A year bookended by long dark winter camps where frost coated the tent and hot drinks were made on repeat for the sole purpose of staying warm. As the months passed and the days grew longer and warmer endless summer days were spent backpacking; travelling light, walking till sundown and setting off again at dawn. All in all I spent twenty five nights sleeping out on the hilltops (and the year’s not over yet) and another ten or so on day walks with the kids. Obviously this isn’t enough and I need to at least double our trips next year.
Here’s a few highlights from some of the trips I’ve made over the last year, thanks for taking the time to read.
January began with a wintry overnight camp around Kentmere, the forecast had been utterly dreadful with no visibility and heavy rain predicted for the north west. I’d needed to get out and just resolved to get wet and blown about, but the weather never showed up. Above the snowline the frozen tops were pristine white and dusted fresh allowing for a perfect winter camp down by Small Water, heavy snow fell in the night and small drifts started to creep up the edge of the tarp. I woke up to the absolute silence that only comes when the world is carpeted in white.
The following weekend, the kids and I made our way for a short walk around Middleton Moor in the Peak District, I didn’t tell them that we were actually there to watch tens of thousands of starlings perform a murmuration. We stood frozen on the edge of a small hilltop whilst a swarming cloud of black rose and fell and swirled in front of us.
Heading out to spend my birthday in the middle of nowhere is slowly but surely becoming a tradition, so early March was spent taking a few days to walk the Ennerdale horseshoe with a high frosty camp between Great Gable and Kirk Fell. Winter was hanging on in pockets of compacted snow on the highest summits just of the reach of the sun. It was unusual to spend three days in the Lake District and see barely a soul, it was day three when I finally crossed paths with another walker.
A four day backpack with a good friend around the great remote wilderness of Fisherfield was the longest trip of the year. We couldn’t have had better weather and took our time to complete the Fisherfield Six round, wild camping along the way and walking across sun bleached ground for five days. I remember waking early on Easter Sunday during the middle of the round and running up the summit of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair to a pristine view of a distant Torridon, snow capped and jagged. After the round I walked the ridge of An Teallach alone, the sharp pinnacles of Corrag Bhuide had loomed on the horizon for the entirety of our stay and to leave them untrodden was unforgivable. I stayed on the summit of Bidein a Ghlas Thuill for a while, having wanted to visit for years, and when I finally left, I only wanted to return.
As summer came the boys and I got out a lot more, making use of our nearest hill (there really aren’t many in Nottingham) as a destination for after school run arounds till the sun went down. We went there most weeks, here’s young Toby dancing around and shouting like a loon in the sunset
A trip to Yorkshire in May included a memorable bivi out on Ingleborough whilst a misty inversion hung in the valley below, the orange glow of the sunset was still on the horizon at midnight and reappeared just a few hours later. I spent another two days in the three peaks area, steering clear of the well trodden footpaths and camping out again under a misty Pen y Ghent.
(Mid post break: this is a long one, if you’re still with me go and get yourself a cup of tea and biscuit )
Summer Solstice was spent backpacking the Nantlle Ridge in Snowdonia, the run of good weather was starting to become unsettling, surely three days in Wales had to include a little rain?
No rain, not a drop. Aside from a little mist on the first night on Moel yr Ogof it was nothing but bright sunshine for three days bringing out all the lush greens of the valleys, the Irish sea looking an uncharacteristically tropical shade of blue. I decided to stay an extra day setting out early to avoid the crowds and scrambled over Crib Goch and the Snowdon Horseshoe.
A school strike gave a great window to head to the Dark Peak with the wee mountain goats for a long trek up and over Lose Hill and along the long ridge to Mam Tor, we clocked up about 8 miles over the day. School was back on as usual the next day and getting the boys out of bed didn’t make me very popular.
We filled our summer holidays with adventures in Wistmans Wood in Dartmoor, fossil hunting on the North Devon coast and long days in the Peak District exploring Luds Church and returning to the Panniers Pool for a freezing swim.
As summer ended it was back to Cumbria for a three day backpack round Fairfield, Helvellyn and over to Kidsty Pike and wait for it……it actually rained and I used my waterproofs, after half an hour it stopped and the sun came out again.
The shortest trip of the year was also the finest, in September I finally got to take 8 year old Toby out for a night on the hills, he carried his own gear and tramped up pathless hillsides before camping out high under Crinkle Crags. All those years of walking up hills since the age of two paid off and he trotted along the ridge like we were walking home from school. He was an inspiration, never moaning when the walking became tough, it was just a joy to spend that time with him. It paves the way to take his younger brother out and for longer trips when Toby comes back out again.
The arrival of autumn included a trip up to border country for a few nights out high in the Cheviot Hills, there was a chill in the air countered by the warm oranges and yellows of the gentle yet vast undulating moorland landscape.
November came and Scotland began to call. A four day backpack around the Cairngorms on the edge of Winter with fresh snow on the plateau blinding in the winter sunlight and an eerie freezing mist swimming up the pass whilst camped above the Lairig Ghru. I was out for about four days with a final windy night camped on the sandy shores of Loch Eanaich, the hills were quiet but the ptarmigans kept me company. Wild camping in the remote beauty of the Cairngorms was a perfect way to end a year of outdoor wanderings.
Normal service will resume in January, thanks again for reading my ramblings, looking at my photos. I wish you a peaceful and happy new year.
Oh and I bought a boat!
2015 will be all about amphibious travel and becoming a better swimmer.