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Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Few Days Camping with Dawn

..after the snowfall

The trip had been arranged for a short while and, maybe, perhaps, it was ill-timed. The signs of an ill-fated trip were there from the start.

From the start, it was snowing in Crook. The travel lady girl announcer person announced that the trans-pennine A66 was partially blocked, down to one lane, with a  trapped HGV and otherwise “difficult” I joined it at Bowes in a blizzard and tucked in behind an HGV that was eventually going 20 mph too fast for me, so me and lots of other, more careful people plodded along at 40 in no visibility at all, apart from some vague tyre tracks on a white road.

kirkby stephen station

I got to Kirkby Stephen railway station a couple of minutes early where it was snowing.

The train came in and Dawn got off. It snowed.

On the way to Kirkby Stephen, a car coming up the hill overtook something that wasn;t there and jumped up the embankment, damaging some shrubs and the front end of the car, and the front end of the driver’s pride – it was a really really expensive car, and the attempt to gun it up the hill had turned out badly. We didn’t stop. We couldn’t actually stop….

camp behind the wall

The snowstorm abated a bit as we made our way up through the muddy woods and on to Hartley Fell – the lower part of Nine Standards Rigg where a pitch behind a sheltering wall presented itself. Finding good water was an initial challenge, but an exploration the next day found something a bit better than the green mossy, but potable stuff we originally found.

The night was cold. And it snowed. And it snowed and snowed and snowed. I got out a couple of times to clear the akto of excess white stuff, but eventually resorted to just periiodically kicking the stuff off from inside with a warm sock full of foot. Nevertheless, the akto grew gradually smaller bit by bit as the long night drew itself out in a very gradual drawing out kind of way.

a bright morning

A bright and beautiful morning followed. The snow was crisp and deep and heavily rutted for some reason. A plodge along Mallerstang Edge would be rufty and not a little tufty in this deep and soft stuff. We decided to wait for a day. I had a little trundle up the hill and found better water.

The lovely day lasted roughly till lunchtime, after which windy, sleety showers plastered the tents and it was nice to get tucked in with brews and snooze – a pastime which is by no means a waste of time. Soon it went dark.

brewing and snoozing

A cold, grey morning with thick mist, driving drizzle and ice mitigated against any kind of movement which wasn’t for urgent bladder relief. After a bit of a foray up the hill, Dawn returned through the post-holing icy thaw to declare that she wasn’t really feeling well at all. She was sent back to bed. Another day of brews and snooze developed. I could get used to not doing anything at all. You’d have thought that this would be the ideal opportunity to think through all those niggly little problems. To plan out solutions. To consider the higher things in life. Not so. I am a very efficient snoozer. I awake to a vague consciousness every now and then to register if its still raining or not, or whether I need to emerge from my aktococoon to do something useful, such as reposition a tent peg or have a nice wee. My major decisions concerned the calculation of the resilience of my water supply when measured against my sachets of kenco 3 in 1, packet soups and hot chocolate. And if the water was low, whether or not I really needed another, given that the inevitable bladder emergency would occur all that much sooner if….

The next night was a bit snowy and occasionally starry. Then, about 3:00 a.m., I became aware of a more determined rattling of the old akto. By grey dawnfall (the daylight one, not the other Dawn…), the akto was dancing around like a firewalker who’d suddenly lost his faith. The rain was also hosing down and the noise from both almost drowned out the artillery fire from Warcop.  Pegs were coming loose. The snow under my tent had mainly melted to reveal a sphagnum bog. Sphagnum bogs do not take well to tent pegs. Dawn was making noises from her tent and, which I couldn’t make out due to the thundering noise of the storm, but as I emerged from mine, it became clear that Dawn’s tabernacle was in some trouble with the gale. I decided to pack my stuff, since my akto was in some danger of collapse and some things inside needed to be kept dry…..

After this, I attended to Dawn’s loose ends, which were flying in the gale whilst she packed. It was a bit frantic for a short while.

kirkby stephen in flood

Not too long afterwards, after a short but brutal fight against a howling hurricane attended by a bit of a hosing down, we were gratefully ensconced in a warm cafe in Kirkby Stephen with a full breakfast and a huge pot of tea.

The drive home over the A66 was even more dangerous with fallen lorries, cars that had hit floods too fast for their little tyres, and consequently ended up in distress, and the odd eeejit blundering on at 100 mph as if nothing was happening.

I suspect that mid December is probably not the most ideal time to try to go for a backpacking trip down the Pennines.

Thanks to Dawn, though. Believe it or not, I enjoyed the whole thing. Everything is on radiators here at knipetowers and the dog is happy to see me.

Dawn’s blog is at   She’s not home yet, as I write this. I’m not sure if she intends to write her own version of this adventure, but if she does, it’ll likely be here.



James Boulter said...

Oooh that looks nice and snowy, something we have yet to experience down south. What is it about the A66 that makes people drive like nutters?

Off to the Pennines myself with the dog tomorrow. Fingers crossed he will get to play in the white stuff.

Mike Knipe said...

Its melting, James, and washing cars away in Bainbridge, aparently... But it's supposed to come back, so the dog should get a play, I expect.
I think I know where you're going.....!

Anonymous said...

You can have an adventure even when you don't go anywhere. I know what you mean about tent lassitude.

Laura said...

OOOO! That looked tough....Bit blowy and snowy here too..Radio 4 is off...Glad you got home safely....I think I met the 100 mph nutter going over the Lecht last week on the ice! Very worrying!

Alan R said...

Well Mike you get the bravery medal. Or was it the madness medal?
Hm i would have thought the Shangri la would have been ideal in nasty windy weather with it being all round cone shaped.
Glad you are back safe all the same.

Mike Knipe said...

Robin - I enjoy a bit of lassitude as it hapens. Its one of the things I'm quite good at. I need to practise more, though.
Laura - The risky bit of this adventure was definately the A66. Sometimes, the road is quite god fun. Other times. it's a bit mad.
Alan - I doubt if any tent would stand up to a gale plus a significant depth of sphagnum, which doesn't really do pegs. Sitting inside the tent is a good way of stopping it blowing away, though.

Anonymous said...

That must qualify for the slowest walk ever; three days for 6 miles! Even Scott did better than that.

Mike Knipe said...

We feel the need to hold some effort back, Grumpy. But be fair, I made it seven miles, not including water surveys and tent peg inspections.

Alan Sloman said...

Quite wonderful.
Mad Dogs & Englishmen...

Greg said...

Wow . looked like Scot of the Antarctic. What sleeping bag do you use Mike as I always seem to be cold in mine and in winter it's worse as it gets damp quick in the Akto. How do you solve that problem?

Mike Knipe said...

Yes Alan, it may have been a tad on the eccentric side.... but wot fun , what?
Greg - I was using a golite adrenalin 20. The minimum temp was only just below freezing. It was never perilously cold. I put the bag inside a RAB bivi bag to protect it from damp - there was lots of condensation during the first night's snowstorm and there was some accidental snow ingress which melted. Ventilation, a sponge, removing snow build-up and brushing snow out before it melted was the strategy. The wet and windy storm at the end wasn't so much of a problem - plenty of ventilation, but the ground flooded. There was a fair amount of contact between the outer and the inner in the gales which produced a wet patches inside, but I didn't touch them!

Jules said...

Brilliantly bonkers! Loved it!

At the right time, in the right conditions, snow can be great fun. At 100mph on the A66 is neither the time nor the place - probably the most dangerous aspect of the whole trip!

Dawn said...

Things happen when Dawn goes walkabout!! Thanks Mike. By the by, your version of rescuing damsel in distress was magnificent.

Mike Knipe said...

Jules - There's something about the bit of the A66 between the County Boundary and Bowes. It's very straight and downhill. And people just go a bit mental...
Dawn - It was all worth it! No lasting damage was done and most of my stuff is now dry. I note that another gale is on the way for next week. I'll probably give the camping a miss for this one...!

Jules said...

Remind me to steer clear of the A66, especially if there's a hint of the white stuff!