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Monday, 13 January 2014

Losing It in the Howgills

Dawn gets water before it all disappears

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.

claggy morning

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.

clagt on the way to blakethwaite bottom

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…

feral fell ponies

blakethwaaite camp

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.

then it snowed...

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.

carlin gill

more carlin gill

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…)

.. less steep ground..

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.

climbing up fell head

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.

on the return walk to tebay

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:





Alan Sloman said...

Well done, Sir!
How did Dawn do this time out?

I think I would have stayed beside the fire in that weather. It's grim up north...

Mike Knipe said...

Dawn seems OK, Alan - I expect she'll account for herself in her blogette. As for me, my Christmas wobbly fat makes heaving my aching carcase uphill

Bro said...

She meant some things change, some stay the same. It's a very puzzling song.

Louise said...

Hmm, my Christmas Cuddle (wobbly fat to you) is making heaving my carcase uphill a bit of a I'm staying mainly on the flat for now, and only for short walks too.
Looks nice there.

4 Winds said...

Nice photers, Mike. Keeing me fingers crossed for a bit of snow down here in Pastieland and having to make do with a run in a hailstorm this evening!

Martin Rye said...

Keep at it Mike and get fit for those planned walks this year. Glad to see Dawn is out backpacking.

Mike Knipe said...

Yes, Bro, I think she was even confusder than me. She obviously got the words wrong.
Louise - if you walk backwards, your brain thinks you're going downhill. No, really....
4 Winds - Your weather is worse than ours! (Just a bit grey and cold oop here in stotttieland.
Martin - OK - I'll go out Wednesday, then (guided walk, only four quid...)

AlanR said...

When we were backpacking in Madeira we found it very steep generally. To make the up's easier we started the backwards walking club. It does work. Care needs to be taken when approaching big drops though.
You were fortunate to get your stuff back but I'm glad you did.

Quinn said...

Gorgeous photos! Also, brrrrrr!
I'd have been right there with Superdawg, dreaming at the fireside.

Dawn said...

A good wee trip Mike.

Andrew said...

Great trip but based on the photos I would say Bruno must be the brains of the operation!

James Boulter said...

I think that Bruno made the best decision that weekend. The Howgill fells are a fine place for a treasure hunt, even if the treasure is all your in the first place.

Have you and Dawn ever been out in nice weather?

Mike Knipe said...

Alan - A heart-stopping moment there with the empty bumbag (actually - my phone was still in it) I once walked backwards for Christmas, y'know.
Quinn - He's not daft, that dog, although I do have to sneak out...
Dawn - Crackin' trip, really... bit chilly at times - and it's a good job you noticed the tin openers!
Andrew - See comment for Quinn!
James - When we did the South Downs Way it was sunny. Too hot, really (!)

John J said...

Ooh, a nice trip - in good company too.
That doggie has definitely got the right idea though.
I've been training for a little trip that's coming up soon. Things are looking good, I'm now only grossly overweight.
I suppose should come up with a route...or someone may shout at me.


Anonymous said...

I once saw Chrissie Hind at Gatwick Airpot.

Bob said...

I was looking for articles about the Howgills when I found this story of your Winter walk. It just goes to prove that this part of Cumbria between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales is fantastic all year round - provided you're properly equipped, and don't lose your car keys. :-) Thanks for a good read.

NO said...

Just found this blog searching The northern Howgill Fells .

A great read thanks !

Can i ask who used the tipi type tent and what was your sleeping system as it has no ground sheet ?

I,m New to all this i hope its not a daft a question !

Mike Knipe said...

Hello NO - crikey, you're dragging up the past. The tipi-style tent is Dawn's. She's an expert at keeping alive in stupidly cold/windy/wet conditions whilst I have no idea about these things and like to snuggle down in my bombproof akto. I expect she had some kind of groundsheet and a toasty sleeping bag in there... I'll ask her about it (we're off on a trip this weekend). Otherwise it's a complete mystery to me, I have to say (actually, I suspect there's a nest hanging in there which does have a groundsheet...)

Dawn Linney said...

Hi No! the tent is a Golite SL3, it has a custom made single person inner. This allows one half of the tent to be used for sleeping and the other half for wet gear, storage etc and provides ample room for one. The tent has survived some savage weather. However, Golite no longer exist. Nearest to it is the Luxe mini peak. If you want a solid fabric inner you probably would have to have it custom made. Try Backpacking Light.

NO said...

Thanks for the replies 0)

Sorry about the "No" member id not sure how i did that !

Understand what you are saying will have a look at the luxe mini peak .

Hope you had a good weekend 0)