Field Testing

Each year a bunch of friends and I all make the effort to meet up on mass and go climbing. We always stay in the cheapest and closest campsite to wherever we need to be. Sometimes this is as close as across the road, making the walk-in so short we can watch climbers from our circle of tents. When we were students, it was always tents because that’s what we had so that’s what we used, but now we want a bit extra comfort so vans are starting to enter the group.

It’s always held over the easter weekend and this time it was in the Lake District, so a bit further north than usual. The weather this time of year is… Unpredictable, to say the least. We have had brilliant summer sunshine some years and horrendous hail and sleet other years, so it’s no surprise that now we’re adults (pah!) with a bit more money to hand (double pah!) getting a van was inevitable.

We drove up in convoy with another van and met a few that had come up the day before. We arranged our vans in a sort of corral to block out as much bitterly code wind as possible. One of the reasons we came to the lakes was that friends live up here now and they came around with a fire pit to set the mood. I say the fire set the mood because, although it was a reasonable size fire pit, it didn’t do much heating of anyone. In the end there was just a group of 6 of us huddled around it, holding our arses over the fire in some sort of weird tribal campers ritual, all talking out into the dark field and getting responses from our fellow behinds. I have such fond memories of these nights, I hope this yearly tradition keeps going for a long time.

Talking more specifically about the van; It was not finished, by a long way. But, it was warm and quiet. For this trip a friend and I both kipped down on mats on the floor. We were surrounded by our kit and boxes of food but it was cosy and was definitely warmer than a tent so in that respect, it worked brilliantly!

I had also been given an army tarp and made this into an awning for the side. I had purchased 3 go-pro suction cups and used these to stick the tarp to the side of the van. 2 washing line poles and a bit of guyline and my awning was complete for under £10! It was shit, but the concept sort of worked. The suction cups pulled off a few times and there was a gap between the van and the tarp where water could drop in. I worked out that if i attached the guys to the top of the van so they were loaded in shear, the suckers wouldn’t pull off so easily and would close the gap. Maybe in the future I will change this for something a bit neater/bigger/better but for now it does the trick.

We spent a total of 4 days up in the Lakes. I was introduced to Ghyll scrambling, which is great fun in good warm weather but probably horrendous in winter as it involves walking up a stream. The dogs were really good and did as they were told. For an animal that can’t hold onto anything, I imagine slippery conditions are a bit frightening but they trusted us completely and made the trip in one piece.

We also got some nice climbing in at a small crag with a great view down the valley. I did some outdoor leading for the first time in about a year. It was so nice to be back on rock after such a long time, picking my way up a face. It was an easy climb, far below climbs I used to solo, but after such a long break I was really nervous. The elation when I reached the top was amazing and reminded me why I like going through the fear to get there.

I have to stop working on the van for a while now. Actually my social life will finish for a couple months. I’ve taken on a new project that will consume my time, but I will be back and update this with more van updates soon.