Monday, 16 March 2015

Sogginess in the Lakes

This was the first time it was dry enough to get the camera out - me in the Z Packs Challenger Death Jacket on the side of Catbells

Planning a trip for March is always a risky business.  The weather can be great. It can also be terrible.  Having arranged to meet up with Robin Evans  for a three day outing, and having booked Hyperdog into the kennels so I didn’t have to sleep snuggled up to what is, even in the best of conditions, a wet, muddy and wriggling wriggly licky thing, I was somewhat committed to making the trip last week.  Over the few days leading up to the off the weather forecast moved from ‘calm and fair’ to ‘very wet and very windy’.  As I have not the slightest masochistic streak in me, the attractions of the trip diminished more and more as it came closer, and as the forecast changed from bad to torrid.

Robin had planned a three day route in the Lakes, starting at either Braithwaite or Little Town and involving Dale Head, Grey Knotts, Haystacks, the High Stile Ridge, Starling Dodd, Buttermere, Crag Hill and various bumps in between.  In the couple of days before we set off, the route, and our planned camps, got lower and lower, and when we finally met on the Wednesday morning in Braithwaite we had committed to nothing more for the first day than a walk south along the Cumbria Way into Langstrath.  So that was easy enough and, what is more, it was dry as we left the camp site, with no rain forecast for another two or three hours.
Fifteen minutes later the first drops of water started falling from the sky; ten minutes after that we had full waterproof gear on; and within another fifteen we were starting to think we might need the phone number of the RNLI to call for assistance.  As the rain increased in intensity so did the wind.  It was horrid.

Along the path next to Derwent Water we bumped in to an old colleague of mine, Mick Guy, from the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team with his Search and Rescue Border Collie. He cackled like a very mad madman when we explained we were camping out.  We got to Grange.  We went in the cafĂ© and ordered some lunch and generally dripped onto the table and the tiles.  We ate lunch.  Slowly.  We decided (well I did, but I think Robin was content with the decision) that a wild camp, even just in Langstrath, would be no fun and that we might be better back at the camp site in Braithwaite, which is only 200 metres from a pub.  Now you might think that is rather whimpy of me.  I think the opposite.  I was deciding to camp out in Braithwaite when I would be within twenty five minutes of my real bed and a log fire and a sofa and a fridge with beer and proper meat in it, and a wine rack with wine and a shelfy thing with whisky on it.  So that choice wasn’t whimpy.  It was steely.  Like the colour of my tent pegs.  The ones which complement my eyes so nicely.

Does my pack look big in this? Robin on the way back to Braithwaite

Derwent Water

Drying out in the Newlands Valley

So we headed back towards Braithwaite.  Firstly on the lane, then on the wall next to the lane, as by now the road was badly flooded in places, and then on the path that runs along the side of Catbells.  As we got towards Braithwaite it cleared up a little (of course it did, that’s what the weather does when it is being particularly malevolent) and the Newlands Fells looked quite splendiozy.

At the camp site Daphne Duplex was up in a thrice or two and Robin put up his new Tramplite tent and we did a bit of gasping and sighing and heavy breathing, what with all that glistening cuben fibre on display, and then we forgoed the temptation of a bar snack and had dehydrated things to eat and then seeing as how we had eaten dehydrated food it only seemed right to go to the pub to have some non-dehydrated drink and that’s what we did.
The Z Packs Duplex Death Tent in the murk at Braithwaite. And no Gordon, it didn't blow away.
The rather pleasant old Keswick to Threlkeld Railway path

The weather forecast remained awful for the Thursday, but with the possibility of a dry two or three hours first thing, then more heavy rain and wind and the possibility of snow overnight.  By now we were close to writing the whole thing off as a bad job and heading to our respective homes.  On the Thursday Robin wanted to have a lazier day at the tent and then possibly try for a wild camp if it remained reasonable, but I wanted to walk so I headed off alone and did a low level walk from Threlkeld, combining the old railway line path to Keswick with a diversion up Latrigg. And today the weather must have been feeling pretty guilty for its treatment of us the previous day, as apart from the little incident when it tried to blow me off the top of Latrigg it remained dry until I was taking my boots off back at the car, and then it did what it does best in the Lakes ie it tipped it down.
Keswick in the clag from Latrigg - where the wind was so strong it was almost unstandupable
And despite the apparent lack of endeavour in these two days I did walk a total of 32 km with 870 metres of uppy bits, and I did carry full backpacking gear on both days to give myself at least a semi-decent workout.

I've walked this path dozens of times but never noticed this before.  It had an old water pipe thing up the back and must once have had a tap or something on the front at the top. I think.

Thursday, 12 February 2015


A Frozed Up Angle Tarn
So yesterday evening I says to Hyperdog Moss “Where do you fancy going for walkies tomorrow?” and he just looks at me and wags his tail a bit, so I says “Come on help me out here, we have the whole of the Lake District or the North Pennines to choose from", but he just wags his tail a bit more and walks off and brings back Bill. Bill is one of his toys. It’s a sort of knobbly green rubber thing. Actually, there is no ‘sort of’ about it, it is a knobbly green rubber thing. I then had to throw Bill for him to catch for the next three hours and that was the end of that conversation.

So I had to choose. The day being claggy and generally yucky we decided not to drive too far and to stay relatively low, so we walked from Patterdale to Angle Tarn via Boredale Hause, as you do, it being the obvious way to go.

There was a lot more snow than this but that was until Hyperdog ate most of it
You can never have too many photos of Angle Tarn I say

The sun looked like it was coming out as we headed through Side Farm, but that was a trick it was playing on us, because the clag soon came back, along with intermittent snow showers.  Most of the snow had gone below the Hause, but there was some left above that, and a few icy stretches on the path, but nothing difficult that couldn’t be avoided so the spikes stayed in the pack. This lack of snow didn’t stop Hyperdog suddenly and inexplicably flying sideways off a grassy bank into a big drift, and not yet being an expert with snow he decided the best way to get out of the drift was to eat the snow which wasn’t very effective but he seemed to enjoy it.  When we got to the Tarn he also decided to test out the ice but I shrieked at him and he came back sheepish like and sheep dog like ie slinking like he was about to round me up. I explained the dangers to him but he just looked bored. Teenagers never take it in when you tell them of the dangers of whatever it is that you are telling them is dangerous but they usually learn eventually.

And then we went back down again.  As it was brightening up a bit, and we hadn’t gone too far when we were almost back in the valley, we took the higher path above Side Cottage and Side Farm that runs parallel to Ullswater and went over and down to Silver Bay and watched a group of youngsters having fun in a large rowing boat from the Outward Bound School on the other shore.  And that was it really, apart from my cunning trick of enticing Hyperdog in to the lake down in Glenridding by throwing a stick in for him to chase.  He thinks this is a game but it is really to get the mud off him and what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him as I always say.

Outward Bound - but not to Henley Royal Regatta any time soon

Ullswater, Glenridding, Sheffield Pike, Birkhouse Moor etc

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

TGO Challenge Training in the Snow

Helvellyn from Arthur's Pike

This blog is just a gratuitous excuse to post some photos taken on a couple of smashing walks I did this week in the Lake District.  The weather here has been winter at its best – very cold, dry air, and quite a decent amount of sunshine and brilliant blue skies, following a few days of snow.  This makes a wonderful change from the usual cold, grey and damp that is all too common at this time of the year. Views have been spectacular.  For the last couple of days the wind  has been moderate.  This is just as well, as when I left my cottage yesterday it was still minus six degrees at half nine in the morning. In these conditions the mountains are just fabulozy.

Looking over the Vale of Eden to Dunn Fell and Cross Fell in the Pennines

A Panorama over Ullswater from Helvellyn to Blencathra

As a weirdly obsessive maker of lists and keeper of records, I always log my walks in the hills. But these from the last two days have also been put down on the list of my training walks for the TGOC (The Great Outdoors Challenge).  This May I will be doing my third TGOC, walking coast-to-coast across Scotland.  If all goes to plan my chosen route will see me walking for fourteen days, a total of 322km (daily average is 23km) and climbing 9679 metres (daily average is 691m).  My longest planned day, distance wise, is 32 km but probably the toughest will involve 27km with 1172 metres of height gained.  This may be nothing to the tyros, but to me this really will be a challenge. 

I guess all Challengers will have their own approach to getting fit for the event.  Some will (or claim to) take the devil-may-care approach of going to the pub regularly, and will leave getting fit for the Challenge itself.  I reckon if I tried that I would be giving up by the first time I reached a place with public transport.  Others walk regularly enough in the hills with their backpacking gear not to need any special regime.  And others will do some form of training routine, its nature partly dictated by where they live and how easily they can get to the hills.

Blencathra from Arthur's Pike
For the past two years I started my training proper in the January before the event.  I probably averaged a training walk a week from January through to March.  Nothing spectacular or hard.  By ‘training walk’ I mean one where I put a pack on my back weighing about 10kg , with the weight provided by various tins of baked beans, tomatoes etc.  I tried to build up distance, time walked and height gained, although the latter was not always successful, given one of my favourite walks was along the Llangollen Canal where the only inclines are next to the locks.  Once the evenings started to become lighter (I am not in to lying in a tent for 14 long, damp hours in winter) I also managed a few nights out backpacking in the Lakes, including the 2014 memorable Pre- Challenge Daunder organised by Alan Sloman (who wrote up the experience as he imagined it to have been on his excellent blog, which can be found by following this link). An accurate account ie my own can be found here.  Few of my training walks reached the typical daily distance or height climbed on the Challenge.

A rare chance to practice in my crampons
I almost certainly didn’t do enough training in 2013 or 2014 and found the first couple of days on the Challenge quite tough.  But I did finish, so the routine just about worked for me. This year I was going to do more but, surprise surprise, so far I haven’t.  However, I am now trying to ratchet this up, and these fabulous short walks in the snowy Lake District Fells have spurred me on.  I will leave you with some more photos of my efforts…….

Hyperdog Moss admires the view from Arthur's Pike

A roll in the snow

The North Western Fells over the Vale of Keswick

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

MLD Trailstar, Oookstar Nest and Oooktub Groundsheet for Sale ALL NOW SOLD

My Trailstar and Oooknest in use in 2014 on the Wales Coastal Path
After much agonising I have decided to sell my Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar and custom built Oookworks 'Oookstar' single inner.  Both have had very little use. The Trailstar has only been out 10 nights; the Oookstar just 7.

Why am I selling this sought after combination, and why is it so little used? Quite simply, despite its justified popularity I am 6 foot 3 inches tall and have a recurrent lower back problem. I think the Trailstar / Oookstar combination is ideal for anyone up to about six foot or someone younger and more flexible than me! I have two other shelters which I find more comfortable for my height.

I also have for sale an Oookworks single person rectangular bathtub groundsheet which you can use with the Trailstar if you don't want to take the nest with you. It will also fit in tents such as the Akto or Scarp if you don't wish to use the inner.


Mountain Laurel Designs Trail Star in silnylon.

This shelter will need no introduction. I purchased it new in Summer 2012.  For anyone 6 foot or below it is absolutely superb. MLD describes the colour as grey. To me it looks a grey-green colour. That too is a problem as it doesn’t go well with my steely blue eyes. A bonus point for the puchaser is that it is seam sealed and I’ll throw this in for free (!!!). Guys also included but not pegs.

My Trailstar in Glen Tilt, 2012

Oookstar (single) for the above.  Purchased new in Spring 2013. Almost as legendary as the Trailstar, and now apparently unobtainable new.  This has a black chikara floor (less slippy than silnylon). The walls are a combination of mesh, white cuben fibre, and yellow rip stop nylon. This allows good ventilation whilst helping keeping draughts off you.  The top part of the nest is mesh.  The lower c40 cm of the door side (T Zip) is cuben fibre.  The lower c 55 cm of the opposite wall is in cuben fibre too.  The lower c55 cm of both end walls is in ripstop.  This was chosen because it is more breathable than cuben fibre and, thus, less likely to make the end of your sleeping bag damp if condensation is ever present.  On my kitchen scales it weighs in at 375 gr.

NB. The mesh got attacked by a cat on the day it was delivered to me when I was trying it out in the garden. Said cat made two tiny holes in the mesh (it also scared me witless as it was dark and I was asleep in it at the time and couldn't work out what was happening). One hole is about 2cm by 3mm; the other about 3mm diameter.  I have repaired these with clear tenancious tape patches of approx. 5 cm by 5 cm. I also put a small tenatious tape (about 5cm by 2cm) patch on a piece of mesh which I thought might have a small snag so it didn't start to run. The cat is still living and is very fortunate to be in my opinion. She is certainly down to eight lives.

The Oooknest hanging from my kitchen ceiling. Ok I didn't have a picture of it in action but you'll get the drift.  Photo taken when I was practicing to use it as a hanging bivi on an attempted free climb over several days of the legendary V Diff. 'Little Chamonix' on Shepherd's Crag, Borrowdale

You can just about make out the two patches over the repaired holes in the mesh on this photo.

Oook Tub: Used three times only – then I decided I preferred using the Oooknest.  Single size, silnylon groundsheet from Oookworks with its clever little bath tub walls. Oook tub now sold.


As I wrote above, I have agonised about selling, not least because this is a good shelter for me if I'm out with Hyperdog Moss. So, and to be blunt, I want as much as I can possibly get for it. And be honest, so would you if you were selling something!!!  So if you are interested in any of the items please make me an offer. Given the low use, lack of availability, savings on customs duty if importing from MLD, and prices others have sold for, I would be expecting at least £155 for the Trailstar, £165 for the nest and £18 for the Oooktub. I'll come down slightly if anyone wants both nest and Trailstar. This price includes P and P.

If you want to purchase, or have any queries, either post in the comments column, or use the Contact Form on this blog or DM me on Twitter (@FellBound).