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Thread: What was the worst night's camping you have ever had and what did you learn from it?

  1. #1
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    Default What was the worst night's camping you have ever had and what did you learn from it?

    Don't read this if you are eating or have just eaten, come back later.

    For me I would have to go back to five days at Langdale campsite in March about 20 years ago when there was about a foot of snow on the ground.

    The week was to be spent snow and ice climbing and the weather was perfect, really cold at night (that will be significant later) and clear blue skies during the day.

    So everything was going to plan - some good climbing being done and two sleeping bags took car of the cold nights.

    My climbing partner suggested we look up a mate of his who lived locally which we did, to find that his wife had just had a baby and we were invited out to wet the baby's head.

    We visited various establishments and at some stage in the evening, feeling a bit peckish I found the pasty which the pub had kindly kept warm in a heated cabinet irresistable and duly ate it. It was one of those old fashoined cabinets which seem to rely on a light bulb for wamth, the sort beloved of some of the finest greasy spoon cafes throughout the land some years ago.

    Anyway back to the tent and settle down for the night. About 2am wake up sweating buckets and feeling sick, realise I need to get out of the tent NOW.

    So get out of two sleeping bags, unzip inner tent, put boots on, unzip outer tent, get as far away from the tent as possible. I am then violently sick, following which I immediately start shivering to the point where I can barely walk back to the tent through the foot of snow. Eventually get there and crawl in, zip up outer tent, boots off, zip up inner tent then get into two sleeping bags.

    Have you ever tried to get into two sleeping bags, in a small tent with another occupant, when your whole body is shivering to the extent that your feet and hands are actually moving about 6" each way? Having got my lower body into one sleeping bag it was then necessary to try and get what amounted to a violently struggling, 6'4" caterpillar into the outer sleeping bag.

    Anyway, slooowly warm up then keep warming up untill sweating profusely and again need to get out of the tent. So, get out of two sleeping bags, unzip inner tent, etc. etc. Same performance on returning to the tent with the caterpillar.

    Repeated this about five times during the night, come the morning not fit for very much. My mate had slept right through all this so persuaded me to walk up to Red Tarn on Helvellyn, but no climbing that day!

    The lesson learned?

    Well it's obvious really.

    Buy a Tipi with a fold back groundsheet.

    Sorry!

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    Not sure this would really be camping.

    Went hunting in an area I was not familiar with and got turned around. It was raining, then started to snow. Spent the night feeding the fire - very cold.

    Another time, we had five bears keep us up all night trying to steal our food, ripped one of our tents. Made for a long night.

    Also, got stuck in a whiteout while X-country skiiing with ten miles to go back to the tent. Hypothermia issues.

    PG

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    A couple of years back I was walking in the Brecon Beacons around December time - set off on a Fri afternoon with the aim of wild camping for the weekend, my experience at that point being fairly limited. Ended up having to camp on a very exposed bit of hill as I got caught out with the short days. The wind howled all night, and at about 3am my cheapier Eurohike tent decided to catastrophically implode . Gave me quite a shock, as I'm always slightly on edge when in the hills alone... Stuffed everything back in my pack and started walking (there was no way to fix the tent), and hiked back to the car.

    Moral of the tale is not to think a 20 will do what it's not designed to do

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    A few years back I went out camping one weekend in may with the air cadets which i had been a member of for some time. The whole weekend was drizzle. not all out rain but drizzle.. maybe the od spot of heavier drizzle that was almost rain. As a consiquence everything got damp, your wernt uncomfortable as such but its just nothing dried and the moisture got everywhere. Anyway that night i was in a 2 season sleeping bag, apparently good to +5 degrees extream, +10 comfort. This is in the middle of may - should have kept me warm at night but oh no i froze! slept half the night the rest was spent shivering trying to keep warm by grabbing extra layers. I seriously struggled that night

    lesson learned? unless its the peak of summer i'll always take my -10 rated snugpak now, that thing has kept me warm in -5 degrees befor and i can always unzip it a bit if its a little to warm.

    Stuart

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    my worst in a tent, was when i used an old scout 3 man tent with a ridge pole and woke up to find the whole tent on top of me where the ridge pole had collapsed.

    outside a tent, we did a bivvy and it turned out top be near a wasp nest, waking up to find wasps crawling on your face is not a nice experiance

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    Quote Originally Posted by pierre girard View Post
    Another time, we had five bears keep us up all night trying to steal our food, ripped one of our tents. Made for a long night.
    Beats mine hands down!
    Last edited by Lloyd; 17th-October-2006 at 09:24 PM. Reason: quote tags

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    ...... I am then violently sick .....
    Lesson - Buy a Tipi with a fold back groundsheet.
    At least your mate would have woken up too!!
    Rogue

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    Not camping exactly. On a very very cold Dee Tour 7 or 8 years ago.

    Sleeping in the car. I woke with a killer sore throat, I came down with an awful cold of flu, parked in the middle of nowhere. Too ill to drive. I stayed in that layby for almost 3 days!
    Rogue

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue View Post
    At least your mate would have woken up too!!
    Exactly!!

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    The night I graduated from school I was about 18 years old and my girlfriend at the time thought she was some nature dwelling witch. I am not sure why she was hooked up with me but I did have a three foot pony tail and cut a far more dashing figure than I do today. Her best friend also thought she was a nature dwelling witch person and then her boyfriend was just this annoying hippie guy that I sort of wanted to go Kent State on. Added to this was our former History Teachers son who didn't have any friends and wanted to come along.
    They all wanted to go out into the wilderness and and sleep under the stars. "Take us out into the Wilderness Lloyd" was all I heard for an hour until I agreed. I knew that with this many people along I was not going to get any lovin' so I should just focus on finding a spot that was comfortable to stay. They had no gear and assumed that good old user friendly mother nature would take care of all their needs, except for Tony the History Teachers son who had never gone camping before and didn't know what to expect. We jumped into the car and drove out to my old house but no one was home so I could not get much of my gear, just a hunting knife that was stuck into the wall of the wood shed.
    Everyone had stopped at the store to buy food for the overnighter and most everyone got trail mix except for Tony and I. Tony got a bunch of chocolate and candy (the wisest choice) and I got a steak.
    We got to a few of my old campsites by 10pm and none were suitable for them, they didn't like them for a variety of reasons, but soon it started to rain and now a rock face with an overhand became the campsite without any further discussion. Now everyone was wet and cold. Tony had a good jacket on and I had my outback jacket and Snowy River hat on so the two of us were fine. The two girls and the hippie were huddled against the rock freezing and eating trail mix with no sleeping bags or gear wondering how to light a fire without so much as a flashlight.
    I had about three wooden matches tucked away under my hat band for emergency and went off in search of something dry that would burn. On the way Tony asks a rather good question; "Lloyd, how are we going to collect firewood without a saw or an axe?"
    Using my grandfathers watch and learn approach I told him to start stuffing dead dry pine needles and birch bark into his pockets while I slammed myself into a dead standing pine about 20 feet high until it fell down which we then dragged back and I beat into manageable chunks with a piece of sandstone. With Tony's collection and a feather stick made with my knife we got an over sized fire going which we fed all night with the chunks of pine.
    When everyone was warm again they started complaining that I shouldn't be eating my steak in front of them because they were all vegetarians and were offended. With my typical diplomatic style I said if they didn't shut up about it they could be next on the menu.
    The night wore on and they cursed out Tony for eating chocolate which was unethical for some reason concerning coco bean pickers or something? On one of our many firewood runs Tony makes another great statement; "Lloyd, for being such nature loving witch experts the girls don't seem to know very much about nature." I agreed.
    I could have slept quite well bundled up in my drover coat and hat but the constant complaining and lecturing kept me up all night. When dawn broke I lead them out of there and went home.

    In the end I learned that vegetarians are not to be trusted but are useful in a survival situation because as they will not eat the meat you do find so they become weak faster and end up being a good source of protein themselves. I also learned that nature expert witches... aren't. As for the History Teachers son who said right up front "I don't know squat!"; he was quite resilient and turned out to be a decent woodsman when given a bit of instruction. I guess it was his willingness to learn. I now choose girlfriends based on their ability to survive adversity without aggravating me rather than pure looks, because no one looks great after 10 days in the bush.
    Lloyd

    Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug...


  11. #11
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    Default Wild night in the lakes

    I had been foolish enough to go on a caravan holiday with the in laws up in the Lake District somewhere around Autumn time and, perhaps predictably, it all got a bit too much and I begged off for a couple of nights on the hills.

    Unfortunately I hadn't got my gear with me but was able to borrow an old but rather nice double A pole ridge tent that was heavy but otherwise OK, fortunately it had been fitted with a porch rather than the original open fly design which improved it no end. Lugging the gear up I wild camped at Stye Head Tarn (one of my all time favourite spots), had a pleasant evening and then battened down the hatches as it looked like a blowy night.

    As things turned out it was a very blowy night. The other party there decamped by torchlight and retreated after firstly one of their tents blew down and then the second, a bombproof Vango Force 10!, split apart. I had found a bit of wind shadow and the old ridge tent stood up pretty well with the only real damage being to the fly. The suction on the lee side in one of the gusts sucked the fly up off one of the spikes that held it and then back down straight through the material (the fly was tethered with those horrible rubber bands). Through the night I had been getting up every hour, stripping off, going outside to reset pegs, towelling off and trying to get warm again but at least I had a mostly dry tent, dry clothes and didn't have to go back to the in laws

    In the morning it was the long walk around the entire tarn to get back, the tarn had risen by over three feet overnight and the pleasant little stream I walked across before was now an impassable raging torrent. With a hot breakfast inside and another couple of days on the hill still available life rapidly took on a sunnier aspect.

    Actually it wasn't so bad after all, wouldn't have missed it for the world.
    Happy paddling ,
    Rob.


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    Loyd, that is the most entertaining thread i have read here.

    Cheers!

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    before the days when I could afford to run a car I was frequently seen on various roads and roundabouts in Scotland (and sometimes Europe) thumbing a lift one way or tuther with an old army backpack and my peter storm kagool. Without doubt the worst camping experiences I had were in urban areas thinking back there were a few times I got deposited in a town with no dough, Perth was interesting in a bush by the river, Marseille was less so, right outside the police station, the M9 at stirling was a bit noisy too

    "proper" camping it has to be sligachan aged 17, we'd halfed a dried apricot for breakfast after a midgie night in Lochaber and thumbed up to skye, it was pissin down and we threw the tent up (old ridge pole job that had seen better days) on the driest, best drained bit of ground we could find - I think the water was only 2" deep there - made some dinner and promptly crashed out, after a restless sleep where we were bailing the tent out with our cooking pot at one point we got up to make some breakfast and started packing up for the jaunt down to Camusunary only then it started getting dark - strange. we'd only slept 2-3 hours not a full night and now had to repitch the sodden useless tent for another few hours till it got light enough to pick our way down the river like path that was flowing from the south. What did I learn? - decent gear is worth saving/stealing for, Keeping dry is better that being wet (I sort of knew this before but i knew it more now), and tiredness can do strange things to your sense of time and place.

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    It didn't get to the camping stage, but my worst experience was finding that the fantastic woodland setting I've been eyeing up for ages as a great bivi spot was infested with deer ticks during a perliminary afternoon snooze.

    As I can't get used to this hanging out of trees to sleep malarky that some people are so keen on , I called the whole Lymes disease carrying, itchy, scratchy thing off and went home.

    I've had the offer of a great field/woodland edge to use for camping all year, but as it's also home to sheep, the whole tick thing has put me off somewhat ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by WhyAyeMan View Post
    I now choose girlfriends based on their ability to survive adversity without aggravating me rather than pure looks, because no one looks great after 10 days in the bush.

    Great story! Only have one disagreement. Wing always looks better after ten days on the trail. The longer we're out - the bigger her smile.

    PG

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    I've been on the trail long enough that Rosie O'Donnell would start to look like Pamela Anderson! Lucky for me Angela comes to pick me up with cold Gatorade and mint cookies a day or two before my mind is that far gone.
    Lloyd

    Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug...


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    Default worst camping ever

    I have two tales that will stick with me forever!

    At 14 camping in winter in a stunted pine wood in the middle of the Cleish Hills South East of the Black Loch (before the plantations grew up!), no tent, just a brand new (for me)ex army 58 pat sleeping bag that was way too short for me and a a 58 pat poncho studded on the top.

    It rained non stop and the mist was down. The wind howeled across the moors. I tried to hug the ground like a limpet hugs the rocks. The heather bed gradually lowered into the soaking wet peat. Rain poured in every gap from the poncho hood to where it hit the ground. I was young, teaching myself, I could not afford a sleep mat.

    As the night progressed my army feather sleeping bag became sodden and it soaked me through and I became wetter, colder and more worried. I was so stubborn wanting to prove to my Dad (who thought kids could do nothing without his help) that I could do it. I lay in that wet soden depression shivering violently all night wishing for daybreak to come. I could feel, hear and taste the water all night. The hours slowly creeped by and every single minute I was wishing I was somewhere else. I swear that is the longest lonliest wettest night I've ever had lying in that wet hole shivering hugging the ground in a tight ball. I swore that never again will I ever be without a dry sleeping bag and bivi of some sort!

    A little bit older and a bit wiser...when I was at uni. I was trying to impress a lass I was going out with at the time. An english lass...she was young, impressionable and swore she was experienced in the outdoors. I was four months past major spine surgery.

    So we (with some buddys)decided to walk a coast to coast route across scotland one March starting from Evanton north of Inverness and headed north of Ben Wyvis and headed for the Letterewe area. The sleet hammered down and horizontal, all the fords across the rivers were almost impassable without resorting to wading. And two days into the trip, that bonny southern lass dislocated her hip fording a river in one of the remotest parts of the trip. By the gods this turned into a major survival situation.

    My flatmate was an ex-US Air Cav forward observer in the first gulf war and put her hip back and gave her first aid. She was soaked and in serious pain. All her spares were soaked. We all chipped in with our only spares to sort her out. Hypothermia was setting in fast. The tents were up, she was in her sleeping bag, dry but shaking violently with the cold, two friends huddled up either side of her to giver her warmth.

    I boiled water up in my gas stove to get the hot drinks ready for her. My hands got frost nip and I knocked the kettle over and it melted part of the tent door. (after the drinks were handed out.). We all piled in my very small tent all 5 of us and huddled together for warmth in bivi sacks, but all on the outside shivered violently, teeth clattering uncontrolably for hours. The next morning we decided to carry her out to the nearest track which was near a shooting lodge (about a 5 mile walk). We found that the stables were open and we all piled in to the hay where the pony's were and slept.

    Later that day the estate drove one of us out to the coats to retrieve a car to pick the lass up and take her to hospital...It turned out she only went on the walk to impress me and never told anyone about her dodgy hip! wimmin!


    Expand your mind there's plenty space for it...

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    Quote Originally Posted by woodsmoke View Post
    .It turned out she only went on the walk to impress me and never told anyone about her dodgy hip! wimmin!
    She sounds like a bonnie lass. I hope you hung onto her.
    Happy paddling ,
    Rob.


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    Default briefly..............

    where to start?

    14 yrs old, Scotland in August, very minimal backpacking trip. Blizzard (as in SNOW), seperated from tent, carrying next to nothing. Got to get off the high ground. Desperate river crossings, 3 out of 4 channels, then back again as last channel is death on a stick. All because I lacked faith in my navigation skills (I needed to go 200m further to find the tent, but decided I was lost). Went back up the next day and continued the trip.

    Lake District, February. Set off at 1am, arriving at tarn 2.30am. Tarn was frozen over, so when my Karrimat blew away it skidded across the ice. Snapped on crampons (I was fast and technically proficient in those day, it only took a moment. What took longer was the realisation that running across a frozen tarn (lake) in the dark was more than just a little silly). Karrimat recovered from the far bank, walked back round, a long way to the tent.

    Lake District, 1am pitching tent (again! Now I know why I like to night paddle). It took the two of us over an hour to get the tent up. We were both very experienced and knew the tent inside out (which it was from time to time). Only one head torch didn't help, neither did the F9 gale and sheet ice/frozen ground.
    The next moring we found that we had pitched the darn thing right over a popular path to Great End, and as the day dawned clear and fine, the Saturday hordes where having to walk round us.

    Scotland. Snowhole collasped during a thaw, but wet snow storm (you have to know Scotland to appreciate that it snows and thaws at the same time!). One second sat warm and snug, enjoying the coffee, the next second sat on an open hill side with the wind playing havoc with our strewn about kit. (We dug in again at the back og the original hole, went about a foot and found another snowhole from a previous party! How lucky is that!!)

    Scotland. Lost snowhole, dug the previous day and all the climbing kit dumped in it. Needless to say, we dug and dug and dug until we found it.

    Honeymoon ski tour. I packed the food. I packed as per normal. I packed one man rations. Hey, I'm still married, and to the same woman. How lucky is that!

    Alpine bivvi. Nowhere for the stove. (MSR). Cooked holding the fuel bottle, and my breath. (At least we had food, how lucky was that)

    Baffin Island camp, on the margins of the sea ice. Tide goes out, ice sort of goes out with it, leaving a crevasse right under the tent. Part of the stove is lost forever, my mate declared, as he rolls his hip into the crevasse, 'this is really comfortable now'. It was only minus 25C so that loss of the stove didn't seem to matter to much. (Actually, we had two stoves, the first and only time I have camped with two stoves. How lucky was that!)

    Working for OBU in the Lakes, camping with a group of youngsters. Bad storm, the next moring my tent is the only one standing, and it is damaged. Those kids had spent the night holding onto theirs as though their lives depended on it, which it didn't, not quite. When I asked them why they hadn't woken me up for assistance they replied that they didn't think I could have done anything that they were not already doing, so they let me sleep. They don't make kids as hard or as astute as that anymore . (We got a resupply of tents and continued for another 2 days)


    Okay, I said I'd be brief............

    so what have I learned? That camping is always a barrel of FUN and that I have had more luck than I deserve.
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

  20. #20
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    Default sorry

    .................I've just realised that this is a thread about the worst nights camping..................
    If it wasn't for the rain in our lives there would be no rivers. X 2

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    Quote Originally Posted by WhyAyeMan View Post
    I've been on the trail long enough that Rosie O'Donnell would start to look like Pamela Anderson!
    Well, I've been out canoeing solo for a month at a time, several times, but I've never canoed THAT long!

    PG

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    I guess my mind is a bit more susceptible to the mirage effect; but then I dehydrate easy and once I am out of powdered Gatorade its game over.
    Lloyd

    Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug...


  23. #23
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    Post Cairngorms in Autumn

    About 20 years ago I was part of a group doing a mountain leader assessment at Glenmore Lodge. We arrived on the Cairngorm Plateau in Glorious sunshine and freezing temperatures.

    As the assessor deemed it to be far to easy to navigate in these conditions we bivid on the top until it started to get dark. Unfortunatly the weather also turned into a full blown gale. It was decided that we would navigate towards the rim of the Northern Corries and decend into Corrie en Lochan and camp there. In those days there was a bothy in the corrie but as we were on an assessment course we had to pitch in the dark, in the middle of a storm. Needless to say the instructor headed for the bothy.

    Corrie en Lochan is not the best site in the world to find a suitable spot to pitch, especially in the conditions we had so it was a case of make the best of it. We were all in 2 man Vangos and dispite the temptation to get under cover as quick as possible I insisted on anchoring us down for a hurricane. The night proved to be a real humdinger. The wind shifted to the south and roared down over the plateau and dumped its self straight down into the corrie. It felt as if we were in the middle of some giant bellows which were trying to squash us flat.

    The storm blew its self out and come morning we looked out onto a scene of devistation as ours was the only tent still standing. We smuggly strolled over to the bothy [where every one esle had finished up] to enquire if the others had had a few problems.

    Lesson Preperation, preperation, preperation.
    Last edited by aslan; 20th-October-2006 at 07:40 AM. Reason: error
    Aslan




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    Once while motorcycling across Kenya I reached one of my fuel/food caches only to find that it had been dug up! No food, no fuel and just an empty hole to look at. Having kicked, cursed and fretted for about 20 minutes I settled down and decided to put up my tent, get some rest and then re-route 10 miles or so to the nearest road where hopefully I could flag down a car or truck which could take me to a town to buy fuel and something to eat.

    I put up the tent and deceided to light a fire to make a brew (always carry enough brew kit). whilst looking for suitable firewood I heard some noises coming from the direction of my campsite so I rushed back, just in time to see my tent disappearing attached to the tusk of a large cow elephant!!!!!! My sleeping bag was in the tent.

    After 20 more minutes of ranting I rigged up a temporary shelter using my motorcycle as the support for sticks and foliage. During a cold, sleepless and miserable night I was visited by several hyenas, a couple of snakes and another elephant!!!!!

    Aaaaargh

  25. #25
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    About six years ago i decided to walk the South Downs way on my own. First night I reach Wincester Hill and decided to bivi at the side of a wooded area. Got nice and cosy in my bivi bag and laying there watching an amazing display of shooting stars. When I heard some serious rustling of leaves and branches. There is me a 15 stone man quaking in my bivi bag with fear. Having a serious phobia of rats my imagination was running wild. I reach for my leatherman and pulled out the two inch blade, slowly i got out of my bag and started to approch the rustling noise. Thinking that rats could talk i was asking "who's There" Has i got closer the noise went quiet, All of a sudden there was a mad rush and and about ten cows legged it away from the trees.

    Now I always thought cows ate grass not leaves and branches. I went back to my bivi bag changed my boxers and got agood night sleep:


    Love all, trust few always paddle your own canoe

  26. #26
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    Two nights spring to mind. The first was on a commercial campsite, backpacking with a friend in Cumbria.

    Returning from the pub at the end of the evening to find both tents empty.

    Should have known better really but it was a long time ago, the second night was about 15 years ago, a trip I had arranged with the same friend.

    We had decided to do a moonlight walk up the Old Man of Coniston. It was a hill I knew pretty well so there was little danger in doing it with night vision.

    The problem came when we left the pub at Eleven and just outside the village it started to rain.

    Well actually rain is a bit of an understatement. It felt like someone was pouring a large bucket of water onto us.

    We decided after a few miles to head for cover, I knew of an old mine level not far from where we were.

    Now levels are normally cut so the water runs out of them, but for some reason this one was different. Some daft soul had cut it so the water ran straight into the tunnel and poured down a deep shaft at the end.

    I had never seen this before, it had always been dry on other occasions.

    There was a small ledge near the shaft that was just big enough for my mate and I to sleep on head to head. We unpacked our bags and settled in. I slept with my feet facing the entrance and Joe with his feet to the shaft. It was unconfortable but dry.

    About 3am. something woke me up...... The water was still roaring over the drop into the shaft so I couldn't hear much else but the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up like whiskers.

    There was something large shuffling about by the entrance.

    I couldn't make out what it was, it was dark, definitely bigger than a sheep and I couldn't think of anything else it could be. I stayed very quiet and watched it.

    Whatever it was it was very interested in the entrance because it didn't move away but it didn't seem to want to come in either.

    I continued to watch it until the light outside improved enough to see what it was.

    By morning I had a very stiff neck because I'd spent half the night watching a bush blowing in the wind.



    What did I learn from these two incidents........ Don't go to the pub....
    Wayland
    "Trust me I'm a Viking"

    Wayland's World

  27. #27

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    I've had some mad nights away.
    I went on a winter skills course in Scotland with the scouts when i was 15. We hiked in on day one and set up base camp (I have no idea where) Went out for a walk the next day it snowed a lot while we were out, came back to where the tents 'were' and couldnt find them. Did our various search patterns and still couldnt find the tents, dug a snow hole to sleep in all night. Woke up in the morning and the wind had packed down the snow and we were about 8m from the tents.

    The following day went for a walk, got back to the tents and were having a whisky party to celebrate in the new year. One of the blokes had had a bit to much to drink and needed a pee. He decided that it was too much effort to put on his clothes and go outside and decided to pee out of the ventilation hole. Unfortunatly it was cold and he stuck his willy to the tent canvas and ended up with freeze burn. (at this point i am glad to be female)

    Had various other camping traumas.
    sleeping in a lake, broken tents and hedhog in the sleeping bag not to mention the maggots that appeared in the tent at guide camp
    annie

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