Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Lake District Wild Camp 14/1/16

December had been a frustrating month; plans of numerous icy and clear-skied wildcamps had been left shredded by the numerous storms which had battered the UK.
Fast forward to the third week in January and things were looking up, a cold snap had hit the North and winds had eased greatly.

After finding a space to park I set off along the narrow road towards Hallin Fell. Snow graced the tops of the bigger Fells and it was pleasantly fresh out'.
A Robin skipped along the fence a few metres in front of me adding a nice cherry on this wintry cake.

I soon veered away from the road and up a steep sided bank, my boots struggling for grip in the combination of snow and underlying mud.

Level and solid ground was soon upon me and I followed the path that would lead me to the start of my ascent of Hallin Fell.

Looking back to Ullswater.

It was clear from the lack of footprints that I had the Fell all to myself, with the exception of small gaggles of sheep here and there. The snow was only a few inches deep and progress was quite easy.

Although one of the smallest Fells at 388 metres, Hallin Fell provided a sublime panorama of the surrounding Fells. A stiff, freezing wind made taking photographs very difficult with me having to wait for a gap in between gusts.

Ullswater and eastern Fells in the distance.
I was soon heading back the way I'd arrived, keen to get out of the biting wind. More care was needed on the steeper parts of the descent to avoid any impromptu Skiing.

Beda Fell and Place Fell.

I expected to pass some people on the way down but there still wasn't another person to be seen. A host of other Fells were soon in eyeshot including the next on my itinerary, Beda Fell.

Place Fell from Hallin Fell.
My camera was barely in its case a few moments before being extracted once again to photograph the fine scenery all around.

Beda Fell.
Once off the Fell it was back to the road again for a short time and despite seeing a local farmer grit it a short time ago it was still very icy and required careful footing.
I crossed the tranquil bridge over Howegrain Beck and soon picked up the Bridleway that led to Winter Crag.

Before long it was clear that there was a lot more snow on Beda Fell and I soon stopped to put on my Yaktrax and get out my ice axe.

As I made my way slowly towards the summit of Beda Fell the snow was knee deep in places and I put my waterproof trousers on to try and stop the snow going up my trouser legs and down into my boots.

The gusts were really starting to get up and frequently fired spindrift at the right side of my face and straight into my ear. Snow was getting into my boots more and more frequently and I decided to plod on instead of trying to fish it out.

Once up and over the summit the wind eased but the snow was now even deeper. It was waist deep in most places and I had numerous falls. Getting back up was difficult but was made easier using my ice axe.

The Nab.
The ground finally started to flatten and I started looking for possible places lower down to make camp. My initial plan was to camp on Place Fell but the wind would be a fair bit worse up there.

As I came to Freeze Beck I took the opportunity to fill up my water reservoir and took a tasty gulp from it before carrying on.
I began looking for a place to pitch and soon found a raised flat spot away from the path.

I trampled an area of snow and sat on my pack whilst two walkers passed silently by. As I was giving it a final trample I discovered it was heavily waterlogged and I moved to a higher and slightly more exposed bit of ground nearby.

After trampling a fresh patch of snow I was finally happy and began pitching my tent. Gusts were coming from various angles which made pitching difficult.
I covered the gap under the flysheet with snow to stop spindrift being blown under and also to keep me warmer.

Wild Country Sololite with Birkhouse Moor behind.
Feeling quite chuffed with the pitch I put all the items I'd need for my night's stay inside the tent and finally got round to taking my boots off, except there was a problem. My laces were completely frozen! Thankfully I was able to manipulate the laces around the open hooks at the top of the boots and finally get them off.

Once I'd inflated the sleeping mat and half gotten into my sleeping bag I set about sorting some grub. The water I'd collected was starting to freeze so I tipped some straight into the Jetboil without filtering.
Nothing is better than a nice hot meal after a hard day's winter walking and I savoured every mouthful.

As my boots were damp and frozen there was no way I was heading out to take photographs. It was 8pm as I peered out and I could see Orion shining brightly between occasional wispy cloud over nearby Stony Rigg. I couldn't believe my luck and quickly changed camera lenses and set my tripod up. Taking photographs from the comfort of a sleeping bag is definitely a new one for me!
I headed to bed soon after, my sleeping bag all nice and warm from me being in it an hour or two.

Orion above Stony Rigg.
The Moon over the eastern Fells.
Friday morning was crisp and clear with the sun lighting up the multitude of snowy Fells.

Place Fell in morning light.
Looking to the eastern Fells.
I mulled over the days plans whilst drinking a coffee and munching on a few biscuits. The original plan was to tackle Place Fell and have another night on the Fells but I wasn't sure it was such a good idea with boots that were frozen solid. I opted to take the route down to Boredale instead.

Morning coffee and biscuits.
Osprey Aether 70 all packed up.

It was soon clear that I'd made the correct choice not to climb Place Fell as my feet were numb from the frozen boots.

The walk down to Boredale was fantastic; a nice steady amble with cracking scenery. The snow was now back down to a manageable depth and provided surefooted grip on my descent.

Boredale valley.

I was in no rush so I set the camera and tripod up to capture a nice valley scene with me in it.

Making my way towards Boredale.
Looking back to Hause Crag.
Once back on low ground the snow was replaced by ice and I followed the single-track road beside Place Fell.

I was caught off guard at one stage where water was flowing above a layer of ice and I did the comedy "flapping arms dance" luckily managing to stay upright!

It started snowing incredibly lightly and a quick glance back revealed that the weather was starting to close in on the higher ground which I'd came from.

Hallin Fell.
The Bridge over Howegrain Beck.
The homely smell of burning wood fires greeted my nostrils as I wandered back towards civilisation.

The steep road back towards Howtown was my first and only ascent of the day and I puffed and panted my way back up it. From here it was a pleasurable meander back down to where I'd parked the car.

Ullswater beyond Hallin Fell.

Even though we are well into January this was my first snowy camp of the season and despite me only having one night instead of two I had enjoyed it so much that it didn't really matter. Work is still quiet so I hope to get a good few more camps in before Spring arrives :)