It’s a given, that when the time for the Bremex October High Camp comes round, the weather throws a curveball. Even so, 9 of us hardy souls braved the elements to test our navigation skills and our mettle.

With gale force winds and lashing rain forecast for Friday evening, we all planned to set up camp and batten down the hatches before dark descended – unfortunately the traffic on the M6 had other ideas, so Matt, Kent and Craig arrived at 10pm – just 10 minutes after the rain had started to hammer down. Thankfully, they declined our offers to help pitch their tent in the pouring rain. Everyone else had a very early night after watching the cars on the M6 heading down from Shap and spotting the fell ponies on the hills around us.

Camping above Tebay watching the cars on M6 

We awoke on Saturday morning to a somewhat brighter day than expected – and Chris’ tent surrounded by a herd of curious cows. We’d obviously nicked their favourite sheltered spot.
Setting off in 2 groups, we took turns to lead navigation legs, using OS and Harveys maps with different scales, until we reached our planned overnight camp at Blakethwaite Bottom in time for lunch. Taking advantage of the dry (but still very windy) weather, we continued on our mountain journey with The Calf as our objective, 5 kilometres and several undulations away. The geography of the Howgills became more apparent as we followed the highest ground between deeply incised valleys, with absolutely no shelter from the wind. As the Met Office weather app predicted heavy rain at 5pm, we headed back to camp, this time picking a route over Fell Head, contouring above Black Force and getting back 10 minutes before the rain hit.

We retreated to our respective tents to cook dinner and relax ready for the planned night navigation exercise at 7pm. Just as we were gearing-up, the weather struck again, so with a short delay the exercise got underway – minus one or two people who may (?) have fallen asleep. 

Sunday saw everyone up at the crack of dawn (7:15am), breakfasted and packed up ready to set off at 8:30 with Simon’s Seat as our first objective. There were no gentle gradients out of our camp. Various route options were discussed and a ridge line to the south of Docker Knott met with universal approval, so we set off up Di’s ridge. 

Heading up from Blakethwaite Bottom

Once on the fell tops the strength of the wind knocked us off our feet - thank goodness we’d opted for broad grassy hills with no precipitous edges, although the convex slopes meant accurate compass work was essential. We continued to practice our navigations skills all the way back to the cars, crossing streams, bogs and new fences not shown on the maps – luckily there were gates in useful places.

We finished with a debrief at J38 services which got a big thumbs up from everyone, although Anne-Marie struggled to finish her omelette and chips.
A big thank you to Rich and Matt for organising such a testing but enjoyable weekend.