Thorpe Cloud winter solstice #microadventure

Thorpe Cloud winter solstice #microadventure

Alistair Humphreys first gave me the idea of a winter solstice #microadventure (check out his Lap of the M25). The idea is simple: grab a sleeping bag, bivvy bag and a mate, and sleep out on a local hill on 21 December.

The winter solstice holds no real significance to me, other than being the shortest day of the year with the longest night. It’s also an excuse for a bit of manly fun before Christmas.

The forecast seemed to suggest that the solstice itself would be rather wet, so we delayed to 22nd and headed to the nearest prominent hill we could think of – Thorpe Cloud, just outside Ashbourne in West Derbyshire.

Mark, my friend from church, came with me, and had suggested Thorpe Cloud. I’d wanted to do a winter solstice #microadventure for a few years, so with a willing partner, the game was on!

The logistics were simple: sleeping bag, thermarest, bivvy bag, stove, a few layers and a rucksack to carry it all.

We set off from Derby just after 8:00pm, and were soon parking up – maximum 25 minutes after leaving town.

We took in the traverse of Thorpe Cloud itself (a mere 285m or so), the limestone slopes of which were very muddy and greasy, and then found the bivvy spot soon after.

It was a lovely, cold, clear night and ice crystals were soon forming on all exposed surfaces. Sadly it clouded over before dawn, with the front of Storm Barbara coming in, so we missed out on a dawn photo shoot.

This #microadventure was no different to any of my other trips, prompting plenty of thoughts.

Fresh memories

I was vividly reminded of my last Christmas outing in 2009, when I slogged up Great Gable (899m) on Christmas Eve in deep powder with my brother. We were greeted by amazing views and I remember just standing in silent wonder.

It made me appreciate the time I had taken to document and write down my experiences in words and pictures. Until a few days ago, I had not looked over this blog for years.

I was struck by the importance of making and recording good memories to enjoy adventures and the company I have been in for many years to come.

Real company

It was a pleasure to spend a few hours with a friend, enjoying the landscape, fresh air and experience itself.

Too often when we are closeted in the office, car or indoors we miss the opportunity to be real with each other and talk.

It was refreshing to strip away the comforts of modern living for a little while, make fire and experience the elements as they really are.

Field notes

I’ve purposely not pinpointed our bivvy site to reduce impact on the environment. Please be aware that as a wild camper, you have no legal rights in England and Wales. Check out this UK Hillwalking article for further advice.

I used the following kit (excluding discontinued items):

  • Rab Andes 800 – 4 season down sleeping bag. Warm, packable and not too heavy
  • Therm-a-Rest ProLite – go-to, do-it-all insulated mattress
  • Rab Storm bivi bag – a simple, robust bivvy bag that can get you started. Look out for seconds on UKClimbing.com
  • MSR EGK-EX stove – sounds like a jet engine, but is an extremely reliable multifuel stove. Not the lightest with fuel bottle and pan added in
  • Black Diamond Icon headtorch – solid mountaineering headtorch. Winter glove friendly and has a button lock
  • Scarpa SL boots – classic leather 4 season boot which has gone through many iterations. Crampon compatible. A bit heavy, but a workhorse
  • Montane Flux Jacket – solid but lightweight synthetic insulation, with lots of pockets and a good hood
  • Rab Baseline Jacket – a decent alternative to the classic Patagonia R1 hoodie
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One Response to Thorpe Cloud winter solstice #microadventure

  1. Pingback: The last 1483 days | When Men and Mountains Meet

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