Pillar to Siabod!

Pillar to Siabod!

This blog follows on from the Pillar story! Sorry its a little delayed but I’ve had no time to write. Also, apologies for the photo quality.. A few issues have been had!

 

…As I had descended from Pillar I could physically feel the anxiety creeping in again. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with myself! Mountains are usually the best therapy but this time was turning into a real battle. The weather was nice, I have a good job, great friends and family etc etc. All the things that should make you a happy and balanced person, and I just couldn’t get my head straight.. That’s the trouble with this stuff, it doesn’t matter what you have or haven’t got. Its irrational.

As I drove back home I decided I would go to Wales! Maybe that’s where I needed to be.. It was worth a try.

I got home and repacked. I was tired and my back hurt but I had to do something. I wished I was normal and could just call a friend and talk to someone but I always choose to run away and hide on my own..

Soon I was on the M6. My head raced around as usual. Lots of thoughts are about what people must think of me. I worry constantly that people think I am faking my pain (as I get out so much) and that leads to me being very anxious. It’s all very odd. I prayed that as I drove into Snowdonia the “weight” would start to lift. I was soon at The Spar in Betws getting some bits for later. The weather was lovely. I wanted to stop at the Siabod Café but my anxiety wouldn’t allow. I then had to go through the process of where to go. I decided on the Glyders so headed for Ogwen. I parked at the Car Park for Idwal and got out of the car. I fiddled with my pack at the boot and looked up at the mountains.. I shut the boot and got back in the car.. I sat, just staring. I didn’t feel better. I needed to focus but just felt like crying. I turned on the ignition and drove away.. As I reached the junction I again wobbled; half of me just wanted to drive home.. I carried on and thought about the Moelwyns-I’d always wanted to bivvy here. As I approached Bryn Glo I swung into the car park. Siabod? I got out and looked up at it. I have fond memories of this mountain as its where I first met Marc. I have camped on the summit previously but not bivvied. There were plenty of good spots.

This time I set off… this was a positive.

The road up is steep to start.. and then it joins with the quarry track. I would head up the Daear Ddu ridge-it has quite a bit of grade 1 scrambling but most can be avoided as I had my heavy pack!

 

The sun was hot but nice. There was a warm breeze and the ewes and their little lambs were sheltering in the grass from its heat.

I would collect water from Llyn Y Foel on the way past. My head continued to race around, full of stupid questions and pointless, unhelpful answers!

I thought back to when I was last here. Meeting Marc and Glenn was a massive challenge for me with my mental head! I had never met either of them before. It all sounds a bit crazy as meeting people shouldn’t really be an issue – if it was in a café I couldn’t have done it..Ever! But as we were outside I felt better about it. I also knew Marc had read about my anxiety so he would have an inkling about how I would be feeling..

I tried to busy my head with positive thoughts. The sun beat down on me as I approached the quarry. The flooded closehead is very beautiful. I looked around at the old ruins and tried to picture what it would’ve looked like in the early years. A hive of activity. The water wheel pit is still intact and was fed from a reservoir above the workings; if you look closely from above you can make out the remains of the old dam. I love industrial history. It fascinates me, most of us have a fairly comfortable life. I think of the miners. Being up here in winter. Sleeping 4 to a bed with just a few blankets. The beds in the  ‘Barracks’ would be riddled with lice. They literally had the clothes they had worked in all day and a small fire to keep them warm. Incredible, hardy people.

My thoughts turned back to the job in hand.

I was soon overlooking the ridge and the Llyn. From the col the ridge looks intimidating-a crest of spikes and pinnacles rise up to the summit. It always looks impressive. I was hoping with the spell of dry weather I could keep my feet dry as the next section is pretty boggy! I weaved in and out of the marshy ground looking for a flowing water source. The water in the tarn was very stagnant and didn’t look appetising even with the Sawyer! I found a small inlet that was ‘just’ flowing and drew water from here. I take an empty plastic bottle now to decant into the squeeze bag as its difficult to fill them if there is no way of getting the bag vertical!

I was soon 2 kg heavier.. Ugh.. Luckily everything is lighter in summer though I was still using my winter bag and mat as temperatures were due to fall with a clear sky promised and I knew how chilly it was on Pillar!

I was soon on the ridge. I put my poles away for a while as I wanted to stay on the rock as much as possible. I was soon recalling my day with the guys and hard we had made it for ourselves. Today would have to be a bit more sensible as I only had Salomon trainers on and my pack was a lot heavier. The rock was cool to touch where it was shaded from the sunshine and hot in other places. I stopped to take in the view. You could see all the way to Cadair and the Rhinogs with the Arrans beyond. It was a stunning day.

I toiled on upwards in the heat. I had seen no-one at all. I could hear a cuckoo in the distance and the larks were rising and falling in the Spring sky. I was pleased I was out. I knew it would help; even if it was a battle.

007
Sunbathing!

I was soon nearing the summit, I had really enjoyed the ridge even though it was hard with a cumbersome pack on. There was one lady on the summit. (and a sunbathing lamb!) We exchanged pleasantries and I set about looking for a spot to sleep. The lady was sitting right where I wanted to bivvy! I sat around and waited as she wrote her postcards! I thought she would never leave! She eventually bid ne a nice night a tootled off! At last. It was nearing 5.30 and I was hungry.

010 (2)
Dinner!

I lay my kit out and got organised.  I fired up the Jetboil and made a brew and got my Bla Band prepared. It was nice to be alone. Peace and quiet. My head felt slower and less full of crap. I sucked in the view as I drank my coffee. A couple of guys turned up who were running first aid courses at Plas-Y-Brenin. I took a picture for them. They went and another 2 ran up from PYB! I took some pictures of them which I promised to email (and did-I got a lovely relpy!). After they went I was alone again. I ate my dinner and leaned back as the sky started to turn golden.

012
Looking to the coast.
010
Looking to Cadair.

It was promising to be a lovely sunset. I was totally chilled, wine in hand and my pain was under control with the tramadol. Ii looked around and saw a couple approaching. I was a little cheesed off that my peace was going to be disturbed… They asked me about the ridge as the lads girlfriend had not been able to do it and they had to walk all the way round! Then another 4 lads approached the summit! They knew the couple that were already here! They all engaged me in conversation! The lads cracked open cider and stella! Oh bugger…how long would they stay for.. The first couple left as they were worried about time and had no head torches. The lads chatted away and then went down to the shelter 50m away. They too soon went shouting goodbyes as they headed off.. At last it was quiet! The sun started to drop. It was a stunner.

041.JPG
Tryfan.

 

042.JPG
The Snowdon Massif.

 

 

047.JPG
Last light.

As it sank the temperature sank with it. My trusty Patagonia Nano Air was under my new Patagonia Ultralight down jacket and I also had my Ultra light down vest with me. Plus, hat and gloves and a multitude of Buffs! It was feeling nippy but I was toasty warm. I watched the light fade over the Snowdon Massif and wondered if anyone else was out.. I sipped my wine and watched the lights start to come on in the valley’s and out towards the coast. The last people out I could see were walking down the Miners Track on Snowdon; there headtorches bobbed along back to Pen Y Pass. All was dark now and quiet. The temperature felt near freezing and when I looked at my bag it had a sheen of frost on it! I was so glad I had the Western bag and not my MHW!

 

007
New Jacket!

I decided it was time to turn in and watch the stars. The moon had risen behind me as I watched the sunset and it shone down covering the rocks with a ghostly light. Perfect. Despite my head (and a lot of unexpected company) it had been a good day. My back was looking forward to a rest. I cleaned my teeth and had my usual squaddie wash then at last I was horizontal and gazing skywards at the stars and the moon. A gentle breeze kissed my nose and cheeks and I pulled mu Buff up and snuggled down. I was soon unable to keep my lids open and the last thing I saw was a satellite whizzing past the Plough..

050
The moon.

Morning dawned fair and bright. My bag was covered in moisture. The sun was already crowning Snowdon with her warm light. It was magical. I sat up. Brrrrr! It was really chilly! I had to force myself up for some photos and a wee before getting back into bed! I wasn’t ready to get up yet. I slept for another hour then when I woke again the sun was high. The temperature had risen and it felt pleasant in the sunshine. I put my brew on and set about airing my kit. A green theme was emerging!

 

354
Yes!

 

376
Airing the kit!
006
Chilly breeze.

 

The views were wonderful. I sat in the sunshine and ate breakfast. My kit was dry in no time and soon I was packing up for the hike back. I would go over the top and back down the other ridge and meet the track I ascended on. There is a bit of scrambling but it’s easy.

372
Breakfast.

Soon I was on my way.

379
Leave no trace.

I was thinking as I walked down if I should stay another night… I still didn’t know where I wanted to be!!

I had the urge to be on the North Pennines! I would consider my options on the way down. The views were magnificent and I was pleased I had come. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk down. The cuckoo was back and the Larks. Real sounds of summer. I stopped on the bridge and took some pictures of the Afon Llugwy. It’s a stunning river. I saw a dipper bobbing around on the rocks which was a treat, great little birds 😊

401.JPG
Afon Llugwy.

Back to the car and back North!

Because We Need it…..

Because We Need it…..

Well, its been a tough few weeks. You see, my daft anxiety doesn’t let me choose when it will leave so I have to act in one of two ways.. I can A, sit at home and shut out real life. B, Fight like hell and push myself. Or C, Both!

This occasion was to be C. As I write this its worth knowing that I’ve had to take several days off work using holiday and unpaid leave. I have not seen anyone socially for 4 weeks…Not even Marc (until last night) and one evening with my dear friend David. I have fought and battled through work and the rest of the time I have spent alone…searching for a way out of this current ‘bout’. And search I have.. I have been over and underground. In bed, on the hill… I’m still none the wiser but I have moved forwards and I am now in a better place.

I would like to thank some friends in this blog who have tirelessly reassured me and offered words of support and care when I was at my lowest points. They may not think it adds up to much but seriously, I don’t know where I would be without your help and support. (I’ll mention them later to keep you all in suspense!)

I hope my followers and friends don’t mind me including some of this stuff in my blogs? I feel its appropriate at times as It is these problems that I have to endure that inspre me to keep doing what I do.

So, I’m sitting at home. The sun is blazing outside and I’m staring at the empty fireplace..processing, looking for answers to questions.. for hours. Playing mind numbing games of spider solitaire to pass the painful hours. My back hurts, my head is full…constantly processing, over processing, over thinking, processing….on and on it goes. Never good enough, worthless, pointless, lethargy, apathy, pain, exhaustion…..and it goes on. But today, I would make it stop. I had to. I was done. I stood up and walked to the cupboard, my favourtite cupboard… I started to pull out my bivvy kit. I stuffed and packed everything into my sack. I didn’t know where I was going or why. I just had to go.

I got Joanne to feed Merly for the night and morning and got in the car. I decided to head somewhere further afield and Pillar spring into my head. It was a long drive and the Fred Whitton was on the next day so I would need to be off the hill at a sensible time to miss the conjestion. I was committed mentally so off I went. Soon I was in the jaws of the valley. It was stunning. I could see waves on Wastwater so I knew it would be a breezy night.

171 (2).JPG

I parked in the NT car park and checked with the warden I was ok overnight.. It was fine. I headed down the road, all the ewes were heavily in lamb and new borns chased around enjoying the sunshine. I walked to Ritsons Bar and dumped my pack outside. I ordered a water and a wine and sat under the trees out back listening to the water and watching the birds. I always think of my mum when I’m here; she loved Wasdale and I knew that she would probably have sat in this exact  spot at some point… My eyes filled with tears and I dropped my head as the area was busy.. I missed her so much.. I looked distantly to Pillar and the long hike ahead of me. I felt reluctant-but thats my head. I had to forge forwards or go home. I knew it would be painful to force myself onwards but I knew if  went home that the anxiety had won and I would feel defeated. I had come this far so I knew I must carry on. I finished my wine, tightened my pig tails and pulled my pack on. I was soon traversing the flanks of Kirk Fell. I stepped aside for a runner and to my surprise the lad behind him was my supervisor, Dave. We chatted for a good 20 minutes; this was good as I hadn’t conversed for days now.. They were reccying the Bob Graham Round.

I was soon on my way again. I was battling my head the whole time..It was bloody exhausting. I was soon where the path crosses the beck from Black Sail. Here I had to take water and pack was about to get 2 kilos heavier! Great…

The next section of path zig zags and then a small trod breaks off and rises steeply to another traverse that comes out near the path to Looking Stead. I had to dig deep here as I felt wasted. Soon it was all over and I was on the main path to Pillar. An icy wind cut through me from the Noth east and I put some clothes on. Goose bumps like hedgehog spikes formed quickly on my legs! I told myself to ‘man up’ and crack on! I passed a few people heading down and then I was alone. I was soon approaching the summit. The wind was searching for any bare flesh to freeze…as per usual. I hoped it would abate and leave me be.

067

176 (2)

I set about building a small shelter around the bivvy that was already assembled but needed some repairs! The weather was stunning and the air clarity perfect. I felt ok. Relieved but still not quite there.. I sat back and cracked open the tin of G and T I had lovingly carried up in my pack! I looked around. Soul food. The suns rays searched downwards to Ennerdale and fluffy clouds moved over the sky. It was as good as it gets. I saw some heads bobbing towards the summit. 4 Irish bloked that were all reccying the the BG round appeared. One sat down and chatted to me about a night he spent under the stars and how magical it was…It’s the best way to see the stars I said! He was soon dragged off by his friends! I waved them off and was alone again. I decided to have a little walk. I made a quick brew as I needed my tramadol and then wandered off to photograph Pillar Rock. To my surprise I saw 2 guys walking up. I took some snaps and then went back to the summit. They soon appeared having done North west climb. We had a good chat and again, I was alone.. This time for the last time. I was pleased as last time I was up here another guy was bivvying. We had a good night really, we kept a respectful distance and had some nice chats but also some alone time too.

075

201

I fired up the beast and prepared my dinner. I was pretty hungry and was looking forward to it..and my wine… My head was definitely quieter but I still felt an edge to me.

183 (2)

I decided to focus on food and photography..oh and wine…obviously..

The sunset looked promising. I decided as usual..it was time to move house. I preferred the look of a spot in the summit shelter. The ground was flat but a little stony-the Sea to Summit Comfort Light would be fine and I knew what it could handle so I quickly moved in time for the sun dropping. I was soon resettled and walking around with the tripod.

077

I was in awe of the mountains, everything looked perfect. The wind had dropped and I felt good. I was warm in my new Patagucci Ultralight down jacket.. Its worth mentioning that I got it as a present for Marc but the colour was far too ‘girlie’ so I kept it!!! (for the record-I bought him an Arcteryx Atom SL in place!!!).

080

As the sun dropped, the shadows grew long and cast over the mountains and valleys.. It was a stunner of a night. I sat and stared down the beautiful Ennerdale Vally. The sun shone brightly from its surface in gold, soon to turn to peach and orange.. If there is ever a way to heal your head then this is the cheapest and best therapy there is.

I love this time of night. The colours, the air, the silence. A distant bleat from a ewe and the wind.

083

088I snapped away and took in all the surrounding. This was what I needs..I knew in my heart (and head) that this couldn’t always be the soloution but it will always level me.

Despite the sickness from my Tramadol the pain was (temporarily) gone. I sat back with my wine and watched the horizon pull the sun towards it..Soon she would be gone and I would be left with the stars…no poor substitute. Sunset was amazing!

The wind was now all but gone and walked around feeling warm and happy. My wine coursed through my veins. It was a perfect. Just breathing felt good. Appreciation of your surrounding can be incredibly rewarding-and humbling…

The night drew in and my favourite stars appeared. Warming my soul and evoking memories. Soon it would be final brew time. It is remarkable the simple and primitive things you look forward to when you are in the mountains at night. (apart from the 3am wee!!!!!!!).

I decided it was time to get snuggled down for the night. I cupped my hot chocolate and breathed the cold clear air. It felt like spring was here, despite the chill there was a different smell on the breeze.. In usual fashion I toddled off to do my teeth etc and was soon engulfed by all my warm stuff. It was beautiful. I looked skyward…My head was empty…nothing… Just Marc and how I sorted stuff out..The fact that he is so awesome and patient would hopefully make that easy.. Why he stays I have no idea..

221

And then it was 5.11am!!!! I looked down at my dew covered bag. The air was cold and I was reluctant to move. I needed a wee and it was sunrise! Up, I thought, get up! Don’t sleep through another one!!! I forced myself out of my warm cocoon.. And boy I’m glad I did…What a stunner. Inversions were prevalent in the East. Cloud poured over the Helvellyn range and Blencathra sat in a sea of cloud..It was certainly a good tool for spurring the spirit along! My eyes watered in the chilled air. The fells changed colour and I was hungry! I snapped a few more and headed back to the warmth and a good breakfast! Powdered coffee and dehydrated food is totally underrated!!!!

151

155.JPG

I finished my food and coffee and then…..I fell asleep for another hour! I must have needed it. I woke and there was warmth in the sun. I got up again and put another perfect powdered coffee on and had a cereal bar. I took some more pictures. Steeple and Red Pike were beatufully lit now…Soon it was time to head back to reality… I started to pack.

175 (2)
Mosedale

Soon I was shouldering the pack and taking a last look before moving off. I wouldv’e gone the long way but was mindful of the Whitton. I retraced my steps but for a deviation onto the runners paths as it was easier on the back. The sun was now high and warm. It was lovely! I thoroughly savoured the walk down. The valley was so beautiful.. As I descended it became warmer and the small of summer filled the air. I saw a new born lamb high on the fell which was lovely.

190.JPG
Wasdale

192

Soon I was nearing the pub. I stopped and chatted to a few people who asked about the temps on the summit and winds. The National Trust guy had to unlock the gate for me as I was in the overflow field! I was so pleased he was there or my car would’ve been locked in!

A cracking night in all but I knew more time would be needed to get over this current ‘issue’.

My head was already in Wales…. Oh dear.. It was going to be a long week…. TBC..

So, those people I need to thank for keeping me level..

Gillie H, Marc Y, James R, David H, Ste M, Katie Mc, Ali R, Paddy R, Justin G, Julie W/T, Lee W,Steph D, David W, Graeme C, Stephen B, Mike N, Pete H, Martin W,. There are many more too. Including my team at work..Absolute legends. Also, all the people who messaged me following my frst blog about anxiety.. I’m sorry if I haven’t mentioned you but after all I am a bit bonkers! (and tramadol wipes your memory!)

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.

002
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..

004
🙂

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.

012
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!!

032
Perfect view.
003
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!

031
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…

027
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!

089
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.

029
Intense skies.
063
Fire in the sky.
073
Sheer beauty.
067
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..

037
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.

090
Supper.
092
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.

101
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.

106
LNT
096
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!

109
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.

042 (2)
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!

052
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!

005
Bed!
007
Sun setting
006
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..

019

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.

017

034

040

036

038

039

026

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…

076
Leave no trace

043

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!).

226
Breakfast selfie!
021
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!

237
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.

230
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..

037

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

232
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.

236
Off to find a spot!
234
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.

057
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!)

058
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.

073
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.

032
Perfect.
039
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.

095
Bliss.
066
The blue cold.
067
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!

097
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.

083
First Light.
108
Stunning sunrise.
130
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.

089
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!

090
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.

140
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!!

 

148
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.

17148668_10212752932361367_490802654_o
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 🙂

250
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!!

259
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.

267
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.

265
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!

003
Bootees!

 

001
Moonshine.

 

007
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!

275
Leave no trace.
023
Chilly morning.
271
Breakfast.
028.JPG
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!