I hate leaving things until the last minute. There’s always more to do than you think, and in the final rush to get it all done, you have to cut corners and risk not doing it properly. However, I find myself in the position of having to leave this decision to the last minute…
Six weeks or so ago, I had it all worked out. A week in North Wales at Easter, then two weeks working, followed by a week in the Lakes. Then another two weeks working followed by a week’s worth of the South West Coast Path. I’d then do a whole five weeks of work before finishing and heading off for two weeks of Coast to Coast walking. I like to have my walking trips in the diary and to be sure that they’re not going to move – it gives me a way of getting through the periods of work in between. And a month ago my plan looked great. Then two things happened to screw up my plans.
The first is work. Having just got clear on my client commitments and the projects I would be doing for them between then and the summer, the whole apple cart was upset, and I found many of those projects shelved and replaced with a much more interesting and challenging project. That would be great except it’s a fluid and constantly changing project as I try to knock it into shape and I’m finding that the key points when things “hit the fan” are coinciding with my planned time off. I was supposed to be in the Lakes this coming week, but I pushed it back and cut the amount of time I’m off to fit around the project. Now it looks like my rescheduled dates don’t fit either. I’m not going to know until just before I go (if I go) whether it’s “safe” to do so.
The second reason is obvious if you only look out of the window. It’s been crap across pretty much the whole country for the last week and a bit and doesn’t show any sign of letting up. Indeed, the cheery people at the Met Office are happily predicting the wettest and coldest May for decades. That makes any advance decisions about heading off walking a bit of a gamble. Another way of looking at it, of course, is that these are ideal conditions to test my fortitude and my ability to wildcamp on the C2C walk in July. But there are limits, and there isn’t much point doing it if I know I won’t enjoy it. Seeing Alex (@atkypne) and Chris (@chris25119600 ) sadly abort their C2C this week just reinforces that point.
My SWCP trip isn’t in major danger from work – I booked and paid for that trip ages ago, and am going with my dad, which pretty much locks it into the calendar. And I’m sticking to my guns on that one. If I think if the weather is looking horrible, we may still go as we probably won’t get much of our money back. In that case we’ll make the best of it and if it’s too severe on a particular day probably write-off that chunk. But I hope it doesn’t come to that as I don’t want to leave gaps in the walk that I have to come back to fill in – I’ve already got one from 2009 when we aborted a day’s walk to Lyme Regis at Seatown and missed out on Golden Cap. I’ve promised myself to complete that bit before we get to the end of the path at Minehead. In a way having that day’s failure under my belt helps with assessing the situation, both before leaving on this year’s trip and whilst out on it.
No, it’s my wild camping trip to the Lakes which is jeopardy. I really need this trip to prepare for my coast to coast – in terms of hill fitness and training for potentially wild camping it. I’ve got new gear that needs to be tried out in the field. It’s also a good warm up for the SWCP which follows hot on its heels. If all had gone to plan, instead of writing this post I would have just been packing up my tent somewhere in the Langdales and heading deeper into the hills. Ironically, the weather for the Lakes this weekend looks significantly better (well, maybe that should be “less bad”) than at home – certainly if Mart’s (@MartLawton) photos are anything to go by. A missed opportunity ? I really hope not.
So with the May bank holiday week in the diary, I’m hoping to finally make it next weekend, although, I know I’m going to have to cut the length for work reasons. But that’s actually ok, as I’ve concluded that a whole week of wild camping was excessive for what I was trying to achieve – 3 or 4 nights should be enough. With the bank holiday, I reckon I need only be out of the office 1½ to 2 days and these coincide with my key stakeholder also being out. So as long as I can square that, and stop the project moving to scupper those dates, it then just comes down to the weather.
So, I’m going to monitor the weather forecasts over the coming week – something which I do in the lead up to every trip. By watching them over the lead-in I hope to get a feel for the general pattern of weather and also to be able to compare with the weather I see outside wherever I am. That helps with the kit decisions primarily, but in this case also with the decision as to whether to even go. Basically if it’s going to piss down the whole time and be horribly windy then I won’t bother – I need at least a bit of ok weather. Whilst my Scarp should stand up to it, no one wants to commit themselves to being out for that long in grim weather without a break. But the crossing poles are definitely coming with me!
So that’s all well and good, but a further complication is that I’m travelling for work on Thursday, so will arrive home late and have to decide there and then whether to pack and go. Part of me wonders if I should just cut the trip now and aim for June, but that’s leaving it late before my big walk in July. June is also a bad month for walking in my household due to family birthdays and other happenings. It also tends to be a bit busier professionally. So….
On a more positive note, this dilemma does help show the value in the approach I’ve taken to this trip. This was always planned as a wild camping trip, meaning no accommodation to book, and my research on train fares showed that there was no saving to be gained by committing myself to advance fares on specific trains – I might as well get a standard off-peak open return. So I deliberately left all of the arrangements to the last minute and I am lucky in that I can tweak the trip timing and length right up to the set-off point. It’s important that this strategy works (hence I need at least some nice weather) as this is likely to be the way I plan such trips as standard in the future.