached me and asked about potential wild-camping spots. They’d ended up here by default after having problems with closed roads. It occurred to me afterwards that they may have been heading for the end of Haweswater, because when we were there a few weeks ago, somebody had been larking about with road-closed signs and diversion signs even though there was actually little or no work going on. Anyway, I wasn’t much use to them; I haven’t camped in this part of the Lakes before and haven’t climbed Skiddaw in an absolute age. They decided to try Latrigg, but soon overtook me on the broad path up Skiddaw, looking for a spot on Jenkin Hill, where I saw them again with their tent just about pitched.

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The moon rising over the Dodds.

It was already after sunset when I started my walk and I was surprised by the freshness of the breeze, so much so that I hastily stuffed an extra jumper into my bag which I happened to have in the boot of the car. TBH and I had noticed that the moon was full when we went out for a short stroll after Little S’s theatric triumph, so I was anticipating a light night and that’s how it turned out – I only used my headtorch close to the top of Skiddaw when the ground was rocky and I wanted to avoid a trip.

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I arrived on the top at around half twelve. Even then the sky to the north still held a good deal of light. There were a few people about – I suppose that this is a traditional weekend for fell-runners completing the Bob Graham Round.

I was after something much more modest – a place to kip-down for a few hours. I’d remembered that the highest parts of Skiddaw are very rocky – like a slag heap, one friend has subsequently described it – but felt confident that I would find somewhere. Ironically, given my enthusiasm for wild-flowers, it was the sight of tiny white stars of the flowers of a bedstraw – there are many species – which stood out in the darkness and led me to a spot with at least a thin covering of soil. It’s wasn’t a spot I could recommend – sloping, uneven, hard, stony and not entirely out of the, by now, pretty fierce wind, but, somewhat to my surprise, I not only slept, but slept quite well. It was cold though – I discovered that when needs must I can get right down inside my sleeping bag and close it over my head. Between my sleeping bag, the thin pertex bivvy bag I have and the extra jumper I’d brought I just about stayed on the right side of comfortable.

I woke at around three, momentarily panicking a little because it was so light that I was worried that I’d missed the sunrise, despite the fact that I’d set an alarm for 4.20am, precisely to avoid that eventuality. I should have taken a photograph at three – the colours in the northern sky were superb, but I’m afraid my head was soon down again for a little more shut-eye.

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In the event, I didn’t need the alarm: two groups of people walked past my little hollow about 10 minutes before it was due to go off, timing their arrival on the top just about perfectly for the sunrise.

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It’s a while since I’ve watched a sunrise from a mountain. Perhaps I won’t wait so long this time to repeat the experience.

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There was evidently a layer of cloud hanging low over the Solway Firth to the north and the Eden Valley to the east and odd wisps of mist closer to hand.

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Bassenthwaite Lake.

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An early party on the summit.

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Derwentwater and the surrounding hills.

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Derwentwater and the Fells pano.

For reasons which now escape me, I climbed Skiddaw Little Man in the dark on the Friday night, but I’d stuck to the main path which omits the top of Jenkin Hill, and avoids Lonscale Fell and Lonscale Pike altogether, so on my way back to the car I diverted slightly to take them all in.

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Jenkin Hill, Lonscale Fell and Blencathra behind.

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Looking back to Skiddaw Little Man and Skiddaw. 

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Derwentwater and the Fells from Jenkin Hill.

From Lonscale Pike, I found a slight path, which followed the wall down close to the edge of Lonscale Crags. Part way down, I realised that the weather had already warmed up considerably and decided to sit down to admire the view with a bit of porridge and a cup of tea.

Nearby, I spotted this large caterpillar…

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…which I think is of the Hairy Oak Eggar Moth. B and I saw some similar caterpillars on Haystacks two summers ago.

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Foxglove.

As I got close to the car park again, and was down amongst the bracken covered hillsides, there were numerous moths and some Small Heath butterflies and a host of small birds about. Sadly none of my photos turned out very well.

Back at the car, I dumped my rucksack and set-out to tick-off Latrigg, it being so close by and the weather so favourable. Incidentally, the car park was already full, at 9 in the morning, breaking the usually reliable rule that car-parks in the Lakes are almost empty before 10, I presume because people were seeking an early start to escape the heat of the day. There’s a direct path to the top, not shown on OS maps, but also a more circuitous one, which I chose, partly because I wasn’t in a hurry and partly because I thought it would give better views.

Latrigg was busy with walkers, runners and Skylarks.

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I watched this Skylark in flight and then, after it had landed on a small mound, walked slowly toward it, taking photos as I approached.

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This Skylark…

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…didn’t require the same effort. It landed quite close to the path and then flew just a short distance further on, before having a ‘dust bath’ on the path. Although it was much closer than the first bird, it wouldn’t pose and look at the camera in such an obliging way.

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Keswick from Latrigg.

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Keswick from Latrigg pano.

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Skiddaw massif from Latrigg.

Highly enjoyable, although it did leave me a bit wiped out for the rest of the weekend. Hopefully, I’ll try another summit bivvy, if the opportunity arises – without a tent I can manage with my small rucksack, which wasn’t too heavy, aside from the two litres of water I was carrying.

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Skiddaw Bivvy

Small Water Camp and Swim

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On Piot Crag, Haweswater behind.

We eventually arrived at the end of Haweswater late on the Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. The car park was still fairly busy, but was also noticeably emptying. We chose to revisit Small Water, the site of A’s first wild-camp, two year ago, for the same reasons we’d chosen it then: it’s a short walk-in, starting from quite high altitude. In addition, we now knew for sure that there were a number of good spots in which to camp by the tarn.

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An early rest during the ascent to Small Water.

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Looking back to Hawes Water from close to the top of the climb to Small Water.

It was still hot, so when we arrived at Small Water, we dumped our heavy bags in a suitable looking spot, and made a bee-line for the lake. The southern side of the tarn was still bathed in sunlight, but the sun would evidently soon disappear behind the hills, so we made the most of the opportunity and dived in for a swim. (Except TBH, obviously). The water was cold, but not at all bad, once you were in, and the surroundings were superb.

The place we’d selected to pitch our tents, which was close to where A and I camped last time and which I’d ear-marked then as a likely place to get two tents comfortably, was still in the sunshine fortunately, at least for a little longer. The Quechua tent we bought A goes up very quickly and A has the process down to a fine art, having used it several times now. The boys and I took a little longer with Andy’s tent, but felt that we’d made some progress with how to do the trickiest part of the process, so that was something.

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We enjoyed our pasta tea whilst watching pink clouds drifting overhead. The boys went through their usual routine of running around excitedly, exploring our surroundings and climbing every boulder and small crag they thought they could manage, whilst the rest of  us filtered water for the morning. One final, short outing, to circumnavigate the tarn, the boys constantly on the look out for places where they might jump in, and then we turned in.

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Our pitch.

The next morning brought low clouds and, in our tent at least, recriminations: the boys and I all felt that we’d had a poor night made worse by the snoring and tossing and turning of the other two, who had, in our opinions, both clearly slept soundly and loudly. We can’t all have been right. TBH and A, meanwhile, who both sleep like proverbial logs, slept on after we’d got up, and eventually I steeled myself and woke them up.

We’d all put together our own versions of this porridge mixture. B was adamant that the edition of powdered milk, which we didn’t have when he’d tried it before, had transformed the result so that it was “as good as porridge at home”. A meanwhile, had ground up her oats so that, after the addition of hot water, her’s actually looked like proper cooked porridge. She’d also added chocolate chips and I have to confess that, having tried it, the result was delicious. TBH’s innovation was powdered coconut milk, which I didn’t even know existed. That worked too. You’ll have to excuse all of the details about food, but if you’ve ever been back-packing, you’ll know how vital getting that right is to the success or otherwise of a trip.

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The boys loved these slabs, right by where we camped. Here, Little S is shouting “Look at me Andy”, which he seems to have adopted as a catch phrase. I think the first time he did it, he will have been only about three and had just scaled a small cliff above a beach at Towyn.  I don’t know if, even then, he was being mischievous and deliberately trying to frighten our old friend Andy, but that’s been his intention ever since, so that now he sees it as an in-joke and will shout it even if Andy is not with us.

After our leisurely start we set-off up Piot Crag. It looks fairly intimidating from below, and perhaps more so when you are part way up, but we knew that the route ‘would go’ as A and I came this way last time.

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You reach a point where the way ahead seems barred by crags…

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But in fact there are two lines of crags and if you head right you reach the bottom of a stone-filled gully which leads up between them, steeply, but safely.

I had been quietly hoping that we might find…

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…some Roseroot having read that it can be found on the steep crags above neighbouring Blea Water.

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It’s a member of the stonecrop family, many of which are quite small, but this is fairly sizeable by comparison. It’s a succulent and has thick leaves, like a Sedum. The Wild Flower Key lists it with Orpine, which grows abundantly on walls near home. Apparently, its roots, when dried, smell like roses, hence the name. I’m sure that I’ve seen it before, but can’t think where. I think it’s quite rare in the wild, but is also grown in rock gardens. The flowers weren’t fully open, which was a shame, but gives me something to look out for in future. I wanted to climb above it to get better photos of the flowers, and Little S, naturally, was keen to come with me. When the first hand-hold I grabbed, a very substantial lump of rock, started to come away from the rockface, I abandoned the idea.

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Parsley Fern.

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At the top of the gully there’s a fair bit of spoil and a few structures. There must have been some sort of mining or quarrying hereabouts in the past. We stopped for a quick drink.

From there it’s not much of a climb to the top of Mardale Ill Bell.

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Small Water and Harter Fell..

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High Street and Blea Water.

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Small Water and Haweswater. Piot Crag is the ridge on the left in shadow.

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I quite fancied continuing along the ridge to Harter Fell, but I was in a minority of one.

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A dry Kentmere reservoir. Working on the dam apparently.

The consensus was that we should return to the tents for lunch and then another swim in Small Water.

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Small, odd structures by Small Water, marked on the map as ‘shelters’. By boys decided that they are garages, although they aren’t remotely big enough for anything but a Dinky toy car.

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Lunch was humus and pan-fried bread, an experiment with camping food that I’ve wanted to try for a while. I’d made chapatis with tea on the Sunday night and remembered, or thought I could remember, old friend Geordie Munro once making them in a Trangia pan lid, whilst we were on a backpacking trip, and how welcome they were after a few days of less imaginative fare. So I’d brought flour, salt and dried yeast in a freezer bag and then warmed some water to add to the bag after we’d had breakfast, leaving it to rise in the tent’s porch. When we got back I found that the mixture was so sticky that there was no real way that I could hope to flatten it out into chapatis. Instead I turned lumps of dough out of the bag into a hot pan which I’d sprayed with oil. I couldn’t even flatten the mixture in the pan, because it stuck to my spoon, but, if I cooked it for a while and then flipped it over, I found that enough of a crust had formed that I could then press on the cooked side to begin to shape the loaf. By repeatedly flipping and squishing the loaves I managed to get them to cook through okay. I made three, of which the photo above shows the last and by far the largest. How were they? Well, there was none left and I shall definitely being doing that again. My hands did get a coating of sticky dough, but I found that it soon dried and fell off without my having to worry too much about how to remove it.

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Small Water pano.

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After lunch – another swim in Small Water. It being earlier in the day, we could try the north shore and still be in the sun. Here the bottom shelved even more quickly than it had on the other side, so that two strides in you were already deep enough to swim. Only me and the boys swam this time, TBH and A watched and took photos, including these which TBH took with my camera.

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I don’t know why it’s never occurred to me to swim here before. With the steep slopes of Small Water Crag as a backdrop, this is an amazing place for a dip. I was reminded of a larger tarn in a similar, but larger corrie in the Pyrenees, where I swam when TBH and I were there years ago. Without a wetsuit, Little S didn’t last too long, but B and I had a good, long swim. That’s us, the tiny dots in the photo above.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying a swim: we repeatedly saw fish jumping out of the water. Probably after these fellows…

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Mayfly piggybacking on my towel.

After that it was just a question of packing up and retracing the short walk back to the car.

Sadly, one further bit of excitement as we walked down – a herd of sheep went hurtling past us down the hillside with a collie in close pursuit. The sheep gradually split into smaller and smaller groups until the collie was only chasing three, then just one lamb. They were quickly way below us, but I could see that the dog had the lamb cornered against a wall. Still barking furiously, the dog had the sheep turning repeatedly back and forth, back and forth. We carried on down and, when we reached the same wall, I dumped my bag and started to make my way around towards the pair of them. I tried to discourage Little S from joining me, not knowing what frame of mind the dog would be in, but he went racing off and soon B had joined us too. We realised that they’d moved on again and the sheep was in Blea Water Beck, trapped against the fence which continued the line of the wall across the beck. As we neared the stream, Little S, anxious to help the lamb, went haring off ahead, disappearing over a slight rise. He reappeared seconds later, at quite a lick, looking more than a little alarmed.

“The dog’s after me, the dog’s after me.”

It was only a small collie, dripping wet, it had clearly been in the stream. It took one look at me and turned to run back up the hill to its owners. The lamb didn’t seem to be hurt in any obvious way, but nor did it want to budge from it’s position, backed against the fence at the edge of the stream. We left it, and later saw it head up the hill to rejoin the flock. We also saw the feckless dog owners, with the collie now back on a lead, approaching the car park, but chose to head to Shap chippy for some tea rather than staying to get into a row with them.

Small Water and Piot Crag

 

Small Water Camp and Swim

Blakethwaite Bottom Wild-Camp

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Carlin Gill (Carlin Gill Beck on the OS Map, but surely the ‘beck’ is redundant.)

The Hardman, the Shandy Sherpa and I have been discussing the possibility of getting our respective kids out for a wild-camp together for a year or two now. Earlier this year that pipe-dream moved a little closer to reality when we all committed to two summer weekends which we would reserve for that purpose. The second weekend would be a fall-back: if the forecast for the first weekend was diabolical, we planned to keep our powder dry and wait for the second weekend. We also had a destination picked out: Upper Eskdale, somewhere that Andy and I have both camped many times before, and wanted to share with the kids.

When the first allotted weekend was approaching the forecast was, if not diabolical, at least not very encouraging, with lots of wind and rain expected. Andy sent an email all but scotching any chance of his participation, much to my relief, but Brian responded by stating that if we were both out, he – as befits the Hardman – would take his own kids camping more locally, in ‘a peat bog on Kinder’. I consulted my family: TBH bowed out before I’d even finished asking, S rapidly agreed, A was more reluctant to abandon our plan, but thought that was for the best, but B is made of sterner stuff and expressed a desire to hold firm to our plan. Andy must have had a similar conversation with TJS because on the Friday night they drove up to ours. In the meantime, A had changed her mind and decided to join us and, with the worst weather predicted for the Western lakes, we’d hit upon Plan B: a walk up Carlin Gill and a camp at Blakethwaite Bottom (as recommended by no less an authority than Mr Knipe).

Frankly, I was concerned that we might all be barking mad.

We parked the cars just off the Fairmile Road at about two o’clock on the Saturday afternoon after several hours of continuous heavy rain. The Lune was a thick brown torrent and Carlin Gill was also running very high. Although the cloud was low, the rain was slackening and showing signs of finally coming to an end. Our original plan to follow Carlin Gill now seemed a bit unwise, especially given that we would probably need to cross the gill, which was going to be extremely difficult, if not down right dangerous.

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Grains Gill, Weasel Gill and Carlin Gill. 

Instead we climbed up out of the valley, passing a small herd of horses on our way, and over the top of Linghaw, where it was very blowy. From the col between Linghaw and Fell Head we took the path which traverses the steep slopes round the head of Small Gill.

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What a find this was! I always enjoy a contouring path and I think that in this case the fog enhanced the drama. The kids seemed to be enjoying themselves despite the adversity…

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B’s rucksack, which is almost as big as he is, is vintage, an old Berghaus model which my Dad used when we walked the Pennine Way together in 1985. Come to that, I was also using my 1985 bag, a Karrimor Jaguar 6. Will Sports Direct honour the lifetime guarantee do you think?

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The cloud was gradually lifting a little, giving tantalising glimpses of sunshine down in the Lune Gorge.

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I’d made a last minute decision to keep the weight in my pack down by borrowing TBH’s little point and snap camera, which was now telling me that it’s battery was spent. I found that if I turned it off and turned it back on again, I could convince it to keeping eking out a few more pictures.

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Folded strata at the top of Black Force.

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The Spout.

Blakethwaite Bottom, it transpired, was somewhat waterlogged, but after some careful reconnaissance we found a good spot. It was stony, with just a very thin covering of soil, which made it hard to get the pegs in, but it was sheltered, with a handy water source and proved to be surprisingly comfortable.

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The weather was still threatening to brighten up…

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So, after we’d eaten, we climbed Uldale Head. The top was still in mist, but we had good views from just short of the summit. A real gale was blowing up there. We all enjoyed playing with the wind – the kids were using their coats as wings, and jumping up to see how far it would carry them. We all spread our arms and leaned as far forward into the wind as we could get away with. I didn’t take any photos, but A has one of me looking quite demented and I’m worried that Andy might soon be posting something similar (Edit: my fears are confirmed – his take on our madcap outing, with more, and better, photos, is here.)

B, who had persuaded me that coming on the weekend was a good idea, thoroughly relished the whole affair. As the light faded, he was devising a makeshift boules set from various rocks he found around the camp. I offered to play him, and almost immediately, everyone else was keen to join in.

I slept much better than I did on Little Stand, partly because we were much more sheltered from the wind, but mostly, I think, because I’d borrowed TBH’s new sleeping mat – it’s much heavier than mine, but the extra weight may be worth it. In the night I realised that the burbling sound of the stream by the tents had completely gone – a reflection of the falling water levels.

I woke the next morning to the sound of a shower on the flysheet, but, mercifully, it was short-lived. We’d been joined at some point…

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…by some Fell Ponies. Although some seemed quite large to qualify as ponies.

There were seventeen horses in total, including four foals.

I had a quiet brew, and since I couldn’t hear any evidence of activity from the others (unless you count a bit of snoring), decided to head off for a short wander.

I climbed round to Hand Lake, then turned back over Docker Knott and Over Sale, returning via Great Ulgill Beck. The sun even shone.

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Churn Gill and Middleton.

When I got back, breakfast was on the go, under the intense gaze of a herd of cows which  had joined the horses, but which seemed much more intent on closely examining what we were doing than the horses were.

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Breakfast was on the go, that is, except in our tent, where A and B were still luxuriating in their sleeping bags. Andy had loaned us his three man Lightwave tent, an astonishing piece of kit, which had been just right for the job. (A has a three person tent by Quechua, which I’m impressed with, it’s very light, but I was worried about it’s potential performance in foul weather). Incredibly generously, Andy’s now made the loan indefinite, and I can’t wait to get out and use it again, before he comes to his senses!

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Naturally, Sod’s Law was in operation, as usual, and as we packed the tents away another brief shower ensured that we didn’t get them away dry. Then, as we set off, we were subjected to one of the fiercest, coldest spells of rain I’ve experienced in a long while – something akin to the torrential downpours which accompany thunderstorms in the bigger mountain ranges. Fortunately for us, it only lasted about ten minutes.

We retraced our steps to the top of Black Force. You can see here…

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…that Andy is descending the faint path down the rib at the edge of the falls, but there was a strong wind blowing across the hillside and I had visions of one of the kids being swept over the edge. They followed Brian down the gully to the right of the rib, which was steep but manageable.

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Brian crossing Carlin Gill – much less water in it by now.

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Black Force.

All that remained was a saunter back to the car, with several crossings of the gill, which most of the children found highly amusing. Of course the weather had one more shower for us, arriving just as we stopped for a bite of lunch and a brew…

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I don’t think anyone was disheartened. Certainly not the kids, they were too busy lobbing boulders into the beck to really notice.

A little further down the valley we stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a horse. The pelvic and thigh bones were huge. I noticed the gleam in B’s eye and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he wasn’t to take any of them home with him. He defiantly carried a massive bone a little way, but I think he left it behind. Either that or he’s hidden it well since we got back.

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Carlin Gill in calmer mood.

We arrived back at the cars almost exactly 24 hours after we had set off, a bit soggy but decidedly happy.

“How did that compare with Little Stand?”, I asked B.

“Even better.”

I think, and hope, that for the kids, this trip, with the wind and the rain, the horses and the cows, the stream crossings and heavy showers, the nine pm, hilltop, human kite festival, was a bit of an adventure, a break from the norm. I’m not sure, with retrospect, that different weather conditions would have made the trip any more enjoyable than it already was. It was certainly memorable. I am sure though, that what’s key on a outing of this sort is the company you keep, and in that regard we couldn’t have asked for more.

The only tarnish on the weekend was the fact that we returned to find that Andy’s new(ish) car was badly dented, we think by a horse. I wondered whether anybody had heard of anything similar happening to cars left on the Fairmile Road?

Blakethwaite Bottom Wild-Camp

Family Wild Camp: Little Stand

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It’s been a long time on preparation this trip: the kids have all wanted to try a wild-camp for quite some time, and have been accumulating kit via Christmas and Birthday present requests to that end. I’ve slimmed down enough to manage to squeeze into an ordinary sized sleeping bag and have bought myself a down-bag to celebrate. TBH has agreed to join us in roughing it. All we needed was the right weather, so a forecast for a couple of  settled days in the middle of Whit week had us all packing our bags for the off.

We managed to find a parking space at the top of the Wrynose pass and plodded up the path to Red Tarn.

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I camped above here, on the slopes of Pike O’Blisco, on what must have been my own first wild-camping expedition, back in September 1985. This was one potential site, if any of us had been struggling with our loads we would have stopped hereabouts.

Little S had other ideas:

“Can we swim?”

When we joined my old school-friend J on Haystacks for his final Wainwright tick, B spotted a newt in floating near the surface of the water in the small tarn near the top. It wasn’t at all surprising that it was B who first spotted the newts in Red Tarn:

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There were quite a few about, and they weren’t at all discouraged by our proximity, even when the kids entered the water…

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In the end, nobody swam. B was quite contemptuous of the other two: “Just duck in and swim. If I didn’t have this pot on I’d be swimming.”

I’m inclined to believe him.

(More about the newts in the next post)

After our Red Tarn interlude we continued to the point were the path crossed Browney Gill…

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Happy campers. Pike O’Blisco in the background.

And then set off across pathless terrain to the top of Little Stand…

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As a result of monthly walks with our friend Dr R, TBH has developed a sudden interest in Wainwright bagging, and was very excited when I erroneously told her that Little Stand is a Wainwright. I should have realised my error sooner: there is virtually no path at all on Little Stand. This is one of Wainwright’s suggested routes up Crinkle Crags, but obviously that isn’t enough to bring the crowds.

Although fair weather was forecast, we were expecting cloud cover to come in off the Irish Sea, and in fact it was already stealing in by the time we reached Little Stand.

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Scafells from Little Stand.

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Crinkle Crags from Little Stand.

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Fortunately, the kids approved of my camp-cooking and made short work of the pasta I’d brought. I found a comfortable slab of rock and sat by the tarn, using my old MSR water-filter, which requires a lot of pumping and is a bit laborious.

“Look at your Dad sat there with his legs crossed. He looks like Buddha. Look at him: he’s happy.”

I was.

I thought we might get some kind of sunset, but we had to content ourselves with a line of brightness out over the sea.

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It was at this point that the wheels started to come off, at least to some extent. The weather, as I say, was supposedly set fair. But it began to rain.

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TBH and A had already retreated to their sleeping-bags. The boys were charging around the tarn, attempting to circumnavigate it without leaving the rock at any point. I watched a pair of Peregrines circling round the steep slopes to the south, then, as the rain intensified, suggested to the boys that we hit the sack too.

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It was a pretty wet and windy night. The Quechua tent survived the wind fairly well, something I had been worried about, but the fly and the inner were pushed together at the back, which was facing the wind, so that the foot of our sleeping bags did get slightly damp.

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We woke next morning to find ourselves in the cloud. Porridge, tea and a quick pack-up and we were on our way. The general enthusiasm of the night before for climbing Crinkle Crags, Cold Pike and/or Pike O’Blisco had completely evaporated.

A bit of judicious compass work brought us back to the path at Browney Gill, where we finally dropped below the cloud.

At one point B decided to assist with the navigation:

“This is the right way, Dad. We came this way last night.”

“How do you know?”

“We passed that white sheep with a black lamb.”

From that point on, virtually every sheep we saw was white and was accompanied by a black lamb. B stuck to his guns, though, brazening it out by claiming that the same lamb and sheep were leading us down the mountain.

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Langdale Pikes.

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Pike O’Blisco.

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Happy campers again.

Perhaps things didn’t turn out quite as we had hoped, but it was still an excellent first outing. Here’s to many more.

Family Wild Camp: Little Stand

Wild-camping with A

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“I know what I want for my birthday Dad: a back-packing tent.”

Oh. So now I was feeling a bit guilty: I spent much of last summer looking at potential tent purchases without arriving at a decision. I’ve long be aware that all of the kids, and particularly A, have long been keen to try their hand at wild-camping. I already have a tent – an old Saunders Spacepacker, and very good it is too, but although I think it was advertised as a two-man tent, it is really more of a spacious solo affair. After more lengthy deliberating I’ve bought A her tent, an early present, from Decathlon, a Quickhiker Ultralight 3. (I might stretch to a review when we’ve tried it more thoroughly).

I ought to have known really: A has gradually been accumulating her own kit – she bought a self-inflating mat in a sale, asked for a lightweight sleeping-bag for her last birthday etc. So, now equipped with a bigger tent, we were ready for the off. No time like the present: the day after my wander up Kentmere Pike and the weather was still fine, forecast to be cold and bright, the boys were sleeping over at a friends, so we could legitimately go without them (they were a bit miffed, hopefully we shall soon all get out for a camp).

On the Friday evening then, we drove up to the head of Haweswater and walked the short distance up to Small Water. I’d been poring over my maps, looking for potential places to pitch – this seemed ideal: short walk in, a water supply, potential flattish pitches, a reasonable altitude and so it proved to be. A slept well in her newish bag, but it had been very cold and, although A claimed that I was snoring, I felt like I’d been awake and shivering all night in my inadequate kit.

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The clear skies and sunshine the following morning were some compensation, although it was still perishing. A slept so well, in fact, that she didn’t stir until around eight, which is criminally late in my book. We had some difficulties with my stove (wrong combination of gases for the cold conditions perhaps, or using an MSR stove with Coleman canisters?)  but we managed to warm our Fruit and Nut porridge  which had been soaking overnight and which proved to be unusually palatable as far as backpacking fare goes.

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The posts here are where trees have been planted. Lots of trees have been planted in this area and also up Longsleddale as far as Wrengill Quarry (and maybe further). It seems that somebody is making a concerted effort to reintroduce woodland in the Lakes – more power to their elbow, whoever they may be.

My original plan had been to head up Piot Crag initially. I descended that way a while ago, although I eventually took the spur down to the dam on Blea Water, which had been okay, but a bit loose in one section. The route certainly looked feasible on the map…

Piot Crag

But looking at it from below, I wasn’t completely confident, especially since we would be carrying heavy packs.

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I offered A the deciding vote – Piot Crag or the Nan Bield? – explaining that we may have to turn back if we couldn’t get through the crags on Piot Crag.

“Lets take the adventurous route.”

Fair play. So we did.

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A on the Piot Crag ridge with Rough Crag behind.

In the event it was a cracking route, although we did have to traverse the ridge a couple of times, looking for easy rakes through the crags.

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Near the top of the steepest section we found spoil heaps and the outlines of old buildings or shelters. These are not marked on the map at all, so came as something of a surprise.

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Above this point the ridge broadens and leads very pleasantly up to Mardale Ill Bell.

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Once on Mardale Ill Bell, we had more choices to make. We could descend via Rough Crag above Riggindale; we could walk round to Kidsty Pike and down from there, or we could take a longer route over High Street, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike, High Raise, Low Raise and then down.

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Presented with the option, A chose the longest route, which sat fine with me because I wanted to grab Low Raise, thinking it was the only Birkett in the area I was lacking.

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There’d been two more parties camped close(ish) to Small Water, but we’d had Piot Crag entirely to ourselves. We were faced with a bit of a rude awakening now then because the paths on High Street were pretty busy.

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High Street summit.

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The substantial cairn on Low Raise.

I’d planned to descend from Low Raise along the edge of Whelter Crags and down Birks Crag to Castle Crag (where the fort is marked on the one to fifty), but once we were descending it seemed more inviting to drop down to Randale Beck and follow that (there’s a good path on the south bank).

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I missed a trick really – it was only when I got home that I realised that Castle Crag is another Birkett. What a shame – I shall have to go back again. Here in the valley it finally warmed up and I was able to swap all of my winter clothing for the shorts I’d been optimistically carrying.

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Randale Beck.

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Riggindale and Rough Crag.

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Riggindale and Kidsty Pike.

A grand day (and a bit) out, hopefully the first of many. Just need to acquire a warm, gargantuan – but lightweight and cheap – sleeping-bag (should be easy!). And a stove that works consistently, not just when it’s in the right mood.

Wild-camping with A