This was in some ways the most ambitious microadventure I’d attempted to date. Firstly it was mid-week (Thursday night) so more logistically complex in having to leave from work and go to work the next day. Secondly it was the middle of January and some of the coldest nights of the year. All previous microadventures having been done in the summer at the weekend, this would be a couple of important firsts. To allow for this most other elements of the plan were kept as simple as possible.
So, I met up with Rob and Tad at Waterloo after work and we got the train down to Guildford with a couple of excited cans on the way. We then took a short walk from the station to the Kings Head pub for dinner and a couple more pints. In the cold weather it’s important to fuel the fire and fill up properly, and the Kings Head proved completely up to the task with large portions of burgers, pizza and chicken. (This article has some great tips on how to be as warm as possible in your bag.)
After dinner we took a short walk up to Pewley down (map here) to find a spot to make camp. This plan was pretty easy to come up with but I think I may finally have found the reason for Bing maps: planning microadventures. The combination of having OS maps available and the birds eye view makes it very useful for spotting potential wild camp areas, much more so than Google maps.
The hill was a lot steeper and higher than expected which was good news in that the views would be that much better. The first task was to collect some suitable sticks to use with the tarp. We had thought about just going with bivvy bags but Tad didn’t have one and we didn’t fancy waking up with our bags covered in frozen condensation so tarp was the only way. Finding sticks was very easy and I’m glad we didn’t bother bringing walking poles to use. After a bit of scouting round we found a flat spot with a good view and set up camp.
Doing this in winter means that you can set up camp earlier and worry less about being discreet as there is no one else around. We saw one dog walker at around 6.20am who shone his torch at us but no one apart from that.
We then sat down to enjoy the outdoors and some whisky. Top marks here went to Tad for bringing a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask – an excellent whisky. I had in my split hip flask some Ardbeg Uigeadail and some new make spirit from Glenglassaugh which I had aged for a month or so in a very small cask.
Rob had brought a couple of mystery choices that had been in hip flasks for a while, they all went down excellently.
After drinking a fair amount of whisky and realising we still had to go to work in the morning we got into our bags. It took a bit of sorting to get in and snug but I was then warm for the whole evening, wearing a lot of merino and sleeping in my silk liner inside my bag, inside my bivvy bag. I woke up a few times during the night but on the whole was warm and comfortable. Tad on the other hand had a worse night – doing this in -4 temperatures does need some more serious gear than what you can borrow from your girlfriend.
We got up about 6.40, packed up the gear, had some coffee from a flask prepared at work the previous day and headed to the station.
Train back to Waterloo, shower and change at work and then into meetings. I was pretty spaced out during the morning, not sure if that was due to sleeping out or the 5 pints and multiple whiskies. All in all this was a great success
What would I do differently next time?
- Get a better pillow setup, it was a bit low and stopped me sleeping well on my side
- Make sure I knew my knots before leaving
- Take a different waterbottle or have it in my bag to stop it freezing overnight