Saturday 23 August 2014


Early morning ramblings.

Until about 5 years ago it never occurred to me to have more than one of anything. One day sack, one cag, one pair of boots and so on. I managed to hill walk for 35 years like that, and lived to tell the tale. My first walking boots, purchased at the age of 11, were "Spanish Fell Boots" which cost 30 shillings. They were a sort of felty material. They were extremely comfortable but completely unsuitable for UK hills, and probably for Spanish Fells, too. Then I graduated to "Tuff Work Boots" at about a fiver a pair, and I was 18, and in the University Mountaineering Club, before I splashed out at Christmas 1975 for my first "real" mountaineering boots, made by Dolomite.  They cost me about twenty two quid and I was really proud of them. These were incredibly heavy and durable, and they did me for well over 20 years, not getting much use after university as I pursued my career in the south of England. After these, when I first moved to the Lakes, I found a pair  of boots I really liked - the Zamberlan Alpin Lites - which were a sound 3 season boots but which also took my articulated crampons (Salewa, purchased in 1977).  I used these Zamberlans until they wore out, then got another pair, and later another. Same size, same model. Manufacturers these days never keep a product going for so long before they feel the need to "improve" it.

Then I bought a slightly lighter pair of boots for summer, and a heavier pair for winter, before moving about two years ago also to use trail shoes, and I have worked my way through a number of pairs of these, each a different make or model, but sometimes I still go out in boots.

What's the point of this? Well I went on an easy 6 mile country walk earlier this week in trail shoes and had sore toes by the end of it. And a couple of weeks ago I had sore ankles after a day in boots on the fells. And these minor niggles are common these days. So it set me to wondering.  Is it me getting older and / or softer and / or more prone to minor  injuries and / or less tolerant of discomfort, or is it the lack of consistency in my footwear? Who knows? And who cares? Well I do. Before any walk nowadays I never know what it's best to wear on my feet. I even wore boots the other day but had some trail shoes in the bottom of my pack in case the boots hurt. Crazy. So I might pop out to Millets later and see if they still sell Spanish Fell Boots....

Monday 18 August 2014

Ascent to madness: In which I climb up my own backside

Warning and Disclaimer: This post is about cooking and stuff whilst backpacking.  Like any meal it should be taken with a pinch of salt.  Fellbound does not accept any liability for any loss, injury or damage that results from this blog post, howsoever caused.  He also wishes to remind readers that he is supported by a crack legal team (Messrs Cosh, Basher and Hardcase) who will deal with you as deemed appropriate by Fellbound if you so much as suggest that this blog post proves that Fellbound is an anally retentive cretin who needs to count grams less and get out on the hills more.  Finally, he needs to point out that any gear referred to in this blog post was purchased by Fellbound using his “gold plated public sector pension” (© Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, The Sun, The Times etc., in fact all national newspapers except The Grauniad, The Daily Mirror and The Socialist Worker).  Fellbound is still willing to accept any offer of free gear (which remains remarkably absent in the Fellbound household) from any reputable manufacturer or retailer and promises to review any free gear if he can get round to it.

Using 5 grams of gas for an early morning brew: well worth it
An interesting post on Alan Rayner's blog recently about the TGO Challenge resulted in a few comments about the respective efficiency of gas and alcohol (meths) stoves in relation to the weight that you have to carry using these systems.  The perceived wisdom is that on longer trips gas is lighter than meths.  Whilst I have always tended to believe this, I think that the position is rather less straightforward.  This is not least because the comments on Alan’s post related to the weight of the fuel and did not refer to the weight of the cooking system itself, nor to the frequency of resupply stops.  So whilst walking Hyperdog along the lanes this morning I pondered on the issue.  When I got home I got the kitchen scales out, set up several spreadsheets and developed what will, I am sure, become known in mathematical and backpacking circles as “The Fellbound Theorem”.  In short this can be summarised as follows:

“When counting the grams for cooking your calories there is no clear answer as to whether gas or alcohol is lightest so your best bet is to eat your dinner and enjoy the view”.

This earth shattering conclusion is underpinned by a set of assumptions based on my own equipment and my particular way of cooking and frequency of brewing up.  The outcomes might be completely different for others.  It does not take account of factors such as the speed and cleanliness of gas, the reliability of meths stoves, or whether you like the odd slug of meths as an aperitif.  My findings now need to be the subject of peer review to test their robustness.  You, dear reader, are the peers.

Assumptions based on my own way of doing things (aka “the right way”):

  • There is a minimum amount of weight you have to carry for the stove set up even before you add fuel. I will refer to this as the “stove base weight”.

  • My gas stove base weight: A little Optimus thingy (94gr), with an Optimus windshield (64gr) and canister feet (24gr) for stability, gas cartridge.  Depending on length of trip and resupply possibilities the cartridge will likely be either 100gr (weighs 200gr when full) or 150 gr (weighs 380 gr when full).  So gas stove base weight =  282 or 332 gr., dependent on size of cartridge carried.

  • My meths stove base weight: Traildesigns Sidewinder cone in Tyvek sleeve (37gr), aluminium support pegs (14gr), Trail Designs stove (16gr), 500ml meths bottle (10gr).  So meths stove base weight = 77 gr.

  • So the base weight for the two set ups is either 77gr for meths or 282/332 gr for gas.  At my rate of fuel use (see below) meths is definitely lighter for a 2 or 3 day trip.

  • Amount of cooking: 4 brews per day, plus one boil for instant porridge, one for an instant soup and one for a dehydrated meal.

  • Rate of fuel use:  On the TGO Challenge I ran out of gas using a 230 gr cartridge on the 9th day of cooking ie 25gr. of gas used per day. Meths use is a generous100 gr per day.


Right let’s put all this together.  I will not try to embed my fancy spreadsheets because I don’t know how to, so here are some charts created from these and based on the above:


The first chart is based on a two week trip in the wilderness entirely unsupported, with no resupply of fuel.  You therefore need two gas cartridges, a small one and a large one (that situation is 'Gas 1' in the chart).  'Gas 2' is where in that wilderness you come across a conveniently located waste bin on the very day (Day 5) a gas cartridge empties so you can chuck it away. 


The second chart shows a more likely situation on the TGO Challenge. This assumes you can buy extra fuel every 4 days. Note that resupply every 4 days is the optimum for gas if using 25 gr of gas per day as it allows the small 100 gr cartridge to be carried, although you would be running on empty when you got to the shops.

What both of these charts show is that on certain sections of the trip you carry less weight if using gas; at other times on the trip you would be carrying less meths.

Of course all this is very crude and needs refining.  For example, the charts show that for a TGO Challenger meths is heavier in the earlier days. However, Challengers tend to walk shorter days initially, and longer days later on. So what I need to do next is set up some spreadsheets to examine weight carried against the numbers of hours on the trail on each day of the trip. This information could then be examined against the numbers of calories that would need to be consumed to have the energy to carry these weights for these periods, which in turn would have implications for the weight of food to be taken on your trip. All of this is clearly a suitable topic for a PhD so I must start to put together my research proposal……

Sunday 3 August 2014

Blogging on the go

As a bit of a techno dummy I have previously tried and failed to update my blog when out and about by using my mobile phone.  Then it occurred to me. There will be an app that I need. And there is. So I have downloaded it and now I'm testing it out.

I have sorted how to add photos but I can't work out how to add titles to them using the blogger app but here is a photo of handsome Hypermoss on Souther Fell in the Lake District.

Friday 1 August 2014

In Which I Turn Pink

Hugo being greeted by his mate Fidel

Well a few months ago Mrs Fellbound came in from work and announced that she was fed up with the British weather, and that she felt we ought to book some summer sunshine.  “I’ve looked in the glossies” she announced, “and it’s Cuba for us this July”.  “Excellent”, says I, “I’ll ring up Branson and book us a couple of  Economy Class tickets to Miami, followed by a night time speed boat crossing of the Straits of Florida.  We can land in the Bay of Pigs just before dawn, then a fast car to Havana and a backstreet old colonial style hotel”.  Mrs Fellbound wasn’t impressed.  "Bay of Pigs?  That would be a complete fiasco. It’s Thomas Cook Airlines from Manchester to Jardines del Rey for us, followed by a spot of all inclusive, with a nice pool and a beach lined with palm trees”.

Border Guard

Fast forward, and we arrived at Jardines del Rey, cleared passport control and waited for our cases.  And waited.  And waited.  Mrs F’s bag came soon enough. So did those of the rest of our fellow Thomas Cookers. And eventually there was just poor old Fellbound staring at an empty baggage carousel.  Then suddenly it appeared all on its lonesome.  As I grabbed it off the conveyor, a man in a brown uniform said “Your name ees Fellbound? That is your luggage?  You allow anyone to tamper with it?  No? You follow me please”.  You explain the metal box in there to us please.”

So now I am at a table with my clean pants, flip flops and floral print shirts spread all around and I am trying to explain that the small retro style painted metal box, filled with various little bits and pieces from Boots, and which had been beautifully gift wrapped, was a present for Mrs F, who had a birthday in a few days time. I hadn’t bought her main present with me but wanted to make sure she had a little something to open on her special day.

“You put it eet on the floor please. My dog want to have a sniff”. And with that, a lovely little spaniel was sent to sniff at the tin box.  Well the spaniel had a super time and was wagging his tail and barking at the box as if someone had just said it was walkies time.  Just as I was about to do my very excellent Bruce Forsyth impersonation and say to the spaniel “good game, good game” Mrs F caught me with that very communicative eye of hers that said "do you really want to find yourself being marched off to that back room by a grinning man pulling on a pair of Marigolds".  So I took the hint and sense got the better of me. I was, however, pretty indignant by now, and told Mrs F, possibly rather too loudly, that it was a lot of fuss over a tin box filled with little bath bombs. Well I can see now why saying that might have caused me some further difficulties, the Cubans not, apparently, being keen on a bit of bath time fun.

Well eventually the unfortunate misunderstanding was  cleared up, I was allowed to stroke the spaniel and was then put on the coach to take us to the hotel. I think the rest of the passengers were rather unkind hissing me and giving me severe looks, as if it was my fault that they had been kept waiting in the sweltering heat for an hour or so but they did.

Not a bad beach this, at our hotel
Mrs F and I had expected a room to ourselves at the hotel but we found we were sharing with a little crab, but he was friendly enough, and from then on we had a splendid time. One day, on our way to a catamaran and snorkelling trip we passed beautiful flamingoes standing in the saltwater mangroves. Our guide explained that they were pink because of the keratin in the shrimps they live on.  "Well that explains it", I said to Mrs F, "I eat lots of carrots. Carrots contain keratin.  That's why I have gone all pink". Mrs F was not impressed with my theory. She pointed out, none too kindly in my view, that perhaps two days lying on a sun lounger in the tropical sun might be the cause. "You will have to face it", she added, " your experiment using Primula Cheese with Chives as a sun screen just isn't working. You need to slap on some of my Boots own brand factor 30 tomorrow".


Mangroves. That's James Bond in the boat in front.
Well after the exciting welcome the Cubans gave us a lovely time and tried hard to ensure we enjoyed ourselves and spent our pounds sterling.  This is much needed.  The petty, narrow minded boycott of trade and other links, enforced by the Yankee capitalist imperialists pointlessly damages this country. Each year the UN condemns the USA for this in a vote for being a breach of international law. In this vote only the USA and Israel support the embargo. The USA always ignores the result, so preventing Cuba getting hold of the basic necessities it needs. The land of the free also prevents its own citizens from holidaying or doing business there, despite it being only 90 miles from Florida, although some do, and the Cubans agree not to stamp their passports in return so as not to cause trouble back home. Since that nice Mr Gorbachev allowed the Soviet Union to break up, Cuba has become very reliant on China for its manufactured goods. So is the Amercian policy short sighted?  Get yourself to Specsavers, Mr President. Is Cuba's regime really any worse than many other countries that you do business with? The shops have little to sell, but on the plus side Cuba has the best health care and education systems in South America, free to all. The irony in that is it churns out good quality graduates who can’t get the jobs they want, and they can earn most by working in hotels and getting tips from the tourists. Our resort rep was a former Professor of English who now earns three times his old university salary.

But this isn’t a political blog. Beautiful, interesting country, nice people, great weather if you like lying in the sun turning pink.  Well worth a holiday.   I will leave you with few photos of some of the locals and some of the sights. As I said, consumer goods are hard to get, and I had trouble purchasing colour films for my Kodak Instamatic Box Brownie so I used black and white for my snaps of the locals as it captures their personalities so much better.

The man on the right was a real rough diamond. He was called Che.

Three more of the locals. From left to right, Fidel, Che (after a wash and brush up), and Raul
Some of the Cuban women are very beautiful - but best not to mess with them

Cuban entry for the next Isle of Man TT races
Who wants a Porsche when you can have style like this?
Grocery Stall
The Theatre at Moron

Spanish colonial splendour has seen better days