Archive for January, 2009

January 24, 2009

Bothying in the North York Moors

by backpackingbongos

Last weekend I had planned to travel to the North Pennines with a mate to stay in a non-mba bothy.  We were also going to check if a remote building I had spotted from a distance years ago was a bothy we could use on another trip.

Alas the plan had to be changed at the very last minute, my mate had hurt his back and the weather for the Alston area was showing 100mph winds on the tops and heavy snow!  It was now me on my own and I could not face the long drive and the bad weather.  I got out my maps the night before and decided to head for The North York Moors, an area I have only visited once.  There was also a bothy that I could stay in as the wind was still going to be pretty strong – maybe too strong for a backpacking tent up on the moors.

I left Nottingham at 7.00am and found myself in Pickering only 2 hours later, much quicker than I had anticipated.  I had decided to do a short day walk near Goathland before heading off to the bothy.  This was pleasant enough but could not under any stretch of the imagination be called exciting.  A bash through the heather to the 260m trig point, passing a guy in shorts (it was cold and just a bit breezy!) followed by an attractive riverside stretch along Wheeldale beck.

Back to the Bongo for a spot of late lunch then a short drive to park up the van for the night.  One of the reasons why I like bothies is being able to spend the evening in front of a roaring fire.  Therefore my rucksack weighed a ton as it was full of wood and coal.  It took me nearly an hour to stagger just over a mile with that damn rucksack, the track was a quagmire and I was covered in peat up to the knees.  Just at the last minute the bothy appears, I looked for any sign of smoke from the chimney but could not see or smell any.  Opening the bothy door I was pleased that it was empty and clean and tidy.  I claimed a single sleeping platform then went out into the gloaming for a look around, noticing two figures on the horizon heading towards me.  I have to admit that my heart sank as I was looking forward to a peaceful night on my own, so went back in to continue unpacking.

5 minutes later two lads opened the door and pleasantries were exchanged.  They were from Scarborough and had come to stay at the bothy many times in the past.  Within a few minutes the bothy was full of chatter, a fire was lit and beers passed around.  Looking like it would be a good night.

As the evening progressed the wind outside got stronger and stronger until it was a steady roar, rain bouncing off of the tin roof.  My curry for dinner played havoc with my stomach and I had to step outside with the bothy spade and go for a long walk across the heather.  The downside to bothying I suppose!

More food was eaten, whisky was then drunk, then a night spent sleeping on a hard wooden platform.  The morning dawned lovely and sunny with just a touch of ice on the puddles outside.  I love bothy mornings as it saves packing up a wet tent!  Lots of coffee, curry noodles and a stomp / slosh across the moor brought me back to the van and the drive home.

Just a shame I forgot my camera!

Pinkneys bothy (not my own picture)


January 24, 2009

Tents in nice places – The Lake District

by backpackingbongos

I love wild camping so thought that I would post a selection of places I have called home for a night.

Sampsons Stones (June 2003)


Low Birker Tarn (June 2003)


Above Dunnerdale (May 2004)


Above Calf Cove (May 2005)


Glencoyne Head (June 2004)


Grisedale Tarn (June 2004)


Langstrath (Aug 2005)


Harrison Combe (Aug 2005)


January 23, 2009

Trekking in Ladakh – Spitok to Stok via the Stok La pass (Sept 2004)

by backpackingbongos

Below is an extract from an email I sent home after doing the Stok La trek in Ladakh India, photos at the end:

Some one managed to get their way and a four day trek was booked after being in Leh for a week.  Spitok to Stok via the Stok La pass which stands at 4900 metres (about 16,000 feet in old money).  $30US each got us a guide/cook, 3 ponies and a ponyman plus all food and transport.  Our guide was a local Tibetan man called Tashi whilst ponyman (only ever known as ponyman) was a Tibetan chap in his sixties with a face that could sell post cards.

The first day of our trek followed the Indus river down stream through a stunning rocky gorge.  The river was a deep shade of green far far below us.  We eventually came to the camp site which was shared with several other trekking groups.  We had our own tent plus a kitchen tent was set up.  We were surrounded by about 20 ponies with their bells clonking away – lovely sound with the river roaring in the background.  Shame that the ponies were also standing and crapping in the stream which was also our drinking water!

The next day was up up up!  Following the river through a narrowing gorge we came to Rumbuk village which is meant to be the best place in the world to spot snow leopard. No such luck but we did see very rare blue sheep (half sheep half goat).  By now it was like being in a national geographic film, the village was like entering a time warp.  The crops were being harvested by hand and by Yak.  We trudged on up to the Stok La base camp at 4200 metres to spend the night.  Tents put up in a boulder field with Stok Kangri Mountain rearing up at 6000 metres plus, all covered in snow.  A very cold and tough night was spent at high altitude – going for a poo was like running a marathon!  Our guide cooked us Tibetan Tukpha and made us Ginger tea and then in bed by 8.00pm.  Had that strange sufforcating feeling again along with very odd dreams.  Both nervous for the next day.

Woken up at 6.00 am with tea in bed – nice but not at 6.00am!  Then very very slowly up.  Counting to four then stop – repeat.  Both very breathless but no AMS so guide happy that we continued.  Views getting bigger and bigger.  A couple of hundred metres from the top of the pass the path vanished into loose scree and then the ponies caught up.  A nervous few minutes whilst they tried to scrabble up, one nearly fell. We both felt responsible for putting them though that ordeal.  Then at the top at 4900 metres (16,000 feet!).  Surrounded by prayer flags and stunning views – both very very knackered.  Horses also looking knackered (this made us feel miserable).  Ponyman at 61 looked fresh as a daisy!

Then down down down for a day and a half.  Through another gorge with huge rock spires and another campsite all to ourselves.  Our guide manged to cook a six dish curry on one stove!  All along we declined the salt butter tea!  Toilet in the night involved finding the best spot and squatting.  A scary moment when a pair of eyes get picked up in the torch beam (there are dangerous animals out there!).

The last day was easy down hill to a jeep and back to Leh.

Corrina crossing the Indus at the start of the Trek


High altitude desert


The Indus again, this time deep in a gorge


First nights camp with the ponies


The mountains are opening up


Rumbuk village


High camp at 4200 metres


Cairn just outside camp


Breaking camp with Stok Kangri 6,123 metres behind


At the top of Stok La at 4,900 metres (about 16,000 ft).  Wow!



It was a long long descent!


Our final nights camp


January 21, 2009

Climbing Mount Rinjani (on the island of Lombok in Indonesia) in May 2005

by backpackingbongos

In May 2005 I did a 4 day trek to climb Mount Rinjani with Corrina.  A difficult 4 days to ascend the 3,726 metre (12,224 ft) peak, the second highest in Indonesia.

Here is an extract from an email I sent home at the time with some pictures at the end:

On our first day we had to climb from Senaru village situated at only 601 metres to the crater rim at 2641 metres, which by any account is a rather long climb!  We started off going through banana plantations until we entered primary jungle for a hot and sticky ascent under a dense canopy.  Not alot to see except for lots of trees so it was head down for a few hours with short breaks to watch groups of rare black monkeys.  Gradually the jungle gave way to a surreal cloud forest with stunted trees covered in lichens and hanging mosses like old mens beards.  This also gave way to grassland and volcanic rock until we finally reached the cloud shrouded crater rim.

About half an hour before sunset the clouds suddenly parted revealing one of the most stunning vistas we have seen so far on this trip.  On one side there was the sea 2641 metres below us being revealed through a sea of shifting clouds, on the other was a huge volcanic crater.  On one side of the crater was Rinjani itself looking all high and difficult to climb, in the crater itself was a large lake and a baby volcano called Gunung Baru (it is this volcano that erupted only last feb and with a big eruption in 1994).  Altogether not a bad place to pitch a tent and have dinner cooked for us!

That night was absolutely freezing considering that we were so close to the equator.  We were treated to a spectacular display of `Bintang` which is the Indonesian word for star (and also the national beer).  The air was amazingly clear and crisp.  All night you could see flashes of lightening on the horizon coming from the direction of Java.  Bed early for a few hours of shivering!

The next morning us and the crew headed down into the crater itself.  Our crew consisted of a guide and two porters.  The porters were lovely chaps who had to carry massive loads suspended on either end of a bamboo pole whilst wearing flip flops.  Our guide was all of 5 foot and had undergone a humour extraction operation, also as is usual in Asia he took everything very literally.  Absolutely no sense of irony as this conversation demonstrates –

James said “My legs hurt, could I swap them for yours?” – Guide with a shocked and very serious look on his face replied “No”!!  There were many such gems on the trek including trying to explain that we did not want our crust cut off our sarnies, but we will leave them for another time.

The 600 metre descent into the crater was a bit of a killer and Corrina had to face her narrow paths and big drops fear.  These narrow paths were punctuated with several short rock climbs down small cliffs (about a grade 1 scramble for those who know about such things).  She did great and we arrived at the bottom in one piece.  We were treated with a soak in some volcanic hot springs and a nice cooked lunch before a nasty acsent up the other side of the crater.  Luckily by that time the clouds were obscuring the sheer drops!

Our second night was spent at the base camp for Rinjani on a rocky and narrow ridge.  Again it was freezing cold once the sun set, but to bed very early for the big day ahead.

It was only the boy who stumbled out of the tent at 2.30am the next morning all tired and fuddled.  Corrina wrapped up in two sleeping bags enjoyed a nice warm sleep.  At 3.00am James and the guide Mansor started trudging up the steep slopes by torch light to try and reach the summit by dawn.  It was three of the toughest hours of James’ life on that 1100 metre ascent at altitude in the dark.  The last hour was up near vertical ankle deep volcanic scree, where you just kept sliding down with each step – like going up a down escalator.  A string of profanaties going round his head and socks on the hands to keep warm.  Ten minutes after sunrise (bummer missed it by a few mins) the tiny summit of the 3762 metre mountain was reached by a very happy chappy.  The view was staggering – imagine being that high on a mountain in a middle of a fairly small island – the earth is indeed round!  The rising sun cast a shadow of the volcanic cone many miles across the sea to Bali and beyond.  Bloody stunning and very cold  – so a couple of mins later a descent was made.  Good fun running down the volcanic scree!  5 hours after setting off we were back at the tent to see a well rested Corrina and have a cuppa tea!

A quick kip for James and the guide and then there was still a full days trekking downhill to go.  James frequently went all wobbly and could not talk coherently but was pleased to collapse at our final nights camp (Graham and Rae may recall the West Highland way!!).  The last few hours of the trek was through a landscape strangely similar to British moorland whilst we were again surrounded by swirling mist!

Anyway we finished blah blah blah…………………………………………………

Day one

A rest in the jungle


Cloud Forest


Camp above the clouds on the rim of the crater


Day two

On the edge – descending into the crater


We had to descend to the bottom of the crater to ascend the peak opposite


Scrambling up a loose path on the other side


To arive at high level camp site, again above the clouds


Day three

I made the summit after a 2.30am start and a 4 hour slog up volcanic scree.  Corrina stayed in bed!


Summit view, the shadow of the mountain reaches across to Bali hidden in the clouds


My Guide


Descending what I had to ascend in the dark!


Hours later we hit the grasslands


To our final camp


Day four

Continuing through the grasslands


And finishing in the heat of the tropics


January 21, 2009

Hello world!

by backpackingbongos

Well this is my first post!  I plan to put up all my outdoor adventure stories and pictures in the coming months.  Watch this space!