Yep, the dark….and the fear that comes with the dark!
Most people I chat to say the same things….”You are so brave! I couldn’t do that alone”. There was a time when I couldn’t…Or if I did I suffered severe sleep deprivation due to fear that followed from darkness setting in!
How do I handle it…Well, we are our own worst enemy!!! Our imaginations run wild when we here a noise or the wind howls and hisses. The fact is I think you are pretty safe in the mountains providing you have good kit, good mountain sense and the ability to bail if it looks like the weather is going to put you in danger…the ability to night navigate is always going to be a bonus!
Anyway, back to the dark! Followed by the fear!
As soon as the darkness arrives things can feel a whole lot different in the mountains..Rocks take on strange shapes..the wind plays tricks on you and so your imagination starts to conjure up all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff!
I have learnt to control my fear to a degree but have had some pretty dark moments.. I have come close to bailing in the middle of the night through feeling unsettled.
Once on the summit of Swirl How I had a really bad night! I had been to the crash site of the Halifax WW2 aeroplane on Great Carrs next door.. I paid my respects and headed back to the bivvy. The weather turned a little windier and I settled down with my dinner and wine.. I thought about the young men and how awful it must have been for them.. As darkness fell I snuggled into my bag and stared out into the night, the wind was hissing in the rocks and grass as I lay with my eyes straining into the dark. After a while my thoughts turns back to the crash site and the crew and I started wondering if they haunted the area.. Nooooo, that was it! I started imagining figures looming out of the darkness….I turned into the tarp with my back to the dark and curled up with my iPod- Ben Howards words soothed my nerves and eventually I did fall asleep…eventually..
Another time in the tent I was on the shores of Levers Water, I stayed low as it was due to be very windy through the night. The wind really got up..I heard what I thought were footsteps on the shingle outside the tent..I was gripped! I listened hard through the sound of the wind. Then I imagined people were talking.. I plucked up the courage to take a look outside, I unzipped the Solar and stuck my head out into the mist and rain..It was – of course- the waves making noises on the shingle.. I slipped into an uneasy and restless sleep imagining the ghosts of the old miners from the copper mines wandering around my tent…
The Glyders, well, I had never experienced rocks moving until I bivvied here on a warm late summer night. The temperature through the day was 28 C. As the night came on the temperature plummetted and as the rocks cooled they appeared to ‘slip’ every now and again…. I can’t put it down to anything else!
So, controlling the fear!
Light. Light is your friend. As well as a good head torch to assist in our desperation to find baddies and ghosts, I also use a Luminaid. I can leave this handy Solar light on all night and then it charges the next day on my pack. Or a small tent lantern. I have taken candles also…If its calm and you keep them away from you kit they give a lovely light. Please take care in summer with dry grass etc-Fire starts quickly!!!!! See the Links and images below.
Music! Yes, some people say, “get those headphones out”. I use them because music relaxes me. I have my fair share of quiet time too but I do love watching the darkness draw in with some Ben Howard or First Aid Kit!!! Florence and the Machine got me through a night on the summit of Helvellyn once, I was gripped buy a fierce storm and was praying my tent wasn’t going to be ripped out of the ground.. It was too dangerous to attempt to bail so I sat it out.. Music made the night shorter. A lot shorter!!
Your phone…Yep, we all try to get away from technology but love it or hate it I personally like to have it. When I solo camp I like to send a text or update the Wild Camping Sites on Facebook, or just send a text to a friend or my partner! Careful not to sap your phone battery in case you need it for an emergrncy. Take a power pack to recharge if you need to. See links at bottom!
Embrace the dark. Try to watch and listen and enjoy how everything changes as night draws in. Don’t let fear consume you when the wind presses on your bivvy likening to someone touching it – it is just the wind. If eyes appear..yep, they are sheep! Or maybe you’ll be lucky to see a fox checking you out from a distance. Rocks can move when they cool after the heat of a hot summers day and water can sound like voices!
Sleep soundly folks!
Like Goldberry tells the hobbits in Lord Of The Rings:
‘Heed no nightly noises! For nothing passes door and window here save moonlight and starlight and the wind off the hill-top. Good night!’
Links to kit!
Black Diamond Revolt-USB Chargeable. The Epicentre has some on clearance.
Luminaid-Solar Inflatable Light
GP Power pack for iphone or similar. These are available at the Epicentre also! They are not on website yet though!