My first wild camp – Part 4: Job Done

Monica is in the garage, sprawling languidly over a selection of discarded furniture and old boxes, as she dries out from the trip. It was sods law that having been dry as a bone both nights up high, that she should be sopping wet on the morning I travel home.

Monica takes it easy as she dries out

Monica takes it easy as she dries out

I lay in my sleeping bag enjoying the (relative) warmth having found that the recipe to not shiver all night was to wear almost every stitch of clothing and what I couldn’t wear to stuff down inside the sleeping bag anyway.  Around me the campsite came tent by tent to life, the noises of fellow campers’ morning routines magnified through the canvas silnylon. This tends to give you the impression that everyone else is up and you’re the only one still in your pit, but the reality always turns out to be that it’s a mere handful of people making all the noise.  Not that they’re being noisy per se, it’s just the way that the clang of pans, the tramp of flip flopped feet, and the roar of gas under a camp kettle carries.

I emerged from the tent, felt Monica over to determine the level and type of wetness, concluded that it was mostly condensation, and went about my morning routine. The last of my porridge mixes was livened up with a couple of squares of chocolate and, for good measure, my final portion of custard, to make a not unpleasant hybrid gruel. But not one I would eat every day. I lingered over my coffee as long as I decently could.

I’d already decided that with a forecast of rain and high winds and having to go home today anyway, I would simply go home a bit earlier than originally planned. I’d decided to leave Lingmoor Fell for another time, and part of me wondered if, having been for so long the only Wainwright in Langdale that I haven’t done, it was destined to be left to the very end.  It almost seemed that I could make a case for leaving it to be my last fell of all.  It certainly meets my criteria: (1) An odd one out or a fell that stands by itself, (2) not too remote, (3) not overly challenging in case others join me, (4) near to a pub for celebrations. I’m going to give it some thought.

Langdale Pikes on the way to NDG

Langdale Pikes on the way to NDG

The bus out of Langdale, being a bank holiday, wasn’t until 10:30 and I was pretty much ready to go by 8:30, despite dragging my heels as much as I could. I packed up, and ambled out of the campsite heading vaguely homewards.  I’d had breakfast, but decided that if I could get a fry-up at the NDG, then I’d do that, partly to kill some time and partly because I was still hungry.  I walked down the road, got no clues from the NDG’s sign at the roadside, and walked up the lane to investigate.  Result! Yes they did breakfast, although I had the place to myself.  I’ve eaten there before, notably when I passed through on the Cumbria Way last year, and remembered it as being ok.  The breakfast was no exception, and my conclusion that the NDG food is miles better than the ODG food was set. The beers on offer, although different, don’t leave much to chose between the two pubs.  So it’s the NDG for me from now on.

View from the bus stop at ODG

View from the bus stop at ODG

I finished breakfast and weighed up walking out of Langdale or getting the bus.  Of course the bus won out, and I spent 20 minutes in the bus shelter at ODG looking at Crinkle Crags before boarding for the first leg of my journey home, which would involve 2 buses and 4 trains. A series of smooth connections got me to the 11:59 train out of Windermere and home for around 5. Monica went straight into the garage for her recovery, and most of the rest of my rucksack contents went into a special pile for the washing machine.

Back at work early the next morning, and I let the memories of the trip start to cloud over so that the good bits remained and the less good bits gradually receded into distant recollections.  And I thought about the successes and failures of the trip.

Successes

1. Wild camping – I knew I could do it, but I guess I’ve proved it now.

2. I’ve got a feel for how many nights I would want to camp on the trot on a longer trip.  Probably I would want a B&B or hostel every 3 or 4 nights.

3. Monica.  I did extensive research before upgrading my tent and although I had absolutely no reason to doubt her abilities, she proved a stunning success.  I’d originally planned to take my old Decathlon T2 Ultralight Pro before investing in a new shelter, but all the research I did meant that I got too excited to wait. She was rock solid every night, despite some breezy conditions.  I still need to find a balance of what works for me in terms of the crossing poles, but that will come.  The only minor niggle was that having bought a pack of mini line loks, I’d forgotten that I’d only installed one of them when I did Robin’s arch pole tensioner modification.  So I was one short, rendering the measure pointless.  But it didn’t matter on this trip. The amount of condensation on the final morning was initially worrying, but I reckon that will diminish a bit when I get better mastery of the ventilation options.

4. Golite Jam.  Another recent purchase and tied in with a rucksack rationalisation that I did at the same time to fund it.  Because, I’ve yet to upgrade my cheap sleeping bag for something smaller and lighter, and because I won’t part with my Trangia, the Jam was crammed but remained comfortable throughout, even though I pushed the weight guidelines slightly.  Having always used a more formal back system on that size rucksack, it was surprisingly comfortable.  Each morning I tried a different configuration of packing in an attempt to use the space better.  The Jam will be going with the on the South West Coast Path next week, although I expect it won’t be either as heavy or as full, as it’s a trek between B&Bs.

The Jam and the Pacerpoles having a rest

The Jam and the Pacerpoles having a rest

5. Look What We Found meals. I took two of these with me (the Bolognese and the Chilli) and both were good – the Chilli especially so.  Indeed, I wished afterwards that instead of paying a tenner for chilli in the ODG, I’d just bought 3 of these and had them instead, as the camp site shop sold them.

6. Water. I took a Travel Tap with me for filtering water, but didn’t use it as much as I expected. It’s still a bit stiff from being new, so it was hard to squeeze the water through in sensible quantities, and so I kept the filtered stuff for drinking out of my Camelbak when walking.  All the water I used for heating up was unfiltered.  I did also drink some water neat and unfiltered, where it looked particularly clear.  I took a bit of a chance as the water I used was downstream from a tarn, but flowing cleanly and quickly.  I wouldn’t have done this if I’d seen loads of sheep around or where the tarn concerned were a more frequented place.  I felt no ill effects, but that was pure chance. I wouldn’t actively encourage anyone to do what I did. But, given that water was my big concern before I camped wild, and the fact that I coped so well finding and treating it (well, when I did treat it), this has to be considered a success.

Failures

1. Sleeping Bag. I realised my sleeping bag may not be cutting it any more in my first night in the new tent in the garden at home, when we had some reasonably fine weather in March.  I shouldn’t have been cold then, and am sure I’ve been out in colder and not had any trouble.  A combination of my sleeping bag losing its touch and me getting old and starting to feel the cold a lot more than I used to is probably going on here.  But even with this I expected to just feel at worst a bit chilly and for it to be curable with suitable layering of clothes.  I’m glad I got myself a new down jacket on the way as I think I would have been so cold I’d have had to abandon the trip otherwise. Even with two base layers and down jacket and fully clothed below, I was cold. Ok temperatures were close to freezing, but even so.  I think it’s time for a new sleeping bag, one with down. Any recommendations welcome.

2. My fitness. Having been more active than usual during the winter months, as a result of some winter walks locally and orienteering, I was surprised how unfit I felt.  This always happens to some extent on the first major hill walk of the year, but I’d hoped the effects would be reduced this time.  They weren’t.  My fitness and energy levels weren’t helped by the lack of sleep caused by being cold either.

3. Pacerpoles.  Sad to say but the Pacerpoles (well one of them) let me down.  The breakage of the right one was something I’ve never had happen to a pole before.  And yes, I have got the stronger alloy ones, not the carbon fibre.  So it shouldn’t have happened.  I managed to carry on by lengthening the affected section, and have a replacement part already installed, but I think I’ll always be wondering if it’s going to happen again.

Other things

I guess I expected too much of the down jacket but it didn’t keep me quite as toasty as I’d expected.  But then again I did choose a lightweight packable one, and have been spoilt by the warmth of my everyday winter coat which is too warm. I was choosing between two and wonder if I should maybe have gone with the more expensive one.

I have to say that not being female I’m unused to some of the contortions required to successfully undertake a full range of lavatory manoeuvres in the outdoors, and whilst the excavation part of the process was no trouble, I found the rest of it unedifying to the extent that next time I’m going to eat doughnuts constantly so as to manage things “downstairs” and allowing the use of proper facilities every other day.

Of course I took too much stuff (as usual), and my load is far from qualifying as lightweight.  It weighed in at 13.5kg before I then added the down jacket, water and some incidental food purchases along the way. I need to get this down.  I reckon ditching the crossing poles, removing excess tent pegs, switching to a lighter but warmer sleeping bag and some more efficient clothing choices may knock a couple of kilos off, and a more stringent approach to food, drink and clothing could make a significant difference too. At this stage I’m not prepared to ditch the Trangia because I love it so much, but it is costly in terms of space and weight, even if I only take the components I need.  I know also that when I do my coast to coast, I’ll probably take a larger rucksack to cope with the fact that it’s two weeks instead of 4 days.

Trip stats

Total Distance 24.82 miles (39.94 km)
Total Ascent 1,771m
Total Descent 1,782m
Total Walking Time 13 hours 55 mins
Average Speed 1.78 mph (2.87 kph)
Flat-Equivalent Distance 36.63 miles (58.94 km)
Flat-Equivalent Speed 2.63 mph (4.24 kph)
New Wainwrights 1
New Nuttalls 4
New Tarns 6

The route

Reflections

I’d originally planned this trip as a full week, but client demands and the weather pushed me to delay it and squeeze it in over the bank holiday weekend.  But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise in some ways.  Firstly I got reasonably clear weather – ok I had some breeze and a bit of hail and snow, but it wasn’t gales, persistent rain or hill fog. Secondly, for my first time, I think it was sensible to not try to push things too far.  The objective was to achieve a wild camp, dealing with all of the practicalities that go with it, and learn a little about how I might want to use it on future trips. The trip turned out to be just the right length.

I had some pleasant times at my camps and really liked the two tarn-side pitches, but haven’t yet had one of those sublime wild camping moments that make it all worthwhile – things like stunning sunsets or sunrises.  That was partly because of the location of my camps and partly because I didn’t get up early enough.  I also didn’t take any of those “light glowing in the tent” pictures.  Maybe next time for these things.

That in itself is something.  There will be a next time.  But for me I don’t think wild camping will necessarily be the principal objective.  At the moment I see it as a means to an end and that end is still focussed on the walking and specifically knocking off the Wainwrights and Nuttalls, and some long distance walks.  The ability to wild camp brings two key advantages – the ability to avoid accommodation constraints that previously made such trips tricky to plan when I’m only using public transport; and the fact that it slashes the cost of a trip dramatically, removing the accommodation costs.  That potentially means more trips.

Although it wasn’t the aim at the time I first planned this trip, I came to realise that successful wild camping gave me some serious options for my planned coast to coast walk in the summer – especially as I was struggling to fit the itinerary I wanted into the amount of time available and the pattern of accommodation options available. So by the time I left for the Lakes last weekend, that was at the back of my mind.  The trip has confirmed that I can do it, and I’m now going to plan my c2c on the basis of the route, not the accommodation. But I will probably use a combination of wild camps and camp sites, sprinkled with hostels and B&Bs every 3 or 4 days, and potentially even a couple of bothies. The wild camps will allow me to avoid wasteful detours off the hill for overnight stops, but where my route takes me through “civilisation” then I’ll probably take advantage of that too. Less formal accommodation also means I can leave it much later before booking, and hence have at least some ability to manage the timing around the weather. So it’s all good.

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8 thoughts on “My first wild camp – Part 4: Job Done

  1. Well written mate,wish I had same passion to right up reports like this maybe one day .and I’d say a good sods law that tent was only wet for trip home :) if you want to shed more weight and still have a very strong shelter look at the Trailstar (I have both these shelters now )made by MLD carry on writing up the good reports maybe see you next time your in lakes,lucky for me only 30 mins away

  2. That sack the jam shud be fine for c2c loosing the trangi for a pocket rocket wud prob save a kilo straight away .the pacer poles are by far the best poles on market The woman who started and owns pacer poles lives just outside bowness they can supply a new section I picked one up last year when I snapped one walking in some huge winds think it was 14 quid .have a look in forums section on outdoor magic in the classifieds sometimes get some good warm and light sleeping bags there . I got a second hand western mountaineer summer lite weighs in at 620 grams in a exped dry bag and does me to -3 ish .food wise I eat mountain house meals they do standard size and very hungry size there very light a chicken tika and rice is 138 gramsand great tasting too I buy mine from Neil prest at Vesty foods good price too

    • Yes, I think if I’m ruthless, I might be able to use the Jam on the c2c, but for that length of trip I’ll probably go for the extra comforts that I can fit into the larger bag, even with the weight penalty. The larger bag (Lowe Alpine Khumbu 65:80) although heavier is at least designed for bigger weights and cancels some of it out as a result. But I’m using the Jam for all trips by default, except where I’ve tried and it doesn’t work.

      I’ve toyed with ditching the Trangia, but it would be a huge wrench. And what would I drink at night without the meths! Pocket rocket would definitely be on the shortlist though.

      I’ve already got a replacement section, and it was £11. One of the first things I did when I got home. The Pacerpoles are, as you say, the best out there and as a result it would be unthinkable to have one of them out of action.

      Thanks for the tips re sleeping bags.

  3. Great report… I always think it’s important to have a plan B in our country with its ‘interesting weather’. I maintain my membership to the YHA just in case and there are times when the regimen, formality and rules of some camp sites are a price worth paying so you can wash your pants and have a (hopefully) hot shower! After all, for most people, precious holiday time is being used up for these trips and you are meant to be enjoying yourself :-)

    • That’s the point I think. Some people take excessive pride in the hair shirt approach of depriving themselves of any scrap of comfort. The wild camping for me was aimed at building flexibility into my walking, and freeing me from the constraints of accommodation. It’s certainly not a total replacement – it’s a complement. And with life membership of the YHA, I still need to use them a few times each year to get my money’s worth. Your completely right about the precious holiday thing, but for me it’s also the distance. I live so far from the hills, and the Lakes in particular, that I have to extract maximum enjoyment from my infrequent trips. And if that means a night of relative comfort rather than a night on a cold windswept hilltop, then so be it.

  4. Hmm. I might have to look into Look What We’ve Found meals for my next trip. There’s a real dearth of good, easy food for the solo hiker.

    Never been in the New Dungeon Ghyll. I like the ODG but the strip lighting needs to go!

    • If I have to carry more weight shudder or need space I use a golite Quest my large back size one weighs just over 1.4 kilo

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