Thursday, 31 July 2008

Lakes November 2006

Something I scribed but never published until now.

A lucky collision of work schedule and the need to use up a few days annual leave before the end of the month found me planning a trip for early November. But where to go? My various guidebooks and trawls of the internet didn’t inspire, so I posted the question in the forum on the Outdoorsmagic website. A handful of ideas were offered and one grabbed my attention – take the train to the Lakes, and make up your own route. I pulled the OS maps from the book case and a route plan was born.

I stepped off the train at Windermere at lunchtime into clear, bright, sunny weather with a fresh northerly wind. I headed north east out of town towards what was to be a wild pitch at the end of Troutbeck Park. The cunning part of the plan was to stop here and leave the steep climb up to High Street until the following day. I soon learnt that flat in this area usually meant boggy too. So I had to make do with a small but sloping site next to a stream – handy for water but not conductive to sleep, I’m glad I’d packed ear plugs.

The following day dawned bright and sunny, and the northerly wind had picked up making it watery eye fresh. As I headed up the steep path the view back to Windermere opened up, and when I finally reached the summit of High St (828m) the Lake District’s distinctive landscape revealed itself to me. I was sure I could see as far as the Irish Sea if not further to Ireland itself it was that clear. I was on the course of a Roman road and I wondered about what the soldiers from the Roman Empire’s warmer climes would have made of the weather if not the mountains.

I had an early lunch at High Raise (802m) and retraced my steps to the Knott (739m) and followed a path that ultimately leads down to Patterdale via Angle Tarn. I stopped at the tarn for a rest, a brew and a paddle. I pitched my tent at Side Farm in Patterdale on what was the coldest night of the trip.

I woke early and the tent was frozen inside and out, and my platy had a Slush Puppy like filling. From Patterdale I picked up the path that runs along Grisedale and up to the tarn. This is a steady climb but the path runs on the south side of the valley so I was in shade until the path cuts across just below the Outward Bound hut.

I was glad to finally feel the suns warming rays after spending much of the route in the frozen shade. On reaching the tarn I unpacked my still frozen tent and put it out to dry. I put on a brew and ate lunch but declined to have a paddle and took a snooze instead. From the Tarn the path leads up to Grisdale Hause once there I opted for a scramble up to Fairfield (873m) which may have not been the best idea as the path was very steep and made of scree. Two legs bad; two legs and both arms good in this case. Once on top the weather started to deteriorate – in true Lake District fashion. I picked my way south along this summit ridge picking off the summits of Hart (822m) and Dove (792m) Crags before descending a scree slope and crossing a boulder field into Rydal Fell.

It was now late afternoon and finding a level, dry spot here was a challenge in its own right. I made it halfway down the fell before I managed to find a pitch, by then it was dark. I wasted no time getting the tent up as the temperature had dropped steeply and due the surrounding marsh like valley floor it was not only cold but damp cold. Interestingly enough by the time food was cooked and eaten the air temperature had gone up to 5c which was warmer than it had been the evening before. After supper I lounged in my sleeping bag with the tent door open and watched the almost full moon peer around the clouds that scudded across the night sky. I celebrated the moment, and my last night in the Lakes, with a dram or two of whiskey.

The settled weather that I had enjoyed on the early part of this trip had gone; the back of the fell, and the summits that I had walked over the afternoon before, were hidden in cloud. It didn’t matter; this was my last morning and I’d be heading back to London that afternoon. In less than two hours I was in Ambleside and made my way to the quay for the final part of the trip – a 35 minute boat trip down the Lake to Bowness. Spots of rain chased some of the less hardy tourists below decks from the open topped boat but I was buoyed (!) up with a winter warmer (a coffee and cream with a dash of whiskey) bought from the cafĂ© on the pier.

This was the first time I’d backpacked in the Lakes. It’s also the first time that I bagged summits as a backpacker too. The Lakes are easy to reach by train from London with the outbound journey time of 3 hours 20 minutes making it better than going by car. However the homeward journey was 2 hours longer due extensive engineering works that always seem to plague the rail network in this country at weekends.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Colorado or bust

Greetings from the US of A.

With another 100 mile section in the bag I have completed my first months hiking with 500 miles done. Top stuff! I’m nearly hitting my 20 miles a day target which I need to do this to have any chance of getting through Colorado before the white stuff comes down big time.

Lots of 7000 ft passes have got my heart pumping, and so far have been up two 8000ft mountains and the other day scrambled up to 9300ft on West Pintler Peak. There was an awesome view from the top and this is my biggest peak yet, so a great first month. Overall it has been very tough, challenging but really enjoyable… awesome experience.

Meeting some real characters too, like the guy the other day called Marcus from California, who said he spends weeks at a time in the desert.
‘Scorpions man...the oldest form of life on the planet’
‘A bit like humans,’ I said.
‘Critters,’ he added......'I like them and they like me!’
He would have made a great extra out of the Doors film (Surely Apocalypse Now - Ed.) Said he had written a book and called it ‘Unfit’ when I said I am going to write one too he said, ‘how about calling it Fit.’ It was one of those strange moments.

Yesterday I was woken by two ‘weird’ massive birds staking across the meadow like a couple of pterodactyls. If only I had bought a crossbow.

Still playing it safe, hanging my food in the trees. The other day I saw the biggest bear turd yet that could have filled a small bucket. I thought must be ‘big daddy black bear’ for sure.

I’m getting prepared for two 120 mile sections. And I’m sure there will be some stories to tell and hopefully internet access somewhere along the way so that I can pass them on. It’s currently 95F out there but there are still large areas of snow on the mountains.

If you do something......enjoy it!


Sunday, 27 July 2008

Devil's Punch Bowl

The last few weeks have been consumed by hectic domestic activity so it was something of a relief to find that we had some time to go for a walk. Flicking through Penny's library of Surrey walks we decided to pick a route that tramped around the Devil's Punch Bowl. So I loaded a small day sack with some munchies and two litres of water stuffed Harry, Penny's Lurcher, in the back of the truck and set off for Hindhead.

Thankfully the route follows mostly woodland paths so shade was had for much of the six or so miles of the circuit but out on the rim of the bowl by the W A Robertson memorial it felt almost Mediterranean. On the open heathland stretches the path was bordered by bilberries which were in fruit, these are like mini blueberries and we stained our fingers purple picking them.
The outbound path heads north up the west side finally dropping down through a dusty rock strewn gully of a bridleway. A number of the larger blocks showing signs of scrapes where mountain bike bottom brackets had left paint in their passing. (The guide book says take care along this bit in wet weather and it would be difficult terrain if muddy.) From the road the circuit heads east following track and byways to pick up a path that heads south along the east side of the bowl and back to the National trust car park on the A3.

Sandals weren't the most ideal footwear to be wearing on this route as many of the tracks were dusty, gritty or surfaced with golf ball sized aggregate. Nor were they ideal for when the path went through bracken. Harry refused to take point, so we didn't have the luxury of him in front to scare any snakes off, so I was being especially careful where to place my feet. We didn't see any but whilst picking our way through the bracken we disturbed a muntjac deer.

Back at the car park we had a refreshing pot of tea before heading off.

Friday, 25 July 2008

multimat II

The mat arrived this morning – having unpacked it and stuck it on my postal scales I was very surprised to find that it weighed in at 386g; a few grams under the claimed weight. Happy with that and the 80g saving it gives me over my old purple one.

The mat was supplied with a pair of elastic straps, a repair kit (a nice touch) and a stuff sack that is slightly over sized. As I’m in the office I wasn't able to inflate it to test it’s comfort until now (lunchtime.) I cant state whether it's any more comfortable than the ultralight 3/4 thermarest that it replaces but the extra length for me is a real bonus. Hope the extra length doesn't bugger up it's integration with the OMM rucksack I bought recently though.

post script - I took down the dimensions from the multimat website but having matched it against a 3/4 length thermarest the difference in length is in fact minimal.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

the sound of banjo's

In his attempt to out run a storm Dry Foot Wet Foot meets a potential president of the good ol' US of A...

Hi Guys,

In town again. Had a bit of an experience yesterday. Hiking towards town had done maybe 15 miles with 15 to go. Got GPS out and did an 'as the crow flies' measurement which read 18 miles. (Real accurate stuff) After another couple of miles I noticed clouds building maybe 30 miles away then few miles on I thought this is not right. An old couple pulled up and offered me a ride and assistance so I told them I was a CDT hiker. As I spoke to them another couple of guys in a pickup pulled up and offered them assistance. So they all listened to my story, etc. After a few minutes they drove off with the old guy saying, 'when you get to Dry Springs don’t stop there as there’s a funny farm and if they hear you they might just keep you there!' OK I thought.

Anyhow, to cut a long story short... the storm got nearer and I got further from my destination. I was on the wrong road.

I took a 'short cut' across some fields, which turned out to be about 5 miles across. As I hurried across to the other side where it dropped to the valley I noticed the only way was straight down a farm driveway. So with trying to shut thoughts off about the farmer’s wife taking me out with a machine gun I thought I would give the 'I’m a lost English man' routine (well I was after all!)

So I escaped down the long driveway towards the freeway with driving rain now on me and thunder kicking off in all directions, including above me! What to're not supposed to hide under a tree....I couldn’t set up my tent on private land (signs everywhere) so I made for the highway bridge A lady pulled up to offer a ride but she was going the other way. So I started hitching the 20miles to town. (This was a life and death situation guys and I was 10 miles off course!) Eventually a car stopped which was being driven by a middle aged guy with lots of leaflets on the seat of his beat up Cadillac. Seemed a normal guy – at first. Said he was canvassing for the local election. So I thought he was like a local councillor or something. As we drove into town he started pointing out various things of interest adding a Phhhtinnggg (a sound like a gun going off to the end of every sentence, and pointing his hand like a gun!)
'So there’s the local smelter factory – Phhhhtinnngggg,' he said.
'Oh that’s nice,' I said (what else could you say!)
'There’s MacDonald’s – PhhhhtinnnGGG,' (slightly louder) he said.
'There’s the hospital if you are thinking of getting sick. – Phhhhtinnn-GGGGGGGG!' he said even louder.
He then said, 'you can stay at mine place. I would use the cell phone to tell Mary but I haven't got one – PhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhtinnnGGGGGGGGGGG-GGGGGG!
Needless to say I declined the offer!! I said drop me at the RV park for camping and so he drove me to the local park as there were camping spots there.
'Is this it? – PhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhtinnnGGGG!’ he said. I jumped out in town, and hurried to a motel.
His final words were, 'if I see you again, I will pick you up again!'
'Yes thanks bye then,' I replied and I breathed a sigh of relief. Was he from the funny farm? Who knows? I had a good nights sleep in the Motel though. Must do some miles now.



Tuesday, 22 July 2008


Just ordered one of the superlite compact 25 mats from for £29.99 P&P free. I'll pop it straight on the scales to see whether the reported weight is as low as they claim.


This one is an antidote to all those tomato based ones that I seem to keep making...

Butter beans and Leeks

Can of butter beans (drained and rinsed)
three leeks, thinly sliced
2 tsp of dijon mustard
1/4 pint stock (low salt)
1/4 pint cider (a decent one not sprongbow!)
small bunch of parsley, chopped
freshly ground pepper

Stick all ingredients in a pot, bring to boil and simmer for 30 or so minutes until reduced and leeks cooked. Season and dry. Serves one.

Monday, 21 July 2008

dry foot wet foot

Andy has found his Trail Name, meets a suicidal Dutch section hiker and more... read on.

Hi all,

Hope all is well in the motherland. I have now completed about 350 miles, and what a journey so far.

Had my first bear encounter the other day and managed to avoid him by about 200 yards. I spotted him (or her?) walking along the trail towards me up at about 6000 feet in the middle of a very hot day – bears are not supposed to be there. There was a strong cross wind so my pepper spray would have been as useful as trying to spray paint a car in a wind tunnel. I had a cliff below, a steep one about 200 yards above me, and I couldn't go back as apparently they are like dogs and will follow. I breathed a sigh of relief when I was several miles away. Just the previous day a ranger showed me a stuffed adult grizzly that had been hit by a truck. He joked with me about watching out for its twin brother, which ironically my bear looked like this!

Anyhow I entered the Bob Marshall Wilderness and covered 120 miles before seeing a road. In fact I only saw about 10 people the whole way. Went through maybe 40 miles of burnt forest had to negotiate many wind blown areas and ford rivers. I was worried about this as I had heard tales of others that had already given up because of the terrain. Still the late start made them well safe to cross. Sorted!

Now the challenge had turned to heat and lack of water, had 20 miles the other day without any, which is good training for the desert areas to come.

I hiked 'the Bob' with Arlette a Dutch girl whose trail name was 'Apple Pie', who got fed up with her friend Rhino who was not very talkative. Worst of all Rhino would not hang her food, and would eat food in tent – that’s like suicide in bear country!! Needless to say I was nervous when we shared the same campsite. Arlette has gone back to California now and I m on my own again, busy making up songs like:
Insect Paranoia
Yeti yeti yeti man
Grissly grissly
The mosquito
I will let you know when the album is released.
I had a good chat with two guys from Arizona who were 'prospecting' before getting back to my 20 miles a day routine, which I am just about hitting now.

What a country, people, landscape – absolutely top notch!

Trail Name – Dry Foot Wet Foot

Thursday, 17 July 2008


Lazy chilli

Can of borlotti beans (drained and rinsed)
Jar of Discovery Chilli cooking sauce
500g soya mince (made up weight)
Thinly sliced mushrooms (optional)
Diced red/green pepper (optional)

Make up the soya mince, mix with spice mix, saute mushies and pepper (if using) in some olive oil in sauce pan. Add soya mince and stir. Add jar of sauce and borlotti beans and simmer for twenty or so minutes until done. Weigh out two portions making note of weight and then dry.

Bean Chasseur

Can of borlotti beans (drained and rinsed)
Thinly sliced mushrooms
Thinly sliced onion (med)
Two cloves of garlic crushed
Glass of white wine
250ml of stock (low salt)
Two tablespoons of tomato puree
black pepper to season

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a wide pan, when very soft (don't brown) add mushies and cook until soft. Turn up heat and add wine and allow to bubble, add remaining ingredients and stir. Season with pepper and cook for twenty to thirty minutes or so until sauce is reduced. I prefer this to be cooked until quite thick. Make note of weight and then dry. Makes one portion.

another eureka moment

Another eureka moment on my bike on the way into work this morning. If I time my arrival in Edale for midday on the first day I can start up the Pennine Way and camp at a little spot I know that's past the Kinder Downfall. This saves travelling up the evening before. And would also take the bite out the first leg between Edale and Crowden, which according to the Cicerone guide is something of a baptism of fire.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


I took a peak at Alan Sloman’s LEJOG schedule first thing this morning as he’d mentioned incorporating the Pennine Way into his walk. Looking at his route overall it looked as if he’d planned his walk to maximise the number of bank holidays available in spring. It then struck me that perhaps September wouldn’t the best time for me to do this and that May, with its two bank holidays three weeks apart, would be a better option. I’d save some leave for a start and now, being only ten months off, seems more timely and achievable.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

best piece of kit

what's my favourite piece of kit? Is it a sleeping bag? No. Item of clothing? Nada. Stove? Nein. Tent? Nope.

My favourite bit of kit has helped liberate me from trawling shops (online, and bricks and mortar) looking for elusive packets of suitable ingredients to make lightweight meals. I am, of course, referring to the dehydrator that I purchased from Bob at BPL a couple of years ago.

I make my own gluten free food from scratch, usually vegetarian because meat is such a pain to reconstitute. Soya mince is great for chilli and bolognaise, and lentils (split red) for dahl. White basmati rice cooked, dried and added to your chilli or dahl makes a complete meal - at the end of a hard day these take hardly any effort to make into a hot filling meal. Cooking time is kept to a minimum by using a cozy, so fuel is also saved.

I'll post some recipes like the borlotti bean chasseur at some point.

Monday, 14 July 2008

bob marshall wilderness

Andy 'Wild' West has added to his blog see link on right of page for the update. Regular readers of the TGO forum may remember him as devon andy...

the cunning plan

Now that I’ve plotted various alternative stopping points along the way I’ll dig the map measurer out of my kit box and build rough itinerary – I have 19 days to get from start to finish which is ample. I’m going to carry six days food and pack two food parcels which will need posting out, but to where?

On previous trips I’ve posted parcels to the halfway point but these have been on paths that had more tightly defined itineraries. As I’m taking a more flexible approach this time I could find myself ahead (or even behind) schedule. The only problem comes if I’m struggling or the weather is that bad that I have to sit it out so I can’t get to the food pick up point before running out of food.

I must state at this time that the reason for going to all this trouble is due to the fact that I’m an insulin dependent diabetic who also suffers from coeliac disease. The upshot of this that I have to have regular meals that are also gluten free, living off food stuff found in village stores isn’t an option. If I do find something I can eat it’s a bonus.

I’m planning this as a solo venture and with the diabetes having a potentially dangerous impact I’m going to be checking in with ‘base camp’ on a regular basis. When I do I can ask my partner, Penny, to post a food parcel when I need one – that’s my cunning plan.

I’m planning to write about the trip so I’m off to do some research on mobile blogging.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

OMM Villain 45L+10RL MSC

I mentioned that I was going to write a review of this rucksack but as I have only used it on day trips so far this is a purely first impressions one.

The biggest selling point for me is the fact that you can fold down a ¾ length Thermarest and replace the PlatFormat back support that comes with the bag. How effective the Thermarest is as an alternative to the much stiffer and stay reinforced PlatFormat remains to be seen but I’m hopeful that it will do the job. Replacing the pad reduces the weight of the bag, and as you use the pocket for the back support it tucks neatly away freeing up space in the main compartment that the mattress would’ve taken up.

Other key features include the two hip belt pockets that have a key clip each. They will swallow six 50g cereal bars a piece. And if you don’t use them for stashing food the key clips can be used to for securing keys (obviously) or other valuable kit that have lanyards attached.

The lid pocket can be opened whilst still wearing the rucksack although how useful this aspect is I’m not so sure but I guess that depends on what gets stowed there. There’s another key clip and the usual twin daisy chain for attaching crampons. The only downside is that the pocket is too small to hold a map.

There’s an internal bladder pocket with ports both left and right that will hold a 2L platypus. And for those who prefer to use water bottles there are two mesh side pockets that are easily reached and will hold a 1L bottle. Alternatively as they have bungee closures they could be used for stashing even more cereal bars or other bits and pieces that you may want to get your hands on throughout the day. There is also another bladder pocket on the side that is accessed with a side entry zip, I can’t see the benefit of this given the other options but others might. I have found the pocket a useful parking place for items like tent pegs and zip access to the main compartment is useful.

The ice tool retaining straps can be removed to save weight when not in use. As can the top compression/retaining cord if not required. This cord can be rigged to help hold a tent or rolled mat on the top of the main compartment under the lid. But it doesn’t seem substantial enough to me to hold in place a climbing rope however.

Another detachable item is the MSC (multi sports compressor) it’s a compression panel that has a mesh pocket (with yet another key clip) that can be used to stash items behind it like a helmet, snow shovel, and the alike.

The beauty of this bag is that it can be modified to suit your needs, and to illustrate this there is a thirteen page PDF product manual that can be downloaded from the OMM website that goes through the various options of reducing weight or modifying the bag for carrying skis, ice tools and other kit.

A very favourable impression of the Villain and I’m looking forward to loading it up and seeing how the bag performs on a trip or two.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

finding the plot

Spent time on the train this morning plotting campsites on the southern section map that I'd found from various sources. This exercise has proved to be very reassuring as the guide book and maps gave the impression that there is a dearth of campsites along certain sections of the way and I was expecting to have to do some really long days, which I want to avoid.

The additional stopping points I've plotted allows a more flexible approach, rather than the 'day one get to here' type approach I'm used to using. I just have to make sure wherever I am on day six is where my food parcel is going to be. And this is where my cunning plan comes into play...

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

food for thought

It doesn't require much thought to work out that carrying three weeks food is plain and simply mad. I do have a Lowe Alpine 65l rucksack that would swallow my kit and two weeks food but why?

Last year I walked Hadrian's Wall Path and used a 45l rucksack, in which I fitted my kit and six days food, well the tarp tent and thermarest were strapped on the outside at the start. Unfortunately the rucksack wasn't up to carrying that kind of load - not it's fault it wasn't designed for that sort of thing. (Gear heads - it was a Berghaus GR45.)

This got me thinking about how much I'd be prepared to carry and with what. I bought a Gregory Z55 last summer because the hipbelt would cope with the load and I 'd have a couple more litres of space for longer or winter trips. However I never really got on with it; I just found it impossible to pack to my liking, bizarre as that might seem. So I started looking for a replacement for the Berghaus but with a hipbelt to cope with the weight of my kit and six days food, and some pockets to put munchies in.

Bob at BPL mentioned that the OMM Villain might suit as you can replace the back panel with a 3/4 thermarest and I was sold - there's one less thing strapped on the outside for a start, and a weight saving too. It has a host of other features that I could rave about but I'll post a review under 'Gear' at sometime.

So rucksack sorted and a decision on how much food to start off with made.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

CDT update

Email received from Andy 'Wild' West.

Hey all,

Have just arrived in East Glacier after a fantastic, and steady trip through GNP. Have hiked through for 6 1/2 days, and covered some 4 high passes approx 7000 ft+. A good learning curve what with having to use ice axe and crampons on many occasions. Totally mind blowing park, with the towering peaks of the divide forming the route from the border. Took me 4 days to get here, I think, what with a flight cancelled and a 9hr wait at Denver airport, fun! What with not much sleep and jet lag and being sick the week before I was happy to delay the start for a few days. Had to wait to get permits and then got dropped by the border for a picture. Apparently another CDT hiker Richard, had 2 adult grisslies walk 20 yards past him in this location, just 10 minutes into his hike. Needless to say I was bricking it. Anyhow all has gone well, including getting over a river on a tree, and scaling a 1000 ft snow slope, don't worry it was safe to do! Yesterday ran out of a valley with thunderstorms chasing me - it beats watching Eastenders. Haven't seen a bear yet but have heard them whooping, singing and yupping like lunatics at every corner. Loads of scat, paw prints, and tree scratches and big smells like a zoo (not me!)

Have met some great people too along the way so haven't felt lonely. All round top trip so far and about to enter the Bob Marshall wilderness on Monday.

Its going to be interesting for sure.


Friday, 4 July 2008

planning and preparation

The last couple of weeks I've been pulling bits and pieces together. Downloading PDF's from the Nat Trails website and reading the Cicerone guide to get an idea of how to tackle the route. I've also bought the set of Harvey's maps and am currently looking at camping spots along the way. The Backpackers Club publishes the farm pitch and LDP directories which I'm going to use to indentify alternatives to the camp sites already marked on the map. Once this is done I'll look at how to break the route down into stages.

I'm going to take three weeks off work; this will give me 21 days to walk the 268 miles with rest days, and I'll have to allow 2 days for travel to the start and back from the finish.

Once the stages are loosely thought out I'll turn my thought to food and supplies. More on this later.

sea to summit sil-nylon dry bags

Same as the exped ones but lower in weight - exped 8l 52g; sea2summit 8l 32g (my weight.) Colours are a bit garish the 8l bag is a loud green. But hey it's not the colour that keeps your kit dry.