Rain. It’s a strange thing. No, I don’t mean strange… Wet. That’s what it is. It started falling heavier after I got back to my tent from the pub, and continued on through the night to the next morning, turning the ground around my little tent from a nice firm camping pitch, into something which I feel can best be described as “ooze”. When I got back to the tent the previous night, I had listened quite cheerfully as I changed into my thermals and rolled out the sleeping bag. In the morning however, the heavy rainfall presented a very real problem.
I was going to have to get the tent down in the rain, and roll it away on the wet ground. If I were only staying the one night, this wouldn’t be such a problem; I would just roll it away quickly, and dry it out when I got home (there is a very special type of mould that seems to grow on a damp tent, “tentificus stinky-like-hellicus” I reckon must be its Latin name. A damp tent allowed to go mouldy never loses the smell), but on this trip I had a second night planned for this tent. The weather man had forecast “light showers” through Friday evening, and early on Saturday morning, so I was expecting it to be fairly dry. The weather man, it seemed (it was actually a man who presented the report I was watching), had made a blunder. Who knew that could happen? Stepping out of the tent, the sky was a sea of low lying cloud, dark grey and heavy, the type of cloud that doesn’t intend on going anywhere any time soon, and has plenty more water where that came from thank you very much.
Sitting in the porch of my tent, I cooked my breakfast (pork sausages and beans, the breakfast of champions!), and hoped that the rain would stop. It didn’t. I had left it as long as I could but there was nothing for it, I packed away my kit and propped it against a nearby tree to keep it off of the ground, which by now was very soupy indeed! I got the tent down and away as fast as I could, but despite my best efforts, the inside did get wet. Not an enormous problem, but it could make for an uncomfortable second night. Retreating with my kit to the campsite’s cleaning room, I filled my water bottles and readied the map, Grindslow Knoll was my target, and I boldly began to make my way in the rain.
Making my way up the start of the Pennine way (I have done the start of the Pennine way so many times! Perhaps one day I will try to walk the entire thing – now that would be an adventure!) I turned off quite quickly, and started up the fairly gentle ascent of Grindslow Knoll. Very quickly it became clear that the rain was going to make things very difficult. The amount of water pouring down the hill made the grass like ice, and twice I nearly slid over. When I reached the first small gate, designed to let walkers through but keep the local sheep in, I realised that my pack was so wide I wouldn’t fit! While politely discussing with myself how useful that design was for anyone actually carrying kit, I climbed over a nearby 5 bar gate and started up the path. This is when that little voice at the back of my head started to talk in very sensible terms.
This is silly, it said, you’re already soaked, and so is your kit. You have 11 miles to walk, wet, with a heavy pack, just to sleep in a wet tent, all so that you can take photographs. Except, in this weather, you won’t even take the camera out of the bag. Isn’t it time to be sensible?
“But I planned this for ages!” I told the voice stubbornly, “I booked the time off especially, I paid for the train ticket, and my food and everything!”
You have had a nice night in the tent, and enjoyed your extra day off. Your ticket is an open return, and the food is sealed with a very long shelf life. Be sensible. Go back to the village, have a coffee, then catch a train home and come back later in the year when the weather is more likely to be better.
I was trying to think of reasons why I ought to stay and press on, but the reality was I could only think of other reasons why pushing on was a bad idea. Kinder Scout, along the top, is essentially a peat bog. Not everywhere, but in most places. After all of the rain it was going to be very boggy indeed, and with the added weight of my pack I knew I was going to sink far. Kinder Scout is already the most active mountain in the UK for Mountain Rescue, and I really didn’t want to become a member of that statistic, so it was with a heavy heart, dear reader, that I turned back.
As if to point and laugh at me as I went, I slipped again on the sodden ground, this time falling properly and getting covered in mud. That settled it in my mind, it was time to go. I made my way back to village, and to Cooper’s Cafe – standing in the door I warned them I was soaked and muddy, but rather than turn me away they bid me welcome, although they did follow behind me with a mop, which spoiled the effect somewhat. I ordered myself a massive hot chocolate and searched for train times to get home.
And thus ended an adventure that had been a long time in planning, but a short time in execution. I feel I have learned a good lesson though – aside from not placing too much trust in the weather man (I’d like to get one, and throw a bucket of water at him while shouting “what? It’s only a light shower!”) – is that combining camping kit and photography kit, just results in too much kit! Next time I think I shall drive, and use my camping gear to make a base somewhere, from which I can strike out during the day and evening with my photography gear, safe in the knowledge that my camp would be ready for me when I get back. Not quite as romantic as the nomadic wandering I had planned perhaps, but a more effective strategy for photography, and the wanderings will still happen, only as an adventure in their own right, leaving the camera and all the added weight, behind.
If you have made it this far, thank you, and I heartily apologise that what I was hoping would be a tale of stunning vistas, and beautiful night skies, has ended up being a tale of a soggy scientist, with nothing but iPhone pictures and a muddy tent.
Next time, dear reader, next time.