Is Ice cold water therapy, wild camping and having a rave in a cave the next big thing or am I crazy
You may think the title of this blog sounds a bit farfetched but this is how I spent New Years day! Now let me take you to where this story begins...eurgh it's New Years day 7:30am that annoying iPhone alarm blaring in my ears! I drag myself out of bed. My eyes are half closed and I am slightly weary after a few red wines on NYE. I meander to the coffee machine absently popping in a coffee pod and pressing the button on my way to the shower... Alexa play some morning music ... I hop in the shower breathing in the hot steamy water it's 2023 and I am ready for my first adventure of the year.
5 minutes later I am dressed in my fleecy hiking leggings and cosy jumper, warm coffee in hand and my cat luna is winding between my legs hoping for an after breakfast treat, I say goodbye to Luna after she gleefully chomps on her tasty stick, my friend Polly will be picking her up later but I give her a little kiss goodbye.
On the road we go, the initial drive took me up north east to pick up my friend before driving across to the lake district where we had planned a wild camping trip...when I say planned it was a loose plan as you will find out. I had packed my rucksack with all sorts of useful things, my tent, a winter sleeping bag loaned from my friend Emma's boyfriend he also lent me a survival bag 'just incase' he said. I packed my dads old but brilliant gas stove, matches and a magnesium stick as well as some filled pasta in ziplock bags and sauce and as much water as I could carry ...oh and let's not forget the bag of wine and much more.... without me writing a full blown list (drop me a message if you want the finer details)
Once I had picked up my friend we were on the way to the lakes, at this point I realised I needed to re-fuel, a consideration I did not think would be so difficult on New Years day...luckily with 10 miles left in the tank we eventually found a fuel station and more importantly we also found coffee which was much needed and the last loo break before the wild!
We navigated to the village nearby the caves in Little Langdale, parked up and walked towards the caves up through a little village. Att this point the heavens opened - my sleeping matt was on the back of my rucksack and getting wet so I asked the little pub if I could have a bin bag - I was most grateful when they did. We carried on our walk up the crunchy gravel path winding up the hill towards the caves. We reached the caves decided to stash our bags behind a rock and go for an explore in daylight! There were a few people there taking in the awe inspiring views the main chamber is 40ft high and has various tunnels to explore. It was very wet so we couldn't go in all of them, It's a definite place to return to in warmer months!
Time was edging on and that feeling of darkness was creeping upon us, we climbed up through the rocks onto another path and hiked away from the caves to find a remote area to wild camp which is believed to be tolerated if you are not seen and leave no trace of being there. After searching for softer ground we eventually found a little patch which was sheltered from wind and we managed to pitch as the rain died down and the sun was setting, my friend had a lantern for our camp and I set about boiling some hot water on the stove for our hot chocolate. Once the tent was pitched we could sit inside and I could take off my sopping wet shoes yuck! It was nice to just stare out into the forest and see your breath but not hear a thing. Kind of scary but I got used to it after a while I may have flinched once or twice when I heard a bit of wood snapping.. probably an animal.
We had our hot chocolates followed by chorizo filled pasta with a pre-made tomato and mascarpone sauce perfect food for camping and then had a little rest in the tent, before having a glass of wine....now this all sounds very classy but this wine was poured from a bag into lime green plastic cups that had been rinsed from the previous hot chocolates! It was also now pitch black and late into the evening, we thought it would be a fun idea to take the mini speaker into the cave in the middle of the night and enjoy our wine there in the dry! I decided to zip lock bag my dry socks and feet before putting my wet shoes on as we made the trip back to the caves. As we approached the entrance I felt apprehensive, perhaps just the eeriness of the long dark tunnel leading into the cave. Don't scream my friend said as we were halfway through the tunnel, as if that was supposed to make me feel better!
Once we were inside the chamber of the cave it was magnificent, nobody there, complete silence even a whisper would reverberate! We put the speaker on a rock and played some ambient music pouring the wine into the cup we carried from the tent, this was pretty cool. Our torches on the water in the cave lake shone ripples on the wall and the opening to the sky gave an ethereal natural light although very dark. We took photos of our shadows, danced in the cave and then before leaving just sat for a minute in the dark in complete silence just to take it in and feel what it would be like. My friend said, it would be hard to do this alone..to sit here alone and do this but the best way of conquering your fears is to face them until that feeling passes and you're not scared anymore.
We had just enough wine left for a little night cap then to sleep...it wasn't warm but it was dry and we could see the stars...just. We woke before sunrise so we could pack our tent away before sunrise and sat on the rocks near the top of the cave with the little gas stove watching the sun rise and taking it all in. What a beautiful place, once we had our breakfast we packed away the stove into the rucksacks and headed back on the hike to the car and today was glorious the sun gleaming and an icy fresh.
Reaching the car was a good feeling we offloaded our heavy bags and got in with the heating blasting and headed towards Hardknott pass our destination in mind for a wild swim! This definitely did not go to plan, I have zero experience driving in ice and the car was struggling on the road and sliding and some people in the car found this highly amusing. It was an incredible drive though. However a car infront of us ended up causing a block in the road as they were stuck on a sheet of ice and an Audi smashed into a wall. At this point we decided we would just park in the sun and hope it would melt the ice for the drive back.
We looked on OS maps and saw we could get down to the river esk by scrambling down the side of a steep hill, I may add this was not my suggestion but visibly there was no other way to the river and we could not drive down. I accepted my fate and wearing my long below the knee dry robe (for after my swim of course) was scrambling down the hill like the most ungraceful mountain goat.you have ever seen..thankfully I did not have to carry the rucksack! Eventually after what seemed hours and a questionable barbed wire fence we reached the footpath and the river. There wasn't enough time in the day to hike all the way to the waterfalls but we found a deep pool, crystal clear!
On went the gas stove again, and our second rounding of pasta and I was so looking forward to the hot chocolate. As the stove was boiling we got undressed I dipped my toe in, it was ice cold. I went for it I swam in the water keeping my head out and felt my whole body tingling, we stayed in until we couldn't feel our toes anymore.
then I clambered out wrapping myself in my dry robe and towel and drying off as quickly as possible my skin red raw! Although this feeling of freedom, happiness was drifting over me and it was such a refreshing experience. To begin with, you don't feel cold. It doesn't hit you .. then as you warm up you feel it. Luckily In had my dry robe a must have in my opinion for those of us that like wild swimming, dinghy sailing and watersports you can check it out here.
Yes, I was thinking hot chocolate. Someone had forgotten to pack it even though I handed them the bag... never mind we had to drink tomatoey pasta water diluted, yuck gross. I ended up draining mine in the grass. I ate all my pasta and we left no trace.
Luckily, or not the steep climb we had come down had to be climbed back up and that certainly warmed us up quickly. After my legs were burning my cheeks flushed and I was ready for half a litre of water we finally reached the car. That was it, the end of the adventure..we drove through the windy hills in the sunset and reflected on the weekend.
Local and UK adventures can be great fun, I am looking forward to the next one on land or sea.