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.
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.
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.
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….
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
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!.
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.
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!!!!
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!!!