“Oh my God, look at the moon! And the lights!”
This was Fran’s third wild camp, but only the first where we had a clear sky overnight. And it was simply stunning. My photos might only be taken with a mobile, but you get the idea.
It was also the coldest wild camp yet for Fran. Trying out our new Skywatch (nicknamed the Poundland Kestrel by James) I clocked -5C with windchill in the evening and -2.9C with windchill in the morning.
The dates for this trip had been arranged since before Christmas, making for a daily study of the weather forecast in the fortnight running up to it, and the plans for where we going to go changed daily along with it.
First it was Kinder via Jacob’s Ladder, then Bleaklow via Doctor’s Gate (Judith gave me that idea), then back to Kinder again…… In the end it wasn’t the weather that made the decision for us, but my left foot.
I appeared to develop a rather sore case of that Plantar Fashy Thingy on the way back from the camp Geoff and I did with the dogs, the previous week. In fact, I could hardly walk on the way home.
Lots of googling and advice had me stretching, applying ice, popping ibuprofen and trying different footbeds, and for a brief moment I thought I was going to have to cancel Fran’s trip.
But, things did start improving. It certainly hadn’t gone, but I felt able to go out. I picked a short route though. The same one Geoff and I had just done in fact.
Obviously it was going to be somewhat nippy, so winter sleeping bags and plenty of insulated clothing were on the cards, making for slightly heavier rucksacks than in the summer. Of course the margin for error is much smaller in these conditions, so I’d always rather have something with me that I didn’t wear, than be shivering with everything on, feeling miserable.
By the time we’d filtered water on the way up, the temperature was already dropping with the fading light. Fran suddenly glanced back at one point, to notice a glorious sunset sneakily happening behind us. Magic.
Nights are still long at this time of year, so eating, drinking (tea and hot chocolate for me, but I’m pretty sure Fran had some wine as well) and watching stuff on I-Player, helped pass the hours.
Fired with enthusiasm after the wonderful sunset we’d witnessed, I checked google for the time of sunrise the next morning and we decided to set our alarms for 7am, to make sure we didn’t miss it.
I settled down to sleep. Dozing, I suddenly heard the unmistakeable, crisp sound of footsteps in snow, passing our tents. I’ve since checked the time and it was around 9:50pm. I looked out my door, but could see no-one. Shouting Fran, she unplugged her ear plugs and looked back along her way, to see a guy walking away from us, with a large-ish pack.
My first thought at this time of the evening was the Rescue Team out on a call, but there would have been a small group in that case, not a lone individual. And they would have stopped to speak, to see if we had any information about who they were looking for.
Obviously someone just out doing something similar to us. Kinder is getting very busy these days!
For once, I didn’t sleep especially well. The wind kept getting up in the night and wind noise is the one thing that tends to keep me awake. But I dropped off eventually and woke to stillness at about six in the morning.
Our planned magnificent sunrise never happened though. The day just slid quietly in, without a fuss.
It was very peaceful. Chatting pleasantly, we took our time over breakfast and packing up.
Kinder looked glorious in the ever changing, morning light.
The wind had completely dropped by now, but the ambient temperature was obviously colder than the night before as there was now ice on the paths. We even put microspikes on for a short section once we hit the track again, as all the puddles and stones were iced over.
A lone walker with his ice axe strapped to his rucksack passed us while we were packing up, no doubt hoping for a good day out on Kinder.
And so, another good camp over. Fran has a shopping list in her head for yet more gear she’d like and a date is already set for the next trip. I just get the impression however, that she might like the next one to be a touch warmer.