Last weekend was my first non-solo overnighter in a little while, and a bit of a milestone – it was Steve’s first wild camp. The plan was to tackle a few of the Central Fells around Grasmere on a glorious Saturday with a wild camp at Codale Tarn but, as usual, the plan changed half way through the trip.
We started by driving around Grasmere village in search of a car park that allowed overnight parking, but alas, there were none to be found. The staff in Cotswold Outdoor pointed us in the direction of a layby on the A591 so we turned the car in that direction and got ourselves sorted. Skirting around the village again, this time on foot and fully laden, we started up the first hill of the day, Helm Crag. A favourite of old AW, Helm Crag proved a short, steep and interesting climb.
Given that the weather was glorious and the clouds were sparse there was plenty of people out tramping the hills and we had to wait while a whole group of them came down off the summit. Reaching the plateau we spotted a couple of intriguing rock formations, the Lion and the Lamb and the Howitzer. We had a jaunt up the former but left the latter since it was covered in a swarm of elderly mountaineers who were clearly enjoying themselves. After a quick sandwich we moved on along the ridge towards Gibson Knott.
Just before arriving at the top of the next hill we spotted a couple of raptors swooping up and down the valley to our left. Despite both of us working in a museum with a large natural history collection we failed to produce an accurate ID between us. It seems a few other people were watching them too and this impromptu gathering of novice ornithologists debated whether they were peregrines or merlins for a few minutes. Without reaching a conclusion Steve and I headed up to the summit cairn to bag our second Wainwright of the day.
Gibson Knott’s rocky top proved quite interesting but before long we were on our way to Calf Crag. It was nice to see some blokes just taking it easy on the way off the top. No such luck for us – onwards and upwards it was.
Of course we have to include a random geology shot. Name that mineral.
Turning west we started the slog up Codale Head. Jelly babies and trail mix fuelled us on as the path appeared and disappeared along the line of an old fence; we spotted a few interesting things along the way including this strange, cold white stuff. Fascinating.
We topped out some time later and were pretty knackered by this point. A great view of Harrison Stickle and Stickle Tarn to the south spurred us on to head towards our planned camp location, Codale Tarn. The wind had picked up so we both donned lightweight fleeces under our windshirts and squeezed some gloves on and continued to descend.
Codale Tarn was home to a big group of people and Steve was hankering after somewhere a bit more ‘isolated’, oo er. I was craving a bite to eat and good night’s sleep as we passed the tarn and was keen to find a suitable spot to pitch up. The plan changed and we aimed for Easdale Tarn a bit further down the valley.
Trekking poles were doing me no favours as I managed to fall over three times on the way down. Steve laughed as he bound gingerly over slippery rocks without incident. He then proceeded to assist with first aid as I sustained minor wounds on my final tumble. Thankfully they didn’t have to amputate when I returned to civilisation.
We found a great spot down at the inlet to the tarn on a piece of flat, dry ground. Steve had just bought a Wild Country Zephyros 2 Lite from outside.co.uk and this was his first time pitching it – it took us about 10 minutes but it was an impressive shelter in the end. I suspect it’ll take a little less time next time and he might even get the door facing in the right direction too! The interior space is great albeit a bit tight for two, I’m glad I had brought my Scarp 1 and we didn’t have to draw straws to decide on who would be the big spoon.
The wind was picking up so we crossed a stream to find a sheltered location to cook up a bit of dinner. Steve borrowed my Camp Kitchen to heat up a dog-food-looking LWWF Sausage Casserole and I used my new Jetboil Zip to cook some fresh pasta, both worked well and before long we were as happy as Larry back at the tents sipping on some Morgan’s Spiced and Coke. The light faded, we plugged our headphones in and drifted off.
I slept well and stayed warm and comfortable all night whereas Steve was a bit chilly in his 2-season Vango sleeping bag. The weather on the Sunday wasn’t quite so nice; cloud had descended to about 500m and brought a good amount of rain with it, falling from sunrise until we crossed the border into Northumberland on the drive home. I didn’t manage to get many pics on the way down into Grasmere since I was more concerned with keeping as dry as possible and not falling over. We both enjoyed ourselves and learned quite a lot and we’re definitely looking forward to the next trip sometime soon.
Gear-wise, I managed to leave my trekking poles in the lay-by as we packed up to leave the Lake District which was quite annoying. I went on a bit of a Twitter spree to try and recover them (with help from a few really kind folks) but to no avail – they are still MIA. Other news involved an eyelet coming loose on my Salomon boots. This was quite disappointing but Go Outdoors have agreed to replace them when I get round to taking them back next week; top customer service on their part once again.
That’s all the bad news, now for the good. I was impressed by the efficient simplicity of the Jetboil Zip; as long as you plan your menu to suit its strengths it is difficult to beat. My whole shelter/sleeping setup was great and kept me comfortable all night and my clothes were more than up to the variable conditions the weekend threw at us. I’m really content with my kit at the moment so hopefully now I can concentrate on planning more great trips in superb locations like this one.