Eagle Cap Wilderness – Oregon

Whilst mooching about feeling a bit under the weather for the last few days, I came across some photos of a backpacking trip we did in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Oregon.

This was back in 2001, long before we had a digital camera, so I’ve had to scan the photos into the computer – hence the rather grainy appearance.

We spent 5 days wandering around the area, with three of the nights spent in one place while we did some day walks and then went back to the tent each evening. I seem to remember just chilling by a lake for the biggest part of one day, as well.

We also encountered two, rather fierce thunderstorms. One overnight at the first camp, and another one in an afternoon, which was so terrifying that Geoff and I just sat in the tent holding hands.

Memories!

 

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Posted in Backpacking Trips, Trips Abroad | 12 Comments

Pebbles Does Kielder

Kielder might not be the most exciting place in the outdoor world, but nevertheless, I do have a soft spot for it. For one, it was the first place I ever took my special Dixie wild camping.

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Consequently, we often find ourselves gravitating up to the area in the cooler months, for a few days relaxing and chilling.

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It’s not all forest – there’s plenty of moorland around too – although I have to admit I don’t mind the forest anyway, and as soon as you’re half an hour away from any car park, it’s very quiet. It’s possible to walk all day and not see a soul.

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The area just happens to be home to a fair number of outdoor sculptures, as well. A number are around the lake, but there are also others in totally out of the way spots, that you just happen upon unexpectedly.

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Surprisingly, Kielder also has a network of ‘wild camp sites’ that you can use. Not many people know this, but a list of them can be found here.

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Of course, you could conceivably disappear anywhere you wanted for a night, in an area the size of Kielder, but over the years I’ve taken a certain amount of pleasure in hunting these sites down and using them. I haven’t as yet used them all, but I have been to some more than once.

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If you ever try one out, please don’t expect a manicured pitch with a water tap! They are all near water – a stream, river or even the reservoir in a couple of cases – and some of them practically need bushwhacking skills to reach them. The ground is also often long grass or lumpy but, you know, they are supposed to be ‘wild’ spots after all!

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Some are fairly near tracks, whilst others are quite deep in the forest.

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Anyway, for a quick and easy night out, they can be fun. I have also linked a couple together in the past for a short, couple of night’s circuit. And incidentally, I have never got to a pitch and found someone else already there.

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So, a couple of weeks ago, Pebbles and I set off for a camp at the Plashetts pitch. As predicted, we saw next to nobody over the two days and had a very peaceful night.

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It was a long night – dark at around 4:30pm – but I’d taken a couple of documentaries to watch on my phone. Pebbles was happy just to snooze in the tent anyway, so she was no problem. And, although the temperature hovered around freezing all night, we were both snugly warm, cocooned in our relative bags and pyjamas.

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All in all, a pleasant little interlude.

 

 

 

Posted in Bits and Pieces | 15 Comments

Angle Tarn Camp – But, Surely That Can’t Be Sun….?

It was indeed the sun. That big yellow fire thing up in the sky, putting out a load of heat. Fluffy white clouds too, with a bracing breeze for good measure. Time to take advantage of the dryness and do a third night out with the giddy pups.

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We were camped in Patterdale for a few nights with the van, so it was easy to make up a little circuit of around 6 miles each day, to take in a wild camp up at Angle Tarn.

We started by a-wandering down the valley to Hartsop, then followed a very steep track up to Hayeswater. There was lots of stuff going on here, due to the powers that be building a hydro-electric scheme below the reservoir.

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And still the sun shone.

Picking up even more of the bracing breeze, we climbed a touch higher and contoured  around the hills for a bit, finally dropping down to our destination for the night.

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This was where we first became aware of the stags and their harems. Obviously the rutting season, we could both see and hear them in the distance. It went on all night long – quite spectacular really – and at times overnight, it sounded like some of them were very close to the tent.

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It was quite pretty as the sun went down.

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And then the rain started. On and off all night long, it was still fairly heavy when we woke up in the morning, but by the time we were due to break camp it had stopped. Another fine day was in the offing.

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Our return route took us across to Boredale Hause, followed by a bit of contouring round the lower slopes of Place Fell and back along the Ullswater Way.

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It was all rather pleasant.

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Posted in Backpacking Trips | 18 Comments

Lingy Hut Camp – And Still It Rains!

As well as trying out the two pups camping together, another challenge of our recent motorhome trip was finding places to safely leave the van overnight, whilst we were all off gadding in the hills.

For the High Cup Nick camp we’d found a lovely CS site only a couple of miles from Dufton, who were more than happy for us to leave the van empty one night, and for our Lingy Hut adventure, we’d found a similar site a couple of miles from Mosedale.

In both cases, we booked in for three nights and backpacked on the middle night. Also, in both cases, we had a couple of miles of tarmac walking before accessing the mountains, but this seemed like a very small price to pay in exchange for the knowledge that the van was somewhere secure and we didn’t have to worry about it still being there when we’d got back.

We had arranged to meet up with Peter Dixon and Oscar The Mountain Dog at Lingy Hut, but in the end he came and parked his car with our van and did the walk in with us. Unfortunately, he was suffering from a bit of a bad back so was more than happy to do a shorter walk than he might normally do.

Once again, the weather forecast promised us dry weather and, once again, it deposited a fair amount of rain on us on the final section of the walk in. I just might stop looking at weather forecasts!

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Peter and Oscar were planning on sleeping in the hut, but we put the tent up for the Crowther Gang. However, the hut gave us somewhere to be sociable out of the rain until bedtime.

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It was supposed to get frosty overnight, but it didn’t. It was a bit chilly though, although we were nice and snug in the tent. Clag and damp stuff greeted us when we got up, but the weather did improve as the day went on – even getting sunny! – as we wandered over High Pike and continued on a circular route back down to the van. I have to say though, the last couple of fields leading back to the site were absolute mud hell…..

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Posted in Backpacking Trips | 13 Comments

High Cup Nick – Who’d Take A Dog Camping In This Rain?


It was supposed to just be showers on the first day. It was supposed to be dry on the second day. All this money spent on weather forecasts and we’d probably do better with a couple of pine cones.

Still, it had to be done. Pebbles and Islay both have some single wild camping trips under their collars, but it was time for the four of us to bite the bullet and go out altogether. All in the one tent. Yep, with two pups, both under 18 months old.

Luckily, Mike, Dawn and Lucky The Dog were free, and came along to try and keep us calm and sane. It pretty much worked, too. Despite the rain, wind and lack of visibility, we had fun. The dogs were unbelievably well behaved in the tent and Pebbles was only slightly manic on the lead. To be fair, she is normally very good on the lead, but put another dog in the mix and she turns into a real floosie.

I didn’t take many photos (yucky weather, remember) so these are a mix of mine, Geoff’s and Mike’s.

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Posted in Backpacking Trips | 16 Comments

My Perfect Pillow

After many years of faffing and moaning (I’m very fussy) I feel as though I’ve finally sorted a pillow arrangement for backpacking, that suits me brilliantly:

Take one Exped air pillow (84g).

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A Western Mountaineering Down pillow (89g) with half the down removed, or else the whole thing would be just too thick.

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One Buff – weight doesn’t count as I carry this anyway.

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Absolutely perfect, sleep like a baby.

I used this system for 8 nights on the run in Sweden and it was brilliant – amazingly comfortable.

The only thing I’m now changing is I’ve ordered a UL Exped Pillow, which only weighs 44g.

Works for me!

Posted in Backpacking Trips, Bits and Pieces | 15 Comments

Arctic Sweden – 8 Nights In A Tent With Geoff And We’re Still Speaking

Day 1 – 8 miles

Day 1

Getting off the train at the Abisko Tourist Station was a bit of a shock. This stop has obviously been built purely for the start of the Kunglsleden, which starts right there – next to the tracks. It looked like at least 50 or 60 people got off with us, too. How busy was this going to be!

Luckily, most folk were milling around trying to take photos of each other so we made as quick a getaway as was humanly possible, whilst carrying fairly heavy rucksacks loaded up with 8 days’ worth of food.

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There was an inevitable tangle to start with, with groups passing and re-passing each other along the trail, but we gradually began to spread out. Our plan anyway, was to leave the Kungsleden after the second day, so we had high hopes of a much quieter hike once we’d done that.

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The walking was pleasant and easy, passing alongside the Abeskojavri Lake, through forest vegetation, with duckboards taking us over the wettest bits.

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Nine miles was the projected distance to our first camping spot. The first eight miles take you through the Abisko National Park, where – unusually it would seem, for Sweden – you are forbidden to camp except at designated spots, so we wanted to be out of the park before pitching. The downside to this plan however, was that we hadn’t set off walking until about 1:30pm, and the heat (yes, heat!) and those 8 days’ worth of food we were carrying, started to take their toll.

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So, just before the Park boundary after doing about 8 miles, we gave in and pitched camp. It had become apparent by then that nobody was taking much notice of the no-camping rule anyway, and we figured nobody would come looking for us. Which they didn’t.

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Day 2 – 11 miles

Day 2

The first night had been much cooler than expected. We weren’t cold, but there was a thin coating of ice on the tent in the morning. Nevertheless, fluffy clouds and blue skies promised another dry, warm day.

Unlike the day before – which had been fairly flat going – we started gaining some height this morning, climbing past Garddenvarri to a high pass of around 800m. We also began to pick up the hordes again. Surely Geoff wasn’t beginning to get grumpy?

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We also had an extra mile to make up after stopping short the night before, which made for an 11 mile day instead of the planned 10. But, who could really moan with views – and weather – like these?

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The rest of the afternoon was accompanied by wonderful views of three lakes – Miesakjavri, Radujavri and Alisjavri.

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We eventually found a spot for the tent, about a mile before the Alesjaure Hut – one of many STF huts that can be found dotted around the mountains in this area.

It was peaceful. It was beautiful. And if you look very carefully at the next two photos, you might notice that Geoff is using one of those rather nifty Thermarest chair kits on his Neoair Xtherm. I was to become very jealous of that chair kit over the following days.

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Day 3 – 8 miles

Day 3

This was the day we were leaving the Kunglseden and all its busy-ness behind. But first, we were very intrigued to call in at the Alesjaure Hut, just to see what it was like.

It turned out this was one of the extra posh ones. You could spend the night there for a fee, camp and use the showers etc for a fee, or – like us – just call in and drink coffee and hot chocolate, for a fee. We might have bought and eaten a couple of delicious cakes as well.

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Leaving the hut we crossed yet another fun suspension bridge, where I got into trouble for apparently creating a ‘double bounce’. I did notice that after that, he never got on one of those bridges at the same time as me again.

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And so, we were now leaving the Kungsleden. Turning left, instead of right, we passed close to the Sami village of Alisjavri. Clearly occupied, this is a summer settlement for the reindeer herding community.

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Our route then took us over another pass, visiting a rather scenic high lake at 874m, before dropping down to the head of the Visttasvaggi Valley.

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This was were I got my come-uppence for the earlier double bounce. The photos don’t do it justice at all, but the Moarhmmajohka gorge had to be crossed by an airy bridge. Rounding a corner and catching a glimpse of it, it looked Very High. Probably because it was Very High. By the time I’d reached it, Geoff had already dashed to the other side and was standing staring at me across the gaping chasm with the roaring water far below. To be fair, this was the only bridge on the trip which made me think ‘Oh ****!’, but, I’m not ashamed to admit that I did hesitate for a couple of seconds.

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I looked at Geoff. Then, locking my eyes onto his, I went for it, refusing to look anywhere else other than his face, until I had safely bounced and swayed across to the other side.

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As we dropped further into the valley the walking became a little rougher underfoot, as we alternately passed through tree-rooty dense forests and over boulder fields. Always wonderfully scenic though, we eventually settled on a pitch for the night in the middle of a large, grassy flat area.

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With high peaks all around, we lost the sun here very early. It was going to be another chilly night.

Day 4 – 8 miles

Day 4

Around midnight, I had to go out for a wee. It was a bit disconcerting then, that whilst answering the call of nature, I heard an enormous crack then loads of crashing, as rock after rock fell down one of the high faces nearby.

On going back into the tent, I woke Geoff up and told him.

‘So?’ came the reply.

Then we both heard another rockfall – this time from the other side of the river.

‘So?’ came the reply once more. ‘What’re you gonna do about it? There’s nothing that’s actually been falling around where the tent is for thousands of years! Go back to sleep.’

He was right of course. I went back to sleep.

Morning brought an ice covered tent again, and it was going to be hours before the sun hit us. Consequently, it was all rather wet and cool when we packed up after breakfast.

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We set off for a further 3 and a 1/2  miles down the valley, towards the Vistas hut. Three hours it took us to get there, once more tackling clinging forest vegetation and the odd talus field. A beautiful setting for lunch though, the hut was a grand spot to get a brew on and gaze up at the route we were taking in the afternoon.

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After a decent break, we filled our water bottles again and set off up the Stuor Reaiddavaggi valley on the other side of the river. With the peak of Nallu in our sights, we climbed ever higher. The sun was hot and frequent drink stops were required. Again, not a particularly quick route, with it turning rockier as the valley narrowed.

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There was a bit of confusion too, as it turned out that the ‘lake’ we were hoping to camp near, wasn’t a lake at all, but just a river. Presumably in the spring melt it swells enormously, which is why it looks like it does on the map, but when we were there the water level was very low. It wasn’t a particularly good spot to camp anyway – far too bouldery – so we moved on a touch, finding an excellent pitch just about a mile before the Nallo Hut.

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Day 5 – 8 miles

Day 5

This time, the tent had kept the sun till quite late and then caught it early in the morning, so the night was pleasantly warm. In fact, the sun woke us so early, that even after a leisurely breakfast outside we were packed and off again by 8:30.

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It didn’t take us long to reach the Nallo Hut. Not one of the posh restauranty-types, but in the most wonderful alpine setting imaginable. I had a quick look around whilst dropping off some rubbish. The air was clear, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there were people – and dogs, as they’re allowed in the huts too – excitedly chatting and milling about. We had a pleasant chat with a couple of Swedish lads, who gave us a tip about which side of the lake to walk as we continued up over the pass and down the other side.

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We stayed to the right of the lake (at 1056m) as they’d suggested, and it was idyllic. Definitely a highlight of the trip.

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Several miles later, we eventually dropped down to around 860m and joined the Kungsleden again, at the Salka Hut. We once again availed ourselves of coffee, Coke and cakes. Well, why wouldn’t you?

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Another great camping spot was found about a mile further on and as we retired for the night, we couldn’t help but noticing that the weather was changing. Clouds were bubbling up all around us.

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Day 6 – 6m

Day 6

A shorter day had been planned, to take us to a particular lake which was supposed to have good camping.

It was grey this morning. A cloud covered sky and a bit cooler, but nevertheless a perfect temperature for walking.

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The first 5 miles took us a bit further south on the Kungsleden, before we turned off and left it for good. Here, we started a steady climb up to said lake, at 980m.

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I wouldn’t say the camping was brilliant as the ground was exceptionally stony, but it was certainly brooding and atmospheric. We were pitched by early afternoon and shortly after, the rain and the wind started. This was definitely a time when having the larger tent with us paid off. With plenty of space inside, we could not only have all our gear in there and pass the afternoon quite happily, someone could actually use his Thermarest Chair Kit inside as well. I was nearly green with envy.

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Day 7 – 8 miles

Day 7

The rain rained and the wind blew, for most of the night but by the time we’d had breakfast, it was finally dry. We still set off in waterproofs mind – the sky didn’t look trustworthy at all.

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Leaving the lake, we descended to join the trail to the Kebnekaise Fjallstation. Not part of the actual Kungsleden, but known as a ‘side-trail’, it’s another section which attracts a greater number of people. The route was once again rocky and followed a narrowing, somewhat intimidating valley, between high peaks.

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The menacing clouds also decided to give us an hour or so of very heavy rain, during which the temperature dropped quite dramatically.

By the time we reached the Fjallstation then, we were more than happy to partake of its upmarket-holiday-camp-type hospitality. This was another STF hut, but of the exceedingly posh variety.

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We ate an extremely tasty lunch in the restaurant, availed ourselves of free wifi for a while, and used the toilets. We could have even had a shower but couldn’t be bothered, so I just contented myself with watching noticing a good looking, fit, Swedish guy getting undressed outside the shower cubicles.

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All too soon, it was time for us to move on to find a pitch for the night.

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Day 8 – 7 miles

Day 8

A good night’s sleep was once again had, before being woken by helicopters at about 8am. It would appear that a fair number of the visitors to the Kebnekaise Fjallstation don’t walk in, but take a helicopter. It became a bit like walking through the set of Good Morning Vietnam for the next couple of days.

The Fjallstation is situated in the shadow of Kebnekaise which, at 2106m, is the highest peak in Sweden and of course this is part of what makes it such a popular place. Not a climb for everyone, but people obviously still like to go and see it and soak up the atmosphere.

Continuing on our way, the trail now became quite a lot easier – after all if folk do want to walk into the Fjallstation they want to make it easy for them – and all boggy bits and bouldery bits were once again covered with duckboards.

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We were now very much aware the trip was nearly over, but it was still very pleasant and we made the most of it. We had sun again and the scents from the foliage were decidedly autumnal.

We pitched camp for the night at the Sami settlement of Ladtjoluspekatan, alongside the Laddjujavri lake, for the princely sum of about £8. Our last night on the trail.

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Day 9 – 3.5m

Day 9

Up early, we cruised the final 3.5m into Nikkaluokta, quickly and easily. We had a bus to catch at 11:10am but wanted to make sure we had time for a good breakfast at the eatery in the village.

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And suddenly, there we were, being driven back to the STF hostel in the iron ore mining town of Kiruna. It had been a wonderful trip and amazingly, Geoff and I were still speaking to each other. I do wish he’d do as he’s told, though…..

Thanks

Thanks have to go to our good friend James for introducing me to the Swedish mountains in Sarek, last summer, and also for putting this route together – he walked this a few years back and we unashamedly copied it for our trip.

Also thanks to Mark Waring, for help with a few Swedish tips and translations.

Practical Stuff

We used SAS airlines for our return flights from Manchester to Kiruna and back.

We used the STF hostel in Kiruna – on the way out to the trail for one night, and then another night on the way back after finishing the walk.

The train was used to get us from Kiruna to Abisko at the start (about an hour) and the bus to get us from Nikkaluokta to Kiruna at the end (again, about an hour).

And if you want to read Geoff’s version of events, click here!

 

Posted in Backpacking Trips, Trips Abroad | 29 Comments