The next day (Wednesday) was supposed to be the day of the great ascent. However, the forecast wasn’t encouraging. There had been occasional showers overnight. When I got out of the tent the hills all around were covered in thick cloud and the breeze was quite strong.
Morning looking south
I decided the best thing to do was to have a little wander up to Cam Spout and then perhaps go to Little Narrowcove and climb as far as the cloud base. First I had to cross the Esk. Out came my secret weapon: a pair of lightweight (300g) fisherman’s waders that I had bought from the US (Wiggy’s Waders).
A few yards upstream, the river seemed fairly shallow. It only took about a minute to don the waders. It was incredibly easy to cross the river and no wet (or cold) feet to dry off on the other side. Perfect. I rolled them up and put them into a small dry bag and popped them into my day sack (Exped Cloudburst 15).
I had a little look around the abandoned sheep pens and then climbed up to Sampson’s Stones. These are seriously impressive boulders, presumably stranded from the last Ice Age. On the far side, a tent was pitched in the lee of a boulder. I gave it a wide berth, not wishing to intrude on the owner’s solitude.
View south from Sampson’s Stones (my tent in the bend of the Esk)
As I left Sampson’s Stones it began to spot with rain. It had been threatening all morning. I put on my waterproofs and made my way to the bottom of Cam Spout. I’ve only seen Cam Spout from a distance, so it was interesting to climb the path beside it. There are several cascades. Below the main one, the path crosses the beck, giving a good photo opportunity.
As I climbed further then wind and rain intensified. At the top of the cascades, I wasn’t far below the cloud base. I decided there wasn’t much point in going further so I turned round to go back down. Descending the wet grass and rocks was a good deal trickier than going up. I took my time, not wanting to slip. Gratifyingly, my new boots seemed to up to the task.
Near the bottom, the rain really started to pelt down. Rather than returning via Sampson’s Stones, I followed the path down to the Esk and turned south, heading straight into the rain. I bumped into a couple of other walkers, possibly from the tent I’d seen. A bit further downstream, the river looked fordable, so I donned the waders again and waded across.
Above Cam Spout looking at Scafell
On the eastern bank it was only a short walk back to the tent. By the time I arrived the rain had turned into a mild drizzle. Stowing my wet gear in the spare porch, I settled down for an hour’s rest. I decided to have an early lunch, by which time the rain had stopped. My revised plan was to walk back to Little Narrowcove and have a poke around.
However, on finishing lunch, it started to rain in earnest. About an hour later the wind was absolutely ferocious and it was like having a water cannon fired at the tent. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it. It was raining so hard that the ground stopped soaking up the water and pools started to form in the small depressions in the ground, including in my porch. I evacuated all the gear from the porch into the tent and rode out the storm.
The flood in the porch
The battering was so fierce that it pulled the peg out from the guy securing one of the pole arch guys, The Scarp started to flex more, but at no stage did it feel like it was going to collapse. Gratifyingly, no one single drop of moisture made it inside the tent, so all the angst that I had suffered in sealing the pole arch was worthwhile!
After an hour or so the storm abated and I was able to go outside and reset the peg. I only had to wait a short while for the next instalment, which was a short and very violent hail storm! By now I resigned myself to a tent day.
The Esk after the deluge
By late afternoon the rain had ceased but the wind had strengthened. Confusingly, it was very gusty. One moment it was comparatively calm the next, the tent was being slammed like it was the end of the world. I had enough water for an evening meal and a cup of tea, so I had a meal before the light started fading.
Before turning in, I got out of the tent to check the pegs. Everything seemed OK. So it was another early night. However, this was a night with a difference. The constant gusting of the wind made it impossible to go to sleep.
Esk Hause (in the mist)
Not long after it was dark, I felt the inner tent pushing against me. When I pushed back, the corner of the tent seemed strangely flexible. My first thought was something had broken. So I dressed and went outside. All that had happened was the linelok had slipped on a corner guy. That’s the first time that’s ever happened. Tightening the guy cured the problems. I then made sure it wouldn’t happen again by tying a slip knot around the lineloks.
As I clambered into my sleeping bag I thought, it can be this windy all night. How wrong can you be? It didn’t let up all night. Continuous sleep was impossible so I dozed. Every so often I would be roused by a strong gust, followed by a moment of eerie calm.