So, there we were me and my friend Eion stood in Tescos about to purchase a can each of this lethal drink – Carlsberg Special Brew – when a shop assistant comes running over. He promptly informed us that we can’t buy individual cans and that we’d have to take a pack of the bloody things. Well, being in a rush to catch a connecting train for a planned winter wild camp….we thought “What the heck! We can always crush the cans when emptied” and duly paid for a few of these beasties.
Aye, we were making our way to the Yorkshire Dales for a 2 nighter wild camp. We only popped into the store to kill some time before our next journey and also to top up some much needed winter warming booze. Ya know? To chill out with enjoying a fine sunset.
This was the beginning of a trip I had been planning for a few weeks. It wasn’t just gonna be the two of us either. I had arranged to meet a few friends for a group wild camp. Now, I’ll be the first to admit I hate the site (though rare) of a group of tents out on the hills in the UK. I find it a blot and sometimes without sounding too prejudice….it can mean other things like noise and litter. But myself and the others are not like that at all.
There was more to this group wild camp. It was a chance to catch up with good friends I haven’t seen for a while and others to meet other like-minded folk and maybe become friends too.A bit of a sociable event, really. It was also the first time some were going wild camping up on the hills in winter and furthermore it was to be done in a place many had not even considered visiting.
There was going to be eight of us in all, albeit I had arranged to meet a friend (Rob) on the Friday and the rest on the Saturday at a grid ref (an easy one….quite simply Ingleborough summit….yep! That hill again!). I figured they’d get to see some of the best the Dales has to offer. I recommended routes for all the guys to follow and so on and thought it wouldn’t be too demanding for anyone considering the likely terrain and conditions.
Anyway, me and Eion arrived to blue skies and sunshine in Horton-in-Ribblesdale with splendid views of Pen-Y-Ghent as we made our way to Moughton. The going was easy underfoot and there wasn’t a great distance to cover. As we plodded on, we became more and more excited at the prospect of pitching round Moughton. The scenery was excellent in all directions of the compass and quite simply proved a point that big hills don’t always give one the best views.
We spent some time seeking out one spring and then another to collect water for the night. It wasn’t so much that the ice and snow had shielded any springs but moreover that they simply didn’t exist compared to our map. But we found a small spring trickling out from the calcium rich limestone and made our final ascent for Moughton.
On our way we caught sight of Rob in the distance trying to catch us up. Having come up in the car he got caught in traffic and we had set off without him. After admiring the view to Ingleborough and beyond we exchanged pleasantries and began seeking out our pitch for the night. One of the best things about this area was the lack of paths and people. We didn’t see anyone and more often than not the tracks we did see were probably as the result of sheep. Great stuff!
We hit the summit at about 3pm and began seeking some flat grassy ground with some difficulty. The limestone paving in the area was coming out in various forms and at different depths (I checked using a tent peg) despite the appearance of being tuffty with long grass. But we did eventually find a secluded and picturesque spot with a fine panorama. Thats what wild camping is all about ya see?
We got the tents up as some cloud rolled in and then cracked open some Special Brew. Now, I’m well aware of the do’s and dont’s of alcohol. More so when out on the hills. But one of the best things about having a long day walk in beautiful landscapes is visiting the pub at the end of the day. The taste of that first pint and the chit chat that follows with friends is duly rewarding. When I go wild camping I tend to miss that euphoric feeling and so in that respect….I take the pub with me. Admittedly, drinks like Special Brew and even Whisky aint my cup of tea. But out in the middle of nowhere….just like eating camping food….any shit tastes good and does the job.
I often joke I’m just a posh tramp when wild camping and now in this scenario drinking a 9% lager? I literally was. But it made for good fun and some laughs as myself, Eion and Rob enjoyed some splendid atmospheric scenery as the sunset. Heck, I was enjoying myself so much I think (?) I may had gone into one of my tipsy rants about getting out in the hills to the other two poor lads! We had the usual blokey banter….ya know? Footy, women, footy, women….errrr….outdoor gear, footy, women…..aye we talked about trips and sights we’ve seen too, places we wish we could go and so on. However, come 9pm…ish….we made for food and bed for the night.
On this trip I took along with me a new pressie. A Thermarest NeoAir
Of course, I knew it’s limits for insulation from cold ground so I took a lightweight foil-sided foam mat with me. But this didn’t quite suffice. The air-temp got down to minus 10 degrees in the night and I stirred a couple of times due to feeling cold spots round my hips. It was nothing to worry a great deal about but I like my sleep and I like to sleep well. As it turned out I felt a lot warmer once I placed the foam mat on top of the NeoAir. Clearly, the air within the mattress was not warming up as effeciently as Thermarest claim it does but then again it really is for use during late Spring to early Autumn.
Either way, I got off to a sound sleep and woke at about 6am in anticipation of a beautiful sunrise. I got a Lyons coffee brew on the old meths stove and belatedly dragged my hungover body out of bed and went to the other guys and wake them from their slumbers. We did indeed wake to a beautiful sunrise. Not spectacular….but pretty nonetheless. What was more impressive and even jaw-dropping was watching the orange and pink light catch the limestone crags and ridges Sulber Nick and Moughton Scars. It was bloody awesome! It really did look like the Grand Canyon in the US at times. It was very impressive and a sight I hope to see again. And of course, the blue skies and white capped peaks made a truly mesmerising view.
It was a fantastic start to the day ( though my thumping head begged to differ) and eventually we broke camp at about 10am to set off across the limestone pavements heading for Ingleborough. This walk in itself again was a marvel. At times looking out over what felt like an alien landscape to a view of the towering Pen-Y-Ghent sent my heart soaring. It was one of those moments when you felt like you could walk a hundred miles…..dance along the grikes and boulders…..ah! I’m sounding all cliche and sentimental. But sod it! It’s true. It was heavenly stuff and then we hit the main paths to come across other walkers all heading where we were going.
I did get a text or two from the other guys making the trip that day and one included a mention of some extra beer being brought up for myself. To be honest, I thought he could stick it where the sun don’t shine at that point. But alas it was on my asking and come later feeling much better….well…how I could I type a embarrassed smiley or even a sheepish one! Boys will be boys eh?
The route up Ingleborough from Sulber Nick is easy enough but it can hold the snow a fair bit being in the lee of most northerly winds. This made hiking a little tiring and cumbersome but the views were becoming more and more extensive. Eventually, we reached the base of Swine Tail and collected some water from one of the nearby springs and then made a careful ascent through deep snow to the summit of Ingleborough.
Walking…well, plodding just ti the lip of the summit plateau a shout and a whistle caught my attention and as it turned out it was the 4 other guys joining me for this camp. I introduced everyone to each other and doing so made a short walk around the summit of Ingleborough taking in the views and deciding on where to pitch our tents. In the end we went for where I had in mind, it was sheltered from most possible prevailing winds and the ground was flat enough to take several tents.
We all started to unpack and clear away the snow as best we could to get to the ground when we realised just how cold it was up there. For some I think it came as a bit of a shock and somewhat of a concern. The ground was like concrete. Nevertheless, I do take a small and lightweight mallet for such situations and so we took it in turns passing this around to get the pegs in.
Some settled down to a brew and food, others took a wander to take photos, the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. It was around this time that Rob approached me and informed he was going to pack up and head back down and possibly home. He pointed out how cold he was and he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone if things got worst for him. I agreed it was best if he went sooner rather than later and not long after of he went! It was sad to see him go. We had a great camp the previous evening but it just goes to show how we all react and feel differently about camping in such conditions. It is always best in such situations to err on the side of caution of which I think Rob did. Best to be safe and not sorry, eh?
Anyway, the clock was ticking for sunset and we all eventually headed to Ingleboroughs summit cross-shelter. We cracked open some cans, bottle of wine, port and sherry…..aye, it sounds bloody daft! But it was fun and with all good intentions. Many folk passed by heading for the valleys making jokes at our expense…..”I’ll think of you in the pub!” or “I’ll come back with some more beer if you want?” and other such jokey jibes. It was all good fun as we sheltered out the wind and chatted away. Laughing and chatting, huddled up at times….some taking a short run around to warm up at others.
Late on we even decided to have a wee disco going….one of the lads got some music on his mobile phones speakers and some even danced….much to others amusement. But alas, we did have to be sensible and as the cloud came in and the light faded away I suggested we head back to our tents for warmth and food.
At this point I asked everyone in turn why they decided to come and to some…..do what we did.
Answers varied from one to the other and without being mawkish there was a common theme. It was being there and doing it. The sense of adventure. The challenge of it for others. The camaraderie. Something that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.
Here we had a group of lads of all ages and backgrounds. Late twenties to forties. Factory workers, to managers. IT guys to squaddie…..not sure how that last one works as a measure but there you go! We could be all people we’d never likely meet in the street given our professions. Even our age!
But we all got along like a house on fire sharing an experience that is quite unique and possibly extremely stupid on reflection. It was our love for the outdoors and being “out there” that drew us onto common ground.
It was quite moving hearing each and every one’s thoughts on the day and evening and I felt proud to have shared the experience with some proper top blokes. All said and done…..once back at camp some dozey sod decided to fall ON TO THEIR TENT having perhaps a little too much to drink! That’ll teach em eh? I shall not name names…..but lets say he needs some new tent poles.
It was funny in all honesty and thankfully that was the worst of any trips and slips. All slept soundly in the end through the night (myself with a hot water bottle) and at about 5am we were rudely awakened by an oncoming wintry storm.
No time for breakfast….this was a time to pack and get the hell out of there! The wind was picking up bigtime! And weather forecasts via my mobile phone indicated it was going to get worst. The cold was….well…..bloody cold and the snow was sticking to everything like glue. I think it was about 8am we were all packed and ready to head off into the whiteout and back down to Clapham.
Once on the flanks of Little Ingleborough things eased a bit and bar the odd arse over tit on black ice….we got back to the cars tired and in one piece.
Aye, it was a memorable occasion cum event. One I’ll cherish fondly. And to be honest, one I’ve struggled to put into words.
I’m not a literary poet or great philosopher. But I hope by reading this post you get some sense of the fun and adventure we had.
Sure, I usually to do such things on my own. But sometimes it’s good to get out there and share the experience with others. I really enjoyed it.
And on that note…..I shall write down not to take or drink Carlsberg Special Brew again. It gave me a bloody bad hangover despite necking litres of water and raiding the first-aid kit. I’m sticking to my Port from now on!
Moughton was a joy to discover and we all left with happy memories and left only positive vibes behind. So, thanks to Chris, Phil, Craig, Brendan, Rob and Eion for a great weekend!
To view all my pics of the trip click here