Saturday, May 26, 2012

High Stile Solo Wildcamp

Dates : 25th & 26th May 2012
Route : From Buttermere, anti-clockwise route up the High Stile ridge
Wild Camp : High Stile
Wainwrights : Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag
Distance : 16.3km (10.1 miles)
Height gained : 1054 m (3459 feet)


 The forecast was for clear cloudless skies but cold and windy. It had been a few months since my inaugural wild camp and I was itching to get out again. Having glimpsed the High Stile ridge from Scafell I was keen to explore the area further and thought a wild camp with views towards the Scafells and a sunset over Ennerdale would be just the ticket. 

The Route anticlockwise from Buttermere village

 Having parked in Buttermere village I set off on a path between Buttermere and Crummock Water towards the impressive Red Pike/High Stile ridge where I was ultimately heading. With a heavy rucksack I didn't fancy the steep direct route up the east side of Red Pike via Bleaberry Tarn so I skirted Crummock Water before turning westwards to join a path which ascended Red Pike via Scale Force.

High Stile (left) and Red Pike (right) from the car park

Fleetwith Pike

Crummock Water

Grasmoor over Crummock Water

The path up to Red Pike - not a cloud in the sky

 After the short but steep climb by Scale Force the path levelled out and it was an easy trudge up to the summit of Red Pike. Once on top it became apparent that the easterly wind was a lot stronger than forecast but I was happy than my planned camping spot on the western side of the ridge should be sheltered. The views over to Grasmoor and Robinson were outstanding.

Red Pike summit panorama east

Red Pike summit panorama west

Crummock Water from Red Pike summit

looking over Buttermere from Red Pike summit

looking towards High Stile from Red Pike

 The ridge walk along to High Stile offered a superb panorama across to the Scafell range and I missed my footing on a number of occasions whilst gazing to the right instead of where I was going.

 On the approach to High Stile the wind really picked up and once on the summit I struggled to keep my footing. There was no chance of a summit camp so I walked back down the sheltered western side to find a suitable place. The wind was still very strong and gusty but I managed to find a reasonably flat spot where the wind seemed a bit less fierce.

High Stile summit panorama North

High Stile summit panorama South

The Scafells from High Stile

 The Scarp was pitched in no time and due to high winds I used the cross poles for piece of mind. The sunset over the Irish sea was spectacular but I was happy to get into the tent and out of the wind. It was a restless night due to the constant buffeting and the occasional violent gust. 

Camping on the southwest flank of High Stile

Views over Ennerdale

The evening sun bathes Pillar

The obligatory sunset shot

 The wind finally dropped about an hour before sunrise but I was up and out as soon as it was light. An inspection of the tent revealed than the fly sheet guy attachment point on the windward side had torn off the tent. That was due to combination of poor guying from me (more of that later in 'Kit thoughts') and a particularly violent gust from Mother Nature. Apart from that, the Scarp had survived unscathed.

 As I sipped my coffee the sun started to rise revealing a cloudless sky. It was looking like another perfect day so I broke camp and headed back to High Stile summit to admire the view in a more leisurely manner now that I could stand up straight without being blown over. After exploring the expansive summit plateau I followed the ridge along to High Crag, enjoying the views down the Ennerdale valley.

High Stile panorama west over the Ennerdale valley

Bleaberry Tarn and Crummock Water from High Stile

The path towards High Crag (fer Left)

High Crag from High Stile

Ironmongery on the path to High Crag

The Scafells over Kirk Fell


looking back to High Stile from High Crag

High Crag summit panorama south

High Crag summit panorama north

looking down to Hay Stacks from High Crag

 It was a steep descent to Scarth Gap before heading back to Buttermere via the Scarth Gap Pass. I hadn't seen anyone else all morning but had the lovely company of a Cuckoo, calling from the Warnscale valley on my right. I then walked back along the southern shore of Buttermere enjoying the tranquil morning and being surrounded by magnificent fells on all sides.      

looking back up to High Crag from near 'Seat'

Great Gable from Scarth Gap

Hay Stacks from Scarth Gap Pass


The path back along Buttermere

High Stile and Red Pike bathed in morning sun

Panorama of the whole ridge

 This was great ridge walk to appreciate the surrounding fells. The northern faces of Pillar, Kirk Fell and Great Gable look spectacular from this vantage point and Grasmoor looks particularly impressive from the Red Pike end of the ridge.


  Kit List

Tent : Tarptent Scarp 1 (1.36kg)
Mat : Exped Downmat UL 7LW (810g)
Sleeping Bag : Rab Alpine 400 (970g) and Rab silk liner (132g)  
Stove : High Gear Blaze titanium stove (48g)  + Primus 100g Gas Cart  
Pans : Evernew Solo-set (250g)

Rucksack : Osprey Atmos 35 (1.3kg)
Fluid : 2 x 1 litre Sigg Bottles (147g each empty) + Drinksafe systems travel tap (165g), 200 mls milk, coffee
Food : Wayfayrer Tai Green Curry, Buttered Bread, Supernoodles,various sugary snacks.

Bits & Bobs : headtorch and spare batteries, Iphone + Anker 5800mHh battery, tent light,  victorinox knife, map & compass, basic first aid kit and Petzl e-lite, spork, various fold dry bags, flint & steel, plastic trowel. 
Camera : Sony DSC-HX5 & lowepro case.
Clothes : ME Astron Hooded jacket (400g), Ron Hill wicking T-Shirt, TNF Meridian Cargo Shorts (190g), ME beany, Rab phantom grip gloves, sunglasses, Buff, Innov8 short socks. Montane prism 2 jacket (423g) and Montane Superfly Jacket (500g) both not used.
Boots : Merrell Moab Mid (1020g pair)

Kit Thoughts

 My main issue on this camp was the wind. I couldn't say what the wind speed was but I had to take care to avoid being blown over on High Stile summit. The buffeting in the tent was vicious. The Scarp has 2 optional guying points on each side of the hoop to provide extra stability in wind (which I used). It also has 2 additional 'fly tensioner' points at each end which are there mainly to hold the fly away from the inner. I decided to use the one at my head end to keep the fly from flapping against my face. The wind was blowing from this direction. Looking at the set up video you are supposed to use a trekking pole to re-angle the cord so it pulls at right angles to the fly. As I didn't have any poles I used a long cord pegged out from higher ground. It obviously wasn't pulling at the correct angle because a violent gust in the early hours tore the attachment loop off the fly. My fault entirely.  

The yellow cord seen attached wrongly to the fly - before it tore off

 Ah well, lesson learned. Otherwise everything else went fine. The stand out piece of kit for me was the ME Astron Hooded jacket which I've had for a while now but am always impressed by its ability to keep me comfortable in a wide range of weather conditions. It uses Polartec Powershield fabric which for me hits the sweet spot in terms of being wind resistant, warm & breathable. I have worn it in cold winds and drizzly rain without needing to add layers or a shell. It breaths so well that I can leave it on in all but the warmest conditions and it dries rapidly. It really is a 'put on and forget about it' piece of kit for 3 season use. Everything else performed well. Also, of course the TNF meridian shorts were perfect as usual. I have already presented my case for them in a later blog entry (May 2013). Nuff said.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scafell Solo Wild Camp

Date : 24th & 25th March 2012
Route : From Hardknott pass along the Eskdale valley to Scafell and back via Burnmoor tarn
Wild Camp : Scafell summit
Wainwrights : Scafell
Distance : 17.8 km (11.1 miles)
Height Gained : 1032 m (3388 feet)


 Well this was it. My first ever solo wild camp. After hiking in the lakes for many years and reading about the merits of wild camping in magazines and blogs I had finally decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. I too wanted to experience the tranquility, the glorious sunsets, the star studded skies and to be up there to watch the sunrise. I wanted to have a high summit all to myself for a night and appreciate the fells from a different perspective. It all sounded perfect. I had been researching the necessary kit for the past few months. The tent had finally arrived and been pitched in the garden a few times. The many mat and down bag options had finally been whittled down. The multitude of stove & pan options had been considered, reconsidered and finally purchased. All the kit was ready and I had a planned date and route. It was now just a case of nervously watching the weather forecast. I had planned to climb Scafell for the first time and camp on the summit. I had climbed Scafell Pike, Crinkle Crags & Bow Fell many times and glimpsed over at Scafell longingly. I also wanted to climb it from Eskdale which was another region unfamiliar to me. As Friday approached, the forecast was good so I packed my rucksack and headed off.

The Route - anticlockwise from Eskdale

 I parked near Jubilee bridge at the bottom of the Hardknott pass and set off along the river Esk. This is great walkers territory; expansive views, high fells all round and a real feeling of solitude. The path followed the river until Lingcove bridge where it is joined by Lingcove beck. I crossed the bridge to continue following the course of the Esk up a steep path by waterfalls.

Looking up the Esk valley

The river Esk with Bow Fell at the head of the valley

Deep clear pools along the Esk

Lingcove Bridge

Waterfalls by Throstle Garth

A nice place to refill the water bottle

A first view of Scafell Pike at the foot of Throstlehow Crag
 As the path emerges from the steep gully under Throstlehow crag you are rewarded with the first views of the Scafell range. Beyond the crag the landscape opens up into the wide expanse of Great Moss, a large area of flat grassland near the headwaters of the river Esk. The ground is quite boggy underfoot and criss-crossed by many small streams. There is a real feeling of wilderness here. Despite nestling in a hollow surrounded by many of the highest and most magnificent fells in the region, Great Moss is a remote area and I didn't see another soul as I picked my way across the plateau towards Camspout gully & my path upwards.

Scar Lathing, a large crag guarding Great Moss

Looking over Great Moss to the Scafell range

Camspout gully leading up to Scafell Pike

Looking back over Great Moss and upper Eskdale from the top of Camspout gully

Looking up to Mickeldore

 From the top of Camspout gully the path continues upwards but before reaching Mickeldore I bared left and climbed the boulder strewn Fox's Tarn gully, one of the classic routes between Scafell Pike and Scafell.  

Fox's tarn gully

Fox's Tarn

 At Fox's Tarn (which was more of a puddle than a tarn today), the path turns right and winds up a steep section of loose rock and Scree before emerging on the summit ridge.

Scafell summit cairn bathed in evening sunlight

Scafell Pike from Scafell summit

Scafell summit panorama east

Scafell summit panorama west over Wast Water

 I found a flat grassy area about 30 meters west from the summit and made camp. Having carried the Scarps cross-poles I decided to use them (newbie's piece of mind) but of course they were not needed. My first wild camping meal was a peppered sirloin steak & mushrooms fried in olive oil and served with a tomato salad, eaten while sat watching the sun setting over Wast Water. This was exactly how I imagined it would be. I was so pleased with everything so far, I forgot to take the obligatory sunset picture.

My view over Wast Water from camp

 I didn't sleep too well, mainly because I was still buzzing at having 'popped my wild camping cherry', the relief of having been lucky with the weather and the anticipation of tomorrows exploits. As soon as it was light I brewed up, made some breakfast and walked up to the summit to watch the sun rising over Bow Fell. This time I remembered the camera.

Sunrise over Bow Fell & the Crinkles

The morning panorama east

.... and west

 After breaking camp I headed down to Burnmoor tarn and then along to Eel tarn. It wasn't until I was nearly back on the road that I saw the first people since leaving the car yesterday. This is truly an area of wilderness. 

Burnmoor tarn

Burnmoor tarn

Looking back to Scafell from Burnmoor tarn

Eel tarn

 The wild camping bug was now well and truly bitten. While plodding along the road back to to the car I was busy pondering the next trip.  


Kit List
Tent : Tarptent Scarp 1 (1.36kg) Mat : Thermarest Prolite plus regular (620g) Sleeping Bag : Rab Alpine 400 (970g) and Rab silk liner (132g)   Stove : High Gear Blaze titanium stove (48g)  + Primus 100g Gas Cart   Pans : Evernew Solo-set (250g) and Titanium frying pan (138g)
Rucksack : Osprey Atmos 35 (1.3kg) Fluid : 2 x 1 litre Sigg Bottles (147g each empty) + Drinksafe systems travel tap (165g), 200 mls milk, coffee Food : Sirloin steak, Mushrooms, Olive oil, tomato's, salad,  Buttered Bread, Supernoodles,various sugary snacks
Bits & Bobs : headtorch and spare batteries, Iphone + Anker 5800mHh battery, tent light,  victorinox knife, map & compass, basic first aid kit and Petzl e-lite, spork, various fold dry bags, flint & steel, plastic trowel Camera : Sony DSC-HX5 & lowepro case Clothes : ME Astron Hooded jacket (400g), Ron Hill wicking T-Shirt, TNF Meridian Cargo Shorts (190g), ME beany, Rab phantom grip gloves, sunglasses, Buff. Montane prism 2 jacket (423g) and Montane Superfly Jacket (500g) both not used Boots : Merrell Moab Mid (1020g pair)