A Bit Of A Wild Weekend In The Lake District

Friday

We leave Hayfield at about seven thirty in the morning. James has come over the night before so we can get an early start. Going to the eastern Lakes doesn’t take too long, but we’re off to the south west, meaning a trek around the southern coast, and lots of small, single track roads.

The weather is pretty good, lots of blue skies and sunshine, and quite warm. It promises to be a lovely day.

Several hours later, parking up around the south side of Harter Fell, we lift our packs and set off.

The way up is steep and I’m soon overheating – mind you these days, I can be like that sat in a freezer, never mind toiling up a hillside.

Views open out all around and we stop for a quick break, two thirds of the way up.

James is on a Birkett Bagging weekend, so I assume Harter Fell is a Birkett, as he goes off clambering to the top.

Despite the sun, the wind is icy up here and I zip everything up to keep out the cold. I even put gloves on – very unusual for me.

Dropping off the far side, there are apparently more Birketts to bag before we hit the top of the pass and cross over to Hardknott Fell. I decide that I’m quite happy not to stand on the actual summit of each one and we get into a routine of him leaving his pack with me for the last section every time, so that he can scamper up the remaining 50 metres or so, light and unemcumbered.

The light seems quite special and the views are gorgeous.

Dropping down to the road in between Hardknott and Wrynose, we cross over and start making our way up Hard Knott. Only there’s Border End to bag on the way…..

I only have to wait about 15 minutes for him to top out, but it’s starting to really cool down for the evening now. I don another layer while I’m still.

 

Light is starting to fade a touch as we continue on. We’re looking for a likely spot to pitch for the night now and find one to the east of Yew Bank.

Water is filtered from a nearby wet area.

And once we’re all set up, James trots off to bag Yew Bank. I put the kettle on.

Saturday

I’ve slept really well, but as I awake at about 6am, needing the loo, it’s throwing it down. I hang on as long as I can but eventually have to give in. I put my waterproofs on, but everything gets drenched. Bugger. I have to drape all the wet stuff in the porch as best I can. I manage about another hour’s sleep.

When I hear James stirring, I shout over to him. The weather is pretty crap and I’ve lost the impetus to do the route he’s planned for the day. We know it’s forecast to get much worse, too.

A plan is successfully hatched. We’ll head up alongside Lingcove Beck and find somewhere as sheltered as possible to pitch up. I can then stay with the tents for the afternoon, while James energetically bounces around a few more Birketts, with only a light pack for company. Good plan. We pack up.

Visibility clears as we drop lower, but the wind and rain don’t ease up. Squelching up the valley, following the beck upstream, we suddenly spy a lovely green spot at Green Hole. James is convinced he’s camped here once before with Rich Baldwin, when Rich’s Laser Competition happened to get trashed by overnight snow.

It’s definitely less squelchy here, so that’s a good point. There’s also a few pieces of an aircraft wreck – something small like a Cessna or a Piper, I reckon.

(I find out later from a few friends who researched it for me, that it is a Piper that crashed into Bowfell, in 1987. The main part of the wreckage is much nearer Bowfell.)

The weather is even more crap by now and James has also lost the impetus to start hunting out Birketts for the afternoon. We hunker down for the rest of the day.

But we’re not alone. We’d no idea, but the OMM Mountain Marathon is on this weekend. Every time I stick my head out of the tent there are people everywhere.

And I have to say, I don’t think we saw any that were smiling.

There are so many competitors passing by, that every time I go out for a wee, I realise afterwards that about 6 people must have seen me.

Some even come over to say hello, either thinking we’re a checkpoint or asking us if we know where the next one is. We send several folk in the right direction to one that’s not too far away.

The wind gets worse but the rain stops for a couple of hours. I take the opportunity to stand outside for a bit, holding my waterproofs up like a couple of sails, in the hope that this’ll take the worst of the moisture off them. It works quite successfully. I even offer to hold James’ jacket out for a while – it’s the least I can do. The poor guy’s stuck inside his tent since in his hurry to pitch today, he attached the inside the wrong way round. This means the doors don’t line up properly, so after battling his way in, he’s vowed not to leave it again ’till morning.

Passing the rest of the afternoon quite happily, I watch a couple of episodes of W1A on my mobile. Always good for a laugh. James is reading, so I mustn’t laugh too loud.

Just as it’s starting to go dark, we hear a guy call out to us. It’s a couple on the OMM, wanting to know if we can show them exactly where they are, on the map. James obliges. It’s not where they think they are. How can they get down to where they’re supposed to be by nightfall? Maybe they should dig in for the night?

The woman especially, looks tired and very wet. I stick my nose in and suggest they’d be better off digging in, then apologise for interfering. They don’t need that suggestion twice though. Their tent is soon up.

A short while later, I hear the guy go and ask to borrow a lighter off James. All their waterproof matches have drowned in the weather today, so they can’t light their stove. James, of course, obliges once more.

James tells me his plan for tomorrow. It involves going back to the car via Esk Pike and several more Birketts, and includes getting up in the dark and being off walking by dawn. The weather is supposed to be much better by then. An excellent plan, but I decide I’ll make my own way off via Moasdale and meet him back at the car. For some reason I’m feeling a bit less fit and bouncy than I want to feel this weekend. Could just be One Of Those Things, but nevertheless, I vow to make a concerted effort over the next few weeks, to lose a few of those extra kilograms around my middle that I seem to have picked up recently…

Sunday

So last night was really Wilder Than A Wild Thing. Especially between the hours of about 10pm and 2am. I slept terribly. I had my usual battle with my pillow, the rivers were too noisy, the rain was too noisy, the wind was definitely too noisy. The Southern Cross 1 had an excellent try out in the wild weather though and passed with flying colours.

I stick my head out of the tent as James is about to set off walking. Still a bit breezy but nothing like before. The sky is blue and although the wind is now from the north and positively Arctic, it promises to be a lovely day. What a contrast from yesterday!

We agree to be back at the car by 2pm and he sets off in the direction of Esk Pike. Ten minutes later, I see another guy approaching me. It’s Peter Dixon. It doesn’t surprise me that’s he’s turned up and it’s lovely to see him. He’s brought his breakfast to have with us.

A quick chat though and he decides to go and catch James up and walk with him for the day. I’ll see him again later.

 

The OMM couple now start to surface. He seems pretty chatty, but as the woman appears, I am horrified by how she looks. She is visibly shivering and her lips are completely blue. I decide to interfere again and start a Casual Chat.

Have they slept well, were they warm enough?

The answer is no and no. All they had to lie on was one Karrimat between them, and all they had to wrap up in was one foil blanket between them. She’s been shivering uncontrollably all night. This is a real shame, especially since if only we’d known, James and I both had spare fleeces and down jackets that they could have borrowed for the night.

Have they had anything hot to eat or drink this morning?

And again, the answer is no. They’ve no fuel left. They used all their Esbit tablets up last night, trying to heat some food up. They also say that shortly before they came upon us yesterday, things were so bad they were on the verge of trying to ring for help. Apparently when they saw our tents, they couldn’t believe their luck and made a bee-line for us.

So I make them hot tea and hot chocolate, which they are happy to take the time to drink while they pack up. The Challenge is over for them now, they just want to go back home.

Another guy also appears at one point. He’s running around trying to account for all the people who didn’t make the camping field last night. He tells us that the wind over there was dreadful overnight. Someone had clocked gusts of 60mph and some of the Portaloos had been blown over. It’s to be hoped that no-one was in them at the time.

The couple is soon ready for off and head back over to the Langdales. I pack up and set offย  to walk down Moasdale, and then the road for a short distance, back to the car.

It’s the second day of the OMM and I once more pass loads of folk. But the weather is stunning. Arctic wind, but blue skies and sun.

And once I get to Moasdale, it’s quiet. I see next to no-one for the rest of the day.

 

 

I’m back at the car around 1pm. James arrives about 45 minutes later – Peter’s given him a lift over after they’d finished their wander.

It’s been a great weekend. I always have a good laugh with my pal.

And it’s only a few weeks off now, until a group of us meet up for #ghostcamp……..

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About chrissiedixie

Love being out on the moors and mountains, backpacking, dogs, travelling generally. Favourite place in the world - Yosemite National Park. Retired teacher and ex Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader. Married to Geoff, who puts up with all sorts.
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25 Responses to A Bit Of A Wild Weekend In The Lake District

  1. surfnslide says:

    A weekend of real weather contrasts, two stunning days squeezed around a real nasty one. Sounds like the poor OMM challengers caught the worst of things. I know someone from work who was taking part, Iโ€™ll have to ask him how he got on when I see him tomorrow. I love that corner of the Lakes. Many happy memories of wild camps, summit bivvies and wild swims in the Esk and Lingcove Beck

    Liked by 1 person

    • The way the weather can change from one day to another is fascinating, isn’t it? It’ll be interesting to talk to your friend about his experience. The guy who ran up looking for stragglers in the morning also said that a group of military guys had given up on Saturday, due to the conditions.
      That west side of The Bowfell area isn’t one I know well to be honest. Because it’s such a long drive round to there, we used to concentrate on the eastern Lakes much more when we used to visit regularly. It was stunning though – when we had a view of course! ๐Ÿ˜€

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  2. Judith says:

    Gosh, those OMMers didn’t seem very well equipped. Only one foil blanket between them?! They must’ve been grateful for your hot drinks. I hope they learned from their grim overnight experience and will come back.
    I wonder if they noticed that James can’t pitch his tent properly? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose it might have been a double sized blanket? Do they exist?!
      Funnily enough, she offered me their ‘one’ tea bag to use for both their drinks when I made them a brew…. I declined though and used two from my extensive tea bag supply!
      Hopefully they didn’t notice James’ faux pas with his tent pitching….. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Andrew says:

    Wow, great light on the frst day, then quite adventurous! That’s a Terra Nova Southern Cross? What’s the other tent please? I could do with a warmer 1 person tent. Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Andrew, thanks for visiting ๐Ÿ™‚
      Yes the Southern Cross 1 is quite new to us, but I was very impressed at how it performed in those conditions. We also have a Southern Cross 2 which – although a bit heavier than the 1 – is a great tent for one person when you want lots of space and more headroom, perhaps on long, winter nights.
      My friend’s tent is a Tarptent Scarp 1, from an American manufacturer:
      https://www.tarptent.com/scarp1.html
      I’ve never owned one, but I know several people who do and say it’s a great piece of kit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Andrew says:

        Thanks, very interesting. I have a Trekkertent Stealth which has survived some extreme conditions but has only a mesh inner so it’s pretty draughty, I’d like something that keeps a cold wind off me more effectively. Cheers for the info.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Tom says:

    Lovely area, especially when you get clear skies and crisp weather, even if you had to deal with some intermittent clag as part and parcel! The OMM’ers are a sore point as they seem a hair’s-breadth away from an unnecessary callout for MR, but organizers cannot be responsible for checking that amount of people for both kit and competence. The lack of a second source of ignition and inadequate fuel are issues, sure, but the foil blanket is inexcusable; especially with the low cost of relatively robust heat-trapping bivvies’ and them being an order of magnitude more effective.

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  5. Totally agree, but I wasn’t meaning to actively criticise either the OMM or the people, rather just recount what happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom says:

      Oh absolutely, I didn’t read any criticism, more just me musing at whether preventative measures are ever possible by similar organizations. In truth, they can manage very few, the OMM represent recommended kit on their website and you will likely always have under-prepared people signing up regardless. In many events this will sort itself out as they’ll quit at the nearest marshal station or settlement, but in the case of ‘open’ events without a fixed route to station marshals along a lot of people seem to have a false sense of safety in numbers. Yes you may start off in a group of hundreds and there may be lots of people out there who will help, but if you’re off-route and in clag, you’re reduced to needing to rely on yourself and your kit.

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      • You’re right, and it’s easy to underestimate how difficult something might turn out to be when it’s a new experience. I certainly think they thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was. Being a good fell runner is not enough for an event like that, there are so many other skills involved too.

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  6. Brenda-Dawn Linney says:

    Gosh, something of an epic few days. Well done to you both. Some lovely photos too. It is amazing that folk can go out on the hill so ill prepared. Things can go so badly wrong in so short a space of time. Surely folk taking part in the OMM ought to have some hill sense?

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    • Thanks Dawn ๐Ÿ˜Š It was a good weekend.
      From a few things the couple said, it was obviously their first mountain marathon and they didn’t expect it to be so challenging. Perhaps good fell runners, but not really grounded in hill/backpacking skills?

      Like

  7. Fellbound says:

    Great photos. I don’t often get round to that side of the Lakes – even from Penrith it’s a long drive. As for those two OMM people – what Dawn said! Hard to believe they were so ill equipped.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks David ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually I think everywhere we went was new to me, even though I’ve done tops like Bowfell, Esk Pike etc in the past. It’s like another country over that side of the Lakes!
      I suppose in the end I’m just glad we were able to do something helpful/useful for the couple. Think they might well alter their equipment a bit though if they do something like the OMM again…..

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  8. That couple are lucky not to have died of exposure in the night – especially after getting cold and wet and tired!

    We’ve just come back from Eskdale where I was delighted, with the help of 2 Ibuprofen, to reach Upper Eskdale. I had my eye on Pen but that would have been out of the question for the old hip unfortunately.

    Border End and Hard Knott are superb hills for exploring all the lumps and bumps – you should have gone round them with James. There are lots of lovely little tarns hidden amongst them and they’re fun and rocky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a bit scary to think what could have happened, to be honest!

      You’re right, it is lovely around there with all the little bumps. Once we got going though this weekend, I did feel like I was slowing him down a touch. He didn’t say anything of course, but letting him leap about a bit on his own seemed like the right thing to do at the time!

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  9. Oh, and by the way, I’m sure you were feeling off colour due to the cold. Cold always makes me under par and very tired and unenthused.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. McFadzean says:

    A lovely couple of days’ hiking in one of the most spectacular corners of the Lake District, Chrissie. But it’s not without its dangers, as the experience of the lost couple illustrates. I hate being cold and wet, so my heart goes out to them.
    Cheers, Alen

    Liked by 1 person

  11. andysmgray says:

    Just catching up as usual Chrissie. The views are stunning but the weather always seems to change so quickly in the Lakes. I have off days as well. I set off with good intensions and end up taking a shorter route because I’m just not feeling it on the day. I could sense you were concerned about the lady in the morning. Good for you for heating them up and keeping an eye on her. Another excellent blog my dear. Sorry for the delay in reading it. Take care.

    Like

    • Hi Andy, hope you’re well!
      Yes, I was really concerned about her in the morning, she looked dreadful. Just wish we’d realised how much they were struggling in the night, too.
      At least with me feeling a touch off, it put us in the right spot to help them a bit. Funny how coincidences like that sometimes happen, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

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