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.
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.
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 we spotted earlier, 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.
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. It appears that all they had to lie on was one Karrimat between them, and all they had to wrap up in was a foil blanket. 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 offer them hot chocolate and hot tea – 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 off 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……..