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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This year’s adventure and a change of plan

rannoch moorI had planned to head to France for this year’s bike tour and tackle the Grande Traversée du Massif Central, a 700km mountain bike route from Clermont Ferrard to Montpellier.

I bought the guidebook and had (nearly) sorted my slightly awkward logistics flying outbound and grabbing the Bike Europe Express coach service home. Naturally, I wanted to take the Surly ECR on this trip although this bike’s massive proportions would cause problems on both modes of travel. If you’re interested, Bike Europe Express will take fat bikes – be they half or full fat – classing them as ‘unconventional solos’. However, I think it’s a good idea to call them first if you fancy taking your monster truck. Continue reading

Photo post: Lake District Backpack, Ambleside to Keswick

Here are some shots of my two night backpack over the Bank Holiday weekend. ‘Twas freakishly warm yet damp and muggy… not the best conditions for walking in some ways but grand all the same. Click on the thumbnails to view larger images.

Route: Ambleside – Loughrigg Tarn – Lingmoor Fell – Pike o Blisco – Camp – Crinkle Crags – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Great Gable – Green Gable – Brandreth – Grey Knotts – Honister – Dale Head – Dale Head Tarn (Camp) – Tongue Gill – Allerdale Ramble.

A perfect Peak District wild camp – Going up west

The aim of a wild camp is, surely, to find somewhere remote, allowing the participant to connect with their surroundings. On our relatively crowded islands, and certainly south of the border, this requires backpackers to aim high and increasingly off the beaten track.

A wild camp spot on the banks of the West End River, Derwent ValleyHowever, factors governing the remoteness of a particular spot are not confined to location. This Easter, the unseasonable Arctic air stream which has dumped considerable snow on our usually wet land has had the advantage rendering the accessible inaccessible… inaccessible for those unprepared to put in a bit of effort.

On the week leading into Easter, I’d been keeping in touch with conditions in the Derwent Valley, that busiest of Dark Peak attractions. The snowfall had been so extensive, even the Fairholmes visitor centre was closed. With the cold persisting, my hope was that conditions would be tricky further up the valley and that my planned camp spot – the forested valley of the West End river -would be at peace. Continue reading

Guest post: Colin Prior – A Night to Remember

In common with many outdoor bloggers, I’m asked to host guest posts for brands. Most of the time, the product is either not relevant, the post not appropriate, or both. I hope you’ll agree that the following piece provided by Islay malt distillery Bowmore is a suitable addition to these pages. Not only does it feature the work of someone I admire, landscape photographer Colin Prior, it also ties in with The Ultimate Adventure, a competition that I hope Northern Walker readers will appreciate.

The prize is a five-day survival and photography trip to Scotland with outdoor survival specialist Ken Hames and Colin. To enter, you need to join Bowmore’s Inner Core (as an Islay whisky nut, I’m a member) where you’ll get updates on new whisky releases and offers.

More information and enter The Ultimate Adventure here.

Best wishes and good luck!

Matt.

A Night to Remember

Having spent some time in and around the Small Isles – the islands of Muck, Eigg, Rum and Canna, I had a growing desire to photograph the Rum Cuillin. I began some planning and identified that April looked like it would be the optimum time for photography on two counts – the position of the sun and for insect activity. I planned two nights in the mountains and it was just a question of waiting for some stable weather and getting onto location.

Wild camp on the summit of Hallival Colin Prior
Wild camp on the summit of Hallival by Colin Prior

Eventually, I got the break that I had been waiting for and caught the MacBraynes ferry to Kinloch on Rum. I set off for the summit of Hallival with a rucksack weighing 53lbs where I planned to camp and to photograph Askival at dawn. Progress uphill was slow but steady and I finally reached the summit where the views towards Eigg and the mainland beyond were spectacular. To the north and rising in ramparts to the serrated gabbro ridge, the Skye Cuillin, looked particularly impressive. I pitched my tent just below the summit cairn and turned my attention to dinner – table for one!

The evening passed quickly and as the sky was cloudless. I waited until the stars began to appear, knowing that the total absence of light pollution would enhance the experience. Wow! What a night sky that was – just an infinite black space encrusted with thousands of tiny light sources that sparkled like diamonds. At one point I counted five satellites in the sky at one time. Eventually, I felt my own lights go out and I crawled into my tent.

Some time later, I felt the need for some fresh air and as I unzipped the tent I could see in the beam of my head-torch that the air was filled with birds. I looked at my watch and it was 1.30am and yet these birds were all actively flying around me. Eventually, it dawned on me that these were Manx Shearwaters and what I was witnessing was the courtship rituals of these birds taking place – behind my tent, sitting outside their burrows were four (I assume) females who were being suitably impressed by their potential partner. The spectacle was breathtaking and I realised I had witnessed a special moment. It’s not uncommon whilst in these wild places to have a close encounters with wildlife, which I see as a ‘gift’ that validates the experience of being in a wild place.

Rum Cuillin from Sgurr nan Gillean by Colin Prior
Rum Cuillin from Sgurr nan Gillean by Colin Prior

More information on Colin Prior