Sunday, 4 December 2016

Lake District Wild Camp 25-26/11/16

Work had denied my last three attempts at heading up to the Lakes. Finally fourth time lucky my wish had been granted. I'd been keeping tabs on the ever improving forecast and this added to my excitement.
Battling the usual M6 traffic chaos I parked up in a frosty Langdale at 10pm, noting a -4 temperature readout on the dashboard.
After quickly donning my fleece, hat and gloves I put my pack on, switched the headtorch on and strolled off into the night, but after a good few paces I realised I'd not picked the map up.
I walked back to the car and realised it wasn't there either. I cursed but as this was a route I knew well I cracked on and headed for The Band.
The night was magical, everything glistened like diamonds under the beam of my headtorch and I desperately wanted to take some pictures, but at the same time needed to make camp before midnight so I plodded on grudgingly.
Once off the main road I was surprised to see sheep scattered all over the path in front of me, I picked a route around them to avoid disturbing them as best I could.
Despite the freezing conditions I soon became too warm and stopped to take my fleece off, the gradient doing a fine job of keeping my temperature up.
As I hit the snow line I decided this would make a nice spot to camp, I found a fairly even patch of ground and trampled the thin layer of snow for a firm pitch. Water was quickly found and the tent was soon pitched. As I was leaving a voice clip update for a friend who couldn't make the trip, a shooting star blasted across the sky! within seconds another caught my attention and a third had me in disbelief and complete amazement!

Pike of Blisco behind camp.
The Jetboil was soon roaring away as I lay looking out to a perfectly clear sky. A few minutes later I was tucking into a Red Thai chicken curry with naan bread washed down with some white wine.
As it was midnight and had been a long day I settled down into my toasty sleeping bag and drifted off into the land of nod.

The Milky Way above The Band.
My alarm sounded at 07:00 and I peered out to some crisp pre dawn colours, it was all set to be a cracking day in the Fells and I was thankful for my efforts getting up here last night.

As I strolled around taking photographs a gentleman passed on the path below and I shouted a cheery "morning" before hurriedly heading back inside the tent to pack stuff up.

Breakfast was skipped and I was soon on my way towards the three tarns.
The Crinkle Crags were now fully bathed in morning sunlight and they looked fantastic, the blue and white colours complementing one another magnificently.

Crinkle Crags looking epic.

I soon warmed up in the morning sunshine and I attached my fleece to outside of my pack.
The going got a little icy on the final push up to the three tarns so the Yaktrax were put on. I passed a young fellow who was already on his way down after an early start and was going mountain biking in Kentmere straight after to make the most of the excellent conditions.
Upon reaching the three tarns I was rewarded with one of my favourite Lake District views towards the Scafells. A stern breeze had me quickly reaching for my fleece as I momentarily took my pack off for a quick walk around.

The Scafells from one of the frozen three tarns.
After I'd finished snapping away I headed up Bowfell with my ice axe in hand. A slip without it would no doubt involve a lengthy slide and a rather abrupt stop by a rock.

The snow had refrozen nicely and was holding my weight for the most part, as the incline increased the Yaktrax bit into the frozen surface ensuring constant traction.
I didn't bother climbing the short way to the summit as I'd been here a few times before, I did manage to find a nice vantage point of the Scafells so set up the tripod to get myself in the shot as well.

Striking a pose with the Scafells in the background.

As I hit the col in between Bowfell and Esk Pike people started to appear from various directions. I had a quick chat with a gent about conditions on Bowfell before starting my ascent of Esk Pike.
The going was far quicker and easier than I remember, no doubt mostly to do with a lighter pack but also some fitness improvements too.

Looking down to Great Moss.
The summit of Esk Pike was very breezy and as it was lunch time I sought a sheltered spot to snack whilst sending some pictures to friends.

Esk Pike.
I decided to avoid the usual route up Great End and instead followed footsteps that made a direct line for the summit, unfortunately the snow was giving way frequently and would engulf a whole leg in places!

I realised I'd passed my only known water source but didn't fancy descending the steep untrodden slope to go and collect some, unfortunately this meant I'd have to melt snow. I continued on and as I stopped to admire the view behind me I heard a familiar sound; dripping water!
Melting snow atop the rocks had created little streams and I spent a good 15 minutes filling up my 3 litre reservoir, still, anything was better than the tedium of melting snow.

Collecting water from melting snow.

It was early afternoon so I opted for a discreet pitch hidden from the summit and began trampling some snow down. My usual pegs weren't holding in the snow so I got the beefy reserve pegs out and double pegged the smaller ones.

Camp with Great Gable directly behind the tent.
Once I had everything organised it was time to eat, I'd had a few snacks during the day but hunger was starting to get the better of me.
It was nice to eat, relax and enjoy the scenery but also keep in touch with friends and update social media.

I heard a helicopter nearby and peered out to see it hovering near the lower slopes of Great Gable, some sort of training exercise I was hoping. It headed off after 20 minutes or so and I presumed my musing was correct.

Sunset brought some extraordinary light and I headed out to take full advantage, the way the colour changed in the Wasdale valley was spectacular.

The helicopter reappeared and I began to doubt my earlier assumption, whatever the issue was its efforts were still focused on the lower slopes of Great Gable, after a short while it left and once again silence returned.

Camp on Great End.
As daylight began to fade the helicopter came back again, this time its searchlight was illuminating the same area of Great Gable, something was definitely up.
The orange glow of sunset hung around for quite a while and when it finally disappeared I made a brew and snuggled down into my sleeping bag.

I awoke at midnight to a partly clear sky and headed out to take some photographs, it quickly began to cloud over and mist slowly enveloped the summit of Great Gable.

My alarm sounded at 06:30 and I peered out to forecast clag, I reset my alarm for later but had little faith in it clearing.
It didn't clear and once fully awake I realised my sleeping bag was damp due to my pegs coming loose which made the inner collapse. After a wander outside there must have been a slight thaw during the night as the snow that held me yesterday was giving way to me today, it could prove to be an arduous walk back.
I set off across the claggy top of Great End, hoping my sense of direction wouldn't let me down.

The terrain looked very different somehow, either a lot of snow had melted or I was off course, the clag wasn't helping either as visibility was still severely limited.
It lifted for a second and I knew where I was instantly, the shelter at Esk Hause was nearby and it was a stark reminder of how important maps are, no matter how well you know the area.
I continued my descent towards Angle Tarn, the deep snow now giving way each step I made which made progress tough.

Angle Tarn was perfectly still but unfortunately didn't lend itself to being photographed.

The Langdale valley from beside Rossett Pike.
I hadn't seen anyone since I broke camp and it was now nearly midday but on the final descent towards Langdale I met lots of people making their way up onto the Fells.

Thankfully the path down towards Langdale wasn't icy and my ice axe was soon stashed away. On the final stretch of my journey I chatted to four people who were out for a short walk and also quite interested in my little jaunt, I wished them a nice day and continued the short journey back to my car.

Rossett Gill with Rossett Pike in the background.

Finally I had been able to get out there to enjoy some fantastic winter conditions and as I type this my pack is good to go for another adventure very soon ;-)