Tuesday, 22 December 2020

A year of minimalist adventures, 2020

What can I say about 2020? Not much that you haven't already thought yourself. But, I have kept reminding myself, and Chrissie, how lucky we are. We're retired. We live in a beautiful area. So no real financial worries and, really, plenty of time and space to get out. But it's still got to me.

Nevertheless, I do seem to have squeezed a few adventures in.

We saw January in with James and Dale with a van trip to Troutbeck Head, involving walking, mountain biking and a visit from our pal Pete Dixon.

In February, Noah had a long-awaited overnight stay with us, while Mum and Dad shot into the local maternity unit and returned with a little brother, Ewan.

In a brief respite from grandparenting, Islay and I dashed up a favourite hill for a camp...

...and at the end of the month Chris and I met up with James for a long day's mountain biking down in the White Peak.

In February, blissfully unaware of what was ahead, Chris and I jetted off to Gran Canaria for a week of backpacking. On the second night we were hit by a wild calima; a ferocious sandstorm from Africa, which destroyed Chris's tent. We spent the rest of the week as somewhat uncomfortable tourists, by the ocean.

In March, more and more news emerged of a virus from China. Noah began getting used to life as a big brother and Chrissie and I set out north in the van. In Barnard Castle, we watched more information emerging on social media and began feeling slightly guilty for travelling away from home. After just a couple of nights we returned home...and the first lockdown began.

April saw us in a world of Skype calls with daughter, son in law and grandchildren. We were thankful for good weather, and life in a village on the edge of the Peak District hills. We never missed a day out with the dogs.

May brought the possibility of garden meets. But Noah was felt to be too young and boisterous to understand. So he stayed home with Daddy while Abi visited with Ewan. In the latter part of the month, I sneaked out for a camp with Islay. This was around the time, accommodation opened and overnight stays were again permitted. All a bit irrelevant to solo backpacking though. 

Chrissie had been suffering with Lyme disease for some time. The GP's antibiotics didn't help. So in June she was referred to Sheffield's Hallamshire Hospital and given a three week course of intravenous antibiotics, which I was trained to administer, at home, each day. It did work, thankfully.

On one night, Islay and I slept in the van, on the drive, just for fun.

In early July, Dale and I took a two night trip around Kinder and later in the month I drove up to the Lakes for another two nighter with David Williams and John Sanderson. For the Lakes trip I used the Hilleberg Ajan 2 which we'd recently bought.

August saw the first and last visit (for now) from Abi, Dave and the children. Then we finally got away in the van for a trip to North Yorkshire, where we met up with James and Corrina. From there we drove over to Barnard Castle (which we've known for much longer than the t*** Cummings) where we enjoyed fish and chips on a stroll into the town.

In mid September Dale and I had another two nighter in the Peak District heat. We bought another Hilleberg; an Ajan 3, to use for the two of us and with dogs (we've yet to try this out) then Chrissie, Dale and I went up to Bellingham, near Kielder for a week of walking and mountain biking. Once Dale left, we crossed into the Scottish borders for a week or so of fun. Chrissie rented a mountain bike and was hooked!

Home again in October, Chrissie bought a mountain bike and we began exploring local trails together. At the end of the month we spent a couple of days at Teversal, when Dale joined us for solo rides, staying well within, then current, rules, whatever they were.



November brought Noah's third birthday, which we couldn't join him for, but we managed a playground visit before the next lockdown hit.

Which, finally brings us to December. So far this month we've had snow, which came and went very quickly. And Chris persuaded me to have a local camp while he tried out his new Hilleberg Enan.

As I write we've just had a Hilleberg Nallo 2 delivered. Yes, I know, it's the third Hilleberg we've bought this year. Blame boredom. I may well be out again next week for a trial camp, so keep your eyes peeled for an update to the year.

As Christmas approaches, if anyone knows the current rules, please let me know. Me? Confused? Look, I had a tooth out yesterday. It may have affected my brain...

Love and hugs to you all and I truly wish you the best for Christmas, and a much, much better year in 2021.

Monday, 27 July 2020

A Lakes backpack, as lockdown eases

I haven't writ anything on here since the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic and, I'll admit, everything feels weird.

I'm off to the Lakes to meet with David and John for three days in the Cumbrian hills. En route I visit my Dad at his home in Wetherby, for the first time since February. That feels strange. After a lazy lunch I head off north to David's place. I haven't seen David in months, I can't remember how long. But we're in regular contact either online or by phone, so we've been keeping up with each other. But now, it's the second time in a day where I'm in someone else's home for the first time in months. Weird.

Anyoldhow. We eat, drink and catch up. Sharing general grumpiness. As usual. And later John arrives, having journeyed up from Yorkshire. We've not met before but it's immediately obvious that John's a likeable guy. David plies us with a most delicious single malt before we retire.

In the morning, following an eventful breakfast (I won't mention the eggs, David), we're off on the short drive to Askham where we set off on our journey.

It's drizzly, but there's so much chatter between the three of us I hardly notice it, as we stride out across Askham Fell. It's easy walking. We pause at The Cockpit, a stone circle of indeterminate age and significance.

John has a reputation for being a very fit, hard walker but he's clearly sympathetic to the older bones of both David and me and patiently tags on behind us as we set the pace.

Our route drops onto a broad, grassy bridleway below Auterstone Crag and we stop for lunch. There are fine views across Ullswater.

Passing above Howtown we have a short stretch along tarmac, where we see this road sign, topped with a crown. Not sure of the reason for this. Anyone know?

Leaving the road, we begin a diagonal climb towards High Dodd. The rain has stopped and we all remove our waterproofs.

It's steep in places, and eventually brings us out on the coll of Low Moss, just below the summit of High Dodd. We're looking around for a potential camp site. David asks if I'm up for the quick ascent to the summit. It's another 40m of ascent and I just can't be bothered. David is amazed, being an inveterate collector of tops. 
It's all good natured banter but he doesn't seem to understand that, nowadays, I'm just happy to be out enjoying the hills and camping. Hence, John and David turn to head up to the top, while I tramp across the grass towards a spot we think looks ok, in search of water. I'm soon filtering from a stream and, strapping my water container into my sac, I climb up to the agreed spot. I wait before putting up my tent to ensure my compatriots are happy with the location. They're soon here.

I have a new tent with me. In the never-ending search for the ideal shelter, Chrissie and I have bought a Hilleberg Anjan 2. I've tired of sleeping in one person tents, finding them claustrophobic. The Anjan 2 is a light, two person shelter, for, Hilleberg say, three season use. It weighs 1.8kg, including pegs and bags. It's a classic, Scandinavian tunnel design. I'm well used to erecting tunnel tents so it's pitched quickly. There's a fair breeze blowing and I'm just slightly nervous of over tightening the rear of the tent against the wind. I'm sure I'll get used to the best way to pitch it, with time.

It's turned into a warm, sunny afternoon and I'm reclining on my Thermarest chair kit, waiting for a brew.

The inside of the tent feels massive. More than enough space for two, it'll be brillant for camping with my lab, Islay.

I dine on noodles fortified with curry soup and pepperoni, followed by semolina and jam. David has converted me to this most delicious of desserts.

Chrissie and I have been using these screw top containers for around 25 years and I'm sad to see my coffee one has a split lid.

Clouds begin to gather as we settle in for the night, but it's still dry.

It's still fine in the morning and the forecast is good. By 9 we're packed and off. 
We're on the summit of Place Fell before too long, it's an easy ascent from our camp.

Then it's a descent to Boredale Hause and a steady climb past Angle Tarn before we stop for lunch above Satura Crag. 

We bypass Rest Dodd, which suits me just fine, as well as The Knott. I seem to remember David forcing me up both these on a previous trip, but I may be mistaken. In any event, it's a fine walk, on a fine day, in good company. 

I forget to take any photos as we take the turn towards High Raise. Along the way, John makes the short detour to take in Kidsty Pike and David realises, to his horror, that we've just missed the summit of Rampsgill Head. Am I bovvered? Guess the answer... Wainwright would've hated me. 

We tick off High Raise, Red Crag, Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill with David dismissing my pleas for an early camp by a perfect pool on the way. There's rain forecast for the next day and he's keen for a short walk back to Askham. I suppress my sobs and carry on and we descend from Loadpot Hill to find a camp spot on the west side of the broad moor. We pitch tents, then John and David head off in search of water as I quietly collapse on my mat.

It's quite windy and, following Hilleberg's recommendation, I pitch the tent with its front into the wind. It feels counter intuative but is suggested so that the rear fly doesn't blow onto the inner. It does work but I still think I prefer tail into the wind. 

It rains heavily overnight and we estimate winds up to 30mph. The tent holds up well, though there's a lot of noise, as there would be with most shelters.

It's heavy drizzle as I awake and a rainbow follows the line of Ullswater below us.


And once packed we're off across the grassy moor to Arthur's Pike (which David sneaked in while I wasn't paying attention) and White Knott, I think, before rejoining our outbound route to Askham. The rain soon cleared and we were waterproofless once back in the village.

Finally, it's a return to David's for lunch and "debrief", before we separate for John and me to wend our ways south.

Thanks to David for his superb hospitality as ever, to both John and David for really good company and, especially to John for his consideration and patience with two old farts.

A splendid little trip!