Sunday, 26 June 2011

#128 - Rowtor Wild Camp

I had spent a lazy day waiting for Marcus, Nick and Steve to arrive. As time ticked on, the plans changed from a walk out of Postbridge, to eventually meeting at Belstone. We got going about 3pm, the order of the weekend was to just wander the north moor, wild camping for 2 nights. I was hoping we could get to Watern Tor for the last night, but circumstances dictated we did a different route, and just as well we did because it was a real privilege!

We headed down to Cullever Steps, and up into the high moor, ticking off both Rowtor and West Mill Tor. Early on, Steve was labouring. His first time with a full pack and his pace was naturally slow.

For Yes Tor, I took Steve via the rocky military track, while Marcus and Nick took the steeper inclined path straight for the summit. When we reached the top, the worsening weather hampered any hopes we had of camping on the roof of Devon. Instead, we descended back down towards West Mill Tor. We decided a half decent spot about a 100 metres from the Red-a-ven Brook, but it really was slim pickings and the rain was getting heavier.

After some wrestling with our tents, we sheltered. The rain and wind was in for the night, though, and we rarely ventured out before the morning. My little Vango F10 Helium 200 struggled. In fairness it had been pitched side on to the wind, such was the terrain we were on, but it made for an extremely claustrophobic night, with one side pushed in. Despite this, it stood firm, and I didn't get wet.

I had to answer the call of nature about 4.45am, and, although it was light out and the rain had abated, we were in some clag.

Today, we started late, once breakfasts had been cooked, and camp had been broken. In the clag, we took the military track back up onto the High Willhays ridge. Even before we had reached it, I realised we were never going to reach Watern Tors at this pace and with a late start. Another change of plan, along to High Willhays, then drop down to Fordsland Ledge, and Black Tor, then back towards Rowtor to camp, if the weather was kind. Sunshine was promised later in the day, but in this thick mist, it seemed a million miles away.

The well trodden path to Fordsland Ledge was not too tricky to follow, but onwards from there to Black Tor, it was another thing. I took the bearing, but walking direct to the granite outcrop is not straightforward or even possible thanks to some clitter. I have walked this route many times, though, and took instead to reading the contours and steering away from the steep drop to the left. We passed a firing range post, so with that and the contours, I could estimate how far to go. It's always a reassuring sight to see the large black shadow of your intended destination appear from the grey.

We stopped at Black Tor for about half an hour for a brew. Whilst we were there, the clouds began to part, and we were finally treated to something to see; the view of Black-a-Tor Copse and the West Okement valley. Just as well because for their first visit to this area, I think Nick and Steve were unimpressed!
From here the day changed. Quickly, the waterproofs were off and we were basking in some good sunshine. We were all in better spirits now because the opportunity to camp higher with good views had increased. On we went, crossing Red-a-ven Brook along a track that took us back towards Row Tor. We turned off here and climbed up to the tor, where we made our next camp.

The evening was brilliant! We played around on the rocks, enjoyed the stunning light as the night fell; life was pretty good!
 
I awoke about 5am, I had missed the sunrise but the light was still good. Venturing out, I saw the cloud inversion, and felt I just had to wake Marcus who had only the day before mentioned he had never seen one. I'm glad he appreciated me waking him so early, and before long we were all up and about.
Initial excitement, over, we all retired back to our tents, but I didn't sleep and before long was up and packed by 9am. The others stirred about nine and a lazy morning was spent cooking breakfast, packing up and enjoying the great weather before the short hour walk back to Belstone.

We finally arrived back in Belstone about 1.15pm after a short stop to cool down at Cullever Steps. We celebrated the end of a great weekend with a pint of cider in the Tors Pub!

  • Date: 24/06/11 to 26/06/11
  • Region: Dartmoor National Park
  • Status: Lead
  • Description: Belstone - Cullever Steps - Rowtor - West Mill Tor - Yes Tor - Red-a-ven Brook (wild camp 1) - High Willhays - Fordsland Ledge - Black Tor - Okehampton Common - Black Down - Rowtor (wild camp 2) - Cullever Steps - Belstone - Rain and strong winds, mist, sunshine, 20km, 3 days
  • Type of Walk: Personal Walking