Day 2’s 10.8 km walk with 619 mtrs ascent and 562 mtrs descent. The walk got cut short by the onset of hypothermia…
Day 2 was a day of blustery winds and a lot of rain. I was supposed to have cleared around 20 km but only managed 10.8 km as I had to stop to recover from the initial stages of hypothermia.
Hypothermia you ask?
I was wearing just two layers of clothing. A base wicking layer and an eVent hardshell. Many people would view this as unusual, but this is what I have worn for most of my walks over the last two years where the weather has been poor.
I omit a second fleece layer as I tend to run hot when walking. My current fleece is very warm, so doesn’t tend to get deployed under these conditions.
I know there have been many discussions on the Internet with regard to ‘Breathable’ fabrics such as Goretex and eVent, especially with regard to their effectiveness.
Prior to this walk I had no doubts at all and was very impressed by the Rab eVent Bergen’s ability to keep out water. I have been out for days in the rain and remained dry.
However, on this walk it failed me. The end result was that I got wet with only around 3.5 hours of exposure to the elements.
I religiously wash the eVent hardshell regularly and even iron it with a warm iron to reactivate the DWP layer. Yet it had failed in only a matter of hours.
Either I’m missing a trick with regard to the upkeep of eVent, or that material’s shelf life can only be rated at around 2 years – the age of my hardshell. Given that I paid over £200 GBP for the hardshell, a shelf life of only 2 years seems a little too short for my liking.
There are many that will argue that ‘Breathable’ materials do not leak, that may well be the case, but the end result for me, was that I got wet and cold. In my case, I got cold enough that I developed the first stages of hypothermia.
The photos below describe things in more detail, but I have to say that the unshakable faith I had in my kit has been severely dented.
Twitter has been a good source of information and many there have said that the hardshell only works well with a fleece as the second layer. I’m considering buying a specialist fleece for this purpose, but I’m also considering replacing my hardshell. I just need to think about it a little bit longer.
Anyways, I’ll let the photos tell the story….
The view from the tent to the coast from Blea Tarn. This is the route the gusting winds took the previous night. Next time I’ll need to check that my camp spot is a little more sheltered.
The Akto tent by Blea Tarn the following morning.
Finishing off the breakfast. My current breakfasts consist of fruit porridge, coffee, cheese and a cake or scone. The latter always seems to be a bit of a morale booster. There is something good about having cake on the trail!
Once again, I leave the camp spot in pristine condition.
Heading around the Tarn to find an exit down the hill toward Beckfoot. Today’s rain has now started to fall.
Down below is the road I need to get to before heading South East into the Cumbrian Mountains.
As I head down the steep hill I catch sight of the track I missed and elect to head toward it. The descent very slippery, resulting in one rather muddy slip – good job no one was looking!
Eventually I get to the bottom of the hill. Before I can get to the road I have to cross the narrow gauge railway line ahead.
I’m now headed North East on the road. I’m looking for a turning off to the South East to my right.
I find the turn off and proceed down it. The expectation is that I will be crossing a bridge across the River Esk that should take me to the wood line that I need to follow to get to the Cumbrian Mountains.
As I head South East I spot this well kept war memorial.
By now the rain is really coming down. As usual in these situations I tend to wear two layers. A base wicking layer and an eVent hardshell. I look quite porky in this picture, but that’s because my pockets are full of kit… honest!
I eventually get to the bridge crossing the River Esk. The amount of rain the area has received over the last month or two has ensured that it is fast flowing.
I cross the bridge and start heading to the wood line. This area is a warren of paths and tracks, but I manage to broadly head in the right direction!
To the North I spot the bridge that will take me Eastward. From there it’s a case of heading east until I find a farmhouse at Low Birker.
The tracks are well defined. Here I’m hand railing the River Esk off to my left. As I head Eastward I’m expecting to see a tree-line appear on my right which will be hand-railed until I reach the farm house at Low Birker.
I have reached the tree-line. Just past the tree-line on my right is a pond. This is on the map, so gives me a precise position.
Still hand-railing the forest Eastward and keeping a sharp lookout for the farm at Low Birker.
I pass the farm house and start the ascent up the Cumbrian Mountains. This is the view back down to the Low Birker farmhouse that was used as the navigation end point to mark the start of the climb.
As I climb I start getting great views down the valley. It’s a shame that the view is a little limited due to the rain.
This part of the climb is relatively steep, but I sense I’m near the top…
The climb flattens out. The whole area is covered in numerous streams and stream-lets from the incessant rains that the Uk has received this year. This abundance of water has lead me to make a decision where I would not bother carrying the spare litre of water that I usually carry. Instead I would just keep the 800ml Travel Tap topped up as I walked. Keeping it filled proved to be no problem at all!
The walk is now relatively flat with easy going. This part of the walk was nice and relaxing with great views off to my right.
I take a last look down the valley before I head off into the Cumbrian Mountains leaving it far behind.
As I head into the mountains I find this old ruin. A perfect place for a house in my opinion!
Soon I will be making a left turn up ahead and start the walk toward Low Birker Tarn.
At the top, I reach the plateau. At this point I discover just how well the mountain had been shielding me from the wind and rain on the ascent. Right now its quite blustery with a lot of rain. The view kind of reminds me of Dartmoor.
Soon I spot Low Birker Tarn. At least I’m headed in the right direction. The intent is to head on past the Tarn, then hang a left up Crook Crag.
As I head South Eastward I see Crook Crag looming in the cloud and looking a little imposing.
Another water refill point as the Crags beckon.
I start the climb up the Crook Crag. In the distance I can just see Low Birker Tarn.
The climb is quite steep in places. As I ascend the visibility starts to close down as the wind and rain picks up.
The view downwards after a particularly steep climb. Alas, there is not much to see due to the poor visibility.
On with the climb. I always get a little on edge when in this type of terrain in poor visibility. The worry is that I’ll get myself into a situation that I can’t climb my way out of – a nightmare scenario for me!
The fog seems to thin out a little allowing me to see the bottom of the plateau.
Another rest after another steep section. The fog is back in force, so once again there isn’t much to see.
Woot! I can see the top of Crook Crag – nearly there!
One last effort, then it should all be downhill toward Harter Fell.
*Controversy On* This is a before and after picture of my RAB eVent Bergen hardshell. Note that in the ‘before’ image at the top the water is beading off the material. In the ‘after’ image at the bottom, the eVent material has completely ‘wetted out’. There is no beading water visible and the material itself has darkened due to the water it has absorbed. I’m now wet through after only 3.5 hours out in the rain. With a combination of only a base layer on under the hardshell and the poor weather, I would soon find myself exposed to the first stage of hypothermia within an hour….
I’m near the top of Crook Crag. Even though there is not much to see, I always get a sense of satisfaction when reaching the top.
One more little climb to go, then it’s downhill and Eastward toward Harter Fell.
Out with the compass – Time to head Eastward!
Starting the descent toward Harter Fell.
As I descend the ground gets more waterlogged and sodden. By now I’m starting to acknowledge that I am actually wet and a little bit cold. I choose to ignore this, believing that the walk would keep me warm.
As I head Eastward, I see the odd baby pine sapling. These look very out of place in this bleak wilderness.
I soon get an eyeball on the Dunnerdale Forest and Harter Fell just beyond. These lone pine saplings must have been carried downwind from the forest up ahead.
I reach the edge of the Dunnerdale Forest. It is just a case of hand-railing it Northward to get to the base of Harter Fell.
The climb has started up Harter Fell, but I have hit a serious problem. I’m now shaking uncontrollably with cold. I make the decision to put on an additional fleece layer, but this has made no difference. The cold of my wet base layer was overpowering any warmth my body could produce. I put on a forth layer, but this too has made little impact. I decide that this is now a serious situation and make the decision to cut today’s walk short to make immediate camp.
The camp spot isn’t perfect, but given my current condition, I don’t really have a choice. The tent makes a massive difference. Just being out of the wind and rain starts the process of warming me up. I give this process a helping hand by drinking some hot soup. Soon the shakes are starting to get back under control. It is only around 1500, but I decide to get the wet clothes off and climb into my sleeping bag to warm up properly. This is the first time I have had to make an emergency camp. I was so glad that I had the kit with me to allow recovery. However, the unscheduled stop meant that I would need to re-plan tomorrow’s walk.
I’m now 10 km down on the original plan. I wasn’t too concerned as the plan had a fair bit of slack and I could cut out a little bit of Day 3’s walk to get back on track.
My biggest concern lay with the weather. If it were to rain heavily the following day too, I would have a tough decision to make with regard to continuing the walk…