From heaven to hell in under a minute

by backpackingbongos

Amongst the rough moors a perfect patch of sheep nibbled grass was found to pitch.  We were above 2000ft and the views across the Eden valley stretched into the Lake District and beyond.  The sun was beating down but we were cooled by a pleasant breeze.  Walking across the parched moors we were lucky to come across a tiny spring less than 10 minutes from camp.  From it we filled our water bottles with ice-cold crystal clear water.  Backpacking does not get much better than that.

I left my friend to enjoy camp whilst I bagged the nearby Murton Fell and returned less than an hour later.  The sun just starting its spectacular display as it made its way to the horizon.  Then suddenly and without warning the breeze dropped, the air completely still.  They rose in great clouds, a biting mass covering exposed skin.  An hour and a half of sheer torment followed, I had no refuge as I had brought an open shelter on its inaugural outing.  The sheer numbers were overwhelming and I could not stand still for more than a few seconds.  The dog was frantic, running up and down with his face to the ground like a snow plough.  Unfortunately the fiery spectacle was wasted on me, a photo snatched, my vision impeded by a headnet.

Rewind 24 hours and it was a completely different story.  I climbed the summit of Tailbridge Hill with Reuben, just in time for the sun to put on a glorious show.  I sat and watched the sun slide slowly towards the horizon.  Reuben sat and watched the sheep.  The sheep stood and watched Reuben.

I’ll get a full trip report up in due course.

31 Comments to “From heaven to hell in under a minute”

  1. I noticed you were going with an open shelter in warm July weather, but I thought it impolite to point out the obvious…

  2. You poor bugger. Great pics though. The one of Reuben is very excellent indeed.

  3. great pics…shame about the midges…shame about the shelter that didn’t shelter you from the midges!
    I’ll look forward to the full report!

    • Thanks. I did regret not having a tent with me that night, somewhere I could have zipped myself into would have been nice. Still, it was an experience.

  4. I did a very similar walk to your Howgills route over the weekend (except in reverse) and camped at the tarn between Swarth and Wild Boar Fells…so about 600m. A few midges surfaced once the wind dropped at dusk but not too many and they soon vanished. Which was just as well as I was in a tent with no inner…

    • Hi James. It is a lovely area that you walked. You were lucky with the midges. The first night I was a bit nearer to you just above Kirkby Stephen, none around then just a few in the morning. What tent were you using?

  5. I had the same thing on Friday night on Dartmoor, we got eaten alive! But I did have a tent to hide in at night thank god.

    • I have never visited Dartmoor in the summer but can imagine what it would be like with all that bog! Its good that you could escape them at night though.

  6. My sympathies regards the midges – I can relate, having just returned from the Lakes with a face that now resembles … well, something red and blotchy thanks to the hunger of those flying evil demons! Great blog – I’ve only recently discovered it, but enjoying every post 🙂

    • Many thanks for your comment. The midges are little devils that’s for sure, amazing how such a tiny creature can cause so much discomfort. I highly recommend a headnet, you look daft but makes simple tasks like cooking dinner much more easy (you don’t need to flap your arms so much!).

  7. Sweet photos. Midges are so mean. Soon be autumn and no issues with them then.

    • Thanks Martin. It’s the first time this year that they have been an issue. Even a couple of weeks ago they were not a problem in the Lakes, even lower down on a muggy evening. A few weeks and they should be gone.

  8. What a nightmare they are. Some sympathy offered from here! Did you not even take a bug bivi?

    • Alan, I wish that I did have some form of bug bivi. I honestly thought that I would be safe from them that high up a hill. The weather was exceptionally still. You live and learn!

  9. On a plus side the shelter looked great,awaiting mine I’n post and like you that’s my only worry for dog and me ….the dreaded midge

    • The shelter itself Peter was great. Easy to erect and very spacious inside, loads of room for the dog and I. He was a bit unsure the first night but by the second he slept all night. Hope you get yours soon.

  10. A few weeks ago I tried using my Hubba HP with a footprint in lieu of the inner for two people and a small dog. This was very unsatisfactory due to lack of space, midges and Max the dog kept ducking under the edges of the fly sheet during the night and going off on ‘hunting / guarding’ trips even though I had tied him to my rucksack. This all led to a disturbed night’s sleep. I like my Hubba but I don’t think I will be using it in that format again.
    Then a couple of weekends ago I used my Voyager instead and tried to offset the extra weight by using a single sleeping bag zipped out open between my girlfriend and I. Max doesn’t bother to try to ‘escape’ once he is inside an inner tent. I protect the groundsheet from his claws with a bit of tent underlay This was far more satisfactory and the shared sleeping bag thing worked well for low land camping.

    • Hi Mike. As the Trailstar has an open side I ended up using a large sturdy tent peg to which I attached Reubens lead. I was worried that he would go off on his own for ‘walkies’ in the night. Instead on the first night he sat by the door growling at something only he could see! I have wondered about dog claws on a delicate groundsheet, I have thought about buying cheap kids socks to put on his paws!

  11. I was using a Laser comp minus the inner to give myself some more room. I was concerned about midges and the original plan was to camp on the top of Swarth fell to escape them – but the tarn there had dried out and I had no water with me…so I had to duck down 100m. But they never really materialised…even when the wind dropped.

  12. Great post James, your writing actually managed to make my skin crawl!

  13. But it was all worth it for that sunset, no? 😉

  14. The irony of a single skin shelter, I found I could use my fly sheet only in December but not in August, in December the condensation on the inside freezes and midges aren’t an issue. In summer a headnet is a must but it can’t replace a bug nest. I have a bivy bag with a built in midge hood but even it doesn’t compare to a proper nest (or inner tent), it’s just plain unpleasant when apart from cooking your meal while the midges swarm you can’t even get peace to eat it.

    It’s easy to forget the advantages of an inner ‘tent’ be it a regular inner or a nest under a tarp, sometimes the extra 200g or so saved over carrying a footprint and minimal midge protection isn’t worth the weight saving.

    Of course the great benefit of the likes of the Trailstar or a Hex is the amount of space, most current solo tents don’t come close even with the inner removed as there simply isn’t enough headroom.

    • Hi Richard. I took a gamble that weekend and lost! Typical really as it was the first time that midges have been an issue for me this year. I will be investing in an inner for the Trailstar when funds permit. In the meantime it will be a tent for me until the bug season is over!

  15. I think a bug bivy is the right choice, more versatile than a bivy bag with a mesh window and probably not much heavier. I actually bought one from Bearpaw tents to use under a regular tarp but so far it’s only been used as a nest in the porch of our 3 man tent (Vango Equinox 350) as a sleeping place for me while my wife, daughter and niece slept in the main compartment. It actually worked well although the workmanship while perfectly adequate isn’t flawless.

    • For me Richard the idea of sleeping in a bivi bag with a mesh window is pretty unappealing, I think I would go with an inner net. Any pics of your Bearpaw inner coming up on your blog?

  16. Hi James, yes I’ll have to post something about it but so far I’ve only tried it in the tent rather than under the tarp as intended, I’ve just been snowed under with other things. In the meantime the one I have is the Minimalist 1 bivvy with the optional ‘left-end-right’ zip which allows me to get in from either side or from the end depending on how I set the tarp up.

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