Friday, 22 September 2017

Backpacking Sextagenarians

Well Geoff has pretty much told the story of our recent five day walk across the Lakes. And with remarkably few embellishments, and even fewer jibes at his inept companion.  He had endless scope for these, but chose not to indulge. Thus, my inability to put up a tent with his lightening speed, or to achieve the Holy Grail of drum tight silnylon to stop endless flapping in the breeze, hardly figured in his account. Several dodgy photographs he took were not used in his post.  So having no excuse to poke fun at this kindly old chap I shall keep to the facts, with some passing comments on my thoughts about backpacking at the start of my seventh decade. 

Geoff has also posted maps of our route, so I will not bother. I had originally hoped to do a much longer walk but various domestic commitments reduced the time I had available. As it happened five days was plenty, given my fitness level.

I'm not sure whether I'm proud to say that I am now entitled to own a Senior Railcard, but I flourished it at the ticket clerk at Penrith Station, gave Geoff a lesson on the need to push the button on the outside of the carriage to open the train door, and our journey began. Two sextagenarians setting off to zig-zag their way to Keswick from Windermere over five or six days. Six if we were feeling fit and full of life, and fancied a diversion to Buttermere.  Five if the organiser of the trip ie Lanky Old Fellbound was feeling radgered and fancied a gentle end to the stroll along the shores of Derwent water.

And we were off
Within an hour or so of starting I forced Geoff up Sour Howes and Sallows. It was only then that I realised that he has no understanding or empathy with peak bagging. Nor have I these days. To a point. But these unremarkable hills are two that I have only climbed once; and as my unintended second round of the Wainwrights is almost complete, it felt like they had to be done whilst we were passing.  I'd worried that the ground above the Garburn Pass would be boggy, and finding a decent spot to camp problematic, but we had little bother on the lower slopes of Yoke, and we finished our first shortish day nice and early in glorious sunshine but a cold, stiff breeze.
First wild camp. Lower slopes of Yoke

Gratuitous "look at the fabulous view from the tent whilst I'm brewing up" photo

Day 2, and there were eight Wainwrights between us and our intended camp spot high above Angle Tarn. Well actually only five were in the way, but the other three (Kidsty Pike, Rampsgill Head and Knott) were so close to our route that we did them anyway.  We'd got to the fabulous beacon on the top of Thornthwaite Crag before I realised that not only had Geoff no intention of setting up a spreadsheet, or at least a tick list, to record his progress at completing Wanwrights, but also that he had no idea how to pose on the top of a hill. He'll be telling me he doesn't own any cuben fibre gear next, I thought, but then dismissed that notion as ridiculous.

On Froswick. Fix the Fells remains on course to urbanise the Lakes.

Striking a jaunty pose on Thornthwaite Crag

Clearing clag and rain. Looking back to High Street from near Kidsty Pike
As we headed up the last pull of the day to escape the over-popular camping spots at the tarn we agreed without speaking that the top of Angle Tarn Pikes could wait for the following day, despite camping within five or ten minutes of the top. We was well done in we was.
Camped on Angle Tarn Pikes, at the end of a long Day 2

The best dehydrated meal I've ever had
I woke early. I always wake early. Five-ish if I'm lucky. Two-ish on a bad day. I brew up and get going slowly.  As I have aged and lost flexibility I do find being in a tent can be hard work, exacerbated by my unnatural height. Backpacking tents are not designed for lanky gits. I do a task, such as heating up water for my breakfast oats, then lie back and recover for a minute or so before taking on the next task. Eating them. Then the next.  That might involve, say, lassoing my feet one at a time with my trousers or socks to get dressed.  Or packing up a dry bag. Then realising just as I have done that thing with squeezing the air out and fastening the roll top that I have left something out and thus need to repeat the process.  So after about two hours I'm ready for a lie down again but it will be time to get my boots on.  I'm seriously thinking of taking a shoe horn on my next trip. Putting on my boots whilst lying on my side or sitting in the tent door way seems absurdly hard. Then I am ready to get the tent down and packed up. I'm sure it was all much easier when I was twenty.
Early morning brew, Day 3

Today, fortunately, is to be an easy day. The easiest of the trip. With a break in Glenridding for cake. And possibly bacon. But certainly cake. I try to smile at all the Americans, and the many others doing the Coast-to-Coast. We are walking against their flow. "No, we aren't going the wrong way. No, we aren't doing it. No we haven't come all the way from Shap by ten in the morning."

Now I would like you to compare and contrast the next two photographs.  Ideally, I would have placed them next to each other, but my ability to manipulate Google Blogger is limited. It is true that Geoff may have much better IT skills than me and he can prettify his blog very nicely. He fails miserably, however, in the posing on top of hills department.  He really needs to team up with Alan Sloman for a day or so in the mountains. He would then learn the art pretty quickly, or face the backpacking equivalent of the Wrath of Kahn.  You will note that the top photograph is of an upright, rugged, rufty tufty but veryveryniceman.  The second appears to be a chap broken by a string of Wainwrights and the ranting of his walking companion. Someone who will lie on the ground and scream and scream if he hears one more complaint about Fix the Fells and its inept handiwork.

A fine figure of a man who has just bounded up Angle Tarn Pikes

A broken man, resigning himself to defeat in the posing on top of a hill competition. Never mind, Geoff, you will improve with practice.
After Glenridding we plod up Grisedale.  It rains heavily for a while. The wind gets up again and the temperature drops.  I had been reticent about stopping here but it was the natural place on our route.  We find a reasonable spot below the tarn.  Other tents are on its shores. Six more backpackers arrive and set up a hundred yards from us.  Fortunately they are quiet.  But camping at Grisedale Tarn is not a good experience.  It is over used , as are many of the tarns in the lakes, but this is one of the worst.  Rotting toilet paper and worse lie around.  Two broken beer bottles are poking out of a bog.  It goes against the grain, but I do wonder if regulation is needed.  At the least the National Park should start encouraging people to pack out toilet waste.  I know only the responsible would do it, but at least this would mean less mess in these areas, and less environmental damage. I don't know the answer really.

The impact of the over popularity of the Lakes saddens me, even knowing I am part of the problem. The erosion, the terrible path repairs, the litter, the mess at tarns such as this. I am glad I knew the area forty-five years ago, when these problems were much less.  I feel like a man in the wrong era these days. Apart from when I'm ill and want modern health care of course.
Ready for the third night out. Pitched on layers of used rotting toilet paper, tampons and broken beer bottles below Grisedale Tarn. A case for some form of regulation?  
The fourth day turns out to be far tougher than I had planned, despite following our route to the letter. Three more lowlyish Wainrights, but a reasonable distance and lots of ups and downs.  I have a difficult hour or so after Helm Crag. My legs lose all their power and turn to jelly.  I am physically shaky.  I put it down to dehydration, so we stop to filter water from a small pool. It works and I rapidly feel much better. But it's another long day. Fortunately with a camp site and a few pints and a steak in the very good Langstrath Country Inn at Stonethwaite. 
A sunny Sunday on Helm Crag above Grasmere. Generally, though, it was pretty quiet and we still found solitude for much of the walk

Rock gymnasts on the Howitzer, Helm Crag. I did it once to say I had. No need to repeat.

Looking east from the pull up to Greenup Edge

Looking back to Lining Crag having just descended a Fix the Fells staircase
The fifth day of walking. A gentle eight or nine mile day into Keswick. Still several hours, but little in the way of serious climbing as we follow the Cumbria Way along the River Derwent.  I bore Geoff with details of the ash scattering that my nearest and dearest will have to undertake for me by this river at sometime in the future.  We eat the best ever breakfast rolls at the cafe in Grange. Then it's Keswick.  My favourite town in the whole world.  The route being perfectly planned we get to the stop just fifteen minutes before the Penrith bus.

It had been a super trip with excellent company. But I was ready for a shower and a rest. 
Well it would have been rude not to go in. Grange-in-Borrowdale.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Grand Autumn Gear Sale

Everything Must Go!

I have too much gear. Yes you gear tarts, it is possible!

Thus, I am rationalising what I own and selling stuff that does not get the use it deserves.  Some of this stuff is seriously good and thus I explain honestly why it is going. From this you will deduct that I can be an idiot when buying gear.

Prices include postage and packing. 

All weights and dimensions shown are either that given by the manufacturer or according to my scales and tape measure (ie should be taken as approximate only).

If interested, or for more information, please get in touch via the Contact Form on the blog or via a Direct Message on Twitter (@FellBound).

SUMMARY OF ITEMS (details below)

  • MLD Cuben Duomid (2017) SOLD
  • Oookworks nest for Duomid (2017) SOLD
  • Oooktub Bathtub Groundsheet (unused, 2017) SOLD
  • MLD Superlite Bivibag SOLD
  • PHD Minimus Down Jacket SOLD
  • Alloy Pacer Poles SOLD
  • Karrimor Hot 45 Rucksack


Cuben Fibre Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid and Oooknest (both 2017 models)

Duomid and Nest. The dog shown is not included in the sale.

MLD Duomid

The highly acclaimed Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid. Purchased March 2017 and only used for 5 nights.  Immaculate condition. The 2017 model is about 3 inches longer and 4 inches wider than the previous versions.
Shelter made in green 0.75 cuben fibre.

Weight: 500 gr including guys and stuff sack.

Reason for sale?  Despite its popularity and rave reviews I just don’t get on with it!  After hating and selling my Trailstar I must conclude that I am more of a traditional tent person. Now I know that isn’t a very good sales pitch but there you go. Most users rave about this shelter, and anyone reading this post will be aware how highly most speak of it.


Silnylon floor.  Part mesh, part ripstop nylon door. Ripstop walls.  Built with the quality Oooknest is known for.

There is a minor, and completely cosmetic, blemish to the floor caused by a bit of Fellbound stupidity which I will explain to anyone interested in purchasing.

Weight: 520 grams including stuffsack

Prices: Duomid £325. Oooknest £125

Discount of £25 if purchased together.

(Current MLD price for the Duomid including shipping is $485 plus import duty of 20% + Parcel Force ransom fee of c £12)


Unused! A standard, grey silnylon, rectangular, single Oooktub bathtub groundsheet from Oookworks. Bought March 2017 for my Duomid.  Then I bought the Oooknest so didn’t use it.

Dimensions: 220cm x 70cm x 10cm

Weight in stuff sack: 225gr

Price: £35

There is a completely cosmetic blemish to the floor caused by a bit of Fellbound stupidity which I will explain to anyone interested in purchasing.

Mountain Laurel Designs Superlite Bivi

An unflattering photograph of the excellent Superlite Bivi. What do you expect? David Bailey?

Another legendary, highly acclaimed  piece of kit.  Ideal for use under a tarp or in a single skin shelter. Silnylon floor and half moon net in hood. Excellent condition, used one night only.

Size: Large. Dimensions approximately 210cm long x 90cm tapering to 50cm wide.
Weight: 225 grams including stuff sack.

Reason for Sale?  I bought this about 4 years ago to use with my Trailstar. Only used it once then got a nest instead.  I’m too old for the bivying lark these days so it’s just sitting in the gear box.

Price: £105

(Current MLD price for the Bivi is $230 plus import duty of 20% + Parcel Force ransom fee of c £12)

PHD Minimus Down Jacket with Detachable Hood

Hood not pictured

Detachable hood. The jacket is little used and in excellent, clean condition.

Size XL. Red. PHD Dri-Shell outer (ie water repellent, although I never tested this!). 900 fill power European goose down. PHD rates it as good to minus 5 degrees centigrade.

Two outer elasticated pockets and one inner zipped pocket.

My version of the jacket was the TGO "best buy" when tested by John Manning, and the latest version has been given a similar accolade by Judy Armstrong. 

Reason for Sale: Quite simply I've replaced with the same jacket in an XXL. That size wasn't available when I bought mine. I'm 6ft 3 inches and my XL is just a bit too small. I reckon the XL is ideal for anyone up to a maximum of about 6 foot 1 inch tall.

Price: £175 The current version of this jacket from PHD costs £365 with hood and P and P.

Pacer Poles (alloy)

Much used, much loved.  The looks reflect this with the scratch marks etc of 3 TGO Challenges and many other trips, but the poles themselves are serviceable. In my opinion, and that of such gurus as Chris Townsend, the handle design on Pacers make them far more effective than the traditional pole set up. I'm selling because I have replaced with the carbon fibre version.

Price: £30

Karrimor Hot 45 Rucksack 

Buy yourself some history!  This is a basic, medium volume, one compartment, heavy duty sack with a good sized lid pocket.  I used to use it to carry my climbing gear to the crag back in the 1990s, when Karrimor Packs were still regarded as the dog's dangly bits.  It's not been out of a garage or the loft for the last 15 years. Whilst old it is still very serviceable. Some deterioration to the lamination on the internal closure collar. Back slightly dirty.

Price: £25 

As stated above, if interested in any of this stuff, or for more information, please get in touch via the Contact Form on the blog or via a Direct Message on Twitter (@FellBound).

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Fellbound's Tour in the Lakes Michaelmastide 2017

Many years ago I received as a gift a coffee table book, 'Wainwright's Tour in the Lake District, Whitsuntide 1931'.

The book describes a week long circular tour of the Lake District, devised by Mr Alfred Misogynist-Miseryguts himself. He planned to do the walk with some of his pals from Blackburn, staying at farmhouses and bed and breakfasts en route. Not that Wainwright would have used the expression 'en route'. Not keen on foreigners was Alf. Never went abroad, if you discount Yorkshire that is, and never ate foreign food.  As it happened, his plan was too ambitious for them and they never completed the walk. The book may no longer be in print, but I see that it is available second hand on Amazon from just a couple of quid. It's worth a look, not least to see his marvelously written handwritten plans of the route.

As a Lake District obsessive I have, for many years, thought it would be a good thing to do something similar. Thus, I have recently sketched out a 10 day circular backpack of the Lakes, which I fancy doing later this year. I describe it below, and welcome any comments and suggestions for improvement from readers who know the Lake District well.

In passing, it is worth commenting that despite the oft mentioned compactness of the Lake District, my 10 day itinerary hardly scratches the map, and leaves many wonderful parts completely untouched, including the entire Northern Fells, much of the central area and so on. However, having climbed all 214 of the Wainwrights at least once, almost all twice, and some 20 times or more, I am happy to limit my ambitions for the walk. It does not need to be a peak bagging exercise.

Fellbound's Tour of the Lake District, Michaelmastide 2017
Some larger scale maps of the route feature at the bottom of this post, together with a table showing distances and so on. The plan is to tackle the walk this Autumn if I can create the space in my diary. This is rather tight for reasons too boring to mention. I hope to camp out every night, mainly wild camps, but staying on a few commercial campsites when necessary. If the full 10 days is not available then I have an option of doing a semi-circular trek from Windermere to Keswick taking either 3 or 7 days, depending on whether I take the clockwise or anti-clockwise version of the full route.

When I finished my initial sketch of the route my first concern became the lack of resupply points on the western section -  potentially requiring seven days of food to be carried, something which I am not really prepared to do. A possible solution is to send a food parcel to the camp site at Boot if the manager there is prepared to allow this. I have not mapped out foul weather alternative days, but a quick look at the map suggests that these are easily available for each day that my main plan takes me up high.

Ascent (m)
Est Time

Windermere to Baystones / Wansfell Pike
4h 35m
Baystones (poss add Sour Howes and Sallows

Baystones to Greenburn Beck
5h 40m

Greenburn Beck to Boot
9h 25m
Great Carrs, Swirl How, Old Man, Dow Crag etc

Boot to Wasdale Head
6h 40m
Irton Fell, Whin Rigg, Illgill Head

Wasdale Head to nr Starling Dodd
7h 55m
High Crag, High Stile, Red Pike

Starling Dodd to Grasmoor
7h 40m
Great Borne, Whiteless Pike, Wandope, Grasmoor

Grasmoor to Keswick
4h 55m
Eel Crag, Sail, Outerside, Barrow

Keswick to nr Watson’s Dodd
7h 05m
Clough Head, Great Dodd, Watson’s Dodd

Watson’s Dodd to Brother’s Water
7h 15m
Stybarrow Dodd, Raise, Whiteside, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywagon Pike, Fairfield, Hart Crag

Brother’s Water to Windermere
7h 40m
Thornthwaite Beacon

I now have to sort out some dates to put this plan into fruition. I also need to arrange some decent weather and make plans for the dog, as I will not be taking him with me. Frankly, I do not want the extra weight that would entail, or the extra responsibility of looking after him, nor do I want to have to leave him outside the shops in Keswick or Ambleside when I am buying food.

And one final thought. A ten day backpack? Sounds like a good excuse to buy any new gear that I might possibly need. Happy smiley face, cheeky winky face.

Days 1 to 3
Day 4 and part day 5
Day 5 continued to part day 9
Day 9 continued and part day 10 (which finishes in Windermere)