For Simon’s birthday last year, we went out clubbing, spent a ridiculous amount of money and spent two days hungover. What a difference a year makes! Instead this year we booked a Monday off work and three nights at the National Trust campsite at Wasdale Head on the banks of the Wastwater.
We frantically checked the forecast all week because this dismal excuse for a “summer” that we are having is proving to be really inconsistent. Although we were expecting rain all weekend we packed up the car and were decidedly optimistic for the weekend ahead. Leaving Huddersfield at 4pm on a Friday again is probably the worst idea, the M62 traffic was mental but by 8pm we had arrived at the site. As we exited the car the heavens decided to open and a torrential downpour continued for about 20 minutes – not the best start!
The campsite itself again was brilliant. Not as great as Cae Du in Snowdonia but geared more towards walkers and mountaineers than families holidaying. Ours was probably one of the biggest tents there and it only sleeps four people. Luckily the drainage was great and the camping fields were not completely flooded because it had been raining all week, driving up we had horrible visions of having to set up in a puddle and floating away in the night. We found a brilliant spot that was not too far from where we could park the car and managed to get set up before the rain started again, just in time to eat some birthday cake and have a couple of G+Ts before bed. It was Friday after all!
We knew that Saturday was going to be much worse weather-wise than Sunday so we decided to visit nearby Muncaster Castle. We thought at least we would be able to get out of the rain if it was really bad. For some crazy reason, which makes no financial sense to me, the grounds and attractions were open on a Saturday but the castle itself was closed as it is every week. We actually still had a great time, though I was looking longingly through the windows to try and get a glimpse. I love big old estates and especially looking inside the houses because I am inherently nosey. National Trust houses are probably my favourite type of day out (I know, lame).
Muncaster actually have an ongoing conservation project with a charity based in Hampshire and keep loads of different types of birds of prey in probably one of the best kept aviaries I have ever seen. We did see the falconry show including eagles, owls and a vulture but it was cut short due to the rain. Eagles apparently don’t like getting wet, who knew? We had our waterproofs though and had a great walk around the estate to view the gardens. I got some ideas for the large garden we will be getting with our new house!
The best thing about Muncaster was that the owners completely get involved in the day to day running and conservation of the estate. The guy actually gave a speech before the falconry show thanking everyone for paying to enter (it was about £10 each for an adult ticket) because it assisted with the conservation of the birds, grounds and castle buildings. We saw him all day riding around on his golf buggy to and fro, checking on this and that and generally getting his hands dirty. You don’t see that often.
Sunday dawned and the rain had finally stopped, so after making chicken tikka masala with microwaveable rice for breakfast we headed up the mountain about 10am. Simon decided to take his new rucksack that his mum bought him for his birthday. It’s 68 litres and for a day trip, the bag probably weighed more than the stuff that was in it! He insisted on wearing it though, saying that he was training for when we make our first foray into wild camping later on in the year. I wore his old bag, the £26 Amazon bargain that came from China and that has again and again proved itself in all weather, though the zip is faulty. Simon carried most of the lunch and the spare layers, I literally just had my water pouch that weighs about 2kg and had my fleece that I kept taking on and off anyway. Needless to say, I powered straight up but Simon struggled a bit. Nothing that a Mars Bar can’t fix though! We managed to get up in about 1hr 30 and the ascent trail was around 3 miles so not a bad time.
We were so lucky again at the summit, when we arrived we managed to get about ten minutes of visibility before the next cloud came over. That means two of the big three we managed to get clear views from, hopefully our luck will continue on to Ben Nevis in September! After getting quite warm on the ascent and arriving at the summit in t-shirts, within one minute we were scrambling in the bags for fleeces and coats as the wind picked up. We got the obligatory summit snaps and huddles behind a wall to eat a lunch of sausage rolls and pork pies – the lunch of kings!
At this point, we hadn’t much planned ahead in regards to what route we would take down. We had a slight idea using the OS map but after overhearing some other climbers at the summit say how scrambly our chosen route was and with the clouds drawing in and visibility being poor, we had a quick last minute change of mind. We started off down the path we came up but branched to the right and had a wonderful decent down to Great End. There were still some scrambling parts but they were not too terrifying and great practice for Simon with his huge bag.
Again, my GPS watch ran out of battery. I really need to either reinstall the MapMyWalk app or get a more efficient way of tracking our walks via GPS as the watch is really designed for running rather than hiking. On our normal walks which last about five hours it is alright, its just not designed for the slower pace of mountain walking. We got around 8.5 miles I think by the time we got back to the campsite with 3020ft gain in elevation (again why I think Snowdon elevation was completely wrong because we did much much more). Overall, a great day and the rain held off so we were feeling accomplished and lucky.
I promised Simon a meal and a few pints in the Wasdale Head Inn – famous with walkers worldwide I think. Luckily on the Sunday it was a lot less busy (we had been for one or two on Saturday night). He was gutted though, when I made him walk straight past it to the campsite on the way back – I desperately needed a shower before I could even sit in a pub and contemplate eating food! After heading back we ordered the food and demolished it, it was soooo welcome after such a long day. We then happily sat playing with beer mats and drinking pints until we were suitably fuzzy enough to make the walk back to the campsite. This is literally the best walk to and from the pub ever! A mile long track where you have to ford rivers and fight off friendly cows, especially fun after a few drinks and with some amazing views. We took our time as we were reluctant to go home and go to bed because we had to leave the following day.
We had such a brilliant weekend and I certainly enjoyed it more than a two day hangover, though plenty of alcohol was involved unsurprisingly – it was Simon’s birthday after all. What a way to bring in a quarter of a century! As soon as we got home we started planning our next trip, got to bag Ben Nevis this year to make the trio.