Keswick to Scale Force circuit
In the 3 days leading up to New Year 2020, I went wild camping and gear testing with my 17 year old daughter and 20 year old son in Cumbria. This was a good chance to test some new gear from EDZ Layering (socks, base layers, hat, gloves, fleeces and neck tube) as well as my new Ulefone Armor 3W rugged waterproof phone (I’d managed to break my last ‘indestructible’ phone).
Day 1: 28th December 2019
We set off from Braithwaite near Keswick at about 10pm and camped about an hour later on the first flat piece of ground we could find. It was windy but a clear dry night with great views over Keswick and Skiddaw.
Day 2: 29th December 2019
We all slept well and were up before it was light. Breakfast was a rehydrated packet meal eaten with our head torches on.
It was a chilly morning but I was enjoying being out with my eldest two children. They’ve got their own lives now and when we’re home I rarely see them for long, so it’s nice to have some quality time with them out in the hills.
From our camping spot, it was a lovely but unexpectedly steep climb up Grisedale Pike into intermittent cloud cover.
On reaching the summit of Grisedale Pike we were lucky with a break in the clouds. This gave us some good views, but we didn’t stop for long due to constant buffeting from the wind.
The wind had really picked up by this stage. Instead of the planned route over Hopegill Head, we decide to descend over Coledale Hause, down the valley beside Liza Beck and on to Crummock Water.
It was a nice walk out of the wind down the valley. The wind was whipping over Crummock Water though, creating breaking waves on the lake. I was surprised to see so many people around; I didn’t realise that this remote corner of the Lakes was so popular, especially given the rubbish weather!
After an enjoyable walk around the end of Crummock Water, we struggled to find a suitable place to pitch three tents. My Tarptent was the biggest issue due to its large footprint. It took some time and numerous false hope excursions to eventually find a not-so-perfect spot. It did have great views of the lake and Scale Force waterfall though.
This time of year I tend to carry heavier gear to make nights more comfortable, because it’s dark for so long. Hence my choice of tent on this wild camping and gear testing trip was my new 807g Tarptent Stratospire Li. This is a 2 person tent so I had plenty of room to move around and cook inside if I needed to. It was ideal, even though the larger footprint makes it harder to find a suitable pitch.
It wasn’t a perfectly flat pitch and it was a windy night so I didn’t sleep that well. Due to the soft ground I had to get up during the night to replace three tent pegs that had come out. But I was still glad to be there.
Day 3: 30th December 2019
Again we had breakfast in the dark, waiting for enough light to set off walking. When it did come, we had an entertaining river crossing and walk back to find the path.
No one’s too old to love a bit of scrambling. There wasn’t much, but it was fun.
Everybody enjoyed the walk up past Scale Force. Because we had wild camped so close to it, we had this popular place to ourselves.
On leaving the protection of the valley, we were hit with fierce wind and we struggled to stay on our feet as we reached the summit of Red Pike.
During the climb I was really worried I’d made a mistake bringing my children up here in this weather. I considered turning around but decided that would be more dangerous than continuing, as we would get out of the wind faster by reaching the summit and dropping over the other side. It was hard to stay on our feet and took some real mental strength to fight our way to the summit cairn.
We were all very glad to see the summit cairn and find the path down the other side. We initially descended through a cool little gully that still had some snow in.
The path started fairly steeply with loose stone but quickly became a nice walk on a good path with views over Buttermere. The weather was deteriorating even further so we were pleased to reach The Fish Inn just as the rain started. As we entered the pub we were met with a friendly hello and were made very welcome.
Luckily we arrived when we did, because an hour later the pub was packed with not a seat free. We enjoyed a few drinks and a lovely meal, and didn’t leaving until the rain stopped around 2.30pm. We now had just enough time to climb through the trees beside Sail Beck and find a camp spot before it got dark.
We made tea before an early night. It had got cold quickly so we had all retreated to our own tents early. I carry an iPod so I can listen to music on winter nights, which I did for a while before falling asleep.
Day 4: 31st December 2019
I woke to a lovely clear star-filled sky. It was only about 4am though, so I made a coffee and lay with the tent doors open looking out, cosy in my sleeping bag. When my children eventually surfaced we had breakfast and they were soon hassling me to get going.
It was a perfectly still and frosty morning. The ground was completely solid as we set off up Whiteless Pike – not even the walking pole points were breaking ground.
We climbed over Wandope and traversed around to Crag Hill with views to die for. This was the Lake District at its best – we could see as far as the Pennines.
We stopped for a snack and spent quite a while enjoying the view from Crag Hill. There was still the remnants of a fairly large cornice just out of view over the edge.
I realised our wild camping and gear testing trip was nearly over and we should be getting home to enjoy seeing the New Year in with all our family. However, I did want to enjoy the good weather and the spectacular views. We wanted to stay high for as long as possible so we set off down to Coledale Hause and climbed Grisedale Pike again. We then followed the ridge back, descending to return to the car.
A great finish to 2019.
Gear testing conclusions
I was impressed with all the EDZ clothes that I used on this walk. I particularly loved the merino wool beanie hat, which I wore the whole time. It was thin enough to prevent my head from overheating but was lovely and warm. The neck tube was also worn for the whole trip. Both of these items fit better than anything else I own, and I will be taking them on every trip from now on.
The merino wool liner grip gloves were good given the low price, but they can’t compete with higher-priced windproof gloves. They work well as a liner glove with a waterproof mitt over them. The touch screen part of the glove worked well, and I could use my phone easily without removing the gloves.
EDZ’s all climate boot socks were warm and comfortable, and did the job well. They didn’t smell too bad at the end of the trip either. I will be testing these over a longer trip to see how well they wear, but at the minute they are as good as any sock I’ve used.
I slept in the thermal liner socks, merino wool leggings, and crew neck top. The merino wool balaclava also protected my sleeping bag from dirt and sweat (as well as keeping me warmer). This was a perfect combination and worked perfectly for the weather conditions. Best of all, it didn’t smell when I got home.
The merino wool zip neck top fitted well and was comfortable throughout. I wore it every day to walk in and it is already laid out for use on the next trip. It’s probably too warm for summer use, but will be ideal for trips outside of this.
I wore the full zip microfleece jacket most of the time, and put the Yeti fleece jacket over it on the few occasions it was really cold. I was surprised by how windproof the microfleece was on its own, but both were massively improved by adding a windproof shell jacket over them. The Yeti fleece was extremely effective as it was genuinely freezing up on the tops and I was never cold.
Phone (mapping, GPS and camera)
The Ulefone Armor 3W is my favourite piece of hiking gear and really helps on expeditions like this and was essential on my LEJOG and 3 Peaks walk. These pictures were taken on this phone, a replacement for my trusty old Toughphone Defender Pro, which I managed to break recently. I’m using it to track our route and for mapping because I forgot to bring a map. Lucky I’ve already loaded the OS Landranger 1/50,000 maps for the whole of the UK on it.
You can read my full review of the Ulefone Armor 3W phone here. The more I use this, the more I’m loving it. It managed to do this whole trip (GPS, mapping, lots of photos and a phone call to my wife) on about 5% of the battery charge. This is even with all apps running and without using aeroplane mode when I lost signal (which was most of the time).
Tents used: Tarptent Stratospire Li, Terra Nova Competition 1 and Terra Nova Laser Photon 1. All stood up to the windy conditions well and none had any serious condensation problems. These are warm tents suitable for winter use (without snow).
You can read my review of the best tents for wild and stealth camping here.
You can also follow me on Twitter @wildwalkinguk
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