Since November, a large proportion of my time outdoors has been spent in a kayak with my friend Kate as we train for our world first expedition in April. However, much as I am loving all this time on the water, seeing photos of snowy hills across the UK populating my social media feeds – and not getting to play in any of the snow myself – was almost too much to bear.
So when Berghaus got in touch and said they had a swanky new jacket for me to test out, I knew this was my opportunity to throw some warm layers in the car, phone my good friend Mollie to hatch a weekend adventure plan, and scoot up North pronto.
We’d both been eyeing up a particular bothy* in the magnificent Lake District, thus our plans were formed and bags packed. Logs of wood were wedged in amidst the sleeping bags and somehow, we found space for some wine (a girls’ night essential).
We arrived in the Lakes early, allowing ourselves the luxury of a relaxed drive along the narrow roads and lanes that form a network between the hills. Our gentle meandering was interrupted frequently as we pulled over and hopped out of the car to take photos of particularly breath-taking views, or to explore the lakeside beaches and coves that caught our attention as we passed.
It wasn’t until early afternoon that we began the hike up to the bothy. By now, dark clouds were congregating around the summits of the surrounding snow-covered hills and the temperature outside was dropping. Suddenly, the warmth and comfort of the car felt very appealing…
It was a short hike to the bothy, but nonetheless we took our time, pausing to soak up the views and revel in the great beauty of our country. With every few steps we would turn around to discover more hills unfurling into the distance, the landscape washed with the muted tones of winter.
As we neared the bothy, Mollie and I found ourselves scouring the hillside above us to spot the small building we would be spending the night in. It’s notoriously hard to see it from a distance; the slate walls and roof are perfectly disguised by the tumble of slate surrounding it. The only discerning feature was a thin wisp of smoke emerging from the small chimney. This meant one thing; someone had beaten us to the bothy. An individual would be fine, but any more and we risked there being no room for us.
Stooping significantly to squeeze through the hobbit-sized doorway, I heard a muffled bark and scuffling of paws on stone flooring. As I inched the door open, a wet nose emerged, followed by the scruffy face and hazel eyes of a dog. Instantly, my already high excitement levels sky-rocketed. Lake District, bothy, and a dog? That’s a trifecta in my book.
Gently pushing our way inside, we discovered there were in fact two large dogs and a man already occupying the bothy. We were welcomed inside by Simon and the necessary introductions to Ruby and Willow the dogs were made. No sooner had I sat down on one of the wooden benches than Willow deposited herself in my lap, much to both of our delight.
Later in the afternoon our small group grew by one more as our friend Tom joined us, the small, one-roomed stone building proving just big enough for us all. The only source of natural light came from one window, out of which were views over the sweeping valley below, snowy hills rising gently at each side. As evening set in and darkness fell, we came to appreciate the warmth given off by the small fireplace, and the light of the tealights covering every spare surface.
After a cold night of sleeping top-to-toe with Simon and spooning Willow the dog, we awoke to another grey, wintry day. Once the obligatory mug of coffee and warming bowl of porridge had been consumed, our layers were donned, boots tightly laced, and farewells to Simon and his canine companions were sorrowfully made.
As soon Tom, Mollie and I left the bothy, we were immediately crunching through snow and the still perfectly round hailstones from the previous night. Our plan for the morning was to make our way back to the car, bagging a nearby peak en route. Setting out, the wind was bitingly cold. I pulled the zip of my jacket to the top, feeling immensely grateful to be protected by the impenetrable fabric. On the more exposed sections of the hillside the wind was so strong it threatened to rip my bobble hat off my head and I quickly pulled my hood over it, tightening the drawcords to save from losing my precious headwarmer.
It was almost with sadness that we reached the summit cairn, as the realisation struck that this part of our adventure was almost at an end. Eventually returning to our cars after an icy scramble down the steep hillside, Mollie and I waved farewell to Tom.
Without a tent, and not knowing the locations of any other bothies in the Lake District, we had been slightly stumped on where to spend our second night, until Mollie pointed out that I had conveniently converted my car in January so I could sleep in it! Barely any discussion was needed before we settled on car-camping in our favourite part of the Lakes, and we duly wound our way there.
The car parked, surrounded by truly epic views, we cooked up some dinner before walking the half mile to the nearby pub for a few drinks (which took the edge off the 25% incline hill we had to stumble up to find the car again).
After spending so many hours romping around in the cold, we certainly did not struggle to sleep that night. The next morning, the valley below us was cloaked in thick cloud. It cast a muffled peacefulness around us and signalled the end of another memorable adventure in one of my favourite corners of the world.
* Bothy: a small and basic mountain refuge. Usually with no access to electricity or running water (other than the stream variety), furnished with a wood-burning stove, wooden sleeping platforms and the incomparable joy of being in the wild.