Midwinter #microadventure – Dartmoor on the coldest night of the year.

I had planned to go on  winter solstice #microadventure. This would have been a nice contrast to our Dad and Lad summer solstice trip, but with Christmas so close, parental responsibilities meant we were visiting  relatives. Christmas came and went in a blur, a lot of fun and happiness, then the opportunity for one last chance to make a trip out to sleep under the starts arose. I grabbed the chance and went for it. This time, The Lad stayed a home and played with his new lightsabre.

Originally, I planned to head out on the Saturday night, but the forecast for Sunday looked a lot drier,so Saturday was spent painting the banisters while the family were away visiting. Sunday morning I packed my bags and headed north to the moor once again, where it looked to be a little cooler than for the other trip’s I’d made this year, the BBC forecasting an overnight low of -7 C.

In deference to the conditions I packed my tent as well as my bivi-bag, along with my biggest fattest behemoth of a sleeping bag and a small radio to while away the long winter night. Thence to Belstone, for the third time this year, then onto the moor heading south. Despite the sunshine, it was very cold with the wind blowing in from the East. As usual, the views were spectacular;  few clouds in the sky. The quarry that the Dad and Lad threw stones into during on the day of the Solstice was completely iced over. With the moon rising not long after 3pm, I picked up the pace and headed south towards Oak Tor. Oak Tor lies within one of the army’s artillery ranges, but these were open to the public today with no firing taking place, so on I plodded. By this stage, it was getting close to sunset and I was in need of refilling my water bottles, so I descended to Steeperton Gorge to fill up. By the time that job was done, the light was noticeably fading and I wanted to ascend to the ridge again, to escape the valley floor which looked like a certain frost pocket for the night. With a suitable perch found, I pitched the tent as the light faded and started to cook my evening meanwhile tuned out to be a foul, disgusting, glutinous, tasty, bland, lump of sludge. And available for a small fee in an outdoor shop near you. Next time, I will stick with homemade. Nuff said. By now it was cold and dark, but for the light of the half-moon. Time to get into the sleeping bag and snooze to the comforting tones of Radio 4 as the wind buffeted the tent .  After a couple of hours, it was time to admire the view of the night sky. By now the tent, my water bottle inside the tent and my boots were starting to ice up. It was time to sleep with my boots! Up just before dawn. It’s still VERY cold. Walking was easy because the boggy areas had all frozen solid.

The sun was a welcome sight, but it took a while for the frost to clear.

Time to get home for breakfast. Back to th car to find the water I had left inside had frozen solid in the night. Back home it was time to hang things up to dry. I found that I really should have spent more time shaking the ice off the tent. But the breakfast more than made up for that.


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