Saturday, December 21, 2013

An abandoned camp on Dartmoor.

I'd not normally head out in the conditions that were forecast of all day heavy rain.  It was exactly due to that reason that I headed out. To give it a crack.

At the car park I usually use a gas burner to heat milk for my pot of Shreddies, as it was raining I didn't do this. I made two teas (I took a flask) and ate an high energy cereal bar.  I wasn't in any rush to leave the car and head out in the swirling wind blown rain!

As is often the case I eventually left the car with my mind somewhat distracted. On this occasion it most certainly was.

I was wearing my usual inov8 shoes over sealskinz socks and merino and coolmax liner socks. This three layer combination of socks works well for me when it's cool.

Next up were an old and unfortunately unproofed pair of Paramo Cascada trousers.

My body was protected by a merino base layer, Patagonia R1 fleece and my new Rab NeoShell jacket.

I wore a buff turned into a cap and had my hood up all day long.

On my hands were WindPro gloves and MLD eVent mitts.

The appalling weather was my primary reason I'd gone NeoShell rather than my Paramo jacket.  The temperature was about 10c.  A temperature I consider too warm for Paramo...

I left the car at 9am and got to camp at 3pm.  So I was out for 6 hours hiking.

The first thing to "fail" were my Paramo trousers. I'd taken these to save putting waterproof over trousers on. These started to wet out in 20 minutes and within a couple of hours I could feel my, well, bits getting wet!  I'd have to say that whilst I was wet from hips to feet I wasn't cold.  Cool maybe but not cold.

After about three hours I could feel my chest getting damp. This was probably from a combination of rain blowing in my face (for 2.5 hours I was walking into the rain) and running down the inside of my jacket and I suspect from looking at my layers in camp some rain got past my jacket zip!

Frankly this is to be expected in those conditions.  Those who know my story of Sue and my trip to Dartmoor in 2009 when she was undergoing a life saving (though doomed) operation will know that I hiked for a day in similar conditions (personal reasons) and got a lot wetter! Paclite was used that time and I'd left the pit zips open. Long story!! In any event this current set up was superior in every way.  Even if I still got wet.

I'd point out again that my Paramo trousers were not proofed. That's now done... Though I will look into NeoShell over trousers for this type of weather.

My MLD eVent mitts did a pretty good job of keeping my WindPro gloves dry.  Though by the time I reached camp they to were getting moist.  What finished them off was leaning on ground!

I did notice the river was higher than I've ever seen it but still some way from overflowing.  The river was fast flowing.

I set up camp, this was by far the most difficult conditions I've had to pitch a shelter under and it look me quite awhile to do so.  I'm not quick at the best of times.

The ground was saturated when I stood on it, water pooling by my foot pressure.  The area I chose was the only area that was free of "surface" water.

Pitching the lines for the MLD Trailstar was easy despite it flapping a lot. The difficulty I had was keeping my pole upright long enough to secure more lines.  My pole fell over many times!  I finally got it taught enough that all was solid and it looked a good pitch!  I'd pitched it low, maybe about 1m.  I'd managed to set the silnylon "door" quite low for more weather protection but high enough I could get in without being on hands and knees. Let alone bumps a daisy.

I got under the trailstar, it felt very secure under there.  I set up my groundsheet, getting out to secure the rear tie points.

I then got water and this was the last time I saw the river...

I removed items from my pack, food, cook system, insulated jacket. Then my pillow, this was damp, but acted as a barrier over my dry bag.  All items in my one layer of cuben dry bag were dry.  Last year I double bagged my sleep system. It's good to know that was overkill!

I pulled the dry bag out and mat. The Xtherm was damp but my small towel dried it easily enough.  I blew the mat up, pulled out my dry night clothing (merino liner socks, leggings, gloves and balaclava.  Also separately packed synthetic jacket.

I lay on mat, away from sleeping bag and changed every item I wore due to wetness.

My base layer and fleece were damp on the front.  I'd put my spare liner gloves in my jacket pocket, they got soaked in there.  Thankfully my beefier fleece beanie which I'd put in my other pocket was only slightly damp and dried quickly on my head.  I'd worn my Buff.  In future spare items like these two need to be secured in a dry bag or similar.  This is why I carry a full but lightweight array of night wear for camping including spare gloves.  However my day gloves were soaked.

I then got into my sleeping bag and put on water to heat for cup a soup.  This was the first camp where I really missed the company of Bess in her corner. Probably due in part to knowing she was in the past at my parents.  I didn't feel very hungry.

I put some music on and settled back to read from kindle on my phone.

A few things happened here. First I noticed a few drips on my sleeping bag. As it has a drishell outer I wasn't too worried, especially as it was only overnight.  I noticed a few drops of water appear at the apex of the trailstar.  So I knew this was simply where more seam sealant will be needed.

I looked at where I'd placed my damp clothing to try to dry it a bit and saw fine drops of water on them.  I saw that the area of the mitton hook was wet.  When I checked at home I saw I'd missed a couple of stitches and this allowed rain to penetrate.  I'll check the sealing on the apex and try to proof that totally as well.  The trailstar was the first shelter I ever sealed so obviously didn't quite cover every square inch of stitching.  Still, two areas wasn't bad.

My main area of concern was my central pole's lower section slipped a few times and this allowed the canopy to fall on me!

Frankly this wasn't a major worry as there was zero to break,  buckle or snap.  I've never had this slippage before and I've used the same poles. So I'm putting it down to wet pole sections not holding, exacerbated by the leaking apex.  All of which should easily be rectified!  Simply taking the sections apart from my bed and drying may have helped. That never occurred to me.

My mind must have been wondering a bit as I just fancied putting my head on the pillow at about 6pm for a bit.

It was a little later, maybe about 6.30 that I saw a light appear over Scorhill.  A man approached, walked past and behind the trailstar and came back to the entrance and said the river was very close! "Is it?" I replied, obviously not bothered, he said "I hope that floats!" and headed off in the same or similar direction from where he came from.

First I owe him an apology for my being so uninterested and thanks for warning me.  I've no idea who he was,  I was so surprised that someone would take the time to warn me, so caught off guard. And my rocker!  He didn't have a pack or dog.  So other than checking up on me, in that weather I can't imagine what he was doing.

After he left I had time to think.  I was still in denial.  No way could the river rise that much.

Then the central pole slipped again.  Two things crossed my mind. 1, was having to secure the pole again to get out to retension the guylines (silnylon slackens when wet) though lengthening the pole would have done a similar thing, and 2, was the river!  I was now thinking I ought to look for myself!!

Once I'm comfy in my sleeping bag I really don't want the hassle of getting out. Especially in bad weather.  So reluctantly I got out of the sleeping bag, took my night clothing off, very calmly, put my waterproof coat on over my insulated jacket and then thought if I'm getting dressed to check an overflowing river I may as well pack up and abandon camp! So I put my sleeping bag away with night clothing, all was still dry. I then calmly did a piece to camera, I knew once outside the camera would need putting away.

I finished loading my pack under the shelter and did the pack up. All that was left was the groundsheet and trailstar.

I got out and removed the pegs, calmly counting them off. Managed to put the trailstar in the stuff sack and in an outside pocket of pack along with my groundsheet.  Annoyingly my black foam mat blew away in the wind!  I had no chance of finding it in the dark.  So sorry to Dartmoor for despoiling the moor!

I was impressed by how well I packed up at night.  I'd never done that before.

I then headed up the hill to the car about 15 minutes away.

As I headed for the car the rain eased off, but the ground underfoot was totally waterlogged.

At the car I put dry socks and shoes on but had to stay in my wet Paramo trousers. They were all I had on.  Literally!  My wet clothing was in my insulated jacket dry bag, which I was wearing (the jacket).

Remember my dry clothing was at the bottom of my pack with sleeping bag, I wasn't going to dig that out!

I only use this spot and parking in winter.

As I headed out in the car many of the lanes were flooded in places.  One was on the deep side and I backed out before slowly driving through hoping I didn't flood the engine.  That was deeper than I was happy to cross (to the bottom of my door - I opened the door as I backed out before taking it a second time)!  The lanes are so narrow turning around would have been almost impossible.  I could tell that it wouldn't get deeper... And was only the distance of a junction...

It was a relief to be heading home, driving has always been a love affair to me and this journey was incredibly relaxing and the whole trip rewarding, even if short lived.