Tuesday 15 July 2008

The Unexpected Soloist

Whilst I bang on about it all the time, I'm not an expert on Karma, but I'm increasingly convinced by the notion, helped along by some pretty bad news yesterday.

Paul, my trusty backpacking/wild camping partner, was knocked of his bike whilst riding to work on Monday and picked up a broken collar bone to prove it. Luckily he's OK but this means Paul and I can't go to Coniston together on the 25th July, which is quite depressing to say the least. I know that Paul is feeling pretty low about it and I just hope his injury repairs without the usual complications with this type of break. It couldn't really be in a worse place for carrying a 10kg pack.

When I heard the news I'd pretty much resigned myself to a long wait for Paul to recover, so any notion of a summer backpacking trip was pretty much off the cards. I'm sure you can see where this is going but for those who don't know me very well yet, I've never been solo backpacking.....

I think the phrase " be careful what you wish for" is a probably very wise as I've been thinking about a solo trip recently but never really been so motivated by it to actually organise it. It seems the Gods deem me to be worthy of such a trip and its just a shame that they made Paul suffer so I can meet my destiny! Not one to argue with the Gods, I think I'm going to take my chance in Coniston and do the trip on my own.

Aside from the obvious cautionary considerations which are inherent with a solo trip, there is also a physical and psychological boundary to contend with. On the physical side, I'm now taking the whole weight of the 1.6kg tent, increasing my load by 850g. Not a lot of weight compared to my previous pack weights but its still a whole 850g and the additional bulk in the pack. I was looking forward to a smaller lighter load this trip and this is going to make a dent in that little wish! The good news is I will make a compromise on my alcoholic treats and replace a can or two of cider for a few shots of brandy instead. There is clearly a shift in the force - I'm passing up cider for pleasures like comfort and weight saving!

Although this might sound a little like I've had my (much treasured) genitals removed, I suspect that psychologically, I'll my find solo a bit challenging. On the one hand, I can feel the excitement at the thought of going alone and truly feeling like I'm the only one out there.
On the other hand though whilst I know I enjoy my own company, I also know it takes some getting used to. I will be relying completely on my own resources and this thought is both inspiring and emptying! I've read a few accounts from people who have gone backpacking for days alone and have described the mental obstacles on the first few lonely miles. Of course I'm exaggerating here a little but I think it takes a bit of mental 'conditioning' to take the first solo steps - at least as a novice.

This aside, I'm wildly excited about going - even though this will be an altogether different experience than I'm used to. Good news is though I've got some new gear to test, a new route to navigate (in what looks to be a spectacular landscape) and best of all the reward is a room with a view.


John Hee said...

solo is good - just take a MP3 player with some audio (books/radio/opodcasts) for a bit of company when you need it

Martin Rye said...

You will be fine - camp high if the weather is ok. No harm will come to you and dont rush,watch your steps and take your time with map reading and you'll have a great trip. I solo walk lots and have done long walks on my own and I'm still ok so it works.

baz carter said...

Go and enjoy. I've done a number of walks solo and no ride in the BYH thus far. This time of the year you're bound to meet people along the way.

Anonymous said...

I've just done my first solo overnighter, the Buttermere round similar to your earlier trip. I actualy found your site while looking for more info on the route and potential camping spots. I found I was concentrating so much on where I was going (due to very poor visibility), I didn't notice I was alone at all. I think if I'd had better views I'd have noticed more, no one to share the experience with.

Ron Bloomquist said...

My genitals were removed (prostate cancer) and I still enjoy solo hiking and being by myself.

You will need a different excuse. :-)

Just do it!!

Marcus said...

John, the ipod idea sounds like a good one so I think I'll transfer a few albums worth of songs to my phone - to save weight of course!

Martin, I plan to spend the night somewhere around Grey Friars which will be a great area for a wild camp provided the weather is good - it looks quite exposed on my map so I'll have to judge on the day.

Thanks for your comments Baz. I know that once I do it I'll never look back so I just need to get out and get on with it really. It's almost a week away and I'm already packing my rucksack!

Shuttleworth - Its a shame you had bad weather for your first overnighter - not least because the view from any of the Buttermere Fells takes some beating in my view. I hope the blog provided some useful info for your trip and apologies the photos from that first wild camp are a little poor.
I'd be interested in reading an account of your trip with any photos you might like to share?

Blabberon - I hope you are well and getting out walking since we last got in touch?

I know I have little or no excuse not to go solo and I wouldn't dream of not doing this now. I guess I wanted to share that its a different mindset when setting out alone as I'm sure all you solo veterans know already. I'm currently playing around with the idea of bringing my video camera which would keep me amused and of course would be a good momento of the trip. Not sure I want the additional weight or to take this over my DSLR. We'll see anyway.

Anonymous said...

All good advice.
Have fun - leave the distractions and weight behind - you won't need them. I often hi camp solo and find it to be a far more intense experience. Easy scrambles take a an epic quality and the buzz you get from completion is unbeatable. Claggy weather lends an air of seriousness you don't notice in company.
You will bump into other 'outcasts' to chew the fat with and do try to support at least one local pub landlord.
You will feel the lonliness of the hills - a sort of bitter sweet feeling - I often wish I could drag my wife out of the shops and up t'hill but you get over it once you've eaten.
Good luck to your buddy - I've given up cycling to work because just one accident like that can affect you for months/years.

Anonymous said...

I have written up an account of it, it's very long! I need to sort out a blog, but I don't really do enough to keep it as up to date as a lot of the blogs I read.
I posted it on the LFTO forum, link is:


I was pleased to read in your blog article that I could get phone reception, keeping the wife up to date is very important! The main help was the last line of your summary, until Sunday evening I was still undecided, but I read that and thought "Go on, why not!?"

Anonymous said...

I'm not anonymous.
My name's John Ridd
enjoy the trip you lucky b..

baz carter said...

Water, water evry where and not a drop to drink! Last time I was up in the Lakes I took a 1L platy with a gate keeper attached I filled it from becks or lakes. The gatekeeper is a screw on filtering device so the water comes out 'clean' With so many places to fill up a hydration system isn't really necessary. If you don't camp next to a tarn and need to carry water try zip lock bags these are light and surprisingly water tight (if you handle them carefully!)

Marcus said...

Well guys, all the advise is well received. I particularly understand the notion that "Anonymous" left AKA John Ridd. I think becoming truly comfortable and at home on the hill is all about two things: cooking the food and setting up camp. I bet multi day back packs must take on a true adventure type feel and maybe that will my next stop providing all goes well! Poor old Paul!

Shuttleworth - I read your trip report with sheer glee. I'm so pleased that you did the walk (especially solo) and that the blog was useful for you.

I'm guilty of this myself so feel able to criticize in this case, but I feel not enough backpackers or wild campers share their experiences through trip reports. I think no matter how experienced you may be its always nice to hear about someone else's adventures. There should be more of it in my opinion. As a show of solidarity and good faith I shall promise to right up a full trip report on my return. Amen.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to the report!

I used my Trail 'freebie' Multimat for my trip the other night, and first impressions are very good. The foam is a lot firmer than my Alpkit mat, and it felt warmer, though it probably wasn't a fair comparison to my last trip.
Also, as you're using your gas stove, have a look at this video, I've been showing it to anyone that'll listen!


Marcus said...

Ah so you got the multimat superlight compact 25 too!

Glad you like it because I'm yet to try it and as I've said before I'm hoping he 3/4 length isn't going to be a problem. Do you think it will stand the test of time as the materials are so thin?

I watched your video and its a pretty damn good idea! I do have my worries about stability of the F1 lite but then again its no unstable than the Isofly or the Blackfly 3.

What stakes are you using in that video? Lightweight tent stakes?