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.
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!