Sunday, 21 February 2016

Lake District Wild Camp 11-12/2/16

My keen eye had spotted a break in the forecast wind and I was eager for some more camping up North. I'd set my mind on some Fells around Coniston but when it came to the crunch I couldn't resist the southern Fells, more specifically the area around Scafell. I'd climbed most them before (during summer time) and I knew they would be spectacular in winter conditions.
I discovered that the Blea Tarn car park is pay and display (so useless for my multi-day needs) however I managed to find a sensible spot to park not too far away.
A quick walk and I was back at the tarn. A couple of photographers were beginning to take their places around the tarn, taking advantage of the calm, crisp and clear morning that was beginning to unfold.
After taking a few photographs I headed south towards Blea Moss which would lead me to Wrynose Pass.

Langdale Pikes reflection in Blea Tarn.
It began to rain gently so I donned my waterproofs and stashed my camera in a dry bag. After a cautious crossing of Blea Tarn Moss I joined Wrynose Pass. The rain increased its intensity and turned to snow before slowly petering out. I hoped that was the last of it.
As I reached Wrynose Bridge I peeled my sticky waterproofs off and continued the steep ascent.
The road surface was now carpeted with a light covering of snow yet still provided adequate grip.

Noticing the nice array of colours behind me I stopped for couple of quick photographs before the sun went in. The gradient eased a little on the final stretch and I arrived at the Three Shire Stone quicker than I expected. The views were already fantastic and I hadn't left the road yet!

After a quick check of the map I left the Three Shire Stone and headed for the Red Tarn.

Three Shire Stone beside Wrynose Pass.
It was pleasantly cool and low cloud scuttled across the mountainside. I was feeling quite smug; I'd picked a perfect day to be outdoors.

I stopped at a fast flowing stream for a quick refreshing drink and took the opportunity to half fill my reservoir too, just in case I didn't pass any more sources on the way up.

Cold Pike.
Looking back to the Tilberthwaite Fells.
I left the main path just before Red Tarn and began my ascent of Cold Pike. Care was needed as the snow covered ground hid lots of boot swallowing streams.

Red Tarn.
Someone had already taken my route and I followed their footprints up the steep bank of Cold Pike.
I could hear voices across the far side of the Red Tarn and my eyes slowly picked out multiple groups making their way towards Red Tarn.

I put my gaiters on as I closed in on the summit as the snow was increasing in depth. There wasn't a single person to be seen around Cold Pike and I had the summit all to myself.

Langdale Pikes from near Cold Pike.

The route off the summit was hard packed snow and I was soon ascending the long drag of the path up to the Crinkle Crags. Cloud obscured the views and snow threatened but never amounted to much.

I had a brief rest before the final push and after hearing a jet somewhere in the valley I quickly set my camera to burst mode and waited but it never came into view.

Crinkle Crags.
A group of three blokes were taking in the views from the summit and when they left I started scouting for somewhere to pitch. I found one almost instantly and I started trampling snow to provide a level base for my tent to be pitched on.
I pitched the Zephyros with the door facing Langdale for a hopeful sunrise the following morning.

I had a wander around to hopefully catch a glimpse of the sunset but low cloud had put an end to that. On the way back I noticed some figures at the top of Bowfell, soon after low cloud came in and they disappeared from view.

Bowfell looking fantastic.

I'd not managed to find any water since the morning so I had the slow process of melting snow, I still had a little water in the reservoir to get me started though.
A fairly tasteless tea was washed down with some Sauvignon Blanc. I had numerous looks outside but a clear sky wasn't making a show tonight.
Despite quite a calm forecast, strong winds buffeted the Zephyros side on for most of the night and I finally nodded off after 2am.
My alarm woke me at 06:45 and I peered out to disappointingly heavy clag. I slept a little longer hoping the clag might have lifted by the time I was ready to leave.

Wild Country Zephyros 1 after a cold night.

Departing the Crinkle Crags I headed due north for the Three Tarns. The clag had really closed in and heavy snow during the night had covered footprints and any sign of the path. I didn't see any cairns and there were no people about.
It's hard to put into words how unnerving it is when visibility and conditions are like this, with nothing to pinpoint my position I was constantly questioning myself.
Eventually I came across some cairns shortly before the Three Tarns popped into view and it was a huge relief. I filled my reservoir and as I made my way down from the Three Tarns the clag slowly started to clear.

My initial intention was to walk back to the car and head home but after seeing the Langdale Pikes and Pike of Blisco my mind quickly changed and I left the path to scout for a campsite.

The White Stones proved to be an excellent place to pitch. It was above and away from the main path plus it was level, well drained and had a small pool atop. Oh and the scenery! I was surrounded by some fine Fells: Pike of  Blisco, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the Langdale Pikes.

I pitched up quite early as my tent needed a good drying from the previous night's onslaught. Despite a few different footprints nobody ventured up to my little vantage point.

Pike of Blisco behind my tent.
I had an early tea as I'd skipped breakfast and checking my phone I had received a message from a friend warning of some high winds coming in overnight. As a precautionary measure I scooped up snow to form a seal between the ground and flysheet. The sun began to make an appearance and I stood and stared, the surrounding snow covered tops glistening in this surprise evening sunlight.

Zephyros 1 with the Crinkle Crags behind.

A couple of pairs of walkers passed below me making their way back to civilisation.

Evening light on Bowfell.

When the sun had dipped behind the Crinkle Crags I headed inside for more food! Thankfully it was better than the previous night's!

The wind was still barely noticeable and I headed out for some night photography. Unfortunately the skies weren't clear like I'd hoped.
Torchlight was visible near the Crinkle Crags and it didn't seem to move much so I assumed they were also camping.

Someone exploring near the Crinkle Crags.

My alarm sounded at 06:45 and I dragged my clothes into my sleeping bag so that they would have chance to warm before I put them on. I peered outside and saw shades of orange already beginning to show, I knew it would be a while before sunrise but I still had to get a wriggle on.
I fired up the Jetboil as I'd definitely need a warming brew whilst outside taking photographs. My boots were frozen but thankfully the inside was nice and dry so they went on without too much of a fight.

The bitter wind was taking no prisoners and my warm brew was much appreciated, I even found a random biscuit to accompany it.

The delicate morning light slowly lit up the Crinkle Crags and Bowfell behind me. I was darting about taking photographs from all angles. Some of the early starters were already making their way up the path below me.

When the sun finally burst through the cloud it was well worth the wait. Views like this are what it's all about. The steep climbs and freezing conditions pale into insignificance with such beauty.

Time was getting on and my hands were also numb so I crawled back into my tent to warm up and pack things away.

Morning light on Bowfell.

The sun soon disappeared behind cloud and gave the surrounding Fells a moody appearance.

I made my way back down to the path and began the descent towards Langdale. The icy path was lethal in places.

As the snow slowly ebbed away I stopped to take off my down jacket and stow my ice axe.

I passed lots of people making their way up the band, most eager to know about the conditions up top and why I was heading down so early.

The Langdale Pikes.
Once I was back to ground level I had the steep road beside Redacre Gill to contend with. My recent gym sessions were obviously working as I breezed up it.

The final bit of walking was a doddle and the thought of a pub lunch began to cross my mind.

Blea Tarn.
Another great trip in the books but a stark reminder of how things can quickly change when up in the mountains. Take care out there and I'll be back with another trip soon :)