Bemused sheep

My first wild camp – Part 3: Drawing the Line

I woke (yes actually woke, thereby signifying that I’d actually slept!) early and stuck my head out the door to see if there was any sort of sunrise going on.  Not much happening of interest, so I had a lie in.  Sleep had come courtesy of no musical wind, a better set of nocturnal sartorial arrangements and I guess out of sheer tiredness.  Mind you, I’d slept again in double base layers and a zipped up down jacket, and put my Skins on for a bit of downstairs warmth.  I’d still been cold, but by not moving about too much I’d managed.

Morning on Rosthwaite Fell
Morning on Rosthwaite Fell

I got myself on the outside of a second breakfast porridge mix, followed by a portion of custard and washed down with coffee, got the tent down and got ready to go.  But first I had tops to bag and I might as well do them packless.  Bessyboot, the Wainwright summit of Rosthwaite Fell, lay just the other side of the tarn – a mere 50m of ascent.  Of course from a standing start it was a puff even without my pack on, but 5 minutes was all it took, much of which was bog-hopping around the side of the tarn.  As I came down again I spotted movement on the slopes of the next top – Rosthwaite Cam – and suspicious soul that I am, checked that the Jam was where I’d left it.  Of course it was, no one climbs 400m up from a valley at this time of the morning on the off chance that there’s an abandoned rucksack stuffed full of goodies to purloin.

Bessyboot
Bessyboot
Tarn At Leaves from Bessyboot
Tarn At Leaves from Bessyboot

I headed down, heaved the bag onto my back and set off up to the summit of the Cam, the first new Nuttall of the trip, or of this year for that matter.  The path is indistinct up here as I’m sure most visitors to this ridge head up to Bessyboot and straight back down, or straight up to Glaramara further along the ridge.  I expected this morning’s walk to be a bit of an adventure in picking my way through the outcrops and trying to work out which were the 4 Nuttall summits I needed to collect.  And so it proved.

I took a line up to Rosthwaite Cam that appeared to follow the long slope of the ridge and which also appeared to have had previous traffic.  I emerged at a summit outcrop and merrily climbed up.  Then I spotted the real summit across a depression.  Rats!  So I made my way across to the real summit and enjoyed the views from there – in particular those back down to my overnight pitch and those over the end of the fell into Borrowdale, and beyond.

Looking north from Rosthwaite Cam
Looking north from Rosthwaite Cam
Looking to Dovenest Top
Looking to Dovenest Top

Next stop Dovenest Top an unnamed, on the OS Explorer map, summit but pretty obvious as the next mountain. Along the way numerous small tarns, or maybe some were just puddles, dotted the route, and I knew I’d be increasing my tarn score significantly today. At the top of Dovenest, I looked south to the top of the Combe and the ground getting higher up towards Glaramara itself.  It looked a bit grey and murky over there though.

Looking to Combe Door from Dovenest Top
Looking to Combe Door from Dovenest Top

A gradual rise up to Combe Door followed and hear the first signs of wintry weather arrived, with tiny spots of hard rain that on reflection were on the verge of being hail stones.  Lovely.  But exactly what the forecast had predicted. I slogged my way up to Combe Head and took a rest looking down over Thornythwaite Fell, my route of descent last time I’d been up on the ridge in 2009. I sat there as the snow came down and the murk obscured Glaramara.  Gone was the relatively nice start I’d enjoyed this morning further along the ridge.  But that didn’t stop a near doze-off with attendant risks of yetidom or becoming the next Ice Man. I roused myself and made my way down to find the path up on to Glaramara itself.

Bemused sheep
Bemused sheep
Towards Combe Head from Combe Door
Towards Combe Head from Combe Door

At the path, after a slightly boggy traverse of the ground between Combe Head and Glaramara, I found a lone walker who asked me if Glaramara was Allen Crags.  “No, that’s Glaramara”, I replied at which point she turned around, pointed at Combe Head and said “So that must be Allen Crags then”.  Er, no wrong again.  Trying to disguise my incredulity that she was this far out, I told her that Allen Crags was the last fell on the ridge, just above Esk Hause.  “Go that way” I pointed south along the ridge, “…and it’s the last one.” I also pointed out that it was a fair undulating walk, indicating how far out she was.  On reflection I think she must have come up Hind Gill from Seathwaite thinking that she was on the Grains Gill/Ruddy Gill path that would take her up to Esk Hause and Allen Crags.  Otherwise, how could you get it so wrong.  Even so, it showed a really poor, even dangerous, lack of appreciation of distance. She sat on a rock and studied her map for a while, presumably trying to confirm what I’d told her.

Rock formations on Combe Head
Rock formations on Combe Head
The clouds and snow roll in
The clouds and snow roll in

Meanwhile I started up the path onto Glaramara, turning into a bit of a scramble as the rocks become steeper.  I crested the top and headed to the summit shelter, taking a break out of the cold.  While I was there, my lost walker appeared, enabling me to actually point out Allen Crags which was now in sight.  She headed off into the distance. I picked myself up and descended over Looking Steads.  Somewhere along the way I broke my Pacerpole as I’d just got myself down a steep bit when I noticed the bottom of one pole had gone. Bollocks.  And it was totally gone – it wasn’t in sight.  I backtracked to see if I could find it, with no joy whatsoever.  All I had was the stump of the bottom section, and somewhere on Glaramara was the carbide tip and basket.  I knew I had little chance of finding it amongst the rocks and gave up.

Heading for Allen Crags
Heading for Allen Crags
Great Gable and Sprinking Tarn
Great Gable and Sprinking Tarn
My favourite spot on the Glaramara ridge
My favourite spot on the Glaramara ridge

I made my way down to Lincomb and High House Tarns and decided to find a good spot for a lunch break, somewhere sheltered by the tarns.  I’d treat myself to something hot too.  This thought immediately caused the hail to begin and as I found a place between the rocks out of the wind, I was pelted with hailstones.  Hail in my rucksack, in my mug and collecting in a pile on my trousers, as I fired the Trangia up and got my second LWWF meal (Tees Valley Beef Chilli) on, my hand hovering over the pan to keep as much of the hail out as possible.

I scoffed the chilli pretty quickly, and it was sublime. Far far superior to the chilli I would have later that day and pay a lot more for.  My coffee cooled to a drinkable temperature courtesy of the free ice that was pouring from above and I held out as long as I could before packing up and getting going again.  Moving off caused the hail to stop, of course and I pounded my way up on to Allen Crags.

I stood at the summit and decision time arrived.  I was still tired, and looking at the rest of the walk I’d sketched out (Esk Pike, Bowfell, Crinkles, Cold Pike and Pike o’Blisco), I knew it was too much.  I briefly toyed with the idea of nipping up onto Great End, and potentially Scafell Pike, and bagging them properly(**), but discounted that. My planned camp for the night was on Lingmoor Fell, and I realised that I could just head down into Langdale, get some scoff and then head up.  Equally, I realised that I was still tired and could take the easy option of not reascending.  Especially as I expected to wake to wind and rain lashing down on the day I was due to go home. I decided to place the decision in the hands of fate, and headed down to Esk Hause, turned left and made for Angle Tarn and then the Rossett Gill path.

Angle Tarn
Angle Tarn

I arrived at the junction with the path to Ore Gap and took a moment or two to look down on Angle Tarn.  It was 2:30 but there were already plenty of people buzzing around the tarn, reminding me of the day in August 2007 when I’d seen loads of people camping there as I descended after a long day. A brief flash of “maybe camp there” went through my head, but there was no way I was going to kill 5 or 6 hours in the meantime. I carried on down to Langdale.

Looking down into Langdale
Looking down into Langdale

The Rossett Gill path is long and in places a bit rough underfoot, but still vastly improved since my first visit.  It also zigzags down making the path a lot longer than it looks.  Several people overtook me as my legs started to flag.  I reached the bottom and strode out more purposefully along Mickleden.  By now I’d refined my plan and decided that I’d see if there were room in the campsite.  If so, then I’d stay there.  If not, then I’d retire to the ODG for some nosebag before heading up for a wild pitch on Lingmoor Fell. I didn’t mind either way and didn’t feel the need to keep it wild the whole time.  I’d experienced wild camping, coped with finding water and outdoor toilet issues, and the trip so far had been just the right length.  With a flexible ticket and a forecast for wind, rain and cold the next day, I decided that I’d camp low if room and aim for a slightly earlier train the next day, meaning I would get home with a bit of the bank holiday weekend left. If no room, then I’d camp wild, but cut the next day’s walk short.

Lingmoor Fell - saved for another day
Lingmoor Fell – saved for another day

As it turned out, there was plenty of space, and I fitted Monica on a small pitch next to a tree stump between a pair of hummocks.  This looked great and neat, but of course I found myself climbing uphill when exiting the tent! I stocked up with essentials from the camp shop – a pain au chocolat and bag of crisps.  The stale pastry was divine and I realised how much I missed bread even after just a couple of days.  The crisps were the best bag I’ve ever had.  So a couple of nights wild camping does wonders for your appreciation of quite common foodstuffs.

Later I headed over to the ODG for some chilli and a pint of Jennings Cumberland Ale. Now I have to say, and many will call me a heretic for saying this, but I don’t really think much of the ODG.  The food is nothing special, and the ale is no better than at the NDG along the road.  I also don’t like the attitude of the staff who seem to have some sort of chip on their shoulders, and even at times to resent the customers.  That, of course, may just be my experience, but I didn’t find it that welcoming when I’ve been there in the past either. So it’s the NDG for me from now on.  The food is a much higher standard there.

I returned to the campsite and retired for the night.  This time, dressed as the previous night, but I also stuffed my Apex softshell trousers and my softshell jacket down to add extra warmth to the leg region.  I settled down for my final night of this trip.

(**) Whilst I have climbed Great End and Scafell Pike, I used a car to get to the campsite in Langdale, meaning that the rules of my Wainwright round mean I have to redo them before completing the round.  Having used just public transport and my own feet to bag almost every fell, I decided that I would complete all 214 in this way.  This leaves a few to redo before I can count them as having been done “properly”. They are reflected in my bagging stats however.

5 thoughts on “My first wild camp – Part 3: Drawing the Line

  1. A great post….admire your “wild camping” determination. Doing all 214 by public transport is a great aim. I did not manage that at all!
    🙂

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    1. Well that’s because you’re nuts enough to drive up to the Lakes at the crack of dawn! Too far for me and as usually alone, it has to be public transport. The only reason I have bagged any by car is a family camping trip 5 years ago at the NT Langdale site. The wild camping was always something I wanted to try, and then I realised that without a car, wild camping was virtually essential to cover the FE fells.

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    1. Thanks Jimmy. Yes I was, which was mainly the cumulative effects of the poor first night’s sleep. I don’t really put that down to the wild camping though. It would have been just as cold on a proper site.

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  2. Loved your review of your 1st wild amp. Very strange really coz I’m actually doing my 1st wild camp next week and I was looking at photos of tarn at leaves on google and clicked on yours and started to read it and its almost the exact thing and route I’m doing 🙂 train to Windermere but from Manchester and I’m staying at Lang how tarn 1st night and maybe leaves tarn 2nd night. But il be working my way up to Keswick from there. Agree with the ODG thing. The people drinking in there don’t make you feel welcome. Great read really enjoyed it thanks. Very excited for my wild camp 🙂 mike

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