Monday 17 February 2014

Moffat Hills, almost

Having done several forays in to the Northern Pennines, I felt the need for a change. Many moons back in the mists of time, I traversed the back roads of the border country by bike.It is an area often overlooked by many. Much perusing of the map, times and dates agreed upon with Mike, ( That is one downside of these trips, having to arrange things in advance. Compatible dates, advance train tickets and so forth.
As it was Mike had arranged to meet me at Penrith train station. From there it was a run north on the motor way to Moffat. A bite of lunch in the 'Rumblin Tum' cafe and we headed out. Our packs where heavy with food, cold weather clothing, snow spikes and such. Following the road that led up toward the Devil's Beef,Tub, signed as the old Edinburgh road. For a minor, no through road, a fair bit of traffic. Just after Russells Brae we turned off to follow the footpath up toward Hartfell Spa. With time getting on a bit we set up camp nearby. Frustratingly, a deer fence put all the best spots out of reach. A cup of tea and then a stroll up to the well, set in a steep sided gully. Mike, being wise in these matters, explained to me what a 'Chalybeate' well consisted of, mineral composites and such.

Foxes nearby kicked up a rumpus during the night. There where also a few flurries of snow. Of more concern for me was that I was experiencing a few problems healthwise (again!) Imodium taken with breakfast would hopefully settle things down for a while?
Our goal for the day had been up and over Hart Fell and down to a bothy. However as we climbed higher it was obvious that bad weather was rapidly moving in. A pause for a nibble and confab, and the obvious decision was made. After a bit of casting about spots where found for the tents. The wind was rising rapidly as we struggled with the tents and thick, wet snow swirled  around us. Heavy rocks where placed on the pegs to anchor everything down.
It was a storm lashed afternoon and night with the wind pummeling the tents. Snow drifted high on them. Fortunately the |SL3 is quite roomy but Mike found the walls closing in on him a tad! During the course of the night the wind swung around and spindrift began to fill the porch of both tents, covering rucksacks and anything stored in the porch areas. Boots soon filled with snow. Worse for me was that I had to battle my way out of the tent several times during the night. Being ill at such times is an awful experience. My feet froze and that was an unpleasant experience as they thawed out. Coldness bit deep in to my very being.Wet and dampness permeated through everything. .It was a night where sleep was at best a fitful doze. Come morning we had little choice but to bail out. There had certainly been a heavy fall of snow overnight. Several times we plunged knee deep in the wet, porridgy stuff,
Needing to dry out we retreated to Kirkby Stephen hostel. (kirkby stephen hostel)The lady who runs it is always welcoming. Tents and sleeping where hung up in the drying room and a pot of tea readily drunk.
Friday saw us heading of for a wander up Birkett Fell and Little Lonrigg Scar. Strong winds harried us as we plodded upwards. By the time we headed back it was lashing down with freezing rain and sleet.
Apologies for lack of photos, camera shake is becoming a problem.Nip over to Mike's blog, he has some lovely photos.