Friday, 29 December 2006

PBP: AT podcast

Just listening to the Practical Backpacking podcast interview with Appalachian Trail through-hikers Joe White and Bryan Wolf. The podcast (PBP Episode 19) can be found here, and the lads' blog is here. The interview was at about 1,000 miles into the walk, about 90 miles away from the half-way mark. Never having been there, these sorts of figures reminds me just how big the USA is!

They have some stunning photographs in the 'Kodak-EasyShare' albums. I'm amazed at how similar to Scotland some of Maine looks. The gents are heading from the North to the South, from the Fall over the Winter, aiming to end at Georgia in February 07. Seems odd, but it must be spectacular to walk through New England in the Fall. It'll be interesting to read how weather affects the southern stretches.

A good 'lessons learnt' podcast.

New stuff: they mentioned Mountain House foods, which I'd not heard of before.

Foot rot and wee men

Is it just me, but I'm using the weight of my tent as the cut-off weight for my footwear, as I browse the Net looking at boot reviews. I know my Scarpa Aus2 are heavy, but they're heavier than my Akto! Okay if you're walking in the rocks and need the protection.

Unpacked my down sleeping bag as it has been scrunched up for a week now. Watched the MCoS "Water hazards in the mountains" dvd last night. Good advice, and well-illustrated too. The 'before' and 'after' shots of a section of a river makes the point clearly that you need to take care.

I've spent time walking up and down river banks in the Spring and Autumn, looking for the safest place to cross. On one occasion, giving up in the failing light and camped out, crossing the river the next day as the light showed how dangerous the 'best' place to cross was that I'd found the night before. Don't let fatigue and the desire to stick to plans trick you into thinking that 'best' is 'safest'.

Read some of the "Gurkha Highlander" overnight. I like the comment from one of the squaddies, seeing Glen Feshie in the Cairngorms:
"This is very beautiful...Why don't people farm here? It looks good. There should be a village here."

Feshie/Geldie moor in Summer 2006.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Thinking on my Feet

I'm thinking of upping from the Terrocs to walking boots (but I've not mentioned that on OM yet), as I took my Scarpa SLs home with me for winter walking, as I don't think ... okay, I know that ... my trail shoes won't keep my feet warm, no matter how good the socks are.

The SLs fit well, but I've never had a good walk from them. Big and clunky. One of the things about the Terrocs is that I can feel the ground - like a good pair of trainers. With the SLs, it's like being in a car. If I can get a boot that gives me that freedom, I'll be a happier bunny.

Not having access to gear reviews in magazines, or outdoor shops, I'll hold off on this until I'm back in civilisation. In the meantime, here's a taste of the atmosphere here from the late, great Rikki Fulton. And more local humour from Tormad Maclean (translations required for non-Islanders), and Norman not in drag.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

The Prevailing Wind

Catching up with various blogs on Boxing Day, I come to Andy Howell's, where the topic of wind farms has been raised by a comment from Calvin Jones.

Comments from Calvin Jones include:

  • I believe that walkers should be with environmentalists and yes that means with wind.
  • There has been increasingly vocal opposition to wind farms and associated works throughout the UK. Mainly by people who “don’t want to see the countryside spoiled”. Such an anthropocentric view of the countryside is just the sort of ignorant and harm full attitude that really does threaten our lands real beauty.
  • When a wind power project is proposed near your home, will you protect your most treasured land and support wind?
My democratic position on this is that business is out to make as much money from wind farms as possible, scourging the landscape and saying that anyone who is against them is short-sighted. People in the Hebrides were in favour of windfarms, but then the proposed turbines got taller and taller as the venture capitalists got greedier and greedier. The landowners own the land, and refuse to allow small local developments to go ahead.

If the power is required in the central belt, why not build the windfarms in the central belt instead of scarring tracts of the landscape of the Highlands? That must make both economic, environmental and social sense? But the NIMBY voters of the central belt won't be happy bunnies; better to upset some Teuchters instead.

It should be quite simple to have 'energy miles', like 'food miles'. Draw a circle around a town or city, and say that x% of the power used by that area must be generated by that area. Most houses will have loft insulation by now (heck, that project's been going on for years), so scale it up to domestic solar panels.

So, I'm in favour of community wind farms (local power for local people), incentives for solar panels, responsibly sited tidal and wave power, geothermal power. And whilst countries like China, Russia and America keep belching out greenhouse gases, it will make little difference to the changing climates. But at least make a little difference and can try to hold back the rising tides and be a shining beacon to the world. And where humanity builds a tv where the 'off' switch really means 'off' .

Monday, 25 December 2006


Presents: The "Gurkha Highlander" book (party of Gurkhas walking from Mallaig to Stonehaven). "Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk" dvd (recon for Easter). "Grizzly Man" and "Gripping Yarns" dvds for my imagination. Three 50ml miniatures of malt (for my thumb-flask), and a box of Edradour fudge (yummy). Some nice lining socks. Family know I'm happy with my kit and like shopping for it, so I got some money too. I love my family (especially after a 2 hour long dinner). Scrummy.

New sites listed on OM, from the Scottish Avalanche Information Service:
SAIS Lochaber
SAIS Northern Cairngorms

Kept two Chinese HOST visitors happy watching the Munro Show last night. They couldn't get over that someone as thin and spindly as they were could climb such scary hills. They'll be looking out for An Teallach from the ferry tomorrow. Also for views like this:

One asked if I take my camera with me hiking. "Yes" and "always" was my reply. I'm a 'point-and-click' photographer, but I like keeping a record of what I've seen. And sometimes I get lucky and really like what nature has allowed me to photograph.

Oh, and having never read it in its entirety, the last few paragraphs of "A Christmas Carol" were a shock for me, especially the bad pun about abstinance and not being bothered by spirits. Well, here's the text file from the fine people at Project Gutenberg (keeping the spirit of the Internet alive). Merry Christmas, one and all.

Friday, 22 December 2006


Nae very romantic, blogging from a ferry queue in Ullapool, but it passes the time of day. As does hitting the outdoor shops. There are 3 I like to peruse.

Northwest Outdoors sells lots of gear, from wynnster to paramo and a fine coffee shop to sit in whilst justifying your new gear.

Next is the Ullapool Bookshop. It has more hiking and scottish history books than Waterstones in Aberdeen. Great selection and the epitome of a bookshop.

Lastly, the Ullapool Hardware shop - they keep the names simple here - has a reasonable selection of outdoors gear. Socks, flasks, fishing gear, etc.

So, a 'life is good' t-shirt and 2 scottish history books are now mine, all mine, my precious bookses. Yes, my presentses they are...

Monday, 11 December 2006

Couch 22

Mad Jim's posted some photos from the OM meet that I missed on Saturday. I'd be too scared to tackle that snow anyway.

Suite 1: Morven (including the killer ducks of Braemar).
Suite 2: Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a'Chaorainn.

Very impressive, chaps.

Now, off to update iTunes to handle the kafuffle over Bob's Outdoors Channel/Station whatever he's renamed it to stop the sodding lawyers having a go. In the meantime the streets are coated in broken glass and cars are hooring up 20mph-limited streets. Priorities? Humbug!

Picked up a pair of merino260 leggings in Tiso's. Actually, I bought them yesterday, but looked at the chest measurement instead of the waist size. So exchanged them today. They had a copy of "Sacred Summits: John Muir's Greatest Climbs" for 2 quid instead of £8.99, so I splurged out on that. That works out to be over a 10% discount on the whole shopping. Honest.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

Couch 21

The new "The Angry Corrie" is available online. Always worth a read.

Day out:Quoich-Fhearnaig-Lui

Just back from a day out. First hike since October! How sad is that? Very sodding sad, that's how.

As I was heading into the Cairngorm NP with a mate, and the forecast was cold, with the chance of snow flurries, I packed survival gear just in case. Obviously the Akto was in there. I packed my big Scarpa SL's in case I needed them when we got there, but took (and wore) my Terrocs instead.

Parked at the Linn of Dee car park and road-walked round to Linn of Quoich. Snack break by the "Punchbowl", and noticed the flowers left by the bridge in memory of the poor wee lass who drowned there earlier in the year. The day was cold, even though we were only at around 400m. I'd already changed from my Sealskinz to new Aspen cold-weather gloves. Walking north-westerly, the wind was in our face.

Climbing up the path over the Quoich Water, we caught a stunning view of the snow on the peaks. Having already driven past a snow-capped Lochnagar, this wasn't a surprise, but was still stunning.

We pushed on to Clais Fhearnaig, where we planned to stop for a lunch. The snow-capped hills delayed us slightly, as we kept stopping to take photos. Two walkers passed us heading south, from their "Hellos", FJ reckoned they may have been German or Danish. She has more of an ear for that sort of thing.

A black&white spaniel (I think) came bounding over the heather of the Clais, followed by another dog and then a couple. More "hellos" and the dogs did their sniffing-investigation-bounding thing. Nice, well-behaved and non-intimidating behaviour. Even though I'm a cat person, I can appreciate the boundless enthusiasm of a dog in it's element.

As to other animals, we'd seen some stags when in the car, and a couple of female deer when on foot. Later on that day, a hovering-flying thing (kestrel? hawk of some sort), and a flight of black birds (not geese or grouse). I'm hopeless at bird-watching, if you haven't already guessed.

Stopped for lunch at the Lochan and got the Micron out. Took ages to boil 0.6 litres of water for cuppa-soups. I didn't time it, but the heat lost by stopping was not regained by drinking the warm drinks. Definitely needs a wind-shield. I'll take one next time.

Pushed on and into Glen Lui. A slight diversion to Bob Scott's Bothy to leave some presents for the OMers who were basing their weekend there. Although we didn't meet them, a gentleman called Neil was stopping there for a brew and meal before pushing on to camp overnight and then to the Lairig Ghru and Aviemore on Sunday. We had a brew too, rested up, repacked gear and headed back to the car. It was noticeable that the Micron took far less time to heat the same amount of water than outdoors. From the guest-book, Geoff had already headed off to Aviemore on foot, and we read about the heroic rescue of an entangled stag by a Dundonian hiker.

While Akto-spotting at the bothy, I went out to fix a tent that had blown down. Turned out to be be a perfectly OK hooped bivvy. My bad. Still, first one I'd seen in 'real life'.

Tabbed it back to the car in falling daylight, and kept our night-vision as a Landy went past. Far better chance of seeing things without using a head-torch. We were rewarded on the way back to the car by seeing 2 stags rushing away from us across a stream.

Stopped off in Banchory at the chipshop by the river, polished off a fine meal, then headed home.

Summary - 14 miles/23km. A fine day out. 0900 - 1630, including stops.

No blisters. Terrocs behaved well again. Had to keep feet dry as no drying in the weather at all. I had Sealskinz waterproof socks and liners with me in case needed. New jacket was nice and warm (temperature around/just above freezing).

For my legs I wore HH leggings and Montane Terra trousers. Any colder and I'd have added another layer. For snow walking, I reckon I'd really need some dedicated cold-weather trousers, or warmer leggings (or both).

Forgot to put on lip-salve and lost my camera's retaining clip. I'll put that down to still being groggy after fighting off the cold.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Gear 8: Montane Verso Jacket

Out in the Cairngorms at the weekend. Forecast from MWIS is cold at height. Not going up high, just walking up Glen Quoich and across to Glen Lui. As the forecast is cold, thought I'd better upgrade from my Columbia fleece softshell to something warmer. Decided on the Montane Verso as I have a Montane jacket already so trust the brand.

Something I noticed is that jackets tend to be quoted as "warmer" or telling you what it's made of, e.g. "60g provides thermal insulation of 2 TOG" or "155g of 95% Goose down at 800+ fill power". Why no comfort rating, like they have on sleeping bags? I know there are difficulties with sleeping bag ratings, but at least they are a guide. There were 4 coloured leaflet tags with the jacket, none tells me what temperature the jacket will keep me warm at (not even under 'laboratory conditions'). The chap in the shop can tell me, and a search on the Internet or query on OutdoorsMagic, but not the information sheet.

Bit out of it when in the gear shop, as the cold's been building up over the last few days - today I was at the sore eyes and feeling groggy stage, with intermittent sniffles.

Got a wee box of goodies for the OMers on Saturday. If I don't meet any, I'll leave it at Bob Scott's Bothy.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Couch 20


No, not for England losing at the cricket, but for Bob's venture into podcasting on being taken off the air because of a letter from US lawyers.

He hasn't said who's sent the hounds in, but I'll be boycotting them anyway as I'll have to waste time rejigging iTunes. Typical bullying attitude from business lawyers. It'd be nice if Bob put in a claim for the new stationery, etc. Y'see it's not just a matter of a new web address, it is a whole pile of effort.

So, why does it matter if a US company has a similar name to a UK one. Just look at and, not similar at all. used to be owned by a US legal firm until the BBC (the good old Blighty Broadcasting Chaps) paid about US$375,000 for the address. Not sued, but paid.

Y'see, was a spin-off business by Bob, not typosquatting (like I've also checked iTunes, and there's no-one with a similar name on there.

So give a thought to poor Rose, who won't see her man much over Christmas, as he's slaving away over a hot keyboard, with only the heat from the CD-burner as he has to cut back the pennies to pay for the rebranding because of some US company flexing it's muscles.

So, a hearty "boooooooooooo" to the US lawyers and the ne'r-do-wells who wish to bring their own brand of legal morals to our sceptred isle (which isn't sublet from Cuba).

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Couch 19

I've been mainly working and painting wargames figures this week. My boxed set of "Weir's Way" came through from - about half price in their sale. Which was nice. There are some clips of it on ScotlandOnTV.

In amongst the paperwork, there are letters from the MCoS and NTS, so I guess my annual membership is in need of renewal.

Bought a pair of warm winter hiking gloves today. In the first shop I went to, I got met by a security guard, her arms crossed. Now, IMHO, there are 2 types of security guards - this was one that made me feel like a potential criminal. So, I walked out and took my custom elsewhere.

Let me explain something. I don't like modern crowds. They are chaotic, arrogant and self-centred. I don't need that agro when I go out shopping. So, even if I start out in a happy mood, by the time I get to the shops, I'm often not a happy bunny any more.

Gear bought: Salomon Aspen GTX gloves

Weird Darren's blog is worth popping over to. Just leave your buff at home.

Off to the Cairngorms for a day's trek next weekend. So busy, that it takes 3 weeks of emails to organise one day out! Never mind, hope to get out a couple of times over the Christmas break (hence looking for warmer gloves).