This morning, the following photo popped up in my Facebook memories:
…and gave me the idea for this post.
Yes, this was my first wild camp. Only 8 years ago, but it seems like longer.
I’d intended to camp wild as early as 2007 when I went on my abortive tour of the Lakes. Back then, though, I didn’t really have a realistic idea of what wild camping actually involved – it was just something I thought I could “do” if I couldn’t find a “proper” camp site. In the end, circumstances meant that there was no need for any wild camping, I was so out of my depth already.
Fast forward 5 years, and with over half the Wainwrights in the bag, and trips becoming more difficult to put together, my attention turned to the less easy to reach fells, and in particular the Far Eastern fells. Technically, they are the nearest ones to where I live, my local fells if you like. Except they’re 240 miles away still.
Now the thing about the Far Eastern fells is that if you’re trying to do a Wainwright round without a car, all of a sudden they become rather remote. The only bus route of any significance goes along their extreme western edge, and so is of no use for accessing the furthest east ones. Similarly an approach from the east is from lands not well served by public transport, especially if you’re trying to connect from a long distance train.
So my mind turned to having to camp out, and after a bit of thinking, and with a lot more experience of hill walking under my belt generally, it became a solvable problem. The first step, was a try it out, and for that I needed some “safe” ground – somewhere reasonably familiar, somewhere not too committing, and somewhere I could retreat from if it all went badly.
The fells above Grasmere fitted the bill nicely. So I headed up on a bank holiday weekend to give it a go. The rest is history.
That first camp was cold, and it led to me buying a better sleeping bag, and a better mat. And a whole load of other gear. But it also gave me something else.
The peace and quiet after a daily life commuting into London, where peace and quiet is an alien concept. A deeper connection with the hills: no longer were they an obstacle, but a joy in their own right.
So much so that over time, the focus of my enjoyment has shifted. I used to enjoy the walk, with the camp being a necessary means to an end, but now the camp itself is as much the objective. Quite often when backpacking I am trudging along willing it to be time to stop and camp. I like it: my tent is one of my favourite places to be.
So anyway, the real point of this post is to share a few pics of my most memorable wild camps. All of my camps can be seen in my wildcamp gallery though. The total currently stands at 157. Sadly, I can’t see it increasing by much in 2020 (as garden camps don’t really count).
Shipman Knotts (2012)
The final camp of my second trip to the Far Eastern fells, reached just before the sun went down, after pushing myself a bit that day. I just remember the calm sat there watching the sun go down. Probably the first camp where I experienced the serenity that wild camping can bring.
Little Carrs (2013)
My first winter wild camp, March 2013 in the Lakes. Reached after an ascent in snow and ice of the Prison Band to see this glorious sunset. I woke next morning to a foot of snow covering everything. An exhilarating trip, even if at times I did feel a bit on the edge of my skills.
Upper Eskdale (2014)
A new shelter and a more spontaneous trip. I trekked over Glaramara with a camp at High House Tarn and the next day descended down the infant Esk in wet and windy conditions. Unpleasant enough that I stopped early afternoon and put the shelter up. I endured a windy night by the side of the Esk, the whole time fearing I’d be flooded or blown away. I wasn’t
Wild Tor (2015)
A camp at my favourite tor in a blizzard. What else is there to say.
Blackbeck Tarn (2015)
The final camp of my trip to finish off the Wainwrights.
High Raise (2015)
The views, the sunset, the deer. The sheep that came to say hello.
Blea Rigg (2016)
Just a glorious day, and enjoying my own company after a couple of days of socialising. A pitch overlooking a tarn on each side. A great inversion the next morning.
The last camp of another one of those “make it up as I go” trips. A slow walk up from Eskdale to Bowfell, an early finish where i just sat enjoying the views. Glorious.
Green Gable (2016)
An unremarkable spot much of the time, but the very best for this. Surrounded by inversion on all sides, Esk Pike an island of rock protruding from a sea of cloud. Cloud spilling over the side of Great Gable as the sun set behind it. Fabulous fabulous camp.
Lunan Bay (2017)
The final camp of my first TGO Challenge, I finished at Lunan Bay at tea time on the Wednesday, too late to sign-out that day. So I stayed there, finding a spot above the waterline.
Rannoch Moor (2018)
This one’s from my second TGO Challenge, the following year. A walk up through Glen Etive and onto Rannoch Moor. The mountains etched against a dramatic sunset sky.
Loch Ericht (2018)
This ones the following night from the one on Rannoch Moor. A very hard day trudging over moor and bog, arriving at this spot when I was just about done in. Despite being near the track, it was a peaceful spot, and I explored the shoreline as the sun went down.
Scar Lathing (2018)
Yet another walk up through Eskdale, I found this spot by a bend in the Esk. A perfect flat grassy spot. Peaceful and undisturbed.
Fan y Big (2019)
A glorious hot day in the Beacons. The summits plagued by flying ants. A fine sunset, sunrise and inversion the next morning. Besieged in my tent by more of the flying ants.