Monday 16 March 2015

Sogginess in the Lakes

This was the first time it was dry enough to get the camera out - me in the Z Packs Challenger Death Jacket on the side of Catbells

Planning a trip for March is always a risky business.  The weather can be great. It can also be terrible.  Having arranged to meet up with Robin Evans  for a three day outing, and having booked Hyperdog into the kennels so I didn’t have to sleep snuggled up to what is, even in the best of conditions, a wet, muddy and wriggling wriggly licky thing, I was somewhat committed to making the trip last week.  Over the few days leading up to the off the weather forecast moved from ‘calm and fair’ to ‘very wet and very windy’.  As I have not the slightest masochistic streak in me, the attractions of the trip diminished more and more as it came closer, and as the forecast changed from bad to torrid.

Robin had planned a three day route in the Lakes, starting at either Braithwaite or Little Town and involving Dale Head, Grey Knotts, Haystacks, the High Stile Ridge, Starling Dodd, Buttermere, Crag Hill and various bumps in between.  In the couple of days before we set off, the route, and our planned camps, got lower and lower, and when we finally met on the Wednesday morning in Braithwaite we had committed to nothing more for the first day than a walk south along the Cumbria Way into Langstrath.  So that was easy enough and, what is more, it was dry as we left the camp site, with no rain forecast for another two or three hours.
Fifteen minutes later the first drops of water started falling from the sky; ten minutes after that we had full waterproof gear on; and within another fifteen we were starting to think we might need the phone number of the RNLI to call for assistance.  As the rain increased in intensity so did the wind.  It was horrid.

Along the path next to Derwent Water we bumped in to an old colleague of mine, Mick Guy, from the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team with his Search and Rescue Border Collie. He cackled like a very mad madman when we explained we were camping out.  We got to Grange.  We went in the café and ordered some lunch and generally dripped onto the table and the tiles.  We ate lunch.  Slowly.  We decided (well I did, but I think Robin was content with the decision) that a wild camp, even just in Langstrath, would be no fun and that we might be better back at the camp site in Braithwaite, which is only 200 metres from a pub.  Now you might think that is rather whimpy of me.  I think the opposite.  I was deciding to camp out in Braithwaite when I would be within twenty five minutes of my real bed and a log fire and a sofa and a fridge with beer and proper meat in it, and a wine rack with wine and a shelfy thing with whisky on it.  So that choice wasn’t whimpy.  It was steely.  Like the colour of my tent pegs.  The ones which complement my eyes so nicely.

Does my pack look big in this? Robin on the way back to Braithwaite

Derwent Water

Drying out in the Newlands Valley

So we headed back towards Braithwaite.  Firstly on the lane, then on the wall next to the lane, as by now the road was badly flooded in places, and then on the path that runs along the side of Catbells.  As we got towards Braithwaite it cleared up a little (of course it did, that’s what the weather does when it is being particularly malevolent) and the Newlands Fells looked quite splendiozy.

At the camp site Daphne Duplex was up in a thrice or two and Robin put up his new Tramplite tent and we did a bit of gasping and sighing and heavy breathing, what with all that glistening cuben fibre on display, and then we forgoed the temptation of a bar snack and had dehydrated things to eat and then seeing as how we had eaten dehydrated food it only seemed right to go to the pub to have some non-dehydrated drink and that’s what we did.
The Z Packs Duplex Death Tent in the murk at Braithwaite. And no Gordon, it didn't blow away.
The rather pleasant old Keswick to Threlkeld Railway path

The weather forecast remained awful for the Thursday, but with the possibility of a dry two or three hours first thing, then more heavy rain and wind and the possibility of snow overnight.  By now we were close to writing the whole thing off as a bad job and heading to our respective homes.  On the Thursday Robin wanted to have a lazier day at the tent and then possibly try for a wild camp if it remained reasonable, but I wanted to walk so I headed off alone and did a low level walk from Threlkeld, combining the old railway line path to Keswick with a diversion up Latrigg. And today the weather must have been feeling pretty guilty for its treatment of us the previous day, as apart from the little incident when it tried to blow me off the top of Latrigg it remained dry until I was taking my boots off back at the car, and then it did what it does best in the Lakes ie it tipped it down.
Keswick in the clag from Latrigg - where the wind was so strong it was almost unstandupable
And despite the apparent lack of endeavour in these two days I did walk a total of 32 km with 870 metres of uppy bits, and I did carry full backpacking gear on both days to give myself at least a semi-decent workout.

I've walked this path dozens of times but never noticed this before.  It had an old water pipe thing up the back and must once have had a tap or something on the front at the top. I think.