Thursday, April 23, 2020

Playing around with Tarps in the Garden .... again !

22nd April 2020

It's been funny year. I had planned to complete the Wainwrights before turning 50 in June. I'd booked off a number of days in March and April, plus a week at Easter and another in late May. That should have been plenty of time to climb the remaining 35, especially as most of them are clumped together in the Northern Fells. That was the idea anyway. Unfortunately though, a particularly stubborn virus with grand ideas of world domination has interfered with my carefully laid plans. And to add insult to injury, the recent weather has been glorious. We are now 4 weeks, or is it 5, into the Covid-19 lockdown. I lose count. Being an NHS key worker has thankfully spared me from the boredom of weekday 9-5 lockdown but there was no escape from my planned Easter week off. So having completed my list of garden chores I thought it would be a good time to update my old tarp pitching video on YouTube from 2015. Since then, nearly all my wild camps have been under a tarp and I've become much more adept at pitching them. I've learnt which shelters work well in the Cumbrian fells, particularly on windy summits where I seem to find myself more often than not. So here is my updated video showing, in my humble opinion, the best 5 tarp configurations using 2 trekking poles and my 9x5 foot silnylon tarp (the solo tarp, £55 from

The A-Frame and the Cave are probably the least useful for my needs, the former being only suitable for really calm weather and the latter as a 'hunker down in a storm' shelter. Others may find them helpful though. The A-Frame would be the best option for a sheltered woodland camp and can be pitched between 2 trees instead of trekking poles. The Cave would be much more useful with a bigger tarp, but that's not really my thing. 

The other 3 shelters (the lean-to, the 'closed end' lean-to and the Flying-V) are my favourites and ones I use most. They can all stave off the wind which is usually my primary objective, and they all represent what wild camping with a tarp is all about for me. Wide open vistas, a real feeling of space and an open view of the sky. One of the best things about the tarp and/or bivvy is being able to lie supine in the comfort of a down bag and slowly allow your night vision to soak up the celestial arena. To fall asleep under a pitch black sky studded with countless stars and bisected by a glowing milky way that is hardly ever seen in 'urbandom'. To have wandering satellites, distant galaxies and streaking meteors for company.  You just don't get that experience in a tent. Of course its not always like that and I've had plenty of camps where the weather has unexpectedly turned for the worse. Where wind and rain have rattled the tarp and sleep has been sporadic, but even those experiences are special. Yep … I must admit that I've really fallen for the tarp. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Deepdale Horseshoe

Date: 29/11/2019
Start/Finish: Bridgend/Patterdale
Wainwrights: Birks, St Sunday Crag, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Hartsop above How
Distance: 10.5 miles
Max Elevation: 2864 feet (Fairfield)
Total Ascent: 3415 feet
Time Taken: 6-7 Hours

The Route - Anticlockwise from Bridgend
It was 10 years ago when I last hiked this route. On that day I was clagged in the whole way round and saw nothing. I'd made a mental do it again in fair weather and well …. it was fair weather, so it was time for 'The Deepdale Horseshoe round 2'. This is a classic route. Tougher that the Fairfield horseshoe although not as far. I'd walked it clockwise 10 years ago and remembering the scary descent down Cofa Pike I decided that anti-clockwise would be more prudent, and that does seem to be the most popular way to tackle it.

A 10 minute video of the whole walk


Black Crags


Views over the Grisedale valley

Frosty ground on the path to Birks

The onwards route to St Sunday Crag
I missed the path up onto Birks so had to take a slight diversion back up to its summit.  


Views to Helvellyn from St Sunday Crag

St Sunday Crag summit

Mist and glare over the Deepdale valley

The onward route to Cofa Pike and Fairfield

Grisedale Tarn

Cofa Pike
It's a steepish scramble up Cofa Pike, unless there is an easier route that I missed. The use of hands was required at certain points.

The Deepdale Valley

Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn

Looking back over St Sunday Crag

Grisedale Tarn

Fairfield summit views

The path to Hart Crag

Looking down the Rydal valley to Windermere

The head of the Deepdale valley

Hart Crag summit views towards Dove Crag …

… and back to Fairfield

The Deepdale valley and the forward path to Hartsop above How

Views back over to St Sunday Crag

Hartsop above How summit view 

The forward view back to Bridgend ...

… and the backward view to Hart Crag

Sun just setting on Angletarn Pikes and Place Fell

Nearly back, in the fading light

When I did this route 10 years ago it took me around 5 hours. Today it more like 7 hours. This may be because I'm now 10 years older and less fit … Or it may be because the ground conditions were quite icy and careful foot placement was required. I'm going with the latter ….

Friday, April 12, 2019

High Rigg from Thirlmere

Date: 12th April 2019
Start/Finish: Smaithwaite Bridge, North Thirlmere
Wainwrights: High Rigg
Distance: 7.5 Miles
Max Elevation: 1224 Feet
Height Gained: 2470 Feet
Time Take: 3 1/2 Hours

The Route : Clockwise from Bridge End (most southern point)

This was first time back in the fells after a 6 month hiatus. I've lost a bit of fitness so decided to peruse the less lofty fells on my Wainwrights 'to-do' list. High Rigg seemed like a nice option. Indeed Wainwright described this very walk as being "... suited to old and rickety fellwalkers long past their best". Perfect for me then! He also suggests doing the walk clockwise so that the lovely views of Blencathra are always in front when on the higher ground. I therefore followed this advice. 

I parked right by Smaithwaite Bridge on the A591. There is a stile and gate within the dry stone wall just north of the bridge where the path heads along St John's Beck. A steepish path then branches off on the left towards Wren Crag. The hillside is littered with uprooted trees following the recent winter storms.

The Stile on the A591

Views down to St John's in the Vale from the upwards path

The first of many uprooted trees on the hill side

Looking back towards Great How

The path up to Wren Crag

Glimpses of Thirlmere behind

Views from Wren Crag looking north - Mart Crag with Blencathra and Skiddaw on the horizon and down along the 'St Johns in the Vale' valley 

A little un-named tarn between Mart Crag and High Rigg

The path up to High Rigg

High Rigg summit views of Blencathra ...

… and back towards Thirlmere

From High Rigg I decided to extend the walk over Low Rigg and Tewet tarn. The path passes the little church and youth centre. 

Low Rigg over the Youth Cente 

There can't be a more picturesque Youth Centre in the UK ?

Looking back over High Rigg

Skiddaw from Low Rigg summit

Tewet Tarn

I then headed back via Yew tree farm and the main path skirting Rake How and heading towards Low Bridge End Farm following the course of St John's in the Vale Beck. Overall a lovely little walk perfect for blowing off the cobwebs.