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]

Saturday 16 June 2007

Anquet Maps - Quirky Thing!

Last year I bought the Anquet version of the OS mapping of Great Britain. Having ummed and arrrred over whether the £125 price tag was worth it, and having since used it extensively, I can now declare that for us it was a worthwhile purchase.

However, the software is not, in my opinion, entirely intuitive to use.

With practice, I seem to have grasped the basics and I've been getting on quite well with it with plotting the LEJOG route, but a few weeks ago I had an incident where a spurious waypoint appeared that made a 10 mile day into something like a 50 mile day. I couldn't find the spurious point to delete it (you follow it so far and then you page down and the tell-tale straight line is no longer there). After running out of ways of solving the problem I went for what must have been the easiest option of deleting the entire day and starting it again. I thought at the time that it must have been my error.

Tonight, Husband plotted a day (his first one!). Having shouted instructions across the room to him, he declared that something had gone awry. Upon inspection it turned out that a point had been added to the previous route section (ie not the one upon which he was working) making a 19 mile day into a 350 mile one. After trying to back-track to delete it for fifteen minutes or so, I again reached the same conclusion that the route section had to be deleted and re-plotted.

One such incident I could put down to operator error. Two similar incidents by different operators and with no evidence of the mystery way point actually existing, I have to surmise is a bug in the software. And very annoying it is too.

So, we've ended today just one small section ahead of where we were two days ago (but, hey, at least we're heading North now!).

Thursday 14 June 2007

LEJOG Planning - How Far South?!

Just looked at the map again and realised that not only does the Langdon Beck to Dufton stage head south west, but it ends the day a whole 3 miles further south than it started.

That's really just feels wrong!

LEJOG Planning - I'm Going the Wrong Way!

As part of my continued LEJOG route planning, I've just plotted the section on the Pennine Way between Langdon Beck and Dufton.

It just doesn't seem right in a walk that is inherently south to north in nature, to be plotting part of the path that heads generally in a south-westerly direction, with the day ending furher south than it started.

But, it does take in High Cup Nick on the way, so hopefully that will make the seeming detour worthwhile.

Monday 11 June 2007

Inov8 Terrocs - Thoughts So Far

After our two day trip in the Rhinogau a couple of weeks ago, I said that I would talk about my Inov8 Terrocs separately. It's about time that I got around to that - particularly as I've been reminded to do so by the discussion that's been had on the subject of light-weight footwear on the new TGO Magazine forum.

The Innov8 range, particularly the Terroc, has been receiving a lot of attention over the last eighteen months or couple of years, with the general consensus being that they are fantastic shoes. Those people who may be put off by the lack of ankle support are reassured that the support comes from the heel cup not the height of the ankle cuff and those who fear walking for days on end with wet feet are reassured that the water pumps out quickly and within minutes of a dunking your feet feel warm again and soon feel dry.

Indeed, Andy Howell on his blog has said that the water leaves the shoes so effectively that when he comes to a river or stream crossing when wearing his, he just walks on through, saving any need to change footwear or remove socks.

Having read all these rave reviews and the reassurance that walking with wet feet isn't a bad experience, I was definitely sold on the concept.

At the end of August last year, I bought a pair of Terrocs, intending to wear them on the West Highland Way in October. As it went, I didn't get to try them for a while and I didn't get to walk the WHW. Their first real outing was on a very short walk on the hillside behind Barmouth, in pouring rain, back in October (a walk memorable for the fact that I had forgotten my jacket so ended up walking wearing the coat equivalent of a green wellington boot).

I was unconvinced either way after my first outing wearing them. My feet did get wet, but they didn't have continuous dunkings, so they warmed back up pretty quickly; they weren't sloshing around feeling wet the whole time. My feeling was that I needed to have a few more walks over wet terrain and at least a couple of days backpacking in them to decide whether they were for me. I thought that, after my first backpacking trip wearing them, I would have formed a definite opinion either way.

Eight months later the jury is still out. I think that if I wasn't so desperate to like the shoes (the concept of such light weight flexible footwear really appeals to me) I would have given up on them by now.

Back in January I wore them on local walk and spent hours with wet feet. Although my feet were warm for most of the time spent walking, when we stopped for lunch they cooled down and I spent the rest of the walk (fortunately not too long) with very cold feet. I decided that maybe I should reserve the non-waterproof option for warmer weather.

Not learning my lesson, I wore them a couple more times (just a reminder: back in January/February it was jolly wet; all of our local paths were truly waterlogged). When, at the end of February I went back to my boots (which are Brasher Superlites, so are light and flexible in any case), it was a revelation. Walking in my boots was just so much more pleasant! Not only did my feet stay warm and dry for the entire walk, but I didn't have the mud trying to suck my shoe off my foot every step, as I had with the shoes.

Not to be defeated, I continued to wear them through March and April when the paths started drying out, and as the weather became very dry they became my new best friend. Even spending a day walking exclusively on hard surfaces, I didn't get the foot fatigue that I would have expected from wearing my boots. My only grumble was that the heel cup on the right shoe seems to be slightly out of shape (or maybe it's my foot that's out of shape, but I've never had the problem before) causing the outside of the shoe to dig in just under my ankle bone on uneven surfaces.
With my recollection of all of the winter cold/wet feet experiences fading in my memory, I decided to give them a proper test at the end of May when we had planned a two day trip in the Rhinogau. It looked like the ideal test. Not only is the terrain rough and often boggy, but the forecast was for good weather on Saturday (which would hopefully see me maintain comfortable dry feet all day) but for heavy rain on Sunday. I set out on the Saturday braced for having wet feet on the Sunday, but optimistic that I would finally see the light and decree that the shoes were great in the wet too (and if all else failed, at least the wet feet would be limited to one day, with a hot shower and dry socks at the end of it).

Alas, I again came away with mixed opinions. On the Saturday, I remained dry-footed, but in the early part of the day the rough terrain was making me doubt the abilities of the shoe. On reflection, where my right foot was being forced into a twisted position inside of the shoe, the same problem would probably have occurred with a boot (I have a smaller right foot so my right shoe is always too big). But, by the end of the day, which saw me scrambling on some rather fun terrain, the shoes were getting a definite thumbs up for comfort and performance.

The down-side came on the Sunday. After my first period of wading through a marsh, the water didn't pump out of the shoes as quickly as people had described, and although my feet warmed up reasonable quickly once the water did start to leave after their initial dunking, after an hour of walking through boggy land, I had cold wet feet for most of the rest of the day. They probably would have warmed up after a couple of hours, but just as I was feeling warmth seep back in we would set off through another bog and the hint of warmth would be gone with the first shoe-full of water.

When I did finally spend a couple of hours without encountering a water obstacle, my feet did start to feel drier (even though later inspection of the socks proved them to be still waterlogged).
The real downside of all of this cold, wet footedness was that it made me cold. I ended up wearing a ridiculous number of layers; in fact, I ended up wearing all of the clothes that I had with me, and was still cold (even after resorting to stopping for a cup of tea). I'm sure that given warm, dry feet, I would have been much warmer.

But, there was a big plus side: once my shoes were full of water, there was absolutely no point in prancing about, being careful about each footfall, trying to find the firm, dry ground. Once they were wet, it made sense to just wade on through the marshes, which was a strangely liberating experience. Even accidentally stepping straight into a stream upto mid-calf was amusing, which it surely wouldn't have been had it led to a bootful of water.

Although I felt like the shoes lost their lightweight edge when filled with water and despite not being happy about the slow-drain induced cold-footedness, I will perservere yet. I still have more sock options to try (again, I'll talk about that separately, I think that I've waffled enough for the moment). Failing everything else, they're still a great pair of shoes for day walks that don't involve too much water and I will be forced to look at waterproof lined trail shoe options for wet backpacking terrain.

Monday 4 June 2007

Phew! Hot Water Again.

Not outdoors related, but:

Today I gave Husband the task of visiting a local electrical merchant in his lunchbreak. Upon asking for the specific type of 2A fuse he says that the rather vacant assistant got a case of fuses out, looked through it and said 'haven't got any 2A ... I've got 1.25A'.

It's a bit like asking for a size 5 walking boot, the assitant going away to look before coming back and enthusiastically saying 'We've not got a 5; we've got a 3 or a 7'. What do they expect you to do? Say 'Okay, I'll just lop off my toes and try the 3'?

Husband resisted his urge of saying he'd take two of the 1.25A to join them together, reported back to me and I ordered a pack of ten online (I must be desperate - £2.80 for a pack of 10 fuses, and £5 P&P!!).

In the meantime, Husband managed to liberate a couple of fuses of the right type from the shop floor at work - so we do have hot water whilst waiting for our own to arrive (whereupon I will of course replace the liberated ones).

On the outdoorsy front, I'm just about to return to my Anquet maps to find out where we're going from Grindley Brook. I've almost concluded that we're taking the South Cheshire Way, so now all I have to do is follow it and see what route it takes.

Sunday 3 June 2007

The Good and the Bad of the Weekend

No walking this weekend. I felt the need to stay at home and do some useful things, like point around the top of the chimney where water’s been getting in and do something with the wilderness that is our boundary hedge. Not everything about this weekend was good. Here’s a quick summary of the good and the bad:

The good: My route planning for our LEJOG expedition next year stalled a couple of weeks ago, when I reached Chirk Castle on the Offa’s Dyke Path and decided that the Maelor Way was the most sensible way to head East from there. I finally got around, on Thursday, to phoning Wrexham TIC to mail order the guide book for this 24 mile route. It arrived on Saturday – and what a good book! It’s a little dated, but the detail inside of it appears to be fantastic, with route instructions given in both directions and huge amounts of detail about the things you can expect to see on the way, from trees and plants to wildlife and butterflies, and of course landmarks and buildings of note. The book is very neatly hand-written (in the Wainwright style) and the biggest benefit for me is that the sketch maps, whilst mildly difficult to tally up with the 1:50k OS map on which I am route planning, will be adequate to go alongside the OS maps in order to keep us on the Way. So, for £3.65 (including P&P), we’ve saved the need for 4 off 1:25k maps.

Now that the route planning has reached Grindley Brook, I’ve the decision to make as to whether we follow canals to Prestbury or whether to follow the South Cheshire Way to Mow Cop (which in my head is Cow Mop) and a canal from there. I think that the latter option is winning at the moment.

Bad things: For those people who may be reading this and don’t know me, let me just say that I’m quite a practical person. I’ve re-plumbed a number of houses, I’ve fitted central heating (back when all you had to be was ‘competent’ in order so to do legally; ie before the Building Regs decreed that one could only be competent if one holds certain qualifications and memberships), I’ve re-wired and wired in new circuits (similarly before Building Regs decreed that I could no longer do that). So, the prospect of fitting a room thermostat to our boiler was not a daunting one.

Alas, in a moment of female blondness/stupidity/carelessness, I shorted the circuit, blowing the internal fuse. Sunday afternoon is not a good time to do something like that when you don’t just happen to have a spare in the house. It’s even worse when that combi-boiler is your only source of hot water. Having had a cold shower after my run this afternoon, I don’t know how Paula manages those ice baths! Tomorrow I will be on a mission to get a replacement fuse. Then I will wire the thermostat in and pay a bit more attention this time!

Whilst creating disasters with the boiler, I had a load of washing in the maching. The bedding had been washed so many times before that I felt quite safe putting two cream towels in with the blue and green. I now have green tinged towels. Doh! Two mini-disasters in one afternoon.

But, back to the positive: the lawn is mowed, the hedge is 25% trimmed (it’s a huge hedge!) and the chimney is pointed.