A fortnight ago, a friend and I went to the Lake District for our annual “Lad’s Holiday”. Usually we backpack around an area but this time we decided to “basecamp” at Keswick for half the week followed by the remainder of the time at Bowness. The train and bus connections meant I was not worried about packing ultralight as I’d only carry my backpack for a few hundred yards at a time. I used my new-to-me Osprey Exos 46 litre pack to carry my gear in on the journeys and used my Gossamer Gear Murmur as a day pack. The Murmur also did duty as a stuffsac during the transport stages. The Murmur did both jobs exceedingly well.
I’d already used the Osprey Exos a couple of times on proper backpacking trips and I knew it was a capable load lugger and surprisingly capacious so I had no qualms in bunging in my Luxe Hex V4 tent along with an Enlighted Equipment Prodigy Quilt, NeoAir, camera, clothes, etc. I paid £25 for the Exos and it was an absolute steal as I love this pack. It has hipbelt pockets, a top lid that is floating to accommodate bulky items, a large main bag, another useful sized pocket on the front, a stretchy mesh pocket over that large enough to fit waterproofs, windproof jacket, tent pegs and a myriad other bits and bobs, good sized waterbottle/tentpole pockets, loops to secure walking poles and ice axe, lashing points at the top and bottom of the pack plus a very effective compression system. There even a very useful organiser pocket inside the top lid of the pack. Two features that I rate highly are that there is a frame to lift the pack away from my back (hurrah…no more sweaty backs!) and Osprey’s “Stow on the Go” system for walking poles. I always use hiking poles but there are often times when I want to not use them for a few moments and the Osprey system is sheer genius. When my Exos dies I will buy another.
I’d decided to use the Hex V4 as I wanted a roomy tent as we were basecamping. At 1.3kg it’s far heavier than my normal backpacking shelters but weight wasn’t an issue on this week. It’s a great tent and very cheap for what you get. It’s a pyramid tent and has a very large inner taking up half the space, enough room for somebody else to sleep outside the inner and then room for packs, boots, cooking. It is also very stable in wind and completely waterproof. New, they are about £160 (I paid £100 for mine) and they are well worth considering if anybody is thinking of buying a tent. Most people I know who have them use them as their regular backpacking shelter but I prefer lighter options. That’s my preference and not a black mark against the tent itself. Backpackinglight.co.uk is the retailer in Britain. Below is a picture of the Hex V4 along with all the contents of my Exos strewn around as I was setting up when the photo was taken. I’m not normally that untidy!
Keswick campsite is a delight. It’s possible to pitch at the lakeside so you get great views and the feeling of wild camping even though you’re on a site with showers, toilets, a Backpackers room to dry stuff in and you’re near to all the amenities of the town itself. We arrived on the Saturday afternoon in beautiful weather. Sunday was also a lovely day and we caught a bus out to the opposite end of the lake and walked back along the shore. It was too hot to contemplate doing any of the high fells that are reachable from Keswick and, of course, we had the rest of the week.
The best laid plans of mice and men! Monday dawned dull and cloudy. Soon the heavens opened and it threw it down all day. Torrential, constant rain with low clouds so, even if we’d been mad enough to ascend the fells, there would have been no views to enjoy. So we explored the delights of the Pencil Museum and the Illusion exhibition. I have to say that that the Illusion Exhibition was superb and well worth every penny of the the modest entrance fee. Here’s a couple of pictures taken from the same place on Sunday and Monday mornings.
Tuesday morning started the same as Monday had but the rain stopped about noon so we caught a bus out to Bassenthwaite and enjoyed a good afternoon, albeit soggy, of walking. Then the rain started again. When we got back we found my mate’s bathtub floor had flooded. Luckily, he’d put his gear into plastic bags so nothing was wet apart despite there being half an inch of water in the floor. It took a few moments to realise what had happened; a tent peg had been pulled out the ground due to the wind and a small piece of the fly had blown in and lodged in the bathtub floor wall. It had then acted like a funnel for all the water on the fly
Wednesday dawned with clear, blue skies and hot sunshine. Of course, this was the day we were moving onto Bowness! At least we could pack our kit up easily as the tents had dried out. We broke the journey at Ambleside to sample the delights of the Golden Rule which is a rather fine little pub. We sat outside while we enjoyed our pint and the sun was so strong we both got a mild touch of sunburn. We got the next bus to Bowness, found the site and pitched up. The site has all the usual facilities but the tent area isn’t as good as at Keswick. The ground has many jumps and hollows along with a slight slope. Nevertheless we made ourselves comfortable.
The Lake District has,as the name suggests, a lot of water. This is because it rains a lot there! Thursday I awoke to the sound of rain hammering down on the tent fly, absolutely chucking it down. There was simply no point in going outside so I waited until there was a lull and emerged to see pools of standing water everywhere around me. Worse, there was a large pool right at the corner of my tent and going under my inner tent. Clearly, something had to be done so I bailed out the pool only to realise that the overall slope meant water ran back into the hole! Then the rain restarted with a vengeance so moving the tent wasn’t an option. I went into town and bought some garden rubbish bags – big, strong plastic bags- which I placed under my inner and in the vestibule to keep the inevitable flood away from my gear. This strategy worked a treat but, by now, it was far to late to do a serious walk anywhere.
The rain stopped about 6pm and the hole could be bailed out again. Friday was another beautiful day so we made the most of it. A bus to Ambleside then a hike out to Sweden Bridge and thus to Scandale Pass. Glorious! We planned to descend to Kirkstone Pass and the catch the bus back. The descent was via Red Screes which I had ascended many years ago and remembered as being steep but easy. Memory is a strange thing! The descent is about a 1000 feet in a very short horizontal distance and there is a fair bit of scrambling to do. Hard work and exciting but we got down without mishap.
Saturday I was awoken by rain yet again. Torrential rain! So we packed up in the rain and I was amazed to find a mini-river flowing under my inner tent. The garden rubbish bags had done their duty! Once packed, we left to catch the train back to our homes.
Here’s some pics take from the top of Scadale Pass – a wonderful place to be!