Sunday, 20 December 2009

#89 - Dartmoor Wild Camp Weekend

My mate Marcus and I travelled down to Devon with the intention of getting one last camping weekend in before the end of the year. I also wanted to test out my new tent, kick start myself into getting used to carrying a full pack, and to experience the weather conditions with a view to what I might experience on the Overland Track next year.

With the south-east in a blanket of snow, the Met office were promising a better weekend for the south-west, but we did hanker for a bit of a dusting to make it a little more interesting.

Saturday morning, after a fry up, we headed to the village of Belstone, where we parked the car and began the hike up onto the moor. The terrain was void of any snow but, instead, frozen solid with the boggy sections akin to a skating rink. We also passed icicles the length of my arm hanging off some of the tors, which made me think what sort of temperatures we could expect that night. The weather was pretty good; to our left, across the Eastern side of the moor, there was sunshine and clear skies, whilst to the west, there were threatening clouds that quickly masked High Willhays, the highest point on the moor.

After a few hours, we had reached the River Taw, and we started to look for somewhere to pitch. Nothing suitable along its banks, so we ascended Steeperton Tor, and made our way down to the Steeperton Brook. Once safely across that, Marcus found some ground and we set up our tents. Right on cue, just as we were finishing, it started to snow.

The evening fared better, we were treated to some clear sky and a great view of the milky way, before the weather started to close in. Through the night, the wind picked up and the bad weather closed in. Despite the constant buffeting of the wind and snow against canvas, we had a comfortable night, and both our tents coped well. I had half expected to have Marcus come knocking on the fly sheet at some point considering his tent cost a mere £15 from Argos, but fair play, it is a tough little urchin, and it was more than a match for my Terra Nova Ultra Quasar!

Morning saw us repaid for all the effort and any discomfort. Once I had bashed my way out of the porch, the sky was clear and we had the snow we had hoped for! I haven't had the privilege to see Dartmoor like this before, and I'm sold on the idea of wildcamping more often!

It was a beautiful walk out up onto Hound Tor, along the ridge to the Stone Circle, and then up to Cosdon Beacon. From here, we could see Belstone, about an hours walk down, across some treacherous frozen paths.

All in all, a great weekend!
  • Date: 19/12/2009 and 20/12/2009
  • Region: Dartmoor National Park
  • Status: Lead
  • Description: Belstone - Higher Tor - Oke Tor - Steeperton Tor - Steeperton Brook (overnight wildcamp) - Hound Tor - Cosdon Beacon - Belstone - Cold, Icy conditions with snow. Clear with good visibility on second day, 14km.
  • Type of Walk: Leading or Assisting