Back in October, curious to see what all the fuss is about, Fran came out with me on her first wild camp.
Fortunately, she not only enjoyed it, she enjoyed it so much she went away and spent a small fortune on new equipment!
A second trip was obviously on the cards.
I chose another spot not too far away – we could walk there easily enough from our house – but a bit higher up and with a wilder feel to it.
The forecast had a wintry feel to it, with overnight temperatures of around 2C and enough wind to give a wind chill temperature down to -5C. I made sure I packed my winter sleeping bag. I’m not a particularly warm sleeper and like to be cozy.
Low cloud and light drizzle though, made for a slightly damp walk in.
It was already starting to go dark as we arrived, and with a rather lively breeze to boot, so we quickly got the tents pitched, filtered what water we needed and retired to our respective homes for the duration.
I soon had a brew on the go, ready to enjoy along with the two mince pies Fran had kindly thrown in my direction. They didn’t last long.
Of course this time of year brings long hours of darkness, but the time passed pleasantly. I-Player on my mobile gets plenty of use these days and I also have my Kindle downloaded onto my phone. This does mean that I have to be aware of keeping the phone charged however, but Anker efficiently sees to that.
I also try and spread the courses of my evening meal out.
Main course at 7pm, dessert at 8pm, hot chocolate at 9pm; all interspersed with conversation flowing between the two tents.
I had a couple of new, rather nifty wooden spoons to try from Treadlite Gear, too. They were very nice.
The wind kept up for most of the night, but despite it sounding very dramatic – howling and whistling around the area – our tents seemed to be in a bit of a sweet spot and didn’t get much wind battering at all.
A particularly noisy period of wind activity woke me around 3am. It was whistling through the grass or rocks somewhere close by. Once awake, feeling a bit chilly, I donned another layer. Soon warm and cozy once more, I slept on and didn’t stir again ’till 7:30. I got up for a wander around.
I crawled back into my sleeping bag for another hour. Fran stirred at around 8:30. Realising that the cloud had lifted a lot by then, she set off to have a look at the nearby Downfall.
We were lucky with the weather this morning. It was breezy, but dry and fresh.
Feeling relaxed and chilled, we breakfasted and broke camp slowly.
My breakfast was a Dale Special – Rainbow Porridge. This is porridge with added Smarties. It is delicious and I would recommend anyone to try it.
Taking a slightly different route back to our house, we stopped for lunch at the bottom of William Clough.
Fran even got her Jetboil out there and made us a brew. I can never be bothered in the middle of the day, but it was very welcome!
So, an excellent night out and I have it on good authority that Fran has already been buying even more shiny new kit. I suspect it won’t be too long before we do another night out…
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……..
Fran fancied a wild camp. I couldn’t guarantee a perfect sunrise and sunset, but I could accompany her on a short trip – hopefully with a half decent weather forecast – and give her a flavour of what it is that we all like about wild camping.
I picked a spot close to home, somewhere I’d used a couple of times before. Not too far to walk with a heavier pack for the first time, yet still with a touch of a wild feel about it.
The weather was pleasantly mild and the autumn colours were still gorgeous.
We aimed to get there around 5pm – still currently light at that time of an evening, but the nights will soon be drawing in again.
Tents were soon up. Fran’s is an absolute classic – a one person ridge tent from Blacks of Greenock. Ace!
I’d taken along the 2 person Southern Cross, just in case the extra space was needed for any reason, and in actual fact it was brilliant for us both to sit in and chat, cook dinner, drink tea, eat chocolate etc.
Having never actually tried this tent with two people sat in it, it was a pleasant surprise how spacious it felt. No doubt it would also be comfortable if two were sleeping in it – the fact that it has two doors and porches would make a huge difference compared to a tent with one ‘end door.’
Fran had even carried a pint of milk up – fresh milk in Chai Tea!
And I tried the Idaho Instant potato stuff I’d bought for tea. Couldn’t believe how delicious it was. I stuck a small tin of beans in with it and a couple of chopped up Babybel. Definitely something I’ll have again.
Fran had brought a couple of Hot Chocolate Spoons for us (I’d never heard of them before, either) which are essentially a great lump of chocolate on a little wooden spoon. You heat up some milk, then stir the chocolate into it. Rather tasty! Someone added brandy to hers.
And I’ll leave it to your imagination what Fran’s Jetboil and the tent porch looked like when all the milk boiled over.
The weirdest moment of the evening though, was around 9:30pm, when we noticed what looked like a lot of search lights coming in our direction. Could have been the Rescue Team on either an exercise or a call-out, that would be no problem. They were moving far too quickly though. Trail bikes? Couldn’t hear any noise. Maybe they would go off up William Clough. They didn’t though, they came along the path we’d taken earlier, so within a couple of hundred yards of us. By this time we’d decided they were mountain bikes. Five of them, they all had a bank of four, extremely bright lights across their handlebars. Obviously intent on what they were doing, they passed us and continued down the hill. Then suddenly, it seemed like they were climbing off trail, back up towards us. It was a little off putting, to say the least! With hindsight, we reckon the lights were just so bright, that as they actually continued on away from us on the other side of the valley, they were reflected back in our direction.
Calming down again, we chatted a bit longer then Fran went off to her tent around half ten.
It was pretty windy as we settled down to sleep, but by 7:30 in the morning, when I surfaced, all was still.
It was a lovely morning.
Fran got particularly enthusiastic and took all her stuff outside to cook breakfast. Porridge with added brandy – !!! – and half a family sized bar of fruit and nut! (She gave me the other half to accompany my porridge, and I didn’t refuse.)
We took our time packing up and meandered back.
It had been a fun night out and I’m pretty sure Fran enjoyed it too. Mind you, I still haven’t told her about how Pebbles got in a state growling at something in the middle of the night, last time we were there. Something I couldn’t see…
I have tonight put together a shortish video of this year’s trip, set to some First Aid Kit music.
It’s just under 10 minutes long…..
I don’t normally do gear reviews – I might say whether I like something or not, but that’s about it – but there seems to be a fair amount of interest in this tent, so I’ll pen my thoughts after its first night out.
Why Did We Buy A SC1?
We’ve had a Hilleberg Enan for about 3 years, and it’s generally been great. We initially bought it for my 2015 trip to Sarek with James, and it performed brilliantly out there.
It is a ‘sheltered, three season’ tent though, and Geoff did have an unforgettable night in the Howgills with it one January, with high winds and rain.
It never totally flattened, ripped, blew away or got damaged in any way, but it did give him a rather disturbed night. So, we’ve been wondering about something similar but specced as ‘four season’.
A year back, we bought a Southern Cross 2. It would be fairly cozy as a 2 person tent, although it does have two porches which is very handy, but we bought it specifically as a 1 person + 1 big dog tent. In this respect it has been serving us very well, so this led us on to purchasing the SC1 for solo use.
First Night Out With The SC1
I chose a pitch which would catch the weather a bit. Kinder has been pretty dry of late and water can be a problem up there, so I went over towards Brown Knoll instead. I knew that would be dry too, but I also knew I could filter some water on the way and not have to carry it too far.
Ok, so it wasn’t a particularly inspired pitch for the night, but it served a purpose and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get disturbed.
The tent goes up quickly and easily – outer first then add the inner, although you can keep it attached as one if you feel like it.
These tents have a couple of really nifty door features. One of them is the way you can clip the door open, by hooking it onto the ‘exoskeleton’. I can do this, and unclip it, from a kneeling position inside, so it’s very useful.
This next photo shows this on the SC2 aswell:
It also has a way of folding and fastening the bottom few inches of the outer door out of the way, and if you combine this with undoing the top of the zip a little, it creates a reasonable amount of ventilation. This makes it about as safe as it can possibly be, if you need to cook (very carefully of course) in the closed porch in really bad weather. I forgot to take a picture of this feature last night though, but here it is on the SC2:
Once inside, the SC1 feels a touch smaller than the Enan. I think this is partly due to the inner walls sloping inwards more. The headroom is also a bit lower. I still had no problem fitting all my gear in, however, in my usual organised manner…..
I pretty much empty my rucksack and place most of the contents alongside my Xtherm, and the empty-ish sack, boots, water, stove, etc. fit nicely in the porch. There is also a good 6 inches or so spare above the head end of my sleeping mat, where I tend to store my food bags.
I had dinner and settled down for the duration. Sitting on my mat I was comfy enough, and spent a couple of hours reading.
Well I can’t say that the weather overnight was Wilder Than A Wild Thing, but there were some heavy showers and a lively breeze from time to time. The tent was absolutely fine in this and I slept well.
All was still and claggy when I awoke.
I had a leisurely breakfast, then decided to put to the tent to the final test for this trip. Could I pack my rucksack inside?
So, I pretended it was still throwing it down, closed the outer door, left the inner door open to give me a bit more space and set to.
It was no problem whatsoever, and I was soon ready to take my pack outside and take the actual tent down.
I took the inner out first.
The inner and the outer were placed in separate bags, which both fit neatly together in the zipped pocket on the front of my pack.
The poles and pegs are in another bag, which I put in one of the side pockets of the rucksack.
And setting off home, the sun started to make an appearance.
A Few Further Thoughts
I like the tent. The slightly smaller feel compared to the Enan is of no consequence to me. Everything fitted in fine, I had no problems doing anything and it was warm and cozy.
Geoff is off to the Lakes next Tuesday for a week and taking it with him, so we’ll see how he gets on with it too. He’s not much taller than me anyway, so I imagine he’ll be ok with it. There won’t be space for him to use his Thermarest Chair Kit inside, mind…
If you were much taller than me however, but still liked the style etc of the tent, I suspect the SC2, with it’s greater headroom and oodles of space, may well suit better. There would, of course, then be the extra bit of weight there to take into consideration.
On the other hand, if you have been used to using a Laser Comp (which the SC tents are based on) or a Zephyros – which I think probably have a similar amount of space inside – you may well be perfectly happy with it.
The SC1 weighs 1.7kg and the SC2 weighs 2.3kg.