Saturday, 25 January 2014

Wild Camping (near to) The Woolpacks, Kinder Scout...

A very misty morning on the Kinder Plateau...
My first wild camp of 2014, and it just happened to be about a 30 second walk (when the weather is slightly clearer) away from the site of my first ever wild camp! It was an enjoyable primary outing of the year, and one that was more about the actual camping aspect of the weekend as opposed to the walk in and out. The other big theme, getting to know some new friends...

I recently joined a newly formed 'group' on facebook known as Hiking and Camping For UK Adventurers which was formed by a guy by the name of Wayne Freeman. I had asked the question on the page as to whether anyone was up for going out on the weekend, and we arranged to head up to the Dark Peak. The night before, another Wayne (Sanderson) asked to come along and all was set. I'd spoken to Mr Freeman a fair bit before the day, but not at all to Mr Sanderson - but I wasn't at all concerned that the weekend could be boring and conversationless.

We met just before lunchtime in Edale, Freeman getting there before I did and the two of us before Sanderson. We chatted while waiting for the third member of our party to arrive, and conversation was flowing well. It transpired that Freeman had never been up onto the Kinder Plateau, also that he had only really just become interested in wild camping. A few trips to woodland areas with some friends, and he was soon hooked. Hill camping was to be a new experience for Freeman, and he was quick to let me know that he may struggle to keep up. Sanderson soon arrived, and mentioned that he had actually camped on the Kinder Plateau before but wasn't much of a walker himself either. It didn't bother me at all, but that didn't stop Freeman's repeated voicing of his concern that he may be holding us back. (Not to worry mate, you certainly was not!).

The pace allowed me time to fiddle with my new camera, a Nikon D3200 dslr. Numerous controls in manual mode meant that I was almost constantly fiddling to begin with. Unfortunately, the poor light and haziness over the two days and probably my vast inexperience - meant that the pictures didn't really come out as well as I'd hoped. I was also looking forwad to being much more concentrated on the actual camping, as I am still putting the Karrimor Elite Ridge 2 through its paces and this was to be its first wild camp.

Thick fog enveloped the Kinder Plateau across the whole two days...
Our route was simple, and one onto the plateau that I had undertaken before. The path out of Edale towards Grindsbrook, diverging up The Nab and then onto Ringing Roger. From there, follow the southern edge of Kinder to our wildcamp spot after crossing the top of Crowden Clough. We had made good time, and there was still sufficient daylight remaining to pitch our tents at a leisurely speed. The spot we settled on was sheltered from the wind that had picked up throughout the course of the day, and well enough out of sight of the path that we shouldn't really be seen in such low visibility. After another good chat about our tents and stoves, we all set about cooking our respective meals, and Freeman boiling as many as five cups of tea! The other two guys were using gas stoves, and I, my Trangia as ever. Long after their meals had been finished, I was still boiling water for my rice after having boiled my bag of curry. It had been a bit of a faff, and all I really wanted was to get it down me so that we could have a bit more of a natter before we bedded down. It got me to thinking whether or not I should buy a gas stove for poor weather, when I really can't be bothered waiting around having to refill the meths in the stove etc. Im almost contemplating buying a bigger capacity pot, or at least one with a wider diameter so that I can boil both bags (as my camping meals are usually devised) at the same time. It's all a learning experience though, so I wasnt annoyed or frustrated. Mainly thoughtful on how every trip is different. On a nice summers evening, I wouldnt have minded the wait, but a bit of thick fog and drizzle and I was eager to get something more nutritional than a hobnob biscuit bar.

What a view...
During the early part of the night, we saw two head torches coming towards us. We began to worry that perhaps the rangers were on their way to move us on. I often used to think about it when I first started out wild camping, but I tend to think about it less these days. The three of us fed a little from each others worry, and in a couple of minutes we were asking each other "Should we leave our lights on? Turn them off? On? Off? On? Off...? Too late!". It was a couple of walkers that were heading back down to Upper Booth. We laughed at how worried we had become. The rain picked up again, and so we all sat in our tents, doing our own things.

Our camp, by night...
 The time pressed on. Due to the persistant drizzle, there wasn't as much time for conversation as we may have envisaged, not that I think our getting to know each other suffered at all. Soon, we heard whistles being blown. None of us mentioned what we thought we had heard at first, but eventually it became too obvious to ignore. So we all emerged from our tents and had a look around to see if we could notice anyone around. A quick two second flash of a head torch in the distance, and we heard nothing else. Back in our tents we went, dismissing the possibility that someone may be lost. No less than twenty minutes later, and Sanderson (whose tent was the closest to, and facing the distant path) warned of head lamps again. Panic ensued! What did we do? Lights on? Lights off? Surely they wouldn't move us on in this darkness, with this low amount of visibility in thick fog? "There must be about nine of them!" shouted Sanderson.
"Mountain Rescue then", I said.
"Yeah, youre right. I can see the red jackets now", he replied.
Maybe we should have looked harder for this whistle blowing person? Well, it turned out that it had been Buxton MRT out on excercise. I only found this out the following afternoon, but I felt relieved that I hadnt been part of ignoring someone that was stranded! Our fears of being moved on were allayed once more, and we all (strangely without mentioning to one another) seemed to drift off to sleep.

Always ringing Sophia before I turn in for the night, I awoke after only having been asleep for about tent minutes; to the sound of Freeman snoring no less! The rain had stopped, as had the worst of the wind. The temperature had certainly dropped, but it must have still been above freezing as there was no frost or ice around outside. A quick check, in vain, for perhaps a clear sky confirmed this. After a phonecall to Sophia, I went to sleep at around midnight being very warm and comfortable. the Exped Synmat is working wonders. I have noticed though, that the last few times I have camped - I have woken in the night feeling a slight chill through my sleeping bag. I seem to be turning the bag over in my sleep so that the bottom of the bag is above me, and the top; below. My Vango Venom has differential fill, and so less down in the underside of the bag. It hasn't been a major issue thus far, but I recently saw an opportunity to buy a very warm winter bag for a very low price. So I will see how I fair with that if it turns out to be the deal it seems.

The view inside my tent. Glamorous, eh?
Morning came, but clear views did not. We woke to a still, very foggy camp which was bitterly cold until even after we had packed away. We all pottered around camp, stretching our legs and sorting our kit. I took advantage of the stream that we had camped next to and gathered some water for the day, filtering it through my Sawyer Mini. Freeman seemed intrigued, and needed some water himself so I obliged of course. Again, we all chatted for a while. Talking about how we had slept and so on. I really enjoyed the company of the Waynes, two. After a liquid breakfast (coffee!), we packed away and got underway. It was another simple walk back to Edale, slightly different to the route of our walk the day before. The descent was to be via Grindslow Knoll.

The view from my tent door...
Passing back through the woolpacks, we stopped a couple of times for some photographs. The alien landscape present, even in such inclement weather. Again crossing Crowden Clough, we came across our first walkers of the day. The weather hadn't seemed to have put people off getting out. The day before, we had seen plenty of fell runners and walkers on the Plateau. As we neared Grindslow Knoll, the fog finally began to lift slightly. We even saw our first bit of blue sky.

We pressed on, to the summit of Grindslow Knoll, and stopped at the cairn for a group photograph. The fog was clearing across Grindsbrook Clough to reveal Ringing Roger and The Nab for a brief moment. Freeman enjoyed seeing where we had started our weekend's walking from a different vantage point. A feeling that I never get tired of myself. The lower we descended, the more the views opened up. Soon we could see right down into Edale Valley and over to The Great Ridge seperating it and the Hope Valley to the south.

Win Hill, Lose Hill, Back Tor, Hollins Cross and the incline leading to the summit of Mam Tor from left to right...
One of the most fun parts of the weekend came right at the very end of the walk - the extremely slippery mud laden foot of Grindslow Knoll, and watching Freeman hit the deck firmly on his arse. Sanderson and I did come very close to suffering the same. It topped off a fun weekend with these two new wild camping buddies, or Homies as Freeman has now termed us.

Sanderson had to get back home, but Freeman and I celebrated with a lovely breakfast at Coppers Cafe in Edale.

A well deserved breakfast, that Wayne Freeman treated me to - Thanks dude!
Here are a few more pictures from the weekend:


Looking back to Edale from the start of the path up The Nab...
Wayne Sanderson
Walking further into the fog...
Morning camp on the Kinder Plateau...
Morning, still foggy...
Grindslow Knoll Cairn...
The fog starts to lift to reveal Edale Valley...
Looking to Win Hill and Lose Hill...