Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Clack clack

Clack clack, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

I'm no wearied lord. With crawling feet i outstretch my knee and push on. No mead to warm my heart as the cold wind cuts through my overcoat.

I push on through the empty landscape. Varied in mood: tranquil, turbulent; thoughtful, mirthful. I hear the words of a far-off friend cut through the darkness. A ghost in the machine.

Long streets are safe but open. Short streets are dark and foreboding. The mockery of a journey is mercifully short. Directions. Instructions. Alarms. Concern. Rations. Clothing. Body shattered by the early hour. Destruction in my wake. I am become uncaring. The ghost battles the spirit troll before the Sun brings the logic of Day to the desolate land. Defence, support, sadness,

But i get to the train station and set off for a day in stirling at the virtual worlds conference. To me, that's what a real life journey is like. A short walk through town. Lots of people do it every day. Nothing special. But to some people, breaking out is something new, something different, something to aspire to. Life is too short to deal with the prattling of anonymous trolls. I can never understand their bullying, the people who pick on unknown folk for fun. Enough happens in real life to keep me busy. Thanks to folk for the advice and encouragement, and showing that people are people. In these times, alan and phil's blogs put everything into perspective. Good luck and best wishes, gentlemen.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

How do you spell “exceptionally”?

I had to laugh at one of the recent comments about the weekend’s OMM event that ran into a media storm.

Prof Ashton [joint director of public health for the county council and Cumbria Primary Care Trust] said: “Considering all the weather warnings that were given should they now carry legal weight and should there be any legal liability for those ignoring advice given?” [grough]

Excellent. Let’s turn this around.

I see weather warnings being given that amount to nothing. So, if I don’t go into work because of the weather warnings, and the weather comes to nothing, will my work have a claim against the Government for loss of work?

Will insurance companies refuse to pay out if the weather forecast was severe? Well, people did ignore the advice. All these lorries blown over by the winds each winter.

Link to the Met Office to see if you have a legal duty not to travel to work.

Hopefully pubs and clubs selling alcohol will have a similar duty of care.


The title comes from a cartoon I remember seeing in a construction magazine in the 1990’s. Two builders are sat on top of a house roof, rainwater is lapping around their wellies, one is filling out a claims form, and asks his mate “how do you spell “exceptionally?””. It refers to the claim of exceptionally inclement weather.

The Long Road South

Just read that Aberdeen film-makers, “Stirton Productions”, latest movie is up for a British Independent Film Award.

One Day Removals” was recently shown at the Raindance Festival, and was so popular that the web-based showing crashed the server. There is a long list of big names who have won awards in the past, people who have gone on to bigger and better things.

Mark’s post

See what the fuss is about before the rush starts

Previous postings here

Scrape scrape

Scrape scrape, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

The sound of people clearing ice from windscreens. Some cars from the countryside still have snow on roof and bonnet. British summer time only ended on sunday morning.

Sunday, 26 October 2008


Or should that be “after in-action report”? I know it wasn’t the Yukon, and only 47.5  miles (which should make it half-way up a 95 mile track). I also spent money in the locality for the extra days instead of in Canada, or giving up and bugging out to paint figures and watch tv. What I used to do, was spend a few days tidying the flat and some days planning the rest of the teaching block. A relaxing time. But I wasn’t achieving much.

I was asked if I was giving up, seeing as I don’t have the time for major Canadian-style expeditions, I was emphatic that I was merely seeing the last few days as throwing up problems to be solved. Some were gear-related, but many were me-related, physical and mental.

Starting from the ground up:

Feet - Problems

Feet were wet and I had problems caused by that. My feet end up like prunes, and I get more blisters as there are more edges rubbing against socks. Other parts of the feet developed red sores. I treated them at night, drying them off, puncturing large blisters and letting them breath after applying germolene, sometimes applying second skin. In the morning I would tape up blisters and some of the bigger sores. I had foot-talc in a small bottle and put on dry socks.

Feet - Solutions

Try and get used to Sealskinz socks, maybe with liner. I found they gave me blisters, so didn’t use them.

Get feet toughened up and acclimatised.

Learn more about foot-care. I’ll be ordering “Fixing your feet

Footwear – Problems

Water got into socks. I’m not sure how. The Scarpa ZG65’s are lined with XCR, and I clean and waterproof them before setting out.

Possibilities – Water gets in through proofing or failed lining. Water gets in via the cuff of the boot as streams in spate or walking through mud. Water getting under Paramo trousers (which didn’t fail).

Footwear – Solutions

Test how water got into boot and solve problem.

Purchase short ankle gaiters. I noticed that Paramo advertise a pair that will “protect against water drainage from trouser hems.” (source) I will order a pair.

Baselayer – Problems

Chafing at the upper leg. Every time I stepped out it was painful. Every time me foot hit the ground, it was painful. Repeat with other leg. At 1 mile an hour, that was a lot of pain.

Baselayer – Solutions

Get new pair of merino shreddies.

Get some BodyGlide or similar.

Phone Charger – Problem

When battery got low on Nokia 6220c phone, it needed a mains charge across it. Before that, the Tekkeon charger worked, and then it didn’t. I noticed coming back on the train, that the input charge kept dropping, and reckon that the long, slender “Nokia Slim” connector is too wobbly.

Phone Charger – Solution

I’m looking at chargers. I saw a pull-cord one in Blacks in Fort William, and thought that the similar charger for the “one laptop per child” and thought something like that would be more efficient, so will go and hunt one down.

SleepMat – Problem

The sleepmat lives against the back of my pack. It got wet.

SleepMat – Solution

Does anyone make a suitable dry-sack? I’ll just use a rubble-sack from the supermarket, I think.

Trek rate – Problem

I was down to 1 mph. This was when road walking on day 2, as well as later. Although down to pains as mentioned above, I need to get used to walking along. Last time, it was all novel to me. This was my second Way, and third Long Distance Trek. I found a lot of it dull (loch on the left, woods on the right). This doesn’t bode well for morale.

Trek rate – Solution

Get the stepping machine out of the airing cupboard and get some exercise. I lost 4kg. 8 pounds, in a few days. Stop comfort eating, especially at lunchtime.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The effing effer effed up

The effing effer effed up, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Yup. Finally on a train out of glasgow. A group of youths are loudly recounting the exploits of their trip. No-one seems to mind the vulgar terms, so nothing is said. Train from fort william was late due to waiting for a late train to pass us, making us late and meant i had lost my seat reservations and had a long stand in the station. This after the lack of info from staff about revised eta in case driver had made up time. Staff were noticeable by their absence. I legged it off the train and round to the empty platform, 2 mins too late for the train out, 58 mins early for next one. Pack off, sit down and wait for fight with ticket mannie, which didn't happen, so i can relax and enjoy the trip as british summertime ends today.

Aquagear aids ailing alsatian

The poorly pooch was brought succour by the contents of an aquagear water filter as he boked and vomited his way across scotland on the fort william train. As the toilet water was too tepid to drink, the contents of the icecold waterbottle was offered. Dog and the three female hikers were soon settled as the train crossed a blustery rannoch moor. One onlooker was heard to mutter "it isn't the yukon, so the dog can't really be ill,"

Friday, 24 October 2008

Hy winds fordcast

Hy winds fordcast, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

I hope tomorrow's wind forecast is a typo...for the sake of these people still encamped. I know it is only scotland, and not the yukon, but winds gusting to 1100mph is still a lot.

Oh, and ellis brigham in fort william are knocking 50% off tnf samples. And if you're going to 'abuse' gear, don't post videos of you doing so on youtube and then try and get your money back on them in the shop.

Having spent an afternoon in "the garrison", i couldn't help notice the profusion of missing letters from town signs. From the "statio b " to a "hote " for the weekend, it was as if carol voderman had turned to a lif of crim. The only incidence was when one chap accused gayle of queue-jumping in morrison's cafe and then fails to see the irony as he sends his woman off ahead of me to grab a seat. They sounded like incomers, despite the weather, everyone seemed happy and full of life. We even saw two gents who had walked in from tyndrum, where they had been in the same hostel. Well done, even if 'anon of the yukon' disagrees.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Viva glen nevis

Viva glen nevis, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Yesterday i spent mainly reading old TGO and TAC mags go the hostel. Even found a photo of a mr mcneish sporting what looked like a pair of dungarees, matching baseball cap and sunglasses. Well, bananarama's loss was our gain! And my mental 'to do' list got longer and longer. I also started reading a book from the 1930's, "when the scot smiles" and must get myself a copy.

I caught the first bus out today and hope the lass in the hostel enjoyed her planned walk to the bridge of orchy, or the later bus to fort william too. The bus was buffeted by the wind in a couple of places and hills barely visible.

I recognised the shapes crossing the road as the bus stopped at the kingshouse. As the driver opened the luggage compartment, i heard a voice mentioning my pack (all 3 of us have osprey packs and pacerpoles). They had a fast walk through yesterday, which i look forward to reading more about on their blog. Flooded this morning, and i hope gayle posts the video she showed me of the 'croc' shoe floating by the stove.

Arriving in fort william, we breakfast in a supermarket and my luck strikes again as the store suddenly fails to be able to process card payments. The puddle outside provides entertainment for a wee lass in pink and purple and flowery wellies, and two unicycling lads. In search of a charger, we find that the town has no mobile phone shops. At all. Wow. But, despite my misgivings, woolworths sold a universal charger that included the adapter for my nokia 'slim'. Then a short taxi ride to the glen nevis campsite where we are currently hunkered down in our tents. I've unclipped half of the inner so that i can keep it clean and mudfree (small hope) for sleeping in. Lounging in the tent with an outer jacket as groundsheet. Life is good.

Some corner of a squelchy field


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

It must be Tyndrum

It is Wednesday, so it must be Tyndrum (pron: tine-drum). I can no longer call this "WHW 5.1211" as my West Highland Way ended at Crianlarich yesterday about 20 minutes after the last train for 6 hours had departed. A taxi carried me to the "By The Way" lodgings and that was it. Half-way, or thereabouts.

My mobile is battery-dead, and no amount of AA power across it is shifting it. As it is on the 'Nokia slim' connection, Mick's kindly offer of his mains charger would not fit it. Next time I pack the 3-prong plug.

When my feet get wet, they wrinkkle like prunes, and walking in the wet of Sunday and Monday gave me a dose of foot sores and blisters. Dried kit at the Beinglas campsite (wigwammed it), and listened to the radio (one earpiece in) on Tuesday, but my pace was barely over 1mph, so I decided at the A82 underpass to call it quits.

"Any fool can be uncomfortable" were the prophetic words that echoes in my ears. On Radio 4, there was a good story about the woman who cycled in Northern France, but couldn't mend a puncture, so spend a lot of time pushing her bike around looking for assistance - I empathised with her. It is the journey, not the destination.

But it doesn't help the fact that I have a few days in the West Highlands to look forward to as an accidental tourist. The high life of Tyndrum, the cracking facilities at the "By the Way" hostel, and the bus out tomorrow to Fort William for a couple of days until my train ticket becomes valid, and I head for home. Foot sore and fancy-free

Monday, 20 October 2008

Whw 3.1750

Whw 3.1750, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Doune bothy. Pushing on to bein glas campsite. I fancy an ice cold glass of carlsberg. If weather not going to improve, i'm thinking of getting train from tyndrum to fort bill and having a couple of relaxing days there. I'm a wimp, deal with it.

Whw 3.1550

Whw 3.1550, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

I vow island. I vow never to do this lower section again.

Whw 3.1325

Whw 3.1325, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Inversnaid. I left the bothy at 11o'clock and i've just done the two miles. Ugh

Whw 3.0950

Whw 3.0950, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Rowchoish bothy breakfast bar. I'm having chicken dopiaza for breakfast. I've no idea what it is, but it'll make up for not having a main meal yesterday. Then i have 10 miles to go to get to beinglas farm. I'll see what static shelter they have available and hunker down to dry off kit. If i light the bothy fire this morning then i'll stay here for the duration. Not looking forward to the lochside path as i recall what it was like last time - one foot wrong and you're falling to a drowning in loch lomond. The lower path i took last night after the ptarmigan lodge was like that: some great bridges and tracks, but tree falls, washed out sections and lack of signage. I wish the government would give them more money to upgrade the path.

Whw 2.0130

Whw 2.0130, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Rowchoish bothy. One bad decision after another, but i finally get here and find mick and gayle's note. Sadly, too late to use the firewood, but that's what happens when this idiot overshoots the target on 3 occasions. Duh!!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Whw 2.1710

Whw 2.1710, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Ugh. Took me about 45mins to do the last 2km. Another 5 or so to do tonight

Whw 2.1730

Whw 2.1730, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Lest we forget. Whether dead, alive, recent or past, they did what our country asked of them.

Whw 2.1515

Whw 2.1515, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Not making good time. Pains from chafing and blisters. Only done 7 miles and have another 6 to go. Oh, and it is raining, windy and cold. But it is the sabbath, when all good souls should be tucked up inside.

Whw 2.1155

Whw 2.1155, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Having a break in balmaha, eating dates on a seat that was sheltered until the wind increased. Blah. I suppose that's nature's way of telling me that the break's over then

Whw 2.1115

Whw 2.1115, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

After the river of mud running down the civilised side of conic hill, there's shelter in the sylvan forest

Whw 1.1020

Whw 1.1020, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Conic hill. As the knife bearing walker piles past me,followed shortly by a cheery group of folk, despite the weather, lifted by the view below. Yup, what a view.

Whw 2.0915

Whw 2.0915, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

It is with great sorrow that i have to announce the passing of a close friend. Upon inspection last night, i sentenced my merino shreddies to the dustbin.

A good night's sleep, spoilt only by the knowledge of having to clamber up conic hill with a dodgy forecast and a blister on each foot. They are taped up and had around 12 hours of good rest.

Phone went down to 3 energy bars last night, so i put a charge across it with the tekkeon unit (loaded with 4 aa batteries). Off to break camp and get a move on, whilst still suprised that i can get a net connection in the back of beyond. Just a shame that civilisation doesn't extend much beyond where the central belters can go on a weekend. Trite, i know, but what the heck. Clouds are moving faster, i'd best be off over that hill and far away.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Whw 1.1810

Whw 1.1810, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Arrived at rivendell, the last homely pitch before conic hill. There's a wee splash of green grass hidden in the trees. That's it. Same place as last time.

Whw 1.1720

Whw 1.1720, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Goodbye to gar..n forest and hello to the blasted heath. I'm aiming to pitch below conic hill as i did last time. It is odd to be receiving texts from mick and gayle up ahead at the bothy i hope to be in tomorrow night. Cold wind blowing as sun is coming to the end of it's shift.

Whw 1.1615

Whw 1.1615, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Garadhban forest beside the drymen road. Having a few dates and listening to the noises from the farms below. 5km more to do and then rest.

Whw 1.1530

Whw 1.1530, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

No more humping tarmac until tomorrow. Woohoo. There was even a short pavemented section.

Whw 1.1455

Whw 1.1455, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Bagginses? None here by that name, you want to try over by dryman way.

Whw 1.1415

Whw 1.1415, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Stopped to let a quiet party go by which had one loud shouting swearing person with them. Later there was the ever-laughing woman. I wouldn't be suprised if i saw a sign to craggy island's parochial house next.

Whw 1.1300

Whw 1.1300, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Only 88 miles to go. At least i have a few days to do it in. Had lunchstop earlier. Pressing on.

Whw 1.1215

Whw 1.1215, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

The recent rain has left some of path muddy

Whw 1.1115

Whw 1.1115, originally uploaded by dimacleod.


WHW 1.1015

WHW 1.1015, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Start the west highland way.


Image192-001.jpg, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

The sun rises out of the north sea as we leave Arbroath. And then we are into a bank of rain. We slip in and out of it as we head across country. Everchanging lines of geese head south, crossing our mainly-west route. At each stop i breathe in the fresh air wafting through the open door behind me. Slim chance of acclimatising, but it helps me wake up. The train journey will be over in about an hour, and then my feet take over.

I'm sitting in a railway station

Outward bound. Bag forced into the just too small overhead and no-where nearby to keep an eye on my pack. Too tired after finally dozing off after 2am. Radio 4/world service has too many interesting programmes early in the morning. I reset the sleep setting twice. I close my eyes. Only to be loudly awoken by my phone alarm. Kit on and time for breakfast. Taxi arrives and we glide through empty lanes of non-existent traffic. Within 15 minutes, i am allowed onto the train. The only fly in the ointment this morning was seeing sunday's forecast. I should be in the shelter of a tree-lined loch Lomond.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Wild mood swing

Like a tv advert, the baseroom erupts forth when the clock chimes 5. The group splits as exit choices are made and i walk out with one chap, talking about holidays and his search for motivation to go on exploratory walks in to our fine countryside. Crossing a road, and we part company with warm wishes. Two steps later, my mood has changed and i am now in pre-operational mode. My inner vision is recalling the weather forecarts forecasts that i have in my bag. My eyes are looking at the clouds. Arriving home, i barely take my jacket off before i am trimming a windshield so it will fit into my snowpeak cookpot along with the gas cannister that promises to work at lower temperatures than normal. My usual tactic of stacking required kit in piles on my bed comes into play again, and i grab gear as i see it and place it in a pile. I have very few choices to make. I will, however, be taking more kit with me just in case. The forecast refers to squalls, gales and snow. Better to be safe than sorry, as i will have only myself to blame. Life is unforgiving. The bad weather may be on the hills rather than the glens. It may pass me by. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

Dragon Bellow Conspiracy

I finished reading Stan Sakai's "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy" this morning. The volume had been missing from my Usagi Yojimbo collection until recently. Unlike most of his books, this one works more like a novel than a standard collection of comicbook tales. Strands come together over the pages, and later there is time for an epilogue. It is not merely a tale of how the rhino loses its horn. It goes without saying that the book is well-illustrated.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

And they’re off

Well, that’s Mick and Gayle off on the West Highland Way now. They are looking at taking some detours so that I might meet them on Tuesday or Wednesday. Or to be truthful, I overtake them on Tuesday as I push on through the night, and they catch me up as I bimble along on Wednesday towards the Kingshouse bar.

As for my plans, well, the gas canister I bought at lunchtime is too big to fit inside my SnowPeak pot, so I’ll go looking for other ones on Friday. Actually, the canister fits fine, but not with windshield wrapped around it. It was quite strange to have a gas stove on, hearing the “clack clack” of the ignition system and roar of flame. But, if the temperature drops, I may have problems, and I cannot see how much fuel I have left, nor can I top up the fuel reservoir. All of which are advantages of the meths stove.

98.4% fatality rate is good news

It’s not easy being red.

500 dead red squirrels were tested and 8 were found to have had developed antibodies to the pox spread by the evil alien disease-carrying grey squirrel.

Details at the BBC site and a pro-grey viewpoint here. Neither McCain nor Obama was contacted for a position statement.

My heart is not here

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;

R. Burns

Well, I've the taxi ordered for Saturday morning, some fresh new batteries and a new gas canister. I did think long and hard, and changed my mind a couple of times, but decided on using gas instead of meths (i.e. alcohol stove).

I notice online that "Pocket Mountains" has a new book out covering the WHW. I like the series, but I'll be taking the informative Trailblazer's book, though mine is the older edition. And obviously the Harvey's map.

I'll do a post-walk gear review when I get back.

Second Second Life

Had a fun afternoon at a training session on Second Life. Leads up to a 1-day event I’m hoping to get on, which looks at using virtual worlds in education (video from last year’s conference). I’ve been following what Julz has been doing, and as I used to be a role-player, and MUD witch in the mid 80’s, I can see myself getting hooked on it.

The class was well organised, using a ‘SLURL’ (new term of the day).


I sit attentively and listen, wondering where my feet have gone.


Gavin has certainly changed since he left to work for another institution …


I couldn’t find a toilet …


Hmm, a definite theme developing here … which reminds me, I must remember to print out a star map for next week’s trip.


One of the chaps looked at the avatars’ names and said he had a theory about the names people chose in Second Life. I had to explain that mine was named after my tent. Yup, I spent the afternoon as Akto Mannonen. Well, there was a limited number of surnames to chose from when I enlisted, so it made sense.

And before people think that this late night/early morning post is because I’m off developing my money-making scheme … no, my washing machine is still playing up, so I’m keeping an eye on it as I try hacking the settings again.

After the Rain…dance

Mark posts his report of the premiere of “One Day Removals” down in London. Sorry to see that it is still hit or miss about Englishers accepting legal tender from the other parts of the so-called “United” Kingdom. A shame that trading standards do not seem to be bothered with that aspect. What the heck, in the current economic climate if they want to lose the business, then it is there throat being cut, and serves them right. A “William Wallace” moment? No, I just get fed up with it happening, and never hear of shops up here refusing English notes – we have more sense, obviously.

Oh, and Mike has some photos up too. Fondling a cyberman too.

Good to hear talks about future work coming out of the hard work that the folks at Stirton Productions have been doing.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Virtual Peak Bagging

I’m on a training course tomorrow afternoon on the uses of Second Life in education. So tonight’s homework was to dust off my passcode, and take some tentative steps into the land.

second life

Being me, I end up getting away from the bustle of people slagging off inconsiderates, swearing and chatting and head out to the countryside. I used to play MUD at College in the 80’s, and role-played, so all this nonsense about not being a ‘digital native’ is just that – nonsense.

Now, is there a slider to reduce the waterproofing on these trousers????


All I need is my tent and a warm brew.


Maybe I’ll just take up tarping?

Sunrise already? Time to log out and get a brew on.

Testing times


Monday, 13 October 2008


Seeing as I was the one to suggest it to Darren, and George got interested, I thought I’d better get something done too.

So, some of my videos are now available on iTunes subscription.

In iTunes, got to:

Advanced >> Subscribe to Podcast

and paste in the following code.


Thanks to the nice folk at for that.

Now, this gives you a subscription to the most recent 20 videos, so should (state ‘should’) automatically update when I add a new video in. Won’t that be fun seeing if it works, folks? None of this faffing around, just searching the web to find a solution to a problem that I didn’t have, before I started drinking the cup of hot chocolate, and now there’s a solution and an empty mug.

If you are wanting to catch earlier content, you would have to subscribe to them as if they were separate feeds. The codes for the other two pages are:



Sadly, it isn’t as neat as the others, but it is quick and simple and free.

Monday Night Catch-up

With the latest TWiT podcast playing, I dive into another pile of blogs. they are talking some about blogs.

I see that Darren carried a dvd player in his rucksack. Wow, I didn’t realise the iPhone could handle the input. He is using the same SnowPeak pot as me, but he hasn’t added any duct-tape to the handles. Must be tougher skinned than me. I’m getting booked as a Challenge hag for next year again. I’d recommend the walk to my local chippie – the Bluebird on Urquhart Road. And there’s his Outdoor Trade Show report, where you can see BG! walk – helped by sticks. And you can see BG! lie down – without the help of beer! And some stuff that you might want to crunch your credit on. The original Enterprise 1701 and 1701-A seems more manoeuvrable, and the ones from the first movies (at the time of the original ‘real’ Star Wars) were powered up, so no problems. Plus they had teleportation technology, so could beam across a stack of  photon torpedoes and frag their Imperial arses. Oh yeah! Oops, and Darren started it.

Creep-san has the same pocket knife as me, the Gerber Shortcut, scissors option. I swapped mine out with the equivalent lighter unit from Leatherman, the Squirt, but use the Gerber as my jeans pocketknife. He has some MontBell footwarmers, so I’m on the look for some fold-flat ‘camp shoes’. As to his kit when trekking Yatsugatake, great photos, but I’m not keen on having items hanging from the packs. I noticed Darren doing the same on the TGO Challenge.

Ooh, see-through tarps at ULgoods in Japan. I guess if it doesn’t block light, it must have less mass.

Interesting thoughts from Mark – he reckons he gets less gravel into his shoes when running than walking.

John Hee likes the new TGO magazine layout and been protesting in the New Forest.

Geoff C’s picking up on the public authority that wants to increase the fees for the emergency services using the radio spectrum. Pen-pushers, sheesh. There are links there to the full yarn, and where to lodge your distaste at the uncivilised nonsense we are asked to put up with in the UK.

Tom Mangan asks some pertinent questions: Backpacking: solo or in a group? and Is the economy spoiling your outdoor fun? Being an antisocial lazy oik, I prefer not to spoil other people’s fun and so mainly walk solo. And, yes. The drive to my local outdoors playground is a 4 hour round-trip. Along windy roads, I amn’t getting great mpg. But, if I have multi-day trips, and go hiking in my (fixed) holidays, I can go on walks and wildcamp,saving money, getting fitter, and seeing the countryside. Maybe I should dust off the 08 summer plan, and get ready for 09 with the “St Olav’s Way (Oslo to Trondheim)”  or some other long-distance route.

Cameron’s got a write-up of the walk that appeared in the latest “Adventure Show” on BBC2 Scotland: Stuchd an Lochain. And talks about the new look TGO magazine.

Martin also talks about the new-look TGO and gets out for a walk after writing up a kit list.

And TWiT has moved to talking about blogging, so I’ll end there and get a hot chocolate drink to wind down for the evening.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Sunday Night Catchup

I’m taking the opportunity to scroll through the 762 outstanding posts that are lurking around on my Google reader. In the background I’m streaming the online premiere of Stirton Production’s “One Day Removals” from the Raindance Festival site. Andy and Ronnie currently discussing who they’d punch if they had the chance (“nae bodyguards, just a free punch”).

From the blogs:

I signed up to Michael Knight’s … oops, Ken Knight’s podcast.

Alan was having difficulty with the Ordnance Survey, so a government body is looking into it. Which is nice.

Andy says “Why do people keep dying in my van”… as I read American Bushman’s blog, including a survival pack for his van (spooky coincidence). Also there, a Vitamin B patch to help fight mosquitoes (I tried taking the pills against midges in the past); cooking in cans (strange, as Tinny sells cans to cook in). I’ll not mention his fight to lose weight. otherwise I’ll feel guilty.

From The Goat – an early Christmas idea.

Bastish and Tomoe’s rice harvest is in, straw packed and the persimmons are getting bigger. The pictures here took me back to playing in the haystacks on the crofts in the long hot summers of youth. The only negative point was a grumble about a hiking guide.

Bearded Git posted his trip to Outdoor Trade Show 2008 with Darren. He then posted more information on the new Thermarest NeoAir. And here.

Big Kev digs out his collection of warm tops, and writes about the kindness of a Trail staffer.

Robin almost put in an application for the TGO Challenge, but bought a pair of iGloves, and talks about his work.

Well, the movie is over, and I’m down to 631 outstanding blog articles to read. Flippin’ Nora, we’ll be up to Web4.0 by the time I’ve caught up!

Aquagear Survivor

Declaration: I received an Aquagear Survivor filter bottle for free from for review. The unit arrived through the post in May 2008 with a note that “we would appreciate an A4 report as to the way you have used the product and the impact it has made on your outdoor activities.” Here follows the report.


Technical information: I’m not a virologist, so you can read the list of viruses and infections that it filters out off the website and listen to the podcast, or go to the manufacturer’s site. The main advice is to only filter water from a running non-saline watercourse. There is also a removable pocket in the base of the bottle that allows iodine or chlorine tablets to be added. Inside the base unit is a mesh to filter out sediment as the bottle is filled from the base, and drunk through the lid spout.


I drink water on the move from my pack-mounted CamelBak unit (Sto-away 70/2.1litre). To cut down on pack weight, I’ll estimate how much water I’ll want to carry and generally a 1 litre carry will do me in the Cairngorms of Scotland. We aren’t short of water here.

For a “packs-off” stop, I got into the habit of drinking from a running water-source instead of draining the CamelBak. To refill the hydration system, I would either have to remove it from the inside of my regular Osprey Atmos pack or rig up a refill system (as described on the Southern Upland Way). So I got into the habit of carrying a plastic pop bottle that I could fill up and sup out of. When the tent was pitched, I could use the bottle to fill up the hydration sack instead of forcing the sack into a stream. If the water was dodgy, I would drop in some Aqua Mira solution and wait about 15 minutes.

When I got the Aquagear bottle, I simply replaced the pop bottle with the filtration bottle. It lives in the side pocket of the backpack. Some people are able to forego the hydration system and reach into the pocket of their pack – I am not that flexible. I bought a 1 litre Nalgene bottle carrier to use on my belt as a holster on day trips. Though I have not used it so far.


When I want to fill the bottle up, I simply remove the base plate, leave on the sieve and fill up the bottle. I can then pump it through the filter into the CamelBak. Keeping the top of the bottle out of contaminated water can be an issue, but the spout has a cover on it that should stop water contaminating the spout. I tend to fill from flowing water anyway, aiming for small waterfalls. If encamped, I found that the GSI bowl almost fills the bottle in one scoop.


Here is my initial out of the box look, and the first use in Glen Ey in the Cairngorms.

Nothing much has really changed over the Summer. I drink out of the Aquagear Survivor at packs-off stops, and I use it to fill my CamelBak at night and in the morning. Sometimes I will filter the water through the bottle into the CamelBak, and sometimes I won’t – it depends on my trust in the water source. I carry a few chlorine tablets (from a Lifesystems packet) in a zip-lock bag in my first aid kit, just in case the water is very dodgy.

For those of you interested in such things, the manufacturer states that the unit weighs 180 grams (empty). For me, it is now a standard piece of kit and is much more useful than an old pop bottle.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Raindance Festival

Just a quick message to wish the lads at Stirton Productions the best for the premiere of “One Day Removals” at today’s 16th Raindance Festival in London. The review page states:

One Day Removals couldn’t be any more indie and for budding filmmakers this is a great example of what can be done with little money and a lot passion.

There is a virtual screening on Sunday 12th October between 9pm and 10pm BST (remember, that’s not GMT folks): Raindance/TiscaliVideo

Blogs: Mark Stirton and Mike Clark. YouTube. Official film site. Raindance page.

Friday, 10 October 2008

I'm living in an asynchronous world

Most phone calls i receive there days are junk. No, i don't want a new kitchen, or conservatory. When i receive junk emails or texts, at least i can scan and delete them. With phone calls, i have to set aside part of my life when someone else decides. They are interruptions or emergencies. Communications that cannot wait. A disappointment when some callcentre wallah asks to speak to Meester Mah Klee Odd.

So, i prefer working asynchronously. I choose the best time to read my emails or texts or web2.0 communiques. And then i can respond in an appropriale manner. I have little time between classes and relaxation time is grasped and cherished. My writeup of last weekend's walk hasn't been done at the time of writing this. But may have by the time this missive is scanned by your good self. As more services are available when we, the customer, have the time, will we value the here-and-now more?

Thursday, 9 October 2008

A yingyang thing

I went home from work at 5 o'clock tonight. I tried not to feel guilty, and I jokingly blamed a colleague who said that I'd lasted longer than her. I found the lessons helpful at the weekend, balancing on crossing-stones, thinking "balance on heavy leg, feel the weight root me to the spot and move the light leg". Any reason i write for not attending is an excuse, but i just haven't been setting aside the time to practice, and have reached my limit. It has been fun, and good to think about things as basic as movement.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Club Night

A close-up taken with the Nokia 6220c phone’s 5mp camera (with flash). Do I care what applications the iPhone 3g has, when the camera on it cannot approach that on the Nokia (at the moment)? I can guess that it will change, but such it the marketplace in mobile phone technology. And we users can only benefit.

Long live the Digital Revolution.

Image175 (Large)

28mm WW1 figures painted by Hugh. Wall by Games Workshop. Ruined church by Hovels.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Wet and Wild in the CGNP

Wet and wild in the Cairngorms – and the weather wasn’t great either.

Saturday at Derry Lodge

Saturday morning. Rain. Low cloud. Bacon on the frying pan in the tent next door.

The story starts at the end of September with a message across on the Outdoors Bloggers Forum: Hi Duncan, I am actually travelling up Monday night. Arriving Tuesday morning Aviemore. Getting over to the east side for the following weekend is no problem. Give me a day and location and I can be there. Dawn.

So, Friday night finds me rushing home from work and packing my Osprey Atmos pack (I have one comfortable pack for overnights and multi-days). I set the kit out on the bed, and remember Dawn’s resupply pack from the fridge. The hour it takes me also allows for the rush-hour traffic to die down, and I set off westwards after 6pm. A straight drive along Royal Deeside, and past the shops in Braemar, parking at the Linn of Dee. (maplink) A quick tab up Glen Lui gets me to Derry Lodge about 9.30pm. I do part of the journey with the headtorch switched off and sometimes with the red LED on.  I sneak past Bob Scott’s bothy by diffused sky-light as I find it heightens my senses more and I find I can smell the woodsmoke from the hut down in the glen. I decide that, when I get home, I’ll swap out my Alpkit headtorch (with its many colours) for the mono-coloured 4-LED lens Petzl as I prefer to have a wider field of vision. With thoughts on lights, I round the corner past the lodge and see a red light in the near distance. After a short manoeuvring around the river (and then back across the bridge as I’d moved in a straight line but the river has a bend in it), “good evening Dawn”, and “Is that you Duncan?” I clear a pitch and Dawn offers me water for a brew. We chat, then kip, soon after the rain falls on our tents.


Next morning over the aforementioned bacon rolls and a brew, we discuss the options for the weekend. The weather is poor, the temperature had dropped to 2°c on the drive in, but was 5°c in the ‘gorm. There was snow on the peaks. My thoughts of heading to Loch nan Cnapan were shelved and a low-level day settled on. Dawn would see what Saturday brought before deciding whether to continue her hiking trip, or bail out with me on Sunday. Packing up wet tents in a break in the drizzle, we see a few people on the trail, but no other tents. The forecast of snow on the peaks, rain and high winds may have had something to do with that.





Looking back to where we had camped the night before gives some idea of the weather conditions. The waterproofs were on from the start, and conditions merely determined whether the hood was up or down. We had both walked the track enough times, and go to Luibeg Bridge without incident. Though it is strange that the good path was down to the ford (“in this weather? no chance”) rather than the bridge. We stop for a break and wave to the three ‘oriental’ gents who walk by.





The way up Luibeg disappears into the mist and snow as the shoulders of the second-highest peak in the UK (Ben MacDui) are faintly visible. We think of the folk from OutdoorsMagic who are having a “windy meet” in the region, and hope they are having fun.


Over the muddy path we slide and squelch. Moving towards the better path, but the rain is now cold and heavy and constant. We meet the three gents again at the foot of the path up Carn a’ Mhaim. They politely point to the stream running down the slope and ask us if we knew “if that was the path to the summit?” We confirmed that it was, and said it looked like it would be a snow-covered walk in the low cloud above. Something that we wouldn’t try. The main chap still looked confident, but his two colleagues were not. We left them discussing the matter.

Afterwards I mentioned that I had made the assumption that just because I wouldn’t have attempted it, these people from a different land shouldn’t either. Maybe they were trained in the Chinese military, or from a mountainous part of the world, and even their old granny walked worse to get to market. As you may have gathered, I feel guilty quite easily.


There are no photographs of the westward trek from the Luibeg to the Lairig Ghru as the rain was too heavy. Only when we started to turn south (“move down another two steps, now turn left, that’s you on the path now”). My Paramo Cascada trousers were sodden, and my Scarpa boots were squelching on the outside and inside. Dawn noted that they had failed on her in conditions like this too, and she had had an argument with a chap in the Covent Garden shop over the claims of waterproofedness. I reckon that I’ll get some Nikwax on them and decide whether or not to trust them for the West Highland Way in October.



Looking back north gives us some stunning views. Nature is great and I don’t think either of us felt down-heartened by the weather. I stop myself humming “Somewhere over the rainbow”, as it isn’t manly enough and switch to “Walking on sunshine” – hmm, I think I need to listen to less pop music and dust off some old edgier tracks.


The Bod really dominated the area, and the sun eventually managed to bless it before we finished walking the glen.




I am too much of a gentleman to mention the two falls that Dawn had in the glen. On a path. At ground level. I guess many of us have done similar things. I know I have. Well, I haven’t fallen, over, but I have stumbled and caught myself. So that is almost the same.


And, yes, this is the same day as the earlier photographs. Still Saturday, nearing 4pm, and we meet two pairs of hikers out for a day’s walk.


Stopping at White Bridge (maplink), we discuss options and settle on pitching at a spot I know near the Linn of Dee, and walking out next day.



As the sun sets on Saturday, Dawn gets out her “Bush Buddy” wood-burning stove and is making pitta-bread cheesy melts and I get my meths stove out for a brew. A pair of stags are sounding off for a fight, even though they are separated by the torrent of the River Dee. I had not seen any deer since leaving the car yesterday evening, and was still asleep when early-bird hikers were up and about watching a herd not too far from the tents.

We had walked 18km (11 miles), and my super-dooper Paramo trousers had dried out soon after the driving heavy rain had stopped.





Sunday morning. We slowly break camp. The deer noises of the night before are gone. The Silva ADC Wind (bought earlier in the year in a sale from RawOutdoors) recorded that the lowest temperature in the night had been 1.1°c. I was glad of my down jacket, and had pulled it over the down sleeping bag and slept in a layer of merino wool clothes.

A short walk to the car, and we arrive soon after at Braemar for breakfast in the “Hungry Highlander” (where the ducks stare at us menacingly) and a trip to the gear shop (Braemar Mountain Sports) which is left empty-handed.





Dawn’s take on the trip can be found over at: I will read it later, as I preferred not to read it before writing my trip report…which has been delayed by events – mainly the week passing so quickly.