Friday, 29 August 2008

damn fine coffee

I've noticed over the last week or so that there has been a few posts about coffee.

There's the flash funky espresso maker that litehiker found. At nearly 500g and at €99 way too heavy and expensive for my taste. I've watched the video clip several times now and am amazed that all you need to do is wave the end at a cup and the coffee appears.

Then there's java juice that Darren has been sampling. Despite the fact that the product is liquid I'd probably give a couple of sachets pack space on a weekend trip. Some hard nosed weight saving fanatics might balk at the idea; then again they'd most likely be instant coffee drinkers (enough said.)

I own a GSI mini espresso maker that I use on car camping trips. It's surprisingly quick and effective but you only get a wee amount of coffee for your trouble.

For all other trips I pack the MSR Mug Mate. It fits awkwardly in my Snow Peak 600 mug which is too wide for it to bridge across - I'm sure that there's a modification to be made here - but I get that mug of damn fine coffee in the morning. I don't bother with the lid/base thing so I get to save a few grams too.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

continental divide home sick blues

Friends and family,

I am well and good but unfortunately unable to give you a proper update due to limited time (in the damn library!) I should have more time at next town.

Quickly though have just completed 250 miles without a town nor rest
day... ouch. Have done over a 1000 miles! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!

Get ready for the stories...
'Escape from Bear (Scat) Valley!'
'The never ending bull field.'
Plus other things I'm sure in the next 85 miles. Also looking forward to crossing a small semi desert region called the 'great divide basin.' Rattlers and scorpions Watch out!

I've away two months now and I'm missing some things like mad;
family and friends, Indian food, Guinness, English bird song, pg tips, roast dinners, English humour, and more.

Don't take these things for granted!


Wednesday, 27 August 2008


Something I some times dabble with.

I got a Geko 201 for Christmas a couple of years ago and not long after I read an article in one of the broadsheets where they posted the web site. Initially I started looking for caches to learn how to use the device but it soon developed into a way of keeping my son entertained.  We'd spend sunny afternoons trekking back and forward over bits of west London parkland hunting carefully hidden Tupperware treasure troves. And having a GPS with me gave an accurate tally of the number of miles we were walking in our searches.

If you have kids, a GPS, and find that throwing a Frisbee along a footpath has lost it's edge in getting them walking then try and see if you can get them out caching.


Ultralight waterproof gear has a new use...

Already tackled by Nick Crane in Two Degrees West and possibly by many slavishly following their sat nav's - swimhiking makes a splash on the BBC web site.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

another way with rice

Chilli Chicken


half a red pepper, diced

half a courgette, diced

two tomatoes, cut into eighths

two chargrilled chicken breasts, sliced

a sachet of Tilda Rice with pinto beans and chilli

olive oil

Put a dash of oil in a pan, saute red pepper and courgette until soft. Add chopped tomato and continue to stir until softened. Add chicken and stir. Massage sachet to remove lumps and empty contents into pan. Mix well and stir until rice separated and food is piping hot.

As with all these dishes they serve two, or one very hungry backpacker. Use one chicken breast if you wish, if cooking for one.

Disclaimer -- these dishes aren't ultra lightweight but are created to make simple, tasty, quick cook meals with a minimum of fuss. Using fresh ingredients that could be picked up from a village or campsite shop, or carried if your trip is one or two nights long.

stone circles and a circular walk

During the many downpours the evening before we ate curry, studied the map and devised a route that would capture the monuments and sites in the area we wanted to visit.

Leaving the car at Overton Hill we popped over the A4 to the Sanctuary the site of a stone circle, the stones of which long vanished. From there we followed a track down to the Kennet, a thin sliver of a river, and onto the poorly way marked White Horse Trail. The trail leads back to the A4 by Silbury Hill but not before a short detour to West Kennet Long Barrow was taken. The weather continued to improve and the weak showers got weaker and fewer as the day progressed.

From the bizarrely out of place conical shaped Silbury Hill the trail follows the Kennet into Avebury where we stopped for tea. After a quick circuit of the stone circle we picked up the trail again and followed it out to Windmill Hill. This is probably the least visited site in the area as it involves more than the usual 50m walk from the car park! Which is a shame as the views from here across to the Ridgeway and south towards Silbury Hill are quite pleasant.

At Windmill Hill we opted for a route change. Rather than head further north to pick up the Ridgeway at Monkton Down we'd drop down and pick up the Wessex Ridgeway and follow this back through Avebury and onto the Ridgeway as it crosses Avebury Down.

By now the late afternoon sun was blazing away so we took a refreshment break in Avebury as we passed through before rejoining the various Ridgeway's and following them back to Overton Hill.

base layer review

Berghaus Tech T long sleeved zip neck top and The North Face Seamless briefs.

The 'Tech' refers to the technical fibre that the top is made out of which basically inhibits smells. I wore this top for a week on St Cuthbert's Way (including sleeping in it) and at the end of the week there was no discernable smell.  Berghaus clothing isn't cut to fit my thin, lanky frame but the medium was long enough in the sleeves and body, and baggy enough for my liking. At £25 before discounts it's good value for money when it comes to base layers, and at 230g (medium) an acceptable weight.

The briefs are part of the fast and light offering from TNF and at 25g for a medium sized pair they are one of the lightest bits of underwear that you can find. CT in a review for TGO magazine stated that the material has a tendency to pong - it's good old polypro after all. However because they are so light I found that if you gave them a wash at the end of the day they'll be dry enough to wear the following morning.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

south downs way update

Received an email from Christine (Roche) yesterday evening. She's now out of hospital after having her patella wired. Here's a quote from the email that shows her determination to get back on her feet, "...and I do feel quite cheerful because I am making progress and yesterday I was delighted to crutch my way up all 13 stairs. In hospital before going home you are supposed to 'manage stairs.' This practice on just a few on a sort of small model staircase of 4 up and 4 down."

She may be off crutches by the time the Backpackers Club Buxton to Roaches weekend that she organises comes around but is doubtful that she'll be able to participate.

Hope you'll join me in wishing her a speedy recovery.

pennine way companion

As recommended, I ordered the above book from amazon and it turned up this morning. I've had a flip through and one passage has already caught my attention, "As an example; after the long crossing from Teesdale to Dufton, a hard day's walk in itself, the ultimate objective is further away at supper than it was at breakfast."

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

talking about food

Sample of conversation from a climbing club meet in Northumberland...
'Oh, what you cooking?'
'Couscous,' I replied.
'Bit bland that stuff, cant eat it.'
'It's not bland if you add some toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese to it.'
'Cant be bothered with all that messing around, I'm off to the pub.'

Later that evening in the pub, 'How was the food?' I asked.
'Alright, not great, expensive...'
'The couscous were good; I added some chick peas and tomato to them, and job done.'

Friday, 15 August 2008

wyoming; yellowstone west

A more upbeat report from 'Wild' West as he bids farewell to Montana...

Hi all,

I’ve got to be quick as I’ve got 1/2 hour max in this library.

One thing about the CDT is to expect the unexpected.

I woke up at 5am yesterday for an early start to get up high. Reached near the divide at 8.30 and while viewing the route and scenery I thought,
'That haze looks thick. Hmm, very thick, hmm, actually looks more like smoke! Hmm, so I stood there for 10 minutes or so trying to work out if it was smoke or haze as it was about 15 miles away, by then some of the 'haze’ had drifted into a nearer valley.

The saying is no smoke without fire and my thought was, ‘There’s no English man getting fried like a marshmallow in a forest fire.’

So I pulled out the maps and worked out best plan of action for a bail out; checking the wind direction, water options, and road options. And made like Forest Gump. After an hour I had covered 6 miles pretty easily and ran into a rancher. Sure enough there was a fire about 12 miles away but no panic as it was contained.

Despite this I continued with my 30 mile detour route sometimes jogging then walking. On the road (gravel unmade) I tried to hide visions of 'Fargo' and 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.'

The route I planned took me through big open fields, the odd way out farm ranch type scenery; cows, pine forests, etc. A car pulled up in it a guy younger than me said, ‘Can I help you sir?' His name was TJ Clark and he seemed a friendly guy (I couldn't see any guns through the window.)
'Do you have anything to keep the wolves off, sir?' he asked. Err no,’ I replied. ‘Do you have anything to keep the grizzlies off, sir?' he asked. ‘Spray,’ I replied, thinking ok, forest fire, wolves and grizzlies, now that’s a days work.

I then chatted to him on the subject and showed him my pepper spray. Turns out some local guys working on the ranch nearby saw wolves every day. He said someone was attacked last winter. I don’t know though it may have been a wind up. He then gave me a bottle of water to help me on my way. So, anyhow, I decided to pack the running in and walk – running from bears and wolves is the worst thing you can do.

I spoke to a ranger down the road who confirmed the fire was just a little one. And he said, ‘You’re in grizzly territory now boy!’

So here I am in West Yellowstone about to embark on the final miles before Wyoming. I'm really excited at the prospect of completing my first state. I have my permits for Yellowstone, washed all clothing and pack, sorted food supplies, and had some big hearty meals. In the ranger station I had to watch the 'bear video' where they say things like, if a grizzly attacks be calm, lay on the ground and cover your head and neck – what! As he chews your arms!

This is all exciting stuff, but don’t worry I will be fine.

It may be a long way down the road before I’ll get a chance to send in an update.


Tuesday, 12 August 2008


My suddenly dodgy knee has planted a seed of doubt about my fitness and ability to cope with the ups and downs of the Pennine Way. It took me a couple of years to get it back to coping with shortish day walks, and as mentioned, I've done many a mile over the last few years without worry.

Several people have stated that it's because I've started cycling to work and this has caused new stress on the joint. I kind of have to agree with them as I've been over doing it on the off road tracks through Richmond Park and along the Thames.

I bought a neoprene knee support in Keswick and managed a number of short walks in the Lakes around Tarn Hows, Castlerigg and Aira Force all without any hassle before returning home. So I'm hoping it's was just a warning to take it easier on the peddling until the joint has time to adjust and strenghten.

Monday, 11 August 2008

magic ingredient

Alan Kesselheim had his tamari, Derrick Booth his mixed herbs, and John Hee his Schwartz instant mash perker upper.

Me? My magic ingredient is chorizo.

Dice it and heat in a pan, add a chopped tomato or two, and some diced red or green pepper. Within a few minutes you'll have a tasty pasta sauce. Of course some of Derrick's mixed herbs wouldn't go a miss here either, but I don't think the tamari would work and John's mash mix isn't gluten free.

buffalo gravy and barbeque sauce

Tough times for the intrepid Mr West. And a reminder to consider donating to the charity that he's raising money for.

Hi all,

Finally made it to a PC.

Been really tough here, and literally been a few weeks of ups and downs. Last week my mum had another stroke, so I thought about flying home. Fortunately she has made a real good recovery in the past few days.

Here it’s been really tough, it would make Bear Grylls shudder in his Goretex! Tough terrain, sketchy trail – where is the goddamn trail – for up to 10 mile sections. Massive thunderstorms and news of others giving up (I’ve heard that there’s less than 10 north southers left on the CDT now.)

One day I did over 10,000ft of ascent and descent all due to thunderstorms. Shattered by the end of the day, and then up at 5am the following morning to get the miles in before the storms hit again. Yesterday a big storm missed me by 5 miles – hailstones like gobstoppers!! Thank you God!

On the plus side lots of wildlife; elk, deer, antelope, eagles, hawk, my first snake plus I heard wolves one morning, and I think a coyote outside the tent yapping!

Soon will be back in Grizzly territory, fun!

Bo says barbeque sauce is the key (presumably to put them off not invite them to eat you with it – Ed.) I think I should wash the buffalo gravy from my clothes before getting out there again.

Take care.


place fell and ullswater

The day dawned dry and overcast - the sun from yesterday long forgotten.

Place fell sits to the east of Ullswater and the walking guide promised unfolding views of Hellvelyn, Fairfield and Ullswater so this route was a natural choice given our location. We headed up the path from the farm to Boardale Hause and it was along here that we spotted a red squirrel bounding along a dry stone wall - my first sighting of one in the wild. As we gained height Brothers Water hove into view. Unfortunately after taking a quick snap my camera batteries failed. From the ruins of the chapel the path heads north to the summit of Place Fell (657m) on the way we passed a solitary worker building steps to counter the erosion of the way. After a short scrambly section we were on the summit plateau. From the top the path drops down to a saddle to the east of High Dodd. We were following our noses at this point and rather than follow the path down to Cat Crag we continued on over Sleet Fell (378m) and descended to the path that runs along the lake and back to our starting point. It was here that disaster struck, on the decent my left knee started to hurt. An old climbing injury that hadn't bothered me over all the miles and mountains I'd walked these last few years suddenly just flared up. To add to the misery it had also started to rain. The guidebook claimed that this is one of the most picturesque routes in the lakes. It did remind me of the West Highland Way where it follows the edge of Loch Lomond and there are a couple of places where you can stop and enjoy the view. Sadly I was in no mood to enjoy the scenery wanting just to hobble back to the campsite and take some pain killers and rest my leg.


Before the off we were putting paint on doors...

After an uneventful journey north we booked into Side Farm in Patterdale, miraculously finding an almost level site. Glorious evening sun drew the day to a close...

Saturday, 9 August 2008

quick food ideas

Rice is nice.

Several supermarkets are doing deals on microwave rice pouches. These are ideal for creating quick and easy supper dishes, not overly lightweight but for a couple of nights out they save cooking and drying meals or using up precious dried food stock.

Here's an example - Tijuana Tuna.

You'll need a Mexican rice pouch, a ziplock bag, a can of tuna (in oil), a red pepper and a can of beans (borlotti is my preferred legume.)

Dice the red pepper, open and drain the tuna and put both in the ziplock bag. Add the contents of the rice to the ziplock bag and seal. Gently massage the ziplock bag to mix and break up any chunks in the rice.

To eat - bring approx 3 tablespoons (45ml) of water to boil in a pan, add contents of ziplock bag and stir until heated through. Will serve two or one very hungry backpacker.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Lakes August 2008

Struggled through the day tying up loose ends at work so that I can take a week off trouble free.

We haven't really planned anything other than we're driving up to the lakes Monday and putting our heads around the door of Alan and Heather of pacer poles fame to say 'Hi!'

Makes a mental note to print kit list before leaving...

It's looking increasingly unlikely that we'll be joining Christine, Brian and Jill for the weekend, who set out from Eastbourne yesterday lunchtime along the South Downs Way. The house is still in turmoil as it's in the process of being made over to entice prospective buyers, so there's work that needs to be completed before the off.

I'm going to enjoy the break (he says in a mantra must believe kind of fashion)