Room With A View

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AS part of writing my books and preparing for the launch of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks, I’ve been getting myself out and about to recharge the batteries and gain some vital skills.

At present, I’m undertaking a Mountain Leader course and one of its many facets is the need to be proficient in wild camping and navigation.

I decided to take this a step further and attempt my first camp at the back end of Winter and bivvy.

People who know me know I am a big planner and this was something in the diary for a long time. I’d got an Alpkit Hunka and a Berghaus Torridon, found an old and lightweight camping stove and some dehydrated food and was set to go. Then, a conversation with Terry Abraham made me realise very quickly I’d need at least a three season sleeping bag too… and I was glad of it I can tell you.

I was pretty nervous the day before the camp as even though I knew where I was going to go, the realisation I would be out in a bivvy in the wilds was a tough notion for my brain to handle. I chose a mountain I knew well and a good escape route just in case the bottle went.

The climb up to the top of the hill was fairly uneventful. I saw one person the whole way and despite the fact my fitness isn’t what it should be I made it up top the top pretty much when I wanted. I sat down, surveyed the scene and realised camping on summit wasn’t a good call. The place I’d chosen – along the wall at the summit ridge – was being hit with gale force winds and there’s no way I could have been comfortable.

After about half an hour I decided to head back down the hill to about halfway and camp near a waterfall I’d seen on the way up. This was an ideal spot as you can see from my pictures. I don’t want to add many more pictures of the area as I don’t want this camp to be noted. It’s technically illegal to wild camp in England and therefore I arrived late and left early. I was discreet.

I found a decent lie, made coffee with a significant tot and watched the sun go down. I then, around 8pm, climbed into my bivvy and tried to sleep. It was impossible and I think I must have done an hour on and an hour off all night.

Thankfully, the Vango Ultralite 600 kept me warm, coupled with about four layers, because it was significantly cold.

At midnight I woke up with a start as it had got very chilly in the Hunka – the sky had cleared and the moon was playing hide and seek with the clouds. Then, off and on once more, I woke at 5am to get ready for the sunrise. It was spectacular so I packed up my kit and chased it down the valley.

To be the only person on the hill was truly staggering and an experience I will never forget. I felt like the only person alive and at one with my surroundings. I have always been drawn to the countryside, the wild, the bleak and this made me feel like I belonged.

Thanks, and free plugs to the firms above, and Terry, for helping me achieve this.

Things I learnt…

1) Sitting down on the way up a mountain for a break leaves you with a damp backside. When you get to camp, climbing into sleeping bag with that dampness doesn’t help your core temperature.

2) Packing my Torridon better would have made for a better pillow.

3) Going to bed early wasn’t a good idea as I didn’t sleep. I should have read a bit more and took in my surroundings.

4) Waterfalls are great, but they are noisy…

5) PACK A SLEEPING MAT! I didn’t and I’m still suffering.