Usually I’m looking for ways to make my backpacking rucksack lighter but a December camp, with 16 hours of darkness, calls for comfort. My comfy mattress, my warmest sleeping bag, loads of food – all packed in my biggest rucksack, my Karrimor Jaguar 65.
Meeting JJ, Mike and Lucky the Dog in Kirkby Stephen we decided it was wise to shelter from the rain in a dog friendly cafe. Serious expeditions, like ours, shouldn’t be rushed into without tea, soup and cheese on toast. Then a quick dash to St Stephen’s church to bag a benchmark….
….. and we were on our way.
We’d donned our waterproofs before leaving the caff and this had the desired effect of scaring off the rain clouds. Cold winter camping is great, but wet camping is never much fun so I was hoping to stay dry.
We walked for miles and miles and miles; quite literally three miles, although some of it was uphill so counts double. Eventually we caught sight of the deep snow that lay ahead.
We found a lovely flat, green patch of grass next to a field of sheep with brightly coloured back ends. It would have been a decent place to pitch but the deep tyre tracks suggested that we may be awoken by early morning tractor reversing manoeuvres, so we went a bit further.
With a choice of “Up here” or “Down there”, we plumped for Down There next to a babbling brook.
Less than an hour later it was pitch black apart from the bright light of the moon which stayed lit all night.
So…… 5pm….. what’s to be done for the next 15 or so hours? I know, I’ll eat!
Cup of tea and a cheese roll first.
Then a hand shoved a mince pie in through my tent door.
It must be tea time now ….. so time for the mushroomy couscous which has accompanied me on a couple of trips but not got round to being eaten.
A crossword puzzle and a bit of radio listening.
Oooh, pudding time. Asda Christmas pud and Bird’s instant custard. Lump free. After over-thinking this in the past, I decided to just boil up the water and then chuck the powder in whilst stirring like billy-o.
I experimented with taking photographs of the night sky. I now have lots of black rectangles stored on my phone.
Cheese and port were served just before 1030 pm.
I slept well in my -10 down bag and was glad I’d carried the extra weight.
A light sprinkling of snow had fallen in the night. I wondered why my tent was the only one covered but apparently JJ had already cleared his by the time I’d crawled out of my pit.I enjoyed a breakfast of coffee and porridge. Yes, enjoyed. I have no idea why things taste so much nicer in a tent in the snow.
I’d taken my Hilleberg Akto, rather than my more often used Terra Nova Laser Competition, and I’d forgotten how much more extra space there is inside. With a weight penalty of 500 grammes I’m unlikely to go back to using the Akto for long trips, like the TGO Challenge, but for a long winter night it was excellent. I was slightly jealous of the above-the-door rain cowl on JJ and Mike’s newer model. Not £600 jealous, though.
By mid-morning we’d packed up and climbed back up to “Up here” where the cold wind was rather nithering. “Down there” had been the better choice.
After a tough three miles we were back in the caff spinning tales of derring-do and eating toast, our arduous expedition complete.