Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Old Lakes trip

This report has been hanging around in my documents for ages, half finished. Ironically, it was this trip that prompted me to start my blog but I hadn't got around to getting the writing sorted. The photo at the bottom of the booze article is from this trip and it helped me to get my act together. There's some video which I'll edit and probably post in about 6 months. Here's a reminder of why it's good to make the most of summer...
It’s a fair old slog up to the lakes when you live in the Midlands. It’s worse when you get there to realise that you have to drive another hour round the lakes to get to where you want to get to. Most of my recent trips to this area had focused on the Ennerdale area which does involve that extra hour, so it was that, combined with the fact that we had a total novice with us which led us to look at the High Street area.
Rafa had climbed Ben Nevis once and had done some deer stalking as research for a game he was designing but other than that he had very little to do with the great outdoors. He’s from Brazil and Martyn had suggested he come with us as part of his cultural enrichment. I’m not sure Rafa would describe it as enrichment, but British weather (and we got the full force of it that weekend) certainly is worth experiencing in it’s raw state at least once.
On the journey up we checked through Rafa’s pack. He’d done a pretty good job of not bringing the kitchen sink. I’d supplied a tent (My old Gelert solo), a torch, a spoon and Martyn brought a stove and the waterproofs (vital!). He was a bit embarrassed about his choice of food-Pot Noodles, but bulk aside, the good old Pot Noodle is prime hiking food.
After a stop in Bampton for a pint or two we pulled up at Haweswater. The weather report for the weekend was fairly dire and it was already beginning to spot with rain when we arrived. I’d taken the opportunity presented by Martyn driving the last section of the journey to top up with Guinness and was raring to go by the time we had sorted out the bags. I clipped my photon onto my hat brim and set off at a fair old lick, trying to get to The Rigg before the weather really closed in. I was trying a new pair of shoes- Golite Trail Flys that I’d picked up at TK Maxx pretty cheaply. It was my second try in three years at non waterproof low tops and they were really comfortable. The last time, my ankles had felt really vulnerable, but this time I relished the lack of restriction. Rafa, however was feeling the pressure. By the time we got to The Rigg, he had cramp and was glad of the rest. The weather, had, by now, broken in spectacular fashion and the rain was pouring down. I left Martyn to sort out Rafa’s tent and got on with trying to pitch the Gatewood. The time spent in the pub added to the extra top-up in the car revealed itself to be a pretty poor spot of decision making. What followed had all the elements of a classic comedy sketch with me chasing from one side of the tent to the other as my hiking pole fell down each time I stuck in a peg. When I finally got the inner tent installed I discovered that I had pitched the opening towards the back of the tent. I clambered between the two, into the space at the back of the tent and slipped inside. I had received a fairly lengthy wetting during the process, but again I wasn’t as wet as I had expected.
I slept well, one of the best sleeps I have ever had in a tent and woke fairly early. The rain had pretty much stopped but it was still very windy. I am becoming more confident of the G.C’s ability to shed wind- a lot of the fears I had on my Rhinogs trip were, I think, unfounded. Looking at the three tents, the G.C was flapping around a fair bit less than the other two- it seemed to billow, if that makes sense.
I had a wander round the Rigg, looking at the carnage left by other campers. It’s small wonder that there are prominent signs prohibiting camping- there was everything from cider bottles to used tampons and plenty of fire evidence. I wouldn’t want to camp there in the Summer.
I went back to the tents and roused Martyn and Rafa. Rafa stared incredulous at the floppy mess that had been his shelter for the night. Despite wearing a Sprayway pacamac circa 1992 in the turquoise and purple that characterised that period, he still managed to look stylish in a felt flat cap. It’s funny how people who are not hikers (in fact many hikers too!) still feel the need to look good on a hill- I just stood there in the Gatewood and my cuben fibre rain chaps with a big streamer of snot running down my face…..
It was the first time Martyn had got a good look at the Gatewood in poncho mode. The wind was really kicking up now and there were predictions of 70mph gusts on the tops “Are you sure that’s wind-safe?” he wanted to know. I wasn’t aware that clothing could be judged on whether it was wind-safe! I told him that I was confident it passed EU guidelines and we set off.
The Trail flys were starting to let in a fair bit of water now. Although I was okay with having wet feet and wasn’t bothered about bog hopping to avoid the worst sections, I knew that my feet would be warmer and drier in a pair of lined shoes. Each time there was a new flood of water into the shoe, my feet would feel cold again and the idea that the shoes would dry out quickly because of the breathable nature of the shoe was just not working. October probably wasn’t the best time to try this admittedly but I had decided that unlined trail shoes weren’t for me. Luckily, one of the lace loops had started to pull free (I’d read some dodgy reports on the shoddy construction of Golite shoes previously and they seemed to be true). A trip to TKMaxx customer services was mentally booked, which meant that I had been able to do my trail shoe experiment for free.
It’s a reasonable walk up to Kidsty Howes- steeper than you’d find in the average city and just the thing to warm you up in the morning. Unfortunately we’d got going with no breakfast due to the rain and Rafa was finding it heavy going. We stopped five or six times on the initial slopes where usually me and Martyn may well have got it done in one quick pull. It seemed that the walk we’d planned was going to take a while at this rate. This was no bad thing because it gave us plenty of opportunity to look at the spectacular views up to High street and down to Haweswater. In the end, however, I set off at a quick pace to find water and then stopped to cook up breakfast and wait for the other two. We found a sheltered spot, out of the wind and took advantage of a brief spell of sun to relax.
The final section got even steeper. I prefer to ascend this way, rather than a slow plod. The wind kept getting stronger and stronger. I love this weather-it’s so exhilarating and you can see the showers sweeping down the valley before they hit you. There was a daft grin on my face the whole time despite the fact that the Gatewood cape was, while not ‘wind unsafe’,quite ‘wind annoying’.
There was a conversation at the next rest spot. Martyn was concerned about Rafa and proposed that they returned to the campsite while I continued and met them there. Rafa despite feeling ‘as though he was dying’ decided to stick it out. The gradient eased after that and once he was on a relatively level surface, Rafa felt better.
The Wall across high street was a welcome respite from the wind. I removed the Gatewood and just kept my windshirt on. The showers weren’t bad enough to wet me but it was very cold in the wind. Part of my warmth plan was just to keep moving, but that was hard with all the rests we kept having. If I had been by myself, I would probably have run it, but the camaraderie was good and we were all having a great time.
The rest of the walk went quickly and before we knew it we were at the shelter at Ill Bell. There were still showers on and off and the Gatewood made a good bothy bag. Suddenly the penny dropped for Rafa- ‘hey! You are wearing your tent!’. Seems my big shapeless silnylon bag had just looked like a big shapeless nylon bag after all, when I had been worried it looked like I was wearing a tent!;) We dropped down to Smallwater and as I had got a lead on the others I spent some time sat in the shelters drinking whisky. It was one of those perfect mountain moments, where the level of exertion has been just enough to relax you, the atmosphere is amazing, the taste of the whisky chimes exactly with the smell of the air. Lovely stuff. The last time I had been here, I’d slept in one of the shelters after it had been too windy to pitch the competition. We returned to The Rigg and pitched close to the lake after a quick stop at the car for me to change my shoes. It was so nice to get the Hedgehogs on with some dry socks, but they did feel pretty confining on the ankles after wearing lowtops. A purchase of some lowtop Hedgehogs was decided on.
As night fell, we sat on the beach chatting about gear and trips we planned to one day make. It was a cold but still night- a perfect end to the trip. We all slept a lot better and made it back to the car after following an obviously little used footpath that followed the line of the shore a lot more closely than the main path.
The next day in the shower I was scratching my leg. There was an annoying little scab on my shin. A scab with legs. My first tick. I’d seem one in Sweden crawling up my sock, but that was huge. This one was pretty small and I was not as repulsed as I thought I would be. I was really glad I had a tick-hook though- I’m not sure that it would have been so easy to remove with tweezers. It came out easy enough. I wish I’d taken a picture!


Anonymous said...

I promise you the further they get up your leg the scarier they are! I sat down on the john in a small restaurant in Japan after a big hike only to find one of the little guys much too close for comfort.

I really scared the cook when I came out asking if I could light matches in the bathroom. She thought I wanted to smoke in the bathroom, must have thought me absolutely nuts! I very quickly learned the Japanese word for tick and will never forgot.

I'm really freaked out by the Japanese leech though,on you-tube "it looks worse than it actually is":

minimalgear said...

That's pretty horrific- like a super evil slug, and I hate slugs.