Monday, 15 April 2019

Rambling about the Lake District, with a couple of wild camps thrown in

Slater's Bridge, Little Langdale: A Delight

The Pre-Walk Daunder (PWD) took place this week.

For those not in the know this is the world’s premier backpacking event, which takes place each year a few weeks before the world’s second best backpacking event, the cross-Scotland TGO Challenge. The PWD was the brain child of two shadowy figures of the backpacking world, Lord Elpus and Alan Sloman, the latter also being known as ‘The Stringpuller’ by those whose strings have been pulled. These two worked tirelessly to ensure that this year’s event was a success. The Stringpuller telephoned me and asked me to help Lord Elpus organise everything. I telephoned Lord Elpus who gave me the dates and suggested we walk for three days from Torver in the Lake District. He then stated that as I knew the Lakes better than he, I could be trusted to come up with a route, organise any camp site bookings, sort out car parking, reserve a table for dinner at a suitable pub on our first night, produce gpx files and e-mail the participants with details. “I’ll do everything else, though”, he assured me, “and Al and I will tell you who to invite. We don’t want any of your riff-raff mates”. Well that’s rich given that Mad ‘n’ Bad and Croydon Mick were on his list.

Baysbrown Camp Site, Langdale: The Pre-Walk Daunderers assemble 

Mick, Mad 'n' Bad and Emma, High Park Farm, Little Langdale: a simply superb cafe stop

Torver? Nah. A cunning route taking in a mixture of some of Lakeland’s finest mountain scenery together with some hidden gems that demonstrate that solitude can still be found in the heart of the National Park in the school Easter holidays. Thus, on the first day we would set off from Baysbrown camp site at Chapel Stile in Great Langdale, head round to, Little Langdale, and then climb to Red Tarn between Pike O’Blisco and Cold Pike for a wild camp. The following day would see us descend to Mickleden, head up the Stake Pass and Martcrag Moor and take in as many (or few as it turned out) of the Langdale Pikes and nearby fells as we could manage before wild camping above Codale Tarn. After which on the final day we would wind our way along the delightful Blea Rigg ridge before descending back to Chapel Stile.

Our wild camp spot at Red Tarn. Contrast the shoddy way in which Andy's Tarptent Notch (in the background) is pitched compared to the Stratospire 1, an example of Fellbound's fine camp craft

5.50 am, Red Tarn: Chilly. 
Judith -  realising that the Lakes aren't always like Piccadilly Circus
Our pitch above Codale Tarn

And that’s what we did. The weather was perfect for walking. The nights were rather chilly (water bottles part frozen, frosty tents and down jackets required). The scenery was stunning. Only the area around Pike O’Stickle was busy whilst we were walking. We had Red Tarn to ourselves for the first wild camp; we got pitched on a fine spot well above Codale Tarn for the second wild camp, only later to find about ten more tents arrive, fortunately pitching much nearer the tarn. These were some aspiring mountain leaders and their instructors. By coincidence I had last camped at Codale Tarn almost exactly 40 years earlier – on my mountain leadership course with some fellow PGCE students from Durham University.

Al 'Stringpuller' Sloman looking as if he's on a covert spying mission

The company was great.  The conversation erudite and intellectually robust, and as a result of the latter I now know much about Mad ‘n’ Bad’s bowel movements.  The traditional PWD schisms occurred each day.  As a result, a great time was had by all. Or so I am told.

Mick Croydon, the only wild camper I know who generates a black bin bag full of rubbish every single night

Fellbound demonstrating his new sartorial elegance: from the 'Grey Man' to Captain Pumpkin. And yes, a red beanie does clash with an orange jacket. I'm sorting it, alright?

Life Without Twitter

I gave up using Twitter in March. How’s it been?  Great.  Try it!  Even for a short break.  I’m convinced it’s been good for both my mental and physical health.  It has meant not being drawn into pointless or superficial arguments or discussions about politics, and stuff such as whether cats are cleverer than dogs (they aren’t), or whether Showaddywaddy was the classiest band in the history of Rock and Roll (it was).

There are downsides to not being a Twitter user. I do wonder what my Twitter friends are up to – but then I have the mobile numbers of many of them, and I have upped my usage of Whatsapp, e-mail, and pen, ink and postage stamps to contact people and, horror of horrors, have even telephoned some of them for a chat.

However, having de-activated my account  I re-activated it within the 30 day grace period before it disappeared forever. There were two reasons. Firstly, it seems to be the only way into the ‘Social Hiking’ website which I want to use during next month’s TGO Challenge cross Scotland walk; and secondly it seems to be the best way of pointing to my blog when I put up a new post. Otherwise I would be almost entirely reliant on readers of the blog sharing links to it – which isn’t that reliable. Thus, if I want to continue to blog and for people to read my posts I need Twitter.

Reactivating the account means the need for discipline to avoid the temptation to peek at Twitter. So far I have resisted the urge, and the longer I have gone without Twitter the easier this has become.

In short, I stopped actively using Twitter, I didn’t die and I feel better for it.  I’m not on Facebook or Instagram either.  I would encourage others regularly to put down their smartphones, give their eyes a rest from the screen and instead to talk to somebody, or go for a walk, or write to a friend, or read a book.  Try it. You know it makes sense!

Monday, 4 March 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 Preparations: Gear Choices

My Tarptent Scarp 1 on the Challenge in 2015 - One of my favouritist wild camp pitches, ever

My thoughts are turning to the annual TGO Challenge in May.  For the uninitiated this is a two week backpack, west to east, coast-to-coast across the Scottish Highlands.  Actually, this statement is incorrect.  My thoughts are not turning to it. It has been almost constantly in my mind since I submitted my entry five months ago.  That's one of the reasons I swore in June 2017  that I'd never do it again - it can become all consuming.

An Idiot
Only an idiot would say he was never going to do the Challenge again after experiencing this sort of setting for a fortnight.

Anyway.  The three naughty boys have invited me to walk with them.  I am still not certain why, and at the back of my mind I worry that ulterior motives will become clear on the Challenge at a time of their choosing.  Perhaps Mad 'n' Bad will suddenly tear my Montane Beanie from my head and produce a gimp mask for me to wear, whilst the Stringpuller and Lord Elpus dance around chanting "We're twenty miles from civilisation and we've caught ourselves a bitch", followed by the order "Now get our tents up and fill up our water containers.  And make it snappy or you'll be carrying all of our cheese and wine up Stob Poite Coire Ardair tomorrow ready for the evening's convivialities". 

A Stringpuller

With Lord Elpus in his natural environment

Mad 'n' Bad on a Mission to find a wild camp spot

It's a well known fact amongst less experienced Challengers such as me (this will only be my fifth crossing) that the most essential part of the preparations is using a set of scales to weigh your gear choices and then setting out the results on a spreadsheet.  Indeed, my experience of blogging about the outdoors is that any post with the word "gear" in the title gets far more hits than anything else that I write. Thus, I have set out my list below.  I am sure things will change before May, and probably choices will still be being made the day before I set off for my train journey up to Lochailort.

The list assumes that the weather forecast immediately before the Challenge is for Scottish mixed wet and dry conditions, with average temperatures, and that most of the snow has gone.  

The items most likely to be subject to further thought are:

1. Shelter - Either the Tarptent Stratospire 1 or the Tarptent Scarp 1.  The former is 500 grams lighter and has much better vestibules and headroom, but is more fiddly to orientate for a good pitch.  My Scarp 1 is, by me, more tried and tested, and has been with me on three previous TGO Challenges.
My Tarptent Stratospire 1: Palatial for a one person backacking tent, but, oh the geometry is weird for pitching

2. Footwear - Almost certainly trail shoes - either my Inov8 395 Roclites or my Salomon Ultras non-GTX shoes. But just possibly my Salomon Ultra GTX Mids.

3. Shell Jacket - I'm minded to take my newish Paramo Velez Jacket rather than the Rohan Elite Jacket I used in 2017 and 2015.  If the former, which is heavier, I can get away without taking a windshirt.

4. Sleeping Bag - I sleep very cold and normally have several uncomfortable nights on the event when using my Z Packs 20 Degree or Rab Neutrino 400 bags, and often end up in the early hours putting my down jacket on and still not being able to warm up.  I have wondered whether it might be worth carrying my Rab Alpine 600 bag despite the extra 4 or 500 grams this would involve. I could, though, then ditch the silk liner. I will probably stick to a lighter bag but...

5. Hip Flask and Scotch - it's not on the list on my doctor's orders. But then again, what do doctors know?

Without further ado, apart from apologising that the cutting and pasting of my list has messed up some of the formatting of what follows, here it is.  Oh. PS. As I have quit Twitter this week it would be rather lovely if somebody would post the link to this on Twitter or hardly anyone will see it. Humble pie is so yummy!

TGOC 2019 Gear List

GG Mariposa
Pack Cover
Shelter and Sleeping

Stratospire 1, extra guys, polycro
Tent pegs (surely I can take fewer!!!)
Sleeping Bag Z Packs 20 degree
Rab Silk Liner
Down Socks
Compression leggings
Silk Liner Gloves - Lowe Alpine
Exped REM Pillow (weight guessed)
Thermarest XTherm (large)
P Bottle
Lightload towel (for pre-pack drying tent)
Small Cuben stuff sac for tent tidy

Jetboil Minimo
Evernew 0.4 litre mug (Titanium)
Long spoon (Titanium)
Fire steel
Classic Swiss Army Knife
Water Purifying Tabs
J Cloth
Water Kit in DCF stuff sack
Sawyer Filter + Medium Pouch

Sawyer Syringe
Platypus 2 litre
Platypus 1 litre
Evian bottle
Wine Platypus
First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit Dry Bag
Elasticated knee bandage
Tick remover
Safety Pins
Plasters and compeed
Wound Dressings
Micropore tape
Hayfever tablets
Gehwol Foot Cream
Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel

Sunscreen Lipsalve
Wash Kit in UL Dry Bag
Mini toothbrush and paste
Dr Bronner's
Mini Deodorant
Towel - Lightload Mini *2
Contact lenses
T Roll, lighter in zip lock bag
Hand Sanitiser gel + sanitiser wipes
Ear plugs
Trowel - MSR Blizzard with tent pegs
Silva compass
Ortilieb A4 Case + map printouts + 2 half OS maps (rest sent ahead)
Galaxy S7 Phone with Viewranger
Lightproof Phone case
Phone charger
Power pack
Spot Messenger
Repair Kit
Duck Tape
Spare Batteries CR2032 *3,  (watch and headtorch)
Spare Batteries *4 AAA lithium for Spot
Thermarest puncture kit
Velcro tapes *2
Tenacious tape
Thermarest sitmat
Headtorch - Petzl e lite
Midge head net
Notebook and pen
Watch - Suunto Core
Camera - Lumix DMC TZ60
Reading glasses in case
Black Diamond Trail Pro Poles (or the much better Pacer Poles if Scarp 1 tent is taken)
Wallet and cash
Rail tickets and Rail Card
Exped UL Dry Bags *3 for clothes etc
Pod Dry Bag (waste)
Z Packs CF Dry Bag (food)

Trail Shoes Inov8 395 Non-GTX
Dirty Girl Gaiters
Pants Under Armour Boxers
Pants Helly Hansen Boxers
X Socks Exped (2 pairs)
Bridgedale Coolmax Liners (3 pairs)
Seal Skinz Socks???
Trousers - Montane Terra
Rohan Merino Shirt
Rohan Silver Core Zipped Base
Berghaus Extrem 7000 Hoodie
Montane Prism Gillet
PHD Minimus Down Jacket and Hood
Rohan Silver T??
Montane Beanie
Outdoor Research Cap
Montane Prism Gloves
Waterproof Overmits
Paramo Velez Jacket
Berghaus Paclite Overtrousers
Hi Tec Zuuc Shoes

Total Base Carried
Total Non-Pack
Food, Drink and Fuel
Dehydrated Main Meals (3 days)
1500 (Estimate)
Total other food (3 days):-
1500 (Estimate)
Packets custard and semolina
Tea bags
Nido dried milk
Condensed milk(luxury item!) - tube
Instant porridge
Cereal bars
Trail mix
Primula and wraps
Food bags
Total Fuel, Food and Water
Total Pack Weight,at start