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]

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A Government-esque U-Turn

Remember how I said that I wasn’t interested in the Neo-Air?

Remember how I gave lots of reasons why I didn’t want one?

Remember how I got serious gear envy when I saw Mick’s in the flesh?

Sitting next to me just now is my very own Neo-Air :-)

Absolutely tiny and allegedly only 260g (a weight claim that I will of course check when I get home).

I’ve never tried a short mat before, but having questioned a lot of people about short-mat-sleeping (thank you to those who submitted to my obsessive questioning!), I thought that I would give it a go. I may find that it’s not for me, but I can’t knock it until I’ve tried it, so try it I will.

The other reason why investing in the dinky Neo-Air was a bit of a flier was the number of reports of problems with the short length. However, it seems universally to be the case that problems show themselves immediately. I blew mine up at about 5pm yesterday and it’s still firm. I take that to be a promising sign.

A report will follow after first use (either a smug report or a ‘anyone want to buy a pre-tested Neo-Air? Short is not for me’).

Friday, 12 June 2009

TGOC: What I Carried

A couple of weeks ago I said that I had catalogued and weighed all of the kit that I carried on the TGOC and that I would post it. It’s taken me a while (including battle with Google Documents that didn’t like the formatting in any of my pretty versions) but I think that I got there in the end.

You’ll find the full kit-list here. On top of that little lot, I also carried a reducing amount of gas and varying amounts of food and water.

I’ve not done a similar exercise with listing and weighing Mick’s kit list, but the theory of ‘shared load = shared weight’ doesn’t necessarily apply to us. Unless I’ve overlooked something I would only need to add a toilet trowel (+75g), and the balance of the weight for a whole tent (say +300g for a Laser Competition) to make myself self-sufficient.

The kit isn’t wildly different to what I carried on the Big Walk last year, so it has been tried and tested and it works for me. The usual disclaimers apply that we are all different and what I’m comfortable with (e.g. wearing a single pair of trousers for three months), may be someone else’s nightmare. With that in mind, do feel free to comment.

(Thanks go to Alan-of-the-ear who saw this kit-list prior to publication and spotted that the reason for the half kilo discrepancy between the total pack weight and the sum of the parts was that my sleep mat had dropped off somewhere. It’s now reinstated and the total weights now tally.)

Thursday, 11 June 2009

TGOC Photos

I've finally uploaded the photos from the TGO Challenge. You can view them by clicking on this link and then clicking on 'slideshow' (near the top, on the left side).

If it's going too fast or too slow, you can change the speed of the slideshow at any time using the controls at the bottom of the screen.

A couple or three of the photos are out of order, so it does jump around a little bit, but once I'd uploaded them I couldn't find a way of moving them around (and I wasn't going to start again).

Oooh, it just makes me want to go for a walk!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Smug Mick and the Neo-Air

Our campsite on Friday night was within three miles of Ma-in-Law’s house. Had we diverted from Ogden water, it would barely have added any distance to the route to have a bed in a dry house for the night. But, Mick had his new Thermarest Neo-Air to try out…

…And was he smug about that Neo-Air? Oh yes!

Even though it’s the Medium sized mat, at 5’6” long, it packs up into a tiny package and is is noticeably lighter than the Pro-Lite 3 that he was using before (and that I’m still using). Despite these attributes, I was adamant that I didn’t want one.

Then Mick inflated it, and there it was lying next to my Prolite 3, and suddenly all of the reasons why I didn’t want one flew out of the window and I had serious gear envy.

Mick was smug; very smug indeed, but he was also an absolutely gentleman and was quite insistent that he swap with me.

I couldn’t possibly have stolen the first use of his new mat though, so he had a very comfy night. I didn’t have a noticeably uncomfortable night (well, except for the usual bruised ribs where my bony elbow dug in), but the gear envy remained.

I wants one!

 Image088 Even Ma-in-Law has a go on the Neo-Air


Saturday, 6 June 2009

Denholme to Ripponden

Quite a while ago now Martin said that he was going to go on a backpacking trip this week. Without knowing a precise location, we said that we would join him for the weekend. The weekend in question was this weekend, and conveniently his schedule (a truly crazy schedule – really, go and look at it!) had him walking within just a few miles of Ma-in-Law’s house, making logistics a lot less complicated than they might have been.

Now, you may have noticed that we’ve had some uncommonly good weather this last week or so. You may also have noticed (if you follow his blog (and if you don’t then I would recommend it)) that Martin has a bit of a knack for getting good weather for his trips. Conversely, Mick and I have a dreadful record for good weather…


The sun was shining yesterday morning, and it was in summer-wear that we took up residence outside of the Mechanics’ Institute (in the absence of an open pub) early in the afternoon to wait for Martin’s arrival.

It was the bright orange Crocs that first alerted me to his approach and exactly at his predicted time he strode up to us and, being just about lunchtime, lunch was the first priority.

By the time the Co-op and the chippy had been visited and the dining started, the sunny day had turned into an ominously cloudy one. By the time the last chip was eaten, the rain was starting to fall.

For the reasons outlined in the second paragraph above, I accepted full responsibility for the sudden appearance of rain after so many consecutive days of fine weather.

P6050237a Time to give in to the need for waterproof trousers

We managed to negotiate our way out of the village (new housing estates have made navigation of the local footpaths a bit trickier until the maps catch up (or maybe the maps have caught up and we just have old ones)) and a gold star goes to Martin for also managing to pay attention to the map even with the chatting (a notoriously difficult task and one in which I failed).

It wasn’t too long before we had to concede that the ‘passing shower’ wasn’t going to pass, and out came the waterproof trousers, which became a permanent feature for the rest of the trip.

Approaching Ogden Water we got onto ground with which I’m vaguely familiar and which I know to be very pretty indeed on a sunny day. As it was, the surroundings were a little marred by the dampness.

P6050238a Blossom around Ogden Water – not marred by the rain

Respite from the weather was had as we dripped over the floor, chairs and tables of the Ogden Visitor Centre, and during that time the sun came out, which would have been quite an exciting event given the previous couple of hours, except that on this occasion the appearance of the sun didn’t cause the rain to stop.

Back out onto steaming tarmac we stepped, but the sun was soon beaten back into submission by the cloud as we crossed the almost-deserted Halifax golf course and then picked up the Calderdale Way, which was then followed all the way to Jerusalem Campsite just by Booth.

It looked unlikely that the rain (admittedly light rain) was going to abate for long enough for us to pitch so we wasted no time with picking a spot (amongst mole hills, in the hope that one didn’t appear underneath us in the night) and diving for shelter. It was an unsociable evening given the conditions and by 8pm (oh, what party animals we are!) there was a sound of snoring coming from our tent.



The rain overnight was almost without cease. The other feature of the night was that I listened to fourteen chapters of my audio-book, but managed to sleep through twelve of them!

Fortunately the pattering on nylon was barely noticeable at 5.30 as we came to pack the tent away. Unfortunately, the respite was brief and the belief that it was going to be a showery morning was a misguided one (because surely a 3 hour shower is just called ‘rain’?).

Lots of places passed through this morning looked very oooh-worthy and would ordinarily have seen me reaching for the camera. As it went, I didn’t take a single photo. Perhaps, with the route being so close to Ma-in-Law’s house, we’ll return on a sunny day to appreciate more fully those surroundings.

Various stretches of treacherously slippery cobbles (“well recovered!” I said to Mick after a bit of arm-waving saved him from the jaws of a slip; two steps later his foot shot from under him and he appreciated the cushioning attributes of his sleeping bag in his backpack) were negotiated. Through some very pleasant (but drippy) woodland we passed. A blissfully muddy disused railway line (so many are hard surfaced, it’s nice to find one that’s soft underfoot) was negotiated. After all of which (at all of 8.40am), we were three dripping but cheerful walkers as we presented ourselves into a tea-and-sandwich-serving-but-no-tables-or-chairs establishment in Ripponden.

Along came Sue, who had by prior arrangement arrived to deliver some different footwear to Martin, who had been suffering from a bit of a poorly ankle tendon. The different-shoes mission turned into a ‘take us home’ mission as the sensible decision to abort the rest of the trip was announced. Martin had already walked further than most would in his five days (really, if you didn’t go and look at his schedule when I told you to earlier, then go and do it now!) and had thoroughly enjoyed himself in the previous good weather (i.e. until Mick & I arrived!). There was no value in making a poorly ankle worse and enduring two days of rain just out of principle – and I can’t claim to have been disappointed to have missed our final six miles of hoods-up heads-down yomping, before we were due to do battle with Bustitution (or Rail Replacement Bus Service for those who don’t understand the term) from Marsden.

And so…

The weather was undeniably shitty. We walked 6 miles fewer than intended. I destroyed a second pair of waterproof trousers within the space of a month (I’ll post about that separately). And would I have rather have been sitting on the sofa in front of the telly? Absolutely not.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Blogging LEJOGgers Update

A few weeks ago I mentioned a few LEJOGers who had started blogging their journeys north and one blogging JOGLEr who was due to set out in June. Subsequent to that post another LEJOG Blogger was pointed out to me (thank you Karen!). Here’s an update:

Last week Aly and Malcolm finished their LEJOG run (yes that’s right, they ran it and without taking a single day off, although they did refer to any day of fewer than 20 miles as a ‘rest day’). Their regular updates were short and to the point so if you didn’t follow them at the time it won’t take a dreadfully long time to skim through their adventure retrospectively. Having read and enjoyed all of their updates along the way, I stand in awe of anyone running such distances every day for seven weeks.

Still Going Strong
I met up with Geoff for a couple of days’ of walking at the beginning of May, and he is now in the north of Scotland with only a handful of days left to go – and it’s good to see that he’s loving it. He’s just off into the wilds of north west Scotland now, so there should still be interesting reports to read between now and when he finishes.

Then there’s Brendan who should today (by my reckoning) be crossing the Scottish border. I’ve been following his blog since he was way down south and have found it a particularly interesting read, as he started out from Land’s End as something of a novice when it came to backpacking. Now, approaching two months later, he has climbed a steep learning curve and there’s barely a hint of the obstacles he had to contend with at the outset. He’s still having the occasional crisis of confidence as to not going fast enough or that he’s carrying too much gear, but perhaps we only know about that because of his detailed and open blogging style.

Just started
And on Monday this week Sophie and her dog Patch set out from John O’Groats to walk south. There have only been a couple of blog entries so far, but I will be following her travels with interest and wish her all the best.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Twenty Four Big Puffs

“Twenty four big puffs, very comfy but sounds like crisp packets” was my brief report to Mick when I took delivery of his new Thermarest NeoAir Medium.

The inflation took me two stages, as I had to recover from the dizziness in the middle. I then gave it the obvious comfort test and it seemed … well remarkably comfy.

All being well he’ll be trying it out this weekend.

Not that he’s turning into a kit monster, but there was another parcel for Mick yesterday. I noticed at the weekend that he’s worn though the inner of his Sealskinz socks (which have always leaked anyway), so it was time to get him a replacement.

Many people seem to sing the praises of GoreTex socks (whereas nobody seems to sing the praises of Sealskinz (although to date, with many miles on them, mine have been absolutely fine)) so I ordered a pair of Trekmates Amphibians.

I didn’t test those out for him, and hopefully the weather forecast will be wrong, meaning that we’ll have a perfectly dry walk on the weekend, with no bog at all, so they will remain untested. Wishful thinking?