Inspired by a night last week in Norfolk where I set off on a two day bikepacking trip with an Alpkit Hunka, ultralight down sleeping bag and Exped Hyperlite based on a forecast of light showers, and ended up cowering face-down for ten hours in an ever-growing puddle in biblical rain on top of a punctured and fully-deflated sleeping mat...what’s your worst sleeping experience (outside of your house)?
Many years ago as a teenager I went camping with a sleeping bag from Argos which was probably meant for indoor or summer use. It wasn't summer and I have never been so cold.
Camping in a leaking tent, on a deflated mat whilst 7 months pregnant.
On the Cuillin Ridge, in driving rain, the day after my 16th birthday, attempting a two day traverse of the ridge, going lightweight with just an orange survival bag to sleep in and no stove, just cold food.
Clothing consisted of a berghaus ACL T shirt, a Karrimor fleece and a waterprrof jacket. Trousers were some dashing Calange numbers. I have never since shivered so hard.
Using a ten pound Asda sleeping bag in the back of a mates van in the 2010 winter. Temperature somewhere way south of zero and not an experience I'm keen to repeat!
That is bad! My first ever solo wildcamp (Lowther Hills, August 2016) involved setting off at 11am with a 9-mile trudge through 20m vis. clag and light rain getting lost about 3 times and eventually calling it a day at 7pm on the slopes of Scaw'd Law. No sleeping mat, no pillow, a 1/2 season sleeping bag I'd bought the day before, phone and camera were on the verge of water damage, all my clothes soaked through with no spares, no stove so a dinner of sausage rolls and no water nearby. Managed to doze for 3 hours, but was awoken by a red grouse right outside; as it was claustrophobic and pitch black I panicked. Another 20km with about 1500m ascent the next day back to the bus still in 20m vis., but not before a 2-hour shivering wait.
> Inspired by a night last week in Norfolk where I set off on a two day bikepacking trip with an Alpkit Hunka, ultralight down sleeping bag and Exped Hyperlite based on a forecast of light showers, and ended up cowering face-down for ten hours in an ever-growing puddle in biblical rain
Hmmm. It took me decades to realise that if the weather is good for sleeping in a bivvy bag then you don't need a bivvy bag. And if you need a bivvy bag, you're going to not have a good night! Get a tarp. Seriously, life's too short!
My first time camping in Finnish winter I took my Buffalo 4S inner and outer sleeping bag. This was good for winter camping somewhere, but that place definitely wasn't central Finland in January. I reckon that sleeping bag system was good to maybe -8 or so and it was -28 when we got into the car the next morning.
3 of us in a small tent on the Valle Blanche (Mont Blanc) without sleeping bags or mats as one of our number said we wouldn't need them as it was Summer. Nearly froze to death. I've made my own decisions ever since.
This one, an unplanned bivi during a storm at 5500m in Peru, never have I been so happy to see the sunrise! There wasnt enough snow for a proper snow hole so we had to go spoons, not that anyone was complaining towards the end of the night!
Camped in the upper reaches of Glen Tilt on a hot, sticky night. Lying naked on top of my pit sweating, I hear a pattering noise on the tent and think I'd better shut the outer door. Upon opening the inner, a solid plug of midges joined us inside. At first, it felt like I was being tickled all over. Soon, the awful reality of what I'd done dawned on me and every inch of me was on fire. I jumped into my pit and thrashed around to ease the agony. The combined heat of two bodies drove the horde into the roof of the tent where we tried to massacre them. Eventually, we got the upper hand. Now both of us need a pee but to go outside was unthinkable. Thank God for Tupperware and sandwich bags!
Sleeping below an open window in a 'camping barn' in India's Kulu valley, I was awoken by a deafeningly loud bellow. In shock I tried to sit up in the dark and bashed my head off something about 1ft above my face.
Once a torch came on - here was a buffalo with its head pushed through the open window. I'd nutted it under its chin and trust me that's not a fight you are going to win!
1979.Decided to walk from my current house outside Barnsley to my dad's in Saddleworth, overnight bivvi at Long John's Stride, Wharncliffe, sleeping in one of the two through caves in the big buttress.
All went well till I had a bout of sleep paralysis with the hag trying to drag me out of the cave. I tried to sit up ( as you would do in your own bed) and banged my head severely on a ceiling of the great crag's finest. Slept intermittently after that.
(rest of the trip went ok)
First night ever on El cap, Lurking Fear, set up the portaledge and turned in for the night. Started to rain lightly but hoped it would go away, soon enough a waterfall formed next to my head and spent the whole night sat upright in a puddle of water. We tried to continue the next day but ended up having to retreat in a hailstorm, couldn't reach the bottom before the cloud closed in so ended up spending a second freezing night on the wall in a wet bag. Took me a few days to warm back up!
Fortunately much luckier with conditions on subsequent trips!
A friend and me had attempted to do the Welsh 3000s several times but had been thwarted every time by the weather.
One attempt saw us bivvying under a tent flysheet outside the old cafe in an attempt to get an early start.
Unfortunately there was a full scale gale blowing accompanied by rain of the usual Welsh standard.
We spent several uncomfortable hours, soaking wet and attempting to hold the nylon flysheet down.
Our misery was only interrupted when the shutters on one of the cafe’s windows flew open and a head popped out and shouted at us to keep the noise down!
How we laughed.
After reading all the instructions, shivering under a blanket in a tent my first night in Yosemite, thinking about the BEARS THAT WERE OUT THERE.
Cold: Camping under a tarp and cloudless skies at Fords of Avon in mid-May about five years back, with a stupidly lightweight sleeping bag. Despite wearing every bit of clothing I had, I spent the night awake and laying very still in a desperate attempt to avoid disturbing the micron-thick layer of warm air next to my skin. The burn was covered with ice in the morning and I don't think I've ever been so pleased to see the sun.
Wind: Nearly getting peeled off the hill in the boulder field at the end of Loch Eanaich on a different trip. I eventually bailed at about half past three after having no sleep, and staggered down the track into Gleann Eanaich. Once I'd lost some height the wind dropped massively, but I walked down into Rothiemurchus in the dawn and then Aviemore for a monster breakfast at Cobbs cafe.
Rain: So many to choose. Probably the worst was camping near the river in Borrowdale (the one near Tebay). Unbelievably hard rain most of the night and I'd forgotten my bothy-survival earplugs. By the morning everything was sodden and I was grumpy and tired, and all I had for breakfast was a packet of super noodles and the coffee was all gone.
In thrd place: First mountain night in a tent, on the side of a mountain in the Carneddau where we couldn't find a remotely level pitch and so slid to either the bottom end of the tent or one side, depending on which way we pitched it. Too stubborn to descend to valley level and too knackered to climb up to the ridge, plus Petzl Zoom had stopped working.
Second place: A two-day walk around Ennerdale with a camp near the top of Haystacks on what turned out to be the coldest spring night for a decade. After about two hours my girlfriend insisted on swapping sleeping bags, with her getting my nice ME Lightline and me snuggling into her old one-season synthetic model. She seemed to sleep alright.
First place: On the car park of the Glencoe youth hostel after a long day on the hills and a good night in the Clachaig. For some reason we were refused entry to the hostel, and one of the local boys in blue dropped by in the wee small hours to ask us what we were doing reposing on the gravel in front of it. He asked what we were doing, we said "trying to sleep" and he left. It was cold, and hard.
Honourable mention: In orange plastic bivy bag behind field wall near Bryn Tyrch, in pouring rain. Had intended to spend money on accommodation in nearby bunkhouse, but found it had somehow disappeared while I was in the pub.
The night I discovered I'm the coldest sleeper on the planet, at a campsite in Eskdale in early September. I'd bought a PHD down sleeping bag rated for +5 degrees and a Thermarest was frozen cold both nights. As soon as I got home I upgraded the sleeping bag and bought an Exped Downmat. My summer sleeping bag is now -5 rated and in winter I use a -25 rated bag!
Worst recently was on a night ferry in a storm being thrown out of bed every few minutes (the only time I've every booked a cabin - "to get a good nights sleep"), getting zero sleep and landing at 4:30AM with a 8 hour drive to next accommodation. Me and my girlfriend ended up sleeping in my porsche for an hour or 2 just before dawn when I couldn't drive any further.
similar. both of us had forgotten the guidebook and map,. we went up something we couldn't come down (a horrendous pile of choss) so had to sleep out with no spare clothing and a black bin liner. I got frostnip in my toes. More like a snow coffin than a snow cave.
La Demande in the Verdon : T shirts; storm; abseil retreat; jammed ropes; darkness; stood up facing each other with arms inside each other's short sleeves; cramp; sore feet. After many 'hours' had passed..................friends shouted from below:
'Will you be OK?'
'We're fine. It will soon be morning and with daylight we'll sort ourselves out. What time is it?'
'Half past 9!!!!'
well when i once done y garn east ridge and got the the top and see once u finish the castle u can either come down devils kitchen or come down y garn so i came down devils kitchen so anyway i get really tiered coming down mountains and i had no sleep i pulled a all nighter so anyway coming down devils kitchen i ended up sitting on the grass but almost at the end of devils kitchen and ended up sleeping for 20 minutes or so and ye
Small fishing boat on the wrong side of an island of the west coast of Ireland with an engine that had gone bang. Big long swell that started in Newfoundland bounced of the said island and lifted us up yet again. Anchor? that would be 1/2 a gearbox on a bit of string. (its ireland) The 1st few hours were not to bad then it got dark and we could not see how far away we were from the rocks and wall of sheer rock above. The noise of everything that was slowly being ripped out in the bilges will always be with me. Safety gear ha ha . We had only gone out to test said engine. Food your joking, fags and matches 1st few big waves said goodbye to them, Radio or phone? this was the year of the moon landings and they had not yet filtered down to the masses. We had got 1 aqualung between us so the Captain was OK Me i could not swim a stroke. I soon learned after.
The soaked to the skin and cold was nowt compared to the sound of the waves breaking in the pitch black
At first light we got the tender bailed out and the Captain said it cant take 2 off us in this sea. I will drop you off on the island Sail /row around and pick you up on the far leeward side, So soaked to the waist I just about gets up an 80ft VS to walk the 3 miles across a totally uninhabited island to meet him. He had made a mast and cross brace out of wood spars & nailed 2 opened fertiliser plastic bags to it. I held the ends off the sail at the back and off we went to the mainland, I swear the thing was going at 6 knots going down the waves and it was the 1st time I have been under sail.
5 mile walk to the nearest phone that worked then organised a rescue boat. It had broke free and drifted away from the island so lived for a few more years. It was misty so it looked like a shipwreck when we found it
With my sister...
Worst by far was during my 1969 Norwegian experience (that I've written about at length). Two nights, the first the most horrendous, being injured and in a very serious situation. Dozed, at best, for probably less than an hour on each night.
Being woken up at 3am by my old collie pawing at my face, followed by her being violently sick in the hood of my sleeping bag. Try getting back to sleep after dealing with that...
I’ve had many dodgy nights, doing many things, but the first one that springs to mind was one night on a 7 day fishing trip on a tidal section of the River Trent - a big section of river wide, powerful river.
I think it was day 3 when a storm came in. I remember it being 2pm in the afternoon but it was strangely dark but with are orange glow in the air. Waves, around 2 to 3 feet high were pushing down the river because of the ever increasing wind.
My shelter was about the strongest one on the market. Fishermen call them bivvies but this one was like a dome style geodesic mountain tent. Twin skinned, super strong and super heavy.
My mate, Adam, was downstream, about 30 yards, but he had only brought a brolly. At the time, were both hardcore fisherman, probably spending as many 100 nights per year out on the bank. He’d gone for the brolly to save weight and money. This was big enough to sleep under, store maybe one or two bags but was open facing. Imagine a 2 man tent with 30% of it cut away.
We had a chat and decided to stop fishing and baton down the hatches and talk again when the storm had past. I put everything I could inside my shelter and pinned the rods to the floor outside, using metal bank sticks (4ft steel spikes) and luggage straps. This was still a few hours before dark.
I spent the whole night, sitting on my bedchair (like a very heavy duty camp bed, on legs), holding onto the inside frame of my shelter. The noise was deafening and scary as hell. It felt like at any moment the whole lot would be ripped into the air, with me inside. But I was even more worried about my Adam.
I wanted to go outside to see if he was ok but it was too dangerous. When I tried to look outside by unzipping a bit of my shelter, I couldn’t see anything in the now dark, and the bivvy would start to lose structural integrity.
After 15 hours of being scared as hell and just trying to hold onto the inside of my shelter, I emerged to see how my mate was. It was now 8am and light the wind eased really quickly.
His brolly was smashed to bits. His stuff was all over the fields for 200 years or so, stuck on barbed wire fences. He’d done the best he could by laying as much gear as he could against the nearest barbed wire fence and laying against it. The barbs held his gear in place and the gear protected him from the barbs.
The crazy thing was that he wanted to stay and fish for the remaining days. It took a while to collect all his stuff together, then he walked back to the car, drove to the nearest village to buy supplies and we were both back fishing a few hours later.
I seem to remember us both being more annoyed at how much time we’d lost from the fishing.
A bus shelter aged 18 after the fittest girl on the planet dumped me.
Wearing an old trench coat and after several bottles of dog, I dossed down on this guy (it was Fawkes week) and tried to get a kip.
About 2am I was awoken from half slumber by a set of either Tr7 or MR2 headlights.
A posh bloke got out and gave me twenty quid. Despite protestations he said that I needed it more than him and drove off.
Went to Blackpool the next evening with my mates and got a new fittest bird on the planet
I used to fish under a JRC Stealth Brolly in all conditions, until a storm woke me up by bending it in savagely & smashing the central pole thingy into my bollocks. I upgraded after that.
1967/68 Christmas/new year holiday I had got hold of a copy of Graham Wests 'Climbs on Peak District Limestone' and persuaded a school friend Steve to go down to Cheedale. In sub zero conditions we climbed Whistling Crack which was full of ice and felt desperate. We were freezing and thought we would scrounge a cup of tea from the signal box below (steam trains were still running adding a bit of atmosphere)-we got a cup of cold water.
There was a campsite up near the A6 and when we knocked on the door of the farmhouse they looked at us quizzically 'Are you sure you want to camp?'. The ground was frozen and the ducks were standing forlornly on the ice on the duckpond. We pitched our tent with difficulty in the frozen ground and inflated our plastic airbeds and got into our kapok sleeping bags ( I doubt if they would even classify as a one season bag today). The airbeds kept deflating and the only thing that kept us from hypothermia was pumping up the stove at regular intervals through the night. My enduring memory is Steve's teeth chattering throughout that interminable night. The following day we retreated home. The temperature did not go above zero for about five days but when you're keen and in the grip of a new passion in your life its hard to admit defeat.
"worst sleeping experience" for me - in a tent on a glacier in the Kulu Himalaya, a violent electrical storm hit us in the middle of the night, pouring water into and all through the tent, completely soaking us and all our stuff. Meanwhile regular (luckily quite small) avalanches were swishing past the tent all night, didn't get hit
A bus-shelter full of sick ..or so we found out...in the outskirts of Swansea in sub zero temperatures in early January many years ago
Monsters of Rock, Donington 1984, the first time I went to a festival. I was 15, I had a rucksack full of Courage Light Ale, a Millets tent/sleeping bag deal and hundreds of really exciting people to talk to. I spent every night partying and snatched a couple of hours broken sleep between 7am and 11am each day. When I got home I was in a mopey crash for about a week.
Mind you, I had a ticket for Bloodstock this year and it wouldn't have been much different apart from sleeping until about 2pm.
Donnington 1984, I was there, probably so pissed I would have slept very well
Two of us slept in the phone box on Matlock green after getting very pissed on tins of cider. Saw a badger and got woken up by 2 pissed women at 5.30am.
Was supposed to be going to my first gig that day in Manchester , safe to say I missed it. Good times !
My worst "sleeping" experiences havn't actually involved any sleep.
One of my weirdest nocturnal experiences happened while trekking and climbing in Nepal. In the small hours I was awoken by what I assumed was torrential rain battering the tent. But suddenly it stopped and the tent started to bulge inwards alarmingly. Gradually it dawned on me that a yak had been relieving itself against the tent and was now undecided as to whether or not to lie down (on my head). Thankfully it finally moved off. They've got some bladder on them, those yaks.
Was once anchored in Plockton harbour with force 9-10 wind forecast. We took turns on watch. Although either of us got any sleep as the boat tugged heavily on the anchour. Keeping an sharp eye out there was far too much excitement in the early hours when a neighbouring boat, 42 foot of big f#*k off catamaran, dragged its anchor and headed our way. The nearest boat to us had come all the way from Freemantle, Western Australia. It came mighty close to being taken out by the catamaran as it pitched and rolled to within 3 feet of their bow. The crew of the catamaran managed to get it under control and power away before any damage was done. There really wasn't anything we do, other than hope that they could retrieve the situation. Waiting for the morning seemed to take age. Fifty mph winds endured on a small boat at anchor isn't a great day out. The wind screamed through the rigging. A few nips of whisky helped to keep our moral up. Luckily, we both have good sea-legs. Ridding the rest of the storm during the daylight we were confined to the boat for rest of the day. We took turns on watch. It was still an uncomfortable force 5-6.
Welsh 3000s with 3 other folk, walked up Snowdon to bivvy and get an early start. We got our heads down and about ten minutes later heard the crackle of a radio/ walkie talkie. Two people walked past and one of our party asked what they were up to. Turns out they were there to register 300 people at the top of Snowdon who were about to do the UK three peaks for charity.
Cue every other person making comment about us bivvying as they walked past, some folk carrying Bluetooth speakers blasting out alternately hard dance or hair metal.
The last person probably descended at about 3am.
Alarms went off at five but no one was keen on getting up. Eventually stirred at around half past and had a brilliant day out, we finished at the last trig at around midnight then had a two hour descent back to the van.
For me, pretty much the first 18 months of my second child’s life. One long, horrendous sleep experience that I’m convinced has taken years off my life.
Mountain-wise probably an unplanned night on the summit of Mt Kenya. Toes were numb and waxy for a long while afterwards.
When I was maybe 14-15, we were caught in the firing range in Totley, sprinted off, chased, dumped our packs and legged it onto the moors and slept on the heather with it absolutely pissing down all night. It was a rough night. No gear at all other than the clothes we were wearing.
We'd arrived in the Pass after midnight in the usual pissing rain, back when you could still camp. there. After a futile attempt to pitch an unfamiliar tent (no pole connectors in those days) we gave up and bivvied under the Cromlech Boulders. I'm not usually claustrophobic, but I spent the entire night dreaming it was going to topple over on top of me. We awoke to find the floor of the cave was flooded, fortunately my sleeping bag was just above the high tide line. Of course, in daylight the tent went up with no problems.
2nd worst was my first night sleeping above 5000 metres, erratic breathing and feeling like I was having panic attacks all night. Diamox sorted that out.
3rd worst was a night on the little campsite at Wasdale Head, which it turned out we were sharing with the UK All-Comers Snoring Champion.
An honorable mention goes to the time I was camping with my 6-month old son on a bright moonlight night which lit up the tent. He yelled. I'd get up and walk him around until he went quiet, but as soon as I put him down he was off again. The passive-agression from our neighbours in the morning was something to behold.
A camping trip to Berwick, then realising we had left all the kit at home. Four blokes sleeping in a Ford Cortina, and all we had for breakfast was a shared pot noodle which we had to fill up from hot water tap in the shower block.
We left for home that morning
The Lake District in winter, in a tent in a down sleeping bag. The tent dripped on the sleeping bag until it was saturated and clumped up on me all wet. *SO* cold that I couldn't move until I was in the sun for a couple of hours.
In the Solway with a Russian on top.
There was a big storm with a big snow dump 1982 or 83. Folks got trapped in the highlands for days etc.
Well we as school kids set up camp top of Glen Rosa, Arran the day before. Some climbers heading down did ask us if we had seen the forecast but we were sure we were up for it. It was a pain at first shifting drifting snow off the tents but soon developed to pointless trying. We even tried to just concentrate on one tent and abandon the other. Eventually exhausted we spent the night semi buried. When dawn came and the snow stopped we struggled through the snow to escape.
Shocking thing was some of my mates finger ends had swollen into balls with one particularly dark coloured. Of course it was frost bite and days later the doctor told him it was very close to amputation.
> With my sister...
With your sister
When I was 15 me and a mate decided to climb Ben Nevis in February and camp wherever we could. Everyone we told told us it was a real mountain and would be winter conditions and we'd need ropes, crampons and ice axes etc. and it would be very serious. We were basically like naaah it'll be fine.
Got the train up, followed by the National Express, arrived in the dark and couldn't figure out where to camp. A random hostel at the bottom (not the YHA) let us sleep there for the night.
Next day we lay in til about 11, waltzed into town to rent ice axes to go up with, the guy at the shop was basically begging us not to try going up because we were so inexperienced etc. We went for it anyway and gave up before the summit when we were just lost in white out, probably lucky to make it back down in one piece.
Once back down we pitched our tent by the river and proceeded to make prank calls on my brick of a pay as you go mobile phone until the battery ran out.
At that point, probably 1-2am - realised we had no alarm to wake us up for the bus back at 7 or 8am. Decided to pack up the tent and walk to the bus stop to wait for the bus for 5 hours. We're huddled freezing in the bus stop, mate in his sleeping bag, me pacing around, and see a janitor in an office cleaning up - we beg him to let us in to use the vending machine, he lets us in and we see the games room of this office - leather arm chairs, playstation, table football, it looked like the cave of Wonders. We beg him to let us stay there for the night and he declines - we continued to wait for the bus until dawn, mate shivering and thinking he's going to die of cold.
I've loved hiking ever since but have about a million times more respect for mountains, weather and preparation than I did back then!
> Honourable mention: In orange plastic bivy bag behind field wall near Bryn Tyrch, in pouring rain. Had intended to spend money on accommodation in nearby bunkhouse, but found it had somehow disappeared while I was in the pub.
I spent many a night in that ditch behind the wall! Eventually I even had a bivvy plus a decent bag, which made it quite luxurious, and the Bryn Tyrch even let me dry it out in front of the fire the next day. Mind you that might have been 30 years ago - it was quiet on a sunday morning back then.
Otherwise, in the woods just above Llanberis was a stand out. I was fine - 2 sleeping bags inside a bivvy bag and a karrimat. Toasty, even in the honking November rain, and a nightcap from the Padarn led to surprisingly peaceful night. My climbing partner however, bless him, had a argos 10 quid bag, an orange sack, a t-shirt and a thin fleece. It hosed down and the lovely soft depression in the one needles soon became a pond. When I awoke there was this ghastly blue/white thing shivering away... "How was your night, Ian?" I ask. "I had to hunker down a bit before dawn when the water came in over my shoulders", he replied, "but basically it was... OK". Ian would later become a minor celebrity on GBBO, making elaborate croquembouche and working chocolate wells, but by god he's a tough bugger. It was the closest thing I ever heard to a complaint from him in 25 years. The only other time was when he announced on the LAMM day 2 "I think something might have happened in my sock" when I enquired about his limp. After inspection something had indeed happened - his big toenail had come off. He's not made so much as a whimper. Chapeau.
Lake district winter camping. It was about -12 outside and my sleeping bag wasn't really up to it so I'd started to get very cold feet. My wife gets very cold hands so we had some of those hand warmer sachet things with us. I put some into my socks inside the sleeping bag and had a chilly but not awful night's sleep. That was until the morning when I took my socks off and I realised that the hand warmers had fused with the skin on the top of my feet (something about burning from prolonged quite warm temperatures rather than short term very hot temperatures, that the hand warmer small print did in fact mention upon reading in detail). Taking them off took two 50p piece size bits of the skin off the top of each foot, I still have the scars...
Hitch hiked to Paris on a 'sponsored weekend hitch' at Uni with my female friend (can you imagine that now? Some people got to South Africa in a cargo plane without thinking how to get back!). Once we'd had fun over the weekend we found a place on the peripherique to hitch back. After three hours, police stopped us and told us it was illegal to hitch on the peripherique. We hid for a while in the subway and tried again until night came. Then the local gangs started driving past and asking us if we needed help "we can take your girlfriend to find a place to hitch from and then come back for you?" hmm... hiding again. We only then looked at the walls of the subway which was covered in graffiti in multiple languages, all of which seemed to say "We've hiked all over the world and this place is the worst place we have ever been".
The temperatures overnight were well below zero and I had slip on shoes and an Echo and the Bunnymen trenchcoat. I still have no feeling in two toes because of the frostnip from that night. To make matters worse we had no money for a train and my parents hung up on me for being an idiot. A drawn-out discussion with the French arm of my bank got us enough money for a train to Calais and a final hitch back to Manchester and the nice gentleman on the final leg thought it would be fun to drop us off in the centre of Moss Side....
On an overnight bus from Panaji to Hampi. Got on in shorts and t shirt at about 6pm in 30 degree temps. By midnight we were somewhere inland at a few thousand feet and the temperature had dropped somewhat. Add that the windows didn't close properly and there was a steady draft blowing through. Add that anything I had that was remotely warm was in my backpack on the roof and I have never been so cold in my life. I think I managed about an hour of dozing. We eventually stopped somewhere about sunrise. I bought a glass of tea and stood in the sun. It took about 5 minutes for me to warm up enough to start shivering
I slept rough on the platform at Hampi railway station, not the best nights sleep I've ever had!
My worst nights sleep however was on a school sea kayaking expedition I was leading in Glacier Bay Alaska. After an incredibly long day it was time to find a beach to land on and set up camp for the night. Unfortunately every beach we approached had grizzly Bears in situ, so no choice but to paddle even more kilometres into the evening. The next beach and the next beach after that also had resident bears, we finally had no choice but to land and camp on a tiny little cove right next to the last beach and its bears. Big fire, lots of noise and stash the food by a cliff and definitely no sleep just listening to every twig snap in the distance....
Many years ago 4 or 5 of us "bunked" down in a barn between Llanberis and Nant Peris. It was about 1 am when we arrived. After an hour or so someone piped up "can you hear that?" 4 voices replied simultaneously "yes". We had positioned ourselves in a perimeter with our heads near the wall and agreed that on the next occurrence we would have our torches ready, jump into the centre of the room and shine them at the walls all together. You've guessed, dozens of rats running round the room inches from our heads. Needles to say we decamped immediately.
Mountain-wise, plenty of soggy/wet/cold bivvies, but nothing exceptional.
Otherwise, Madrid circa 1994. I was living about 200 miles away and had gone to a nightclub in Madrid (as you do) with no real plans how to get home again (I was 20, nuff said!). Ended up about 3am with no trains running and not in the nicest part of town to put it mildly (lots of knife crime, muggings etc). Back then all cashpoints in the city were part of the banks - you swiped your bank card to get in to use the machine and for security reasons, the next person couldn't enter until you left. So I found a bank, swiped myself in and curled up. Spent the rest of the night pretending to be asleep and ignoring other people bashing on the door wanting to use the cashpoint, all the time extremely thankful I was at least safe!
1 - November '94, I think. Annual dinner at Grindleford Café, then up to doss in Froggatt barn. 3 sides, a roof and a concrete floor, worlds flimsiest foam mat and a Millets "Snow Cat" 2/3-season sleeping bag. And it snowed overnight. So much for the name, I shivered all night.
2 - Overnight train journey down the Nile in Egypt. Hot, sticky, noisy, bumpy, uncomfortable and with dodgy tummy. Don't think I got any sleep.
3 - Private room in post-natal ward after birth of 2nd daughter. Hot, sticky, no ventilation, awful chair to sleep in, still in shirt covered in various birth liquids and little one crying most of the night. At least my wife had the bed.
Five come to mind. I'm not sure which was "the worst".
Dodgiest (little sleep) – Norway 1969
Coldest (no sleep) – Bonatti Pillar, 1971. Four of us tied to pegs on a six-inch sloping ledge on the slightly overhanging Red Walls. No bivi-gear, just feet in rucksacks. Whenever we nodded off, we would lurch out like gargoyles over the abyss. Bonus: too much time to admire the stars and the lights of Chamonix eight thousand feet below.
Hottest (no sleep) – Midsummer, Oman, mountains near Muscat. Benighted on my own in just shorts and T-shirt on a mountain ridge. I was racing the sun down, but the sun won. There was no moon and I couldn’t safely see the way. Crawled into a cave between bedding planes. Temperature about 100F, even at night. At dawn, a pack of wild Omani dogs burst out of the same bedding plane a few yards away!
Windiest (not much sleep) – Greenland, two days and nights in a collapsed tent in 100 mph winds. Converted this into a living capsule about 18 inches high.
Most frightening (no sleep) – on a semi-submersible drilling rig way out in the Bass Sea in a 100-year hurricane. The rig was pumped up into the emergency position and only being held by one out of eight anchors in forty-foot waves that were smashing into the rig and smashed the radio shack welded to the heli-deck. The standby boat had skedaddled to the coast. So, no radio communication, no stand-by boat, one lifeboat inoperable.
My mate and I attempted the 15 peaks, walked up Snowdon, got to the to about 1 in the morning and bivvied in the doorway to the cafe. Horrific weather. We were both too tired and wet to cook food so just hunkered down to try and sleep. Alarm set for 5.
Not sure we actually got any sleep at all, the doorway shutter rattles something wicked, the bottom foot of my sleeping/bivvy bag was basically a puddle and we shivered all night long. When we had breakfast we both knew we weren't going to finish!
Failed miserably on that attempt.
Next one was successful, we bivvied along the side of the cafe this time and got woken up by a bunch of people finishing the 3 peaks. They offered us some of their champagne as we summitted ready to start, we politely declined saying we had a bit of a walk ahead of us!
One of the best in hindsight and one of the worst at the time. On the summit of Gunung Tahan, the highest peak on peninsula Malaysia on Mederka day (their national freedom from colonialism celebration).
We purchased a shit tent (good enough for sheltered jungle camping) and had a good set of thermal clothing in case of bad mountain conditions. Due to the celebrations no one wanted to guide us on the week+ trek (a guide was compulsory) but at the last minute one very keen guy turned up. He didn't speak much English beyond "water hundred metre" but was jolly and we were told he knew the area very well. Everything went well until on the shit map we seemed due to drop off the summit ridge for a last camp. We pointed down he pointed up and this went on for quite a while. We decided to give in and follow his instructions and a few hours later reached the summit. We assumed we would turn round and find the camp but he started putting his tent up. It dawned on us the reason he was keen to join us as a guide was a chance of waking up on the national holiday on the summit. In for a penny....
Our tent was shit and the site was uncomfortable and the pegs in insecure ground but things didn't seem too bad weather wise although clouds did seem to be coming in. Within a few hours the temp had dropped to just above freezing and we were in a very windy storm with torrential rain. I sat up for hours in warm clothes holding the tent up. In the early hours things started feeling very loose. I didn't want wet clothes so I stripped off and went to investigate naked. Ten minutes of putting rocks on newly replaced tent pegs and I was back inside feeling very cold but drying off. More battering ensued but no more need to go outside. At a misty dawn, after almost no sleep, we started a brew. The guide heard this and came over to us and pointed to himself and inside. He was a weird blue colour and shaking with cold so we did what we thought was best: stuck him over the stove and warmed him up. When he improved we all just laughed and laughed to shouts of Mederka to the now opening vista.
> With your sister
Was that before or after his operation?
Always good to start the day with a glass of champagne!
I think the coldest I've been was during an unplanned winter night out in Lochnagar. My mate Chris and I (a pairing other club members rather unkindly referred to as Team Reckless) had been trying to do an extremely thin Parallel A Gully Right Fork (IV 4) but eventually had to admit defeat and retreat. We joined the parent route, but by now this was extremely busy and we were at the back of a long queue. We were supposed to meet our mates on top - they had the only map. Dusk fell. Finally we made the top: no mates, no map. Night fell. Luckily I had a compass and knew if we kept walking on a bearing we'd eventually hit the land rover track. There was no moon and the terrain was equally unhelpful. Eventually we decided we'd have to deploy the survival bags and spend the night. I'd just got a mobile phone and it had just enough battery left to ring our mates to tell them we were fine. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to us they made the classic mistake of ringing MRT to ask for advice anyway.
I spent the next few hours shivering miserably while Chris nodded off in a couple of minutes and slept like a log. Around 5am I drifted off only to be woken half an hour later by the rather scary sound of heavy snow falling on my bag. I sat worrying and waiting for dawn. Chris slept. Finally some visibility came and went in the grey light and drifting snow. I suddenly caught a glimpse of the land rover track. In the pitch-black darkness we'd stopped about 200m short. I tried to wake Chris. He muttered, "It's Sunday morning, let's have a lie-on." I could only rouse him by repeated prods of my ice axe.
We set off down the track. Out of the snow a land rover came into view and pulled up alongside us. Several burly men, bearded and unbreakfasted, did their best not to disapprove.
ML expedition assessment night 1. After a shocking stormy day on Bessiboot, Glaramara etc we blew into Sprinking Tarn. Proper kit of course. I was sharing another blokes Terra Nova Quasar. Most expensive tent I had ever slept in, by about £200.
Wind was crazy in the night. Tent was blown flat most of the night. By morning every tent damaged inc ours which had a 6inch square of rip stop (hah!) torn out which had been attached to the guy line.
Spent breakfast watching the wind tearing the top of the Tarn off and dumping it 200ft away. Interesting assessment.
> Camped in the upper reaches of Glen Tilt on a hot, sticky night. Lying naked on top of my pit sweating, I hear a pattering noise on the tent and think I'd better shut the outer door. Upon opening the inner, a solid plug of midges joined us inside. At first, it felt like I was being tickled all over. Soon, the awful reality of what I'd done dawned on me and every inch of me was on fire. I jumped into my pit and thrashed around to ease the agony. The combined heat of two bodies drove the horde into the roof of the tent where we tried to massacre them. Eventually, we got the upper hand. Now both of us need a pee but to go outside was unthinkable. Thank God for Tupperware and sandwich bags!
Get the primus going. They can't take the heat!
Mid '80s, attempting Welsh 3000s in under 24hrs. Moving light. 'Slept' night before dawn start on most easterly of Carneddau (sp?). Pelting rain, cold, no sleeping bags. Or head torches. Just the 'flash ready' light on camera to see by. Miserable 8 hours in a stone sheep shelter barely big enough for two.
We almost made it... Ran out of steam at Pen y Pass. Couldn't walk for two days afterwards.
Random night as a kid when some weekend event or other got cancelled and we decided sod it and camped out any despite not having any kit. Was okay the first night when we demonstrated not bad bushcraft skills making a shelter in the local woods but for some reason we decided to relocate on the second night and ended up sleeping under a bridge over a motorway since it suddenly decided to piss it down. Cold and noisy.
An ok nights sleep but an arse to wake up to was in the army cadets on a damned chilly day. The dodgy tent had actually frozen solid overnight. My sleeping bag was good enough but for some reason I had left my clothes outside. Given how much I hated mornings at the time that really didnt work for me.
A few spring to mind.
Back in the 90s, top of Gars-Bheinn ready for an attempt on the ridge. Had walked from Sligachan via Coruisk for some reason, and also decided we wouldn't bother with bivi gear or stoves, as it was June and a sunny forecast. Worried about dehydration, we carried 8L up from Coruisk. Found a muddy hollow, couldn't be bothered to look further, and two of the 3 of us lay in that. The rain started immediately. No mat, no sleeping bag, just an orange plastic survival bag. Freezing, and uncomfortable. The only time I've been glad of the body heat from a mate as we shivered back to back. Needless to say, we bailed in the drizzly morning, poured away almost all the water and dropped down Ghrunnda. Of course, then the sun came out and it was a glorious day, but we were too knackered to care.
Storm Desmond, a few years back on the first weekend of December. Two of us decided to camp in the Brecon Beacons, I suggested Cwm Llwch. Fought our way up there with heavy packs, meanwhile it was gusting 90mph on the ridge. My theory that Llyn Cwm Llwch would be sheltered by the hill proved somewhat flawed, as the wind tumbled and turned and headed vertically downward into the Llyn, pushing the water so hard you could visibly see it becoming concave. I got blown over. Dropped down to the valley and found somewhere by the little stream for our little tents. It was slightly more sheltered, but still gusting lots. At this point, we ate something and then Ade felt ill and retired. I found I'd forgotten my Thermarest. Filling a survival bag with clothes helped, but my tent was constantly being blown inside out onto my face, the poles actually inverting. This continued until first light. Of course, being December, that was about 16 hours later... New poles ordered on return, bent but not broken.
Loch Maree, Easter 2016. Another named storm, this time with a stronger tent, pitched at the top of a sandy beach on one of the islands, about 12 ft from the water, with the canoe between. As it was sandy, I'd tied off the tent to various rocks, some useful roots, and the canoe. Around midnight it became pretty mental, about Force 11 according to the later news. I lay there with a hand or foot pressed against each tent pole every time the gusts came, to stop the tent turning inside out. The rain was torrential. Some hours later, I could hear the waves starting to hit my canoe, which was lying across the side of the tent as protection; the Loch had risen massively. I daren't get out to look, as I thought the tent might blow away, or even the canoe blow away if a line broke. Then the rain started running down the sand under the tent, washing out a nice gully beneath my arse. The feeling of the power of nature was savage, attacking me from every angle. At some point in the early hours I succumbed to exhaustion, and awoke in a spreadeagled position with aching limbs. That was the scariest one.
Waking in the sunshine it was amazing how quickly it was all forgotten, though some items from camp were never seen again.
A night in the back of a kind strangers standard Transit van, in the West Highlands in August 1980. My self and two friends were eaten alive by our favourite Scottish Midges. Not so much as a towel between us, as we where cycling between youth hostels and mist the last ferry at Kylesku. It turns out that lycra cycling shorts and sweat are no match for a couple of hundred thousand of the little blighters
I got some stories, but most of them are rather good and not spooky at all.
Montenegro, in a popular mountaineer's camp inside the main range. Notwithstanding the ever-present livestock nibbling on our tents (including sheep and horses, the bloody animals just love eating tents!), rather loud gunfire sounds around 2AM and something nearly flattens my tent at the same time (it was the bloody horse). The last time I heard gunfire in a tent was nearby some Romanian shepherds trying to spook a bear nearby their stock, unfortunately then we were camping upwards of them and the bear went up (missing us). Telling myself "nah, it's just a bear again, nothing to worry about" I got back to sleep after a while, although somewhat concerned. Turns out it was just the shepherd spooking some wild dogs away from his sheep by gunfire...
Hitchhiking through Romania, sleeping in a remote train station. Rail attendants cared about us so much they actually locked us in so we'd have a safe sleep. Much better than the ditch near rail station the night before!
Walked the lairig guru in early winter, camped half way and was up most of the night on my hands and knees holding the tent down, i could hear the wind coming like a train down the valley before the tent turned almost inside out
a night in a bivying shelter in the Llanberis slate quarries with no mat.
a night at 10,000 ft on the Lyskam in a shallow scoop in the ice, covered in spindrift, too windy to get the stove going.
My dad started taking my friends and I to Wales rally GB every year since I was about 7. Usually it takes place in mid november perfect for slippery gravel track, not so perfect for camping. At 14 we start camping over the full weekend. When I was 16 I went with 3 mates and my dad. My dad slept in the car, while my 3 friends chose to put up one shoncky old Triangle 2 man tent (one of those old school orange ones) with no inner sheet even though we had with us my brand new Vango Tempest. Due of course to lazyness.
We didn't bother with sleeping bags as we couldn't fit them in. With 3 of us in the tent my friend and I who are on the outside are touching the outer of the tent. Also being camped on the side of a firetrack at the top of this valley meant that we had a gale blowing the heavy rain into my side of the tent all night soaking myself and my clothes. When the tent eventually gets shaken by my dad to wake us up to get to the stage we are all very cold and very tired. We put up my brand new tent for the next 2 nights.
At an outdoors trade conference in Harrogate. First time away with the company. Sharing a twin room with my boss. Trying to sleep whilst he noisily shagged one of our colleagues in the adjacent bed proved impossible so I left them to it and tried to kip in a chair in the hotel lobby. Didn't get much sleep.
> Many years ago as a teenager I went camping with a sleeping bag from Argos which was probably meant for indoor or summer use. It wasn't summer and I have never been so cold.
Talking of Argos kit, they used to do a pretty good lightweight 1 man tent which had the design nicked off something far more expensive (though the build quality was poor so they didn't last well), but very cheap - 15 quid a pop by the end. I had had a couple and they were good, and bought another when it wore out. The design had been changed, and the new one leaked like a sieve - when I got up I was lying in at least an inch of rainwater, unfortunately the groundsheet was the only bit that was actually waterproof.
Fortunately, the customer services bod at that Argos at the time was also a Leader in our Scout Group who was on the camp when this happened and saw it, so to get a refund I didn't need to do anything more than show up and whack it on the desk
> Fortunately, the customer services bod at that Argos at the time was also a Leader in our Scout Group who was on the camp when this happened and saw it, so to get a refund I didn't need to do anything more than show up and whack it on the desk
And what did you do with the tent?
> And what did you do with the tent?
:D :D :D :D
A few horror trips, especially when i was starting out and knew next to nothing but by far the worst was a trip to Kintail. Managed to pitch the tent in a hollow (not knowing any better) whereupon it lagged it down all night. I actually managed to get some sleep but woke up sharpish feeling both cold and wet. The feeling that something had gone badly wrong was confirmed when my plastic coffee mug gently drifted by at eye level. The realisation that I was lying in a puddle of water about 8 inches deep was not welcome, everything was completely soaked. Fortunately this happened in June otherwise the outcome could have a damn sight worse. Ugh.
I think it was probably at a festival, having agreed to use my girlfriend’s very cheap single skin, 2 person, tent. Torrential rain all weekend. The tent leaked like a sieve, and there was no way to avoid touching the sides and encouraging even more water in.
Sadly the groundsheet was very much waterproof, so about an inch of water pooled in the tent each night. Spent each night wearing full waterproofs and a binbag inside my sleeping bag in a vain attempt to stay dry. Was bloody miserable, especially when you add in waking up in said puddle with a stinking hangover.
In the 1960s I had been climbing on Skye with a friend and we were hitch hiking home to the south of England, a journey with virtually no motorways or dual carriageways which normally too 2 or 3 days to hitch hike. We arrived in Edinburgh where my mate had an aunt just as it was getting dark, and he decided to call on her to see if she would put us up for the night. When we arrived at her house it was raining and pitch dark. There was no one in, so he said we could go round to the back and kip down in her outhouse shed. There was no electricity and we had no torches, so by feel we spread out our ground sheets and sleeping bags and went to sleep. In the morning when we woke we found ourselves and our gear covered in coal dust. We had mistaken the old coal shed for the garden shed.
There was still no sign of the aunt, so we were unable to have a bath or wash, so we had to continue our journey covered with coal dust until we found a stream outside the city where we stripped off and washed trying our best to shake the coal dust off our clothes by bashing them against trees.
Altogether a thoroughly unpleasant experience.
A tin shed in Bolivia, the only accommodation we could find in tiny Andean village. My head was stuck in the spokes of a bicycle wheel, there was a dead llama at my feet. The toilet outside was guarded by a rabid dog, the random military base next door were doing some kind of exercise that involved blowing whistles every 3 minutes throughout the night. In between my mate, who was feeling sick, kept threatening to vomit on me.
After finally dropping into something resembling sleep I was woken by the moisture that had frozen onto the ceiling (presumably mostly made up of our breath and sweat) defrosting and dripping on my face.
On the positive side they only charged us 50p each for the pleasure of staying there.
I thought it was 20p?
"Do not go outside, the dog, it is ill and dangerous"
Capped off by nearly vomiting after whiteness a pig in the street gobble a enormous turd whole, ahh Ulla Ulla so good they named it twice, Good times,
Bivvying below the Weissmies, a thunderstorm arrived around midnight and stayed for the rest of the night. The rain was torrential, with the thunder and lightning being simultaneous so directly overhead, while the hollow I was in soon filled up with water, way beyond the ability of my bivvy sack to keep it out. 5 scary hours in a very cold puddle.
I think we might have stayed there too! Well, Pellechuco I think it was, but all villages in the Apollobamba are required buy law to have a rabid dog guarding the shithouse (and a second dog free shed which has now become the default shithouse).
We had the late Yossi on our side though and he had enough Viking to somehow win through ;-)
Sometime in the early eighties two friends and me were camping at Dolgam, North Wales.
We’d pitched our ten Vango force ten tents in the pouring rain and then spent the evening in the back bar of Cobden’s hotel.
The rain was still lashing down as we walked back to the tents.
Luckily, aided by numerous bottles of Newcastle Brown, sleep came easily until in the middle of the night loud voices awoke us from our slumbers.
Putting a hand on the floor of the tent resulted in the discovery of several inches of freezing cold water.
A quick exit from the tent showed the campsite to be completely flooded with fast moving, fast rising water.
After pushing our motorbikes onto a small piece of higher ground we assembled, along with all the other campers in the just about above the water toilet block.
From there we spent a cold, wet night dressed only in what we’d been sleeping in, shivering, attempting to light soggy cigarettes and watching the flood waters rise until just the very tops of the tents were visible. And still it rained. And then it rained some more.
By morning, the rain had stopped but the entire valley had become a fast moving river.
Luckily, by lunchtime the flood waters had receded as fast as they had appeared leaving a totally devastated campsite. Vehicles, tents, sleeping bags, clothes, everything soaked.
Luckily our Vangos were still standing unlike several other tents which had completely disappeared.
Many years later when retelling the story it’s always in a lighthearted way although given the ferocity of the flood waters it could have been really serious.
One thing about the situation has always amused me and that is we had escaped from our tents and assembled in the toilet block, men in the gents toilets and females in the ladies so that segregated couples spent the night shouting out to each other when they could have just walked into the adjoining toilet block and spent the night together.
The joys of being British!
on walking St Cuthberts way maybe 8years ago, the wife and I passed through Kirk Yetholm in the evening with the plan to camp on the hill just above it.
passing through the last field there were 2 Scottish lads, sat next to there Ford Escort, massive fire going. We exchanged nods and one of them says in broad Scots accent “stay safe on the hill tonight”. We quickly picked up our pace, and camped a few km up the way well away from the signposted path. About 2am this massive torch starts combing the hillside. It spends maybe an hour looking for something before disappearing. Actually terrifying.
2 nights in Switzerland, raining so much we found out our 30 year old told was no longer waterproof, the tent then got flooded and we had to sleep in the car we had. We then got woken up to the smell of a farmer spraying sh!t in the field next to us.....
the next night we had nowhere booked, we went to the toilet on the motorway and got surrounded by two groups of skin heads, we quickly got in the car and they then jumped in their cars and chased us down the motorway for an hour whilst we tried to pull off in to different towns to get rid of them. They followed us around before eventually leaving us, we then pulled into a service station and slept in the car park to wake up every half an hour to check the doors were still locked.
Sleeping in the car in a car park in Portree a few years ago, the lads trying to sleep in the car next to me had been to the pub and managed to set their car alarm off every 15 minutes or so for most of the night.
Even after I politely then increasingly impolitely suggested they turn the bloody alarm off or at least stopped trying to lock the doors they failed to manage it. Apparently they were worried someone might try and get in the car, it ended up with quite a few angry people from the surrounding hotels trying to get in their car anyway about 3am, fun times!
I was cycling back to Nice, from Sisteron, two years ago. Stayed overnight in Dignes-les-Bains. It was late October and the nights were starting to get chilly (about +5 degs C), aided by the katabatic winds coming down the valleys.
I was travelling very light, so I only had a tarp stretched over my bike and a home-made 1-season quilt. Which turned out to be too narrow. Every time I turned over, a slug of cold air sneaked under the quilt, so i spent the whole night shivering and sleepless. It was f'in miserable.
And the following night, in Castellane, was just the same... except that I gave in to temptation at 4 in the morning and booked an Airbnb for the last night, in Nice.
Needless to say, that was the quilt's first and last outing.
I had a similar experience camping at Glen Brittle, on an allegedly summer holiday, with my (now) wife. At about 4:00 am I was woken to be told that the tent was starting to float. Sure enough, the groundsheet was starting to resemble a waterbed and the campsite had a river running through it.
We bundled the tent in to the back of the car and were just about to see whether the car would start (not a guaranteed event in the wet with a Rover 218Vi) when there was a knock at the window. It was a young and extremely bedraggled German guy dressed in waxed cotton who asked for a lift. I said yes and we were leaving Skye. His only reply was that, yes, that was where he wanted to go too.
In reality, of course, my real worst sleeping experience is every long haul flight I've ever had the misfortune to have to take.
I remember waking up in the early hours in a tent in the Allt Coiregrogain, lifting my head and seeing the water dripping off... Realising the tent was inches deep in water.. but being so drunk/hungover from the night before I didn't give a f*ck and went back to sleep.
The floodwater stories remind me of my first visit to Skye. It was a small group club trip, aimed at doing the ridge. We were having a planning meeting in the local pub the week before when Gavin, a prospective new member, turned up for his first time - he'd never climbed before, but by the end of the night he was signing up for the trip, to a chorus of "You'll be fine."
Things didn't start well. The first night in Glen Brittle campsite was one Noah would have recognised. When we got up next morning it was to discover Gavin sat in the middle of his flooded tent, with an armful of camera and other valuables, unable to leave his sodden sleeping bag as he struggled to keep his prized possessions above the rising waters. His tent boasted the classic combo of leaky upper and waterproof groundsheet. He'd suffered throughout the night because he was too polite to wake people he barely knew.
By contrast, once we eventually got up on the ridge for our planned two-day traverse I experienced perhaps the best bivvy I've ever had. We'd just done the Inn Pinn in a gorgeous golden twilight, with Gavin roped up to me. Our trip leader was a master of logistics and had got us to stash supplies earlier in the week so we could enjoy a luxurious three-course hot dinner. Since I'd done the leading and bag hauling throughout the first day, the others left me to relax while they went to get the stash. I'd had the foresight to pack a hip flask of Talisker - the excellent Skye malt - and sipped it as I sat looking out at the ocean where a big fat sun slowly melted into the horizon.
Of course, this being Skye we got rain half-way through the second day but we made it to the end of the ridge and got down in time for another large Talisker at the Slig. Gavin was fine.
On the half-way ledge on the South face of the Marmolada with a down jacket.
Amazingly I've done it twice now, you really would have thought that after the first time I wouldn't even have entertained the possibility of it happening again!
For me it was probably wild camping on dartmoor with food poisoning. A dodgy freeze dried chilli with undercooked red kidney beans.
Started feeling uncomfortable shortly after going to bed. Spent the night with extreme stomach pains trying not to crap myself.
Struck camp at first light, waddled back to my car with just one minor chunder on the way, and somehow made it to the public toilets at hay tor.
Felt terrible for about 3 days after that. Also broke a tooth on one of the beans.
At the far end of a five day walk-in to a pass in the Miyar Nala. Not long after we'd set up a base camp, my wife had a stomach ache, which got steadily worse and developed over the evening into a tenderness in the lower right abdomen which felt quite firm to palpitation. We had no sat phone, and my two-day first aid course made me the most medically competent person on the trip. I spent the whole night bolt awake, staring at the tent roof wondering how in the hell we would get her out if the appendix actually burst.
Turned out she was a bit bloated after eating too much dhal.
> Turned out she was a bit bloated after eating too much dhal.
Did it resolve in a long, loud fart...?
I've had a few memorably bad nights. But probably the worst was a New Years Eve in Glencoe; we only had a single skinned tent that would have been great in a Himalayan blizzard, not so good in a Scottish storm... We put it up in a hurry, anxious to get to the pub, and because it wasn't raining at the time weren't too careful. 4 hours and much beer and scotch later it WAS raining, and by the time we stumbled in there was already 2" of icy water in the bottom, with more spraying through the canvas all the time. There wasn't a lot we could do, so we got the primus going, huddled over it and carefully tended it so it kept going without needing a refill... how we didn't expire from either exposure or CO poisoning I'll never know. We were probably like that for 6 hours.
It took us 3 days to dry out in the Red Squirrels bunkhouse and by the time we had it was time to hitch home. The moment we stepped out to start hitching home, whoosh! and we were completely soaked through again. This, needless to say, was before goretex, and when the idea of 'waterproof gear' was a sort of comforting myth rather than reality.
Glen Etive: Had to get out of my pit for slash in the night. Standing there as the midges ate me (I'd rubbed my back on the dewy flysheet where thousands of them had conjugated), I'd let them into the tent too.
On the South West Coast Path I followed my usual mantra for finding a pitch -There is always a place. Late on I saw on the cliff top a slight hollow. I was using a Gatewood Cape/Poncho as a shelter. The wind was off shore but changed to off the sea during the night and I was holding onto the shelter until I thought there was every chance of me and the shelter going over the cliff. Eventually I dropped the shelter and wrapped myself up in it.
On the Appalachian Trail I ventured just off the path to camp in a garden for a dollar. My shelter was held up by two hiking poles at the front. In the night there was roll around thunderstorm for several hours. After one particular overhead thunder clap one of the poles was lifted completely out and most of tent collapsed and I had to go outside in the rain to sort it out.
Amazingly after both these episodes I did go back to sleep. Worth seeking out some get of to sleep breathing techniques for these situations. I don`t rely on booze.
after coming off the Matterhorn and heading past the hornley hut to head down to our tent in the valley, then getting massively lost and backtracking until we got to the lift station at 4am ish and sleeping on the rubber circle mat thing outside of the lift station
Oh go on Robert, tell us a story!
Five of us were going wild camping in the Lakes. Bad start when the guy with the car was delayed 2 hours at work then got stuck in traffic. We eventually reached our starting point about midnight. After another fruitless hour looking for dry ground near the car park we said screw it and camped by the car, planning to be up before dawn.
Well, 30 minutes later another car arrives, waking us all up. People got out. I heard muffled talking, giggles, some noises I couldn't place. Then the moaning started, and the sound of a cars suspension going. I remember being more amused than irritated, and also feeling like a dirty voyeur even though we could only hear these two people having sex on their car. That went on for close to an hour.
Last year we were thru-hiking the Lake District. We had set up our tents in a farmers field after a particularly hard days walking, and down the pub we went. Obviously being the lakes the heavens opened and we made back for the camp only to find our tents submerged.
The farmer very kindly allowed us to sleep in an old barn, however the combination of the cold floor and rain smashing against the door all night was a perfect recipe for a terrible nights sleep, and sleeping bags don't dry so quickly.
We were woken next morning by a large group of school kids bursting into the barn from a school trip...I don't think the teachers were expecting to find three 30 year olds drowned out on the floor.
A night I will never forget.
A few years ago a friend of mine presented me with a 'midge headnet', which was very helpful of them. 3 weeks ago, bivvying at TD gap on the cuillin ridge, with no wind I found out that it was a mosquito net, which midges could get in, and stay in. Worst night of sleep ever, trying to alternately pull the bivvy drawstring to seal it, then undo it to get my arms out to scratch my face. And the noise! A cloud of midges over my head for what felt like the whole night was weirdly deafening.
Back in the early 90's me and my ex got the National Express to Penmaenmawr, planning to walk across the Carneddau and Glyderau to Llanberis over 2 days to meet a mate staying there and come back in his car. First night was spent in my girlfriends tent, a Blacks own brand cheapish but not too bad. Putting it together for our first night's camp, I noticed that it had fibreglass poles, more of which later.
Next day was perfect weather, hardly a cloud in the sky, we walked the length of the 3000's missing out Yr Elen the dropping down just before Pen yr Oleu Wen to camp for the night at lower height. We crossed a wideish stream, the far bank seemed like a perfect spot to set up camp in the early evening, cooked and ate and settled down for the night.
Probably soon after midnight the wind began to rise and it began to rain quite steadily, the wind got stronger and stronger and the rain got heavier and heavier. Before long, we were in the middle of one of the worst storms I've experienced in this country. The limitations of cheap fibreglass poles soon became apparent as one by one (I think) every pole had snapped due to the strength of the wind. The last tiny bit of any waterproofing had disappeared along with the flysheet tension and the rain was barely delayed by the fabric. I had a piece of broken pole in one hand and a leg in the air to keep the fabric of the tent off us adjusting as necessary over the next few hours.
After some time, we notices that water was starting to pool underneath us, being the gentleman, I stuck my head outside only to observe that the once stream, now raging torrent was almost reaching us. The first signs of sunrise were showing so we packed up our waterlogged gear as fast as possible, walked to the road at Bethesda and hitched to Llanberis and breakfast in Pete's.
Nice tale so far. What’s part 2?
I'll save the story about drying the sleeping bags in front of an electric fire for another day.
Camping somewhere near Orco in the Alps, woke up by something attacking my tent. Turned out to be a fox and had ripped a massive hole in the side. I spotted it 10 metres away looking at me with my bottle of water in its mouth - don't know how it got so thirsty, despite being next to a river.
I spent the rest of the night expecting it to come back with all of its mates to savage my face.
Gorilla tape came in handy the next day. TIP: take Gorilla tape everywhere
Sabrina Verjee has beaten her own women's Pennine Way fastest known time, running the route in a time of 74 hours 28 minutes and 46 seconds, beating her previous time of 82 hours and 19 minutes.