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Sunday, 16 February 2014

Backpacking From Moffat to Kirkby Stephen

Wednesday morning starts a bit driech

No, folks, we didn’t walk all the way. Me and Dawn have had a trip to Moffat planned for a while and the time came when it was….er…time to collect Dawn from Penrith train station and whisk her off up the M6 for a quick lunch in the Rumblin Tum cafe (some blogreaders will recognise this fine establishment from previous Peebles-Moffat-Peebles trips (and falls).


And then, it was time to walk. So we walked up the road towards The Devil’s Beeftub, turning sharp right up the path to Hartfell Spa where we camped next to the deer fence that obstructed access to all the very best camping spots, at the foot of Spa Well Burn.

first camp

Hart Fell Spa is a chalybeate well and so has lots of iron in it, although it didn’t taste too bad and wasn’t really very red. So we drank it.

hart fell spa

We also scrambled up the gill a bit to have a look and, suitably impressed, we came back down again for our teas as it went dark.

hart fell spa gill

It snowed a bit during the night and a fox made a lot of noise close by and in the morning it was grey and driech and we plodded off into the snows in an attempt to reach Gameshope bothy, well over the other side of the hill. On the face of it, this didn’t go too well. But, as with all fateful happenings, if we’d been a bit earlier, or a bit fitter, or a bit quicker, we’d have encountered our fierce blizzard whilst up on the most exposed section of the route.

It started at lunchtime, quite suddenly as a drift of big snowflakes, just as we settled by the beck for a break. By the time I’d scoffed an oatcake, it was swirling and we made a quick decision to put the tents up and sit it out.

my very own snowdrift

Putting the tents up was quite difficult in the storm that quickly grew, with the wind blustering around and clouds of fine spindrift blowing up off the snow. Eventually, we got settled, tents weighed down with huge stones.

We were battered all afternoon and deep into the night  - noisily and roughly. I had to get out of the akto a few times to clear snow which was pushing in at the back, making things inside damp. At some point in the early hours, the wind changed completely and now hit the door, filling the porch and my boots with spindrift.

meanwhile, back in the pennines

So, an exciting night, with not much sleep. In the morning it was calmer and there were signs that the day might improve. But much of my kit was wet from the crushing effect of the weight of snow and the snow was soft and somewhere between shin and knee deep. So, it was an easy decision to head back to the Rumblin Tum.

We decided to go to the hostel at Kirkby Stephen, partly because dawn knew it well and it wasn’t too far from Penrith and, maybe the weather would be better dahn sahf. It wasn’t. In fact, it was chucking it down big time in Kirkby, but they let us in to dry out and raid the co-op for lots of scoff and so on and so on….

nine standards outliers

We had a spare day, so on that day, with another blizzard forecasted (inaccurately as it happened), I bought a map and we headed off up the CtoC route through Hartley for the bagging of the very diminutive, but quite nice Birkett Hill – not a Birkett, but if it was further West, it probably would be – and Little Longrigg Scar. These two little hills have a huge amount of old mining activity in between and would probably repay a  more detailed and relaxed exploration. We, however were working against the weather, which, in turn was working against us.

bell pits

After a short brew-up, we climbed Longrigg Scar for a seriously buffeted wind-assisted ascent. As we dropped down the other side, it started raining and sleeting and, by the time we hit the old railway line path , it was heaving it down again.

nine standards outliers

So, the bottom line was that the weather got the better of us again. This is a problem with having to plan these trips well ahead. Family diaries have to be co-ordinated and trains have to be booked well in advance to get the best fares. So we’re often stuck with the dates and, so far, we’ve had all kinds of interesting weather chucked at us and we do set off even in the face of a threatening weather forecast. (maybe it won’t actually turn out to be so bad… it’s all down South…. it’s supposed to get better later… etc) Actually, I quite enjoy sheltering in my little tent from a howling storm, but it does put a bit of a block on progress across a map.

Its good for the soul, though.

February has been manic. Maybe March will be calmer.

For those obsessed by numbers, we did about 14 miles around Moffat and 7 on our little friendly wind-blasted walk around the outlying fells of Nine Standards Rig.

Link to Kirkby Stephen hostel is here


And finally, whilst I was away Peter Waites made a donation to Mind via the Virgin money giving page. Thanks ever so much for this,  Peter, it’s been a long time….. I wonder how you found me.  Sorry for you loss, too, by the way.

If anybody else feels like bunging some spondoolies into the account it’s here  I’m not naggin ner nowt, its just that I need to bring the link forward every now and then otherwise it disappears, see…?



Reifyn said...

This sounds like a real exciting time; I enjoyed reading this one, imagining all the things happening. What sort of noises was the fox making? I've not heard them make much noise apart from little barking sounds like 'Narf! Narf!' Too bad you didn't make it to that bothy: I haven't seen a bothy in a very long time, but stayed in any number years ago. That was rough weather. Glad you made it to a hostel anyway. I've been caught in terrible storms in my tent before, but only once had to put it together during one; it rained horribly and then stopped as soon as the tent was up. I wish a fox had come round to visit me.

AlanR said...

Only from your photo’s Mike. When the snow started if you had headed down hill would you have dropped below the snow and had a better night. ? Just a thought. Easy to say when your sat in a comfy chair and of course hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Mike Knipe said...

Reifyn - Girl foxes make a sort of very spooky screaming noise. Dawn thought that this one was accompanied by a couple of cubs. Lots of fox prints in the snow the next couple of days.
Alan - I think we entertained notions of carrying on in the morning. We would have had a more comfy night lower down, but then again, we might not have been able to put tents up at all after another hour or so and would have ended up back at the Rumblin Tum for tea!

Dawn said...

Overall it was not a bad trip. Alan,if we had tried to drop down to our previous camp spot, we would have had an awful struggle. The storm came in very rapidly.

Quinn said...

Very impressive! Sounds exhausting though, with all the snow and wet and weatherous uncertainty...think I'd better have a cup of tea to recover just from the reading of it. Hats off to you and Dawn!
Re: foxes, many of the British television dramas I've watched on PBS or Netflix include, at some point, the sound of fox calls in the nighttime. The sound of "your" foxes (not the sound of "our" New England foxes, which do not get the same response at all!) drives my dog insane. She erupts from a deep sleep into a loud, furious woofing that makes me (who was all cozy and relaxed and watching Foyle's War or something) jump nearly out of my skin. I had a black bear at the window that didn't get such a violent reaction. You must have some kind of foxes!

Mike Knipe said...

Ah yes, Dawn - good for the soul and yes, a full retreat would probably have been strenuous to say the least...
Quinn- I googled "foxes" just now. It seems ours are red foxes. They do make skin-creeping -horror-film -like noises off in the wee small hours. If superdawg had been there , he'd have gone a bit mental too...!

Anonymous said...

Dartmoor was much warmer you know - if a bit soggy.