Sunday, 24 September 2017

Lake District Wild Camp 9/8/17

The long car journey back gave me time to think. 12 hours travel time for one night out was ridiculous. I would be passing the Lake District half way through my journey and this triggered memories of a past camp on Bannerdale Crags. Looking up at Blencathra under a clear night sky was utterly magical and quite possibly my most peaceful camp ever.
I didn't have a map with me so checked out some routes online, Scales seemed an ideal place to start from.
I followed a footpath sign to an unknown beck and hoped for the best. After a steep slog Sharp Edge came into view and I recognised Souther Fell to my right from a previous visit.

Sharp Edge looking as great as ever!
The path gradient eased and it was pleasant strolling till I reached the Tarn outflow.

I noted a possible camp spot next to the footpath and continued around the Tarn to a nice pebbled beach where I wouldn't be disturbed.
A couple of people made their way up onto Sharp Edge and a wild swim popped into my thoughts. It was mid afternoon as I stripped off and got in. The shoreline dropped off steeply and I was soon swimming in the freezing water. After 5 minutes I felt suitably refreshed and slightly numb!

Wild swim in Scales Tarn.
I felt great as I dried off, skin tingling in the light breeze.
The Jetboil was freed from my pack and I was soon filling the pouch with boiling water, it smelt damn good as I sealed the pack and left it to hydrate. Ten minutes later and I was eating one of the best freeze dried meals I'd ever tasted, it was truly scrumptious!

It got chilly when the sun went in and I was soon donning my down jacket and hat. Hard to believe it was August!

Time was getting on so I wandered over to the potential camp spot and surveyed the area, it was just big enough for the Hubba.
Shortly after staking my claim I heard voices and a guy appeared and introduced himself as Marcin, his father in law; Geoff, appeared shortly after and we were soon chatting about all things camping.
The wine, beer and rum was soon flowing as well as an amazing spread for tea!

After last night's failure I was determined to catch sunset so grabbed my camera bag, tripod and torch and set off up the ridge leaving my new buddies behind.

The path up was short and steep, the tents were soon reduced to two tiny specks. I always appreciate the lack of weight on packless ascents.

Looking down on camp.
I was at the Blencathra's summit 25 minutes later and quite surprised to see more mountain bikers than walkers venturing up to the summit.

As the last of the mountain bikers left I stuck my headphones in and listened to some music whilst dashing around and setting up the tripod.

Looking to Helvellyn just before sunset.

Cloud on the horizon killed a proper sunset, but it was pretty damn good until then.

Skiddaw from Blencathra.
Light soon faded after sunset and the torch was needed to safely tackle the steep scree at the start of the descent.

Camp was silent when I got back and I relaxed and ate whilst waiting for the stars to appear. I strolled over to the Tarn with the remains of the wine.
It was so unbelievably peaceful as I sat on a rock sipping away, a complete contrast to the night before.
A bat flew low overhead and a couple of mice came out of the darkness to within a foot or so, it was like some sort of fairytale.

Stars above Sharp Edge.
I faffed around camp taking some night shots trying to be as quiet as possible. The Moon lit up Sharp Edge nicely and I retired to my sleeping bag feeling very content shortly after midnight.

My alarm woke me at 04:45 and I quietly got dressed, left camp and headed up the hillside.

A surprising amount of ascent was needed to lift me above Bannerdale Crags so I could capture sunrise in the distance.

Morning light soon became too bright to shoot head on but gently warmed the surrounding Fellside nicely.

Descending back to camp I was glad to see my fellow campers up and about, it was too stunning a morning to miss.

A sociable breakfast was had and then I began to pack away in between midge attacks.

We said our goodbyes as Marcin and Geoff set off up Sharp Edge. I dismantled the tent and set off back the way I'd came.

No Trace of where my tent was.
I followed the route back down the way I'd came, it was a gorgeous still morning and puffy vapour trails hung in a beautiful blue sky.


The day slowly began to heat up and I passed the first of the mornings walkers.

Looking to Great Dodd and Clough Head.

The final stretch back down to the car was a delight and I felt well and truly satisfied. There's something so relaxing about Blencathra and it turned out to be the perfect tonic to a potential disaster of a trip ;)

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Scotland Wild Camp 8/8/17

Scotland had been on my radar for ages, I'd spent many hours pouring over maps and sussing out routes. Due to work constraints and lack of decent weather windows I had been waiting for a while
as there's no point in driving 6+ hours to see diddly squat. The plan was to tick off four Munro's west of Tyndrum.
I'd have to drive up after a short night shift with no sleep but this was the only way of getting two nights camping.
Finally everything aligned and I parked up in Dalrigh.
The day was overcast yet bright, pleasant and warm. Shorts and sunglasses were on as I plodded off into the unknown.

I crossed the bridge over the River and made my way up the track as a train passed up ahead. I was filled with smugness as the train was no doubt filled with people making their commute to work.

At a small cairn I left the track and descended to the river, there was an obvious point of crossing but the first stage looked very tricky.
I stepped down cautiously and leant over to the first rock while a torrent of water thundered below me. A quick test of the rock revealed it was far too slippery and I was now in a precarious position. Some very careful foot movements had me back to the safety of the riverbank.

Further upstream a downed tree gave me something to crawl across to reach the first rocks.
Once across, I lost the path and since it was not shown on the map I made my own way through thick soaked grass and boggy ground.
I couldn't see any livestock but kept checking my legs for ticks just in case. Butterflies were everywhere as I struggled through the undergrowth, I'd never seen so many in one place before.

Identified as a Scotch Argus (thanks to @Garymysnail).

Hidden ruts also hampered already slow progress and strained my ankles to breaking point.

A small stream provided some hydration and a fig bar made a nice quick snack. Midges soon appeared and I hastily continued on my way.

Quick hydration and snack stop.

The terrain gradually eased and views behind started to open up. I was extremely relieved to see a path the other side of the stream.

The path followed the course of Allt Coire Dubhchraig and its many pleasing waterfalls, many of them would have made amazing spa pools but I had to keep on trudging.

Breaks in the cloud revealed blue sky and the first bit of sunshine of the trip.

I stopped for lunch beside the stream and tucked into some wraps whilst taking in the impressive scenery. I could have sat here for ages watching the world go by but progress was needed. After a quick swig of water I was back on the path.

Lunch stop beside a stream.
Further up, path work was being undertaken and I left a couple of snacks for the workers.

Storm approaching!
A glance behind revealed a storm heading my way, it looked heavy despite the light rain forecast. As the first raindrops hit I broke out the bothy bag and sat down on a dry part of the stream bed. Heavy rain pelted my shelter as I looked out through the steamed up window.

As the rain petered out I carried on upwards and the terrain steepened as I closed in on my first Munro.
The stream bed held some amazing rocks, silver and gold coloured specimens glistened in the sunshine like nothing I'd seen before.

Looking back towards Dalrigh.

As I finally topped out at the small Lochans I turned to see another deluge approaching and decided my summit visit could wait till after it had passed. A walker passed below heading the way I'd come up and we exchanged waves.
The bothy bag proved its worth once again, and to think I nearly didn't bring it.

A saunter around the Lochan revealed only one camping spot nearby, the rest were either rocky, waterlogged or uneven.
I left my pack where I wanted to pitch and headed for the summit.

Ben Oss and Ben Lui.
The walk up was further than anticipated due to a false summit but this did nothing to dampen my spirits and I strode on.

Finally the summit came into view and it felt great, not only my first Munro but also after a hell of a lot of effort to get here.

Looking south from Beinn Dubhchraig.
The sky looked moody as I pootled around the summit and fired off a few shots. A few midges appeared but I didn't care.

At the summit of Beinn Dubhchraig (my first Munro).

Once back at the Lochan I sourced some water from a fast outflow and went back to pitch the tent. Underlying rock meant I couldn't get the porch pegged out properly so I admitted defeat and moved the tent backwards a little.

MSR Hubba HP with Beinn Dubhchraig in the background.

My lack of sleep finally caught up with me and I dozed off whilst relaxing. I woke to increasing winds and mist rolling in which ruined my plan to photograph sunset from the summit.
I consoled myself with some hot grub and wolfed it down hungrily.

With no chance of photographs I turned in for the night. Strong gusts woke me throughout the night and I'm not quite sure how I got back to sleep each time.
I awoke to clag and more powerful gusts, the Hubba was straining under the force and I was surprised the pegs hadn't ripped out. As my intention was to ascend even higher to Ben Oss and then Ben Lui (where the gusts would likely be far worse) a decision was made to descend back the way I'd came. Taking the tent down was a real battle, pegs had to be removed in a certain order to avoid placing the fabric and poles under too much stress or actually losing the tent itself! There was no chance of rolling it up in any kind of neatness and it was simply stuffed into its bag.

The walk back down was miserable and the day seemed to be brightening up which didn't help matters. I slipped and slid about on the path beside the river, tree roots and bog contributing to a few falls along the way.
As I set off on the 6 hour drive back to Derby it didn't seem fair that after all the effort I'd put in I only had one the night to show for it, my Munro campaign had started but was nothing like I'd envisaged.