White and windy – Slievenaglogh Summit Camp

Keen to get out and enjoy the white stuff, last weekend I took myself off on a solo summit camp.

Starting from Meelmore Lodge I headed off towards my planned destination of Slievenaglogh. With a fair coverage of snow on the ground I played it safe following the wall until it met the Trassey Track. I then followed the track for a little while before cutting off left following an old quarry track that gently ascends the flank of the northern spur of Slievenaglogh. As the track ascends the increasingly steep ground, feint ski tracks helped discern the true line of the track. The moon assisted as a navigation aid by giving just enough light for me to make out the vague silhouette’s of the surrounding mountain. As the altitude rose so did the wind and my walking poles helped maintain stability. I took my time and looked up at the stars plenty, suspecting that the sky may well cloud over at some point in the evening.

Soon enough I was delivered at the stile near to the summit of Slievenaglogh. Now right up top I was feeling the full strength of the wind which my compass confirmed was coming from the west, as had been forecast. Hand-railing the wall as I proceeded in an easterly direction I was content to have the wind on my back rather than in my face. The snow was too deep up close to the wall to move efficiently so I opted to move a little further out, advancing from one heather ‘island’ to another. The wall soon turned sharply towards the south east, as did I. I had now reached my planned camping spot.

The wind was hitting the other side of the wall pretty squarely but screaming terribly as it tried in vain to force its way through the tiny gaps in the robust structure. The wall was giving considerable relief from the wind but also considerable protection to the snow that had fallen there and as such it was about knee high. Lacking the consolidation to support any weight, I would not be camping on top of the snow. Rather I used a trowel to clear a section big enough for my tent’s footprint. The ground was hard and it was difficult to differentiate between rock and frozen turf. I used a peg to probe various points to ascertain the feasibility of this area for pitching on. It was far from ideal and I didn’t want to try, only to be beaten by the last couple of pegging points. Having been unsuccessful on a previous snowy camp on the summit of Slieve Meelbeg I knew how frustrating that can be. Ditching the idea of hugging the wall I moved about 20 metres downhill on the leeward side of the mountain to look for an alternative spot. Fortunately it wasn’t long before I found a delightful heathery spot that was flat enough and large enough to accommodate my tent.

Far from being well-sheltered the spot was nevertheless spared greatly from the full force of the wind. Pitching was difficult in the wind and I had to move quickly between gusts, with the added complication of trying to keep my Kahtoola micro-spikes well away from the lively tent flysheet as I sought to secure it. Eventually the battle was won and the tent was up, with some added stability courtesy of some additional guy-lines. As my next priority I filled up my kettle and set up my Trangia stove. Leaving that going, somewhat lively, I returned to the tent and set up my bedding. Having done that I revisited my stove to find that all the fuel had burned off without boiling the water. There had been too much exposure to the wind and I observed that the plastic lid of the kettle had started to melt a little. Rather than trying again I took everything back into the tent. It was now getting on and I decided to opt for the easy option of a Wispa and to drink the water that I had brought.

Climbing into my sleeping bag I was well cosy and comfortable – I had boosted my self-inflating mat by placing a foam mat underneath. Over the next while I read a little, listened to a little music then slipped off into a doze. It wasn’t long however before I was awoken again by the wind which was certainly maintaining its strength. The next few hours passed very slowly. Earplugs didn’t do enough to block out the noise of the wind. Being alone I was engaged in a constant internal dialogue about whether the tent would cope with the wind or whether I should pre-empt that and bail out. Sometimes the stressed flysheet would make a snapping sound which in the darkness to an already over-active mind sounded like a broken guy-rope. In this battle for the mind, common sense was winning over. I was warm, dry and out of the wind. Daylight would offer a safer journey home. Earphones and loud music made the time pass more easily, until….

…about 4am I felt a rapid spike in my temperature. This had me casting off layers and loosening my sleeping bag cords. It was accompanied by a terrible feeling of nausea. On a few occasions I set myself up to vomit but it didn’t happen. This feeling stayed with me for the remainder of the night. I couldn’t regulate my temperature at all. I was chalking off the time until morning in 15 minute blocks now. Ironically as dawn slowly arrived and I noticed subtle changes in the light, I relaxed a little, dropping off for only my second hour of sleep. I awoke again about 8am and was unable to stomach the thought of porridge, having not got rid of the nausea. I opened the tent door to an amazing view. Summoning what little energy I had, I pulled my frozen boots on and got out to take a couple of pictures.

16344401045_c13173b781_z

16155951408_df8b7f62ab_z

 

16157656937_76e14a81d3_z

 

16343543315_f0f36024c6_z

 

I packed everything up and was nearly ready to set off when I was finally sick, and boy was I sick.  I felt a complete sense of relief and headed off.  After 10 minutes or so I took a bite of a cereal bar and immediately my stomach turned again, really struggling to even swallow this one bite.  It had no sooner hit my stomach when it was back up again.  Feeling completely exhausted and weakened I set off for home, opting to return via Hare’s Gap since I valued the prospect of travelling along a route with a bit more footfall.

The hour and a half to get back to the car was a real endurance since I was running on empty.  As much as I now just wanted to get off the hills, I still was able to appreciate the beauty around me.  Had I felt better it would have been a brilliant day for savouring the moment.

16157358719_d41af6827f_z

 

So that was that trip then.  Camping in winter builds a bit of experience.  I was happy with my planning and navigating, I enjoyed the stars and the morning views.  It’s great to have a mate with you, but when you are alone you have to make your own decisions and face your own doubts.  I was happy with most of my decisions, other things I learnt from.  I needed a snow-shield round my wind-shield!

I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered what I was doing though, at the cinema, a football game, out for a meal, when you feel ill, you just want get back to your own bed!

With thanks to WhoRya, original thread here.

This entry was posted in Trip Reviews.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *