The Daily Fight.

The Daily Fight.

This is a personal blog about my mental health issues. I won’t be offended if you don’t read it as I know it’s not a regular instalment of wild camping fun and happy stuff!

It may seem a little disjointed as It has been added to at different times..

For those of you that do read it I hope it goes some way to explaining about me and how things aren’t always as they appear.

So, this a wild camping blog? Right? Well, yes, it is, but this time it’s going to be about something that some of you are aware of and some aren’t. It is partly an explanation of how I got into wild camping and needing solitary time on the hill..

I really don’t know where to start. Anxiety is something I have suffered with for a long time. When my mum got sick 9 years ago, I was rocked. I watched my mum – the most important person in my life, die. Now, death is cruel in all its forms, but this death was more distressing, more cruel and earth shattering than any other death I had been exposed to because it was taking my best friend away. I watched it take her ability to feed herself, to draw-her biggest passion, to communicate, I knew I would never hear her tell me she loved me again. I watched he as her hair fell out from the radiotherapy, her skin lost its colour and then at last she was in a hospice and I knew it wouldn’t be long before she and us were released from this 8 months of torture. The day she passed was the saddest day of my life. My dad had lost his soul mate and we, our mum. But me, I had lost my best friend. Now, my point is, this shit changes you. You are never the same….ever.

The anxiety started during her illness, I was in a shopping centre when I was suddenly overwhelmed by a need to leave. I couldn’t swallow and thought I was going to faint or be sick. I ran to an alley and stood there, terrified to move or go back into the centre. I tried to put it down to a lot of things. I prayed it was a blip but the attacks became more frequent. I couldn’t go into meetings at work, public transport was a definite no, getting in a car as a passenger, having people in my car when I was driving, no, cinemas, shopping centres, aeroplanes, pubs, drinking hot drinks in public-stupid, yes?? No…. I lost the ability to swallow drinks if other people were with me…  …I was becoming trapped. I found reasons not to do things if it involved anything that may bring on an attack…I eventually went to the doctors, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety. I was put on Beta Blockers. For four years, I took them until eventually things started to level a little. I still avoided all the situations that I knew could bring on an attack.

I found sanctuary in the mountains. I guess this is where the bivvying became so important to my well-being. Despite my back pain (which I was dealing with also) I would force myself out. I went into the mountains when I knew nobody else would be around. In a way, I thought I was ‘healing’ ok. I still think this is the case…But now and then something happens that is out of our control.

The following happened recently…

I had wanted to see Placebo for years but a gig this big took a lot of courage and ‘manning up’. With help of Paul my friend, I did it. I felt anxious but I did it. This was a huge deal for me. A huge step forward..Then, the following day I walk into Asda and boom. A massive attack. I literally ran out of the supermarket….I sat in my car crying. I was crestfallen. I couldn’t put my finger on a trigger..

The next day I had a staff meeting at work and our Xmas party in the evening. In the morning, I was edgy, lacking in focus. I walked over the park and realised I had forgotten my shop keys… I went into the coffee shop and then wandered up to work. David let me in and I explained that the day prior I had suffered an anxiety attack and that I would like him and Steve to be my voice at the meeting. The whole team were soon in the store. As Ali walked in I looked at her and she caught my eye, she came straight behind the counter and I grabbed her arm, I knew what was happening, what took place next was the most terrifying experience ever. I was hysterical, shaking, hyperventilating, confusion, nausea, fear…I looked as the guys watched in horror and pity as I broke down. Steve and Ali holding me up and trying to get me to breathe. It was the worst attack I’d ever had. I searched my confused head for triggers and found nothing. I felt beaten down. I was now in fear. The day passed in a blur. I tried to focus on work, sitting in the office trying to rewire my brain. Dave came and sat with me on his lunch, we watched a cycling video, it was a good distraction. Then Steve came up. He complained about his lunch tasting naff. I decided to try to go to the shop floor when Steve was finished. I walked apprehensively downstairs and to the counter. Dave was there too. The guys suggested I should maybe try to come to the party….This was like poking a fire that just needed a little oxygen..I was almost running out of the shop..Steve was hot on my heels and I was outside again in a similar position as the morning. I had no idea what was happening. All I knew was I was terrified.

I decided the best place for me was home. I cried all the way back in the car. The sense of relief as I locked the door behind me was overwhelming. In my head, I knew this was not healthy as you can’t stay locked up forever and I knew I could only postpone ‘real life’ for a short time before I would have to sort myself out. But how? How do you sort out something that you are totally bemused about? I searched my head for answers. Soon it was full and spinning. I tried to focus. I knew that one thing that was important was work. I was going into my buying season for Winter 17. I was in Manchester on the Friday to see Patagonia. Surely, I would be ok. I sat with a glass of wine and stared at the flames in the fire. I liked watching the fire; it offered more entertainment for me than TV.

Over the next 24 hours the phone rang and pinged, I ignored calls and communicated by message. I couldn’t face talking as I knew I would cry. People who are very dear to me were trying to reach out but I pretended they weren’t there by putting my phone onto silent and ,making the cat chase the laser pen as a distraction. I slept uneasily with the help of amitriptyline.

The next day I would drive to Manchester and see Patagonia for my appointment…right? Wrong… I went to see Marc first (my boyfriend). He reassured me I would be ok. I knew already I wasn’t going. It was not going to happen, the thought of going filled me with dread. Marc had gone to work….I sat crying in the car again trying desperately to make myself go…no. I text Steve apologetically. I was embarrassed and upset. I went to Marc’s and blitzed his house, I moved furniture and cleaned. At least I would achieve something and kill the hours that would pass until he came home at 9.45pm. I then decided to try the shops. This was a massive challenge. My friend Paul had suggested putting my headphones in and trying to focus on my music. I walked into Poundstretcher (don’t laugh!) I wanted something for Marc’s bathroom. My heart pounded as I walked around. As I got further from the door I clutched my neatly folded plastic bag -this comes everywhere with me in case I’m sick….stupid eh? No…. it’s like a lifeline. I grabbed the bits I needed and made for the checkout, it was empty.. The girl was really pleasant behind the counter. She asked if I had a new bathroom. No, I replied, a new boyfriend! She laughed as we exchanged glances, she had noticed my hands shaking…I was embarrassed now and the panic was rising in my chest. Just made it I thought.. I dashed to the car and dumped the bags. Now, in my head I just achieved something amazing….Mental? Sometimes when I think about what I’m writing it is completely off the wall. The fact that going into a shop is seen as a major achievement is utterly bonkers but sadly very real. So, as I’d achieved such greatness I was eyeing Asda up…I picked up my bag and headed to the entrance. I thought about pizza, but there was no time to think, it had started. I grabbed a flat bread and went straight to the self-checkout. That was a bit of a failure. I was in a mess by the time I got to the car… The one thing that is certain about anxiety is that it is irrational…totally irrational. I was glad to be back in the safety of the car.

It would appear now that everything in my head was a challenge. My thought processes were reverting back to a few years ago. I was already making up stupid and irrational scenarios in my head. Everything was focussing on anxiety and how I would cope. Work, friends, my dad etc

The scenarios have continued to rear up. For instance, I decide to go into the Lakes for a bivvy.. I spend the whole journey being terrified by the thought of going into my favourite coffee shop in Coniston. Would I be able to ‘swallow’ my coffee or would I stare at it and then take the tiniest of sips and fight to get it to go down. It’s like my throat closes and that’s it, I’ll gag and maybe I’ll be sick in front of everyone…the spiral starts. This is before I am even there…

Today I am in bed. A trigger last week (which I can’t talk about yet) has left me in another state of being mentally dysfunctional.

I hate myself for not being able to just get up and sort myself out. I hate myself for being weak. I hate the pain I have to deal with. The way tramadol makes me feel sick. I hate the way anxiety and pain exhaust me to the point of tears, to the point where I second guess everything, to the point that my head is never quiet, guilt, suffering, pity, hate, sorrow, loathing. Tinnitus at 2am when all the world is quiet but my head is so noisy. Over processing every scenario. Wanting to make plans but knowing I’ll cancel them anyway.

Some days I avoid going for coffee with people I’ve known for years in the outdoor industry because I worry that I won’t be able to have my drink in case I start to feel anxious and can’t swallow…

I expect a big question for most people reading this is ‘Why not get help’?

I’ve had counselling – for quite a while after mum passed. I was also on Beta Blockers for 4 years ( as I previously mentioned) to control the attacks. I was weaned off them and don’t welcome going back to them.

I also now have the added problem of the acceleration of my back pain. The doctor joked once when he was prescribing Amitriptyline that whilst this drug was for a muscle relaxing purposes it was also used for depression – after all he said, most people who are in pain everyday will also suffer from depression. I guess he had a point. I hadn’t really thought about it before, I suppose I was used to the grind of the daily pain.

The other medication I’m on – Tramadol has side effects that if you read you would probably never take them… Sadly I don’t have that choice.

The vicious circle..

Tramadol – side effects include anxiety and nausea. But there are days that if I don’t take them I cannot function and would struggle to go to work full time. So, I can be pain free but have increased anxiety and symptoms that relate to anxiety.

Amitriptyline – make you feel hungover but stop me having nerve spasms through the night which would otherwise wake me up. These allow me to sleep most nights but make me feel hungover – also similar symptoms to bring on an anxiety attack.

So, it’s a bit of a ‘Catch 22’… Obviously, I’ve tried many different types of medication to find a better solution… But, it seems there would never be an easy option.

The solution. All I can do is carry on trying to function as normally as possible. I know there will always be times when I cannot do the things I want to do. That may be going for dinner or going to the shops or having a coffee, getting a lift to somewhere, using public transport. The things that most people take for granted are the things that can consume my thoughts for hours..I have tried Mindfulness and it does work to a degree but I think that there are some things we are allowed to accept as our own normality..

I cannot really remember being carefree and pain free. (this isn’t a sympathy hunt..). The days of rationality are long in the past for me. This is now my life.

When I went to counselling more recently I was asked about my childhood etc. I felt like the counsellor was looking for other reasons behind my anxiety.. As he dug around in my past I had to tell him as I could tell where he was heading! I told him I wasn’t interfered with as child, I wasn’t abused. I had a strict upbringing but that was a good thing as I’ve grown to be a disciplined and honest person. I wasn’t bullied, I left home young but it taught me to be independant and streetwise. All I knew was I missed my mum and I was in constant pain with my back..

I felt like I wasn’t really being listened to. Like there should be something else that was causing my anxiety. I thought long and hard about this…(too much as usual). I decided counselling had one benefit for me. It had made me realise that some of us can’t be fixed. Not by talking, medication, therapy or anything else for that matter.

I felt it was time to be honest with myself. As I sit here in bed feeling sick from the tramadol and struggling to function normally (it’s a nice day outside and that’s where I should be)…I have come to the conclusion that this is how I am now. These conditions that I suffer are part of me that I can’t change. I am allowed to be like this. I don’t have to get help. All I can do is help myself. I will try to stay fit and active as my back allows. I’ll take my painkillers when I have to. I will have anxiety attacks. I will struggle with all those things that most people take for granted because its who I am now. I am a product of everything that has happened in my past. This is my life. I’ll never be fully free of pain and it will deteriorate and I will take all this in my stride. My friends and colleagues will have to accept that from time to time I may not be able to make it to work because of how I am on that day. I know I can’t go to the climbing wall, yoga classes, the gym…All these places are now ‘no go’ areas as they are all places where I know I am increasing my chances of having an attack..

I also know that sometimes it stems from my back pain. I become ground down and don’t always realise how much it’s getting to me. The desperation to keep pushing myself so I don’t fail at work or miss a night on the hill or be there for someone else takes its toll and before I know it it’s all got too much and I’m on my knees. (or that’s how it feels). But this is ok. It is what it is. We are allowed to be tired. We are allowed to throw the towel in from time to time when it gets too much.

This is just a small part of my story. But I do feel that even putting this small snippet out there it may help others in some small way that are also suffering in similar ways to me.

(Or you may just decide I am bonkers and should be avoided at all times!)

Mental health issues and problems come in many different forms. It can be destructive and frightening to suffer from any form or condition whether it be Anxiety, Depression, Bi-Polar, PTSD amongst others. The battles are often (as I know from friends who suffer) debilitating and exhausting. I never thought I would be someone  who would be here as one of those people. I wrote this because at times I feel like everything is pointless. Today I made a step toward accepting my ‘nutty’ problems and moving forward carrying them as best I can as oppose to trying constant ways to rid myself of them and failing miserably.

Keep trucking people.

Post Work Perfection!

Post Work Perfection!

I was clock watching all day at work as the weather was perfect. It was a Saturday and had quietened off considerably as it was the last Saturday of the holidays. I managed to leave just after 4pm as I needed to go home and pack then drive back into the Lakes!

I was home in no time and on my way back..I was sure I would’ve forgotten something as I was rushing. I had no idea where I was going to go. I looked at the fells, they all looked inviting… I decided to turn right at Ings and head over to either Yoke area or Red Screes. I decided on Red Screes as I hadn’t been up there since I was a young girl. I parked at Kirkstone Pass and headed off. It was very nippy in the wind but there was warmth in the sun. The path is steep and rocky in places but very enjoyable. I passed the last two walkers who were descending. Off to the pub no doubt!

It was a beautiful evening and I was glad I had made the effort to drive home. Merlot was happy and full at home and my friend Joanne would feed her in the morning.

I was soon nearing the summit after enjoying the fabulous rock scenery on the way up.

The trig popped into view and at last I could look for a bed and relax. I had forgotten what a pretty summit it was with its tarns and incredible views down Ullswater.

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Top spot!

I found a suitable spot just North West of the summit and organised my stuff.  A couple of walkers appeared from Scandale but only hung around briefly as it was very cold… I checked the forecast and as usual it had changed.. It was going to be overcast for a few hours until midnight it would seem. Looking at the sky it told a different story.. It was pretty clear with some clouds in the west. I hoped it wouldn’t spoil sunset..

I had a quick look on the camping forums only to find my mates Peter  and Lee were on Yoke! The irony.. I keep missing Peter by one summit! I messaged him to say I’d flash him later. Bless him he was very jet lagged after his hols so said I may see Lee’s headtorch as he would be asleep soon..

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🙂

I fired up the Jetboil and prepared my dinner. Bla Band Creamy Pasta with broccoli and cheese-I am working through the new recipes. I walked to the summit to eat and have a brew. Dinner was nice for a veggie offering and whilst I ate I watched as a Kestrel as it swooped and glided below me looking for a meal… Beautiful.

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Dinner time.

The sun was starting to drop and I decided to move house! I wanted to be closer to the summit. The great thing about a bivvy as it’s a really easy task! I gathered everything in my ground sheet protector, grabbed the four corners and carried it to the new spot! Easy!!

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Perfect view.
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Feeling content.

I got organised and poured my `wine. It was a magical evening. Very little wind, sunny and pleasant. I went off to explore my surroundings. I walked around the tarn. Something breached the surface but I couldn’t tell if it was frog, toad, newt or fish! Bubbles rose in few places so something was living in there!

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Summit Tarn.

The views were lovely. I looked to Stoneycove Pike. I am keen to go there next. (Jane and Sue were up there the following day with their lovely Labrador Amber; it looks like a great spot for a camp!).

Shadows were starting to draw on the hills and the air temperature was dropping. The sunset was a little flat at the moment but it may come good as it got lower…

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Lowering sun.

I set my tripod up and cupped my wine. The colours in the sky started to change out west. A buzzard soared on the thermals and let out a beautiful cry… Perfect. And it wasn’t windy!!!! Yes!. I looked smugly toward my bed.. My pillow would never blow away again as I had made it a lanyard out of bungee cord!

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The solution!

As the light diminished the colours in the sunset started to intensify. It was looking pretty stunning…and it got better and better. I was in awe as I watched the contrast of the orange and red against dark foreboding clouds. It was incredible. I smiled to myself. I was lucky to live here. Every night is worth the effort but every now and then you get a sunset that brings tears to your eyes.. this was one of those nights.

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Intense skies.
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Fire in the sky.
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Sheer beauty.
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Wine and photography.

I watched as the sun inched its was down until it disappeared leaving behind its last warmth and colour before the blue of night time nudged its way through. I looked to Coniston and was glad I made my choice to be here! It was shrouded in heavy cloud for now..

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Thw Coniston Massif.

The first stars started to pierce the night sky and it was time to get the headtorch out. I finished my wine and fired up the Jetboil one more time. My colleague and friend Jane had given me a Bounty for my supper so I would have that with a hot chocolate before bed. It was nippy now and the light wind was harsh against bare skin. My Sea to Summit cup let enough heat through to warm my fingers as I watched the sky darken. I looked toward Yoke to see Lee’s headtorch moving around the summit.

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Supper.
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Ready for sleep.

Time for bed. I rinsed my cup and cleaned the fangs. Soon I was engulfed by the Western Mountaineering Versalite! And My New Montane Down mountain cap! My friend Aimee got it for me! It was super warm. Love it!

I laid back and gazed skyward. The stars were up in force. I tracked down Vega (mine and Marc’s star) amongst other familiar ones. The light winds caressed my cheeks. I sighed and fell into a deep sleep.. I woke with a start as a Swaledale sheep clearly had something to say at 10.30pm! I sat up and saw her having a right good bleat! Luckily, she had don me a favour as I had fallen asleep with my face exposed…again…idiot! I snuggled in again and didn’t wake till after sunrise. Whilst Peter and Lee were happily photographing I was still snoring! The morning was calm and clear. Some high clouds made for good photo’s. I brewed up and had my Bla Band Apple and Cinnamon porridge for breakfast. Time to get up I guess. Work beckoned. I felt refreshed and rested. I decided to have one more coffee as I had enough time as It was a 10am start today and I would be early anyway.

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Breakfast!

I sucked in the view. A Herdwick wandered over to the tarn and started to drink. You don’t see them drink very often so this was a treat! Soon I was rolling up my kit ready for the decent. I took my ‘LNT  picture’ and headed off.

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LNT
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Thirsty Herdy!

The descent was pleasant. I took my time as the path is steep in places but was still down in 30 minutes. Stunning bivvy. Perfect weather. I will definitely be back!

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The road to work!
The Winds Continue to Conspire…

The Winds Continue to Conspire…

I left work at 4.30…A little bit if a flyer as things had quietened off in the afternoon and my staff are awesome!

I headed for the usual haunt of the Coniston fells as I was back in work at 9.15 on the Sunday morning. I could see it was going to be a nice night and I wanted to get high…To be honest its pretty hard to motivate yourself when you’ve been on your feet all day and now you have to flog up a mountain with a heavy pack on.. Winter was hanging on so extra kit is always needed when you only use a bivvy bag as there is no protection from the wind.

I had invited Gillie tonight but she had her dogs so had decided to camp up on The Scar above Kendal. (Tigs is getting old and prefers a bit of comfort) 🙂 I told her I would look for her headtorch light later on.

I decided to  head to Walna Scar carpark and see where I ended up. I was surprised to see that some irresponsible git had left the gate wide open! I drove through and closed it behind me.

I got out of the car and a keen wind from the North West hit me! Brrrrr, extra layers would be needed. I messed about finishing the packing and decanted some wine into my platypus for my evening tipple! 🙂

Soon I was on my way, my legs complained instantly…I would soon warm up I thought. I was really pulling on my poles now as I was mindful of the time and the sunset. I didn’t want to miss it. I felt sluggish and slow… As I approached Low Water I exchanged pleasantries with the last few walkers coming down off the The Old Man. I decided I would go up via Raven Tor; Its a nice little trod and fairly direct to the summit of Brim Fell. (I usually avoid the Old Man summit on a Saturday night as its popular and there is a chance you may get company!) I felt really weak as I started up the steep grass to the col. There had been a bug/virus at work and I was hoping that I wasn’t getting it..I felt stupidly slow…I can usually really beast myself but tonight I had nothing in my legs. I wondered if I should head home, I could curl up on the sofa with Merly in front of the fire and have a restful eveining….Nope, I must keep going..I was driven by the thought of the sunset..knowing soon I would be rested and watching the sun sink with a cup of wine and a good meal! I rested at intervals as I couldn’t keep my rhythm at all. Soon I was heading for the summit. I was pleased I has persevered, it was, as always, stunningly beautiful. The Scafells and The Langdales, Wetherlam etc now in view.. Perfect.

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Looking to Wetherlam

Yet again, the wind was not in my favour..I took my mobile out and updated the forecast. 30mph gusts. As usual I would have to spend all night hanging onto my kit!

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Getting ready for dinner 🙂

I found a great spot just under some rocks that would give me some protection from the wind. I unpacked, taking care to keep everything sheltered and weighted!. I made a wind break with some rocks to help the Jetboil along. I put my water on straight away for dinner as I wanted to be done and dusted with food and ready to sit and watch the sunset with a full tummy and some warmth in me! It was pretty cold.. I was soon wolfing down my Bla Band Pasta Bolognase..I felt a little less washed out. I finished up my dinner and coffee and was soon sitting back and relaxing. I was well layered up! I decided to head for a walk. I thought back to previous nights on this summit. Gillie and Tigger, Vicki, Bryn have shared this summit with me…Also the only time I have seen the Aurora was from here. I stood looking to the coast and smiling as I thought of Tigger-(Gillies German Short Haired Pointer) with a Buff on his head! He looked great! We had danced to Ben Howard and drunk G and T! Good times..I would hopefully see her head torch light when it got dark.

Soon the sun was sinking. It was quite a ‘flat’ sunset. Beautiful nonetheless.. The sky was clear and the stars would be good tonight.I headed back to my bed, the wind continued to remind me of the winter..It was well below freezing on the skin!

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Bed!
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Sun setting
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Harter Fell and Sellafield.

I finished up my wine and stuck another brew on. Hot chocolate was most welcome. As darkness fell around me I breathed in the cold night air. It was just the best feeling.. The stars appeared one by one and the temperature seemed to fall with everyone that appeared. I cupped my hot choccy and looked toward Kendal. My phone screen lit up and Gillie messaged me to say she could see me! I picked up her moving headtorch on the Scar also.. Lovely! I felt comforted by it somehow. I watched her for a short while moving around as she did me before it was time to say goodnight.

I started to sort my bits out ready for bed. I carefully sorted through my kit to find my toothbrush and face wipes. Soon I was ready for bed, it was after 9! Rock N Roll! I took of my boots and wriggled in my bag. I put boots away and made sure all my stuff was in where I needed it. I slid down and put my hand up to pull my pillow into place….My lovely pillow, one of lifes little luxuries when you camp or bivvy. I patted around the top of the bivvy, no pillow..I sat up, and felt around again, maybe it had deflated.. I got out again and started to look inside the bag, no pillow.. Damn it.. I know what had happened, it had blown away..I was bloody well cheesed off! I looked acroos the plateau, knowing it was futile; it was long gone. Back to the old school method of the down jacket in the Buff!

I snuggled into my lovely Western Mountaineering Verasalite bag.. Did I mention previously how much I love this bag! It really is a piece of work.. Just phenomenal!

Soon I was satellite searching and star gazing! My eyes scanned the sky for movement, I picked up 3 and saw 2 shooting stars before drifting off.. I woke an hour later with a very cold face!. I snuggled in and was woken at 6 by my alarm.. The wind still searched for me.. I shivered in the morning cold but the view fed and heated my soul.. It was just beautiful. Clear, cold and stunning..

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I put the Jetboil on and sat in wonder. The clouds curled over the Eastern fells. Hugging and rolling over their contours. It really was beautiful.

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My hands froze in the wind but I had to take lots of pictures.. I would want to share this moment with people.. Soon I was with Fruit Porridge and Coffee. It soon warmed me up! I was sad to have to hurry but work beckoned. I reluctantly got up and started to pack. My legs were cold! I didn’t have my primaloft trousers with me! Soon I was ready for the off..The need to find the pillow drove me much harder than work did!!!. I took my LNT pic and headed off in the same direction I walked up the night before..The colours on the mountain were so warm…

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Leave no trace

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The wind would’ve taken my pillow in that direction. My eyes scanned the fell. I knew if it had got wedged turquoise side up I had a chance of seeing it…the other side  was grey…..needle in a haystack! I approached Low Water in the hope of seeing it floating on the water! No sign.. Oh well. It was gone. So if you’re up in the area then keep your eyes open!

I approached the car and smiled. I was less a pillow but I didn’t feel like I had a bug! The day was gorgeous but I had enjoyed the best part of it. My back hurt but someone is always worse off…….

Note – I have already attached my new pillow with a piece of bungee cord to the zip on my sleeping bag!!!! Its not going to happen a second time 🙂

Strong Winds and Deep Snow!

Strong Winds and Deep Snow!

The day dawned fair and bright. Marc was with me and had agreed to walk into the hills with me as I wanted to bivvy. For the first time ever he was to finish packing his sack before me! I had wanted to go to Pillar or Scafell as I was off the next day but despite a brilliant forecast the wind was to be my enemy again! I was cheesed off with it as it seems that every good forecast is plagued by strong northerly’s..

Still, beggars can’t be choosers and sometimes you just have to go and hope to find some decent shelter!

We packed the car and set off to Coniston and to our favourite café! The mighty Meadowdore 😊

We were soon there and ordering our full English. I tucked myself into the corner away from the busy area (my anxiety doesn’t allow me to be surrounded!).

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Breakfast selfie!
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Oh yes!

It arrived soon enough in all its glory! It’s a great way to start a good walk in the hills: especially as I knew we were going to be in thigh deep snow at times! Marc and his pal James had been out the day before and attempted to get to Crinkle Crags-there mission was aborted as the snow became too deep. I was in for an arduous day!

We drove to the Coppermines Valley where we would leave our cars and start the walk to Levers Water where I would decide in which direction I wanted to go…or have my direction dictated to by the depth of the snow!

My pack was as heavy as usual as I was anticipating it to be super chilly! (extra down packed!)

Going was easy at first as we headed up the track. I showed Marc Gaunts Level (a mine entrance) and found a lovely piece of wood at the entrance which would make a perfect shelf in my bathroom! I left it to one side to collect at a later date. There was also a large rock I wanted with a triangular drill hole in it! That would take a little more effort to get to the car!

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Gaunts Level

We were soon at Levers water and I assessed the snow situation. I decided to head to Swirl Hause first and then make another decision based on snow and wind!

As we approached the far side of the reservoir we noticed that despite it being later in the day there had been nobody heading this way! Great, we would have to break trail… The snow about knee deep and very soft and wet.. It would prove to be tough going and very testing on my back.. We cracked on and the sky started to clear. It had been a little cloudy up to this point. Soon conditions felt alpine.. I was struggling a bit but enjoying the day. We stopped to take pics and had an impromptu snowball fight! Obviously, I won… Though I had taken the upper ground.

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Feeling positive.

We met a couple coming down with a dog. As we were about to say hello the man went absolutely flat into the bog! Poor fella was totally soaked to his pants.. He was dripping! After we asked if he was ok the banter began and Marc gave him eight out of ten  for his fall style and we enquired as to whether he’d been drinking! Luckily he had a great sense of humour and we all laughed at his misfortune! The pooch was having great time!

We then met another two guys with a lovely dog that I played ball with for a while. He was fab! They told us that the snow was thigh deep in places on Prison Band.. It was not particularly good news! Still, there was always Black Sails..

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We carried on and had another snow fight! As you do. Spirits were high despite the obvious toil!

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Snowball!

I suddenly remembered at that point that I hadn’t left the key out for the cat feeder. Bloody hell.. Marc said he would stay at my cottage overnight and drive back for work in the morning so she would get her dinner! What a star. I text my friend and told her the craic and my mind was then at rest.

We had a chocolate stop at the hause. Nobody had been up Black Sails so we decided on The Prison. I would decide where to sleep at Swirl How. The going was really tough. I struggled with the weight and the snow depth. The guys weren’t joking. It was so deep in places. I was knackered. Marc asked me if I wanted him to take my pack for a while. I declined, it was good for me! Or that’s what I tell myself. We chatted to another couple who headed to Wetherlam. We watched as they struggled through the deep snow up to Black Sails. We looked around us. It was utterly stunning though the wind was starting to make an appearance. Let’s hope I would find some decent shelter when we got onto the summit.

As we approached Swirl How the wind made itself very clear! It was going to be a long night. I set about finding somewhere sheltered. Behind the cairn was so calm, Marc got some pics and I trooped off.

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Off to find a spot!
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Working hard!

I eventually decided on stamping a ledge into the base of a snow drift as the ground that wasn’t covered in snow was very wet. Marc set about getting some warm stuff on as it was bloody freezing in the wind. He was soon ready for the off and I needed to sort my admin! We had a kiss and hug and I waved him off. I watched him depart, he was struggling to keep mobile in the strength of the winds.

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Marc heading off.

I turned my attention to setting up home. I sorted my ledge and got my bag out-I pack it all together so its easier when I get to my destination. I weighed everything down with rocks as the winds were still finding me. It was frustrating. I was soon sorted. A few things that happened next almost caused me to bail! So, my Sea to Summit pillow wouldn’t stay inflated. There seemed to be a fault with the valve. I managed to get some air into it and would make do.. I got the Jetboil let and started melting snow. I had to keep hold of everything as the winds just wouldn’t leave me be. I didn’t wait for the first lot to boil properly as I was hungry for Wilderness Stew. I poured the water in, stirred it and left it. I also made a coffee and then put more snow in the cup and set it off again. Once it had melted I turned it off and put the wind shield away. I set about eating my dinner, I kept an eye on the Jetboil but assumed it would be heavy enough not to blow over…wrong. As I tucked into my ‘warmish’ dinner (that’ll teach me to use boiling water), a gust came through and knocked the Jetboill over.. I watched the water disappear everywhere! So, all that gas wasted for nothing. I finished my food and set about melting another load of snow. It was soon done and I made another drink and put my wine Platypus in it to get it up to temperature.. I watched it closely, thinking it would stay upright with that weight in it! Wrong. Over it went, spilling all my hard earned water again.. Bugger this I thought. I went off with my sit matts, wine, tripod and cup to find somewhere to sit. (I put some extra ballast on the bivvy first!)

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First spot.

I walked over to a large rock I had visited earlier when looking for shelter. I put my sit mats down and quickly sat on them. I relaxed at last. It had been a frustrating start to the evening. The wind howled past my spot and I started to feel that maybe I should try to move the bivvy to somewhere a little less windy. I was going to try.. I stood up and in a split second one of my sit mats (the one Ste M gave me ages ago) took flight and disappeared in the direction of Seathwaite.. I had no chance of getting it back, It was long gone! I was getting very hacked off. I gathered my bits and headed across in the direction of the summit. As I turned into the wind a gust hit me blowing the wine from my cup and all over my dry warm glove!!! Arrrggghhhh. What next! I sucked at the powerstretch! Well, no point in wasting it..:-)

I was soon at the summit cairn. I crouched down and it was windless. I just don’t know how this happens! It was the only place on the whole of the summit plateau that was calm. I looked at the ground to see if there was any way at all I could fit my bag that would avoid the worst of the rocks. I kicked a few out. They were really starting to freeze in. I decided to try it. My Sea to Summit mat is really good and I have recently purchased a new foam silver backed bivvy liner-I had forgotten my silver ground sheet.. I also had my Western Mountaineering sleeping bag (Versalite), which is proving to be a fantastic bit of kit! Sleeping on ice doesn’t put me off.. I had enough kit.

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Sleeping spot!

Soon I was throwing everything into my huge green dry bag and dragging it to the summit. I laid it down and was finally happy. It was perfect. I would never have thought to try this spot as it always looked too stony but it was fine. I didn’t even need ballast! I soon had my tripod set up and was ready to take some pictures. First I would try my new Kestrel Anemometer. I wanted to know how windy and cold it was. I picked up my wine and headed out from behind the cairn. As I walked a few steps forward towards the Prison I took a sip of wine the next thing I knew I was covered in it! A gust literally blew it out of the cup and into my face and eyes. It stung like hell..I put my cup down and grabbed my Buff to wipe my face; it was dripping with Wolfblass!!! Then the bloody cup blew over spilling the remainder of my wine.. You couldn’t write this shit!

This had to go down as the most annoying, frustrating, arduous, windy, wine wasting bivvy I had EVER done!

I took my readings and skulked back to my sheltered bit of heaven… I sat on my mats-I still had 2, I use them as wind shields for the Jetboils 😊

I deserved a decent sunset after all this! And I was rewarded with one. It was beautiful. Despite the howling winds I was able to get some great shots. The sun was soon showing me her last light before she slipped away until the morning when she would warm my face again.

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Perfect.
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Trying to stay still!

It was time to get the Mantas off and the Montane Bootees on. I poured the last of my wine and breathed the cold air deep into my lungs.. It had been an eventful day! My thoughts moved to my dear Mum. It would be Mothers Day on Sunday.. A day I dread. I pictured her in my mind. There is a beautiful picture that my dad has of her standing right where my bivvy is now. It was a hot summers day and she was wearing red shorts and a vest, her older canvas Karrimor sack on her back and a red and blue neckerchief round her head.. God, she was so beautiful. I realised I was crying, the tears stung my cheeks as I thought of her. I told her I loved and missed her as the cold blue night set in..I know she was with me.

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Bliss.
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The blue cold.
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Tearful but content.

Time to have a little walk I thought. I didn’t go far tonight. It was really hard to stay upright anywhere apart from behind that cairn! I decided it was time for my hot chocolate and the caramel shortbread Marc had bought me earlier. I thoroughly enjoyed my supper!  It was much better than the luke warm Bla Band I had eaten earlier!

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Supper time.

I decided to get comfy. I cleaned the fangs and had a face wash and moisturise. The stars were already incredible. I was soon snuggled down in the Versalite! I love this bag.. Despite being on ice I felt no cold spots and settled down for sleep. I pulled my Buff under my eyes and my Sherpa hat down and stared upwards. I was so content. Satellites and shooting stars put on their unique show for me-better than any television. I thought about Marc and Merly  snuggled up in the living room in front of a warm fire.. I missed them but I was happy.

Soon I was drifting off. This time I remembered and tucked my face in so as not to freeze my eyes through the night, then Sleep! And Awake! 3am.. I stuck my head out, the wind had dropped but it was super cold. I felt a bit of a cold spot under my hip.. I was on ice after all. It didn’t keep me awake, after watching a few more satellites I was drifting off again. I woke to my alarm at 6am-I had promised to get back to see Marc before he left. The sun rise was imminent and I shivered at the thought of getting out of my bag!!!! Brrrrrrrr. I was soon forcing my feet into frozen Scarpa Manta Pro’s.. Yuck.

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First Light.
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Stunning sunrise.
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Prison Band.

I looked at my perfect surroundings. I was lucky to be waking up to such beauty. I made a hurried coffee and decided to have breakfast at home. I was soon packing, which is quick with the bivvy! As I rolled my bed I saw the water ice I had been sleeping on all night and was in awe of how good kit is these days.

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Leave no Trace.

I took my ‘leave no trace’ pic. (John H always does the same-top bloke!) As it should be… and was soon heading back down Prison Band. I was so pleased I had packed my Kahtoola Micro Spikes as where the snow wasn’t knee to thigh deep any water that was on the rocks the previous day had frozen and water ice was difficult to avoid!

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Sam Bottom.

I was soon back in the really deep stuff but at least there was foot steps to follow. It was so beautiful and very quiet after the winds of the previous night. Settled and calm.

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Levers Water.

As I got to Levers Water dam my stomach grumbled. I was ravenous.

I decided I would leave my shelf wood and rock until next time and just get back, and soon enough II was at the car.

As I approached Waterhead in the car I rang Marc and asked him to put breakfast on! Today I would have a chef! He didn’t disappoint… I was greeted by a fat cat and a huge breakfast and a great chef when I got home! Breakfast was devoured gratefully and we then decided to climbing ay Hutton Roof. A perfect couple of days! Marc had also got my rock and my wood! What a star!!

 

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Breakfast at home!

Credit to Marc Yeoman for selected pictures.

Moon Shadows and Merlot!

Moon Shadows and Merlot!

As per usual I was sitting trawling the forecasts with hope of some more promising weather than its beem of late.

I knew I would be in for a cold and windy night whatever happened. I just needed it to be clear.

As usual the western Fells looked better so I would head for Coniston and my favourite café (The Meadowdore). I could treat myself to brunch before setting off. The full English is to die for..

I skipped from forecast to forecast – I use the Met Office one coupled with MWUK. Its £3.99 for the app and its very good!

Soon I was tucking in and refreshing the forecast using the wifi in the café.

It was looking pretty unpredictable! -4 – -6 with a strong North Easterly taking the wind chill to -16. It would be torture on the hands! I wasn’t quite as high as this but not far off.

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Nippy night ahead!

I was still unsure of where to go so after I stuffed myself to the point of bursting I set off up the Coppermines Valley. I took the mine track towards Levers Water and my first decision had to be made! The short, sharp shock up the side of Levers Water Beck or the long zig zags up the miners track! I opted for the painful way! My pack would now feel heavier than usual! My thighs burned as I set of until they got used to the weight and exersion. It would soon be over then the next decision! Where the hell to go? The wind was firce as I got to the tarn.. I decided to try and stay out of it for as long as possible and headed along the side of the reservoir towards Swirl Hawse; here I would make a decision based on what the wind was doing and how the sky looked. The light was very flat at present and I wondered if I would end up taking my pack for a long walk and ending up back at the car in a couple of hours…

The going was ok underfoot. The usual bog was still boggy approaching Sam bottom.. I filled my Sawyer at the small beck that runs from the hawse, the water was icy on my skin and I was glad to get my gloves back on! I pushed my water bag down the stretchy pocket on my Exos, it was sticking out a little but I had other bits in it so I couldn’t get it down any further.. I only had my 1 liter bag as I thought there would be enough snow to melt providing I  could get high enough.

As I got higher the ground became more frozen and I was soon in the snow line. It was at approx. 500m. The wind was becoming more constant with unsteadying gusts. I decided to head straight up the side of Black Sails to cut short the distance..this would prove to be an interesting decision! I plodded up slowly.. The snow turned to neve and even my Manta Pros were struggling to make much impression in the snow.. I looked sheepishly down between my legs and the many metres below me…I decided as I only had my poles with me my best option would be to traverse to the rock band to my right and  scramble the last bit! The rock was freezing and had a covering of ice, but it was grippy and a better option than the steep neve! I felt a little foolish. If I’d have stuck to the path it would have been fine.

Soon I was on slightly better ground but as I got to a small plateau behind the summit I got the full force of the wind! It would be an interesting night if I stayed out! I bent down to re hook my trousers onto my boot…At that point my Sawyer water carrier broke free from its lashing and headed off down the neve at break neck speed. I looked longingly at it shooting off praying it would stop soon… Eventually it did..some 60 meters away..and only because it caught a previous walkers footprint! So, off I went to retrieve it! Bloody hell…I grumbled as I skulked off. I picked it up and positioned it more securely in my pocket and then retraced my steps back and beyond to the summit.. The wind was making it difficult to stay upright. I would need some shelter tonight if I was going to stay high. Bailing was still an option if I wasn’t happy 🙂

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The Coniston Massif.

I scoured the summit but the wind found every nook and cranny. The summit cairn looked beautiful. The ice looked like a dragon! I hadn’t taken many pictures on the way up as the light was too flat.

 

I headed off the summit and down the ridge to see if I could find a spot. Eventually after much mooching I was happy. I fould a spot just below an outcrop of rock. It was pretty flat but I set to work digging myself a shallow grave so the bivvy wouldn’t slip. I had forgotten my foil sheet but had my foam mat to put under the Comfort Light to beef it up. Soon I was pretty sorted despite the bitter cold. The wind was raw butwouldn’t be out of my bag for long.. I had a quick wee then decided to get in my bag and get  a brew on. I was thirsty. I attached my filter to my bag and decided I’d have a quick drink of water. I squeezed the bag and to my horror icy water squirted all over my cheek..ugh. I thought I had’nt screwed it on properly and so re did it and tried again, another soaking. I swore at it and then inspected it!!!! It would appear that somewhere between falling out of my pack and going on its little journey it had bust the top seem. Nevermind. I drank some of the water anyway and boiled up the rest.

Soon I was with a hot drink looking out over my favourite mountains. The sky wasn’t promising for a good sunset. You can’t win them all I thought to myself. I had decided I would stay anyway and hope for a clear night. I busied myself getting more water prepared. My hands were so cold out of my big gloves! Tonight, would be tough!!

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Happy!

I opted for my favourite Bla Band Meal – Wilderness Stew, it always goes down a treat, and of course some Wolfblass Merlot to wash it down. I left some hot water in the Jetboil to warm the wine 😊.. Dinner was served.

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Oh yeah!

The night started to draw in and the lights in the valley twinkled. You could see all the red lights out to sea at the wind farm off the coastline of Barrow in Furness. The tell-tale red lights on the BAE building shone brightly on the peninsular. I laid back and gazed up. My Sea to Summit pillow tucked under my head offered me a lot of comfort… The clouds started to break and the stars came out one by one and made me smile. I pulled my Buff up gazed into the night sky. The winds whistled and moaned through the rocks and grass.. It was all good.

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Night time approaches.

Now, unbeknown to me; or it may have slipped my mind , but it was Lunar Eclipse night! Sadly, it would definitely be clouded up by the time it was due to happen but I was hoping the moon would be awesome as it would be full.. It didn’t disappoint. I could sense its brightness behind Wetherlam as it crept over the ridge. It was magnificent. I got out of my bag and grabbed my camera and tripod. I wandered around in my Montane Bootees; they really are great for this kind of thing! I took a few shots but sadly the wind kept moving the tripod-blowing it over completely once! Luckily the camera survived!

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Bootees!

 

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Moonshine.

 

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Alpine Conditions.

I put it away and sat on an outcrop of rock for a while. The mountains looked alpine in the moon light, it was utterly stunning. I was glad I made the effort and ‘manned up’!

Despite still feeling quite warm I headed back to the comfort of my Western Mountaineering bag. I have fallen in love with it!!

My back pained me now and would need my painkillers soon so I put another brew on. I have been using the Nescafe sachets. The Vanilla Latte and Double Choca Mocha are very nice! I drank my chocolate and had my tablets. It would soon be sleep time. I had my usual routine of teeth, wee and wash. Brrrrrrrr! It was nippy. I was soon back in bed laying watching the moon and stars. I saw 2 shooting stars which was fab. I snuggled down and pulled my Buff up again so just my eyes were showing. I mustn’t fall asleep without putting my goggles on I thought…

 

Next thing it was 2am! My eyes felt puffy with the cold.. Damn it! I pulled my bivvy over my head and snuggled in again. The last thing I remember was hearing the wind howling..I awoke at 6.30am. It was overcast and snow threatened. It had put a but down through the night but not much. I was boggy eyed and looking forward to coffee. I rummaged through my sleeping bag to find my gas cartridge. It came out nice and warm and soon the snow was melting. The wind had abated a little so it was easier to use the stove. I decided I would just have my coffee and bail. The snow was falling steadily and there was going to be no dramatic sunrise. I drank up and prepared to put my frozen mantas on! Yuck! I was soon packed and ready to go. I took my LNT picture and popped my Kahtoolas on for the descent, they are great at keeping my upright!

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Leave no trace.
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Chilly morning.
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Breakfast.
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Kahtoolas and Couloirs!

On the way down I bumped into my mate from Coniston MRT. We had a good long chat before he headed up and I headed down. I took in some mines on the way down as usual and I was soon at the car. It had been a pretty good night, despite not being perfect it was good to get out!

The Coldest Yet!

The Coldest Yet!

I like having someone to walk in with. Marc is good company. His enthusiasm for what I like to do is brilliant.

He had to work Saturday so would leave me on the tops. The forecast was promising to be interesting! I had been watching all week-as per usual. The winds were going to be strong, possibly problematic, but rather than risk breaking a tent pole I opted for the bivvy bag! Now, I know Wetherlam may be getting a little repetitive, but in less than perfect weather I know the summit like the back of my hand and I knew I could get some protection from the fierce WNW winds!

We were both starving by the time we got to Coniston so we headed straight for the Meadowdore Café! It was closed till the end of the month!! Luckily there is always a backup plan J, the Green Housekeeper! I love both these cafes but the Meadowdore is a little more spacious so helps with my anxiety. We parked up and walked down; there are only 6 tables and luckily it was quiet. The breakfast at this place is bloody huge! I can never finish mine. Marc however is a beast when it comes to food!! He just about got through his.

We set off up the valley. I left my car in the village in case it was icy in the morning. Soon I was shouldering my pack and we were off! It was bitterly cold and the wind was already very noticeable…I wondered if I had made the right decision or whether I would be walking back down with Marc and heading for home by 4pm! We would see.

I opted to walk up to Red Dell and then up the Thriddle Incline to Levers Water and then on to Black Sails. This way I could look for sheltered spots on the way up should it be too fierce on the tops. I knew of a couple of places; one off them was nicely sheltered. I bivvied there with Ste (Mac) the first time we met.

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Levers Water.

There was a dusting of snow that wasn’t budging due to the temperatures, it was lovely and wintery. Really great to see some snow!

We chatted on the way up, mainly about how full we were from breakfast! I felt sluggish with all the food in me! I would benefit from it later.

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Marc.

 

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On the way up!

We were soon at the incline and the wind felt strong; knocking us off balance and forcing us to stop from time to time.

As we neared the ridge we saw that there were waves on Levers Water! It was going to be a tough walk up. It was bitter. I was keeping my pace steady as I didn’t want to sweat, I didn’t fancy stripping off in -13 wind chill!!!

 

Black Sails is a lovely walk. It’s interesting and featured. The path is only a trod and you see few people on it, speaking of which we hadn’t seen anyone all day but from a distance. Bliss.

Soon we were nearing the top of Black Sails, The ground was solid, everything was iced up…and the wind..welll!! It was hooning over the tops! Full on weather. Marc took a video whilst I searched for shelter in caser I was to come back this way. There was nothing. The wind seemed to be able to find me everywhere! We stopped to take pictures of icicles at the spring at Red Dell Head Moss. They were fabulous! I took my gloves off for a minute and instantly regretted it.. It was bitter. Tonight would be a challenge.

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Icicles.

As we neared the summit I knew this would be the coldest night I have ever spent on the hill. Admin would be difficult with the blizzards that were forecast and it would be tough keeping everything from getting full of snow! Especially the bag! I was excited as I have committed and bought a Western Mountaineering Versalite. I wondered if it would be warm enough. It has a comfort rating of -5 but I know they under grade their temperature ratings so probably nearer -7 and top end comfort of -12. I was also looking forward to using my Primaloft Booties that Marc got me for Xmas! An I also have some new Mountain Equipment Couloir Gloves! (I got these given from the rep as the colour was wrong and they look more pink than red! Perfect for me J)

 

 

I was soon at my favourite platform of rock. I knelt down and hooray! I had some shelter…providing the wind didn’t veer more Northerly….

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Scafells and Bow Fell.

Marc was fab, he helped me gather rocks to hold all my kit down and build a little wall at my feet to stop me sliding as the pitch is on a slight angle. I pulled my mat etc. out of my pack; a system I use a lot in winter is to have my mat and sleeping bag already in my bivvy rolled up as it’s so much easier to sort out when its windy or snowing; all you need do is blow up the mat and bed is ready! Behind me Marc let out a shout; I turned to see him holding an earring. I had left a pair on the summit last time I Bivvied 3 weeks prior! I was gutted as they were lovely… He then found the other! I couldn’t believe it. I thought they would be gone forever. I was sooo chuffed J

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Ballast needed!

 

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Happy camper!

I was soon sorted and had everything where it needed to be. It was time to let Marc get on his way. He had a long drive back to Manchester. We had our hug and kiss and I walked with him a short way as I didn’t want to leave my kit for too long because of the winds. Soon he was disappearing over the ridge and gone. I was alone. The wind bit at my skin.. What was I thinking. I took my phone out to refresh the forecast. It was conflicting as to how much snow was going to come through the night. I was hoping for a good sunset and sunrise and whatever happened in between I would deal with! I would hunker down and keep warm.

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Taking it all in.

It was a little early to be up and this would make the evening long. I sat on my bag and sucked in the view as the wind howled over my head, soon I decided to get in my bag to keep warm until sunset. I changed from softshell into my Sherpa Primaloft trousers and snuggled in. Soon the Jetboil was on. Marc had left me nearly a litre of water which would save me collecting snow. I had kept my gas warm on the way up so it performed perfectly. I had tipped some of the water into my Jetboil cup as I didn’t need to boil it all, within 4 minutes it was frozen fully on top! Chilly I thought!

 

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Sun setting over the Old Man.
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What a view!

I cupped my instant Latte and felt some life return to my freezing fingers. The hot aches weren’t far off! It wouldn’t be the last time I would have them.. I moaned as the tips started to return..God its painful…

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The Scafells and Bow Fell etc.

Soon the sky was changing. Sunset looked like it would be a little flat but it did come good in the end. I got out of the bag and reluctantly put my Manta Pro’s back on; they were already stiff… As I stood up the full force of the wind caught me nearly knocking me over. Bloody Hell I thought, this is gonna be a hoot!!!! I wandered around with the camera and phone. The sky was like that of Mordor. Heavy ominous clouds hung in the air, the snow wouldn’t be long. I was soon back in the warmth of my bag. I already loved it. The features like the zip guard were brilliant; the material didn’t catch once. The warmth was already clearly going to be ample. The static temperature was approx. -4/5 already and I was toasty.

 

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Yes!
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Mordor……
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🙂

I wondered if Marc was back at his car safely and at that moment my phone lit up. He was on his way. I was pleased he was down and ok.

I decided to have a slightly earlier dinner in case it snowed. I was having Bla Band Pasta Bolognase tonight for a change. Soon it was rehydrating wrapped also in a foam sit mat to keep the heat in the bag. You learn these little tips when bivvying as food can chill quickly when you’re exposed. They take 6-8 mins to rehydrate so it’s good to keep them off the ground and insulated.

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Dinner time!

 

The light faded fast now as I tucked into dinner. It was welcome though I wasn’t overly hungry following the gargantuan breakfast!

I had my painkillers and another brew; I had to break the ice with my spoon this time! The lights twinkled in the valley below. I could be tucked up in front of the fire with Merlot I thought to myself… I was happy though. I love the challenge the mountains offer, so long as you treat them with respect and are sensible you can expose yourself to the harshest of conditions.

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Wine ‘O’ Clock , brought to you by Sea to Summit, Wolfblass and Mountain Equipment!

The wind was howling through the rocks all around me and spindrift whipped around and sparkled in my headtorch light; It was magical. I warmed my wine a little and soon was feeling it course through my veins. I love red wine. I wouldn’t have too much tonight as it’s not good in low temperatures to drink alcohol. I had some Dalwhinnie in my hip flask as well! I lay back and looked up at the stars, suddenly I was aware of moonrise, I hadn’t given it a second thought. Stunning! Sadly the picture doesn’t do it justice as it was hard to keep the tripod still!.

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Moonrise.

The cloud was patchy so far and apart from the odd flurry the snow was staying away. I picked out The Plough, Orion’s Belt and saw Vega twinkling. It was too cold to get my phone out to use Stargazer. My Sea to Summit pillow felt so nice under my head as I laid back. It’s the little comforts that matter when you bivvy! My Montane Booties were awesome also.

It was soon 7.30 and time for my last brew. I poured a little bit of Rum in my hot chocolate, it was delicious. This was in my other hip flask! I sound like an alcoholic!!!! I also had half a piece of caramel shortbread, sadly it was a little frozen! It tasted good though. I was now dreading cleaning my teeth. It was soooo cold and I was sooo warm! Needs must though. I also needed a wee! That was going to be awful, exposing my backside in these temperatures was not going to be fun at all… The deeds were soon done and I was back in the warmth of my bag. I won’t bang on too much but seriously! Western Mountaineering have it nailed. Awesome bit of kit… The dogs J

 

I was mindful of any exposure to the wind tonight as I knew if I fell asleep with my face exposed I could end up with a frostbitten nose! I decided I would have 20 mins of stargazing and then I would sleep. I lay staring up at the sky. The cold prickled my cheeks. My hands were warm in my Couloirs and I had my Arcteryx Firebee on, despite feeling a little warm I was fine…rather that than the other way around I thought. I started to drift and caught myself just in time. It was sleep time. I pulled my Buff up and pulled up my hoods. I zipped my bivvy up and left to large vent holes for air..soon I was fast asleep…

 

I woke with a start! It felt as though someone had hit the top of my bag! The wind had veered to NNW/N and was hitting the end of my bag….I looked out of my vent hole to reassure myself it was just the wind, Snow was swirling around and the cloud had lowered. I prayed I would get back to sleep. The wind pressed on the bag, I was lovely and warm and soon managed to get back off again. I woke again, this time a bit of a nightmare, I thought a black shape was crawling towards my bag… Again, I looked out and of course there was nothing! It was 3am…Next thing I knew It was 6.30am. No more terrors thank heavens.

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Snowy breakfast.
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Welcome warmth!
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In my element!
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Snowy!

Snow was falling and being swirled around. I had quite a bit of snow banked up around me. At least I wouldn’t need to get out of the bag to collect any for water.. I reached down in to my bag for my canister. Soon I had a warm drink and porridge. The snow kept falling! The sunrise was going to be poor I thought. Despite it saying it would be clear by morning it was really quite cloudy. It was threatening to break and I briefly saw an amber glow through the clouds but it was short lived. I decided to pack up. I didn’t bother packing properly, I just rolled and stuffed! As I looked around the cloud was braking properly, It was alpine- bitter but beautiful. Soon the summits were clearing all around me. The Langdale Pikes looked beautiful…Everything looked beautiful!!!!

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Time to pack.
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Take only photographs leave only footprints.
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The Langdales.

 

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Sun Rays.
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Stormy skies.

I took my ‘leave no trace’ picture and was soon heading down the shoulder of Wetherlam. I was high on life, this was real soul food. Spindrift swirled into ‘snow devils’ and the cloud and sun treated me to some spectacular sights. Perfect! I only shared footprints with a fox 🙂 I was sad to be going but I’d had a great night and morning and I didn’t die! I can strongly recommend Western Mountaineering Bags, Montane Booties, M.E. Couloir Gloves, Sherpa Hats and Vajra Primaloft trousers and Arcteryx Firebee’s! Also, Bla Band meals and Rum JWithout these it could’ve been a miserable night! and Sea to Summit everything!!!! Oh and Jetboils and BD Headtorches!!!

 

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Fox prints.
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The Old Man and Brim Fell.
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Herdy!
Sometimes its worth staying..

Sometimes its worth staying..

The forecast was supposed to be for clear skies so I headed out from Tilberthwaite feeling very enythusiastic….as per usual! The sky bothered me a little though. The cloud seemed oppressive and heavy; it didn’t look as though it would clear at all! Oh well I thought, I’ll crack on. As I got into Drycove Bottom Wetherlam came into full view, it looked gloomy. The rock was damp and slippery on the path and my pack was heavy, I felt clumsy in my Scarpa Mantas. I stopped to chat to a couple who were a little geographically misplaced! I set them straight before continuing up to the steep path that leads to Birk Fell Man. I crossed some old mine workings that took me back to my early days of exploration. Also and old Miners Bridge, simple but effective and still there 200 years on.

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Wetherlam Edge.

After a short steep pull I was approaching the top and looking towards Wetherlam Edge. The path is vague and shelves of wet rock are always fun with a big pack! I could hear a group of 4 coming down…one of the girls was soooo noisy it was kind of annoying! She was shouting to her partner about where the path went….no need really! They soon passed and it was quiet again. I had some 4G so I rechecked the forecast…It was completely wrong. It was still reading, fully clear skies. The cloud was a complete blanket, no breaks could be seen anywhere. It was high but completely overcast. I was longing for a good sunset. I trudged upwards on short scrambly sections taking care not to slip.. I was soon high enough to see some small isolated snow patches. It was all but gone. It had felt mild in the valley but the temperature was dropping quickly as I approached the summit. (762m).

I stood and looked around. Still not a break in the cloud to be seen. I was pissed off! I messaged Sarah M and she asked if I was going to stay. I scanned the horizon for a glimmer of hope but there was nothing but a flat grey sky.Lights were coming on in the valley and a keen wind pinched my cheeks. Oh well I thought, I must stay. There seemed no point in leaving; it wasn’t raining. I decided at first to tuck into the corner of my regular platform and try to build a little wall from protection as the wind was now feeling stronger!

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No sun!

 

Soon I was set up, a faint Mordor red glow came from the horizon near Black Combe and disappeared! That was sunset… Great I thought, sunrise had better get its finger out!!!!!

I was chilled and hungry. I stripped to my waist and put dry clothes on, that is one of the highlights of bivvying I reckon! I also put my down jacket on and dry gloves. Bliss.

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Warming up!

I hate being tucked in so I soon dragged my bivvy out onto my usual platform!

Soon the Jetboil was fired up and I was waiting for the water to boil. I’d kept my gas cartridge in my down jacket inside pocket to keep it warm. Soon the water was bubbling away. I had got water from a small stagnant tarn just off the summit and filtered it with my Sawyer Squeeze! Great bit of kit!!

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Sawyer territory.

Pasta Carbonara was on the menu tonight and but was I looking forward to it. I also had caramel shortbread! I nipped into the Meadowdore Café for a piece-they really do make the best! I would have it later with my hot chocolate.

I looked around and the darkness had engulfed me. The cloud was still unbroken and I felt a bit cheated, still, I was out and I had food and wine and all my shitty anxiety problems were somewhere far away. I was happy.

I troughed down my food like someone was going to take it away!! I was hungry! The food warmed me instantly but the little bit of wine I had poured felt cold..My hands were cold from wearing just liner gloves, the wind was BITTER! I checked the forecast again, it was supposed to hit -2 with a wind chill of -9/10 celcius. Not too bad I thought as I lay back and gazed upwards…suddenly, yes, hooray! I could see a star J This called for a celebration. I decided to warm the  wine in the platypus! I wasnt going to as the wind was really annoying and affecting the flame. I turned off my headtorch and lay back listening to the sound of the wind and the Jetboil. It’s a good sound I thought. I love my Jetboil-despite me  sticking things to it regularly!

My Terra Nova Laser 900 bag that retails for £650.00…..melted onto the Jetboil – 2nd use!

My Patagonia Fitzroy Down Jacket- £400.00…melted the cuff onto the Jetboil… Bloody clumsy I am! Still, I haven’t melted the bivvy bag with it yet! Though I am surprised!

The wine was finally at the right temperature as I reminisced about trashing my kit and soon it was coursing through my veins. I lay propped up on one elbow gazing at the twinkling lights below. The wind stung my cheeks and my hands were hurting with the cold. Time for the ME Couloirs to make an appearance. Soon I was warm. My gas was in my sleeping bag and all was well in my world. The stars were now peppering the sky. I picked out the constellations I knew and sent a message to Marc to say I could see Vega…our star J …sad yes, but on out first camp we were both drawn to the same star. I used my stargazer app to identify it and now it’s a special star!!

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Couloir gloves ain’t just for climbing!

Sunrise was promising to be good as far as the forecast was concerned. The wind wasn’t due to increase above 25mph gusts which was good. It felt raw. The coldest night I’ve experienced in the bivvy bag this winter. My feet were a little chilly but apart from that I was ok.

I finished my wine and had a quick nip from the hip flask.. The Cardhu was a lovely malt that I’ve just discovered. It tasted divine.  The time was marching on past 8pm and I decided it was time to have my hot chocolate then do my teeth. I wanted to look at the stars.

Soon I was lying back. I love my Sea to Summit Pillow-They are bloody awesome things! I was comfy. Must cover face before sleep I thought. I have had issues with my eyes swelling up with the cold. They retain water in little bags under them!!! So, tonight I thought I’d try pulling my buff higher.. Fail! I woke at 2 am. My face and nose were dangerously cold!! Idiot. I looked down and everything was covered in sparkling frost. I covered my face and snuggled into my warm bag and listened to the wind whistle through the rocks as I drifted off.. My feet were still a little cold I thought!

It was soon 6am! Sunrise was still a couple of hours off. I lay for a while assessing my swollen eyes! Bloody fool I thought. My selfies were going to look rubbish with baggy eyes! Snigger…

 

Everything was covered in rime ice..It was bitterly cold. I needed a wee and was very reluctant to remove myself from my very pleasant down cocoon!!! Needs must. My boots were frozen, Ugh. I made it quick! Teeth and wee then back to warmth. I had filled the Jetboil the previous night and the water was partially frozen. I rummaged in my sleeping bag and soon I was hearing boiling water. I had Bla Band fruit flakes for breakfast and vanilla latte. Posh bird!

My hands were so cold in the wind chill as I went about breakfast… Brrrrr. I was glad to get my first hot drink down me.

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First drink of the day!

The light grew around me and mountains took on a warm hew. It’s a very special experience. Watching them come to life, the shapes and shadows. The light that you only experience at dawn, it’s truly magical.

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Dawn.

 

 

Soon she was nearly upon me. I was up and out. The tripod was attached to the camera and I was bobbing around the summit. All the pools were completely iced up. It was beautiful. The apricot glow on the fells and the silence. Yes! I had already half decided I would be out tonight as well J

I put the Jetboil back on after taking a few shots – my hands were a funny shade again! I knew I was in for the hot aches and boy did it hurt! I started to pack as the Jetboil bubbled. I perched on my platform and decided to take a self-timer shot, the light was lovely. Me in my natural environment!

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One happy camper 🙂

 

I was soon packed and ready to leave. The stars and the sunrise had made it worth not having a sunset. Thanks to Ste Mac for my first piece of Cuban Fibre kit. My Minimo Bag!

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Cuban fibre goodness!

 

The walk down was just beautiful. Calm, icy and blue skies. I would definitely be out later.

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Icy Pools.
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I love this area!

I went home, dried my kit and headed back out after some kitty cuddles.

A perfect night was spent on the Lower Tilberthwaite fells. I thought I’d add a few pictures. I was late setting off but had a great evening. Owls hooting, shooting stars and cool winds… Soft grass and perfect skies. Sunrise was a treat….. Happy New Year to all. Thanks for reading.

 

My

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Yes!
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Oh Yes! Yes, Yes!!!