The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday, 27 April 2013

A Tent Testing Outing

“If my pack could be this light for the Challenge, I’d be quite happy” I said as we left the car and set out through Old Glossop to head up Doctor’s Gate. I was skipping along with a pack which weighed almost nothing.

It was about fifteen minutes later, just as my hands were getting cold, that I learnt one of the reasons as to why my pack was quite so light. It was because a key stuff-sack, containing three pairs of gloves, a hat, a buff and my waterproof socks, was still sitting on the carpet in the spare room, right next to where I had packed my bag. Doh!

We paused and considered the situation for a few moments, but I declared that I would manage with just my spare socks for mittens. In due course, Mick (being the lovely gentleman he is) insisted that I could use his gloves. Unfortunately, it transpired that his second pair of gloves had suffered a similar fate to all of mine, so he was left to freeze his fingers off.

There’s not much to say about our route. We’ve played in this area sufficiently now to know where we were going without needing to engage our brains, so up to meet the Pennine Way we went, thence to Bleaklow.

By and by, past lots of greeness where bare peat used to be, Bleaklow Head was reached. Mick broke out the camera and snapped me there…


…just a moment before I broke the news that our lack of brain engagement had gone a little too far, as we were meant to have turned a few minutes before.

A bit of a yomp was chosen rather than a back-track, and on the way we stumbled across this:


Mick had also lent me his buff by this point. Fortunately, I had the peaked cap on my head as we left the house.

That’s the third time we have stumbled upon a geocache without even knowing it was there. I say ‘stumbled upon’, but we had actually passed this one by, and were both looking behind us when we spotted what looked like a cache hiding place – and so it was.

The yomp through heather was declared to be good Challenge training and after twenty minutes we got to where it was that I wanted us to be – a feat we completed via old-fashioned methods, as we learnt on the way that Mick’s iPhone has deleted all of our 1:50k maps. Glad we found that out now rather than in a couple of weeks time!

That wasn’t the end of the day, however, as first we made an absolute meal over finding a pitch. To be fair, it wasn’t that we were being particularly picky in our choice, it was more that we couldn’t find any lump-free, level ground that was free from heather. I couldn’t even locate the pitch I’d used in the same area previously.

Up and down the same path we went, pondering whether to head all the way back up to some lovely pitches we’d seen quite a while before, but in the end we settled for something that would do:


It was about exposed as you could ask for (exposed was as key part of our tent-testing experiment) and within minutes of pitching quite a hail shower came through (that’s why there’s a white mark around the footprint of the tent). Within minutes we had also come to the firm consensus that this was not the tent which would be Challenging with us this year.

We could have packed up and gone home at that point, as we had fulfilled the purpose of the trip, but as we’ve become far too used to our home comforts (not to mention awfully nesh) over the last nine months, we decided to stay put.

Chores were done, food was cooked and eaten, more chores were done and by 9.30 lights were out.

At about 10pm I said ‘That’s quite heavy’ about the rain that was hitting the tent.

At 10.25pm, I opened an eye, looked at the fly-sheet and thought ‘That’s not right’. What I’d taken to be heavy rain was actually very heavy snow and the tent was sagging under the weight. Banging the sides made it slip down, but it was still sitting heavily against the bottom edges of the porches, so out I went to sort it out and I couldn’t believe how much snow had fallen in just 25 minutes.

Not a lot of sleep was had on my part. I was cold, my feet were blocks of ice, the wind was positively whipping through the tent and another trip outside was called for at 2am.

When we’d set out on this trip, this is not the scene I’d expected to wake up to:

IMG_5257It’s nearly May! And we were only on a little hill in the middle of the country – it’s not like we were on a big hill ooop north!

Our walk out was short and reasonably uneventful. We wanted to be home and showered in time to get over to Wolverhampton by 1pm to meet friends for lunch so an early start and a short walk out were the order of the day. As it turned out we were back in Old Glossop before 9am.

As for the reasons behind our verdict on the tent, I think I’ll leave that for another post.


  1. Isn't it great that a massive decision is taken in a very short period of time. Considering all that time you had it in the US.
    Shows how different our conditions are and the importance of testing shelters.
    Glad you found out now and not in 2 weeks.

    1. I think that, if we hadn't managed to sneak out for a quick overnight in dodgy weather (it did seem wrong to be hoping for bad weather for a trip!), then we would have erred on the side of caution for the Challenge anyway, albeit we would have spent the whole time wondering if we should have gone for the weight saving option.

      I'm equally glad that we found out about the random iPhone deletion of all of our maps. They are in no way essential, but very handy. At least now we can reinstall them (and hope that they don't disappear again).

  2. Ooh! You rufty-tufties!

    I too have been having a last minute tent-faff. Sadly, I shall not be taking Wanda on the Challenge as I have sheared her rear pole and after close inspection there are hairline cracks elsewhere in the same pole. As well as that, the four pegging loops at the bottom of each pole are now almost cut right through, as I've been using titanium Tornado pegs and they have very slowly sawn their way through most of each loop.
    It was a sad moment when I realised the old girl wasn't going to share my TGO Challenge. She has done sterling work and we have had some lively nights together...

    1. Poor Wanda. I'd seen that she was poorly of the rear pole; sorry to hear that she's even poorlier than first thought.

      I'm dreading the day when we have to retire Vera and Susie. No matter what other tents we try, none of them ever meet the benchmark set by Vera and Susie (who, of course, are identical save for the weight of their fabrics) for UK conditions.

  3. Vera and Susie? Gwan, gizza clue!


    1. JJ! You have to pay more attention! How can you not know the identities of our tents after all of these years?

      Vera is our Terra Nova Voyager. Susie is our Terra Nova Voyager Superlite.

      (We do also have a Connie and a Dora - not to forget Colin, of course, but he's a different kettle of fish)

  4. Ah, I see....I think!

    Looking at my selection of tents perhaps they should all be given names....I'll report back.