'Just walking in the rain'
In July of 2011, my good friend, Chris (Minds Eye Design), and I set out on a seven day wild camping trip stomping over the fells, crags, pikes and moors of our glorious Cumbrian Lake District. Glorious sunshine heralded a great week ahead, or did it?
Over the days we trekked approximately 90 miles and summited 34 peaks, 22 of which were over 800m. Putting things into perspective, the Bob Graham Round covers 42 peaks of the Lakes in a 24-hour period. Hat off to those people.
During our sojourn, I questioned other bedraggled walkers if they would be prepared to pay for mountain rescue, the final consensus being that they would, but only if they had too. Others thought that insurance was a good thing if it included rescue. Food for thought.
The following are my jumbled notes which I found eight years later.
Life is all about making memories. Waterproofs at the ready!
Friday 29th July – Elterwater to High Street
Summits: started at Elterwater – High Street (828m) – wild camp: High Street
B&B at Elterwater. Fried breakfast. Relief map of the Lakes shows us what we have let ourselves in for. Night stop on Cumbrian Way so route finding is easy. Through wood to Skelwith Bridge. Harley riders at hotel. Skirting Ambleside, we take path that runs parallel to the Struggle. Weather fine. Quick pint at Kirkstone Inn. Over John Bell's Banner to Stoney Cove Pike. Threshthwaite Mouth climb to beacon on the High Street. (We met a chap here working on the route for the 100 mile fell run which has been completed in 23 hours!) Water from stream. Met a frog here. Two falcons. Great sunset. Fell asleep to rave music, possibly from Haweswater Reservoir.
Saturday 30th July – High Street to Fairfield
Summits: St Sunday Crag (841m) and Fairfield (873m) – wild camp: Fairfield
Up at 5am for sunrise over Haweswater Reservoir and Blea Water. Forgot powdered milk – porridge lovely! Hot chocolate great though. Views fantastic. Got some nice shots over Windermere & Ill Crag (I think). Warm in morning sun. Need powdered milk. Two red deer. Views over Patterdale. Lunch at Patterdale Hotel; bacon & cheese burger, chips, salad. Charged batteries. Scrounged some powdered milk. Long drag over St Sunday Crag up to Fairfield. Great weather and views. 24-hour endurance competitors. Busy at tarn. Tired, couscous and hot chocolate. Many wild campers. Windy night.
Sunday 31st July – Fairfield to Mariel Bridge
Summits: Dollywagen Pike (858m), High Crag (884m), Nethermost Pike (891m), Helvellyn (950m), Catseye Cam (890m), Lower Man (925m), Whiteside (863m), Raise (883m), Stybarrow Dodd (843m) and Great Dodd (857m) – wild camp: Mariel Bridge
Disaster! Low cloud, occasional rain and windy. Couscous for breakfast/hot choc. Managed to wash hair. No phone signal. Will have to be more careful today. Tough day. Weather turned out not too bad. Swirral Edge twice. Slept in sheep fold – unoccupied. Very busy on tops especially Swirral Edge with ill prepared hikers. Surprised to see so many mountain bikers. Dropped camera on Catseye Cam, luckily it did not roll far.
Monday 1st August – Mariel Bridge to Blencathra
Summits: Blencathra (868m) – wild camp: Blencathra
Dropped down into Threlkeld. Not raining. No shop. Newspaper – honesty box. Stuff in Post Office (house). Horse & Farrier Inn – beer at 7am! Another pint at 10.45 Sneck Lifter. Sandwiches before noon. Low cloud and drizzle. Morning wash in stream – sheep audience. Porridge with water and hot choc – great. Lunch of cheese & bacon ciabatta and salad. Rain held off for Blenchathra. No views in mist. Four walkers. Strange trig point on summit. Damp camp.
Tuesday 2nd August – Blencathra to Grasmoor
Summits: Little Man 9865m), Skiddaw (931m) and Grasmoor (852m) – wild camp: Grasmoor
Lovely early morning cloud inversion. Very damp night, lots of rain. Tent outer eventually gave up and leaked. Finally made a pillow of sorts. Not feeling 'too' tired, good nights kip eventually. Porridge with milk from pub. Wet start. Very wet over Skiddaw. Steep descending. Got to pub at 2.12pm but would not serve us food. Had pie and sausage roll from village shop. Walked past old mine. Easy going not too steep. Got water, then climbed Grasmoor. Amazing views. Disaster! The trots hit me. Had to rush from tent, couldn't open outer, tripped over guy ropes. Good night afterwards.
Wednesday 3rd August – Crag Hill to Pillar
Summits: Crag Hill (839m), Little Stoat Fell (841m), Black Crag (828m) and Pillar (892m) – wild camp: Scoat Fell
Dry start but damp. Kestrels in tent door way. Nice drop into Buttermere. Washed clothes and hair in stream (environmentally friendly products). Warm in village. Half chicken, baked potato and salad. Sneck Lifter. Long drag up to Red Pike. Descent through pleasant woodland. Camped just south of Scoat Fell. Water a problem despite rain. Found a brook. Tarn full of algae.
Thursday 4th August – Pillar to Wasdale Head
Route: Descended to Wasdale Head – camp: Wasdale Head
Very, very wet start. Lousy over Stoat Fell and Pillar. Navigation to Great Gable difficult in the extreme. Waterproofs leaked. Rucksack cover filled with a reservoir of water. Met two lads at summit. Missed path on descent, came down via Sty Head. Rescue team out looking for couple with no map or compass. Weather dryer lower down. Slept at Wasdale Head – £2.50 for tent. Worst UK weather I have walked in.
Friday 5th August – Wasdale to Elterwater
Route: return to Elterwater via Burnmoor
Damp, grey start. Sleeping bag and tent inner wet. Thick head due to scotch. 'Camping' facilities dire – dirty toilet and tap outside. Busy at Wasdale Head. Hiked to Boot via Burnmoor Tarn. Black wetness over tops, sunny over moor. Pub at Boot. Lift back to Elterwater. End of seven great days out wild camping.
It's nice to share…
My thanks to Chris, a very amiable, capable and pleasant hiking companion. I think we both learnt a lot about ourselves and the changeable Lake District weather. There's nothing like dipping your feet in an ice cold brook with a friend after a hard day's hike. Here's to the next one.