Even though I was only away for 48 hours, I seem to have written quite a lot, so I’ve broken my trip notes into three sections. I apologise for the variable quality of the pictures but the light was poor and it was raining!
Wet and windy are words that describe the Lake District more often than not. This was never truer than this weekend. The plan was to drive up on Saturday to Mardale Head, find a camping pitch, probably Small Water, to walk the High Street ridge, before finding another camping spot at Measand End and return to the car via the shore of Haweswater on Monday to drive back home.
I had been watching the weather forecast develop for most of the week on the Met Office website. By Friday, it was predicting a poor Saturday, but brighter weather with heavy showers on Sunday. How could they have got it so wrong? Apart from the odd break here and there, it rained most of the time I was there. Perhaps it was payback for the five days of clear weather I had in the Cairngorms in May.
Almost as soon as I got on to the M25, it started to rain. I became involved in what seemed like an endless traffic jam from the A1(M) junction right up to Luton on the M1. Will they ever finish the road works on the M1 from the M25 to Luton?
It continued to rain on and off all the way up. Listening to Test Match Special helped to ease the boredom, especially the back-to-back View from the Boundary slots. The rain became more persistent after Manchester. As I went through Shap, it started to ease and miraculously, when I arrived at Mardale Head, it stopped altogether. However, the tops were still under cloud and the water courses descending from Small Water and Blea Water looked like white ribbons.
The prospect of camping in cloud with strong winds at Small Water didn’t seem very appealing, so I changed my plans. As I headed for The Rigg, the clouds started to lower again. At the top of the ridge, by the stile that crosses the fence into the woods, I spotted a tolerable pitch.
Pictures l to r: looking up towards Small Water, Small Water Beck and Haweswater, the head of Haweswater.
Before committing myself to this site, I thought it would be worthwhile to descend into Riggindale to see if there was a better spot. On the way down I passed several fell runners coming in the opposite direction. I guess there was some kind of event as there had been a check point at the car park at Mardale Head. Some of them had a serious body odour issue.
On closer inspection, the lower part of Riggindale did not seem to have any outstanding pitches. The weather was deteriorating and it was spotting with rain again. I climbed back up to The Rigg and pitched just inside the woods, where there was a flat patch of short grass.
I’ve been practicing in the back garden with the Laser Competition, so, unlike my previous trip to the Lakes, I managed to pitch it reasonably well. Not perfect, but not bad. The apex guys definitely help with stability, as I was to find out during the night.
Once inside and unpacking my rucksack, it began to rain heavily. It seemed that I had pitched just in time. I was using the porch groundsheet that I had used with the Akto in Scotland. Even though it is half an Akto footprint, it fitted the porch of the Comp well. It makes a huge difference by extending the useable floor area and making it much easier to organise myself.
Pictures l to r: Speaking Crag, pitch in the wood at The Rigg
Hunger pangs were tugging at my stomach, so I unpacked the food. This trip I was trying Pack’n’Go ration packs. Tonight’s delicacy was chicken and vegetable pasta. After boiling some water, I poured it into the pouch, stirred and left it to hydrate, putting the sachet into my AGG pouch cosy to ensure it stayed warm.
I’m afraid it was a bit disappointing. While there was an overwhelming chicken taste, there appeared to be a complete absence of chicken meat. It was not a patch on the Real Turmat bag meals I had used previously (now not available in this country). It also induced 24 hours of extreme flatulence. Fortunately no others had to suffer the consequences.
The chocolate chip pudding was a bit more successful, but quite messy. I’m going to avoid making puddings in the future as it’s too much mess and hassle. A bit of dried fruit or fig rolls are fine for dessert.
By 8.30, I’d finished eating and had made a cup of tea to round off supper. The rain had eased off, so I ventured outside for a call of nature. I don’t mind going to bed early when I’m out wild camping. There is something ineffable about lying in a sleeping bag in a tent listening to the wind (and rain!). Bliss.
I drifted in and out of sleep. Near midnight, there was another break in the rain, so I went out to relieve myself again, as you never know when the next opportune moment might be. The odds are that if you don’t take advantage of pauses in the rain, you’ll be desperate to go when it’s chucking down.
Remembering the red light trick from Mad Eddie of TGOM, I experimented with the red light setting on my E+lite. I can’t say I noticed a huge amount of difference, but I’ve got poor night sight anyway.
A bit later in the night the wind had picked up and was rocking the tent. The trees helped to dissipate the wind somewhat, but it was gratifying to note that the tent was a good deal more stable than on my previous attempt.
There appeared to be flashes of light outside the tent, so I unzipped to door. Lightning lit up the clouds, but there was no sound of thunder. It was quite an eerie effect. I was a bit concerned, having camped in a wood. I remembered Peewiglet’s factoid about lightening strikes being the most frequent cause of death on the GR20. I had visions of being crushed under a tree that had been struck by lightening and no-one finding me for weeks.
However, I wasn’t on an exposed ridge and, in the end, it seemed to skirt around me. The temperature remained quite high at around 16c and the humidity was quite high. This caused a lot of condensation on the inside of the outer, which sprayed onto the inner and the porch groundsheet with the impact of the rain drops. There was also a fair amount of condensation on the inside of the inner as well, some of which made my sleeping bag a bit damp.
Sleep was fitful and as morning broke, it was still raining, but I felt optimistic. After all, the weather forecast had suggested rain for Saturday, clearing for Sunday with showers and strong winds. Surely it would improve.