Sunday, 13 November 2011
Lost in the Dark – A Bivi – Remembrance
I arrived at Brian’s at about four. We arrived at our bivi site at roughly midnight, What happened in between was partly planned (Brian made spagbol – v.nice), partly spontaneous (pint at a pub in Keswick) partly pratting about (I think somebody may have been slightly drunk) and partly incompetence – which I will now explain.
We parked badly near the old chapel at Grange. It was here that I discovered that my headlight wasn’t working. This is a basic error on my part but the moon was bright… and…er…. we set off into the night.
And ..er.. we didn't actually have one of those map things. Or a compass. Or a GPS. We did have two bottles of red wine but Brian had forgotten his sausages. None of this was a problem. Obviously.
At some point (just after blundering into a bog), we missed a crucial signpost and went merrily along the Cumbria Way and up a vague path to a dead end in a steep quarry. We agreed that this was unlikely to be the way, so we retraced. Hours passed. The moonlight burned down. I didn’t really need a light most of the time, although slippery rocks in the black shadows were occasionally treacherous. An owl giggled.
Having walked a substantial way back to Grange, we started again, apparently up the right path. It was steep and stony. My new boots worked well. As we passed the spoil heaps, I tried to stop Brian barging up the hill but hewasn’t listening. We arrived at the top of the hill. I suggested we went back down again. We went back down. Brian said we were going too far down, this time, Pieman. I didn’t think so. I suggested that he looked where he thought the place was and that I would call him when I found it. We split up.
Very soon afterwards,(about midnight) I found the hole. We communicated through flashlight, shouts and me pressing buttons on my mobile phone. I didn’t like the cave, so I camped outside. Brian settled into the hole in the hillside with a deceased sheep for company.I just had a few spindly spiders to talk to.
The next two hours were nothing short of brilliant. I watched the moon and the stars and the little fluffy clouds forming and dancing as they hurried passed. I sipped wine from a polythene mug. I was toasty in my bag. The owl ghosted by once or twice. There was a warm wind. There were dark moonshadows and a bright and starry sky and almost silence. It was just magical.
In the morning, the sky had clouded over. I lit the stove and used this to light the hexamine – and brewed and boiled NATO hamburgers and beans in their bags. We scoffed. We lit a little birch fire for a while. Then we heaved ourselves up Castle Crag for the service of remembrance. A hundred and fifty or so people also came. The sun shone and it was warm.
Afterwards, I explored a second slate mine a bit further up the hill and found a deep level going into the hillside till I couldn’t see enough to go further. It had a shelf which could be made comfortable with some effort, and a fine balcony for a camp/bivi site just outside.
We plodded back to Grange where, after a cuppa, we returned to the grey and foggy Pennines.
The boots were really handy for preventing accidental wine spillage by the way.
And the Castle Crag remembrance service? – It’s a small and informal affair, but seems to have more depth somehow than the service on Gable. The last time I went to Gable, I got the impression that some people were just there for the tick – to say they’d been, in the same way they climb Tryfan and Helvellyn and Snowdon and have a little book with a list of things to do in it. “Number 10 – Go on a wild camp, Number 11 Join the MBA and get a list of bothies, Number 12 Gt Gable service thingy in ? November…” Indeed, several failed to shut their big gobs during the two minutes silence. This doesn’t happen at Castle Crag and a there’s a prayer or two, a proper silence and a little lass and an Arnhem veteran (aged 90!) read short poems. I may be wrong about Gable – I’m sure most people go there for honourable reasons.
The other thing is, its much easier to get to than Gable!