Now then! I managed to get a half-day off work last Friday to set off early for a 2 nighter wild camp in the Peak District National Park – and of course permission to go from the better half. Granted, the Peaks aint that far from my humble abode but I didn’t fancy a long walk in for a pitch in the dark. Either way, once I set foot off the train at Edale the skies were darkening and there was a good chill in the air despite the recent warming weather.
I was surprised to see a fair bit of snow about on the roads and more so up ahead on the tops. If theres one thing about night-walking I dislike – it’s peat bogs, moors and groughs of which there are a plenty round Kinder. Anywhere else I don’t mind but that kind of terrain is bad enough for navving in the day for a newbie (not that I am to the area)….but at night? Its a different world altogether and in all honesty despite my passion for the outdoors it’s a pain in the backside.
On the train journey I noticed one hardy soul sat near me all kitted out and raring for a weekend in the hills – who as it happened headed up my way in the village. I did think with all his gear whether he was a like-minded wild camping soul….Heck! He was even carrying some tins of beer! A part of me hoped he wasn’t, mind. I figured (as you do) he wouldn’t be walking too great a distance like myself. All thoughts aside he tramped off for one of the local campsites anyway. Good!
So, there I was at the start of the infamous Pennine Way (….infamous….maybe the wrong word to describe this trail, really given it’s negative meaning…but the Pennine Way is in parts real badass, no?) I double-checked I had all I needed and began my ascent up onto the moors.
I felt all well and good despite the chilly air and the sodden ground. My pack weighed a tonne, though. I had a 100ltr pack! Sure, it wasn’t full but it was the only pack I could use whereby I can get all my winter kit in and my video camera, tripod et al. Furthermore, I was lugging up 2 ltrs of water plus some nightcap beverages. I didn’t particularly want to fanny about up on the moor seeking water. I had a pitch in mind that was near a tarn but I figured it might be rock solid from the cold winter we’ve experienced of late. And any other trickle that maybe about would be rancid looking peaty water. Yuck! (I don’t care what water treatment device you have….but having to consume something that looks like pee? I will draw the line at some things and peat water is one I don’t take likely)
Higher and higher I went, plodding along, looking back at Edale as all the lights flickered on and the gloom of cloud and dark moor pressed around me. The snow was starting to be a pain, too. It didn’t know whether to consolidate or turn to slush! That slowed my progress a little and also influenced my decision to head elsewhere for a pitch on the moors.
Now, wild camping in the Peaks is strictly forbidden. There are many reasons for this, not only legal but mainly due to the delicate nature of peat, fringe grasslands and the fire-risk it entails….more so in the summer. Litter can cause fires and often some lazy, ignorant s*** backpackers (and walkers) will often discard such stuff without regard to their surrounds. So, I was being a bit naughty but nevertheless I have the utmost respect for nature and our landscapes. There’ll be no trace from me or concern (not that that is an excuse or reason I have to add).
I say this because I ended up pitching higher and more exposed than I anticipated. I shall not name the peak but it’s a popular one. Easily accessible for the tourists with fine wide-ranging views. On top of this I was keeping a keen eye on the weather. I had done so for the past few days (who don’t in the UK!) BUT I could smell a special Saturday morning coming on. Perhaps the most wonderful of things to see out in the hills. A cloud inversion?
Well, I made camp with my Laser Competition tent (bit battered from last winters escapades and needs some TLC), got all comfy and then took some “nightcap beverages” with me as I wandered around the summit taking in the nighttime views. Grand stuff!
Now, you may or may not have noticed the picture in my blog banner but that was taken on the following Saturday morning of this trip. Marvellous is it not? It says to me what backpacking, wild camping….whatever you wanna call it is all about. I kid you not, the pic has not been digitally altered in any way (except cropped) and it is exactly what I saw. I think pro-photographers call it “chasing the light”? Well, they chase it. I live it and was there already!
That morning I was I have to admit a little slow to coming around to waking from my warm and comfy slumber…..but as soon as the first light from the sun hit the sky I was out that tent like a…..rabbit out of a trap at the races….a madman?….it was the jolt up the rear I needed!
It seemed to last forever until the sun finally showed its face on the horizon (always, always a magical moment and one I’ll never tire of) and all the while the cloud poured and flowed and whooshed below the prominent peak I was on. I was indeed a lucky man to savour this with my own eyes and more so when upon looking about, every other peak for miles around was shrouded by the heaving cloud!
I could go on but theres not much else to say, really. I wandered about taking it all in with a nice hot Lyons coffee (cheers to my mate for that tip! great stuff to have on such trips!) taking photos and filming video.
It was about 10am when the first lot of day trippers hit the summit but by this point not only had I packed all my gear ready to move on but the warming air from the sun had encouraged the cloud to rise and bring in the pea soup view we often see in such places.
So, it turned into somewhat of a grim day, really but I was buzzing still from the morning views and atmosphere. All was forgiven! I did awake in the night and noted another cloud inversion….stars and moon above and fog below but this didn’t last. I was shaken awake by high winds and snow at about 5am and the weather pretty much didn’t change for the rest of the day.
Either way, the pint I earned myself in a pub in Edale was well deserved (even if I say so myself) and it helped numb me to the maddening crowds on the train home (and there were a few! Why is it on the way home? When I just wanna chill out I get some random old drunk seat himself nearby? Rambling and mumbling away having a conversation with himself and every bugger else around! I dig public transport, I really do but by God sometimes it has it’s downers! Literally!).
You know? Even though days have passed I still have that Saturday morning views and sounds in my mind…..it brings a real sense of fulfillment to me and if anything motivates me through crappy days at work et al…..all focused on my next wanderings out on the hills.
Of which I’m sure most of us feel the same way….
You can view some pictures of this trip HERE
And keep an eye out because alot of footage I filmed I shall put together in a video about winter wild camping (coming soon)