A short walk in the Galloway Hills

Just a picture post on my blog. We intended to be out longer than we were, but gale force winds forecast with late snow was enough to shorten our route, but it was great to get out and have a backpack with my youngest son William.

Before setting off we camped at Glentrool

Before setting off we camped at Glen Trool

Looking  out from Robert the Bruce stone

Looking out from Robert the Bruce stone

Gairland Burn

Gairland Burn

Gairland Burn

Upper reaches of Gairland Burn

 Beautiful Loch Valley

Beautiful Loch Valley

Loch Arron

Loch Arron

After a warm day’s walking, we set up camp near to Loch Enoch, a wild and remote place on a very small patch of flat ground amongst a sea of tussock grass. If I had known we could have carried on to pitch near the beaches of the Loch on the far side.  The forecast for the next two days was bad and we made a decision to strike camp early the next day and  head over the Merrick, the highest point in the Galloway hills.

The wind and rain lashed at us and it was difficult to even stand up at times let alone take any photos. In the low cloud it was pointless anyway. Eventually as we neared the forest which cloaks the lower slopes of the Merrick, the weather started to clear.

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An  almost apocalyptic scene with mist and the chaos of a clear felled forest.

An almost apocalyptic scene with mist and the chaos of a clear felled forest.

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Weather clears at the end of our journey, the road back to Glen Trool

Weather clears at the end of our journey, the road back to Glen Trool

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Five days in Lakes, photo storyboard

A five-day trip back in June 2014. Two days were solo and I then joined Terry Abraham and Chris Townsend while making their DVD – Backpacking in the Lake District. At the time I didn’t want to take too many photos of Chris and Terry and post up on my trip report as I didn’t want to give anything away. This is a picture story board of the trip and shows mainly the beautiful scenery and excellent weather we were lucky to have.  Just like to say that I had no commercial involvement in the film and the music used in this short clip is ‘Elephants’ from Free music archive –  cannot find the artist from my download file!

Backpacking in the Lake District is available from Striding Edge and other outlets and is priced at £14.99

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MYO Ultralightweight tripod

I couldn’t find a tripod weighing less than 500g so I decided to make my own. 32 cm selfie stick, 3 pieces of Dyneema and 3 Ti pegs. Total weight 220g and is ideal for my new GoPro Hero 4 Silver.

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SS4

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Snow shoes on Buckden Pike

If I can get out tomorrow and get up to the Peaks I will have an outing with my snow shoes, although the weather forecast suggests a windchill of minus 17C  – will I go or will I stay under the duvet in the morning ? Here is a short video of me using them a couple of year’s ago on Buckden Pike just  in case I don’t get any footage tomorrow!

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A review of Backpacking in the Lake District a film by Chris Townsend & Terry Abraham

Let me start by saying that I review this video from a different position from anyone else.  I was lucky to be there for a good portion of this trip (although I am not in it) so I had both a unique insight into the film being made, but also it has become a record of that  trip with Chris and Terry.

I think it is difficult to be wholly independent because of this, but this does not detracted from the fact the film is an excellent introduction to backpacking and wild camping. Although the DVD is aimed at the beginner or someone who is contemplating this fantastic pastime, it equally can appeal to experienced backpackers.  I can tell you that this trip was nigh on perfect. The weather was settled and warm both during the day and night, the scenery and sunsets were fantastic and the company good.

The DVD shows a 3 day backpacking route starting and ending at Keswick walking through a wide variety of scenery – woodland, moorland and the more typical rugged Lakeland mountain terrain.

Terry and Chris were able to capture these elements and convey a trip that has all the best that backpacking has to offer. This is not some adrenaline filled DVD but a gentle look at the sheer joy of being out in the mountains.  Importantly unlike day walks. wild camping allows you to immerse yourself much more into the environment.

For the novice, there is sound advice from Chris on the basics  such as choosing a wild camp site and what gear to take from a man who probably has more experience  than any one on wild camping and walking in the mountains . The more experienced viewer will be able to compare and contrast Chris’s take on camp craft with their own and I am sure will still learn something new. Particularly good is Chris’s unpacking of his pack, with him going through his gear.

Terry Abraham is building himself something of a reputation for high quality mountain films, with Scafell Pike, Life of a Mountain and Helvellyn with Mark Richards and as Terry is a keen backpacker he has shot the film with the target audience very much in mind.

As this film is shot in the Lake District and not some far flung corner of the Pacific North West, it is easy for people to get out and do this, to replicate what Chris is doing on the film, if that is you, buy the DVD and be inspired.

Backpacking in the Lake District is available from Striding Edge and other outlets and is priced at £17.94

My report on my trip with Chris and Terry is here and part 2 here

Disclosure : Although I was on the trip during filming, I have no financial interest in the film and paid for the DVD from my own pocket.

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Two month review of Ecco Ulterra mids

Ulterra mids from Ecco

Ulterra mids from Ecco

I was approached by a company working for the Danish shoe manufacturer Ecco. They asked me to try out a pair of their new Ulterras and review them. I was very interested after reading some good reviews from a number of outdoor bloggers who had used the Biom Hike and decided to go for the mid version of the Ulterra which launched this autumn.

Specification

A mid style boot utilising unusually Yak nubuck uppers and a Goretex lining.  Yak leather is used in a number of Ecco boots and I am not aware of other companies using this material.  A size 41 weighs 510 grams (weighed by me).

Appearance

An attractive mid boot in red and grey. The boots would look good either on the hills or in town.

In use

I always seem to find quite a break in period with footwear and have rarely found that straight out of the box experience which is often quoted. I think this is me rather the boots or trail shoes.   I have a further problem in that my orthotic inserts raise my feet slightly in any footwear and it takes awhile to settle down. After this initial period I found that the Ulterra were one of the most comfortable boots I have ever worn. Possibly it was the Yak uppers or the foot beds or both but whatever it is, it feels spot on.

I have used the boots on daily dogs walks around the Wolds and a one day walk since receiving them in September, so they have had quite a good test. I  would have like to have done more but my recent house move has meant  backpacking has been thin on the ground.

The sole is quite aggressive and has coped well on rock and stony areas, on road and on dry surfaces.  The walks directly from the house are on areas  of  very heavy clay and at times I have slid on the very sticky surface. I would probably find this with other footwear with similar soles. Only boots with deeper soles or specific trail shoes for mud would have coped better. Over the last two months I have seen a small amount wear on the sole and I was able to clean them up so they looked almost brand new for a  business trip to Copenhagen. The Ulterras look good in the urban environment and they kept my feet dry and warm during strong driving rain and temperatures around 2C over the three days I was there.

Summary

Comfortable with a good fit.

Attractive looking mids.

Good grip on most surfaces, only slippage on heavy clay.

I would recommend them for spring and early autumn usage.  In the summer I use by and large non Gortex lined footwear because they are often too warm for me but of course this is personal choice. Little to be negative about other than the Goretex lining.

The Ulterras can be bought on-line here and I assume they will be available in the Ecco retail outlets in the UK. I certainly spied a pair in the shop window in Copenhagen last week, but they do come from Denmark!

 

 

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5 Days in The Lakes Part 2

 

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This is the second and final part of my recent trip to the Lakes. First part is here

Friday 22nd August

Great Langdale – Cumbria Way -Angle Tarn- Martcrag Moor- Pike of Stickle – Harrison Stickle – Pavey Ark – High Raise – Low White Stones

Friday couldn’t have been a more different day. Gone was the monsoon and hello to bright sunshine and blue skies. I had a more leisurely start to the day and lay in my sleeping bag sipping my early morning tea as the sun started to dry the silnylon fly of my tent.

As I had changed my route yesterday I stayed there awhile cocooned in down with another cup of tea, map spread out in front of me, deciding which way I would go today. That’s the beauty of solo hiking you get to take charge, with freedom where to go, and how far you will wander that day. Not that I don’t enjoy the company of others, I do, but this is one of the benefits when you are alone you can decide.

So I had a plan, a late start, I was on holiday after all, walk up the Cumbria Way, and branch off to Angle Tarn and then almost cut back on myself to fell tops that I have never visited.  The one’s which seem to be out on a limb that I always bypass.  It would have been all too easy to go Angle Tarn, then Sprinkling Tarn, Sty Head, Great Gable etc, back to Keswick, but I did a good part of that route last time I was here in June.

The route would be more of a ramble and time spent on fell tops, admiring the views rather than a route march. I could please myself and go as far or as little as I wanted.

One other backpacker had camped near to my tent on the site, he had been up earlier than me and as I emerged from the tent, he was well on his way to filling his enormous back pack and then hung extra stuff off the ends. He was a big strong lad, I don’t know whether he was weaker when starting backpacking, but if he was, the weight he carried on regular basis must have helped him become much bigger!

I went to the smelly sock drying room and removed from the shelves my now perfectly dry and warm socks and trail shoes, before finishing my packing. On the way out I filled my water bottle and I was away.

Cumbria Way

Cumbria Way

The Cumbria Way is found at the back of the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel.  A foreign couple asked me where the Way started, as they were having difficulty relating it to their 1:100,000 map of the Lake District. I said I was going that way, and they joined me for a while. They were visiting from  Poland and were not used to the fact that we do not have signs and way marked trails with yellow arrows as they do in other countries. They told me that they were going to walk to Scafell Pike and the Sca fell and walk back to their starting point . I said fortunately, that although we don’t have way marked trails here, where you are going the paths are like super highways and there will be plenty of people to help you if you not sure.  It was a very pleasant day, what was I say, don’t go and find yourself a better map. We parted company after I said I wanted to stop to sort something out with my pack. I actually needed a pee, but that sounded better, than wait here while I urinate over these rocks.

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It was a stiff climb up to Angle Tarn, but with great views and glorious weather, it was not a chore in any way. At the top and as I came down the other side, some lads doing their D of E were struggling up the path weighed down by the expedition style kit list that they must carry. I don’t know who draws up these, but I always feel that if someone could spend some time looking at how they could lighten the loads of these poor unfortunate “mules”.  I am sure that they would be more likely to continue with backpacking in the future and perhaps ensure that more youngsters could enjoy the mountains and wild places without feeling that they were on an SAS training course.

They were a very pleasant bunch of lads and when I told them that they were only had an hour and half to their campsite, because I had just come from there, I could see the relief on their faces. One said that they shouldn’t arrive too early to the site as they had been told off about that before.  I suggested that perhaps they should go to the pub and sit in there at which point they smiled and chorused – we wish. I guess that the strict requirement of I.D. these days means that a sneaky pint is out of the question nowadays.

On leaving the mule train, I found a very comfortable rock, almost armchair like for lunch and basked in the sun for a while, that nagging northerly wind was still there but the sun was winning my attention.

Angle Tarn

Angle Tarn

From here I made my way to Stake Pass and then Martcrag Moor , my immediate destination was Pike Of Stickle, these fells I have never visited, as they seem to be out on a limb.

An easy climb to Pike of Stickle gave me a great view over Great Langdale where I camped the night before. Next fell to walk was only a short way, Harrison Stickle, the wind had got up by the time I reached its summit, I pulled on my wind shirt to shield me from the cold. It was a fine view from the top, I could see all the way to the familiar table top of Ingleborough some 35 miles to the south-east.

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From this vantage point I dropped down a little, probably no more than 100 feet or so northwards to Pavey Ark, the path distinct to start with and then it peters out.  After half a mile I had reached the crag of Pavey Ark, with excellent view of Stickle Tarn way below me.  From here I could see a few people dotted around, but they were few and far between compared to earlier in the day. I sat for a while and admired the view. The advantage of spending your nights up in the hills and mountains is that if you have arrived early to the vicinity of where you will camp for the night, you have the luxury of exploring those surroundings in more detail or just to sit for a while.  Generally the day walker does not have that luxury as they have to get back to their car or catch a bus. Suddenly you are aware that there is no-one about anymore and you have the place to yourself.

Stratospire near High Raise

The setting sun on my tent

I planned to camp on the slopes of High Raise just down from the summit, as I did  in June with Terry Abraham and Chris Townsend . However the northerly wind was strong and this side of the fell offered no shelter. I dropped down a bit further towards the eastern side and found a flat piece of ground which provided some reasonable shelter.

The tent was pitched quickly, and a nearby small tarn provided water for a hot drink and meal. After tightening the guys I settled down for the night. It was noticeably colder than previous nights with a chill in the air. Whist still the third week in August, autumn seemed to be knocking on the door saying summer was now over.  A couple of light showers and I drifted off to sleep.

Saturday 23rd August

Greenup Edge –  Greenup Gill – Cumbria Way – Rosthwaite

Saturday dawned rather misty with low cloud, but the weather forecast suggested a fine day to finish my trip and it was soon sunny.

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Looking down to Langstrath

Leading down to Langstrath

After a quick breakfast I was away walking down the slope towards Greenup Gill from Greenup Edge. There are a lot of streams running from the upper slopes of Ullscarf which made the walk down rather wet under foot. There is a small waterfall about half way down to Smithmire Island where the path meets the Cumbria Way coming from the left. The path around this waterfall is steep and slippery, so I took it very easy to make sure I didn’t slip and pitch headfirst down the path.

Greenup Gill

Greenup Gill

After a while the path levelled out, and after my concerns about the last section, I tripped over and fell flat on my face, I must have tripped over a daisy as there was nothing there but I laid there, with my rucksack pinning me to the ground and laughed out loud!  Picking myself up I continued down the path until I met the Cumbria Way. It was pleasant walk along Stonethwaite Beck in warm sunshine.

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I met several couples doing the Coast to Coast, but I was concerned that they didn’t seem to know where they were and they were relying not on a map but merely the same guide-book. I gave some directions as they were headed for Grasmere, but no map is not a great choice.

At Rosthwaite, I waited for the bus to Keswick, which came along after 15 minutes.  In Keswick I grabbed a sandwich at Booth’s and waited for the bus to Penrith.  Once I was on I dozed in the warm coach along the A66 until I reached the railway station.   A short wait and I was on the train back home after a great trip in the Lakes!

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