Archive for January, 2015

January 31, 2015

Thundersnow and a freezing night on the Derwent Moors

by backpackingbongos

It had meant to be a sociable weekend camping on the high moors in the Peak District. However a threat of snow had folk dropping out at the last minute. My rucksack was already packed so I headed off anyway. I erred on the side of caution and took the Bongo with its 4WD, also somewhere to sleep if turned out to be snowmageddon.

The ground was decidedly snow free when I pulled the Bongo into the car park at Langsett. I was lucky to get a space as this popular spot was almost full, even on a raw winters day. The path along the north shore of the reservoir was busy and I ended up walking its length chatting to a local guy who regularly does the circuit. Although he has a health condition it has not diminished his love for his local hills and he tries to get out for a couple of hours as much as possible. We soon parted company and I continued to the west, parallel with the busy A616 and its constant growl of traffic.

A track led me south onto the moors, brown and foreboding with patches of snow remaining. The sky was grey and overcast adding to the bleakness. I passed the cabin at Upper Hordron and descended into Hordron Clough, a sheepfold providing a sheltered spot for a late lunch.

The plan had been to cross the moors to the south and head for a wild camp up on Bleaklow. Suddenly there was a rumbling noise which at first I though was a low flying aircraft, this was soon repeated much louder and I realised it was thunder. This is my biggest fear in the hills, having been caught out in exposed places in the past during some violent thunder storms. I beat a hasty retreat back down to the valley just as I was engulfed in a furious snow shower. Within minutes everything was white and the black clouds above continued to grumble their displeasure. The shower disappeared as quickly as it had arrived and I started climbing again, only to see black clouds once again gathering to the west. Sod it I thought, there was no way I was going onto the moors if there was a further risk of a thunderstorm.

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In the end I decided to pitch on a nice flat grassy patch next to the stream. It was early but I was well placed to get onto the hills the following morning, where hopefully the promised sunshine would make an appearance.

Th next heavy shower arrived as I was pitching, the wind picking up and making the task more difficult than it should have been. It was with relief that I could brush myself free of snow and climb into the Wickiup and put on a brew. It was barely past 3.00pm but I was happy to have a lazy afternoon and it was unlikely that anyone would pass me just an hour or so before sunset.

The snow continued to fall for most of the night and I had to frequently bash the sides of my shelter to encourage it to slide off. At one point I even had to go out and remove some of the snow that had accumulated around the bottom of the Wickiup. With the inner taking up the whole of the shelter and with no porch I managed to bring in snow with me. Despite the cold I was snug inside and with good mobile reception I could watch the traffic reports, the busy road not that far away closing due to the conditions.

After a long sleep I was keen to get up before dawn, the world clear, windless and frozen solid. Stars still shone in the sky and the eastern horizon had a smudge of yellow. I enjoyed the crunch of virgin snow under my boots as I wandered round with a cup of coffee in hand. It was gone 9.00am by the time the sun reached camp, only warming me psychologically, the air remaining far below freezing. It was tough going taking down the Wickiup, the snow and frost nipping at my bare fingers as I wrestled with a frozen flysheet.

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The stream was a black streak in the white snow but easily forded. I followed a faint track past some grouse butts before striking up across heather covered snow. The heather was knee-deep with a few inches of snow on top, not the easiest of walking.

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Once on the plateau the ground was wind blasted, miles of white hills ran to the horizon towards the west. If I ignored the steady drone of traffic on the Woodhead pass I could have been on a remote hilltop in the Highlands. There were even a string of wind turbines nearby to give it that Scottish authenticity.

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I wanted to pay the Crow Stones a visit, they were not very far away but I underestimated the toughness of the ground around Stainery Clough. I’m sure that the snow did not help as I attempted to cross various deep peat groughs.

The Crow stones however were worth the effort. They are located in a remote spot close to the head of the river Derwent, the huge bulk of Bleaklow beyond, Kinder Scout on the horizon. A welcome spot in which to get out of the wind and boil some water for a brew on my stove. One of the benefits of backpacking is having the kit to make a hot drink.

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Weather was building again in the west as I packed up and headed towards the trig point on Outer Edge. It overtook me as I picked a way through the rocks, snow and mist blotting out the sun.

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Visibility was seriously reduced on Outer Edge and it was a bleak crossing to get to the security of the Cut Gate path. I passed a couple of groups of runners, rather them than me with so little kit on such a day. A quick chat with a National Park Ranger on the summit of the pass before putting my head down and yomping back to the Bongo.

Luckily once down at valley level the snow had melted, no issues in getting home. A short and sweet route but it’s amazing how a few inches of snow transform the familiar into something much bigger and wilder.

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January 28, 2015

Spot the dog

by backpackingbongos

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January 21, 2015

Backpackingbongos is six

by backpackingbongos

I’m assuming that the cards with gift vouchers are in the post along with all the presents? A surprise party with lots of food and drink later on this evening? Hope that you don’t all disappoint me…………

January 19, 2015

New Year in Northumberland

by backpackingbongos

During the New Year I was lucky enough to spend a week in a cottage deep in the wilds of Northumberland with Mrs Bongo. We were based in the tiny village of Greenhaugh, inside the National park itself and not too far from Kielder Water. It was a magically tranquil spot, seemingly miles from the hustle and bustle of modern life. It’s one of my favourite parts of the country. There are no huge rocky peaks or dramatic gorges, just miles of unspoilt moors, hidden valleys and an abundance of conifers! Not a single other hiker was spotted during the week. My kind of place. Here are a few brief words and some photos.

 

Collier Law – 516 metres

Collier Law actually sits over the border in County Durham, but to me the accent sounds the same. We did a small detour on the drive north and parked next to the Parkhead Station cafe on the moors above Stanhope. I don’t think that you could really class Collier Law as an exciting or even attractive hill. It was all tracks, quarries and masts. Reuben however thought it was great and I got a tick on one of my hill lists. The view once at the summit was extensive on the clear and crisp winters day.

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Deadwater Fell – 571 metres & Peel Fell – 602 metres

After leaving a very snowy Nottingham behind it was rather disappointing to find that there was no snow in Northumberland. We had even taken the Bongo just in case 4WD was needed, sadly (really thankfully) it was not. They actually grit the roads up there, unlike the treacherous city streets we had left behind.

Corrina was happy to be left in bed on our first morning whilst I scooted off at the crack of dawn to bag a couple of remote hills just above Kielder village. I started the walk in freezing fog, everything glazed by a thick penetrating frost, the air perfectly still. Gaining height I was soon in the snowy forest, shifting mists giving teasing glimpses of the sun overhead. Suddenly I was above the fog, the sun shining hard but providing no warmth. Much of the day was spent crossing rough trackless ground, a covering of snow making things more difficult and hiding the bogs. The clouds flirted with me all day, often obscuring the hill tops, taking away the view from Peel Fell itself. I arrived back at Kielder shortly after dark, tired and happy and without seeing a person all day.

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Padon hill – 379 Metres

I picked what I hoped would be a scenic but easy walk for Corrina. What could be easier than a stroll down an isolated lane and then a walk over the moors on the Pennine Way? This section of the Pennine Way was bloody awful, especially when it passed through the forest. There was no path as such, just saturated ground that tried to steal your boots. The flagstones of the Peak District would have been very welcome here. The views though were classic Northumberland, moors to the horizon and huge skies. Lunch was eaten whilst perched on a tussock.

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Kielder Water

For such a large expanse of water it was a little bit underwhelming to be honest. Too many signs telling you where to go and what to do. We got off to a bad start when after paying for the car park we found the public loos were locked. Luckily there are plenty of trees to hide behind. We walked to one of the arty things that are dotted around the shore. The information board promised that inside the structure the lake would be reflected on the floor and we would be soothed by the sound of water. We went into a pitch black chamber and had a minor panic when the door jammed shut.

It then rained and even Reuben wanted to go back and sit next to the fire.

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Roughside Moor

I fancied another big leg stretcher whilst in Northumberland, so I left Corrina a cup of tea next to the bed and buggered off again for the day. On the map my circuit just looked like a loop in a giant conifer plantation. In reality it was much more pleasant. My first destination was Roughside bothy, a place I vow never to spend the night. It is a horrid dark, damp place with evidence of the nefarious folk who frequent it at weekends. Most of them having graffitied their name somewhere. Far too close to the road and easily accessible.

The Chirdon Burn is a hidden gem. The river swollen after heavy rain passes through steep contours and plunges over Jerry’s Linn. An oasis amongst the monoculture of the forestry plantations.

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January 12, 2015

Horror in the Dark Peak

by backpackingbongos

This may put me off wild camping on Kinder Scout……..