Frost And Frozen Zips In The Dales

Day one – 2.8 miles with 200 metres ascent

We were due to meet James in Horton in Ribblesdale at 3:30pm on the Friday, but not long after we’d left home a text hinted that he could possibly be quite late; he was stuck in a serious traffic jam on the M1 in Yorkshire. I checked the traffic reports as Geoff drove us north and discovered there’d been a nasty accident with a lorry on the motorway, resulting in standing traffic in both directions. As it happened though, he was only an hour late in the end and he joined us in the van for coffee and Geoff’s home made chocolate chip cookies before we finally set off towards our camping spot for the night.

James had sorted a 3 day route for us and this evening’s section took us out of Horton on the Pennine Way, towards Pen-y-Ghent.

Where the PW turned right towards Pen-y-Ghent, we carried straight on and headed off in the direction of Hull Pot.

Geoff used to do a lot of caving in years gone by, but he says he has no recollection of whether he ever did Hull Pot or not. Can’t understand that, I’d certainly remember……….

Hull Pot Beck is a decent sized beck which makes its way down off the moors before emptying into this cave system and it was here that we started following it upstream to our pitch for the night.

Dusk was approaching and the temperature starting to drop as we chose our respective tent spots.

It was dark by the time we were cooking and eating, and quite chilled too by the time we’d chatted for a while. I decided to go and get in my sleeping bag at around 9:00pm and was asleep within about half an hour, but awake again a couple of hours later, feeling really cold. I put my duvet on, fell asleep again, but woke another couple of hours later, absolutely boiling! My current camping mattress is a Neoair All Seasons; I haven’t had it long and have only used it a few times, but already have a theory about it. It’s very comfortable and very warm once you’ve been in bed for a while, but it seems like for the first hour or so it takes all the heat out of you before all the baffley, reflectively things inside can get to work and start reflecting the heat back.

I also seriously fell out with my Exped Air Pillow; nearly every time I put my head on it, it shot off in some unexpected direction. Seemed to spend half the night chasing it round the tent……

Day two – 8.1 miles with 470 metres ascent

I woke properly around 7:00 and had to go out to answer the call of nature. I unzipped the inner, then struggled with the outer zips. They seemed to be stuck, but I couldn’t work out what it was they were caught on. Then I realised – they were frozen.

There was no frost on the ground, but we’d had a couple of rain showers overnight and there was now a pattern of frozen ice droplets all over the flysheet.

James had some ice in the water he’d left outside and both our tents were somewhat drippy with condensation inside. I was using two summer sleeping bags put together as I need a new winter one, so it was just the top one of mine that had got a bit damp. By the time we’d sorted breakfast though, the sun had come up and had nicely warmed the inside of my tent and dried off the bag.

By 10:30, we were ready for off. The plan for today was an 11.5 mile route, hopefully ending up at Jeffrey Pot Scar for the evening’s camp.

So, James continued to lead us northwards, through the tussocks and the bogs, until we picked up the western edge of a sweeping ridge, high above the valley of Langstrothdale.

I’m sure my photos don’t do it justice, but there did seem to be a special clarity to the light this weekend. You could see for miles.

The ridge went on for several miles, taking in High Green Field Knott and Horse Head, before we left it to wander downwards towards Yockenthwaite. Excellent views down into Langstrothdale and Littondale made for a very pleasant few hours.

It was not particularly quick going however. It was tussocky, we had several barbed-wired walls to cross, lots of sharp up and down bits, and a few boggy bits thrown in for good measure.

By the time we’d started to drop down into Lothersdale and had reached the spot James had earmarked for lunch, it was 3:30. We discussed a plan B. If we continued on to Jeffrey Pot it would have certainly been dark before we’d got there, so we scoured the other side of the valley and spotted what looked like a possible camping spot on a grassy ledge high above Yockenthwaite. Definitely worth investigating.

The grassy ledge was perfect, with a stream for water only 5 minutes walk away. We soon had our tents pitched, and this time I positioned mine so that I could chat with James without leaving the warm comfort of my tent and sleeping bag. In this way, I figured that not only would I be warm and cosy all evening, I would get the better of my Neoair and have it well warmed up before I fell asleep.

There was some muttering from James about how he hoped I didn’t snore; I just ignored him.

It was now about 7:00pm and we were both ready for food and a hot drink. We chatted from our tents, cooking in our respective porches and sheltering from the cold breeze which was now blowing.

Suddenly, at around 8:30, I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more. I said good-night to James, zipped myself in and was asleep in seconds.

I woke, needing a toilet excursion, at about midnight. Unlike the previous night, I was still warm and cosy. My plan to warm the Neoair up before bedtime seemed to have worked. As I unzipped the tent door to exit my little cocoon, I was hit by the fantastic view of a black, black sky, absolutely filled with millions of bright stars. It was actually worth getting up for. Cold, but not frosty, I spent a few minutes finding the few constellations that I know – the Plough, Orion, the North Star. The air smelt pure and clear.

As I got back into my still warm sleeping bag, my eyes closed and I started to doze off. Suddenly, I was roused by a strange sort of growling, whistley kind of noise. Years of backpacking in the States have sharpened my senses at night – there are times when you seem to be constantly listening out for sounds of bear or mountain lion, even in your sleep. But this was Yorkshire; what on earth could it be? I listened again. Could it be…? No, surely not… surely it couldn’t be James snoring……

Day 3 – 9.7 miles with 320 metres ascent

As we hadn’t made the intended mileage yesterday, James had decided we needed to get up early this morning, so he set his alarm for 7:30. I was already awake anyway, having had a pretty good sleep. It was another cold morning, with frozen zips, frost covered grass and drippy tent interiors.

We decided to alter the route for the day slightly as there was no way we were going to make up all the miles originally planned, and end the trip at Newby Head instead of Ribblehead. A few hit and miss texts the previous evening had managed to convey our plans to Geoff – who was meeting us at the end of the trip – and we’d also suggested that we might see Geoff at around lunch time too, as he’d been wild camping in the van on the Yockenthwaite to Hawes road.

We set off then at about 9:30 and started contouring around the northern side of Langstrothdale.

We dropped into Deepdale Gill and climbed up out of the other side, onto the moors near Oughtershaw Tarn.

Once out on the top, the miles quickly turned into ‘bog miles’. The going was once again wet, boggy, gloopy and slow.

Various walls and fences needed to be scaled too, and we realised fairly quickly that we weren’t going to manage to meet up with Geoff for a tea and cookie break by lunchtime.

Knowing Geoff, I was convinced that he wouldn’t have waited but would have gone off and done something else, but James was certain he’d still be there, ready to dole out home made cakes and hot drinks to the walkers.

We must have been about an hour and a half behind schedule as we started nearing the road crossing, when James suddenly waved and shouted that he could see Geoff. I didn’t believe him and said he was having me on, but had to eat my words when I noticed Tilly bounding across the moors, closely followed by Geoff and Dixie. (Geoff wasn’t bounding, he’d managed to lose his glasses in a bog on the way over and so wasn’t the happiest of bunnies.)

The ‘tea van’ didn’t disappoint. Tea, coffee, choc chip cookies and ginger cake – and all for free!

We couldn’t stay munching and relaxing in the van for ever mind, it was only a quick pit stop; we still had another 4.5 miles to go before journey’s end. These were easy miles though. We picked up a grassy track which took us on to Cam High Road and another section of the Pennine Way. The clarity of the light was still unbelievable and although it doesn’t show up in my photos, we could actually see the Irish Sea in the far distance.

Cam High Road was left after a couple of miles and we finished the trip by dropping down to Newby Head on the Ribble Way – passing (we presumed), the source of the River Ribble somewhere en route.

Once again, long-suffering Geoff was there to meet us at the road, and he transported us all back to Horton so that James could pick up his car.

It was a great weekend and thanks to James for not only organising a smashing route, but also wonderful weather! Don’t know how he managed that…

And extra thanks to Geoff for all the running around, hot drinks and home-made cakes 🙂

You can read James’ version of who was snoring here…

29 thoughts on “Frost And Frozen Zips In The Dales

  1. A tea van,a tea van..what`s the world coming to.! The advantage of a cold snap is that it usually accompanies excellent visibility as in the nice crisp pictures above 🙂
    You can bung a bit of velcro on the pillow and another bit on the airbed and see if that works.Don`t know if the adhesive would have an effect on these fancy dan airbeds though.
    Use a piece of cardboard myself but only in hard winter conditions 🙂


    1. It was a very obliging tea van Alex. I’m sure it would’ve even done me a fried egg sandwich with oodles of tomato ketchup if I’d asked nicely…
      That pillow does have a couple of holes at the top, so that you can tie it to something in your sleeping bag or wherever; thinking of putting a couple of bits of tape in the hood of my bag, but then again I don’t like the thought of putting a needle through my nice sleeping bag material either. I made friends with it a bit again on the 2nd night, when I didn’t blow it up so hard… 🙂


  2. Now that’s what I call backpacking, with a support team 🙂
    Cracking route that. I used to love the dales and the hills round that way so enjoyed fetching back some memories. I’ve caved a bit in this area as well, a real fan of limestone scenery both above and below ground.
    I shove my Exped pillow in a t-shirt, seems to stop it wandering about, still better than a pile of my smelly clothes


    1. I have a real soft spot for the Dales, as that’s where we used to spend holidays when I was little. It was much quieter then, although in fact we saw nobody all weekend. Going off-path makes the difference!
      I agree that the pillow is much better than a pile of smelly clothes! Never thought of wrapping it in something, although I didn’t have a spare t-shirt with me. I bet a Buff thing would work…


  3. I still maintain that I don’t snore………..
    Are you sure that the noise was not one of the many sheep wandering the moors that night?
    I enjoyed that write-up, its alway good to read someone elses write-up of a backpack you have been on. Some nice pics there.


    1. Thanks James, I’m looking forward to reading your version of events too 🙂
      You know I’m pretty sure there weren’t any sheep in the immediate vicinity in the middle of the night, but if there was one, it must have been sharing your tent judging by where the noise was coming from. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why it was making so much noise……


  4. I did the Cam Road with my Dad – really enjoyed it. Haven’t done much else around there though – scandalous seeing as I’m fairly local I suppose! I actually made it up Penyghent last week – broken toe and all – I just ignored it!

    We once had tea-van support when my friend Isobel and I did the Lyke Wake Walk. Her parents met us at every single road crossing with lots of food and drink – a welcome distraction from what I found a very boring walk.

    I’ve been frozen in tents before – but only on Mount Kenya. I never camp here when it’s cold… come to think of it, I don’t camp here much at all – I prefer my bothies with a fireplace where possible.


    1. The toe must be on the mend then Carol if you did Pen y Ghent?
      I quite like routes like Cam Road occasionally, as I rather like the idea of walking along ancient trackways and trails that have lots of history to them.
      I’ve heard other people say that the Lyke Wake Walk was a bit on the boring side though!
      A bothy with a fireplace does sound rather appealing for the winter…


      1. Hi – no, the toe’s still broken as far as I know (although I still need another x-ray to confirm). But it’s never been painful and I’ve just been getting fed up of it and pushing it more. It doesn’t seem to object – in fact, I think there’s a net benefit as it improves the blood flow. I’ve only been walking on things with good paths though – don’t think I could do any rough stuff!


  5. Hi Chrissie. Another delightful trip post that had me on the edge of my chair. A tea van – now *that* is spectacular service. Great big virtual hugs!


  6. Hi Chrissie. We were up there too at the weekend. You are right about the clarity of the air. On the Sunday afternoon from the top of Dodd Fell we could see both the Irish Sea and the North Sea at the same time. It was worth plodging through the knee deep gloop to see a view like that.


  7. Lovely write up Chrissie,fantastic photos too. There are some really good wild camping spots around there.Team support with a tea wagon, brilliant.


    1. We once wild camped with the van next to the river near Yockenthwaite, when it was in full force after days of rain; there’s obviously lots of water that channels down off those hillsides!


    1. Thanks Martin!
      He didn’t bribe you to sound incredulous did he? 🙂 It was a very still evening and I’m not a particularly deep sleeper – maybe you can sleep through more than me anyway – but it was definitely there……


  8. Lovely trip report Chrissies. Nice pics too.

    I perfectly understand what you’re on about with the NeoAir. I find that with most mattresses to be honest except the Exped Synmat. So, in these cold times I make a hot water bottle and chuck it in my sleep bag.

    Usually, it’s all snug and warm when I finally retire to bed. Or I’ll do as you chose to. Get in bed early to warm it up 🙂


    1. Thanks Terry 🙂
      I did consider making a hot water bottle actually. Years ago I made a fleece ‘cover’ for my 1 litre platypus, which I sometimes use to help stop my water freezing in extreme cold, and I was thinking it would make a snuggly hot water bottle as well. James started telling me horror stories though about the top coming off in the middle of the night, and totally put me off it as an idea!


  9. Wandering pillows, cold sleeping mats, growly whistling snoring, frost, condensation…
    It’s a wonder you can got any sleep at all!
    Looks like a cracking trip – if somewhat hard work will all the bogs. The picture of James facing a mass of peat hags is a chiller!


    1. You’re right actually – it is a wonder I slept so well! It was a good trip though.
      If you look at that photo carefully it looks like James hasn’t got any feet – they’ve disappeared into the mire!


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