Location: Kinder Scout, North Edge, Derbyshire Peak District
Date: January 2016
Kit: Trailstar + Exped Downmat 7 Ultra Light + Wilderness Down Quilt
Eleventh Wild Camp
Winter 2016 and time to fill up the Osprey 88ltr pack with warm kit and head out for the first wild camp of 2016.
After a short break, the first wild camp of 2016 has long been anticipated. Kinder Scout has to be my favourite place for a walk and wild camp so with the route roughly planned we drove up to Hayfield and parked near the Kinder Reservoir on Saturday morning. Finding a space to leave the car was easy given the time of year and relative low numbers of day walkers.
The four of us set off South East through a number of farms turning East to Edale Cross. The weather was perfect, cold (3-4c), sunny but a bit blustery. As we started to climb up towards Edale Cross the wind steadily got stronger with gusts of about 30-40mph. The route turns North to the summit of Kinder Low. A quick selfie at the trig point and we set off for Kinder Downfall. Our pace was fairly good but after a couple of stops to take photos and apply zinc tape we were starting to run out of daylight. Kinder Downfall was showing off its spectacular display, and with the added bonus of freezing water covering the surrounding heather. As you can see in the video ice had formed covering the heather and grass to create perfectly clear spikes of ice.
We stopped to put on our waterproofs and pack covers before crossing the Downfall, which was a very wise move. Just at the point we crossed the Downfall the weather took a turn for the worst. With wind speeds of 65-70mph, temperatures of 1-2c (-10c with windchill) and heavy snow, walking North West along the edge of Kinder was “interesting”. Despite the driving head wind and frozen beards we reached the far Western tip of the plateau in good time and crossed a small section of the plateau over to the North Edge. The forecast predicted a consistent South Westerly wind throughout the night hence the reason for choosing to camp on the Northern edge. A short walk along the North Edge path we headed up to a large crop of rocks and setup camp. We’d timed it exactly right, just as I was rolling out my Exped 7 the sun set.
The wind and snow persisted through the evening and I found myself checking pegs frequently to see if they were working loose. Fortunately none did and all held extremely well considering the battering the TS (Trailstar) was taking. I was sharing the Trailstar with my brother that night so set it higher than I would normally in those conditions, it’s far more comfortable for two sharing with a bit more headroom. However, I realised the error of my ways when snow started to blow underneath the Trailstar (given the 3-4 inch gap between the ground and the tarp) and swirling round inside our shelter like a mini blizzard. After a short while everything inside the Trailstar was covered in a layer of snow and ice! I decided it was too late/dark/cold/windy to readjust the TS so we just put up with it.
After some dinner (Wayfarer) we cracked open the vino and admired the views of Bleaklow and the lights of Manchester to the West. The night was cold, windy and we had about 4-5inches of snow. Temperature in the TS dropped to -2c but the Wilderness Quilt kept me warm. Coupled with the amazing Exped Downmat 7 UL (LW) I was warm and comfortable all night. The morning was cold and snowy but the wind had dropped a little. A quick coffee and we packed away to head back to the car. The route backtracked to near Sandy Hays where the footpath drops down back to the Reservoir. 3hrs later we arrived back at the car and set off for home.
A bit about the Wilderness Quilt and Exped 7:
I have to be honest and say although this should have been a perfect test for the quilt, I failed. Having been sat around drinking wine and talking for a few hours in my down jacket I couldn’t imagine taking it off. So opted to sleep in it inside the Wilderness quilt, therefore although I was warm I can’t say it was entirely down to the quilt. Having said that my legs and feet were plenty warm enough all night, so that’s a partial test. I’m planning a camp on Cadre Idris later this month so I’ll endeavour to test it properly this time!
The Exped 7 mat is an amazing bit of kit. Well made, strong and extremely warm. It is by far the most comfortable I’ve been on any wild camp ever. The larger size definitely helped as I wriggle about a lot in my sleep. I didn’t get any cold spots or dead shoulders etc. The only problem I had was more down to my bivvy bag. I use the Alpkit Hunka XL bivvy which is massive, however it compressed by quilt given the very wide mat underneath. I think in the future I will either try another bivvy bag, maybe an Army Gortex as they’re wider or just not put the mat inside the bivvy. The obvious downside to having the mat outside the bivvy is that it will get wet/dirty. Needs more thought.
So in summary this was a very cold, very very windy, snowy walk and wild camp. The route is nice and easy with some great views throughout and the camping spot pretty much perfect. I wouldn’t recommend anyone new to wild camping attempt this in these extreme conditions, but on a pleasant day it would be a great choice.
1. Always pitch the Trailstar low in bad weather
2. Rethink the bivvy/mat combo