The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 19 August 2016

Tal y Fan and Mynydd y Cwm

Thursday 18 August

Tal y Fan (SH729726; 610m)

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My decision to approach Tal y Fan from the nearest road required a few miles of tiny little lanes to be driven. Colin gets taken along little lanes quite often in my pursuit of Marilyn summits, but this one was particularly ‘interesting’ as Colin is 6’6” wide (without his wing mirrors) but, with the summer growth on the hedgerows, this lane was about 6’5” wide. Thus, it was impossible to drive without dragging one side or the other against the hedges (always the passenger side – there’s only one plastic window on that side and it was already very scratched when we bought Colin!). It certainly wasn’t a lane where you would want to meet an oncoming vehicle, and thus it was down for either a late evening or an early morning.

Ordinarily, it would have been tackled late in the evening, with the night being spent at the lane end, but given the desire for a BBC TV signal for the Olympics this week, an early start was had on Thursday morning. It was half past six when Mick dropped me at the point where the footpath hits the road, before he continued on to the road-end car park and I marched off up the hill.

It was a rather pleasant early morning walk, initially on easy grassy paths then with a little bit of boulderiness towards the top, and it wasn’t long before I was standing by the unusual trig point (not that you can see the detail of it in this snap):

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The plan had been that I was going to get myself to the road end by going over the adjacent top, Foel Lwyd, but in the interests of getting back off the tiny lanes before anyone else was likely to be up and about, I decided that the much faster option would be to return the way I’d come, mainly because the path that way was so nice that it seemed eminently suitable for running down.

Unfortunately, Mick didn’t have a phone signal where he was parked, so having reached the road I had no option but to then trundle another 0.7 of a mile along the tarmac to find him. I still finished the outing well within the hour, with 2.6 miles covered and 800(ish)’ of ascent.

Mynydd y Cwm (SJ073767; 305m)

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Mynydd y Cwm gave a ridiculously easy (and relatively uninteresting) tick, within a mile of the A55 trunk road and within spitting distance of Offa’s Dyke Path (although we omitted it from our walk of that Path back in April).

Mick joined me on this one and it took us a whole 11 minutes to cover the 0.5 of a mile (with 150’ of ascent) to the top, where there sits a memorial to a Halifax which crashed on the hill in 1947. It took us seven minutes to get back down.

And then we went home, as this was forecast to be the last good weather day of the latest dry spell. Call me a fair weather walker, but thanks to a combination of luck and good planning, my current tally of British hills for 2016 stands at 108, and all bar 5 have been completed in dry weather! I fear that record may become eroded over the next few weeks :-(.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Creigiau Gleision

Thursday 17 August

Having kicked myself for not extending Wednesday’s walk to go over Pen Llithrig y Wrach, it was the first summit on my agenda for Thursday. A considerable amount of time had been spent poring over the map, internally debating the merits of various route options, and what I decided (absolutely definitely, and on good sound bases) to do was not this:

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For one thing, I’d decided to take a longer-but-easier approach to the hill by walking up the reservoir access track, just to the west of where my GPS track starts, then along the leat (the man-made water channel which contours this hill). Mick duly pulled into my chosen start point and I had my bag on my back and sticks in my hand, when it suddenly struck me (despite all thought put into the subject the evening prior) to use the path a couple or three hundred metres to the east. Asking Mick to drop me there instead, he then found himself with a car on his tail and had to go on past before he could stop safely. I may just as well have walked down the road from the original start point, or even have stuck with my original plan.

It soon came back to me why I’d decided to take the longer route. Instead of moseying up a tarmac track for a while, up to a nice level path alongside the leat, I found myself playing ‘hunt the path’ through bracken and gorse, and wading through bog. I probably saved myself about 500m of distance, at the cost of very wet feet and with no time benefit.

My next deviation from plan came below the pass Bwlch y Tri Marchog, when I decided that heading up to the pass would be a much nicer route, even though I could clearly see that between me and it lay a huge area of bog and tussock. As it goes, this was a good decision, and undoubtedly more pleasing that my intended out-and-back up the south spur of the hill. My feet were wet anyway, so there was no point in dancing around the bog; I just waded on through.

The views from the pass were excellent, and the path from there good and easy.20160817_084108

It was 0840 when I reached the top, and in spite of having had breakfast before I set out, I was starving and wondering whether it was a reasonable hour to eat my packed lunch. I settled on having just one of my sandwiches, before heading down to the the path which runs along Llyn Colwyn Reservoir (along whose length we walked on our Length of Wales walk in 2012).

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Just beyond the end of the reservoir was a good viewpoint for both of the day’s hills. The long-named one is on the left; Creigiau Gleision is on the right.

The Cicerone ‘Hillwalking in Wales’ book said that the only problem with my chosen route up Creigiau Gleision was one of boredom. I don’t think there was a single walk that I did last week where I agreed with that author’s perception of a route. I was not bored for a moment on this ascent – I was far too busy wading through bog, high-stepping on every pace, trying to pick out the best line and wondering if there was a trodden line hidden in the heather/bilberry/tussocks somewhere (possibly even a few feet away; the problem with this sort of terrain is that you can generally only see a trod if you’re on top of it). I was also thinking that shorts are not the best legwear for walking through woody knee-deep heather.

After no small amount of energy expenditure, I picked up the ridge path and from there it was easy. I even managed to make myself look composed for the summit selfie:

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My first hill of the day had been that one in the centre of the snap.

My second sandwich met my stomach on top of this hill, whilst I considered the map some more and contemplated the option of calling Mick and asking him to meet me in Trefriw, on the east side of the hill, so that I wouldn’t have to wade through the heather again. But heather, bog and tussocks are always much easier in descent, so the original plan held and down I went. I even found the trodden line for the first and last bit of the descent. (As I’d started my ascent from the bridge at the end of the reservoir, I found myself with a choice of two trods, and (per my usual policy) chose the one which was best trodden (the left fork), but which soon ceased to be useful to me. I now know that if I’d followed my first instinct and retraced to the right fork, I would have had a happier ascent.)

It was a joy to get onto the bridleway which lies between the bridge and the A5, which (contrary to what the Cicerone book told me) wasn’t a bogfest at all. In fact, I got back to the road without any more water entering my shoes. It could have been what saved me from getting webbed feet after what had been the boggiest walk of the week.

With 8.1 miles walked, and around 2500’ of ascent, I entered the car park in Capel Curig and found Mick exactly where I expected him to be, poised ready to put the kettle on for me.

Pen yr Ole Wen, Carnedd Dafydd, Carnedd Llewelyn

Tuesday 16 August

Tuesday gave us another grand day out!

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The gap is because the battery of the Garmin Gadget expired. It had lasted for almost exactly 12 hours over the course of two days. Quite impressive, considering the age of the Gadget, I thought.

The hill of real interest of these three was Carnedd Llewelyn (Marilyn, 1064m), but as the Ogwen Valley seemed like the most logistically sensible start point (from our night-stop at Betws-y-Coed), the most obvious way I could see to get to it was via Pen yr Ole Wen and Carnedd Dafydd.

Arriving in the nearest free parking area to the west end of Llyn Ogwen, and after pausing for tea, breakfast and more tea, we finally got ourselves out of the door and walked along to the foot of the lake under glorious blue skies:

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It’s a steep haul straight up the side of Pen yr Ole Wen (even more so if you should temporarily lose the easiest line and find yourself scrambling for a while…), but there is something pleasing about gaining height so quickly. That was even more the case today as we knew that on reaching our first summit the majority of the climbing was behind us. From there, a ridge-walk awaited us.

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The brisk wind was cool once we gained height. Windshirts went on and didn’t come back off until part way down our descent.

The ridge was as pleasing as it looked on the map and after going over the easy grassy summit of Pen yr Ole Wen, and the rocky summit of Carnedd Dafydd, onwards we went to our main objective. By the time we reached its sizeable summit plateau we had passed three other people. There were another couple on the summit. That surprised me; I expected it to be much busier up there on such a nice day in August. It really was a superb day for it, with excellent clear views:

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Reaching the pass between Carnedd Llewelyn and Pen yr Helgi Du, I dithered. Then I dithered some more. Mick was heading down from there and I was torn as to whether to join him, or whether to continue over Pen yr Helgi Du to Pen Llithrig y Wrach – the next Marilyn on the ridge.

Decision made, we started the descent, only for me to get about 20 metres and dither some more. I so nearly went back up, but Mick was quite right when he pointed out that I didn’t have enough food or water with me, so down we went, past Ffynon Llugwy Reservoir, from where we had a good view back to where we’d just been:

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The downside of this circuit was the trudge required along the A5 to get back to Colin, but it passed quickly and proved not to be as bad as it looked on paper (the ‘pavement’ is loose surfaced most of the way, so it wasn’t even a trudge on tarmac, and the road seemed to be having a relatively quiet spell). We reached Colin having walked 9.7 miles with somewhere around 3200’ of ascent.

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Good registration number!

Later I perused the map again, making plans for Wednesday, whereupon I kicked myself for not having continued along over the next top to the next Marilyn. Moreover, when it struck me that as Mick was descending anyway, I could have asked him to move Colin up the road, such that I could have done the extra summits with just 250m of extra ascent, no extra distance and have avoided the road walk in its entirety too.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Manod Fawr and Moel Siabod

Monday 15 August

Manod Fawr (SH724447; 661m)
Leaving Mick in the large car park half way along the minor dead-end road which lies just south of west of my objective, off I set to start with a tour through some fields. Fortunately, the path was evident, so there was no game of 'spot the stile' (although in this case it would have been 'spot the gate') as I made my way up to the open land above.

Whilst I lost faith, somewhat, in the Cicerone guide to the Welsh hills yesterday, I had read what the author had to say about this one and was heartened to see that he said that a 'straight up the side' route was feasible (although he did describe it as a rough scramble and say that the line of quartz to follow was not so obvious close to; I disagree with both pieces of information). As I have a tendency to take direct lines up hills, particularly those where no paths are trodden into the landscape, I did exactly as he suggested - which was the very line which jumped out as being obvious as I waded through the bog to the south of Llyn y Manod.

I didn't just make do with a visit to the high point in this one...

... I also walked over to the far side of the summit area to look at the quarry the other side. Gosh, there is one heck of a lot of slag in the Blaenau area!

After a moment's thought had been given to going down the gentle (much longer) route, I turned and retraced my steps. A cup of coffee awaited my return to the car park and after a quick second breakfast we were off to our next objective.
(3.5 miles, 420m ascent)

Moel Siabod (SH705546; 872m)
Dolwyddelan was our (yep, Mick joined me!) start point for this one, mainly because it minimised the driving*.

The walk up the forest track wasn't noteworthy, but was fast-going, and beyond it we were into the land of bracken, bilberries and heather, the latter of which, being in full bloom just now, is making the hills smell lovely. There was a point at which we should have crossed the stream and continued on a path the other side. Apparently lots of people have overshot though, as we followed a well-trodden line for quite a while before I looked at the map and realised the path we were following wasn't where I'd intended us to be. It wasn't a problem, and added no distance, we simply came out at the southerly point (rather than the easterly point) of Llyn y Foel instead.

A few people could be seen on the Daear Ddu ridge, and soon we joined them up this easy scramble of a route. With barely a jot of exposure (and even where there was either a hint of exposure or a bit of a tricky move for a stumpy-legged person, there was always a much easier alternative just to the left) it was a fun route. And a good workout for the thighs too, even though you might think that my thighs are quite accustomed to ascent.



Surprisingly few people were on the top, which was a magnificent viewpoint both for the surrounding hills and for the craggy ridges of the very hill on which we were standing.



The descent was easier on the knees than I expected it to be, and before we knew it we were back at the llyn, then retracing our steps through the forest.

Ice creams from the shop in Dolwyddelan rounded off our outing nicely (8 miles, 750m ascent).

(*in the interests of charging electronics, particularly in view of all the Olympics-related TV watching that's going on at the moment, more driving time would have been beneficial; Colin’s leisure battery must be taking a hammering this week)

Monday, 15 August 2016

Allt Fawr and Moelwyn Mawr

Sunday 14 August

Allt Fawr (SH682475, 698m) and Moelwyn Mawr (SH658449, 770m)

With the exception of the start, the middle and the end, I made some good route choices today…

I very nearly made a much better choice for the start, but just as I was setting out my mind was changed to follow the route suggested by the Cicerone ‘Hillwalking in Wales’ book which, until Friday morning, had sat completely forgotten on our bookshelf for a decade. So, instead of setting out from the car park on the Crimea Pass and heading straight up onto the high ground, I headed up through pathless bog to Llyn Iwerddon, from where it was another pathless pull to the top of my first objective. Part way there I got a view over the route I’d nearly taken, where I saw a clear trodden line.

The next bit of my route was good, and it was as I made my way along the edge that I looked down and recognised what I saw below. In 2012 we’d kipped down there during our Length of Wales walk. It hadn't occurred to me that we'd been through (although not up) these hills before.

A few moments later I passed a couple of resting backpackers, who I’d assumed were heading in the opposite direction. It turned out they were heading the same way as me – something I came to appreciate when I looked back and saw them watching my progress along the next poor-route-choice section. I have no book to blame for this bit, and having looked back later I could see that the much better option would have been to ascend rather than to contour, although undoubtedly my route was the more exciting and challenging choice. Hoping that: a) the backpacking duo wouldn’t follow me; and b) I wouldn’t make a complete tit of myself whilst they were watching; I made my way to the impressive mining remains and then up through more remains towards my second objective of the day.



I did take a slightly circuitous route, but it was another good section, and I did, in time, join the clear path up to the top of my hill, where I was surprised to have it to myself. I’d seen other people on the top and making their way up when I’d stopped for a banana break amongst some of the old mine buildings, so it fixed itself (incorrectly, apparently) in my mind as a busy summit.



My downwards route was also taken from the guidebook. It involved wading through bog (that was actually one of the best, and fastest, bits of it) and making my way steeply down through crags. The less said about it the better, really. Annoyingly, I got glimpses of the route I’d originally sketched on the map, and it looked perfectly good (and fast!), even if it was significantly less direct.

With my faith in the guidebook eroded, I eventually located Mick in a car park by the Tanygrisiau Reservoir (which is exactly where I knew he would be, I just had a few navigational issues on the nearby roads; probably the less said about that the better too!). Except for the last bit of the descent, it was actually an enjoyable outing in spite of the dubious route choices, but either it was quite tiring or I’m just being a bit lazy at the moment, as I couldn’t quite stir myself to go and do my final hill of the day. With there being perfectly good TV reception around here, we will stay in the area overnight and thus today’s third hill has been bumped to tomorrow morning.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Mynydd Rhyd Ddu, Foel Goch and Mwdwl-eithin

Saturday 13 August

After a last minute plan was hatched to intercept Louise, David & Co on their journey back north from a successful week of shooting competition at Bisley, an even more last minute plan was hatched to spend a few days visiting some hills. My thinking was that if we were going to drive over to the M6 then we may as well take advantage of the mileage by driving a bit further, into Wales*. Alas, the last-minute nature severely curtailed my planning time, so as we set out, this was looking very much like a ‘make it up as you go along’ sort of a trip (with me hyperventilating slightly at the very thought!).

Mynydd Rhyd Ddu (SJ054477; 389m)

With this hill requiring a bit of trespassing, I got an early start. So early that Mick was still recumbent and in his PJs when I (up, dressed and breakfasted) jumped into the driving seat. A minute later, Mick was up and dressed too and we were off.

Leaving Mick in a layby on the A494, off I headed, past a farm and into some woodland. That woodland is the home to an off-road motorsports course, which wasn’t a problem in terms of traffic at 7am on this Saturday morning, but I did find it to be a maze of paths and tracks, requiring constant navigational attention.

Reaching the top of the course, I had two options: 1) stick to the plan and walk the public right of way for as far as possible, before picking up the windfarm track; or 2) veer completely off plan and follow my nose up through a gate I could see, in the hope that I would also find gates through other field boundaries I would encounter. I very often find with Marilyns that the route that looked good on paper isn’t the one I follow when on the ground, and today was another such example.

With only a small amount of detouring, I hit gates for every one of the four field boundaries I needed to cross and soon after the last, I was admiring the views from the trig point.

Arriving back at Colin (with 2.8 miles walked) I wrang out my socks. It turns out that those cheap shoes I bought in France to see me through to the end of the Pyrenees trip aren’t actually waterproof at all, in spite of their sweat-inducing membrane. They’ve got the really awful qualities of both boiling the feet, and letting water in but not letting it back out again. They’ll definitely be relegated to dry-weather local walks.

Foel Goch (SH953423, 611m)
A quick change of location had us parked up outside of the boarded-up church in the village of Llangwm and Mick joined me for the first half a mile of this one, before the draw of his book became too great (he really missed reading during the French trip and declared that this week will be spent mainly catching up on what he missed). Onwards I continued on my lonesome, up to the end of a lane and then onto the remains of a grassy track (which didn’t quite follow the line shown on the map), where I hurried because I thought I was trespassing. For some reason the right of way isn’t shown on the 1:25k map I was using (I now see that it is marked on the 1:50k from which I originally planned my route).

Reaching the start of the access land, I abandoned the track, as it was no longer going in a useful direction, but happily found the very faintest suggestion of another one, heading in my direction, just 20 metres or so up the hill. It got better and more obvious the closer to the top I got and thus my passage was far easier than I expected, and only slowed by the presence of so many fat juicy billberries which demanded that I picked and ate some of them.

It was rather a nice summit, I thought, marred only slightly by the overcast sky and hint of moisture in the air.


Having retraced my steps, the outing came in at 3.75 miles.

Mwdwl-eithin (SH917540; 532m)

My intended start point for this one had been the car park at the dam of Alwen Reservoir, which would have given a far longer walk (with higher ascent) than was necessary, but it looked like an easy option in terms of both vehicle and walking access. The plan had also been to spend the night there, but that was scuppered when we found that we had no TV signal. It’s not something that usually features on our list of requirements for a kipping-spot, but it’s been elevated to nearly top priority this week, by virtue of the Olympics.

“Well, if we’re not staying the night here” I said “I can do this as a linear walk and you can pick me up the other side.” Aside from saving me the repetition of my outward route, it would also save a couple of miles.

“Why don’t you just walk out and back from the other side and halve the distance?” asked Mick, and in view of not knowing where I might find Mick on the other side (I assumed there would be somewhere to park, but didn't know where) and the lack of phone signal, it seemed like a sensible option.

Shod now in my Terrocs (the very pair that were retired in the Pyrenees due to being quite ‘tired’), the water that soaked my feet on this bogfest of a walk at least had a route back out of my shoes and thus in comfort I toiled my way up this hill. I’d had a late night last night (the Men’s team pursuit at the Velodrome in Rio didn’t finish till about 11), and an early start this morning, and it was starting to tell.



Nevertheless, I made it up to the top of another pleasing hill, saw that the big Snowdonia tops were covered in cloud, and made my way back down again. I lost the path temporarily through one of the bogs on the way back, in a different place to where I’d temporarily lost it on the way out.

This one came in at 4.4 miles and I was happy to call it a day with my tally standing at 3 hills.

It took us another couple of attempts to find somewhere with a BBC TV signal to spend the night. Betws-y-Coed was the answer. Who knows where we’ll find ourselves tomorrow…

 
(*it’s not the first time I’ve used that basis for a trip lately; my second hill-bagging trip of June came about because I needed to be at my gran’s house in Wolverhampton for an appointment at 8.30 on a Monday morning and I figured if I was driving 35 miles to Wolverhampton I may as well drive 35 more to the Welsh border and make a week of it).

Monday, 8 August 2016

TentMeals.co.uk

The usual commercial backpacking meal options (foil packs, freeze-dried, that sort of thing) have never appealed to me, mainly for reasons of price and choice*, and for the last decade we have, with the exception of a couple of our foreign trips, cooked and dehydrated almost all of our in-tent evening meals. However, back in May I had the opportunity to try a couple of the offerings from a little company called TentMeals and I was impressed enough to pen a few words in their favour (something that I was under no obligation to do when I tried them – I didn’t receive them direct from TentMeals and the company has no idea that these meals landed in my stomach**). 

Three things immediately struck me when I saw these meals:

1) they don’t have an excess of packaging. They’re very small and neat packages (which does rely on you having a pan/bowl/tub available to make up the meal); and

2) they look thoroughly wholesome, being presented in layers including nuts, seeds and fruit; and

3) they contain a goodly amount of calories (the packs shown below are both 500 calories for a 127g pack; they also come in 800kcal/180g-ish packs)

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I would have sworn that I took photos of the main meal I ate, but if I did I now can’t find it, so here’s a photo of a different main course, as well as a breakfast which may or may not have been the same one as I ate.

I tried both a breakfast and a main meal:

Breakfast

I’m not entirely sure which breakfast I tried as it ended up in my hands because the label was missing, but I think it was the Blueberry Burst pictured above. Whatever it was, the main things that struck me about it was that it produced a massive portion and that it used oats of a much better quality than those I usually use. The portion would, perhaps, not have seemed so large if I was on a walking trip when I tried it, but as I was spending my days sitting down at the time, the portion proved big enough to keep me feeling full until lunchtime. That’s quite remarkable for someone who is renowned for the phrase ‘I’m hungry’ and who usually only makes it a couple of hours after breakfast before snacking. My verdict for the recipe was a definite thumbs up. 

Main Course

It was the Morrocan main that I tried, which is a couscous based meal, with fruit and nuts, a few veg, herbs and flavouring. Very tasty it was too. Another thumbs up, and my perception was that it was definitely more wholesome and filling than an Ainsley Harriet flavoured couscous sachet. It wasn’t as filling as the breakfast, but it was enough for me, and if a bigger portion was required, the company also does an 800-calorie version of its mains.

Overall Verdict

TentMeals is only a little company and I really like what they’re offering. I would happily eat these again on any of our trips.

Unfortunately for TentMeals, that doesn’t mean that I will necessarily become a customer (although, that said, if the generous discount voucher I have is still valid, I might be tempted). Whilst I think that £4.50 for both of the meals I tried is competitive when compared to the rest of the commercial backpacking meals market, the fact is that these are essentially raw food meals that get their high calorie content from nuts, seeds and dried fruit and I could knock up something very similar myself. However, not everyone wants to spend time making up their own backpacking meals, so for those who want to buy off the shelf, I’d say that TentMeals is very much worth a look.

(*choice being a particular issue as I avoid meat; all of TentMeals offerings are meat-free, albeit with serving suggestions that meat can be added.

**that was me doing the ‘disclosure’ thing!)

Friday, 5 August 2016

Pyrenean Kit List 2016

When we were walking Offa's Dyke Path in April this year, and I was struggling to get comfortable on my NeoAir Short, I wondered why that sleep mat was proving less comfortable than it had been on the Southern Upland Way (SUW) last spring and the GR10 last summer. Then I started to wonder whether I'd used it on the SUW; maybe the low temperature was causing the problem? My blog frequently provides me with answers to questions I have about my own life, but its been years since I last posted a kit list, so it was of no use to me on this question. 

So, for my own future reference, listed below is all the stuff I carried in the Pyrenees this summer. To make some of it potentially of interest to others, I've provided comments on some items. 

I haven't weighed the individual items, but housed in my Osprey Exos 46 (and without gas, food or water) it came in at under 6.5kg (Edit to add: the stated weight excludes one complete outfit of clothes - i.e. what I expected to be wearing)

Items marked with a single asterisk were new for this trip, but direct replacements for retired items. Items marked with two asterisks were new for this trip and of a different make/model/design to what I had fulfilling the same purpose before. Items marked with three asterisks were extra items, not before carried.



Category/Item
Comment
Sleeping

Top section of homemade synthetic double quilt, in homemade stuffsack
Lightweight version. Was okay at 1 degree but if it got much cooler I'd be donning my fleece
Thermarest NeoAir Short in silk bag
I get on fine with the short length in warm weather. Prefer medium length if it's cooler.
Jagbags Silk sleeping bag liner (cut down)

Tent Poles and Pegs (Tarptent Double Rainbow) in homemade bag
Mick carries the flysheet.
Polycro Groundsheet in plastic bag
Accidentally took one cut to the shape and size of the Voyager. As it happens we only felt the need to use it twice.


Cooking and Eating

MSR Superfly Stove, in original MSR carry bag
I hate how big and bulky this stove is compared to the Coleman F1 Lite, but love the genius that allows it to be used on both screw-thread canisters and click-lock Campingaz canisters. The latter are much cheaper and more readily available than the former.
MSR Titan Kettle cookpot

Two plastic teaspoons
Can't believe the original two teaspoons, given away as disposable with M&S lunches in 2008, are still going strong.
One plastic spork
Lives in backpack lid for use at lunchtimes. Another M&S 'disposable' piece of cutlery from 2008. Sensibly, M&S soon switched back to more flimsy one-shot cutlery.
Homemade pot cosy
The sides and lid are made of metalicised bubblewrap, the base is closed-cell foam (although only because I ran out of metalicised bubblewrap when I was making it)
Homemade foil windshield
Made out of a disposable baking tray
cigarette lighter
Bought five for a pound at Poundland.
can opener
Weighs 8g and takes up almost no room, but as it's been used twice in eight years, I do question why I still carry it.
Half a washing-up sponge

Homemade stuffsack for cooking kit

Plastic mug
Bought in first week of LEJOG in 2008 (and washed at least a dozen times since then!). Quite delaminated on the outside now but still perfectly functional.
Sawyer Squeeze Mini water filter
Used extensively. It's so quick and easy to use that all water, except when got out of a tap in a hotel/bar or bought in a bottle, was put through the filter. It's not as comprehensive as my Drinksafe Systems filter in what it removes, but perfectly adequate for the (probably perfectly good even without filtering) water sources in the Pyrenees.
Sawyer Squeeze 0.5 litre water bladder
1-litre capacity would be more convenient, but this is what came with the filter.
Sawyer Squeeze backflushing syringe
All water was such good quality that there was no clogging of the filter at all, but past experience has shown that just one dodgy water source can clog a filter enough to make a backflush necessary.
2-litre Platypus water bladder

32 fl Oz Gatorade bottle
Main drinking bottle.
Asda bag for life (AKA food bag)*



Daily Clothes

Craghoppers convertible trousers
I didn't notice last year that these are too long on me; it was so hot that the legs didn't see much action. This year the legs were used extensively and were quite annoying when they kept getting stuck under my heels. Must turn them up!
Mountain Equipment Fleece

Short-sleeved merino top

Short-sleeved synthetic top

Homemade arm warmers/sleeves***
Not used, but I'd still take them again as they're so small and light.
Two pairs Kalenji (Decathlon) pants

Phenomenally expensive Odlo sports bra

X-Socks One ankle socks (x2)
One more pair of socks than I would usually take. Intended to wear the old, stretched pair for the first week then bin them, but they survived the whole trip.
Injinji toe socks**

Smartwool ankle socks (bedsocks)
I compromised on bedsocks, taking a smaller, thinner pair than usual. Good call, as I didn’t need them beyond the first few cool days.
Mock-croc camp shoes
Sadly binned in Bolquere.
Tilley Hat

Dirtygirl gaiters
Love 'em! Keeps grit out of the shoes without any foot sweatiness.


Cold & Wet Clothing

Homemade insulated vest** in silk bag

Montane Atomic Waterproof Jacket
It may be waterproof but it's seriously lacking in breathability. Worst jacket ever owned, but it was cheap and is light.
Berghaus Paclite Waterproof Trousers

Disposable Poncho***
It may be a glorified oversized bin liner with a  hood, but it weighs 50g and is remarkably effective!
Extremities Powerstretch Beanie

Berghaus Powerstretch gloves

Buff

Extremities lightweight waterproof overmitts*
Not used, but if it'd been a bit colder on the rainy days they might have been
Montane Featherlite windshirt

Waterproof 3L stuffsack to hold hats & gloves*



If something goes wrong

First Aid Kit
Three types of painkiller, anti sickness, anti squits, antihistamine, hydrocortisone cream, plasters, zinc oxide tape, bandage.
Sewing Kit
Needle and various pretty colours of thread.
3g tube of superglue

length of dyneema cord

Tenacious tape
Mick carries the gaffa tape
McMurdo Fastfind Personal Locator Beacon
A 'one-shot' PLB - only to be used in dire emergency!
Whistle

Safety pins (2)



Hygiene

Toiletries kit in mesh bag
Toothpaste, toothbrushes, mirror, shampoo, soap, moisturiser
Small bag of soapflakes
Would have been used if I hadn't lost them within my bag for the first 18 days of the trip! Bags  sent in resupply parcels were used.
Toilet paper in small plastic bag
Mick carries the 'shit kit' including the toilet paper, hand gel, cigarette lighter and poo shovel. I carry the 'squit kit' (i.e. extra, emergency toilet paper)
Sanitising Hand Gel

Lipsyl (Factor 15)

Suncream (Factor 30; 50ml tube)
Mick's delicate skin takes Factor 50+. The 50ml tube wasn't quite new for this trip and lasted for its duration. I didn't burn.
Pee-rag and pee-rag holder
The holder is a little half-mesh bag with a strap which holds it accessible on my belt.
Handkerchiefs (2)

"Towel"
half of a super-absorbent Vileda cloth.


Where are we?

Maps

Compass

Ortlieb Map case



Miscellaneous

Printout of planned itinerarararary
Should have also printed the copy with accommodation info on it. Was difficult and battery consuming to get info off phone.
Passports

European Health Insurance Cards

Plastic Ziplok bags (3)
to hold First Aid Kit, Repair Kit and Electrical stuff.
Spare plastic bags
varying sizes and types. The collection grows as we eat our dehydrated meals, and reduces as those bags are re-used for breakfast cereal and rubbish.
Homemade sitmat
Two layers of the insulating foil stuff that goes behind radiators (not the bubblewrap type), taped and sewn together. Not ideal for sitting on a slope (hessian bag on a helter-skelter…) but very small and light.
DEET
50% DEET in aerosol form. Thankfully only called into action on 2 occasions this year.
Sunwise Windrush Sunglasses and bag

Two clothes pegs
Never carried any until I 'acquired' these two pegs on a campsite in France last year. How did I ever manage without them before?!
Exped Fold Drybag rucksack liner*

j-cloths (2)
One for mopping the tent, one for use as a pan-lift.
Tough plastic bag 'wallet', for bank cards, money and spare SIM

Large Aloksak to store paperwork & maps
Really on its last legs now after 8 years of use. Need to find somewhere to buy another one this size.


Electronics

Samsung Galaxy S5 mini mobile phone
Guidebooks and other written materials also held on phone. All walk-related materials on my phone are duplicated on Mick's. This also acted as GPS and camera. I didn't take a separate camera, and thus didn't need to carry a spare camera battery either. SIM was on 3 network, to take advantage of the cheapness of their 'Feel at Home' deal.
Earphones

Petzl e+lite headtorch
Only adequate for night walking if Mick is in front of me with a decent headtorch!
Spare batteries for headtorch
If we'd needed to do any night walking, I would have needed to use the new batteries. As it was, I managed with the nearly-dead batteries already in the torch.
Three spare phone batteries
The curse of blogging on the go. I have never yet got beyond using the third of four on any stretch between electricity supplies.
Two mini-USB cables

One Fitbit Surge Cable
For Mick's Fitbit. I switched to my Zip for the trip, which has a battery which lasts 3 to 4 months.
Fitbit Zip

Two European USB plug
In the UK I always carry one double and one single. Would have been handy to have had the same arrangement in France as we kept getting rooms with only one plug socket.
Aquapac waterproof phone case