I don’t suppose the first thing you think about when you head for the mountains with a mate is a naked bivvy wild camp. So how did we set off hiking into the Kentmere Valley, looking for a cave, and end up lying in a field with no clothes on?
A naked Bivvy wild camp in Kentmere
So I head for the Lake District to reccy a cave for the Halloween ‘Only The Brave’ Wild Camp. I meet John Beamson in the Troutbeck Inn just after 7pm for a pre-adventure meal. He has the Blencathra Burger and since there’s no vegtarian version, I don’t. The food’s amazing every time, Alan’s in the kitchen tonight and the coffee and cake to follow, wow, the Tahloola Chocolate Cheese Cake was devine. Thanks Nicky and Alan, top notch!
I need to say, before we get any further, that John had took the Cooper family up over Sharp Edge to Blencathra in the morning and decided it was a Robust thing to then drive down to Glenridding by himself and summit Helvellyn. He’s a bit worse for wear.
Troutbeck To Troutbeck
We get in the motors at 8:30 and drive on up over the Kirkstone Pass to the other Troutbeck from where I started my Lake District mountain love affair (near Windermere), parking over the road from Limefitt. Bags packed, we set off about 10pm, lights on from the offset.
I’m test driving my new Osprey Kesrel 48 and it’s sitting sweet. I pack light so you may want to try the Osprey Kestrel 68 if you’re new to wild camping. More pouches than an Australia kangaroo rescue centre.
Route – Rainsborrow Crag
Our route is up the Garburn Pass under Sour Howes, over the Yolk col and down to the fringes of Kentmere village to the old slate quarry, a cave, on the side of Rainsborrow Crag. We never get to the cave!
I’m keeping up with John.
Having ‘a couple of minutes’ after our left turn up the valley we take stock. John’s knackered and another three miles will take us ’til 1am and we don’t know how easy the hole in the wall is to find. If it’s anything like it was for us looking for the Priest Hole at 1am on a Winter’s night we’ll be screwed. Take a look at that blog, that was a spicy one.
Our options are: to carry on with a three hour hike back out (and him meeting the Coopers again at 8:30), go back and sleep in the vehicles or…
“Fuck that” he says, “let’s just pitch here in this field.”
Bivvying In A Field
We have a Vango Banshee 200 (read the blog) which I lent to John and we both have bivvy bags. The idea of us both getting in the Banshee is a bit intimate even for us.
“What’s the forecast like?” I’m asked.
“5-10% chance of rain all night.” Is my confident reply.
“We’ll just bivy here then in this field.”
“Let’s go up behind that wall, there’s Southerly wind in the morning and the farmer won’t see us up there if he comes out early.”
We push our sleeping bags into our bivvies and roll them out on the grass careful not to get too close of course and invade a man’s personal space. I mention this intentionally, for future reference.
Ex British Army John strips butt naked and get’s in his sleeping bag. I mention this intentionally.
The Heavens Open
I’ve hardly got my boots off when we hear the patter or water falling from the sky on the canopy of a nearby coppice the other side of a wall. I’m shocked. Fucking hell. Within seconds the rain continues over the coppice into the field we occupy, it’s pissing down and we’re getting soaked.
I grab what I can and quickly head to the wall and some protection under the edge of the trees whilst bollock naked Beamson jumps out of his bivvy to rescue what’s left of the gear. You know when you don’t know whether to shout or laugh your tits off? We opted for the latter.
Shelter From The Rain
A light bulb appears over my head as does the Petzl Aktic and I’m in John’s rucksack pulling out the Banshee. I quickly tie a slipknot with the two pieces of webbing on one end to the wire fence on the dry stone wall and extend my walking poles to act as props on the other end of the tent, pull out a 10m hanked length of 550 paracord and guy the lower end of our new shelter down into the turf as Beamo, naked as the day he was born, ‘swings’ into action dragging the kit into dryness.
Using his trekking poles I support the middle edges and we’re both under what people say is NOT a two man tent. I wonder if, when they started Vango in 1966 they had the vision that their tents would actually be utilised so.
Raising my eye brows earlier at John stripping may have been premature as my dry t-shirt and trousers (tonight’s pajamas) are soaked. Off they come. Two fully grown blokes bivvying under a Banshee using their boots as pillows. My wife doesn’t lie this close to me in bed, sometimes!
Between my occasional chuckling way into the early hours and John’s loud snoring I even think we may wake the nearby farmer a little earlier than usual. I even believe I can hear a woman ‘enjoying herself’ a bit too much in the woodland but wake to realise it’s ‘The Eagle’ lay next to me adding a new tone to his snore.
I catch a glimpse of the big fella’s ever-illuminated watch as he stretches out at 2:30am so I know I could still manage to get two and a half hours sleep as I drop off.
The sky lights up at 4:51 and my eyes open. I know he’s got a day ahead of him now so a little reluctantly I get the wheels in motion, get dressed and start striking camp. We’re away soon after for a good hike up to the bottom of Yoke and down into the Troubeck valley again.
I may have missed out on seeing if the cave is up to a group comfortably inhabiting it but again we’ve had a great adventure.
Sometimes, adventures end up even better than planned. I’ve come to think that it’s not really an adventure for me when I do exactly what is planned. It’s too organised to be a true adventure. I love it when things don’t go to plan and you end up in a ‘place’ you don’t expect.
This is proper adventure. I don’t think we can help it anymore.
Lessons To Learn
NB. The moral to this tale is ‘Be Prepared’. I absolutely always carry a tarp, my poles and pins when I take clients out. I can get customers into a dry space and warm. Last night I didn’t take it. We were ill prepared, YOU should always carry shelter. Even if you have all the confidence of Soft Mick. It may not end up being for you.
What gets us through things like this is the training, and that can be hell, if it wasn’t you haven’t learned enough, you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough. We’ve done massive hikes, wild camped through storms and the harshest of British weather so we can take you guys out and if it turns nasty we can get you through it.
John found a woman yesterday coming off Helvellyn dehydrated and exhausted. He filled the water bottles of her and her friend as they’d only taken 500ml with them. He used the Sawyer Water Filter I’d sold him to purify water from a stream. He also gave them a snack bar each as they took no food then accompanied them down to the YHA.
A few months ago I put up my shelter and got a woman, who had the balls to admit to somebody she only met that day that she was ‘freezing cold’, warm and dry. Giving her some hot chocolate from a flask and encouraging her to eat eventually warmed her up.
An easy walk one day will turn into an adventure. Adventures cost money (or worse). Put £50 or so aside now and buy yourself some gear to get you through.
You should always carry:
- Map & Compass
- The Knowledge To Use The Above
- Proper First Aid
- More Food Than You Need For Your ‘Walk’
- Means Of Purifying Water
- Another ‘Layer’
- Means To Heat Food
You’ll already know that I can teach you all this stuff on a navigation workshop, hill skills day, a wild camping workshop, bushcraft and survival weekend but if we never meet at least let this phrase ring around in your head for a while until you take action…
God I love this shit!
Good luck guys.