The next morning as the first ray of sun touched the horizon I grabbed my frozen shoes, worry and a realisation spreading through my brain, trying to slip my feet into them. There was no chance I was going to get them on! What to do?
I left the car at 9am the previous morning heading out for the moor, my first port of call being Hound Tor. That's Hound Tor by Wild Tor! Not the Hound Tor by the Hound of the Basketmeals which serves cracking hot dogs.
The weather was perfect, zero wind, let alone a breeze. Stillness. Peace. Quiet. Tranquillity. The sun brushed the moor.
A small group were at the tor but long gone before I got there, dots descending the other side for pastures new, following a trail. Good idea, better than the tussocky wet area I'd crossed! I stopped at Hound Tor but only managed one bite out of my roll. Wasn't really in the mood. Nothing new there, let's carry on walking. Walking is good. Walking helps prevent the mind dwelling.
From here it was easy trails to Wild Tor and Hangingstone Hill, topping up water before heading to Statt's House. I was at the house by noon, flying along, slow I must slow a bit. I was calculating when I'd likely reach camp. 2pm was too early. I wanted about 3. Lot's goes through my mind.
There is a nasty boggy section between here and Stannon Tor. Its narrow and not wide and easily rounded. Not that Bess remembered. She took a dip here last year! And repeated it this year! By the time I got to my side of the crossing she had hauled herself out, pack and all. Shaking the boggy mud off.
From here it was down to a stone circle and more tussocky going to enter Fenworthy Forest. Past the forest where a couple of young ladies were interested in Bess pack. Maybe I should have lingered to chat longer.
From here it was Thornworthy Tor and down the other side. There is a gate to the left, it will be worth going to the gate next time! It might be a hundred metres further this side but there's bound to be a track the other side! Not the boggy crossing I had over the stone wall. Care was needed where stepping! I then headed to Kestor Rock, through tussocks! Yuk! That gate would have saved a lot of unnecessary hassle... Still, it used time!
It was a short walk on well trodden ground to my camp site for the night. I had walked about 12 miles. I say about as I ditched my Satmap to save a few grams. And my portable phone charger. So I kept phone GPSless! The sun was still bright and a good safety tool. It was a beautiful day. I didn't want the GPS on phone draining my battery, there was no need. I knew this like the back of my hand and never once looked at my map.
I measured a lunch time temperature of 8c. It was cool though on the tops.
In the shaded areas and in the forest frost still lingered on the ground. The bogs were boggy and not frozen. Yet!
My footwear choice was Sealskinz over merino liners over Coolmax liners. This combination worked a treat. I'll certainly wear them again.
I also wore my new Inov8 295s for the first time. Most impressed.
Once I reached camp, just before 3, I topped up water, took Bess pack off and dried her belly. I delayed pitching for a short while, a few bods were in the distance and I wanted to avoid undue attention.
I pitched about 3.30pm, maybe finished nearer 4 by the time I'd set everything up, groundsheet, mat and sleeping bag. I was just about to pee and clamber in my bag when I saw a dog walker approach.
A middle aged lady walked over with her collie. She was very friendly. Somewhat older than the younger ladies I'd seen earlier. She was most interested in my exploits. At first she chatted by the rear of the Trailstar, asking when I'd arrived. Quite surprised how far I'd walked. I was holding my chest, she asked what I was doing. Warming meths wasn't what she expected to hear!
The Trailstar intrigued her as did my cooking set up. She walked to the front and looked in.
This massive black jaguar flew out, baying for her blood. Ah, sorry, wrong story! And don't blame me...
The lady saw Bess and was even more interested. So now I was explaining meths heating, meths stoves, mats, tarps and Bess! We chatted for about half an hour. She had heard of TGO and of Chris Townsend!
This was the only time all day my feet chilled a bit, despite water crossing and several bogs. That's why my style of walking is that. Walking. Less likely to get cold feet if I keep moving!
I thoroughly enjoyed the chat though. She was genuinely interested. Off they walked about 4.30. I spent that penny and clambered under tarp, took my shoes and socks off, put dry socks on, then removed my trousers, behave, put on my merino leggings and my down booties. Then removed my coat and donned a down pullover coat. I was warm in minutes. My feet in 30 of them.
Darkness fell totally by 5. I was alone and once again felt chilled out. Relaxed.
I wrapped my sleeping bag around me, put a meal on to boil and checked my shoes. Frozen solid by 6.30!! The problems of getting them on never occurred to me, thankfully, as I'd never have slept for worry!
The temperature in the open Trailstar was as low as -5.4c. Outside was as low as -9.1c.
What did I learn this trip? Full length zips are a compromise. Even in a -15c bag! Whilst I was warm enough, occasionally my legs cooled a tad. When my fingers parted the baffles the zip beyond was cold, some of that cold inevitably crept in. It was easy to sort, twist bag so zip below me. I was never cold. But it was a minor pain. I smell a DYO bag inspection one day, in the year dot! Best hold fire there!!!
I learnt Sealskinz don't need to be allowed to freeze. Simply place under sleeping mat. I had two mats so that was good separation from me. My other socks went between mats. All were drier in the morning. The Sealskinz which had started to freeze the night before were thawed and drier. None were an issue to don next morning. And I'm the biggest jessy going!
I ate my meal, drank a tea and watched a film on my phone. I also read my book on my tablet.
I monitored Bess but she was very comfortable and happy. At one point she got up and refused her bed, I touched the towel I'd put down, frozen! No wonder she didn't want her bed. I removed the towel, she settled on the MultiMat and slept soundly until morning. On this camp I discovered cold doesn't affect Bess much. Learned a lot about how tough Bess is!
I slept fitfully at first, waking for another tea, I used more meths this trip than previously but still plenty spare.
One thing I do find is when my head hits the pillow my nose bungs up and my throat gets congestion in it! This prevents sleep. I take a decongestant this helps and a bloody good blow helped clear the nostrils! But I'd prefer it didn't start. I'll take a lozenge next time. See if that helps.
Once I nodded off about midnight I slept until about 4. My down hat had fallen off my head and my head chilled and woke me! I only cat napped from here on in.
I wasn't awake though! I kept an eye on my watch. So far on all my camps I've had a time in mind to head back. This morning was the same. I put my stove on at 6 but this was too early, even for me. As it happens I'd not put enough meths in so it really only warmed the water. This was fine. A drop more meths nearer 7 boiled it. In the sleeping bag I drank my tea and ate my porridge. I then put away my cooking kit and the last of the food went into its stuff bag.
At home I'd not even think about getting up until about 8! Not here, the thought process of get going gets me going.
Fear gripped me, I had a nasty coughing fit from congestion that this time was from nerves. How the hell wasn't I going to freeze getting up and packing! I'd not even got to my shoes. Thankfully!
I know the odd person laughs at my spreadsheet but for me its important as it keeps things organised. Never more was that needed than now.
I put my Paramo Vista jacket on then my down pullover. I was going to do everything to keep warm. And efficiency was paramount. Next I put on my down booties / socks. I then unzipped the bag and far quicker than at home stuffed the sleeping bag in the large cuben dry bag. This is a big bag and its hard and more importantly warming work stuffing it in. Once in I rolled the top.
The next thing that takes time is getting air out of the air bed. I did this next and slotted it in the Exodus FS pack. Keeping my feet on the Z mat.
Now came the chilly bit, but it surprisingly wasn't. I swear -5c here was warmer than my +10c bedroom!! Mind you I don't wear anything in bed at home. Sorry, too much information! This required quick work, down socks were put in stuff bag, my mostly unused fleece went in and my possum gloves. I removed my down hat and put on merino beanie and Paramo hat. I removed my merino socks they went in. I put on my Coolmax liner socks, they were warm enough from being under my mat. Next was merino liner socks and then Sealskinz, all dry and warm enough. These to were drier than I got them at home hanging up! I then removed my merino leggings (I may have the order incorrect!) and donned my Paramo Cascada trousers. Despite ice on the outside, they were fine inside. I doubt a normal trouser would have been so pleasant!
Next I put my sleeping bag in the pack and my dry night clothing and my wash kit, repair kit and spare battery etc. These are all organised in their own ditty bags. All this goes into an extra large cuben dry bag. Once that was folded over my cook kit went in, food bag, first aid kit and rubbish bag.
One other thing I also did early on was get as much of Bess stuff ready. I removed all the pegs inside holding her bed down and tossed bits outside I didn't need inside anymore. My pack went to the entrance.
I was very glad of the Thermarest Z Light, I was able to do so much on it to prevent chilling off! My upper clothing worked a treat at keeping my heat in.
Of course there was no wind so this helped there.
I was now ready to put my cosy feet into frozen shoes.
Only there was no chance. This was the first time it dawned on me! Worry slowly but surely seeped into every pore as I tried to bend and pull and poke them. Several minutes passed, my blood cooled! It was now I suddenly felt the need to pee. And the answer hit me! Get that Z Light outside, put the shoes in front of it, my three layers of socks kept my feet warm enough. Standing on mat I tiddled on my shoes! It worked a treat.
The thing is, I'm glad I was alone. I'd simply not have been able to do that if another soul was about.
Next I ran about and never did laces up. I had my WindPro gloves on. I folded my groundsheet and put that away. I put all Bess kit away and strapped her up. Put her rolled up mat on and secured it down.
The last thing I did was take down the Trailstar and put it away along with my down pullover. As soon as that was done I was off! No hanging about freezing my brass monkey's off!
I grabbed the camera and shot a little more video on my walk back.
Another camp, my eighth, under my belt.
Camp List December - Dartmoor.
MLD pack Exodus FS all options No pad. 3500ci / 57L 779
MLD cuben X Large dry bag / liner. 54
Sub Total 833
MLD Silnylon Trailstar + lines in cuben stuff sack 639
OookWorks OookStar Cuben Groundsheet 120
MLD Superlight Bivi in Cuben stuff bag 154
Quest Outfitters 0.74oz cuben sheet 2' 4'6" 24
Pegs 3 Easton 9", Four 6" Ti V, Four MLD 6". 139
MSR Blizzard stake (Trowel) 1 23
Pacer Pole Bungs (2) 24
Sub Total 1123
PHD Sleeping bag 500/900 MLD dry bag 1222
Exped Downmat UL 7 571
ThermaRest Z Lite 115cm / 45" 244
Exped Pillow pump 158
Sub Total 2195
MLD 850ml ti pot inc string pouch 106
MLD 450ml ti pot 37
Trail Designs MLD 850 Ti Tri cone 48
Trail Designs 10-12 burner 15
J Cloth tiny piece! 1
Light My Fire / Fire steel 28
Foil (aluminium) 10
Measure pots (2) 1
LifeVenture Lexan spoon 14
Spoon - MLD 16
Trail Designs Caddy 89
Bottle (1) for meths 175ml 17
Sub Total 382
20 fl oz / 590ml bottles (45g each) 2 90
Two 2L Platypus containers 36g 72
Compass Silva Ranger 3 32
Map / case (cut a bit off!) 113
Silva ADC Pro 65
Asus Nexus 7 / Aquapac 384
Oakley Half Jacket Glasses / bullet case 119
Petzl XP Core head light 83
Aqua Mira (empty 8g) 35 drops. 10
Hand gel 23
Dyneema cord 2mm spare 5.2m one piece 16
First Aid kit in light bag. 115
Wenger Swiss Army Knife (scissors, knife, tweezers, LED) 24
MagLite Solitaire AAA 24
Hirsch Talg Crème 5
Leather Needle and thread (wrapped around cuben) 2
Pod First Aid Dry Bag (For above) 25
Waterproof matches 12. 8
Shock Cord 24" 6
20' Dynema Cord 1mm Emergency only. 4
Duct tape 14
Mylar tape 18" 4
Sil-Fix kit 12
Cable Ties reusable (2) 0
2 Paper Clips, 5 Safety Pins 4
Exped Textile Glue 7
Rubber bands 4
SynMat patches 5
Ear plugs 0
Mueller Support Wrap (First Aid) 34
MLD Cuben Ditty Bag for above 2
Dr Bonner's soap (for teeth too!) Pot 4g 8
Towel Vaude 16
Hankies 2 10
MLD Cuben Ditty bag 2
Ear Phones for phone 7
Phone battery BA750 30
SD card for camera 4
MLD Cuben Ditty bag 2
MLD Small Cuben stuff sack (for removed hat / gloves) 6
Surgical Gloves 12
Plastic / Freezer bags for Shoes / Feet 19
Toilet paper (inc 1 Alco Wipe) 22
Waste Pod stuff sack inc 6g plastic bag 66
Pee bottle 85
Sub Total 1648
Arcteryx Delta LT Zip Polartec Thermal Pro Micro S cream 204
ChocFish Merino Long johns 200
ChocFish Merino Possum gloves 46
Smartwool Liner Socks 39
PHD Minimus hat 32
PHD Booties 104
MLD Cuben Large 16"/8" stuff sack 9
PHD Minimus Drishell Pullover Small 355
MLD Cuben dry bag Medium 19
MLD Mitts eVent 42
Sub Total 1050
BASE 1 (Hiking / Camping kit) 7231
Photo Kit in or on pack.
Tripod - Gorilla Pod (no head) 241
Sub Total 241
BASE 2 (inc. Photo kit in pack) 7472
Separate Photo Kit.
Camera Sony NEX 7, paracord 342
Sony NEX E Lens 10-18mm 265
Sony Microphone ECM-ALST1 54
Aquapac Medium waterproof camera bag 103
Sub Total 770
BASE 3 (inc. Camera Kit in pouch) 8242
Carrying / Holding / Pockets
Phone / AquaPac (No rear protector on phone!) 143
Pacer Poles Carbon 524
Sub Total 667
BASE 4 (Total Carrying on Person) 8909
ChocFish Merino T Shirt 187
Rohan Pants 51
Smartwool merino liner sock 41
Coolmax liner sock 42
Paramo Cascada Trousers, small 550
Patagonia Polartec Blue Pullover S Pocket Regulator R1 284
ChocFish Merino Buff scarf 77
TrekMates Merino Touchscreen Gloves 30
Outdoor Designs Bora gloves medium Windpro 86
ChocFish Merino beanie 26
Paramo hat 80
Paramo Coat Vista 556
Watch Sunto Advizor 54
Inov8 295 with SuperFeet 685
Credit card / Driving License in MLD cuben Ditty 17
Decongestant / Lip salve 17
Sub Total 2881
BASE 5 (Total of everything not consumable!) 11790
Tea bags (5) / Marvel (35g) / sweeteners (10) 74
Actual Packed weight 74
Daytime Food Kcals
Rolls 2 (Aprox weight!) 200 400
Nature Valley Crunch Oats and Honey 42 198
Nature Valley Crunch Ginger Nut Crunch 42 189
Jordans Frusli Red Berries 30 113
Jordans Frusli Blueberry 30 113
Actual Packed weight 358 1013
LWWF Tees Valley Beef Meat Balls 270 289
LWWF Staff Chicken Casserole 289 178
Potato (2 lots) 100 300
Elevenses Ginger 45 170
Elevenses Chocolate 45 182
Jordans Frusli Red Berries 30 113
Jordans Frusli Blueberry 30 113
Actual Packed weight 870 1345
Breakfast (Day Time!)
Porridge (50/20/10g) 1 Portion. 80 285
Quaker Oat So Simple Morning Bar Fruit Muesli 35 139
Actual Packed weight 135 424
MLD Cuben Large 16"/8" stuff sack 9 9
Bottle (1) for meths 175ml (EXCLUDING Bottle!) 126 126
Total weight of Food & Tea / Kcals 1572 2782
Total Carrying Exc Clothing worn 10481
TOTAL On PERSON with food. NOT water . 13362 13362
Ruffwear Pack Palisades 850
Ruffwear Day Coat / high vis / water resistant 155
Ruffwear Bed Highlands 351
Ruffwear Bess Night K9 360
Dog Bowl 30
Trek Towel 80*60cm 105
Trek Towel 110*60cm 147
MLD Ti pegs 6 60
OookWorks BessBed 131
MultiMat 2' 4" cut off. 79
Bess Total. 2968