I left a message on James' phone saying I was just having a brew and bacon roll in the cafe. I would be along shortly. The rain was lashing it down and I figured a few more minutes would not harm our chances of a bit of decent weather. To be honest, we were pushing our luck. The forecast was severe gales coming in early Saturday morning. The Friday (today) was just gales and rain - but clearing later according to my forecast and the worst due on Saturday. Mike Knipe reckoned we were doomed and might meet up with us if the weather was not too severe on Saturday morning. Knowing the forecast was most likely right based on Mike trusting it, I still drove to meet James. He was parked up in his van having a brew as I pulled up. The original plan was off and we had plan no 2.
It was misty, windy and the odd spot of rain warranted full waterproofs (technically Paramo is not truly waterproof according to some) and we shouldered packs to head out into the hills. We had planned to train for the TGO Challenge with some training walks and James was testing some kit sent to him. I was testing out what to take on the Challenge kit-wise as well.
The muddy track out of the farm at the head of Bowerdale led us up via a track heading to West Fell. Mist marred the views but good banter and chat about blogging, kit, walks and everything else made the walk enjoyable. At times the wind was still, depending on the shelter the hills gave and at times we felt its force tear into us in open spaces. We knew it could get worse! The wind strength was bad as it was.
We kept moving until we decided we had a sheltered spot to rest and grab a bite to eat. Again typical chat about kit choices and walks done and planned to do was had over a snack and drink. The track along the ridge was rejoined after as we went along to the Calf. We both noticed a strange shape in the mist. What is that, we wondered? - and then we noticed it a was a couple out backpacking huddled over a map. Their large packs made the strange shape in the mist until we got close enough to see them. We said hi and moved on to the Calf.
The view was not too had today and the rain and mist meant we did not stay long either. I phoned Mike Knipe about the meeting arranged for the next day. It was agreed if it was bad weather Mike would not come. I reckoned he was in for a lie in the next day. We then took the well worn track down to Bowerdale and to find a camp spot. The wind seemed to be silent in some spots as we descended. Some views opened up and we made the valley to seek a wild camp spot.
At times gusts of strong wind tore down the valley and other times it was calm. We walked on seeking a good sheltered spot and crossed the river back and forth seeking the best place, knowing it could get nasty later. We then went back up the valley a way as we decided the spots back up would be best and chose a place across the river offering good raised pitches as it would most likely flood. Shelters went up as the wind was again gusting down the valley. I was very pleased the un-tried Trailstar I had taken with me was stable in the wind. Meals and chat soon were under way as we settled in to spend a long night in the hills. For a while it was calm and I got out to take a photo. All that troubled us at this point was the odd shower.
I awoke to the sound of rain and strengthening wind. I also noticed it was getting chilly as the draft in the shelter increased due to the wind. I zipped up the bivy to keep the wind off me and confident in the stability of the Trailstar went back to sleep. It was a wild night with very bad weather.
I awoke to very strong winds and lashing rain. No Mike was a certain thing. James reckoned it was the worst weather he had wild camped in. The forecast that day was 90mph on the tops and everywhere else an average windspeed of around 50-60mph was forecast and flooding as well.
We broke camp and the river crossing to get back on the main path out of the valley was not possible. We noted another track on our side on the map and picked that up to get out. Wild raging streams had to be jumped and the wind blew us about at times. The valley was flooded and the river had burst its bank. Mini waterfalls had formed everywhere. We kept moving with soaking wet hill ponies dotted along the trail for company. Our biggest concern was the river might burst its bank so badly as to threaten washing our cars and vans away.
At this point all chat about how good the kit had coped with the weather bar the odd Paramo trousers leaking was gone. James' comment that it was not safe to be in the hills was true and we were glad to have made the track at the valley exit heading back to the cars. It was good to be out. The track was now a stream and we followed it back to the road and the car and Bongo-mobile. They were fine but river levels were rising rapidly. We chatted briefly and stripped wet gear off and parted company after a fine walk and time despite the weather.