Learning Camp Admin, the hard way

Learning Camp Admin, the hard way

The wind and rain conspired, leading to soggy consequences
Learning Camp Admin, the hard way 

Learning "Camp Admin" the hard (and cold) way

A story by Ian Morton, partner at Striding Ahead LLP

Having undertaken my Summer Mountain Leader (MLS) training at Plas y Brenin in July 2011 I set about a period of “consolidation” ahead of enrolling for MLS assessment sometime in 2012.

I thought it would be good, prior to full Winter setting in to get a couple of day’s navigation and a wild camp in my Log Book, so I contacted Ross Worthington at RAW Adventures and booked a late November weekend – staying at Pen-y-Pass YHA on Friday evening, then heading out to the Snowdon range on Saturday, camping out on Saturday night and heading back on Sunday.

I knew Ross as he had been our Group Leader when I took part in a Charity Challenge expedition to climb Jebel Toubkal in 2010, during which we had discussed my plans to enrol in the MLS qualification and he had offered to assist where possible.

We met on Saturday morning and, after a brief chat about kit, route, weather forecasts and general plans we headed out.

After a full and enjoyable day of navigation and route finding, and with the cloud and darkness descending, we finally arrived at our wild camp site for the night – Llyn Glas, where we pitched our tents beside a small stream, cooked some grub and, after a brief period of R&R headed out into Cwm Glas for some night navigation practice.

Arriving back at camp at around 11pm we noticed that the wind was considerable stronger, and the rain considerably heavier and more persistent , than when we pitched camp; nevertheless I was confident that my new Marmot tent would be a great shelter for the night and retired.

Over the next few hours the weather continued to deteriorate – particularly the wind – and the night developed into one of those (if anyone has experienced them) where you hear the individual gusts bowling up the valley from below, rolling over the end of the cwm and punching into the tents like a fist. One gust was so strong, it bent the tent flat temporarily and one of the tent poles was depressed so much it hit me on the nose! (The tent pole was permanently bent out of shape - and remained so until I sold the tent some months later). Needless to say not much sleep was had in those first few hours…

At around 3am the wind subsided (it was still raining) and I gradually realised I could hear a “flapping sound” from outside. I thought for a moment the tent flysheet had been torn and, switching my headtorch on, peered through the tent door. My first reaction was “oh thank goodness – the flysheet has just slipped off one of the tentpegs in the wind”….sadly my second reaction was then “Oh bugger – my boots and rucksack are no longer under the flysheet as a result…”

Sure enough, both my boots and the rucksack had received a thorough soaking – I poured out around half an inch of water from each boot and brought them, and the rucksack inside the tent for the rest of the night.

The next morning we had planned for an early start back down the hill, and as I shivered in the pre-dawn cold I stared at my cold, wet boots with trepidation. Eventually I could put off the inevitable no longer and slid my feet into the ice-cold, wet footwear, convinced that by the time we got down I would have either trench-foot or frostbite – or both.

As we made our way down I made a few mental notes of what I had learned from the weekend apart from the navigation practice which had been the main aim. I arrived at the following conclusions:

  • Marmot Tents are actually quite good (even if the pole is bent out of shape) – no rain got in the tent at any time. A two-man tent however was too big for me – I have since bought a MacPac microlight one-man and it’s fantastic.

  • Even “lightweight” Osprey rucksacks are MUCH heavier when they have soaked up 4 hours of continuous rain! (although to be fair, any rucksack would be – and Osprey are still, in my opinion among the best, most comfortable bags you can invest in)

  • The weather in the mountains can get MUCH wilder, very quickly – and it’s very noisy when it does - you need to be prepared for this. Take earplugs (or earphones for your iPod)!

  • Only a numpty leaves his boots and rucksack under a flysheet overnight! Mine now spend the night in the tent with me without fail – on/in a plastic bag (boots) or sat on an exped drybag (rucksack). It might be little more cramped but I’ve never had to empty water out of them since!


About Ian Morton

Ian is a partner in Striding Ahead LLP, which specialises in corporate group mountain adventures all over the U.K.

From his first ascent of Ben Nevis at 13, Ian has a lifelong love of the dramatic scenery of the U.K. He has also participated in extended trekking expeditions in both the Peruvian Andes and Moroccan High Atlas ranges.

He is a member of Mountain Training England (www.mountain-training.org), The British Mountaineering Council (www.thebmc.co.uk) and the Mountain Training Association (www.mountain-training.org/mta).