Sunday, 31 May 2009

Altanour Overnighter

The weather was too good, and the fuses too short to stay in Aberdeen over the weekend. Mike was in agreement, and the forecast was great, so kit had been gathered for an overnight visit to Altanour Lodge in Glen Ey (maplink). I’d been there before, and love Glen Ey.

I started packing on Friday night, and looked out extra kit for Mike. I’d picked up a “Tiger Paws” tent from Argos, as I felt guilty about lending him my old, huge New Illanos tent. I’m not a morning person, so was concerned about forgetting to look out essentials for him, so a sofa filled with gear. With my new Osprey Exos 58 litre (large, so 61 litre) pack, he also got my Atmos 50 litre pack. Saturday morning arrived, and the Atmos was packed with chosen gear, and we were off.

An uneventful trip out, with a pit-stop in Braemar, got us to Inverey at noon. Packs, suncream, and brimmed caps were the order of the day.

IMG_3000 Inverey

IMG_3004 Mike

IMG_2997 Inverey

IMG_3010 Glen Ey

And so we walked for 3 hours. We saw an adder, birds (brown), birds (black and white), birds (seagull), birds (shadowy), rabbits (big), rabbits (small), slugs, sheep (humming), slug (sunning), deer (red), deer (Gilliamesque), beetles (don’t use it’s stage name), ducks (swimming), curlew (curling).

IMG_3016 Auchelie

IMG_3032 Ey Burn

IMG_3018 Poser


IMG_3033 South-west

Mike spotted some shells on the track. .22 he reckoned.

IMG_3050 Shells


We arrive at the lodge, but there’s a family camped at the good pitch, so we slot into a wee gulley. After pitching, we get some kip in the shade. Mike later finds that he’s sleeping in his tent the wrong way, which accounts for his claustrophobic feeling. The evening passes with tea, cooking, deer-spotting, chocolate and malt.

IMG_3064 Pitch

IMG_3106 Pitch



In the morning, we break the tents down and head back to Inverey after the 16km round trip.

IMG_3148 Cairngorms

We stop at Braemar and Aboyne. On the way back to Aberdeen, we pass 3 road-side fires being attended by the Fire Brigade. Perhaps related, some steam traction engines are pulled up at the roadside, a couple are beside a vehicle with blue flashing lights.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


George has been busy with a musical tribute to Darren.

All in the best possible taste.

Roadside Brew

I have used the Mini Bull Design Black Fly 4 a few times, so any opportunity to show it in use is a bonus. I like using it with’s flat-pack Honey Stove (2009 model).


Whilst one of Tinny's Blackfly 4 meths stoves does the work, the Honey Stove is used as a windshield, stove platform and pan support. On uneven ground, I think it's a great combo. 20ml of meths boiled 500ml of cold water. That's less than 1 fluid ounce. The time is long, but so what?

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Medium sleeping mat pt2

A couple of weekends back, I used my newly arrived Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Medium sleeping mat and reported that I thought the mat might have been responsible for me sleeping cold that night. On Friday night, I put down a foil mat below the NeoAir, and slept warmer. The Silva ADC unit reported that the groundsheet temperature had dropped to 4°c.



The foil doesn’t add much weight. I didn’t use my Blizzard bag, keeping it for emergencies. I am sure that I saw Geoff do something similar at the Lakes meet a few years back.

TGOc 09 - Braemar

I went out on Friday night to meet Darren at the designated rendezvous point near the Linn of Dee. If he wasn’t there, we would meet up on Saturday morning.


After a wet drive, with localised flooding and some tree debris to be avoided, I arrived at the Linn of Dee. I left his resupply box (and some extra goodies) in the car, and had a short walk to the clump of trees we had agreed on. There was no-one there. Considering the weather, and that for him the west-east walk would be into the wind, this was not a surprise.  The movement that I had noticed further along the track was a small group of stags.

Dropping off the road, I moved amongst the trees in case Darren’s tarp was concealed from view, and then chose a sheltered pitch and put up the tent.

In the morning, the weather had not changed much, still wet, but the wind had died down. I pulled on Paramo trousers,  showerproof Montane jacket and treated boonie hat.


Some slugs had to be cleared off the tent and boots, and other kit checked for the slimy wee things.


As I started to pack and think about breakfast, I noticed a couple of walkers heading east. One “helloooo’d” me across the glen, and I waved back. They carried on walking, and so it couldn’t have been Darren.


A few minutes later, I was greeted by the sight of a pair of man-tights (leggings) at the tent door.


We chatted and headed off to the Linn of Dee. He had crossed the Geldie that morning. The holler had come from Vince, first-time Challenger, but who had walked in other countries.


Seeing a red squirrel by the bridge, and an advert for free brew for Challengers and tempting accommodation price at Mar Lodge (good one, NTS). I headed back to the car, leaving Darren to walk into Braemar,where I would meet him en route for a snack break.


Outside Inverey, I gave a ‘helloooo’ to Vince and introduced myself. The scout group camped near the Linn had treated him to breakfast. It is great when visitors to our country are treated like this.



I made a quick trip into Braemar for a thermos, and then caught up with Darren after boiling up some water at the roadside. We were joined by Andy, who I’d met last year. As the cakes were shared out, I got a friendly ribbing from a passing Babyfather John Manning about my weight – guilty as charged.

Returning to Braemar, I met Shirley “Peewiglet” (and was rewarded with a hug) and Andy Howell (handshake). After Darren arrived, we waved at Bob and Rose, then lunched - and Vince came in as we finished; then joined by an other Challenger. The two of us then went to the Fife Arms for a healthy drink and I get another hug from Peewiglet, and a few words with John Manning and Bob “no bones broken” Cartwright.


After making sure Darren has his resupply box, and extras (including a required phone charger), I leave the Challengers to their trail-tales, renewed friendships and then to walk across the rest of Scotland’s width.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Medium sleeping mat

I found a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Medium sleeping mat for sale at The Outdoor Shop and collected it from the local corner shop on Friday. Based on my use of the Prolite 3/4-length mat in the past, I had decided that the small (47”) was too small. The regular (72”) too long for me, as that was similar to the Insul Mat I had been using, and the end usually disappears under my rucksack at the foot of the Akto. The medium, at 66”  (5.5’) sounded just right. The weight is quoted at 370 grammes, exactly the same as the quoted weight on the Prolite 3/4 mat. The Insul mat is 570 grammes. When I swapped the mats out, my backpack suddenly had much more space.


As the website had stated that a stuffsack was not provided, I had taken along the Prolite 3/4’s sack. The NeoAir only took about 3/4 of the space.


Upon unrolling the mat in my tent, the instructions and stuffsack were found.


In the morning, I compared the re-rolled NeoAir with my 2 litre Camelbak, and above that, the Ajungilak Air Pillow.

product sheet


On Saturday morning, my feet felt cold. I put this down to the vent being open into the prevailing (cold) breeze. Other than that, I had slept comfortably, and the mat had stayed put. Some other people have reported that theirs have softened overnight. I didn’t have that problem on either night.

To repeat the experiment, I closed the vent at on end. Yet on Sunday morning, around 2am, I could feel the temperature dropping, and pulled on a pair of socks. Checking the Silva ADC, the temperature during the night had dropped to 4.5°c. That isn’t that cold, as I have been out in lower in the same bag.

Next time that I am out, I will use my Blizzard bag as an insulating mat, to see if I can stop heat being leached out of the NeoAir to the ground. I didn’t want to try that on the Saturday night, in case it was just the cold breeze coming through a vent that was causing it. I carry this bag anyway, in case of emergency, so it isn’t an extra weight to carry to assist the NeoAir – which would kind of defeat the purpose of a sleeping mat advertised (on the box) as a 3 season mat.

Other than that, I had a great couple of nights sleeping, and even got some dream time logged. But you really don’t want to hear about that.

Derry Lodge and Glen Luibeg

I’d promised myself a couple of days in the Cairngorms this weekend. The week flew by. A few trips to local gear shops furnished me with meal-pouches and a fresh gas canister. Kit was dusted off, cleaned, treated and repaired. I couldn’t unlock my PacerPoles, but found the new carbon-fibre poles in Craigdon Mountain Sports. An impulse buy which performed well over the weekend.

After a false start on Friday, I parted with a new Therm-a-rest NeoAir sleeping mat to add to my kit. Apart from a couple of speeding cars and one overtaking on a blind corner, the drive out to Linn of Dee was excellent. Swapping out my sleep mats, I then had a fine walk up to Derry Lodge. The half-moon and familiar Landrover track allowed me to walk it all without a torch until I reached the pitch.



Clearing away pine cones and debris, the tent was soon pitched and the pack (Osprey Atmos 50 litres) was emptied. I pack items into stuff/dry-sacks, so I end up batching bags together in the tent, eg sleeping bag, mat, pillow. After a good night’s sleep, I breakfasted and headed out to see what the weather was going to do on the tops.




The weather was definitely changeable. Snow above 800m was also on the forecast. I decided to turn back to Derry Lodge and have a lazy time.



The weather changed again, but I was already in a mindset to kick back and put my feet up, and enjoy the day.


I rigged up a reading-lamp, which was more comfortable than the head-torch, and got through a lot of Tom Standage’s “The Victorian Internet”. Normally, I don’t take a book, instead a thin, cheap book of poetry. I may change that habit now.


After a cold night, I broke camp and headed back to the car. There were some hailstones (just a few seconds-worth), and the shower didn’t come to much. Looking back, I couldn’t guess whether I would have had a good or bad time up on the plateau, but I still had a good time not risking it.


The journey home included a brief stop to resupply in Braemar (yes, it did include “The Hungry Highlander”), and dropping my Furtech trousers in to HillTrek in Aboyne to get some decent belt-loops fitted.