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!).
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!
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.
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..
We carried on and had another snow fight! As you do. Spirits were high despite the obvious toil!
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!!
Credit to Marc Yeoman for selected pictures.