Peak District wildcamping bikepack

An opportunity arose at the weekend to get out. I say ‘opportunity’, but this bikepack in the Dark Peak was complicated by my current state of moving house. Bike bags had been packed, sleeping bags and bivvy bags were neatly stowed in marked cardboard boxes, camp stove fuel and water bladder were stored God-knows-where.

An hour or so crashing around in the workshop later and I cobbled together some kit for the trip. With the weather sultry in Glossopdale, I opted for a tarp – a first-time outing for this simple shelter.

I strapped the bags to my ECR and pushed off at 5pm. While the heat of day hung heavily in the air, the sun had started its descent to the horizon and the evening light gave the Derbyshire hills definition, perspective and texture. The trails were agreeably quiet too.

I picked up the Pennine Bridleway and headed due-Edale over Lantern Pike towards Mount Famine. Feeling a little reckless, I turned the handlebars towards Jacobs Ladder and ended up pushing most of the way – underlining the heft of my bike and my hopeless skills as mountain biker.

Edale was full of weekenders enjoying the evening. The village’s Spoonfest had swelled numbers, but campsites would have always been full in this balmy weather. As a consequence, some enterprising folk had negotiated their own impromptu campgrounds on farmers’ fields further down the valley. The atmosphere was heavy with the fug of barbecues.

I didn’t delay.

I was headed for the banks of Ladybower north of Bamford where I hoped to find a helpful spot to rig the tarp and watch night fall. Pushing along the reservoir track I found a nice ‘beach’ and the branches of low trees provided perfect anchorage for my tarp ridgeline. Despite being my first outing, the tarp was ready in a couple of minutes. I rolled out my bivvy and sorted the bed for the night. A brew soon followed and I watched the light fade and the traffic illuminating the Snake Road – a mere whisper on the far bank.

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Rolling out the bivvy bag above Edale

I’ve written a fair amount about Kinder Scout on this blog, but I’ve never ‘overnighted’ on its boggy plateau or, perhaps, more agreeable shoulders.

I remedied this at the weekend. I had some free time, although not as much as I’d hoped, so jumped on a train with a light pack. The forecast had been dreadful all week, but the prognosis had improved late on, with periods of extensive sunshine and rain later. I took the bivvy bag.

I had no plan… this was going to be a slow pootle over familiar ground. A trip to Edale and Kinder is like seeing old friends, and it’s a friendship that requires little maintenance. Like the enduring circle of soul mates gained during childhood, I reconnect three or four times a year, but I have the ever-present reassurance that it’s there if needed.

My route took me east along the valley and up on the plateau. Occasional showers gave the evening light a keener edge, throwing sometimes-stark contrast across lush fields bloated by a week of downpours.

I found some clean water and boiled it for my dinner. Kicking back above Nether Tor, I watched the evening progress.

Rolling out the bivvy beyond Grindsbrook Knoll, I had a fine view down the vale. My satisfaction was short lived, however, as a stiff northerly wind snaked around the surrounding hills and rattled the bag. I found a small, dry-ish depression and turned away from the view.

The wind remained all night, and rain drummed on the bag at dawn. I was warm and dry though, and felt a strange sense of comfort in my exposed bedroom.

A Derwent bivvy trip

A recent bivvy trip to Derwent reservoir should have been far grander affair. Thanks to Ronald Turnbull’s excellent Three Peaks Ten Tors, my intention was to complete the Derwent Watershed in two days.

This 39-mile loop takes in the gloopy tops of the Derwent Basin in the Peak District. Although feet are protected from much of the peat these days by excellent flagstone paths, there are still plenty of options to ruin your trousers and sink up to you knees in the black stuff.

A view along Ladybower Reservoir from Stanage Edge
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Night on a bare mountain*

(…*with apologies to Mussorgsky.)

Recovery from back pain takes time. I know this all too well, but my current and seemingly minor symptoms have been hanging around for seven months and progress has been snail-like.

Recently, things have been bit better and I thought it high time to give my geriatric muscles a bit of a work out. This was going to be a pretty minor excursion, but I was keen to sleep out again: somewhere high, somewhere quiet and with a view.

The royal wedding helped my cause. While most people’s attention was focussed on the happy couple, I hoped that Lakeland would be relatively quiet. Staveley, sleepy at the best of times, was a ghost town when I left the train late afternoon.

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A brew with a view

Here’s a rather disappointing shot for my bivvy bag trip over the weekend… well, it was taken with a phone and had I been a bit more organised on Saturday morning and not in a rush to catch a train, I might have had more appropriate equipment at my disposal.

This is from high ground above Small Water looking towards Haweswater. It’s a great spot which allows you to hide from the crowds of tents around this little tarn (there were eight on Saturday, whatever happened to wild camping on your own, and not in groups).

Being in the bag allowed me to squeeze onto some nice flat ground between two outcrops and I was completely hidden from view.

My route took me from Windermere train station over the low hills towards Troutbeck where I picked up a bridleway skirting Applethwaite Common and then up to Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag, High Street, High Raise and then back to Kidsty Pike when I realised the time.

I dropped down to Haweswater via Kidsty Howes, skirted the reservoir and then gained ground to by bivvy site.

Sunday dawned gloomily and the raid soon started. It was interesting packing up in a shower but I managed to keep everything relatively dry.

I tramped over the Nan Bield Pass in driving rain before a gloomy early morning jaunt along the valley to Kentmere and then followed a network of bridleways back to Windermere via High Borrans.

Given the time, I only saw a sheep farmer, one mountain biker and a beautiful barn owl intent on staring me out. The weather might have been gloomy and the cloud base low, but this was sublime, solitary walking.

Going Shangri-la-la

Stuck on train last night coming back from London I started thinking about my new shelter purchase again and the best way to use it (well, it is a long-ish journey).

The bleeding obvious then struck me.

Rather than forking out for a nest or new pertex bivvy, I realised that I have a perfectly good, bug- proof solution in the garage.

I’ve always regarded my Big Agnes Three Wire Bivvy as a ‘mountain-top’ shelter with poles. But why not leave the poles at home and carry this and the Shangri-la for a truly versatile modular system?

It presents a couple of options: A ‘tent’ and bivvy in buggy/wet conditions or for campsites, and a bivvy-only option for those starry nights up high.

The bag weights in at 680g so the weight increase over the ground sheet is negligible – again not superlight, but an adaptable shelter which can offer all that space over a one-man tent.

Although it is a fully waterproof Event bag, it has a huge bug-protected ‘vent’ for using within the shelter so condensation should not be a big problem (the Event breathes really well, too). I also really like using the bivvy as it keeps my sleep system ‘together’.

Now I am itching to try it but the gear won’t be accompanying me to Scotland and I don’t think the other half will appreciate me wandering off to spend a night on my own.

Lakes in October, then.