Wild Camping on Dartmoor

It was only a few days before, earlier in the week, that we'd decided to try out the new Alpkit Kangri tent on a Wild Camping trip to Dartmoor.  We'd settled on Dartmoor as wild camping is allowed on a number of areas (see map) provided that you follow a few simple rules (camp at least 100m away from roads and leave no trace) and you check the MOD is not using the ranges for live firing (you can check online here).

Saturday 17th December, 7:50am
20 minutes later than we'd planned (but when does any walking/camping trip leave on time?!) we left Romsey heading for Dartmoor National Park, Meldon Reservoir near Okehampton to be more precise.

Arriving at the car park next to the stunning Meldon Reservoir at around 11am we sorted out our various bits of kit for the day's walk and headed off across the dam wall at the head of the reservoir.

Walking up Longstone Hill we saw our first signs of life.  The ponies were scattered over most of the hill, these two were sheltering behind a gorse bush to try and escape the worst of the biting wind that was whipping down the side of the hill towards us.

Yes Tor, in the snow
The rutted track runs up to the top of Yes Tor (619m) and it was at this point that the light drizzle picked up and turned to snow, blown by the wind and falling steadily this soon accumulated on the top of Yes Tor but wrapped up in the Extreme Smock (which I am coming to love more and more every time I wear it) we pressed on.
Just a quick note on the Montane Extreme Smock - designed to be worn next to the skin I've taken to wearing it with a thin base layer t-shirt underneath and its performs admirably.  I like the fact that when it's too hot the side zips that run half-way up the length of the jacket can be un-zipped allowing the jacket to vent totally.  The Pertex lining is ideal and keeps the pouch-style pocket (and your hand's within it) warm and dry.
Si & Donna at the summit of High Willhays

From Yes Tor the path heads on along a slight ridge to High Willhays, the highest point in Dartmoor at 621m.

With the wind still whipping up the snow a quick picture was snapped and then we pressed on down towards Dinger Tor before swinging round to Fordsland Ledge and the nature reserve nestled under Black Tor.

Looking back towards High Willhays the snow was settling nicely and the ground had taken on a frosty covering that masked the mud nicely but lower down the hill the ground was starting to lose its covering of snow and become progressively boggier now and we tried to stay to the higher ground as much as possible so skirted the edge of the nature reserve and headed across Black Tor.  

Although only 150 odd meters lower than Yes Tor and High Willhays the summit of Black Tor (bathed in sunlight in the image below) was completely free of snow and frost and was a welcome break from the wind driven snow that had been blowing into our faces for the last half an hour or so.  
Black Tor during a rare break in the clouds
We paused here for a bit, enjoying the view and the break in the clouds, and plotted our next steps around the base of Homerton Hill and following the path of the West Okement River until we reached the track leading down to the Meldon Reservoir.

The night on Dartmoor & the first test of the Alpkit Kangri tent

We decided on a camping spot on a piece of high ground away from the main tracks but still just in view of the reservoir.
Like most of my outdoor kit purchases the reason for buying this was driven by 3 factors;
Desire - I have always loved the look and strength of geodesic mountain tents but until Alpkit launched their range they'd been a fair way out of my price bracket
Reviews - the recent review in Trail magazine was nothing short of glowing
Need - ok so this is the lesser of the 3, having 2 tents already and not really needed a third, but having the tent is the first step in finding a reason to use it!

Pitching the tent is a 2 man job (certainly when its the first time!) and a recommend a quick view of Alpkit's pitching guide that's in the Support section of their website.
The tent, when pitched and pegged out, is very secure and fairly spacious for 2 people with kit.  I used an old emergency blanket as a groundsheet for the "spare" porch so that we had somewhere else to store kit out of the way of the elements.

The only downside to wild camping in the winter is that when the tent is up, kit is stowed and the food has been cooked and eaten there isn't a huge amount left to do (and no, it's far too cold for that!).  The result is that you get an early night and, hopefully, a very good nights' sleep!

6am, Sunday, 18th December
We awoke from our mammoth sleep feeling warm and refreshed and started to pack up the tent and kit and headed off on the short walk back to the car in the early morning murkiness.

The end of our wild camping trip had come around far too quickly but kit new and old had performed well and had lead to us planning many more wild camping trips for 2012 as well as looking forward to our Mountaineering Trip in the Cairngorms even more than before!!

The full walk route (from my Garmin Edge 605) can be found through this link (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/135097602) - the route profile and route (highlighted in red) are below)



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