A few years ago, whilst writing a Doodlecat thingy about walking in the Howgill fells, I had occasion to follow the track from Eller Gill to Tebay – in a bit of a hurry due to a fast developing thunderstorm, I seem to remember. Any road up – on the way, I was passed by an ATV with two blokes and a couple of dogs on the back They were going quite fast and having a bit of a laugh. However, spread along the track behind them was a generous scattering of monetary shrapnel – about eight quid if I remember rightly. It was exactly the same track upon which, last Thursday, I deposited much of my meagre wealth and some well-loved 1970’s rock and roll.
I picked Dawn up at the Railway station in Kirkby Stephen at lunchtime and we retired briefly to the Junction 38 services at Tebay for a good-value and nutritious scoff before loading up the packs and setting off into the hinterland of Tebay that is the Howgill Fells.
We plodded on for some distance to a sheepfold where, just as we set off up the boggy, steeper bit, I heard Dawn remark that she’s found yet another MOD-style tin-opener and I turned around to see her displaying the two tin openers that should have been in my bum bag. A bum bag which was now virtually empty and which, when I’d set off from Tebay, had held my car keys, credit card wallet, loose change (a different eight quid), MP3 player with 1970’s rock songs and some Steeley Span and my compass and whatever else there should have been which I couldn’t bring myself to think about just now. Bum. Or , possibly, Bugger.
A retracing search took place. I quickly found some coins and my credit card wallet. Phew! A mile, or maybe less, along the track and my car key turned up. Phew again. I was willing to sacrifice the MP3 player as it was geriatric, a bit like it’s collection of music…
In view of the delay, we camped there. It rained all night. In the morning, the hills were in deep gloom and wearing a cold shroud of dark grey clag, which we avoided by a circuitous route, turning up around lunchtime where we sort of should have been the night before at Blakethwaite Bottom. We put the tents up and it started raining again. Good. A chance to snuggle in and spend hours of brewing and snoozing. This is what I did anyway. I’ve no idea what Dawn did since most of the time it was either blowing some kind of hoolie, spattering rain or I was deep in the land of nod.(where it wasn’t raining). I must say, that I quite like doing this.
And then, after a mere twenty or so hours of intermittent sleep, brewing, eating, wandering out for a wee and sipping cheap scotch, it started snowing. Only a bit – just enough to freeze the tents stiff and just enough to make the next fine, blue, if shivery morning an ideal one for having a walk up a hill.
So we set off with small packs, leaving the tents in situ, along the ancient route to Howgill. This is a thin and ever-so-slightly perilous path in icy conditions, passing, as it does over the head of Carlin Gill, where the contours above The Spout and Black Force get really really friendly with each other. You wouldn’t want to slip down the hill just here. (just a tip, there for you…)
Ultimately, we emerged onto more reasonable ground and headed up a ridge on to Fell Head, where it was foggy in a freezing fog kind of way. We wandered along the ridge for a bit and descended back to the sun-warmed tents via Taffergill Hill and Over Sale for a lazy afternoon.
At about four o’clock, the sunshine deserted us and it began immediately to freeze. Another long mp3-less night followed. A breeze popped up and warmed things up for a while, but by daylight, some 16 hours later, a cold, windy and frozen morning greeted us for our walk back to Tebay.
We climbed up the side of Uldale Head, into the sunshine and into the teeth of a gale which had us leaning and stumbling until, a sheltered route by the side Rispa Pike by into Eller Gill presented itself. So that’s the way we went.
Dawn found the MP3 player on the track, a few hundred metres from where the car keys had been, and the compass was all cosily tucked up in the boot of the knipemobile.
So, some things are lost and some things are found (Chrissie Hind) I‘m not sure what she meant by that, but , I believe we were in profit to the tune of one walking pole basket. We celebrated with sausage butties at the Pink Geranium cafe in Kirkby Stephen.
Qeuite a good trip, I thought. I specially enjoy the stupidly generous amounts of sleep involved in winter backpacking. But I need to get some backpacking fitness back…. And what luck, finding all my lost stuff – moral of this story is to get a new bumbag… and not to put too much stuff in it.
In the meantime, whilst I was freezing me bits off in the Howgills (Nad losing 1.5 kg of wobbly fat (yay!!)), Superdawg was doing this: