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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Lost in the Dark – A Bivi – Remembrance

castle crag
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 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.
brian in his hole
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.
view from the top
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.
upper mine
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.
foggy pennines

We plodded back to Grange where, after a cuppa, we returned to the grey and foggy Pennines.
i like a good whine
The boots were really handy for preventing accidental wine spillage by the way.
service poppies

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!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a memorable (no pun intended) trip, Mike. Thanks for sharing. I've never attended one of the "wild" remembrance gatherings but I was at the City of Liverpool one, this morning, and I'm pleased to say the 2 minutes were immaculately observed.

Eeek said...

Wasn't aware of the wild rememberance gatherings - good to know.

We do church and town with the bit who is in military. Number ones up a mountain???? ... maybe greens.

Good times despite the mishaps and ew dead sheep!


Dawn said...

Sounds like you had fun Mike. Good write up, always enjoy reading of your interesting moments.

Alan R said...

We thought you would be attending this service.
Although reading Ivy i had my doubts at first.

Are those icicles hanging from the rock photo. (2nd slate mine). or just beads of water on grass?

Mike Knipe said...

Two toddlers at the Castle Crag ceremony were being very good, I noticed. All very respctful, Judith.
Eeek! I think there's another service by the Polish memorial on Buckden Pike as well - there could be others. YOu wouldn't want to wear your best stuff....
Good bivi spots, Dawn - and fairly discreet. The night was magical.
Alan - No ice around, much too warm - it was around 6C at night and 14.5C during the way. The second mine entrance is very drippy and wet - like heavy rain, really...