Mt Whitney – 1997

At 14,505ft, Mt Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous United States. This makes it Very Popular. The normal way of tackling it is from the east side, over three days. On the first day you make your way from Whitney Portal (at 8,360ft) up to Trail Camp (12,000ft). The night is spent there, then the second day sees you summiting and then returning to Trail Camp for another night, before finally dropping back down to Whitney Portal on the third day.

In August of 1997, we managed to obtain a permit for this climb, which allowed us to summit on the 3rd of the month. In those days, permits were issued on a first come, first served basis. A few years after our trip, the system was changed to a lottery instead, making it almost impossible to get the necessary permit – the peak being so immensely popular.


Of course, there are some nutters people who attempt to do it all in one day, but that’s certainly not for us!

We set off on our trip with high hopes, after spending a few days in Yosemite – supposedly acclimatising to the altitude. This was our first ever trip to anything this high and unfortunately we didn’t get it quite right. Since then, we have had many trips to the High Sierra without any problems, but have learnt to take the acclimatisation process much more slowly.


We did, however, have an amazing experience. We made it to Trail Camp in good time (in reality, climbing too quickly) and were treated to an almighty thunderstorm which rattled and circled around us all afternoon and most of the evening.


I did suffer, though. Up to press, this has still been the longest night of my life. I spent the whole time with a headache which felt like it was threatening to explode my head into little pieces, and a stomach which constantly threatened to throw its contents all over the floor.


I was no better the next morning. The weather had improved greatly – although there was forecast to be more thunderstorms that afternoon – but we made the decision to descend. And almost by magic, we only needed to descend around 1,000ft before I once again felt absolutely fine.


But we’d lost our permit slot. If it says 3rd August, then you can’t summit on the 2nd or the 4th – the 3rd it has to be. And they do have Rangers at random spots on the trail, checking up on you….


A lot was learnt, however, and this paved the way for many more wonderful trips to the High Sierra in California.

Apologies for the lack of photos. At that time we used to use slides and I’ve only ever had a handful converted to prints.

Posted in Backpacking Trips, Trips Abroad | 8 Comments

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.






















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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.


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


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.


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.



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.


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.



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!


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



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.



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.



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.


All in all, a pleasant little interlude.




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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.


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.



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.


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.



It was quite pretty as the sun went down.



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.


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.




It was all rather pleasant.


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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!



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.






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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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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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).


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



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

DSC_0925Put them all together.



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