Wednesday, 6 January 2016

A stroke of luck

I and, I know, many other backpackers, have been bemoaning the fact that Inov-8 have discontinued their Terroc trail shoe. It wasn't waterproof and had lots of mesh in the upper. Wet came in and then went out. They dried pretty quickly. They were brilliant. My first introduction to Inov-8 was the Roclite 315 which I bought at Braemar Mountain Sports when doing the TGO Challenge in 2010. I had been wearing boots and my blisters were so bad. I was fitted with the Roclites and they were so comfortable. They enabled me to finish the last few days of the Challenge and, to cap it all, the shop posted my boots back home for no extra charge - superb service.

I then worked my way through probably three pairs of Terrocs. And now they are no more. I recently ordered two pairs of Roclite 295s from Cotswold Outdoor in a sale but, when they arrived (the right size but different fits) they seemed so garishly coloured and tackily made that I returned them. Anyway, I really don't want brightly coloured shoes that I wouldn't also want to wear in the high street.

So, to get to the point, I found on Ebay someone who was selling a slightly used pair of Roclite 295s but probably a previous incarnation and they look fine. I was the only bidder and acquired them for a good price. As you can see from the photos, the uppers are basically the Terroc and the soles are Roclite.

Friday, 1 January 2016

New tent!

As a result of the damage to my Laser Comp referred to in the last posting, I had an opportunity to buy, at a reasonable price, a tent that should withstand most conditions. It's a Saunders Jetpacker Plus, a two man tent, but spacious for one. It was made in England by the now defunct Saunders firm that I believe ceased trading in 2010. The tent was made probably in the late 1970s or so. It's not really lightweight, weighing just over 1.8kg but it's pretty bombproof. It seems very well made with a good sized porch. It will take a bit of getting used to an end entry tent, compared with the Laser Comp which is side entry. It's roomier though and I can sit up at the front end. I'll only use it when conditions are likely to be rough. The front end is supported by two aluminium poles that fit into a round block with a spike that goes through a brass grommet in the fly sheet. I've experimented with substituting the poles with trekking poles but as one of the aluminium poles seems to be permanently fixed into the round block, I don't think this would work as a weight saving exercise. If anyone knows any differently, then I'd like to know. It may be possible to fashion a block from wood, make two holes at the base for the pointed ends of the trekking poles and make a spike from something. I reckon I'm going to be pleased with it and may get a chance to use it in a couple of weeks.

Laser Competition damage

The Laser Comp clearly isn't necessarily an all year round tent. It's good, but not perfect. At the tail end of Storm Desmond and on the edge of it in the Peak District, it was pitched for a weekend in gale force winds for some 36 hours. It survived but the little plastic buckle at the foot of the zip pulled away. The buckle was left intact but one side ripped away from the tent. It wasn't a great problem as I used a tent peg to secure it - this could be done from the outside (when I was leaving the tent unattended) or from the inside (when I was in it). However, it is a weakness, I think, as a friend who also had a Laser Comp suffered exactly the same damage.

Here's a photo of the repair I've done, using a scrap of Dyneema gridstop.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

You can tell they're desperate when .......

There was a call on my mobile this morning. Not what I wanted when I was up to my eyeballs in work. It was a magazine company cold call. The lady reminded me that I had been a subscriber to Trail magazine. In fact, I bought the first issue (the magazine was originally called Trail Walker) and many after that and subscribed for several years. Why had I stopped taking it? I said that the content tended to be the same old same old and I had tired of it. She asked if I would be interested in three issues for a fiver. I said no thank you. Changing tack, she asked if I'd be interested in Country Walking, again no. What about Fishing? I said definitely not and she presumably went on to the next punter on her list, hopefully with more success. Nowadays, if I buy a magazine, it's an impulse buy. Often, it's when a particular article catches my eye but, so often, I'm disappointed as articles tend to be too superficial. I'm afraid that if I'm typical then print magazines are on the way out. In my view, there's so much better content on the internet to be had for no cost.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

TGO Challenge Day 9 Saturday 16 May

Paul was up early and left, leaving me to get myself organised and decide what to do. As I lay in my sleeping bag after waking up, I thought about what was going on in my legs. I had assumed that it was all muscular and that I would walk through the pain and discomfort but the more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me that my legs don't have muscles up the front in front of the bones. I realised then that I was probably suffering from shin splints, something I'd only read about before. Amazingly, I was able to get internet access where I was and googled shin splints and, yep, that's what I'd got without a doubt. I knew then that it wasn't going to get better. I texted Roger Smith at Challenge Control for a bit of advice. He was very helpful but obviously it was for me to decide what to do. I looked at the map. I was about 8km out of Aviemore where I knew there was a rail station. Anyway, I packed up and started walking. At a junction of paths, one way went towards Aviemore and the other went towards Loch Morlich which would be my route were I to continue. I went a few steps each way a number of times and dithered about for a few minutes. In the end, I went in the Aviemore direction. It was hard as I had been so looking forward to finishing. However, there would be no easy way to bale out with five days to go.

Reaching Aviemore, I headed for the station and found there was a train to London at 1.30pm. I bought a ticket and went off to raid Tesco for food and drink to last me the long journey home. So, that was that. The right decision made though.

TGO Challenge Day 8 Friday 15 May

It was an undulating trail along the northern side of Allt Bhran. Last night's pitch was really good with running water just feet away. It was a lovely morning and the five of us headed eastwards.

It was a bit boggy from time to time. We skirted around some woodland to reach a good track south of Carn Dearg.

There was supposedly a track lower down through the trees but it was said not to be good with lots of blow downs. Eventually, we started to descend towards Glen Feshie.

The legs were very uncomfortable. I was wearing a knee support on my right knee and ankle support on my right ankle but walking was still a bit of a trial although it came and went.

On reaching Glen Feshie, it came on to rain. The others went ahead to cross the river which proved to be passable. I went off alone up the glen as I had planned. I stopped among some trees to cook up some lunch to restore energy levels. It continued to rain as I passed Glen Feshie Lodge although it was easy level walking. I crossed the only bridge across the river at NN849964 near Stronetoper. Other bridges have been washed away and not replaced. Here I met a young couple and stopped to talk briefly. However, they weren't Challengers although I was able to point them in the direction of the nearby bothy at Ruigh-teachain. I just carried on walking, walking, walking, stopping briefly at a car park for a bite to eat. There were a few vehicles around but it was generally very quiet.

I knew where I was likely to end the day so just kept going. A brief stop at a river to top up water with extra for the night in case I didn't find any more. At Feshiebridge I joined a forest road.

It was all very quiet but nice walking apart from the tired and uncomfortable legs. I plodded along checking the map from time to time as I had to be careful to take the correct turns as there were various tracks going off in different directions. One turn took me on a much narrower track but it was the right one and really very nice.

Eventually, I came upon a bothy.

Inshriach Bothy
I had been doubting its existence as I wouldn't normally expect to find a bothy in woodland but there it was, in a clearing. I had no idea what it was like inside. I pushed the door open startled someone who had retired early to bed. Paul was from Belfast and had been coming across to Scotland for some thirty years with his bike. He had overnighted in this bothy each time and this was the first occasion when he had company. There were just two bunks, one up and one down. There was no ladder so I opted to lay my mat on the floor next to Paul's bike. We got on very well. He was about my age. I cooked a meal and a hot drink and got my head down as soon as I could, feeling very weary. The bothy is Inshriach at NH883056.

Walked 25km; ascent 675m; descent 841m.

Monday, 22 June 2015

TGO Challenge Day 7 Thursday 14 May

Darren and I didn't leave the bunkhouse till mid morning. The full Scottish breakfast was well worth taking time over with lots of coffee to help it down. Dalwhinnie Bunkhouse really is an excellent place. We headed down the A9, stopping off at the petrol station/shop/post office for Darren to post another parcel home - food and gear he didn't want to carry. Then over the river bridge to follow the lengthy aqueduct towards Loch Cuaich.

Following Allt Coire Chuaich, it was a long and gradual ascent to a lunch stop at NN719867 where we caught up with Fred and Liz. I had been intending to end the day at a wild camp at about NN722853 but I'd heard that the descent towards Gaick Lodge was horrendously steep and we could see quite a bit of snow up there so we changed our plan and decided to go off in the same direction as Fred and Liz had gone. The destination was a wild camp around Allt Bhran. It was an interesting way to go - about 5.5 km over virtually pathless heather and bits of bog; very hard work and the constant twisting of knees and ankles didn't help.

My legs became quite uncomfortable which I put down to pulled muscles. My right foot was painful to lift. At a point where we stopped for a quick break, we were joined by James, who I had met on Day 5. We headed for a stone track at NN751882 which was visible from quite a distance. That was then followed until we left it to go east, aiming for a bridge we could see (on the map) at NN763890. Here again, the ground was very rough and absolutely no sign of a path. After about a km, we started to look for the bridge. However, it was evident that there would be quite a drop down to it as the river it was to cross was out of sight below us. Getting to a point where the only way was down, we scouted about for the bridge but couldn't see it. Eventually, it was found and rarely have I been across such a rickety bridge. There was a drop of maybe twenty feet to the river gorge below. We went across one at a time, each thinking that the bridge might give way. There was then a pathless ascent through ferns up to a metalled track which we followed north for a km or so before heading sharp south east to the weir over Allt Bhran. It having been a day without rain, the evening was just perfect. Looking for a place to camp, we spied from a short distance two tents (which turned out to be occupied by Humphrey Weightman and Andy Howell). We went on a short way to pitch by the river which was just about as nice as it gets. The legs were in dire need of a rest.

Allt Bhran
20km walked; 572m ascent; 487m descent.