A microadventure on a hill

I have wild camped many times, but only using my little 2 man tent the Zephyros 2.  I have been meaning to purchase a bivvy bag for a long time and finally bought one from Alpkit. The weather had been stunning all week and looked to continue throughout the weekend so I began to formulate a plan. At Keswick mountain festival last weekend I went to a talk by the brilliant Phoebe Smith who’s book on wildcamping I had previously read. For her most recent book and the inspiration behind the talk, she tackled her favourite small hills around Britian. This lead me to incorporate one of my own local hills into my night in the bivvy. I chose Ugborough Beacon because it has dominated my eyeline on every drive I have made to Dartmoor or the A38 for my entire life. It would also provide me with enough of a vantage point to watch the sun set over the moors and to rise over some beautiful English countryside, and was a mere 15 minute drive from my house.

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The scene that welcomed me to the top of Ugborough beacon

I parked at Peek moor gate, popped my bag on my shoulders and began my ascent to the top. It is only 378m/1240ft but it is a steep climb and I was beginning to regret putting my down jacket on at the start, but I only had to sweat for a few minutes before the granite outcrop that marks the top began to come into view. As I approached and the scene unfolded before me I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of this little scene. Dartmoor pony’s grazing all around and golden sun dropping away behind. It definitely vindicated my decision to make this the site for my first bivvy.

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The sun rising over Brent Hill

I made myself comfortable and watched the sunset. I was the only person there, and on such a clear evening my sight stretched to the sea. The atmosphere was serene, and the views spectacular. The only thing on my mind was why I had waited so long to do this. When the soft glow of dusk started to disappear I settled down in a spot shielded from the wind. I had planned on continuing to marvel at the sky until the stars were out but I fell asleep in minutes, although I awoke once in the night so I didn’t miss out entirely.

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Me watching the sun set over the moor

I set my alarm for 4:30am to ensure I didn’t miss the sunrise. It was just as magical as the previous evening’s sunset, the colours slowly filtering in and illuminating the clouds until the golden orb appeared. I sat still, and just watched, before scrambling back down the hillside. Home by 6am for a coffee, my spirits lifted much higher for the evening’s experience.

Awoke on a tor

Burnished sky enthralling me

Dawn chorus rising

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A microadventure within an adventure

This is a piece written about a hike Oli and I accomplished in August 2016

Myself and six of my friends embarked on a road trip this summer across Europe from London to attend Dimensions musical festival. I had little input in the planning of the trip and was relishing going into it without any preconceived ideas and spending two weeks with good friends, drinking wine and exploring a bit of Europe. However since the start of 2016 I have begun to involve myself with the things I have enjoyed as a child a bit more in depth. That is spending time in nature. So now I am supposedly an adult and can drive myself around, afford to buy my own equipment and do as I please with my time I have reconnected with one of the things that makes me happiest, being active outside.

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Oli striking a pose on the ascent of Triglav

Alastair Humphreys and his fantastic book microadventures really reaffirmed to me how an adventure is a state of mind and also solely dependent on your ability and circumstances. As in a two mile walk up to the highest point near your house to watch the sunset may be quite a challenge to some people, whereas for others a challenge might not really begin until mile 70 of UTMB. So I started small, bought a little tent and went up to Dartmoor and wild camped, started trail running to become fitter and see outdoor spaces through a different perspective. I’ve done two little weekend trips so far this year, the first me and my good friend Oli who was on the road trip with me, went to Snowdonia and hiked and camped and felt free and full of the good vibes an active time in the outdoors gives you. A successful trip also gives you confidence. So for our next weekend away we decided to meander across Dartmoor from Oakhampton to Ivybridge and clocked up 40 miles in the process, it was challenging and rewarding and we were blessed with great weather, and found we were both really relishing these outdoor challenges we would make up.

 So back to road tripping in Europe. We were camped beside Lake Bohinj in Slovenia surrounded by picturesque mountains and postcard villages. One evening we caught the cable car up Mt Vogel to explore and run down. However when we were looking across towards the mountains one peak larger and more picturesque, like a sharks tooth loomed in front of us. Oli and I instantly decided we would spend the next day climbing it. We had no idea at the time it was Triglav the highest mountain in Slovenia at 2,864m and that it usually takes 16 hours over two days to summit and return to your car. We had already decided at this point we would be up and back in time for dinner.

View from the summit

And so the next day after a hearty buffet breakfast from a nearby hotel we parked the car at what we thought was the closet point on the route we had picked (it turned out we could of parked 3 miles closer) and began. Because we actually parked further away than we had to the first few miles were very gentle and we were immersed in trees, however once we got to the end of the road we started going up. The trail was instantly really quite steep and the trail was covered in jagged rocks which meant we spent a large amount of time staring at the ground and watching our footing. However when we did look around it was a stunning forest which eventually broke to provide views to the surrounding peaks. It took us around 5 hours to summit and it was only the second mountain either of us had ever climbed. The scenery was spectacular and the feeling of accomplishing an adventure which was born less than 24 hours before whilst watching the sun go down from the other side of the valley added to the thrill. We picked our way back down and I accidently lead us off the summit via a different route that was even steeper than the one we went up and it was a scary scramble down to Triglavski dom. We stopped for a quick snack and some water and continued our descent, still spellbound by our surroundings and feeling fresh enough to actually run some of the trail. Descending at speed down a mountain is one of the most joyful things I have done in the outdoors, there is an element of regression at the thrill of being free that feels almost childlike, you want to woop as you dodge a boulder and skid to a halt before you go tumbling off the edge. Once we re-entered the forest though the trail got steeper and the ground more treacherous, which is exactly what you don’t want at around 17 miles into your hike. The thighs were feeling the strain now but we consoled ourselves in the knowledge that we were on course to arrive back to the car at 8pm and would make it to the restaurant in time for dinner.

This microadventure for me embodies all that makes a microadventure what it is. Something challenging yet achievable which can be achieved in a relatively small amount of time, leaving a lasting impression in your memories and psyche, providing a bountiful amount of confidence in yourself to keep pushing your limits and seeking adventures.

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Myself on the ascent, still looking fresh and feeling happy