The weather has been soooo wet and windy the last few weeks so when a weather window presented itself I was readily hatching my post work plan! After work hit! First one of the year.. It felt like spring had finally sprung! I left work at 3 and drove to Walna Scar at Coniston. It was the usual drive….Sunday…drivers…sigh!!!
I got to Walna and did my usual kit check. Wine-Check. Done!!!
To be fair I usually do my check before I leave home-otherwise it’s too bloody late!
The weather was forecast clear through he night and setting off with the sun on my face was a real tonic. The weight of my pack soon faded as I felt the wind on my face and the sun warming my skin..
Now, the wind! Well I thought it was a little stronger than expected and the higher I got up the ‘tourist’ track the more my usual thoughts started to repeat in my head…”should have brought the bivvy bag”!! Over and over…
For the less experienced it may sound backwards, but, if you have a bivvy bag rather than a tent then your poles can’t get damaged..and whilst my Mountain Hardwear Halcyon is a tough tent for a one man it’s expensive if the poles break and or tear through the fly! In the bivvy bag you can tuck in and stay sheltered.
Back to the flog up the Old Man!
By the time I got to Low Water it felt pretty sheltered and I considered pitching there but I love going high so I get the best views; It’s all part of why I do what I do
I don’t really use the path from Low Water to the summit as there is a lovely trod that leads up Brim Fell avoiding the crowds. It’s steep to start but eventually hits a col called Brim Fell Haws above Raven Tor. The path starts to rise a little more steeply here through a rock band then to a natural shelf until it rises again to the summit of Brim Fell.
I was looking for good spots as whilst the wind wasn’t hitting me fully at this point it was due to increase very early morning and veer North Westerly!! With this in mind I found a perfect little spot that would hopefully give me enough shelter…baring in mind I should have brought the bivvy bag!!!!!
I had a perfect flat pitch with views to die for!
Firstly I had to chase the sunset though. Before pitching I decided to have a quick blast to the summit to check now strong the wing was-like an iron in the face!! The sunset was stunning but the temperature was dropping fast and it was brutally cold. It had forecast minus 17 directly in wind so I knew it would be a chilly one!!
I took some pics and retreated to my spot. I went through my usual routine of pitching. When putting my ground sheet protector down I noticed there was bed rock a few inches under the surface and not all my pegs were going in completely-I didn’t see this as a problem..yet!
Once organised I sat with my Jetboil and LWWF Chilli and surveyed my view. Perfect. Every now and then the wind got gusty and rattled the tent and my thoughts strayed to why I hadn’t brought the bivvy bag!
Dinner done and a Baileys coffee had. I switched on my Luminaid tent light. (These things are awesome. See the link at the bottom of the page) and lay looking at the ground freezing around me. Everything was sparkling and the wind had calmed. The stars peppered the night sky and the lights of Barrow and Morecambe lit the sky with an orange hue. I watched the car headlights in the distance. People making their way home from work to watch TV on their comfy sofas…I know where I’d choose any day! My tent! Or my bivvy bag………..
The temperature was getting super low. I had my Sherpa Primaloft trousers and my Patagonia Fitzroy down Jacket on and I was starting to feel it..
Time to get in my bag. I warmed my wine a little in some hot water in the Jetboil and snuggled down. My nose was freezing! The tent was white with frost and the mist was creeping into the valleys below. Then the treat came! The moon started to rise. What a perfect night, it got brighter and brighter as it rose. It was like daylight. I finished my wine and put my hot water on for a hot chocolate before sleep.
I hate having to get out of my bag when it’s this chilly but needs must wee and teeth have to be done and a quick wet wipe face wash and moisturise! I take a mini toilet bag with me
All done and back to being engulfed with warm down….MMMMM!
I pinned back both the tent doors for a while so I could see the moonlight reflecting off the patches of old snow on the face of the Old Man. The wind was hissing around the tent reminding me that the night would probably get rough….next thing I knew I was awake again. I checked the time-1.30am. The moon was high and I’d fallen asleep with the tent doors open. Everything was frosted-including my head!!!!
I zipped everything up and tried to shut out the wind.. I was a little alarmed that it seemed to be hitting the tent from a westerly direction. This was not helping with stability nor was the fact that the ground was so frozen it had shrunk around my pegs and 2 of them had lifted. I lay listening to it whipping around the tent…It’s always a worry when you hear the gusts coming before they get to you as you know it’s really gaining momentum… For the next hour I tossed and turned and thought..I should’ve brought the bivvy bag!! Ha Ha…Even the most experienced of us can make mistakes!
I knew I had to get out and do a peg check so I donned my insulation and crawled into the dark. My Black Diamond head torch lighting the way. My guys were holding but 3 out of 5 pegs had now lifted. I couldn’t get them to re set as the ground was so frozen. One I hammered in with my boot! Time to initiate ‘bail’ procedure!
Bailing isn’t something I do lightly. I take the decision based on where I am, weather and tent damage limitation. I had a strong feeling that wind was going to get worse that forecast-(I had 3G and updated the forecast). It was. I have excellent knowledge of this area and wasn’t too put off by the descent despite the lack of path. Everyone makes their own judgement call. If you think there is a strong chance you could get lost, have an accident or become hypothermic then stay put! Even if a pole breaks at least you have some protection. Try and sit it out until day light. It’s safer than trying to get off the hill in terrible weather rin the dark!
I started to pack my kit sensibly and methodically. I always smile to myself when I’m doing this…It’s part of the adventure. I crawled out of the tent to be met my thick mist…Great… It had come from nowhere and was swirling around me in the gale force winds..I cracked another grin and continued. I pack my tent in a less than acceptable manner in these situations. It gets stuffed in the pack…literally.
A quick check that I had left nothing and mentally it’s time to get my bearings and to start thinking seriously about getting down safely. I have mental landmarks in my mind of what I need to find. The fell shoe prints I noticed in the peat on the way up would this time be my guide. I knew that circumnavigating the rock band would be my challenge as all the rock was covered in verglas…great I thought. The head torch can be your worst enemy in the mist at night; as with car headlights – if you have it on too bright it reflects back and severely limits your vision. My eyes were streaming with the fierceness of the wind and I was straining at ground to pick out the top of the trod.. At last, I spotted it. The ground is pretty steep here and the ‘path’ tends only to be used by those in the ‘know’ and the runners. I felt around with poles for secure placements and weighted them heavily as I descended. Next thing I knew I was on the ground with a searing pain over my face and in my lower back. Damn It… I had taken a tumble.. I lay for a few minutes and mentally checked my body parts! All ok apart from the pain across my nose and left eye. No blood from my nose thank God. I could have ruined my jacket!!! I got myself to my feet and got moving. I tried not to think of the black eye and possible broken nose! I was more focussed now on getting down. The wind was making progress pretty torturous at times. I hit the haws and I have to say I was relieved, I knew I could make quicker progress to Low water now. I was mindful the tourist path would be treacherous as it was going to be verglas covered slate….Joy!
After a long painful descent I was glad to see the car shining in the approaching dawn. The wind was still pretty full on at low level. I emptied my pack and pulled my sleeping bag into the front seat and curled up. My eye was showing early signs of a shiner. Oh well, I’m safe. I fell asleep for a couple of hours in the car. My last thoughts…Should’ve taken the bivvy bag! And trekking poles are dangerous when they smash you in the face!!!