Wednesday, 23 December 2009

An Alpine Adventure

I have been feeling like escaping for a bit of an adventure recently and fancied having a go at a winter bivvy.  Kate said she fancied a bivvy as well and suggested meeting up somewhere with her running there and me riding. It sounded ideal, I was a little lot scared of sleeping out in the winter. A date was set and the next thing we know it stops. On Sunday I was thinking it was a silly idea and I should cancel and maybe try something close enough to home to be rescued if need be, Kate was having similar doubts. But once we got on the phone to discuss the plans we were both excited, scared but ready for the adventure.

So on Tuesday morning I left the house in a blizzard, sleeping bag on the bars and a rucksack full of as many layers as I could fit in. The weather got worse and worse and I managed to go the wrong way in Moses Gate Country Park, not a good start but I soon found my way to Radcliffe and back on course. At Prestwich the weather really closed in and I sheltered in a bus stop eating a sandwich debating what to do. Since not riding was cold I decided to get onto Asda at the velodrome for my first cake stop. A quick look at the map here and it was clear I wouldn’t get to the pub we were meeting at for 4pm riding so I decided to head to Piccadilly and get the train out to Edale. With Snake Pass closed riding out that way I might be pushing through snow for hours to get along the road. I timed it well as there was a train leaving in 15minutes, I had forgot they only run every two hours at this point. Once on the train I hear from Kate that she is at Edale and about to set off running.

Arriving at Edale and there seemed to be less snow so I headed off over to Jaggers Clough, it was mainly rideable and I got fresh tracks on the first descent. Then the pushing began! Soon I was disappearing into waist deep snow drifts! I got to the Roman Road and debated changing my plans and dropping down the Beast but I was having fun and decided to stick to my plan of the bridleway to Aston. It started off well, if a little comical as I tried to drag Rigger through the snow. But at some point I began to wonder if I was on the right track, after a while the map came out. I was sure I had worked out where I was – not the bridleway – but I still had that panicked feeling when I realised it was 3:40pm and time to get dark. I then pointed out to myself that it was a clear day and I could see the Cement works in Hope, I was hardly lost. A little bit further and I took a sensible option, straight down the hill towards the road. I found the bridleway I should have been on and it was straightforward after that, as long as I avoided the ice on the road.

I arrived at the pub three hours after leaving Edale just in time to order huge chip butties! I hung my clothes up on all the chairs near the fire which got a few odd looks from the staff! Kate had ended up coming in the car so had put loads of spare stuff in. She started listing all the clothes she had brought, now I was worried she seemed to have loads more than me and I am used to Kate having loads less! A couple of drinks later and a lot of faffing we set out up the bridleway, expecting a nice clear track to follow. Within 5 minutes we went wrong, but where we really went wrong is we didn’t retrace our steps! After climbing over a dry stone wall with barbed wire (and somehow lifting an ice-encrusted bike over) we ended up using the compass to ensure we were heading in the right direction and literally dragging Rigger by his forks/front wheel as we battled knee deep snow, heather and one occasion a bird! As we crossed the tundra with the wind howling I was beginning to worry, no way could we just bivvy there we were too exposed! But where were we. Eventually we came to the track and headed up to the Wheelstones, now I could push the bike again. This bit went very fast! I think it took us nearly three hours to reach our bivvy spot. The comforting thought that the car was only 40minutes away disappeared!

Once up there I had a few issues with the straps holding my sleeping bag on – I need a better method – but managed to loosen it enough to get the bivvy bag and sleeping bag out. Kate laid out our bed for the night – a survival bag chopped in half and opened up and we added a space blanket and our mats. Then it was into all the layers! In total I had on two base layers, bike jersey, bike jacket that I had on all day; then a shower proof, two more base layers and my down jacket. Bottom half was bib shorts, light thermals, bib tights from the day plus a set of woolly thermals (yes pink Chris) over the top. Feet I pulled on an extra pair of socks and head had 3 buffs, a thermal buff, woolly hat and hood from down jacket on. Water bottle in sleeping bag and in I got. Or in I tried, I didn’t seem to fit. I am sure Kate will have been wondering what the fuss was about, it took me at least five minutes to get in and I wasn’t lined up with the hood. Never mind it was cold, sleep time.

It didn’t feel like I was getting to sleep, but I wasn’t cold, I could feel the cold air on my back, but I wasn’t cold as such. I know I must have slept at some point, as I was apparently snoring! But I woke up loads, with cold feet. The mistake was not taking my wet socks off, next time that will not happen. I also had cramps in my calves, unusual for me but I wonder if it is dehydration as I never drink enough! At about 5am I had to give up and go to the toilet, only I had bibs on under 6 of my 8 layers, no way could I do it in the sleeping bag, so out I came and as quick as I could I took layers off, bibs off, layers on. Then feet into boots – they were frozen solid so they didn’t really fit! (Kate used dry bags as boots when she went to the toilet, ace idea!) Round the corner into the wind, back to bed as quickly as possible! Once again getting in was hard, but I wasn’t bothered where the hood was, I found it worked quite well the wrong way completely enclosing me.

Then I slept a lot better, only waking about 8ish to a lovely sunrise that took forever, although I did curl back up into my cocoon so I couldn’t see it. Around 9am, we both got as far as sitting up and Kate produced Bacon and Nann breads, not the usual combination but appreciated. The bacon was just what I wanted but I don’t think Garlic and Coriander nann breads quite worked! Just as we had finished a couple of runners come past. Jokingly asked if we had been there all night, they muttered something about us being mad when we answered a positive!

Then it was time to pack up and head on down, easier this time on the correct path! Although at the end we still came out on the road early, nice for me as I freewheeled to the pub, a little less pleasant for Kate playing with the cars. Time for a hot chocolate, before we split and I raced the train to Hope. It was a little late as it turned out anyway.

After that it was a simple matter of getting home, more snow on the trails but rideable here as it had been compacted. Now all that is left to do is sort out all my kit! I think I did just over 30miles on Tuesday and 22miles today. Even with a fair amount of road they were hard miles, swimming with a bike was a first for me and very slow!

What I have learnt!

1) Take wet socks off and put new ones on
2) You can wear 4 base layers
3) Don’t wear bibs
4) There is no such thing as too many clothes, but sleeping bags seem very small when dressed as michelinwoman!


  1. glad to see ali's fixed the internet ;)
    there definitely needs to be another one as we didn't even build a snow man. and i'll bring rolls next time!

  2. What a great adventure, enjoyed reading about it :)

  3. Sounds like it was a mega adventure!

  4. I love reading about your adventures and the pics were fab

  5. Love the pictures, especially the sunrise one. I just commented on Kate's blog that she is totally mad. And so are you, Trio! :-) Have an awesome Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

  6. never underestimate the power of clean, dry socks :-)

  7. No internet not fixed, using my phone as a modem - trying not to think of the cost!

  8. In awe. You two are hardcore, well done! Now relax and enjoy Christmas - looking forward to hearing more about your exploits in 2010!

  9. Awesome. What a great adventure that must have been. Well done!

  10. brilliant adventure!!!
    like many of the alaskan blogs i follow...
    alot of tops for sure but you must of needed them,
    wish i had friends up for stuff like that here...
    merry xmas too...

  11. Gutted that I wont be joining you two on these adventures anymore. Mind you I don't think I would have joined you on this one. You two are nuts! (in a good way).

    Merry Christmas.

  12. It was an amazing adventure, went through loads of emotions, especially when we were a little lost. But amazing fun! I know what you mean coastkid as I would have been too scared to tried in on my own!

  13. Sound advice. Will be trying out the 4 baselayers one.

  14. I admire anybody keen enough (and crazy enough?) for this kind of adventure but I think I'll stick to sleeping in my warm bed until the winter is done! ;-)

    Hopefully I'll see you again on the mini-NWP audax in late February?

  15. Hopefully will be there, need something to kickstart long rides again. Hardly doing anything at the moment