Five days in Lakes, photo storyboard

A five-day trip back in June 2014. Two days were solo and I then joined Terry Abraham and Chris Townsend while making their DVD – Backpacking in the Lake District. At the time I didn’t want to take too many photos of Chris and Terry and post up on my trip report as I didn’t want to give anything away. This is a picture story board of the trip and shows mainly the beautiful scenery and excellent weather we were lucky to have.  Just like to say that I had no commercial involvement in the film and the music used in this short clip is ‘Elephants’ from Free music archive –  cannot find the artist from my download file!

Backpacking in the Lake District is available from Striding Edge and other outlets and is priced at £14.99

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MYO Ultralightweight tripod

I couldn’t find a tripod weighing less than 500g so I decided to make my own. 32 cm selfie stick, 3 pieces of Dyneema and 3 Ti pegs. Total weight 220g and is ideal for my new GoPro Hero 4 Silver.

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SS4

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Snow shoes on Buckden Pike

If I can get out tomorrow and get up to the Peaks I will have an outing with my snow shoes, although the weather forecast suggests a windchill of minus 17C  – will I go or will I stay under the duvet in the morning ? Here is a short video of me using them a couple of year’s ago on Buckden Pike just  in case I don’t get any footage tomorrow!

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A review of Backpacking in the Lake District a film by Chris Townsend & Terry Abraham

Let me start by saying that I review this video from a different position from anyone else.  I was lucky to be there for a good portion of this trip (although I am not in it) so I had both a unique insight into the film being made, but also it has become a record of that  trip with Chris and Terry.

I think it is difficult to be wholly independent because of this, but this does not detracted from the fact the film is an excellent introduction to backpacking and wild camping. Although the DVD is aimed at the beginner or someone who is contemplating this fantastic pastime, it equally can appeal to experienced backpackers.  I can tell you that this trip was nigh on perfect. The weather was settled and warm both during the day and night, the scenery and sunsets were fantastic and the company good.

The DVD shows a 3 day backpacking route starting and ending at Keswick walking through a wide variety of scenery – woodland, moorland and the more typical rugged Lakeland mountain terrain.

Terry and Chris were able to capture these elements and convey a trip that has all the best that backpacking has to offer. This is not some adrenaline filled DVD but a gentle look at the sheer joy of being out in the mountains.  Importantly unlike day walks. wild camping allows you to immerse yourself much more into the environment.

For the novice, there is sound advice from Chris on the basics  such as choosing a wild camp site and what gear to take from a man who probably has more experience  than any one on wild camping and walking in the mountains . The more experienced viewer will be able to compare and contrast Chris’s take on camp craft with their own and I am sure will still learn something new. Particularly good is Chris’s unpacking of his pack, with him going through his gear.

Terry Abraham is building himself something of a reputation for high quality mountain films, with Scafell Pike, Life of a Mountain and Helvellyn with Mark Richards and as Terry is a keen backpacker he has shot the film with the target audience very much in mind.

As this film is shot in the Lake District and not some far flung corner of the Pacific North West, it is easy for people to get out and do this, to replicate what Chris is doing on the film, if that is you, buy the DVD and be inspired.

Backpacking in the Lake District is available from Striding Edge and other outlets and is priced at £17.94

My report on my trip with Chris and Terry is here and part 2 here

Disclosure : Although I was on the trip during filming, I have no financial interest in the film and paid for the DVD from my own pocket.

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Two month review of Ecco Ulterra mids

Ulterra mids from Ecco

Ulterra mids from Ecco

I was approached by a company working for the Danish shoe manufacturer Ecco. They asked me to try out a pair of their new Ulterras and review them. I was very interested after reading some good reviews from a number of outdoor bloggers who had used the Biom Hike and decided to go for the mid version of the Ulterra which launched this autumn.

Specification

A mid style boot utilising unusually Yak nubuck uppers and a Goretex lining.  Yak leather is used in a number of Ecco boots and I am not aware of other companies using this material.  A size 41 weighs 510 grams (weighed by me).

Appearance

An attractive mid boot in red and grey. The boots would look good either on the hills or in town.

In use

I always seem to find quite a break in period with footwear and have rarely found that straight out of the box experience which is often quoted. I think this is me rather the boots or trail shoes.   I have a further problem in that my orthotic inserts raise my feet slightly in any footwear and it takes awhile to settle down. After this initial period I found that the Ulterra were one of the most comfortable boots I have ever worn. Possibly it was the Yak uppers or the foot beds or both but whatever it is, it feels spot on.

I have used the boots on daily dogs walks around the Wolds and a one day walk since receiving them in September, so they have had quite a good test. I  would have like to have done more but my recent house move has meant  backpacking has been thin on the ground.

The sole is quite aggressive and has coped well on rock and stony areas, on road and on dry surfaces.  The walks directly from the house are on areas  of  very heavy clay and at times I have slid on the very sticky surface. I would probably find this with other footwear with similar soles. Only boots with deeper soles or specific trail shoes for mud would have coped better. Over the last two months I have seen a small amount wear on the sole and I was able to clean them up so they looked almost brand new for a  business trip to Copenhagen. The Ulterras look good in the urban environment and they kept my feet dry and warm during strong driving rain and temperatures around 2C over the three days I was there.

Summary

Comfortable with a good fit.

Attractive looking mids.

Good grip on most surfaces, only slippage on heavy clay.

I would recommend them for spring and early autumn usage.  In the summer I use by and large non Gortex lined footwear because they are often too warm for me but of course this is personal choice. Little to be negative about other than the Goretex lining.

The Ulterras can be bought on-line here and I assume they will be available in the Ecco retail outlets in the UK. I certainly spied a pair in the shop window in Copenhagen last week, but they do come from Denmark!

 

 

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5 Days in The Lakes Part 2

 

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This is the second and final part of my recent trip to the Lakes. First part is here

Friday 22nd August

Great Langdale – Cumbria Way -Angle Tarn- Martcrag Moor- Pike of Stickle – Harrison Stickle – Pavey Ark – High Raise – Low White Stones

Friday couldn’t have been a more different day. Gone was the monsoon and hello to bright sunshine and blue skies. I had a more leisurely start to the day and lay in my sleeping bag sipping my early morning tea as the sun started to dry the silnylon fly of my tent.

As I had changed my route yesterday I stayed there awhile cocooned in down with another cup of tea, map spread out in front of me, deciding which way I would go today. That’s the beauty of solo hiking you get to take charge, with freedom where to go, and how far you will wander that day. Not that I don’t enjoy the company of others, I do, but this is one of the benefits when you are alone you can decide.

So I had a plan, a late start, I was on holiday after all, walk up the Cumbria Way, and branch off to Angle Tarn and then almost cut back on myself to fell tops that I have never visited.  The one’s which seem to be out on a limb that I always bypass.  It would have been all too easy to go Angle Tarn, then Sprinkling Tarn, Sty Head, Great Gable etc, back to Keswick, but I did a good part of that route last time I was here in June.

The route would be more of a ramble and time spent on fell tops, admiring the views rather than a route march. I could please myself and go as far or as little as I wanted.

One other backpacker had camped near to my tent on the site, he had been up earlier than me and as I emerged from the tent, he was well on his way to filling his enormous back pack and then hung extra stuff off the ends. He was a big strong lad, I don’t know whether he was weaker when starting backpacking, but if he was, the weight he carried on regular basis must have helped him become much bigger!

I went to the smelly sock drying room and removed from the shelves my now perfectly dry and warm socks and trail shoes, before finishing my packing. On the way out I filled my water bottle and I was away.

Cumbria Way

Cumbria Way

The Cumbria Way is found at the back of the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel.  A foreign couple asked me where the Way started, as they were having difficulty relating it to their 1:100,000 map of the Lake District. I said I was going that way, and they joined me for a while. They were visiting from  Poland and were not used to the fact that we do not have signs and way marked trails with yellow arrows as they do in other countries. They told me that they were going to walk to Scafell Pike and the Sca fell and walk back to their starting point . I said fortunately, that although we don’t have way marked trails here, where you are going the paths are like super highways and there will be plenty of people to help you if you not sure.  It was a very pleasant day, what was I say, don’t go and find yourself a better map. We parted company after I said I wanted to stop to sort something out with my pack. I actually needed a pee, but that sounded better, than wait here while I urinate over these rocks.

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It was a stiff climb up to Angle Tarn, but with great views and glorious weather, it was not a chore in any way. At the top and as I came down the other side, some lads doing their D of E were struggling up the path weighed down by the expedition style kit list that they must carry. I don’t know who draws up these, but I always feel that if someone could spend some time looking at how they could lighten the loads of these poor unfortunate “mules”.  I am sure that they would be more likely to continue with backpacking in the future and perhaps ensure that more youngsters could enjoy the mountains and wild places without feeling that they were on an SAS training course.

They were a very pleasant bunch of lads and when I told them that they were only had an hour and half to their campsite, because I had just come from there, I could see the relief on their faces. One said that they shouldn’t arrive too early to the site as they had been told off about that before.  I suggested that perhaps they should go to the pub and sit in there at which point they smiled and chorused – we wish. I guess that the strict requirement of I.D. these days means that a sneaky pint is out of the question nowadays.

On leaving the mule train, I found a very comfortable rock, almost armchair like for lunch and basked in the sun for a while, that nagging northerly wind was still there but the sun was winning my attention.

Angle Tarn

Angle Tarn

From here I made my way to Stake Pass and then Martcrag Moor , my immediate destination was Pike Of Stickle, these fells I have never visited, as they seem to be out on a limb.

An easy climb to Pike of Stickle gave me a great view over Great Langdale where I camped the night before. Next fell to walk was only a short way, Harrison Stickle, the wind had got up by the time I reached its summit, I pulled on my wind shirt to shield me from the cold. It was a fine view from the top, I could see all the way to the familiar table top of Ingleborough some 35 miles to the south-east.

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From this vantage point I dropped down a little, probably no more than 100 feet or so northwards to Pavey Ark, the path distinct to start with and then it peters out.  After half a mile I had reached the crag of Pavey Ark, with excellent view of Stickle Tarn way below me.  From here I could see a few people dotted around, but they were few and far between compared to earlier in the day. I sat for a while and admired the view. The advantage of spending your nights up in the hills and mountains is that if you have arrived early to the vicinity of where you will camp for the night, you have the luxury of exploring those surroundings in more detail or just to sit for a while.  Generally the day walker does not have that luxury as they have to get back to their car or catch a bus. Suddenly you are aware that there is no-one about anymore and you have the place to yourself.

Stratospire near High Raise

The setting sun on my tent

I planned to camp on the slopes of High Raise just down from the summit, as I did  in June with Terry Abraham and Chris Townsend . However the northerly wind was strong and this side of the fell offered no shelter. I dropped down a bit further towards the eastern side and found a flat piece of ground which provided some reasonable shelter.

The tent was pitched quickly, and a nearby small tarn provided water for a hot drink and meal. After tightening the guys I settled down for the night. It was noticeably colder than previous nights with a chill in the air. Whist still the third week in August, autumn seemed to be knocking on the door saying summer was now over.  A couple of light showers and I drifted off to sleep.

Saturday 23rd August

Greenup Edge –  Greenup Gill – Cumbria Way – Rosthwaite

Saturday dawned rather misty with low cloud, but the weather forecast suggested a fine day to finish my trip and it was soon sunny.

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Looking down to Langstrath

Leading down to Langstrath

After a quick breakfast I was away walking down the slope towards Greenup Gill from Greenup Edge. There are a lot of streams running from the upper slopes of Ullscarf which made the walk down rather wet under foot. There is a small waterfall about half way down to Smithmire Island where the path meets the Cumbria Way coming from the left. The path around this waterfall is steep and slippery, so I took it very easy to make sure I didn’t slip and pitch headfirst down the path.

Greenup Gill

Greenup Gill

After a while the path levelled out, and after my concerns about the last section, I tripped over and fell flat on my face, I must have tripped over a daisy as there was nothing there but I laid there, with my rucksack pinning me to the ground and laughed out loud!  Picking myself up I continued down the path until I met the Cumbria Way. It was pleasant walk along Stonethwaite Beck in warm sunshine.

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I met several couples doing the Coast to Coast, but I was concerned that they didn’t seem to know where they were and they were relying not on a map but merely the same guide-book. I gave some directions as they were headed for Grasmere, but no map is not a great choice.

At Rosthwaite, I waited for the bus to Keswick, which came along after 15 minutes.  In Keswick I grabbed a sandwich at Booth’s and waited for the bus to Penrith.  Once I was on I dozed in the warm coach along the A66 until I reached the railway station.   A short wait and I was on the train back home after a great trip in the Lakes!

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5 Days in The Lakes Part 1

Stratospire near High Raise

Stratospire near High Raise

I wasn’t meant to be here, my original plan was to walk the Skye Trail over a 7 day period and with traveling to the island this would mean I would be away for ten days and with the sale of my house well underway I had to be back within a certain period.  The narrow window of opportunity was spoilt by Hurricane Bertha meaning that the start of the Skye Trail would be delayed.   Option two was go to the Lakes once the weather calmed down a bit.

The plan was to take public transport to Penrith, walk from east to west and then head north to Keswick and then by bus back to Penrith for the train back home.  There was a weather window that I took, the forecast suggesting cool northerly winds with sunshine and feeling rather like early October than late August, so a down jacket was packed along with a few extras that don’t normally make their way out of my kit box at this time of year. Tickets booked I found myself soon changing trains at Manchester Piccadilly on a Tuesday lunchtime with a 15 minute wait for the train to Penrith.

Once I arrived at Penrith, there was a ten minute taxi ride to Askham village below the Far Eastern fells of the Lake District arriving at around 2.30 in the afternoon.

Tuesday 19th August

Askham to Loadpot Hill to Wether Hill to Red Crag to Raven Howe to High Raise

A steady climb out of the village of Askham to attractive common land led up to Loadpot Hill.   On the map, it looks a very obvious route, but dozens of footpaths and sheep trods through waist high bracken weaved their way serpent like across the hillside.  Eventually after a few dead ends in the bracken I found the path that gradually climbed up to the trig point on top of Load pot Hill. The weather had been kind to me, a gentle breeze and the sun was out, but it was not really like August. As I walked southwards, the northerly wind increased with altitude and nipped at my back, feeling cold through my shirt.

Leaving Askham Village

Leaving Askham Village

Heather in bloom

Heather in bloom

On slopes of Load pot Hill

On slopes of Load pot Hill

Trig point at Load pot Hill

Trig point at Load pot Hill

After leaving the summit, I put on I my wind shirt walking on the Roman road of High Street, steadily climbing as I went over Wether Hill and Red Crag, where for the rest of the day’s journey I twisted and turned making my way through bogs on this watershed. Water runs a short journey from the bogs into the becks that led into either Ullswater on the right or the even shorter journey to Haweswater to my left.

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Shafts of light pour through the clouds

Shafts of light pour through the clouds

I rather like the look of this collapsed stone wall

I rather like the look of this collapsed stone wall

I reached the flat top of High Raise, which unlike many of the fell tops in the area has a good quantity of rock on the summit. The wind had picked up a bit and was blowing from the north west sometimes backing around to the north and as the sun would be setting soon it was now time to find a spot out of the wind for the night. It is always surprising to me how quickly the half past nine, quarter to ten sunsets  become a distant memory of an all too brief glorious midsummer period, even when viewed in mid- August. The balmy days of my last Lakes back pack with Chris Townsend and Terry Abraham in that short midsummer halcyon were already behind me.

Just down from the summit towards the direction of Haweswater, I found a sheltered spot nestled in the lee of the wind, a little shelf of reasonably flat grass. Water tend to be rather scarce on many of the Eastern fell tops, but a couple minutes’ walk down towards High Street, was a tiny tarn, really not much more that a puddle with thoughts of grandeur. I would fill my containers after setting up my camp.

I went through the ritual of setting my stuff out which all seasoned backpackers and wild campers must do each night, blow the mat up, pull out the down bag tightly secured in its small stuff sack, fluff it up and lay it out on the mat. Pull the little stuff sack with all the bits and bobs out of the pack. This goes here, that goes there and I will need that by my meths stove.  Must get my head torch ready so I know where it is when it gets dark – a wild camper’s ritual.

I walked the short way to the tarn and filled the platypus containers with tea coloured water and within minutes had the stove on; water boiling first for tea with the rest of the water for packet minestrone soup, always with croutons. I climbed into my sleeping bag looking out of the tent door at the setting sun, with knees drawn up and warmed by the down, I had my soup and gulps of tea. Soup finished, water is then on for the main meal, Vegetarian Thai Rice. The food may vary, but this part of the day never does. A comfort at the end of the day, a chance to relax and reflect on the day passed and to think about the next leg of one’s journey.

A day's end

A day’s end

Dinner is nearly ready!

Dinner is nearly ready!

Meal over, I took advantage of a 3G signal, next to no signal at home means that outside of work, this is a novelty for me. I took some photos and tweeted them, watched the news on my iphone and checked the weather forecast for tomorrow.

Wednesday 20th August

High Raise to High Street to Thornthwaite Crag to Threshthwaite Mouth to Stony Cove Pike to Caudale Moor to Kickstone Pass to Red Screes to Scandal Pass to Dove Crag to Hart Crag

Sunrise - it's going to be a nice day

Sunrise – it’s going to be a nice day

Riggindale Beck into Haweswater

Riggindale Beck into Haweswater

Approaching High Street

Approaching High Street

I was awake at six, brewed up and used the rest of the hot water for porridge. Packed up and away by eight, walking in brilliant sunshine. The first fell to tackle was High Street, this always looks better when approaching it, than when you arrive at the flat summit which is very un-mountain like. I decide this time to walk on the Hayeswater side rather than the main path and then cut across about 150 metres to the summit.

Blea Water

Hayeswater

Leaving the summit of High Street

Leaving the summit of High Street

A quick slug of water and a handful of trail mix and I was away. The path swings to the right, towards Stoney Cove Pike and I headed to the summit of Thornthwaite Crag with its stone built beacon sitting at the top. I dropped down to Threshthwaite Mouth and climbed steeply the 500 feet or so up to Caudale Moor. This ascent was rather tougher going than it looked on the map, with its steep and rocky slopes.  Pausing for a breather before making my way to Stony Cove Pike.

Looking down from Thornthwaite Crag

Looking down from Thornthwaite Crag

The path goes through a gap in a wall at the top and then drops gradually following the stone wall all the way down to Kirkstone Pass. The sun was out and the first batch of day hikers started to appear walking up hill towards me. I continued down, stopping on occasions to answer navigation questions from people walking up.  This is quite a regular occurrence and I guess my appearance as a backpacker rather than a day walker seems to prompt them to ask the way.  Backpackers generally are very few in number when walking any stretch of hills in the UK.

I stopped for a quick lunch break on St Raven’s Edge, whilst the sun was out; I needed to pull on my wind shirt to protect me from the chilly northerly wind. The last section to the road is a steep drop, before levelling out just before the Kirkstone Pass Inn.  Three small wind turbines turned slowly in the breeze guarded by CCTV and a stern yellow warning sign about tampering with these rotating spikes of metal. I assume that these were here to power the Inn by the roadside.

St Ravens's Edge with Lake Windermere in the far distant

St Ravens’s Edge with Lake Windermere in the far distant

Warning CCTV

Warning CCTV

Kirkstone Pass

Kirkstone Pass

I resisted the temptation to stop for a pint and carried on. Red Screes is a steep steep climb out of Kirkstone Pass, and after a lot of up and down already, left me a bit breathless at times, pausing several times before reaching the flat grassy plateau top with a huge mound of stones at one corner.  There was only one couple at the top and I stopped for a quick chat before moving on.

Scandale Pass

Scandale Pass

Another steep drop down to Scandale Pass, with some great views down to Brothers Water on reaching the pass.   Guess what? Another steep ascent the other side of the pass, passing Scandale tarn and close to Little Hart Crag, I made my way, slowing quite considerable by now, as the accumulated ascent and descents took their toll on my leg muscles. Finally the ground levelled out on the ridge up to Dove Crag. It was now late afternoon and time to scout out a camp spot. I needed water and a sheltered spot out of the nagging north wind.  I spied somewhere between Dow and Hart Crag and made for there, scrambling down amongst boulders and boggy ground causing Herdwicks to scatter all over the place.  On a little ledge I pitched my Stratospire, with a great view down the valley.

Seconds night's camp

Seconds night’s camp

Sleep came easy tonight, after a long day. Before I dropped off I listened to the weather forecast, tomorrow was going to be strong winds and heavy rain. I decided that I would change my route, being up on the top of the fells. I would walk along to Fairfield and drop down to Grasmere and decide my route from there.

Thursday 21st August

Hart Crag to Fairfield to Great Rigg to Stone Arthur to Grasmere to  Huntingstile to  Huntingstile Crag to Elterwater to Cumbria Way to Great Langdale National Trust Campsite

The sound of rain drumming on silnylon woke me up just before six. The clouds looked like they would be coming down soon, so I quickly had breakfast and got packed up and got away. Waterproof jacket and trousers on and off I went.

Looking down to Rydal Beck & Windermere in distant LHS & Thirmere RHS

Looking down to Rydal Beck & Windermere in distant LHS & Thirlmere RHS

Up on the ridge, the rain hit me straight in the face, as I staggered about in the high winds. I needed to get to Fairfield and then down to Grasmere. The wind slammed against my left side and then my right as I follow the ridge path as it curved around to Fairfield. I followed the ridge down to Great Rigg with the wind and rain pushing me southwards. At Great Rigg I took the right hand path to Stone Arthur and then the very steep path near to Grasmere.

Walking from Fairfield to Great  Rigg

Walking from Fairfield to Great Rigg

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A solitary tree gave me shelter as the heavy rain turned torrential.  Streams suddenly appeared running down any path or sheep trod on the hillside.  I trudged down in the pouring rain reaching the edge of town through a wooded section of path.

Grasmere is somewhere down in that cloud

Grasmere is somewhere down in that cloud

Looking back towards Stone Arthur

Looking back towards Stone Arthur

Grasmere’s streets were awash. I stopped at the Co-op to use the cash machine, dripping all over the ATM, before moving on to find somewhere suitable to stop for a bite to eat. A warm bakery smell wafted around me and I stepped inside  a small cafe and sat down with a hot pastie and a big mug of tea and took advantage of free Wi-Fi.

Refreshed and somewhat drier, I stepped out into the rain, which, I couldn’t believe was actually coming down harder than before. My destination for tonight was Great Langdale, I had decided to stay down in the valley rather than back on the fells, although I not sure it could be any wetter, but I guess the wind would be less. I crossed over the fells at the lowest point walking from Huntingstile Lodge into Elterwater. The rain kept falling harder and harder and I just carried on walking. It was a real test for my waterproof jacket and trousers, and they did just fine.

The track from Huntingstile

The track from Huntingstile

Huntingstile Crag

Huntingstile Crag

Looking down at Elterwater

Looking down at Elterwater

At Elterwater I joined the Cumbria Way and walked the remaining miles. Rain rain rain, it just kept coming without a let up, well maybe for a minute or two at a time. It had been raining stair-rods for 7 hours solid and with no let up, it was head down and march on.

Heading to Great Langdale along the Cumbria Way

Heading to Great Langdale along the Cumbria Way

The National Trust campsite was where I was heading. Eventually I saw the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and within 10 minutes I was booking in at the site. It was just after half past three and the rain was still coming down. Most of the field where the tents were, was under water, but I spotted a high spot which was also flat.  I quickly put up my tent, well as fast as I could given that the ground was full of stones and rocks, hammering in my Easton nails and Clam- cleats with a handy rock to secure the tent.

I sorted out my gear and found that there was a drying room. My socks and Salomon trail shoes which are unlined were saturated. As I opened the door,the smell of wet socks, and damp boots hit me along with probably 90 degree heat. Every shelf and hook seemed to be taken, but I found a small place for my socks and shoes. A nice hot shower followed. Back at the tent water was on for soup, tea and then for a Vegetarian Spaghetti Bologonese, which was very tasty.

There was no phone signal at all at the site, so I wasn’t distracted, by emails, texts or tweets. I listened to Radio 4 and read a few chapters of a novel on my Iphone before turning out the light. As I settled down for the night the last of the day’s rain finally petered out. It had been raining pretty much for 15 hours!

Part 2 soon

 

 

 

 

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