Far Eastern Odyssey – The Debrief

Considering that the first attempt at this trip went tits up due to the weather taking umbrage at my presence in the Lakes, this second attempt went really well. This is a short post on why.

How good was the planning ?

This was a strange trip in that I deliberately tried not to plan my route, overnight stops etc in too much detail. Ideally all I wanted was a rough outline based on where I wanted to start and end, these being built around my travel arrangement to/from the Lakes. But the project manager in me refused to switch off and I went to the Lakes with a more detailed plan than I intended. But having said that, without a plan you don’t have a base of information on which to make judgements when you have to adapt to circumstances, and in this respect having a route planned and a rough idea of where I wanted to camp, a re-supply schedule and with an understanding of where the flexibility was in the plan, was beneficial.

How did I adapt the plans during the trip ?

The plan changed from almost the moment I got on the train to travel to the Lakes. My first afternoon got lengthened due to the meet-up with Peter, but this did result in a higher camp than I’d intended, so preserving height gain. This camp with Peter was useful in terms of testing my tent in conditions harsher than I’d been out in before, and without this night 3 could have been too scary a prospect. So this first adaptation to the plan could even have saved the trip from a situation where I’d have bailed.

On the second day, despite talk of tweaking my planned route, we actually stuck to it pretty much exactly.

On the third day, I cut the walk short due to the high winds on High Street and sought a camp lower down.  Although this still led to the most extreme camp I’ve yet had, this avoided what would have been a much worse night if I’d camped on Branstree where the shelter from the full force of the elements was minimal.

Because of the change of plan on day 3, my walk on day 4 had to be adjusted and turned out to be longer and a bit of a race against sunset. But I made a couple of decisions en route that turned out to be good ones.  The first being the ascent of Selside Pike via the Old Corpse Road which was a charming route and afforded better possibilities for a recce of the outlying fells that I’ll be returning to pick off some day. The second decision was the crucial one to push myself and complete the full circuit of Longsleddale to gain my intended camp on Shipman Knotts by way of the Kentmere Pike ridge rather than a descent and reascent via the valley. This meant I completed the mission on the Friday and left the Saturday to do what I wanted.

Finally, my walk out plan was made up as I went, finding myself in Staveley, in comparison to my pre-trip intended end point of Shap.

What influence did the weather have ?

I headed to the Lakes in the knowledge that the forecast was better than on the previous trip, but also knowing that one quite challenging day was due. This day was worse than any of the days on my aborted trip in July, but the key difference was that the other days were largely delightful weather-wise. Blue skies, some orange at sunset and a morning cloud inversion make a massive difference compared to waking up in mist.

The other effect of the weather was the cumulative one of the accumulated water soaking the ground underfoot. But a lot of the Far Eastern fells are quite squelchy at the best of times, and this didn’t really affect the walking. Oddly, the main effect of the bogginess was the anger it aroused on Harrop Pike and the consequent drive to just “go for it”.

What were the high points of the trip ?

There were quite a few pleasant moments, but the following stick out.

  • The increased confidence I felt after the first windy night camped high on High Raise.
  • The camp at Angle Tarn which I never expected to find deserted.
  • The feeling the morning after the really wet and windy night at Small Water, when I realised quite how much of a fortress my tent could be.
  • The sunset arrival on Shipman Knotts for the final camp of the trip.
  • The cloud inversion over Windermere on the last morning.
  • The bus ride back to Penrith in which I could see all that I’d walked.

What were the low points of the trip ?

There was really only one – on day 3 when the wind on High Street and on the descent to Nan Bield Pass from Mardale Ill Bell drove me to seek a lower camp. I nearly shat myself with the ferocity of the wind at my supposedly more sheltered pitch, but at no point did I consider a bail out. That night also dinner was terrible.

Did I make the right gear choices and how did it perform ?

I came away from the trip with increased confidence in Monica, my Scarp 1 tent, and the knowledge that it’s unlikely I’ll actually seek conditions as bad as those we successfully survived, but that if I encounter them, I should be ok, provided a clear head is kept. I also came away from the trip with a list of ideas for making Monica even better and to solve little niggles, not necessarily with her, but with how my other kit interacts with her. For example:

  • finding a better solution for tying back the inner and outer doors as a single point tie-back for each can mean bits of door getting in the way or flapping about when trying to cook.
  • I need to fix the hook I broke at the Peak Meet in August. This means one side of the inner droops, although by leaving one of the central loops unattached, I largely negated the issue.
  • I need to replace the bungee cord at one of the end vents – somehow this just went missing on the Peak Meet.
  • Peter pointed out that my guys are a lot shorter than on his Scarp 1, and I did notice the problem when the short guys restricted  my pitch when on especially soft or hard ground.
  • I’m going to look into improving the organisation inside the tent.
  • I pitched twice on slight slopes so found myself sliding down/across the tent. I’d like to find a way to anchor my sleep mat more securely that doesn’t just rely on spots of seam sealant.
  • Twice I had to pitch the tent outer only, as I’d removed the inner when packing up earlier that day so as to keep it dry. I always seem to then get partway through attaching the inner only to find I’ve done it the wrong way around. So some sort of marker would be useful.
  • I need to come up with something to attach my Powermonkey’s solar panel onto the tent and which is sufficiently flexible to cater for which ever direction the sun is in.

Having bought a merino base layer back in July, this was the first trip when I’d worn it for several days running – indeed, it stayed next to my skin from the moment I left home until I returned. It didn’t smell at all, and notably I didn’t smell overly wearing it. Merino really seems to work for me. So expect a few second hand synthetic base layers to go on eBay in the next few weeks.

I took my Caldera Cone with Evernew Pasta Pot on this trip having not really got fully to grips with it on the previous attempt, but mindful of the weight saving and slight saving in bulk. On the first night it felt really faffy compared with my beloved Trangia, but my issues with it melted away as the trip went on. What also melted were some of my ziplock bags which touched the sides and decorated the outside of the cone and the pasta pot with molten plastic. This doesn’t happen in my Trangia. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it again – when the weather’s a bit dodgy and especially when the wind’s blowing the tent around, the Trangia feels much safer and I think it’s actually more efficient in terms of fuel in those conditions. The simple answer for the future is that I’ll generally use the Trangia unless I really really need the extra space or the weight saving.

Before the trip I treated myself to a new titanium mug to replace my old plastic one. A small thing but it was brilliant, keeping drinks not just warm, but hot for ages, nesting inside the pot well and generally being a piece of kit I was pleased to see each meal time.

Once again I managed to camp out on a night when I’d underestimated the temperature. I really should have swapped my spare clothes for a down jacket, but I thought I’d get away with it. I did largely get away with it, but was just conscious enough of the cold to impair my sleep.

The boggy nature of the terrain meant that my feet were wet most of the day, and of course soaked boots don’t dry overnight in a tent. Neither do Sealskinz waterproof socks (once wet, they’re the very devil to dry again). Consequently I had to put on wet socks on at least one morning. So the one thing I do need to remember for the future is more pairs of dry socks, and on a longer trip to adopt a strict rotation system that gets them dry in turn.

How did I do with my choice of accommodation ?

Easy one this as my accommodation was my tent. The aim of the trip was to wild camp for 4 nights, and that’s what I did. Two of the camps were exactly as planned, one was close to where I’d intended and the 4th was the result of circumstances. Ideally I’d have found somewhere a bit more hospitable for my windy camp, but it did the job. Overall, I was happy with the choice of camps, and happy that the camps I did pushed my wild camp boundaries out a bit.

How was the catering ?

Great before I re-provisioned and terrible thereafter. I deliberately went to the Lakes with supplies for two days and two nights, with a planned re-stocking in Patterdale on day 3. Logistically this worked well, I noticed the effect in terms of weight, and worked for me. However, I was disappointed in the selection in the Patterdale Post Office store especially as this resulted in the worst meal of the trip on the hardest night of the trip, just when a little boost from something nicer would have been welcome.

So what else went well ?

I ended up picking off all of the Wainwrights that are tricky to do via day walks from the Patterdale road, leaving me only with those pretty much alongside the road. This was my minimum objective for the trip. After the trip my Far Eastern fells schematic map looks like this:

In conclusion

Overall this was an excellent trip, which fully achieved what I set out to do and I was happy with how I adapted to conditions. I also learnt a few things about certain items of my kit which will stand me in good stead for future trips. I now really feel like I have graduated to being a backpacker rather than a day walker who sometimes camps.

4 thoughts on “Far Eastern Odyssey – The Debrief

    • Pretty well, but having said that the atmos itself didn’t seem overly damp. No condensation spotted as such but did get a couple of drips due to tent inner-outer intimacy as a result of my oafish clumsiness moving about the tent. That apart I was pretty mindful of the need to minimise chances of water incursion. I think i will invest in a cover at some point, as it should also add a few degrees of warmth.

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  1. Excelente reportaje, muy impresionado por el paisaje parecido a Tierra del Fuego y la Patagonia, también por los fuertes vientos. Respecto a tus calcetines porque no usas algunos que tengan Gore-tex. Felicitaciones.

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