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Tony Hobbs | profile | all galleries >> My Walks. >> A Frosty camp (my 8th!) on Dartmoor in December 2012 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

A Frosty camp (my 8th!) on Dartmoor in December 2012

The next morning as the first ray of sun touched the horizon I grabbed my frozen shoes, worry and a realisation spreading through my brain, trying to slip my feet into them. There was no chance I was going to get them on! What to do?

I left the car at 9am the previous morning heading out for the moor, my first port of call being Hound Tor. That's Hound Tor by Wild Tor! Not the Hound Tor by the Hound of the Basketmeals which serves cracking hot dogs.

The weather was perfect, zero wind, let alone a breeze. Stillness. Peace. Quiet. Tranquillity. The sun brushed the moor.

A small group were at the tor but long gone before I got there, dots descending the other side for pastures new, following a trail. Good idea, better than the tussocky wet area I'd crossed! I stopped at Hound Tor but only managed one bite out of my roll. Wasn't really in the mood. Nothing new there, let's carry on walking. Walking is good. Walking helps prevent the mind dwelling.

From here it was easy trails to Wild Tor and Hangingstone Hill, topping up water before heading to Statt's House. I was at the house by noon, flying along, slow I must slow a bit. I was calculating when I'd likely reach camp. 2pm was too early. I wanted about 3. Lot's goes through my mind.

There is a nasty boggy section between here and Stannon Tor. Its narrow and not wide and easily rounded. Not that Bess remembered. She took a dip here last year! And repeated it this year! By the time I got to my side of the crossing she had hauled herself out, pack and all. Shaking the boggy mud off.

From here it was down to a stone circle and more tussocky going to enter Fenworthy Forest. Past the forest where a couple of young ladies were interested in Bess pack. Maybe I should have lingered to chat longer.

From here it was Thornworthy Tor and down the other side. There is a gate to the left, it will be worth going to the gate next time! It might be a hundred metres further this side but there's bound to be a track the other side! Not the boggy crossing I had over the stone wall. Care was needed where stepping! I then headed to Kestor Rock, through tussocks! Yuk! That gate would have saved a lot of unnecessary hassle... Still, it used time!

It was a short walk on well trodden ground to my camp site for the night. I had walked about 12 miles. I say about as I ditched my Satmap to save a few grams. And my portable phone charger. So I kept phone GPSless! The sun was still bright and a good safety tool. It was a beautiful day. I didn't want the GPS on phone draining my battery, there was no need. I knew this like the back of my hand and never once looked at my map.

I measured a lunch time temperature of 8c. It was cool though on the tops.

In the shaded areas and in the forest frost still lingered on the ground. The bogs were boggy and not frozen. Yet!

My footwear choice was Sealskinz over merino liners over Coolmax liners. This combination worked a treat. I'll certainly wear them again.

I also wore my new Inov8 295s for the first time. Most impressed.

Once I reached camp, just before 3, I topped up water, took Bess pack off and dried her belly. I delayed pitching for a short while, a few bods were in the distance and I wanted to avoid undue attention.

I pitched about 3.30pm, maybe finished nearer 4 by the time I'd set everything up, groundsheet, mat and sleeping bag. I was just about to pee and clamber in my bag when I saw a dog walker approach.

A middle aged lady walked over with her collie. She was very friendly. Somewhat older than the younger ladies I'd seen earlier. She was most interested in my exploits. At first she chatted by the rear of the Trailstar, asking when I'd arrived. Quite surprised how far I'd walked. I was holding my chest, she asked what I was doing. Warming meths wasn't what she expected to hear!

The Trailstar intrigued her as did my cooking set up. She walked to the front and looked in.

This massive black jaguar flew out, baying for her blood. Ah, sorry, wrong story! And don't blame me...

The lady saw Bess and was even more interested. So now I was explaining meths heating, meths stoves, mats, tarps and Bess! We chatted for about half an hour. She had heard of TGO and of Chris Townsend!

This was the only time all day my feet chilled a bit, despite water crossing and several bogs. That's why my style of walking is that. Walking. Less likely to get cold feet if I keep moving!

I thoroughly enjoyed the chat though. She was genuinely interested. Off they walked about 4.30. I spent that penny and clambered under tarp, took my shoes and socks off, put dry socks on, then removed my trousers, behave, put on my merino leggings and my down booties. Then removed my coat and donned a down pullover coat. I was warm in minutes. My feet in 30 of them.

Darkness fell totally by 5. I was alone and once again felt chilled out. Relaxed.

I wrapped my sleeping bag around me, put a meal on to boil and checked my shoes. Frozen solid by 6.30!! The problems of getting them on never occurred to me, thankfully, as I'd never have slept for worry!

The temperature in the open Trailstar was as low as -5.4c. Outside was as low as -9.1c.

What did I learn this trip? Full length zips are a compromise. Even in a -15c bag! Whilst I was warm enough, occasionally my legs cooled a tad. When my fingers parted the baffles the zip beyond was cold, some of that cold inevitably crept in. It was easy to sort, twist bag so zip below me. I was never cold. But it was a minor pain. I smell a DYO bag inspection one day, in the year dot! Best hold fire there!!!

I learnt Sealskinz don't need to be allowed to freeze. Simply place under sleeping mat. I had two mats so that was good separation from me. My other socks went between mats. All were drier in the morning. The Sealskinz which had started to freeze the night before were thawed and drier. None were an issue to don next morning. And I'm the biggest jessy going!

I ate my meal, drank a tea and watched a film on my phone. I also read my book on my tablet.

I monitored Bess but she was very comfortable and happy. At one point she got up and refused her bed, I touched the towel I'd put down, frozen! No wonder she didn't want her bed. I removed the towel, she settled on the MultiMat and slept soundly until morning. On this camp I discovered cold doesn't affect Bess much. Learned a lot about how tough Bess is!

I slept fitfully at first, waking for another tea, I used more meths this trip than previously but still plenty spare.

One thing I do find is when my head hits the pillow my nose bungs up and my throat gets congestion in it! This prevents sleep. I take a decongestant this helps and a bloody good blow helped clear the nostrils! But I'd prefer it didn't start. I'll take a lozenge next time. See if that helps.

Once I nodded off about midnight I slept until about 4. My down hat had fallen off my head and my head chilled and woke me! I only cat napped from here on in.

I wasn't awake though! I kept an eye on my watch. So far on all my camps I've had a time in mind to head back. This morning was the same. I put my stove on at 6 but this was too early, even for me. As it happens I'd not put enough meths in so it really only warmed the water. This was fine. A drop more meths nearer 7 boiled it. In the sleeping bag I drank my tea and ate my porridge. I then put away my cooking kit and the last of the food went into its stuff bag.

At home I'd not even think about getting up until about 8! Not here, the thought process of get going gets me going.

Fear gripped me, I had a nasty coughing fit from congestion that this time was from nerves. How the hell wasn't I going to freeze getting up and packing! I'd not even got to my shoes. Thankfully!

I know the odd person laughs at my spreadsheet but for me its important as it keeps things organised. Never more was that needed than now.

I put my Paramo Vista jacket on then my down pullover. I was going to do everything to keep warm. And efficiency was paramount. Next I put on my down booties / socks. I then unzipped the bag and far quicker than at home stuffed the sleeping bag in the large cuben dry bag. This is a big bag and its hard and more importantly warming work stuffing it in. Once in I rolled the top.

The next thing that takes time is getting air out of the air bed. I did this next and slotted it in the Exodus FS pack. Keeping my feet on the Z mat.

Now came the chilly bit, but it surprisingly wasn't. I swear -5c here was warmer than my +10c bedroom!! Mind you I don't wear anything in bed at home. Sorry, too much information! This required quick work, down socks were put in stuff bag, my mostly unused fleece went in and my possum gloves. I removed my down hat and put on merino beanie and Paramo hat. I removed my merino socks they went in. I put on my Coolmax liner socks, they were warm enough from being under my mat. Next was merino liner socks and then Sealskinz, all dry and warm enough. These to were drier than I got them at home hanging up! I then removed my merino leggings (I may have the order incorrect!) and donned my Paramo Cascada trousers. Despite ice on the outside, they were fine inside. I doubt a normal trouser would have been so pleasant!

Next I put my sleeping bag in the pack and my dry night clothing and my wash kit, repair kit and spare battery etc. These are all organised in their own ditty bags. All this goes into an extra large cuben dry bag. Once that was folded over my cook kit went in, food bag, first aid kit and rubbish bag.

One other thing I also did early on was get as much of Bess stuff ready. I removed all the pegs inside holding her bed down and tossed bits outside I didn't need inside anymore. My pack went to the entrance.

I was very glad of the Thermarest Z Light, I was able to do so much on it to prevent chilling off! My upper clothing worked a treat at keeping my heat in.

Of course there was no wind so this helped there.

I was now ready to put my cosy feet into frozen shoes.

Only there was no chance. This was the first time it dawned on me! Worry slowly but surely seeped into every pore as I tried to bend and pull and poke them. Several minutes passed, my blood cooled! It was now I suddenly felt the need to pee. And the answer hit me! Get that Z Light outside, put the shoes in front of it, my three layers of socks kept my feet warm enough. Standing on mat I tiddled on my shoes! It worked a treat.

The thing is, I'm glad I was alone. I'd simply not have been able to do that if another soul was about.

Next I ran about and never did laces up. I had my WindPro gloves on. I folded my groundsheet and put that away. I put all Bess kit away and strapped her up. Put her rolled up mat on and secured it down.

The last thing I did was take down the Trailstar and put it away along with my down pullover. As soon as that was done I was off! No hanging about freezing my brass monkey's off!

I grabbed the camera and shot a little more video on my walk back.

Another camp, my eighth, under my belt. for kit list. for video.