Cross the UK: Going Solo – Part 1

I’m not known for my desire to make small talk, initiate conversation or be involved in big groups and some would even go so far as to say I can be a little bit unsociable! Don’t get me wrong, I can hold my own in conversations, but I’d rather not have to! I enjoy peace and quiet which, in my household is rarer than rocking horse scat. When I hit the trails and fells I never listen to music, whether I’m running, riding or walking, and love being in the moment, soaking it all in and clearing my mind of the stresses and worries that we all carry with us all too often. All this being said, I haven’t done any multiday activities alone. I generally have a willing partner to accompany me so the idea of doing a trip to the Lakes in late November to run a big old mountain top route with a stopover in a bothy on my own was intriguing, exciting and a little bit intimidating but you only live once.

The planning stage: Firstly the route, I had planned this route to walk a year or two ago but we had to abandon day two due to high winds and unexpected snow so it was pretty easy this time round to plan. This route is also used as a traditional fell race route at a different time in the year, to be completed in a single day, so it’s easy to find links for the Ennerdale Horseshoe and maps, descriptions and guidance. Starting from the car park at the end of Ennerdale Water, the route starts by heading anticlockwise around the lake and ascending via Anglers Crag, navigating across Ennerdale Fell and up to Haycock (797m) and Scoat Fell (841m), across Wind Gap (824m), Pillar (892m), Kirk Fell (802m), then north to Great Gable (899m) and Green Gable (801m) and round to Brandreth (715m). From here my route headed back east to find Warnscale Head Bothy – a bothy I’ve aimed for twice before and never got to stay in overnight. Warnscale Head is a small bothy that has been renovated to make it particularly cosy with benches to sit and sleep on, a good weather proof roof and a good multi fuel stove too. It is nestled into the valley side with spectacular views down to Buttermere. The second day aims east, back to the car park via Hay Stacks (597m), down and back up to Seat (561m), High Crag (744m), High Stile (806m), continuing along the ridge to Red Pike (755m) and Starling Dodd (633m), before descending after Great Borne (616m). In total this route covers around 36km and could be done in a day in weather, daylight and fitness permitting.

Secondly the kit: For any overnight adventure you need to consider the kit you cannot do without and the kit you know makes your trip more comfortable while balancing the weight that you have to shoulder. This trip was mentally difficult to plan for as I love my comforts when camping, as I don’t feel that you should have to rough it just because you’re out in the hills or mountains. However, I also run like to run with very little kit so balancing the weight/comfort equation was difficult. I gambled on minimising both as much as I could since it was only one night. My kit list was written, rewritten, collected, chopped, changed and discussed numerous times before finalising. I had managed to procure a couple of Ultimate Direction’s Fastpacks, the 25 and 35 (which I will probably review in the near future), so it was a matter of seeing which one I could get my kit in and working from there, which coincidentally was the 35 litre version. Rather than bore people with the details, I will attach my kit list with rough weights, costs and reasons then in the second part of this article review the success or failure of certain kit. Very simply put I decided to gamble on minimal weight and this certainly was a gamble given the temperatures in the weather forecast which were showing low single figures across the weekend. Despite taking a Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xtherm which has an R-Value of 1.00 meaning that is capable of being comfortable in temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius, I saved weight by packing my Marmot Atom sleeping bag, a two season bag with a comfort limit around 7 and lower comfort limit of 2. I also packed a silk liner, which adds a couple of degrees with minimal weight, and if it comes to the worst I can put my bag inside my heat sheet emergency bivy. The gamble was even greater since I was taking my OR Helium Bivy to stay in if the bothy was unavailable for whatever reason, meaning warmth would be an unlikely companion. Cooking wise I scoured the freeze dried foods for maximum calories in minimal weight a settled on Summit to Eat for my main meal: Pasta Bolognaise – 742kcal/weighing 160g; dessert (purely for extra calories); Custard Apple Crunch – 447kcal/110g and breakfast; Morning Oats with Rasberry – 449kcal/116g. To cook these dried delights I packed my Pocket Rocket2, a 750ml titanium pot and long handled spork to avoid bothering with a plate or bowl. The only luxuries I allowed myself were thermal compression wear for sleeping in, a book to get through the night with and my new Vargo Titanium Flask with a helping of Aberlour 12 Year Old Single Malt (for medicinal purposes…).

Fingers crossed that there is a part 2 to this story!

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