Anyone that spent early February in England will know that the country was blanketed under heavy snow for a few days. Knowing this was on the way, and putting my trust in the weather reports, I rallied the troops and decided it was time for a micro adventure.
The plan; to ride from my house to Bradgate park just north of Leicester and camp out with a few friends in the snow. I was eager to test out the MSR AC Bivy and a new sleeping bag from Alpkit so this forecast cold snap was irresistible.
By the time I had dragged my road bike through the still falling thick snow up the hill to the center of my village it was clear that getting to Bradgate, which was about 8 miles away, was going to pose a real challenge. The snowfall was much greater than expected and we were late getting underway. I was on my road bike due to my tourer not being any better configured with it’s summer slicks on, and the fact that the tourer is being saved for the approaching ride in the summer. But myself and the three other guys I was meeting all had good waterproofs and were otherwise reasonably well prepared for the long slog ahead of us, so rather than taking separate routes to Bradgate we decided to band together and tackle the snow as one.
Cycling in deep snow is tricky on most bikes, but with a completely bonkers choice of a road bike for me and other slick tyred bikes for my friends the going was not so much slow as frightening. Riding in the deepest untouched snow proved the be the safest option for me, any flattened ice was impossible and the slightest gradient just left my back wheel spinning tractionless. The going may of been hard, there may have been tumbles, it was perhaps even a little bit dangerous but it certainly was brilliant fun!
At long last we reached Bradgate, a route that I can usually do in 20 minutes had taken us several hours, we arrived hot and sweaty, minus some extremities, and about to become very cold if we didn’t keep warm until we dried off. We found a camp spot and ditched some layers, steam from sweat billowed from our jackets we were losing heat at a ridiculous rate and one of my thermal layers was drenched, mostly caused by pushing two stranded cars up hills on the way and party just from the exertion and damp conditions.
The guys had a three man tent between them and as I set up my bivy Lewis, Andy and Adam made a fire. Potatoes were cooked, marshmallows were eaten and everything seemed rosy until the guys came to sleep. Unbeknown to me they had not packed any ground-mats between them. The tent was erected directly over the top of the snow and they had only sleeping bags to protect them from the sub-zero ground temperatures.
These guys weren’t new to camping and they did own ground-mats but forgetting a vital piece of equipment such as that in conditions like the ones we faced that night is a tragic oversight and could easily become a serous problem further away from civilisation. I don’t know how they did it but they managed to endure until morning however I gather it was not a pleasant night for them and Andy remarked that he didn’t sleep at all. The next time I do anything like this I won’t take peoples experience for granted, anyone can forget an item of kit and it can ruin the fun or become dangerous in an instant.
The awful nights sleep aside every one embraced their adventurous spirit and had a great time thrashing in out in the snow. My sleeping setup worked very well and the bivy performed brilliantly, although I tried not to say as much in the morning; see the MSR AC Bivi review for specifics, and even though Lewis, Andy and Adam were miserably cold they didn’t make too much of a fuss so they must be much tougher than me, either way we all survived the night and after breaking camp we headed straight for the first tearoom and ordered cooked English breakfasts.
A great micro adventure right on our doorstep!