Did Somebody Mention Rain?

Patterdale Travel Blog

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Red Tarn and Swirral Edge looking even more vibrant.

The conditions did not improve overnight; in fact they worsened with the rain hammering down on my ‘game’ little tent all night!  It was still raining heavily in the morning, and I was not in any rush to leave the comfort of my cosy tent, for which my affection was rapidly growing!  I remained in my sleeping bag and cooked some porridge in the porch of my shelter; breakfast in bed, who says you have to rough it when camping?  I settled back and read a little more until the rain abated, listening to the group of lads breaking camp in the atrocious conditions.  I am beginning to question my machismo, but then again I remember an old army adage;

“Any fool can be uncomfortable!”

After another hour or so, the rain did eventually subside and I quickly climbed out and packed up my campsite.  I had specifically had a shower late the previous evening so that I would be ready to move as soon as the conditions were suitable, so I only needed a quick wash and to brush my teeth and I was ready to move off again.  The campsite was by now beginning to get waterlogged and most of the campers seemed to have moved already or preparing to do so.  The nearby brook was extremely swollen, and it did not appear that it would hold its banks for much longer, which would mean the whole site, would probably be flooded before too long.

I checked out the forecast at reception and decided on yet another change of plan.  Instead of heading into the most isolated areas, it was probably more sensible to remain within reach of the lines of communication.  This meant returning to Ambleside once more, it is just as well I like the town; I was almost becoming a local!  I set off down the road and decided to chance my luck with a bit of hitching, and was extremely lucky to get a lift within a few minutes.  Steve had been up for a few days and was heading back to Liverpool; fortunately he would have to pass through Ambleside!

By the time Steve dropped me off on the outskirts of the town it was already quite late, so I decided to visit one of my favourite Lakeland eateries “The Apple Pie”.

The inaugural Helvellyn CC match
  I chose a baileys milkshake and a slice of apple pie, of course, what else would you order?  I then relaxed in the comfort of this pleasant little bakery/coffee shop for an unhurried bit of chilling.  Eventually though it was time to make a move as I needed to get up high enough to enable me to set up a decent camp for the night.

I followed the path that took me out of town and up towards Low Sweden Bridge and then eventually to my proposed campsite at Scandale Tarn via High Sweden Bridge and a very wet Scandale Bottom.  This greatly added to the time taken to reach my destination as I was determined to keep my feet dry this time!  The wind at Scandale Pass was howling and reminded me of last time I was out in such winds, a certain late summer’s day last year in Iceland.  The weather was not finished with me yet however, as the rain had bided it’s time and waited until I arrived at my campsite before it really started raining cats, dogs and other small furry domestic animals.

This meant setting up in a very strong wind and a heavy downpour, where were those lads with their team spirit to provide me with a little shelter?  It was a bit of a struggle as both the inner and flysheet were constantly being blown around in strong gusts and I needed to keep them ‘weighted’ down when not actually holding on to them tightly.  A few minutes later though I had succeeded in pitching my trusty little shelter and was able to get all my kit inside and out of the worsening conditions.  My only slight concern was that the ground was quite rocky and I had not been able to ‘drive’ all the pegs sufficiently into the soil.  I did use the guy lines for the first time though; a bit of a shame that there was not a ‘fixing’ for one near my weak peg.  I was also worried about water getting in during such a heavy, persistent downpour and ‘pooling’ at the foot of my tent as it was pitched on a very slight incline.  This might mean that there was a risk of the foot of my sleeping bag getting wet, easy solution; put the end inside a stuffsac.  This would result in some condensation at the bottom of the bag due to the stuffsac not being breathable, but this was by far the more favourable of the two evils. 

There was some respite from the rain for awhile and the sun even came out again, the wind however was unrelenting.  Dinner consisted of chicken and mushroom pasta followed by a Belgian chocolate flavoured hot chocolate.  Finally I took the opportunity to brush my teeth whilst it was still dry.  I was soon ensconced in my down sleeping bag for a little reading and then eventually fell asleep just as the rain began to fall again with the wind continuing to buffet my shelter mercilessly.   I received a rude awakening during the night when an especially strong gust tore my weak peg clean out of the ground.  This necessitated me diving out into the storm wearing only my icebreakers to attempt to hammer it back in more securely, I also reinforced this by attaching a piece of para cord to the peg and hammering a further peg into some softer ground; sorted!

Fortunately, there were not any repetitions of my tent collapsing or any further reasons for me to venture out into a cold, wet night wearing only my underwear.

All this and no accomodation fees!
  The morning brought some respite from the unfavourable conditions, and I was able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in some impressive surroundings before breaking camp for the day.

The pattern for the next few days had been set though, heavy rain and strong winds during the night with sunny spells during the day.  I will only provide the highlights of the next few days and refrain from giving you a complete day by day, blow by blow account as things continued pretty much in the same vein, and I do not wish to bore you further.  In fact the following night spent camping at Red Tarn the conditions were even more severe than the previous night, and the very worst that I had to contend with.  I even had to sleep fully clothed as it was quite cold and there was the possibility of another foray into another wet, windy night.  Despite all this, my tent, sleeping bag, kit and I had all come out relatively unscathed.

I recall that when I first started out in the outdoor pursuit’s game and was attending an early Mountain Leadership course in Snowdonia, whilst completing an expedition lasting several days, the instructor continually reminded me of the following;

“Any idiot can stay out overnight; it is the second night that counts.”

I had now been sleeping under canvas for about a week, and the most important thing my sleeping bag was totally dry.  It takes a fair degree of organisation to remain comfortable in these conditions, and despite the fact that I had it easy in a campsite for a couple of nights, I did feel a little self satisfied!  My pack had also gained a little more respect, although the material was not particularly waterproof and was usually soaked, this was irrelevant as everything was stored inside stuffsacs inside so kept dry.  It had proved to be quite comfortable though, and apart from a little discomfort in my right shoulder probably due to a combination of friction and dampness caused by sweat I was quite pleased with its performance.

The next few days I spent in very changeable conditions wandering over peaks including Dove Crag, Dollywaggon and Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, White Side, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Watson’s Dodd, Great Dodd Blencathra and Bannerdale Crags.  I scrambled down Striding Edge and up Swirral Edge and camped at Grisedale, Red and Scales Tarns, and below Sticks Pass.  There were a number of other ‘hardy’ hikers out, although I appeared to be the only one crazy enough to be camping out up there.  I chatted with National Trust volunteers who were gamely repairing the footpath just off the main ridge of Striding Edge in some particularly unpleasant weather; respect!

I met quite a few people that were attempting the ‘Coast to Coast’ and one such encounter is certainly worth a mention.

Is that a glimmer of sunshine?
  This long distance path passed quite close to my campsite at Grisedale Tarn, and after the inevitable rain had eventually abated and I had packed up my site I met two quite mature ladies.  They were heading up the way I had descended the previous night in strong winds and thick clag, and although the conditions were far more favourable now, I doubted that they were really up to ascending such a steep scree slope.  I enquired as to where they were heading and they replied that they were completing the Coast to Coast and had started out the previous Wednesday.  I advised them they were going in the wrong direction and pointed out the correct path running down the other side of the valley.  They thanked me, and I could detect an American accent so I queried where they were from.  These two game old ladies were from Alabama in the United States.  The only remaining problem was that they needed to cross a quite swollen stream to get to the path and I investigated possible crossing points for them.  The two of them were physically quite different, the one that I mentally named ‘Sturdy’ managed to use some stepping stones without assistance, but the one I had dubbed ‘Frail’ required some help.  Initially I offered her one of my walking poles, to augment her existing one, but this was not really of any great help.  I then decided to join her mid-stream and offered my arm, providing the balance and stability she needed to cross successfully.  I wished them the best of luck in their adventure and watched to ensure that they took the right path and then continued my on my own route.

I had another pleasant surprise as I ascended the footpath leading to the summit of Helvellyn, there was a group of guys engaged in the inaugural Helvellyn Cricket Club match, my designation, not theirs.  They did not just bowl one or two balls either, they seemed to be bowling a number of overs.  I was particularly amused when I heard one of them enquire “Umpire, can I bowl around the wicket?”  I just had to take a few photographs of this example of English eccentricity which kept me smiling for the rest of that day
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Red Tarn and Swirral Edge looking …
Red Tarn and Swirral Edge looking…
Red Tarn and Swirral Edge looking …
Red Tarn and Swirral Edge looking…
The inaugural Helvellyn CC match
The inaugural Helvellyn CC match
All this and no accomodation fees!
All this and no accomodation fees!
Is that a glimmer of sunshine?
Is that a glimmer of sunshine?
My tent looking a little sorry for…
My tent looking a little sorry fo…
Patterdale
photo by: o_mendfornd