The surf crashed just 15 metres behind me. It was an incredible, almost deafening, primeval sound as I lay in my sleeping bag. It augmented, overpowered the small stream a few metres away running to the sea, plummeting about 15 odd metres down to the rocks below and joining the sea to complete its cycle.
The sea sounded very close, high tide was happening just below us. Shortly after settling in, Colin left his MLD Duomid to check there was no danger of it reaching us as spray seemed to batter our shelters (though it may have been rain as there was a small shower soon after!). It was late, by my standards, when we arrived and we'd not really checked how close the tide was. We were close but out of reach in our high valley. Damehole Point.
I left home just after 6am and arrived just after 9 near Bude where Colin Ibbotson met me for our walk north towards Hartland Point. I thought we'd pass it, but it was far and arduous, so we stopped in the valley just short. Frankly I was pleased to get as far as we did.
This now makes 6 wild camps for me this year, and in total, and this felt the wildest with that surf crashing into the rocks just below my resting form.
The wind was coming off the sea, swirling around in our small valley as we pitched. While I set up the Trailstar it blew back in my face as much as away from me. Shortly after settling in a few drops of rain, this was rain, not the apparent sporadic drops that may have been spray. The swirling wind blew a few drops into my shelter but it stopped almost as soon as it started. However the wind had now done a 180 and was gently blowing in the front opening of my Trailstar. I told Colin and he called out to move the door. I didn't...
I have, a couple of times in mid 2000s walked 20 miles in a day on Dartmoor. Mostly my walks are about 16 miles around cheddar or about that on Dartmoor. Both about 800+m of ascent for cheddar and just over 1000m of ascent for Dartmoor, on average. My last walk with Colin from Beer to Budleigh was similar distance but 1400m of ascent. This walk was just over 25km / about 16 miles (ok no difference there) but in excess of 2100m of ascent one way! There were a dozen streams / rivers to cross and each entailed an often monstrously steep climb! Some were steps, some slopes.
Talking was less easy on this section of Colin's coastal walk, due to single track walking, steep climbing / ascending and some strong wind!
This walk was in complete contrast to the previous one. Rugged, wild and much less touristified. Not to mention generally much steeper and some of the paths were very exposed and a couple of times I was aware of a big drop next to me! Care was needed.
I stopped at one drainage ditch with a thought of topping up my water. Colin pointed out it was a drainage ditch not even shown on map. He was concerned by its passing through a cow field. I passed. I have to admit if there was no choice I'd have happily used it, it looked clear enough. Surprisingly whilst there were a dozen or so streams only a few were easily accessible. Many were bridged or overgrown with brambles. At each one that I had access, I put off topping up thinking there's another over the next ridge... Inaccessible...
Time was shifting and I was starting to worry we'd have to pitch without ample water, for me but primarily for Bess. We discussed camping at one point but neither of us had much water for the night and this spot was quite exposed. Colin told me he had to move one night when the wind threatened to overwhelm his tent. I could tell Colin wanted to carry on in any event and I was happy with this. In the next valley I found an accessible stream which was near a few cow pats but this at least was on the map! I was taking no chances now and filled one of my now empty Gatorade bottles and both one litre Platys. I also half filled both Bess' water bladders. The weight was lost in the relief I felt at having ample water at hand for camp anywhere! Many years ago on Dartmoor I ran out of water, weird I know, but it was a hot day and it nearly finished me off very quickly! Luckily that time I was able to top up quickly! But it taught me, for me, water is vital.
Earlier on we passed a satellite facility and some strange aerials. Bess decided to think about rolling near the edge of a cliff and we both charged to grab her!
She got surprisingly close a few times! The drops were not for the feint hearted nor sufferers of vertico!
We neared Hartland Point having to bypass two valleys due to them having holiday homes in them. Thankfully we found one that suited, even if a bit rough. It was on the edge of a low cliff in a valley in an area frequented by (absent apart from their deposits!) cows. We had to pitch between cow pats! We did go a bit further, literally a few hundred metres as from up high there looked a better place to pitch. It wasn't. Though Colin would have used it. I asked if we could go back, again just a few hundred metres. For the sound of surf it was worth it. It was heading back my ankle caught on something, nothing more than uneven mud. Bugger I thought. Not done that for over two months! Thankfully it was very minor and I'm still convinced my ankles are stronger and able to withstand these odd tweaks through the use of trail running shoes. Though I'd prefer they stop twisting! It recovered within a few steps by which time we were back at my preferred spot. A case of one step too many. Just tiredness at the end of a long tough day.
As we didn't get there until about 6pm only half an hour to sunset we set about pitching, and just over 8.5 hours from the start, Colin came over and helped with my silnylon Trailstar.
As time shifted and the wind was picking up Colin quickly disappeared into his Duomid. The wind was quite strong and conversation would have been impossible. I didn't think I'd hear his voice until the morning.
There was no phone signal.
It was here, as I crawled into the Trailstar that a loneliness hit me with the power of a freight train. I've felt sadness many a time on my camps, walks even, including my camp with Colin just under three weeks previously, but this was something else. I felt lost. How is it possible to be so alone when one is within a few metres of another, but I can assure you, it is. It didn't last long, though it did briefly return, thankfully the wind died down and I heard Colins voice from within his shelter and I choked back a lump in my throat. I asked a few questions, just hearing his voice was reassuring. Strange, never noticed that on a solo camp, just a sadness there, not a loneliness. I never got or get that feeling at home, alone!
I noticed my center pole had dropped a bit, so I donned bags on feet, got out of sleeping bag, loosened the guys, lengthened the pole and retightened the guys. Quicky and easily.
So why didn't I switch doors when the wind did a 180 and blew directly in my door chilling me all night. Well it'll take a cleverer person than me to figure that one! In a nutshell I was just not there mentally and didn't want the hassle of getting out again. I think I was just chilled out and relaxed, for want of a better description. It was easier to pull the Atom hood over my head (though I didn't bother attempting to actually put it on until just before I got up!), tighten the sleeping bad draw cord and hunker down. It's nuts! Even Colin said it'll only take 5 minutes! Maybe if I'd needed the loo I'd have done it. If it had rained I'd have HAD to do it! I was too tired to put the Atom on properly, I just stuck the hood over my head. I also had a light fleece, even a bivi packed. There was no need to be chilled! I had plenty to protect me. I wasn't cold, however, just cooler than was necessary. It was a restless night. I think it was just easier to chill, pardon the pun.
My eyes got very heavy at 9pm and I put my light out, I had read a couple of pages. I was actually amazed I didn't need the loo. I guess I had sweated it out during the day.
I didn't use the ear plugs, I welcomed the sound of the surf crashing below me, and the gentler trickle of the stream close by. I was at one, if a bit distant, with nature.
I slept fitfully, not totally out but certainly not awake nor with this world, yes, thank you, I heard that. At 5am I heard voices and saw a torch light, I tucked myself further into my bag, trying to hide from the beam. It wasn't until after 6.30am when we were both awake, me half awake that I understood what had happened. Bess had left the Trailstar and walked over to Colin's Duomid, waking him! He feared cows, looked out, shining his torch, to see a black wolf, Bess! I think she had drunk all her water and went looking for more. I'd not heard her leave. I should have topped up her water the night before.
Colin started to stir just after 6am. I chilled, not quite literally, until 6.30ish trying to come too a bit. I said good morning. It was good to hear his voice again.
I got my meths stove going just before 7 for my porridge and tea. Very early for me! Colin was ready and packed up, leaving just after 7 under torch light.
Alone. But I didn't dwell on it. All was fine, it was time to get out of the sleeping bag, pack up and head back.
I had worn my leggings as my trousers were dirty, so I changed back, my shirt was still on. I had slept in it with the hood of Atom over my head (I didn't have the wherewithal to actually put it on properly). I was glad for that hood (I also had a woolen hat packed!), my head was getting chilled by that breeze in my door...
I put my damp shoes and socks on. How Colin kept his dry the day before I don't know. It was fine. Not winter yet. They soon got soaked again on the return leg.
I deflated my airbed, folded and put it at the back of my MLD Prophet frameless pack, I stuffed my sleeping bag in a cuben stuff sack and double bagged it in a large cuben dry bag with my pillow pump below it, so if any water ever did bypass my double system the pillow will soak it up, not my sleeping bag!
Next in this dry bag went (in cuben stuff bags) my tiny wash kit, not used, repair kit / support bandage, not used, and phone charger power pack, used. Then my fleece jumper, leggings and night liner socks. The outer dry bag gets folded over all that.
Next is my cooking kit, any food not needed for the day, bivi, not used (that goes behind cooking kit as extra protection from my back and air bed support).
Then my first aid kit, groundsheet, waterproof trousers, book and on the top goes my synthetic Arcteryx Atom insulated jacket so nothing crushes it.
Pegs and odds and sods go in the top pocket.
For the return leg I kept out a packet of crackers and half a dozen cereal bars. I drank both Gatorade bottles, topping one up. I used my tried and trusted Aqua Mira pre mix for water.
The walk back was very strenuous. My ankle was fine, it's as if nowt had happened. I may have walked that distance before in one day, but never near that total ascent on two running days! (A day later my calves are quite stiff, though a few minutes of walking eases them and I did my usual local jog with Bess). Whilst I was impressed with my own ability. I was even more chuffed how well Bess did, the nearer the car we got, the quicker / further ahead she would go. Near the end I put her on the lead, save her running to the car from 500 yards, ok, metres out!
It was welcoming to see familiar sights as I headed back, welcoming as I mentally ticked them off, the satellites about an hour or so left to go, but sad at the passing of time from the previous day.
Once back I put dry shoes and socks on, my feet had survived very well. A bit of hard skin had simply flaked open. It was nothing more than dead skin from previous walks.
Again, as with all walks and camps, the actual day/s / night may have been emotional and mentally challenging but the rewards for me at this stage and I dare so for the near future at least, are preparing prior and sharing after.
One can ask for no more.
Another camp notched up, and looking back, thoroughly enjoyed.
I look forward to the next... Dartmoor in November, hopefully.
PS - I'll sort a few photos and post them on pbase with a copy of these words.