I woke with a start as sunlight streamed into the tent. This was surprising enough given the miserable day 2 morning conditions of the previous attempt at this trip. But more surprising still was that I ever got to sleep at all.
Cold in my -5°C rated bag, I’d tossed and turned all night as the wind repeatedly strafed Monica and I wondered how much of it she could take (actually quite a lot, but that’s a story for another day). The answer was found when I awoke and found Monica calmly standing over my prostrate form. She’d sagged a bit under the pressures of the weather and also because it hadn’t been the most impressive piece of tent pitching I’d ever done. But she’d withstood the wind and I’d seen with my own eyes why the Scarp is considered to be a fortress of a tent.
This had also been my highest wildcamp so far, at 785m up smashing my previous record of 525m by a further 50%. I packed up with renewed confidence in my gear. Monica had now proved herself in heavy rain (at the Peak Meet) and a stiff wind, and that’s without the crossing poles designed to add extra robustness when it gets a bit blowy. So not only had I survived blowy conditions, but still had a little something in the back pocket if I needed it.
Less proven was the Caldera Cone which was starting to annoy me, and I wished I had my trusty Trangia with me. Sod the weight, it’s easier to use, with less faffing and is utterly dependable. I’ve loved Trangies ever since I first used one in the scouts 25 years ago. And all things considered my Trangia isn’t much bulkier than the cone once you allow for the pots. I made a mental note to apologise to my Trangia when I get home.
Sunrise clearly hadn’t been up to much, as the night before, Peter had asked if I wanted waking in the event it was worth seeing – was there a slight implied comment about southerners not being able to be up with the lark ?
We set off, heading north to Wether Hill again. After much thought and discussion and plenty of wide-awake nocturnal route planning in my head, we decided to stick with my original plan for today, with the aim being to pick off the odd fells just south of Ullswater.
We headed down onto Steel Knotts as the views opened out and the sun tried to break through. Taking it easy we took a break by the wall before hitting the summit. Peter pointing out the sheep walking in lines across the lower reaches of Loadpot and Wether Hills, the buzzards floating low over the bracken and the deer below.
On my previous Far Eastern fells trip, the views had been a lot greyer over Ullswater, and so today I took full advantage of reasonably frequent photographic stops.
Despite telling Peter earlier in the day about my experiences of going “off piste” which generally seem to turn out to not be quite as short or easy shortcuts as they initially look, his enthusiasm for finding his own route on the hill, rather than using the collective wisdom of the main body of fellwalkers in the form of the actual path, was undented. Clearly offended by the fact that the path went down the nose of the fell and to the right, and hence slightly away from our next target (Hallin Fell), we struck left to aim directly for the church. A steep gully very reminiscent of the descent of Chrome Hill three weeks ago led to the inevitable slip and I landed on my backside with a throbbing pain in my left forearm, having clouted a rock on the way down. A quick feel proved nothing more serious than bruising and after a brief pause we continued down to the church. (Note Peter, I’m writing this up a week later, and I still have a 4 inch bruise on my forearm – just saying!).
We crossed the road and started on the short but plenty steep enough ascent of Hallin Fell. By now I was starting to feel the effects of minimal sleep and of what I call day 2 syndrome – the usual lack of vigour on day 2 of a walking trip, after initial freshness on day 1. Peter strode ahead and waited at the top. We broke for lunch just below the enormous cairn and enjoyed the views over Ullswater.
Now just The Nab to go. It looked steep and an unpleasant climb to end the day on a day when the batteries were decidedly low. And so it proved. Making good time along the lanes, my pace dropped as soon as we hit the fell itself and I slogged up falling further and further behind Peter and Oscar. Below us several herds of deer showed that they had plenty of energy, running hither and thither.
We made it to the top eventually and I demanded that we take five. The cold and the rain starting again got us going again and we picked our way through the peat hags, heading towards Rest Dodd. We struck off right to follow the wall that would cut the corner off. Reaching the top, I looked down over Satura Crag, Brock Crags and Angletarn Pikes and realised it was all down now. Peter showed me his recent pitch that he’d had on Satura Crag but which I decided to pass up on, in favour of something more sheltered and closer to water.
Peter left at the wall to head down to Hartsop and the drive home, not fancying a second night having left his sleep mat behind, in his eagerness to meet the great Hillplodder. This parting of ways seemed to confuse Oscar who had all day been performing periodic headcounts of the party, and as he and Peter strode away the consternation on Oscar’s face that one of the party was being left behind, was plain to see.
I continued on down to the popular camping spot of Angle Tarn, somewhat surprised to find it devoid of tents. Although some rocks seen from a distance did momentarily make me think I was about to stumble on a Tarptent convention. I dropped down to the tarn edge and found myself a pitch a few yards from the water’s edge.
Up went Monica and I stood back to survey my work. I’d dreamed of pitching at this tarn but had never expected to find it deserted. I stood watching the glow of the sunset shining above the Helvellyn range. Water was found relatively easily and I quickly had dinner on. As the sun set I looked at the possible routes for tomorrow, and wrote my shopping list for my call into Patterdale in the morning. Neither of these were to turn out quite as planned…