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]

Thursday 30 August 2007

Cutting An Arm Off

Never have I been so desperate for someone to cut his own arm off.

Having had a bit of a run of reading adventure/disaster sorts of books over the last couple of years (it all started when my ex-boss lent me a copy of Into Thin Air), I’ve just finished reading ‘Between A Rock & A Hard Place’ by Aron Ralston.

Let me just do a quick compare and contrast between this book and a few other well known stories:

Into Thin Air/The Climb: Few people reading these books would be familiar with the ins and outs of climbing something as big as Everest, therefore it’s all good and interesting to have lots of description about the logistics and the issues of such an expedition. Then there’s all the description about the acclimatisation exercises and the health issues. Then there’s a big storm and lots of description about how that affected lots of people. Then there was the aftermath.

So, there was a huge amount of material to be included in the books. Neither book was particularly long (my copy of Into Thin Air: 288 pages), and both were packed full of interest and action.

Whilst Into Thin Air has received much criticism, I found it to be an incredibly gripping read (and of course, I had to follow it with The Climb just to get a different angle on the events).

Touching the Void: Again, the lead up to how the accident happened was entirely relevant to the accident and there was plenty to describe. The climb itself was an interesting subject. Then there was the accident which was followed by days of all of the various problems that Joe had to overcome in order to get himself back to camp and to survive. Then there was the aftermath.

The book was remarkably short considering the story it told (199 pages – no room for waffle at all), and it shared with the Everest books the attribute of having plenty of material to fill it.

Then there’s Rock & A Hard Place. I don’t think I’d be ruining the story for anyone (as I’m not going to say more than is on the back cover) to summarise the story as follows: A chap goes for a 10 mile walk in the wilderness without so much as telling anyone which county he’s going to be in; he gets half way when a boulder falls trapping his arm against a canyon wall; he sits there for five days and very nearly dies; on the fifth day, he amputates his own arm and gets rescued.

Without wanting to belittle what he went through, given that he was trapped in one place and fundamentally had only one problem to contend with (i.e. how to free himself), that’s not an awful lot of story, yet the book is longer (342 pages) than the other books that I’ve named which had ten times the story to tell.

So, how did he fill the spare space? He described various other trips he had made in his life – most of which stories only went to show (in my opinion) that the chap has a great ability to behave either stupidly or recklessly (not that either trait had any bearing on the accident that ensued – it really could have happened to anyone).

Let me stress again that I don’t want to belittle what Aron went through and the strength of character that led to his survival. The relevant parts of the book showed that what he did was amazing. I don’t deny that most people probably wouldn’t have come out of it alive. He most definitely had a story to tell; my problem was that the story wasn’t a very long one – and the book was.

It’s taken me an absolute age to drag myself through its pages (why didn’t I just abandon it as a bad job? Husband had already read it and told me that it improved. He was right: the last fifty pages were quite interesting).

And so I found myself, by day three of the unfortunate events of Aron’s trip, just desperately waiting for him to cut his arm off, which would indicate that I was getting to the end of the story and that I could move on to read something more interesting.

Of course all of that is entirely subjective. Others will have hated Into Thin Air, some will love Between a Rock. Please don’t let me put you off from reading any of them…

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Random Thoughts

The test of the Pacerpoles was carried out on Sunday. First impressions weren’t great when the right one refused to lock at the height at which I needed it. I used it short for a while, then adjusted it and it held just fine. Hopefully it was a one off glitch.

I hadn’t thought that the difference in weight between my carbon poles and Husband's standard ones would be really noticeable in use, but having walked for a short distance with one of each, we were both in agreement that mine were very noticeably lighter.

Not much else that I can say. The handles are the same as the standard model, so in use they performed exactly like I expected them to.

Oh, and Husband enjoyed the novelty of an entire walk without his poles disappearing into my hands!
Imitation Crocs

Okay, so my resolve not to stop spending money on gear didn’t last long, but I think that I can just about justify £5.

The order for my PHD jacket didn’t include the down booties that I had been considering. I couldn’t justify the £29 expenditure. Although the ability of my feet to turn into blocks of ice is legendary, ordinarily when I’m camping my feet can retreat to my sleeping bag to warm up. I don’t usually stand outside of a tent chatting until all hours of night, and thus the cold footed experience of the night in the Brecon Beacons is not the norm.

As a compromise, I decided that a pair of Crocs may be the answer. That would allow me to walk around camp in dry footwear with thick socks.

At £30 for a pair of genuine Crocs, I would not have forked out the money. As light as they are, I’m not sure that when packing for a trip I will be able to convince myself to carry the extra weight (they fall definitely into the category of ‘nice to have’ rather than being a necessity). However, finding some rip-off Crocs in Asda for £5, I thought they would be worth trying (Sister delighted in telling me later that she could have got me a pair for £2!). At the worst they’ll live by the front door for popping outside in in wet weather, so I doubt that it will be £5 wasted.

And the weight? 170g for the pair! If I was to cut all of the ridiculously long straps off my Osprey Aura (admitting that I’m never going to have the 80 inch hips that it is prepared to take), I could probably save most of that weight…

Modern Communication
Bit of a random one here that’s not remotely outdoor related, but I’m going to mention it anyway: Husband was telling me about an article that he had been reading regarding mobile phone technology.

Apparently there is now software available for mobiles that allows text messages to be converted to a voice message. So, you send a text, and the person that receives it can listen to it.

There is also functionality available that allows text messages to be written by voice commands.

So, it is now possible for someone to speak a message, that gets converted to text, sent to another mobile phone and for that person to listen to that text message.

And to think that in the old days we used to be so old fashioned as to pick up the phone and have a conversation!!

Tuesday 28 August 2007

A Sunday Afternoon Stroll: Stoodley Pike

Monday’s planned activity was to plumb in a new radiator for Ma-in-Law, which meant a trip to West Yorkshire. Fancying a bit of a walk on Sunday (preferably one that permitted a test of the new carbon Pacerpoles), we thought that we would take the opportunity to walk somewhere other than our usual local haunts. West Yorkshire seemed to be a good option.

A quick flick through a book of walks late on Saturday night led me to choose Todmorden as the starting point and the Stoodley Pike Monument as the main feature of the walk. Alas, I didn’t actually read any of the information in the book, but having decided on the location, picked out my own route off the map – the downside of which approach being that I didn’t see until afterwards the advice to take a torch so as to assist in ascending the stairs of the monument.

Having not arrived in Todmorden until gone 2.30, we still managed to dally a while (on a pasty hunt for lunch!) before seeking out the Calderdale Way to lead us out of town. Then, given the choice of a nice gentle, limestone paved route up onto Langfield Common, or the direct route, we did of course select the ‘interesting’ direct route uphill, which by and by led us to join up with the Pennine Way, which we followed to Stoodley Pike Monument.

Once at the monument, it was a bit of groping around in the pitch dark to find our way up the steps to the viewing balcony. But what a splendid day it was for it! Not only was it fine, but there was no haziness, so the views were both clear and far-reaching. What a shame that I had forgotten the camera (for which I kicked myself repeatedly) –I think it unlikely that the next time we’re there (25 May 2008, according to the itinerary) we will be lucky enough to have such good weather conditions.

Yet more groping in the dark saw us back down the steps and onwards along the Pennine Way until it crossed the Pennine Bridleway, which then took us to Mankinholes.

From Mankinholes, a few paths took us to the canal which (after we managed to squeeze our way past a large group of ramblers – the third such group we had encountered – and noted once again that people walking in a large group are wont to a) walk five abreast and b) assume that anyone walking behind them is part of their group and thus could not possibly want to pass) led us back to Todmorden.

It was our first outing in this particular area (although we have ambled along a couple of other sections of the Pennine Way nearby) and we both enjoyed the moorland – although without a doubt it’s a much more pleasant place on a warm sunny day than it would be on a dank misty day.

The mileage for the day was only 9.5 miles, but it was still nice to be out, even if only for a relatively short one.

Saturday 25 August 2007

PHD Minimus Jacket

As a conclusion to our kit expenditure, before unemployment and the resultant lack of income hits us shortly, the PHD Minimus Jacket was ordered at the very start of the PHD sale last Saturday at the bargain price at £89 with the colour choices of olive or olive. I went for the olive.

Yesterday the jacket arrived (thanks to Postie for signing for it himself and leaving it in the shed; not strictly the correct thing for him to do, but very much appreciated). As expected, the size small is somewhat on the large side for a wee slip of a girl. The sleeves in particular will happily cover my hands and then some. The body would probably house me in five big jumpers after a big dinner. In spite of these issues, I like it a lot.

Admittedly, one of the warmer days of this summer was probably not the best test for it, but early indications are that it will be very snugly and warm.

It also weighs nothing. Just under 310g with its stuff sack according to my balance scales (which according to the local Post Office under-weigh, but according to my usual Post Office over-weigh – surely Post Office scales should be calibrated, if for no other reason than to establish the accuracy of my scales?).

I had planned to make a couple of mods to the jacket to bring the weight down (and to make it fit a bit better), but as it seemingly weighs nothing, I think that I’ll save the effort and associated cursing at sewing machine and leave it just as it is.

With my colour co-ordination, the colour wasn’t hugely important, but I'm pleased to say that ‘olive’ has turned out to be perfectly acceptable (it’ll set off my purple gloves and red buff a treat…).

Friday 24 August 2007

LEJOG Planning (Part 2.2)

Once suitable campsites were located, the next trial was to plot the route between them.

The main difficulty here was not related to the problems with Anquet Mapping about which I have ranted previously; the main difficulty here is more to do, I think, with being blonde and female. Both traits mean that I get disorientated easily. With the very small portion of map that’s visible on the screen when you’ve got it blown up to 250% (the size needed in order accurately to plot the route), and with the task of trying to join footpaths and small road sections into a workable route, it’s all too easy to lose the bigger picture. Much time has been spent zooming out to 75% to see the big picture and zooming back in to 250% to do the plotting – only then to forget which paths I had intended to plot or missing the village that I was heading for, such that I then had to zoom back out again… and so it went on.

As I had fully expected, the easiest parts of the route to plan have been the Offa’s Dyke Path and the Pennine Way. Following the ‘Long Distance Path’ pink diamonds on the small section of map that’s visible on a 17” computer screen at 250% magnification is a lot easier than trying to make up your own route (although I did once or twice accidentally wander off route as two LDPs crossed each other).

Accommodation is also a bit easier to find on these routes, although a significant amount of searching was still required to hunt out places to camp on the ODP.

Thursday 23 August 2007

The Tent: She Is On Order!

Last night Husband was somewhat bemused as I started pitching the inner of our TN Voyager in the living room. He was more bemused when I crawled inside with a tape measure. It was all part of the Warmlite/Voyager comparison exercise. The exercise turned out positively in favour of the Warmlite.

Having crawled back out of the tent, I had a very useful telephone conversation with a nice lady at Stephenson’s.

Today, I have placed our order for our Warmlite 2R.

My previous indecision as to which extras we need/want was solved by both Alan Sloman and Husband independently stating the same spec.

So, the order is for a 2R with large door and wind stabilisers. Colours chosen are the very unadventurous green for the middle section and light green for the ends. Or, as Warmlite would term this tent, it will be a 2RW-LD-G-LG.

Payment was looking a bit scary from reading their website (no credit cards; cheques must be drawn on a US bank; wire transfers from overseas), however, in talking to them it transpired that they can accept Paypal payments for a fee of 4%. Not only is Paypal easier (no need for Swift Codes, ABA Numbers and other such confounding things), but 4% is a whole lot cheaper than a wire transfer.

Lead time is 6-8 weeks (or so they tell me). My very, very nice boss (who won’t be my boss by the time the tent is despatched) has kindly agreed to take delivery of the tent in the US and hand-carry it to the UK for me. I’m hoping that that will cut down on the likelihood of it going astray within the US Postal Service in addition to saving a bit more money.

With a bit of luck (and if Mother allows us to try it this side of Christmas, as technically this is our Christmas present from her) then we’ll be testing it out in December.

Wednesday 22 August 2007

LEJOG Route Planning (Part 2.1)

Continuing from a theme that I started a few weeks ago, I said that I would next talk about how I’ve gone about the route planning so far.

The concept didn’t seem to be that difficult:

1. Pick a destination for each day that looked about the right distance away from the starting point (ie around 15 miles and not more than 25 miles)
2. Find accommodation in or near to that place
3. Plan a route between the start and the accommodation
4. Plot it and print it
5. Repeat 80 or so times until the destination of John O’Groats is reached.

Having planned the route through England and Wales, I think I can speak with some level of experience in saying that the most difficult part of the route planning has been the accommodation factor.

An initial budgeting exercise led me to the plan that we would camp for an average of 5 nights per week and staying in a B&B for the other two.

That meant that for an average of five nights per week, I needed to find campsites at the end of the day.

Well, what a task finding suitable campsites turned out to be!

Naively, I started out with the notion that Cornwall and Devon would be the easy places to plan as campsites abound down there. It transpired that I was right about the quantity of campsites. Unfortunately, very few are conveniently located and whereas a five mile detour is nothing when you have wheels to assist you, when on foot even a mile out of the way becomes a big deal.

So, the great campsite hunt began. I knew from past experience that the tent symbol on the map is not a reliable indicator, but it’s still a good starting point when searching (in that it gives you a place name to start your search with). The ukcampsite website
was a good resource, but turned out not to be as comprehensive as I had previously thought. A couple of other regional campsite listings that I found (such as turned out to be useful. Other people’s LEJOG diaries helped. If all else failed, I resorted to more general searches on Google, which every now and then did turn up some useful information.

Of course, finding an address for a campsite doesn’t help when you’re not familiar with the area, so armed with my lists of campsites that seemed to be in the vicinity of places that we wanted to include on our route, yet more hours were spent with the computer whirring away to capacity as I used Multimap to convert post-codes to useful map positions (and finding that a postal address of ‘Helston’ can mean ‘not anywhere near Helston at all, actually’), from which I could discern whether the campsite would be useful to us.

As it turned out I was so successful in finding campsites that between Land’s End and the Scottish Border, if we stick to my planned itinerary, there are only seven nights that we have no option* but to stay in a B&B (and four of those are in joining the ODP with the PW). Husband was taken aback by that statistic until I reassured him that the fact that there is a campsite in an area doesn’t mean that we have to use it instead of a B&B – it just gives us the option!

(* not strictly true; there’s always the possibility that we’ll find a suitable hedge behind which to secrete ourselves for a night, or encounter a friendly farmer who’ll let us use his land legally)

Sunday 19 August 2007

Decisions, Decisions

Let me start by making two statements about myself, in case anyone hadn’t worked them out:

1. When it comes to buying something when there are various options available, I’m hopeless at making a decision.
2. I’m a sad cow; making a decision on things like a tent often involves the copious use of a spreadsheet.

This week’s contemplation has been on the subject of a new tent.

I first looked at the Stephenson’s Warmlite tents quite a long time ago, but I didn’t believe any of the wild claims made on their website. Having now seen one in the flesh, having read lots more reviews about them and having read the Warmlite website in such detail that I almost have it memorised, I’ve very nearly come to the conclusion that we will get one.

The question then became which one to choose.

The obvious model to go for is the 2R – plenty big enough for the two of us and with the basic model (ie without any optional extras) weighing in at (let me just consult the spreadsheet…) 1246g.

But then there’s the 3C, which is even bigger still (152cm wide and 104cm high for the entire length of the main section) and only weighs in at 1.7kg.

I managed to rule out the 3C on the basis that we really don’t need a tent that big, and the bigger the tent the bigger the pitch needed and the less discretely it can be pitched in places where one shouldn’t be pitching.

So, that brought us back to the 2R, which should have been the decision made, except that the Warmlite tents come with lots of options, all of which add weight and cost money and therefore involve yet more decisions.

Firstly there’s the big door at an extra 56g and $15. A no-brainer in my opinion. We will have the big door.

Then there’s the internal stabiliser straps at 71g and another $15. The website says that you don’t need them at wind speeds of less than 95mph, but elsewhere implies that you may like to have them at windspeeds at over 60mph. We’ve camped in winds gusting to 70mph (in a ridiculously inappropriate, but fortunately well pitched tent). We’ve run scared from forecasts of gusts to 90+mph. So, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we would use the straps if we had them. And, for the weight and price, they seem worthwhile.

Then there’s the optional side windows. Now this is where I’m really stumped. 142g and $44. If the tent had a mesh front door then I’d be happy without the side windows. If there was an option for a window on just one side then I’d be happy (but then why not just have a mesh option on the front door?).
The side vents apparently don’t affect the stability of the tent, but surely having mesh on the inside degrades from the warmth and condensation-proof-ness of the sealed inner between the poles?

So, that would seem to bring us to the decision of the 2R, with big door and stabiliser straps at 1375g.

But without the mesh windows, would it be awful to be holed up in the tent in midge-infested places or bad weather? This isn’t a decision that we can afford to get wrong.

Then, just as we may be moving towards a decision, we throw ‘from stock’ versus ‘custom made’ into the equation. If we buy a model from stock then (not only do we get 10% off) but I can also probably get someone to hand carry it over for me, saving on postage and the like. If we buy a custom made model, then we’ll have to wait and play the postal lottery. And that’s the next problem, because the models they have in stock have the big door, but also have the windows rather than the stabiliser straps. For ease do we take the windows and forgo the stability straps? Or do we wait and pay more and get the ideal model (if I can ever decide what that is?).


There’s always the TN Voyager Superlite. Not as big, light, or sturdy, but an easy option.

Thursday 16 August 2007

To Finish Talking About Last Weekend - Before Next Weekend Is Upon Us

Gosh. Thursday already and I’ve not finished talking about my weekend yet.

So, back to Saturday evening, which started with a nice meal with friends. Returning home, taking two of those friends with us (let’s call them V&J, for ease of reference), it was time for the receipt of yet more birthday gifts.

And what fantastic gifts they were.

My wish-list included an entry for the Wainwright Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, which are woefully missing from my (bulging) bookshelves. I thought that, if I was lucky, I may receive one or two of the volumes. What I didn’t expect to receive was all seven of them as a box set.

Despite having walked many of the Lakeland fells as a child, the Wainwright guides didn’t feature in my family, so I’ve never before had more than a quick flick through any of them. I’m now very much enjoying a good browse.

The other gift was the expected Pacerpoles (just a day too late in arriving to get their first test in the Beacons). I’m pleased to report that the carbon version does look sufficiently different from the standard version (different markings, different coloured chord) for me not to feel like Husband and I are ‘his & hers matching’. With a bit of magic and if I indulge in a bit of sleep deprivation, I may find time this weekend to take them for a very short walk over local fields.

Perhaps due to the influence of a small quantity (as large buckets go) of wine, the late hours of the evening seemed like an appropriate time for a session of ‘show and tell’ on the subject of backpacking, as we progressively emptied our packs over the living room floor.

V&J sat very patiently, oohed and aahed in appropriate places as we showed them what it was that we carried and listened politely as we raved about the joys of walking and wild camping.

I’m hoping that we’ve not applied undue influence, for although they didn’t jump for joy at the thought of camping, on Tuesday they asked for a gear list of what they’ll need for a B&B based walking trip. Having answered that question, I’ve today put a parcel of reading matter and maps in the post to them to give them a starter for ten. Having enticed them this far, wherever they decide to go for their first foray into this walking malarkey, I do hope that they enjoy it!

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Brecon Beacons (Part 2)

The cold feet that had sent me scurrying off to my sleeping bag then woke me up every two hours during the night, until finally at 5.30am I awoke to find them warm.

Two hours later I awoke again to find myself absolutely roasting. The sun had come up and even at the early hour of day it was turning the inside of the tent into a sauna.

I was soon up putting the kettle on and it wasn’t long before everyone else was milling around.

Not being in any great rush to get moving (rather hoping that some of the others would catch up with us so that I could say hello before we had to leg it back to the car) we spent a leisurely couple of hours drinking tea, packing away and marvelling at how different the weather was from the day before.

By 9.30 we had said our goodbyes and had donned our packs, when two people were spotted heading down the path in the general direction of our camping spot. We sat back down for a while to see if anyone was going to join us, but finally (after wandering down stream to see where they’d gone) I decided that they were complete strangers. So, once again we donned our packs and headed off uphill to the north, whilst Alan and Geoff headed off to the west.

Once we got up onto the ridge (is ridge the right word when it’s a gentle slope on one side but drops away the other?) more than a few ‘wows’ and ‘ooohs’ were uttered, not just at the views but also at the impressive terrain immediately around us. The camera was put into good use.

Once we got into a position that we could see the whole of the walk ahead of us, I did start to get a bit concerned that we didn’t have time to do the walk we had intended. However, there was no obvious shortcut to be taken so we carried on regardless (and of course, got back to the car in plenty of time to get us back to the Midlands in time).

We had the first part of the ridge to ourselves (apart from the sheep, some of which were standing on ridiculously steep ground just below us; surely some of them must lose concentration and fall off?). In fact, it wasn’t until the second llyn came into view that we started encountering people.

By the time we were half way along the llyn, it was quite obvious that we were in the vicinity of a car park by the dozens of people that were suddenly around us.

We had intended to drop down off the ridge at the end of the llyn to take the lower level path back to the car, but once we got there the decision was made that as the views were so extensive from up high and the breeze so nice and refreshing, we would continue on the high route.

Although the path was less well defined along this section, it still seemed to be reasonably busy on this fine day, until as we started dropping back down towards the car we must have reached the time of day when people had stopped setting out for their walks and suddenly we were back by ourselves.

At the bottom of the hill, we soon found the public right of way that we had intended to be on – only to then find within a hundred yards or so of our destination that the footpath was closed due to an unsafe bridge. I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention, but the diversion route looked to be about a mile around (and involved backtracking – so why wasn’t there a notice where the diversion started?). Given that a) I wasn’t about to backtrack unnecessarily and b) on closer inspection the closure notice was dated last November and had a duration of 6 months, we decided to give the bridge a closer inspection.

It held our weights admirably, so within minutes we were breathing a sigh of relief to find that the car was still where we left it and still in one piece.

And then we were off, haring towards the Midlands and the promise of an evening full of food and wine.

Monday 13 August 2007

A First Trip To The Brecon Beacons (Part 1)

On a work-day, I get out of bed between 6am and five past. I shower, vaguely do something with my hair, faff about which suit to wear, throw a not inconsiderable amount of food in a bag and leave the house by 6.30am. A twenty five minute turn around time.

Somehow, when we’re going for a walk we can never manage anything so timely. On Friday I was once again in despair over our ability to faff as, even with the bags all packed and ready to go, it still took us an hour and a half between getting up and leaving the house (not so bad when you consider that our record this year stands at 3 hours).

Off to the BBNP we drove, arriving at the recommended parking spot late in the morning, after a trip to a local Visitor Centre to procure a map.

In a rush of blood to the head before we left the car I figured that as the weather forecast had predicted no rain and as the woman who served us in the Visitor Centre confirmed the forecast for no rain, I would not take my waterproof trousers.

It almost goes without saying that within half an hour of leaving the car, the sky had clouded over and it had started to drizzle.

By the time we stopped for lunch at the ‘alternative camping spot’, the drizzle had turned into that style of rain that gets you really wet. I was ruing my decision on the trousers (that is ‘ruing’ in a whinging sort of way, causing Husband to give me a one minute timeslot to get all of my whinging out of the way in one go; had anyone been passing during that minute they would perhaps have thought me a little mad (and as it turned out the rain didn’t get bad enough to warrant using the trousers anyway)).

It was early afternoon when we arrived at the ‘primary camping spot’, with the intention of just checking it out before taking a walk up to the ridge with the intention of taking a circular walk.

Alas, the cloud was down and the rain was still persisting. Visibility at the camp spot wasn’t great and up on the ridge was awful. With no views to be seen, pursuing the circular walk would have achieved only a bit of exercise, so back down to the camp spot we headed.

With a few hours to kill before it was a respectable time to pitch the tent, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to test out the Bushbuddy – and fortunately I’d picked up some sticks early in the walk as it turned out that there was no wood available where we were.

Taking Podcast Bob’s tip that tampons make a very good firelighting material, it only took us a couple of attempts to get it going and we soon had water boiled for tea.

It was 5pm when (with the rain coming down anew) we decided that as we’d seen only one other person out walking all day, and in that the pitching spot was reasonably secluded, we wouldn’t be offending anyone if we pitched the tent at the early hour and took shelter.

A couple of hours later, the rain had stopped and the sky was clearing nicely. Tea was just being heated when Husband spotted someone up on a ridge opposite. The sole figure seemed to be heading in our direction and given the time of day and the total lack of people around, it seemed quite likely that it was one of the expected people.

Ten minutes or so later, another figure appeared on the ridge.

A guessing game of who they may be ensued, which was curtailed when both arrived from different directions at the same time. One turned out to be Litehiker, the other was Alan Sloman

It was pitch dark when a light was seen approaching a couple of hours or so later. The light turned out to be two lights and a while later into camp arrived Ali and Lay

Another couple of hours were then pleasantly spent chatting away, sipping on Alan’s most plentiful whisky supply and watching the occasional interesting light flying across the sky. Never before have I seen a shooting star, never mind a meteor shower. On Friday night I was treated to both in addition to the most amazing display of stars.

Eventually, my icy feet sent me scurrying off to the warmth of my sleeping bag for the night and soon silence fell as the others did likewise.

To be continued…

Salomon XA Pro XCR

Starting with the first exciting occurrence of the weekend* (because getting new shoes IS exciting):

I got home on Thursday evening to find that Postie had paid heed to my note on the front door and left the parcel that was my new Salomon XA Pro shoes in the shed. Phew! No need to go barefoot on Friday.

Although I’d tried them on a couple of times before, I had been having last minute wobbles as to whether I’d got the right size. A quick try on (they looked so very sexy with my dark brown skirt suit!) allayed my concern.

The wobbles returned on Friday morning when I removed the tags and put them on with proper socks. Suddenly panic hit that maybe I’d bought half a size too small.

A walk around the garden (followed by a change of socks – the Smartwool running ones weren’t working at all), was enough to convince me that they were worth trying for the couple of days away, although just in case of a last minute change of heart, I did throw my boots into the car too.

It always happens when I have a new pair of walking shoes that I spend at least the first half an hour of the walk obsessing about whether they’re comfortable, whether they’re going to start chewing up my feet, whether they’re too big, too small, whether I got it expensively wrong.

The good news is that by the end of the day even though I had extraordinarily wet feet (and yet I’d bought the waterproof version and at no point did I step in water that went over the top of the shoe; I’m guessing that the soaked trouser bottoms in turn soaked my socks which in turn caused water to seep into the shoes), which later in the night turned into very cold feet, the first test of the shoes was declared a resounding success.

I had thought that Terrocs were made for my feet that that the Salomon may be a touch too neat across the toe. That turned out not to be the case at all. I now declare the Salomons to be even more comfortable than the Terrocs.

I’m still not sufficiently convinced by the ‘trail shoe = cold wet feet’ thing to use them for multi-day trips where wet terrain is likely, but for day trips and overnights it looks like they’ll do the job nicely**.

* Strictly, Thursday wasn’t the weekend, but given that I had taken Friday off work, I’m counting it as the weekend this week.
** That is to say that they’ll do the job nicely unless I’m planning on spending the night with wet feet standing around chatting, in which case something dry and very warm would definitely be a good plan. For single nights when I’m planning on spending the evening sitting in my sleeping bag, the cold feet problem is manageable and they’ll do nicely.

Sunday 12 August 2007

So Much To Say; So Little Time

I had good plans to waffle on at some length tonight about my excellent weekend. It has involved new shoes, a visit to an area in which I have never before set foot, meeting some jolly nice people, having a couple of good (albeit short) walks, seeing spectacular things happen with stars and meteors, having extended birthday celebrations with friends (with a slightly unnecessary amount of wine), receiving new books AND new poles and managing the never before achieved feat of putting all of our gear away within twenty four hours of getting home. And, the sun shone for a lot more of the time than it rained.

But the waffling will have to be postponed, for having oohed and ahhed at length upon seeing Alan Sloman’s Wanda Warmlite ( in the flesh this weekend, I’ve just spent a despicable amount of time browsing the Stephenson’s Warmlite website.

Wednesday 8 August 2007

Rambling Random Thoughts

The dehydrator is whirring away. In an uncharacteristic display of organisation, and in view of the upcoming overnight to the Brecons* this weekend, I cooked a double helping of pasta and sauce last night and dehydrated half of it.

With the dehydrator still dominating the worksurface when I got home from work tonight, and conveniently sitting next to the fruit bowl of over-ripe fruit (I don’t like to complain about the hot weather, but it does make the fruit ripen rather quickly), I set it to work on some apples, pears and bananas.

Dried fruit rarely makes it onto the hills, mind. It generally gets snacked on within days of being prepared.

(* and yes, I know that strictly speaking that should be the ‘Beacons’, but to me it just doesn’t sound right!)

I ordered my Terroc replacements, in the form of the Salomon XA Pro, on Monday night. Wiggle once again impressed me. I ordered two items, one of which was out of stock. Having selected the free delivery option, I didn’t expect the order to be despatched until both items were available.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to be told yesterday that the shoes had been despatched.

Alas, they didn’t arrive today. Can’t really complain for free delivery, but it’d be useful, if they do arrive tomorrow if the Postie would be so kind as to leave them in the shed, rather than returning them to the depot – that way I’ll be able to try them out on Friday (otherwise, I’ll be the one walking with bare feet…).
Typing about my shoes I just realised that my pacerpoles haven’t arrived yet. A quick check of the email tells me that they’re on their way.
Although I do now own practically every item of outdoors gear that I could possibly want or need, I do still have a limited wish-list. Up the top of that list is a lighter-weight down jacket (as much as I like my Alpkit one, and am quite happy to carry it in cold winter weather, it is a bit on the bulky and heavy side). I had pretty much decided on the Mont Bell Ultra Light Inner and had intended to ask my boss to bring one from the US for me next time he was coming over (which would have got me the girls version for £50; in the UK I would have had to have settled for the boys version at £100).

However, right on the cusp of buying I had a change of heart and decided that being the cold blooded lass that I am, the extra weight (and good reviews) of the PHD Minimum was probably worthwhile (even though I’ll have to buy a jacket that’s too big; they don’t do my size). Not being in any great rush for it, I thought I’d wait to see if they were going to have a sale any time soon.

So, I was most pleased to see Weird Darren’s post yesterday announcing the PHD sale, including the said jacket at a whopping discount. What’s the betting that the ‘limited stock’ doesn’t involve any size small?

LEJOG printing is still proceeding – 20 more pages printed today. I’ve got maps printed (double sided) for the first 45 days now. Tomorrow I will print the final 5 of the England and Wales leg. Then I’ll have to finally turn my mind back to the planning activities.
Oooh, and if I get the time, I may make an interesting announcement tomorrow – otherwise, it’ll have to wait until the end of the weekend… (cliffhanger eh?)

Saturday 4 August 2007

Gadgets Galore

Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me-e-e-e
Happy birthday to me

As usual outdoorsy presents predominated.

I am now the proud owner of a Bushbuddy Ultra ( I always knew that it was amazingly lightweight as portable woodburners go, but on first touch and feel I was surprised at quite how light it is considering its size. The metal seems almost flimsily thin, but as others have commented, it appears to be a very well made piece of kit.

It was, of course, obligatory to go out into the garden, gather some twigs and boil a kettley thing of water. Admittedly, it may have been considered as cheating to use a blow torch to get the fire going rather than using all those skills they taught us in the girl guides, but it did the trick nicely, and in a surprisingly short space of time I had 700ml of boiling water (which made me a very nice cup of tea).

The Buhbuddy in action

I also now have a Garmin Foretrex. It’s not a gadget that I needed, but it is one that I wanted – and what better time than to obtain frivolous electrical gadgets than on your birthday?

The reason that I didn’t need it is because I already have a Garmin Etrex. The ForeTrex does very little that the Etrex doesn't do, and in fact does nothing extra that I would ever use when out walking. The appeal of the ForeTrex was how much smaller and lighter it is, combined with the fact that it attaches onto the wrist via strap, rather than needing a separate holder (more weight saved). In that for the last few years I’ve only used the GPS to obtain a grid reference, and because for most of the time it gets carried without being used, the smaller model rather appealed to me.

Comparing the two gadgets side by side, I was really amazed at how much smaller the new one is. Having tested it outside of the house, I can confirm that it does exactly as I wanted it to: it tells me where I am. It will become a well-carried item, even if it is seldom used.

I’m also told that there is a pair of Pacerpoles coming my way. Alas, that will make Husband and I ‘his & hers matching’ again, but after suffering a thumb injury back in January (that still hurts some 6 months later) due to the hand grip on my old Leki poles, I recently sold those in anticipation of getting some Pacerpoles. After disproportionate amounts of consideration, I’ve opted for the new carbon fibre ones. I’m hoping that I’ll be sufficiently careful with them not to break them, and thus the weight saving will be worthwhile when they’re attached to my pack.

So, all in all, I’ve been having a rather good day, trying out my new toys and sharing an excellent roast dinner (a big thank you goes out to Husband for cooking it so expertly) with Mother, Ma-in-Law and Gran.

(A small amount of alcohol may also have been imbibed, as a result of which, my fingers aren’t behaving very well on this keyboard – so for any typos that I’ve missed, I apologise!)

Wednesday 1 August 2007

How Is It Wednesday Already?

For the first time in far too long (4 weeks at least) we went for a walk on Sunday. Nothing spectacular; in the interests of saving the environment and time, we set out on foot from the house, passing through the village before arriving at the canal.

In all of our pre-K2B outings that involved the canal (of which there were many), we headed south. So it was something of a departure, upon reaching the cut, to head north.

The last time we did that was some five years ago when we first moved here, on which occasion we forgot the map and didn’t notice its absence until we came to leave the canal and set off across country. On that day we found ourselves foundering on rights of way in between gravel pits. Every which way we went, we got cut off within half a mile of where we wanted to be by working pits. We ended up retracing our steps and having a day that was over twice as long as intended.

This outing was somewhat more successful in that we remembered the map, managed to leave the canal at the right place and except for a bit of navigational uncertainty when crossing fields that bore very little resemblance to the boundaries shown on the map, managed to pass successfully through a couple of local hamlets before heading back onto paths with which we were familiar.

Unusually given the weather so far this year, the day was fine and at times verging on warm (and once again I was fooled by the warm weather and surprised by the amount of mud on the ground; will I ever learn that torrential rain for 3 months = mud – even on a sunny day).

Walking back across the estate that lies behind our house (that being estate in the ‘landed gentry’ sense, rather than ‘housing’) the views were impressive under the clear sky. All was well in the world.

I’ve often thought of running this route, but have been put off by the slopey bits (I have a bit of a psychological issue with running on any terrain that isn’t flat or downhill), so on the most significant hill across the estate I decided to see whether I could run up it.

Surprisingly, I could (even if I was gasping by the top). Maybe sometime soon, I’ll go and run (plod?) the whole circuit.

It was nice to get out and stretch the legs, but my goodness how quickly walking fitness is lost. Despite regularly running in the weeks since I’ve last walked, my legs were definitely feeling the efforts of the walking. A short jogette on Monday soon sorted them out.