Nine of the best, from Ardgour to Norway

For the last few years it’s been my custom to do a roundup of my year in the outdoors, but this year I have been posting monthly photo updates and I feel that ground has already been covered.

2017 has, however, been a very good year for wild camps. While it has lagged slightly behind 2015 and 2016 in terms of nights spent under canvas – I’ve only camped for 51 nights this year – I’ve put a bit more effort into finding that elusive perfect camping spot.

This year I’ve been using a selection of different shelters:

Lightwave t10 Raid. This was on test for UKHillwalking1 and I used it for several trips over last winter. After the review I decided I didn’t want to keep it and gave it away.

MLD TrailStar. This is now firmly established as my favourite shelter2. I spent more nights under the TrailStar than any other.

MLD SoloMid XL. This is fully enclosed and has a smaller footprint than the TrailStar, although it’s less wind resistant. I used it for several Scottish trips and as my base camp tent in the Alps this year.

MLD Cricket. My lightest shelter apart from my poncho tarp, which I haven’t used this year. The Cricket is a beaked pyramid shelter, partially open on one side – a bit like a cross between the SoloMid and the TrailStar. I used the Cricket for my thru-hike of the Jotunheimstien and it performed brilliantly.

1. Whernside, Yorkshire Dales

In January, I headed to the Yorkshire Dales and enjoyed a short backpacking circuit over Ingleborough and Whernside. I was blessed by fine, crisp weather and an exceptional wild camp near Whernside’s summit.3

2. Three Tarns, Lake District

In May I fulfilled a long-held ambition in completing the Langdale Skyline route over two days. The weather was again bright and sunny, but with a ferocious wind, and I tested my TrailStar to its limits when I camped at Three Tarns.4

Β 3. Sgurr Shalachain, Ardgour

My big Scottish stomp of the year took me from Glenfinnan to Mull via little-trodden trails and pathless bealachs. I camped on an exposed knoll near the summit of Sgurr Shalachain and nearly got swept off the mountain in the gale that blew in overnight. The views were lovely that evening before the weather turned, though!5

Β 4. Bealach MhicFhionnaidh, Mull

This is a strong contender for my best wild camp of the year – and this image is in my top five. I camped on this high bealach beneath the Chioch of Ben More and watched the midsummer sunset paint pastel colours on my TrailStar late at night, then again a few hours later when the sun rose through thunderstorms on the horizon.

5. RabjΓΈrn, Norway

At the end of my second day on the Jotunheimstien, at trail mile 37, I passed RabjΓΈrnhytta and kept going along the shores of the lake until I found the perfect pitch. A grassy platform just big enough for my Cricket gave me excellent views over the forest wilderness beyond.

Β 6. Above Snertingdalen, Norway

Six days in to the Jotunheimstien, I’d just done my first 26-mile day. This was the least wild section of the trail. Between the dense forest of the first 50-60 miles and the open mountains at the end lies a big wedge of mixed woodland – some managed, some comparatively wild – dotted with villages and settlements. I found somewhere safe from prying eyes and drifted to sleep listening to the patter of raindrops on the flysheet.

Β 7. Langsua plateau, Norway

The final section of the Jotunheimstien is the best. The Langsua National Park contains some fine wilderness, and is centered around a collection of mountains that bear a strong resemblance to the Cairngorms. There are limitless camping options as the ground is flat and well-drained, but the place I chose felt very isolated – in a good way.

Β 8. Vangstulkampen, Norway

My last wild camp on the Jotunheimstien was also the highest, at roughly 1,400m. The trail makes a pass over Vanstulkampen’s ridge, missing the mountain’s summit only by a hundred metres or so, and I chose to camp directly beneath this pass, on a grassy shelf close-cropped by reindeer (one of whom would later wake me up by poking its nose under my flysheet). As wild camps go, this one is impossible to beat: a wild and isolated location, fine views to all sides, settled weather, and the knowledge that just one more day of quality hiking lay between me and journey’s end.

9. Stockhorn summit, Switzerland

This is easily my highest bivy to date, at over 3,500m, and was a bit of a leap of faith for me. The weather forecast was good, but you can never be too sure in the Alps, and an overnight thunderstorm at that altitude would have been very serious. After witnessing some of the most spectacular light of my life – along with Brocken spectres, temperature inversions, the works – I settled down for an uneasy night at the summit cairn. The temperature dropped to below -10˚C and I woke to thick frost and bright moonlight before dawn the next morning. Unforgettable.6

All images Β© Alex Roddie 2017. All Rights Reserved.

  1. Lightwave t10 Raid review, UKHillwalking, March 2017 
  2. Further reading: 14 months with the MLD Trailstar 
  3. ‘Footprints over Ingleborough’, The Great Outdoors, March 2017 
  4. ‘Ultimate Challenges: The Langdale Skyline’, UKHillwalking, June 2017 
  5. Due to be published in The Great Outdoors in 2018. 
  6. ‘The Decaying Alps’, On Landscape, October 2017 and ‘Climate change and glacial retreat in the Swiss Alps’, The Great Outdoors, December 2017