A Night Up Red Tarn

Getting Away

After eight gruelling weeks of Boxing training (charity event….which I lost by the way) I was set and packed for the the fells just two days after the bout. It had felt like, ages since I was last out on the hills and my god I was ready for it. Red Tarn at the foot of Helvellyn was my destination.

Helvellyn, in the Eastern Fells of the Lake District had long since been on my list to tick off. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get up to Striding Edge this time. I was happy however to take the tent to Red Tarn for a night under the stars.  A little recce of the famous Areté for a future adventure was maybe in order.

The drive from Teeside across the A66, didn’t indicate too much in the way of bad weather. I know however that it makes absolutely no difference what the weather is like now as it can change in a heartbeat and I had packed for it.

Past Penrith then Pooley Bridge and along the western edge of the impressive Ullswater, I followed the winding road all the way down to Glenridding. I parked at the main pay-as-you-leave car park and set off for Helvellyn.

Birkhouse Moor via Little Cove

Due to the popularity of Striding Edge, Swirral Edge and their route up to Helvellyn, the route from Glenridding is a route well trodden. It is well signposted from the village and I soon found myself heading towards Birkhouse Moor via Little Cove.

I’ll be honest, having boxed just 2 days previous I was really aching and with a fully laden 60ltr Vango trying its best to pull me back down the hill, I found this part of the walk really quite tough.

The sweat was pouring out of me and the weather has changed from cloudy to a good old Lake District drizzle. This made conditions humid and I soon found myself soaked more from sweat than rain.

It was late afternoon and as I neared the top of Birkhouse Moor, head down, trying not to fall on my face I was greeted with a voice…
“You’re leaving it a bit late aren’t you?”.
“Not where I’m headed”, I replied.
To be honest that was a lie. Although I was confident of the distance I was from Red Tarn, it was my first time up there and I didn’t know what was at the top of the fell. I think the fella must have been a Fell Top Assessor such was his authoritative tone but he seemed pleasant enough. We chatted about the weather and as I’d been on lakedistrictweatherline.co.uk earlier I let him know that I was well aware of the forecast but to expect anything. I told him I was to pitch up at Red Tarn and we parted ways with a “cheerio”.

I finally got to the summit of Birkhouse (it was a slog) and Helvellyn came into view with its two edges, Striding and Swirral stretching out like open arms to greet me. There was rain but it was still clear .and the view up to the mountain and also behind me looking across to Ullswater were breathtaking even in the drizzle.

The path eventually splits; one path leads to Red Tarn at the foot of Helvellyn and the other passes through “The Hole in the Wall”. This takes you to the start of Striding Edge. I took the former and headed to Red Tarn.

The Pitch

Rant alert!!!

Now I know this area is probably one – if not – the busiest place in the Lakes. A lot of people have Striding Edge on their to do list and a lot of people camp up here too so I did expect to find some evidence of humans being there before me. But I cannot however – for the life of me – understand the mentality of some people. Burnt planks of wood, scorched stones, scarred earth were just some of the things I saw around the Tarn. Here’s an idea; IF YOU’RE COLD, GET IN YOUR FUCKING SLEEPING BAG AND DON’T LIGHT A TINY, POINTLESS LITTLE FIRE YOU FUCKING TWAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rant over……

In fact, no it isn’t. If you’re one of those people who “litters”, yes “litters” the countryside with orange peel and banana skins etc, expecting some orange peel /banana skin loving animal to scoff it up, FUCKING BEHAVE!!!! How many birds and sheep do you know that eat fruit peel. Exactly, none!!! So it just sits there and rots and makes the whole place look like a back alley on bin day!!!

Rant is really over now….

…ahem

Apart from the above which (I cleaned some up of myself and took back with me) The place was great. I pitched up just a few meters from the Tarn settled down for some well earned boil-in-the-bag dinner and a wee dram of whiskey.

I sat a while watching the top of Helvellyn disappear in cloud then reappear and repeat. It shows just how changeable the weather can be up there.

I dozed from about 9pm til about 2am. When I popped my head out of the tent I expecting thick clag. I immediately cursed not having a DSLR camera to capture the stars. The night was crystal clear.

The Morning

The morning was the same and I woke up about 5:30 and immediately shot out of the tent. The sun hadn’t broken the horizon just yet. Yes!! I raced up the hill to the start of Striding Edge hoping it didn’t break before I reached a good height. It didn’t , I was in luck.

I perched on the Areté and waited for the sun – phone at the ready.

A million snapshots later I clambered down the steep slope back to the tent, I brewed a coffee and packed up my gear.

 

 

 

 

 

I followed a different route back. This route took me past Greenside Mine and the YHA buildings to Glenridding making the whole walk a circular. The route back was a gentle downhill and my aching body thanked me for it.

I wished I had actually completed Striding Edge. There probably wasn’t a better day to complete it.

I will back up there soon to get that ticked off. Mark my words…

To read about my first ever wildcamping experience click here.

Bust Bladders and Pissy Longjohns : A Cheviots Wildcamp pt 2

On The Trail

Dozy bloke holding a map like an idiot on a windy path in the Cheviot Hills
Checking the map in gale force winds requires the adoption of this strange crouch like pose.

As I said, on the way up, the weather looked great. Blue sky and sunshine covered the fells in all directions. This Cheviots wildcamp however would show me just how brutal the weather up here can be.

Miguel had plans to seek out a couple of waterfalls he’d spotted on map while on our way to camp. These were marked on the OS map as just “waterfalls” so while we were looking for High fecking Force they were probably more like Low Dribble.

We stopped at Shank Burn near the site of the first of the falls and had some food. Needless to say we couldn’t locate the waterfall. The terrain along the Burn was impassable in places. We sacked it off and decided to crack on and get to Davidson’s Linn before last light.

The Hike

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember an awful lot about the hike to Davidson’s Linn. The weather was shite and it was more of a heads down and crack on type of hike. The pictures do not show just how cold and windy it was. Luckily Miguel had brought two pairs of snow goggles which were a god send.

The journey from Shank Burn to Davidson’s Linn was about five miles and it was hard going. We stopped briefly at Low Bleakhope Farm for a bite to eat. After that it wasn’t too far up the old Salter’s Road and into the Pine Forest (which strangely has no name). This is where Davidson’s Linn nestles in the middle of.

Ancient road sign in the Cheviot Hills that reads "Salter's Road East".
The old Salter’s Road route.

After a short walk through the forest we came to an opening that looked down upon the site we intended to camp at, right at the top of the waterfall. We got down, dropped the packs and spent the next hour taking pictures and larking about on the falls like a couple of big daft kids.

The Sun was just starting to creep towards the treetops so we decided to pitch up before it got too dark, this is where the shit went down…

Weather

Portrait of man in goggles in a snow blizzard.
Me looking cool arsed AF in a blizzard.

I felt the first drop of rain as my first tent peg broke the soil and at that moment Miguel pipes up “did I just feel rain”? It was still fairly sunny at this point but it took less than five minutes to go tits up. From sunny to horizontal snow blizzard, I shit you not!!!

I was actually quite shocked at how quickly the weather deteriorated but didn’t have much time to reflect as I needed to get the tent up and sling the gear in before everything was soaked. We managed to pitch up and store the gear and by this time the weather had subsided a little although still windy and easily into minus degrees.

We collected firewood before pitching the tents and planned to start a small fire in a ring of rocks.These had already there from a previous camp. Miguel got the fire started but the wind was so bad it was impossible to sit around and cook on. It was either risk freezing to death or getting covered in sparks every time the wind blew. I was cold, hungry and tired by now and opted for the 3rd option, get in the tent and hunker down.

The Night

Two backpacking tents pitched next to a stream in the snow.
From bright sunshine to THIS!!!

Miguel persevered with the fire a little longer than me, mainly because he’s a fucking lunatic. I’d already stripped off the wet gear and was tucked up in my bag with thermals on. To be honest I was still a bit pissed off about the water bladder bursting but was looking forward to my one solitary beer. The crappy documentaries I had downloaded to the phone would be a welcome distraction too.

I could hear the wind howling through the valley we were camped in, the music coming from Miguel’s tent and also that the fire was still going. Miguel had put it out but not well enough and the blustery wind looked to have sparked it into life again. I huffed and puffed as I got out to extinguish it. Thermals off, dry clothes off, wet clothes on, just to get out and put the fire out. Last thing I needed was a spark to hit the tent.

I got back in the tent out of the howling wind telling myself I wasn’t getting out again for no one. Wet boots off, wet clothes off, dry clothes and thermals back on….what a chew.

Once again snuggled into the bag and munching on trail mix, watching my crap downloaded documentaries, nature began its call. “I’ve only had one friggin beer”! I thought. I had only a 750ml bottle of water all day and I’d spilt half of that in my tent  half an hour previous. “Well bollocks if I’m stripping off all my thermals, putting on my wet clothes AGAIN and going out in the STILL gale force winds just for a piss”!

The Calamity

I knew I would spend the whole night awake if I didn’t go for a piss now. I decided the best thing to do was to unzip the front of my tent, kneel up and pee forth into the Northumbrian blizzard that was outside. Yep, that’s what I’ll do.

It was all going well to be honest, a bit cold on the tallywacker, but I was staying dry. I was about mid-piss when disaster struck. The 8 mile-ish hike, lack of water and awkward kneeling position I had taken up in my very low tent all contributed to to the most horrific episode of double thigh cramp. FUCKIN’ ‘ELL!!!!!!

The superhuman power of the cramp catapulted me out of the tent porch and into the snow into which I had just been pissing on. I found myself on all fours, in a blizzard, longjohns round my ankles just laughing at the shear stupidity of the situation I found myself in. I couldn’t believe it, could this Cheviots wildcamp get any worse?

A quick change of duds, another swig of beer and a stern word with myself sorted me out. I mean, it couldn’t get any worse!! The only way is up Yazz would say. Thankful my bladder was now empty, I did enjoy a good night sleep and slept a good 8 hours which on a camp is good for me.

Please checkout my facebook page and if you haven’t read part one of my Cheviots wildcamp yet, you’re an idiot. Here it is.

 

Bust Bladders and Pissy Longjohns : A Cheviots Wildcamp pt 1

F*cking Rush Hour

The chance to camp in the Cheviots had come round again but I was having a mare trying to get there.The traffic was horrendous!!!! I only had to drive up two friggin’ roads. One being the A1 like, all the same, it shouldn’t take over an hour to get from Darlo to Newcastle!

I’d set off at about 8am, stupid really. I knew I would hit rush hour but held onto the hope that I would somehow miraculously miss it. What a knobhead!

Me and Miguel The Cheviots
Me and Miguel in The Cheviots

The plan was to meet Miguel @Geordie_Rambler (Instagram) at his house in Newcastle where I would transfer my hiking/camping gear from my teeny tiny Hyundai Getz into his slightly more roomy Peugot. Miguel greeted me at his front door bellowing “WHERE YA BEEN MAAN”! in his broad Geordie accent. Yeah mate, like I didn’t know.

 

We quickly packed up the car and I asked Miguel if he’d fill up my 2ltr water bladder. He duly ran in and filled it up for me and we hurriedly hit the road for The Cheviot Hills.

Cowld or not!!!

I’d kept an eye on the weather all week and I kept hearing phrases like “winter bomb” and “arctic blast”. Since when did we start describing cold weather in January as ARCTIC BLAST? There were a lot of local weather warnings and even more Gritters on the road than usual. “Something cowld must be coming” I thought excitedly, “I’d best make sure I pack properly and not half arsed like normal”.

OS Map of the Cheviots
Overview of our hike to Davidson’s Linn

Hitting The Cheviots

The weather – despite all the warnings – so far wasn’t too bad for a January. The further north we travelled it actually started to get out nice. “Mint” I thought, “I’ve packed all this shite, I’m probably gonna sweat me tits off now”.

We left the A1 and headed up the A697 towards the Cheviots past Longframlington and deep into the beautiful Northumberland countryside. We turned off at Powburn and headed towards a little farm Miguel had parked the car near to on a previous recce.

On arrival we made the usual last minute kit check and change from normal human being clothes into super hero hiking gear. I noticed my 2ltr bladder was still a bit damp on one side so decided to check it over for leaks one more time before putting it in the neat little compartment at the back of the Vango 70ltr I had decided to use.

“FUCK SAKE MAN!!!!!!!!” I shouted as a little nick I noticed on the side of the bladder dripped the tiniest amount of water. While I did have some Duct tape, I did not want to attempt a mend, put it in my pack and risk soaking everything in there so I had to leave it in the car. Although I knew I was fine as I had a stove and Iodine tablets, it only left me with a 750ml bottle of fresh water and 1 beer. “Well, these things are sent to test us” I remembered saying to Miguel through gritted teeth. However, with kit on and car locked up we were ready to hit the trails.

…and yes, I know, “what is the fucking point of one beer?” you’re asking!

Click to read part two

 

 

Train Hopping and Roseberry Topping

Roseberry Topping Microadventure

Have you ever been woken up to the sensation of rain on your face? Not heavy, depressing rain we are so often used to in this country, but as Peter Kay says, “That fine stuff that soaks you through”, that type of rain. That will be the lasting memory of my first microadventure near Roseberry Topping. A good memory it was too.

A friend and I left town around midday. I had initially planned to take the train, proper microadventure style, but a friend offered to take me in the car so I thought ‘why not’? and off we set east along the A66. My pack in the back of the car with far too much stuff to be anything other than heavy.

I had chosen Roseberry Topping to be the backdrop for my first microadventure and could write paragraphs on it’s history but I’ll save that for another post. The reason I chose it is simply because it has intrigued me from being a nipper. I always remember is as the funny looking hill on the way to the seaside (Whitby), the views from the top looked fantastic and I as it is not too far from where I live (about 27 miles) it took minimal planning to get there and execute. My friend dropped me in the car park at the tiny train station of Great Ayton and wished me luck on my travels, he’s one of the growing number of friends I have that think I’m either having a mid-life crisis or I’m just plain losing the plot.

After a few good hours of walking I decided to head back to Roseberry Topping to look for a good place to bivvy.

I set of up the lane and through the woods that would eventually lead me to the foot of Roseberry Topping. The weather was dry, the tracks through the woods weren’t. I left the woods and started my hike to the top of Roseberry Topping which isn’t that bad a climb. It was made even better by the fact that the weather which was forecast to be a bit poo was actually starting to get out nice. I stopped when I got to the top for a breather and to take in some water which was exiting through my forehead at a rate of knots. My plan was not to stay up there too long as I wanted to have a walk over the moors and eventually make my way back to the summit where I would Bivvy for the night.

It still had great views of the hill and also of the surrounding area of Teeside which – although very indsutrial – looked fantastic as the days light disappeared.

I headed off toward

Roseberry Topping

s the North York Moors and had a good explore around Hanging Stone and Hutton Lowcross Woods (possible future wild camp spots). I stopped and had a bit of dinner, trying out my stove and metal teapot combo which I learned very quickly that the handle actually gets hotter than the sun when placed on a stove for a matter of seconds. Ouch!

After a few good hours of walking I decided to head back to Roseberry Topping to look for a good place to bivvy. I noticed it was quite a busy place and there were still a few people up there when I got back there about 8:30pm. I found a fairly comfy spot at the top, sheltered from the wind that was starting to blow, read a book, had a cuppa and was just generally being happy with life. I had the pleasure of watching the sun’s final minutes in the sky that day and wished I had taken a better camera than the one I had.

I was still a little apprehensive at the thought of camping in the middle of nowhere on my own. I had read that if you’re planning to wildcamp it’s generally best to go with a friend first time as it can be a little bit daunting but as I said before most of my friends think I’m a bit mental and weren’t particularly interested (I’m slowly bringing them round) so alone it was. I must say it doesn’t matter how old you are the fear of monsters in the dark never really leaves you but the after a while the sense of peace and quiet pushed aside any fears of being out alone.

..the sensation of the finest of rain, hitting your face, is probably the best alarm clock you can get.

I set up my tarp (not really a tarp but the outer of my cheapy 1 man tent) and bivvy (a second hand Belgium Amy issue jobbie), cooked a bit of tea and just sat and took in the scenery. This was great! I could get used to this. I had brought my little battery powered radio and listened to England get beat by Italy in their first world cup game. Shock! I finished my little bottle of wine and snuggled down into my bivvy for a blissful sleep at the edge of the great North York Moors. I don’t think I even stirred until first light where the sensation of the finest of rain, hitting your face, is probably the best alarm clock you can get. I woke, ate porridge, packed up my kit and headed back to the station to get my train home, thoroughly invigorated and immensely satisfied to have completed my first wildcamping microadventure.

Kit aside, this overnight trip was less than 30 miles from my own doorstep and cost me a 7 quid train fare. Now that’s a budget adventure!!