Lakes Daunder 2018 part 1

This was my third pre-TGO Challenge Daunder. I’m not actually on the TGO Challenge this year because my wife has been too ill to allow me to be away for a fortnight. However, I will be doing a demi-Challenge for seven days from Ft William to Aviemore, coinciding with the actual Challenge, meeting with at least three Challengers (Alan, Phil and Andy) for part of the way.

This little trip was to test out the muscles and gear for the main event. Compared with last year’s Daunder, which had a cast of thousands, this year it was restricted to only seven. Goodness knows why they invited me, but I’m glad they did as we had a great time and some fabulous weather.

The route (41.4km, 1,824m ascent, 2.5 days) click to enlarge

Unlike the others who stayed at the campsite opposite the Wasdale Head Inn, I took my camper van and stayed at the National Trust campsite at the northern end of Wastwater. I love using my camper van, so any excuse! I’ve now got everything off to a fine art and it’s a brilliant way to have a base camp.

The day dawned dank, grey and claggy but by the time the rest of the motley crew arrived, the cloud was burning off, promising a fine day.

I’ve never walked up Illgill Head. I’m I’ve glad I rectified that; the views were magnificent.

Andy and I were much faster than the others, so we powered on to Whin Rigg where we decided to have an early lunch and see if the others would catch us up.

Just as we were about to make a move, David arrived. Apparently the others were way behind, so we decided to push on.  Rather than take our orignal route we decided to take in Irton Pike. Although this entailed a slightly boggy approach to the woods, the views were worth the effort.

The photos don’t really do justice. One of the joys of the minor peaks in the Lakes is that they give views which are sometimes better than the higher fells. Out to sea, there was fog bank, while to the south there was the contrast the green of Miterdale and the drab brown of Ulpha Fell in the distance.

After a steep descent from Irton Pike there was a delightful stretch in some woodland, before a short road walk to Eskdale Green and a quick visit to the local store for a can of fizzy drink and a banana.

Next stop was the George IV Inn, where we decided we had better stop to wait for the others to catch up. So far, the weather had been lovely with sunshine and every so often a cooling breeze. Just as we were wondering if something had gone wrong, the others arrived. However, we had already had a decent rest, so we decided to leave them to rehydrate and we walked on with the intention of nicking the best camping spots.

After a bit of a navigation faff due to the start of the path not matching the 1;50,000 map, we located the way up Brantrake. It was a bit stony at first and then developed into a beautifully graded zig-zag up the valley side.

When I scouted or intended camp spot below Water Crag on Google satellite, I was a bit dubious about the ground conditions. In the end, they weren’t as bad as I thought. I pinched some flat ground in an abandoned sheep fold while the others spread out on some tussocky grass. Mates!

(to be continued)

 

 

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Atom Packs

There’s a new kid on the block. Atom Packs. It’s good to see another small gear maker, especially in the UK. I don’t know much about them, but the packs look good. Lightweight, not SUL, made from durable materials and sensible looking designs. If I hadn’t taken delivery of a Tramplite pack recently, I’d be tempted by one. It will be interesting to see whether any bloggers buy one and give it a review.

Book review: High and Low by Keith Foskett

I was going to buy this book anyway, but Keith contacted me to see whether I’d like a complimentary copy. One of his previous books “The Last Englishman” about his epic PCT walk is one of my favourite books, so I was looking forward to reading High and Low. It certainly doesn’t disappont and is a great read. So much so, that I read it in two days. I had to pace myself a bit as I could easily have read it in a day.

High and Low is a bit different from Keith’s previous books in that it’s not just an account of a long walk but there’s a subplot of his growing realisation that his mood swings and low feelings are down to depression. This is not a book of endless introspection and self analysis, but there are occasional asides and clues as to the causes of his drift into a depressive state. Most of the book is an entertaining account of his walk from Cape Wrath to Bellingham, taking in the Cape Wrath Trail and the West Highland Way along the way.

The genesis of the walk was his aborted CDT attempt where he caught pneumonia and had to bail, fearing he was suffering a heart attack. After recuperating for a couple of weeks, Keith had the idea of walking from the north of Scotland to the English border and maybe tacking on the Pennine Way and bit more at the end.

The Cape Wrath Trail is notoriously hard and, for Keith, the weather (and midges) made it even more of a challenge. In contrast to the long US trails, route finding is more difficult and the paths often sketchy or non-existent. Not only that, most of time, unlike the PCT or AT, you’re walking on your own with little prospect of company.

Walking solo is great, but if your mind is in the wrong place, it can be a curse as it gives you time to dwell on negative things. In a more minor way, that was my experience in the first few days of last year’s TGO Challenge. Chuck in some bad weather, problems with food resupply and losing his trekking poles (vital for his tent setup) and it was not surprising to see the start of a negative spiral developing.

Having finally overcome the obstacles of the CWT and made it to Fort William, it should have been plain sailing. Indeed, at the start of the WHW, he met a lady, Elina, with whom he strikes up a friendship and they walk together for the first two days. Elina had suffered from depression and in a series of conversations, which become pivotal to his understanding of what’s happening to him, she explains her journey and recovery from depression. Unexpectedly, she has to cut her walk short. Their parting is quite emotional and she writes him a lovely note.

After completing the WHW, the rest of the trip has some rays of sunshine but both the weather and Keith’s mood become increasingly troubled, culminating with a decision to end the walk and go home. Dealing with the aftermath of the walk, a lack of purpose in life and a family tragedy pile on further pressures, not helped by a dependency on nicotine and alcohol. Finally, Keith admits he has a problem and seeks help, finding a way out of the mire of depression.

The struggle with depression gives a greater emotional depth than his previous books. This must have been a difficult book to write but Keith avoids the temptation to try to garner sympathy or dwell too long on his problems. However, his honesty and openess are admirable. Although I’ve not suffered from depression, I can empathise and have had similar, less intense feelings, over the past couple of years, especially after the death of my mother.

Not that Keith’s previous books are badly written, but this book is definitely a step up in his craft as a writer with excellent pacing, variety and interest. It would be nice if it garnered a wider audience than just the hiking crowd as it not just another trail book, but one that explores what it is to live with the challenge of depression. Highly recommended.

Patterdale Potter Feb 2018

I had been trying to get up to the Lake District for a while this year but every time I got near to going, the weather forecast turned bad. However, at the last weekend of February showed some promise: settled sunny weather but cold. Fortunately having a camper van makes cold weather less testing than camping. Originally I was going to stay at Braithwaite but the site was full for the first two days so I went to Sykeside Campsite in Patterdale instead. I was actually rather lucky as nearly all the pitches were taken.

There was quite a lot of snow high up on the fells and the subzero temperatures suggested it would be pretty icy, so I decided to keep below the snow line if possible, although that limited my options. I decided to visit Place Fell on the first day, as I’ve never been up there and it had the attraction of the return walk along south-eastern shore of Ullswater. For Sunday, I thought it might be pleasant to have Sunday lunch in Deepdale.

I was going to stay for Monday too but the weather forecast wasn’t too good and there was snow forecast for the Tuesday when I had planned to go home. So I decided discretion was the better part of valour and so went home on Monday. In the event, that proved to be a very wise decision!

Here’s some pictures and a short commentary on the two walks:

Saturday: Place Fell (19.4km)

A nice sunny start. Place Fell appears to have very little snow.

Pleasant walk along the track skirting Brothers Water and on to Bridgend.

Above Bridgend and looking towards Fairfield, there’s plenty of snow on the tops.

The path up to Boredale was pretty easy but there were a few snow and ice patches on the way up to Place Fell. Looking across to the Helvellyn ridge, again there was a fair amount of snow on the tops. Given I didn’t have crampons or an ice axe, staying below the snow was a good decision.

There were a few snow patches to cross to the top.

The small tarns were iced over.

At the top the views were extensive but perhaps not as clear as they might have been.Below the summit, I stopped for a bit of lunch, but it was too cold to sit for too long. I descended via Mortar Crag and Scalehow Beck. Parts of the path were sheet ice so I had to walk to one side on frozen grass for some sections.

Just before I reached the lake side path, I slipped on the icy grass. Fortunately I didn’t hurt myself.

The walk along Ullswater towards Patterdale was delightful, although I spent a fair amount of time overtaking groups of people out for a stroll

From Ullswater I walked along the eastern side of Patterdale through the woods and past the waterfall that comes down from Angle Tarn.

From there I walked to Hartsop and on to the campsite just as the shadows were lengthening. It was a fine walk in lovely weather despite the cold.

Sunday: Deepdale (13.2km)

It was seriously cold overnight. The temperature in my camper van was 1C in the early morning so it must have been very cold outside.

Like the previous day, once the sun was up, it was pleasant walking weather. I repeated the previous day’s route to Bridgend, then turned west into Deepdale. The frozen ground made the path a lot easier as it’s normally quite boggy in places.

The crags below Fairfield wer covered in snow. Indeed the path up and over to Grisedale Tarn looked pretty challenging.

Before I reached the shadow at the end of the valley, I sat down in the lee of a hummock to have some lunch. By this time, there was a gusty and chilly breeze, so I was grateful for some shelter.

Although I was tempted to laze around for a while, even in the sun, it was quite cold, so I packed up a walked back to Bridgend.

Crossing over to the sunny eastern side of Patterdale, I repeated the previous day’s walk back to the campsite and into the warmth of my camper van.

Alpkit Morphosis Jacket

A few weeks ago I took delivery of an Alpkit Morphosis jacket. Do I really need another jacket? Probably not! However, the Morphosis looked an attractive hybrid between a windproof and a light soft-shell jacket. While the main body has a grid fleece backing, the sides are unlined. I thought this looked an interesting way of regulating body heat. I’m a great fan of grid fleece, which I find more comfortable than conventional fleeces. I’ll have to wait until warmer weather to see how this works.

The jacket fit is just right to layer over either a base layer or a base layer and another top/fleece, yet trim enough to layer under a waterproof. The arms are reasonably long and terminated in a part elasticated cuff. There are two hand pockets and a chest pocket. The hood is quite generous and is part elasticated but has a drawstring at the rear. It is too big for me, so I’ve made a couple of tucks, which you can see in the lower picture, to make it fit round my face more effectively. The weight for a medium is spot on at 325g. More details on the Alpkit website.

They don’t make them like they used to

My cupboard clearing exercise a few weeks ago unearthed another gem: the Montane Superfly jacket. Back in the good old days, front zips were protected by storm flaps. Nowadays, it’s increasingly rare to find jackets with proper storm flaps. The vast majority have water “resistant” zips, most of which are prone to leakage. The Superfly takes no chances with a double flap secured by Velcro.

It’s not SUL, but not too heavy at 429g (L). I’m a bit disillusioned with very lightweight waterproofs. I had a look at my OMM Cypher eVent smock the other day and noted that it is delaminating in a couple of places. The Superfly seems to be in perfect condition and the material is noticeably more robust. Outside of summer, I think I’ll be using it again.

Out of interest, I thought I’d look for other jackets with front zips protected by storm flaps. There are the ME Kongur and Rab Bergen jackets, but both are a bit on the heavy side and more mountaineering jackets than walking jackets. The Marmot Precip jacket has one and is decently light, but I’m not a huge fan of Marmot hoods.

The other jacket that looks interesting is the Berghaus Lite Trek Hydroshell. At around 430g, it’s a similar weight to the Superfly. It has four pockets (a bit overkill) and unusually for a European jacket, it has body venting zips. It also has reinforced shoulders and hips, so should wear well. The breathability specs for Hydroshell are similar to eVent. It looks like Berghaus are discontinuing it, so it is being discounted and looks good value. I’m tempted to get one as pretty soon it will be impossible to get a jacket with proper waterproof zip protection.

2017 wild camps

Here’s a summary in pictures of my wild camps this year:

March

Langstrath

Rigg Beck

April

Borrowdale

May

Faddoch

Gleann Gniomhaidh

Loch Affric

Corrie Dho

Chalybeate Spring

Allt Mor

Glen Feshie

Linn of Dee

Ballochan

Hill of Roughbank

June

Wiley Gill

September

Taw Marsh

South Teign Head

Taw Marsh (again)

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