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Showing posts from 2011

Wild Camping on Dartmoor

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It was only a few days before, earlier in the week, that we'd decided to try out the new Alpkit Kangri tent on a Wild Camping trip to Dartmoor.  We'd settled on Dartmoor as wild camping is allowed on a number of areas (see map) provided that you follow a few simple rules (camp at least 100m away from roads and leave no trace) and you check the MOD is not using the ranges for live firing (you can check online here).

Saturday 17th December, 7:50am
20 minutes later than we'd planned (but when does any walking/camping trip leave on time?!) we left Romsey heading for Dartmoor National Park, Meldon Reservoir near Okehampton to be more precise.

Arriving at the car park next to the stunning Meldon Reservoir at around 11am we sorted out our various bits of kit for the day's walk and headed off across the dam wall at the head of the reservoir.



Walking up Longstone Hill we saw our first signs of life.  The ponies were scattered over most of the hill, these two were sheltering behind …

The planning is half the fun

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This started off as a post about the planning of next year's trip to Canada but is actually just going to a mix of musings and ramblings from me about another new item of kit, planning for Canada and my rapidly deteriorating level of fitness and unhappiness about this!

So let me get the rant out of the way first; I haven't felt this unfit and generally out of shape in ages and the worst thing is I can't seem to find any motivation to do anything about it.
It seems to be a downward spiral (for me anyway) in that the more I notice my fitness level slipping the more I seem to actively destroy it - I can't remember the last time I drank during the week and at the moment I seem to be doing it every evening.
Maybe it's a simple combination of stresses at work and a tinge of frustration of "not being where I want to be" but as only I can actually do anything about that it seems odd that I seem totally unable to do so.  Food for thought eh...

But on to lighter th…

Back from Winter Camp.....

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(Wilverly Enclosure Scout Campsite, Wilverly, New Forest, UK - Dec 2011)
This post is, I admit, slightly off topic, being more about Scouts than my walking or mountaineering experiences but we were camping and we were outdoors so it ticks at least some boxes! More importantly however it was the first time I've really had a chance to use my Montane Extreme Smock (purchased on the advice of Matt some weeks ago - read about it here).

So to set the scene; the 10th Romsey, Crusoe Troop's 2011 Winter Camp was held at Wilverly Campsite (near Wilverly in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK) with 14 scouts and a number of leaders.
Weather wise we were very lucky as the camp was scheduled for the first weekend in December and came at the end of a miserable week of rain and wind but, annoyingly, no really cold weather.

Winter camp is unlike our normal spring and summer camps in that the scouts sleep in 2 man "Force Ten" tents (as in the picture above) and the leaders do the cooking …

Montane Extreme Smock - First Impressions

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Yes, yes I know I said that "I had enough outdoor clothing" and that "I didn't need any more items of clothing for my winter trip" but after a chat with Matt* one evening in the local pub I decided to look for a deal (which I found in Go Outdoors thanks to their extra 10% off all items voucher).


Now I tried the jacket on whilst wearing a shirt and tie (during my lunch break, nothing more sinister) and the fit was "ok" in XL so I figured that, as ideally this smock is worn next to the skin (with no additional layers) the fit would be fine.


Another revelation for you, I've never really been a fan of smocks due to the fact that I run hot, almost all of the time, and like to be able to take off layers as quickly as I put them on.  So buying a smock that is designed as a 1 layer, all weather, jacket was a bit of gamble for me.


I have to admit that on getting the smock home and trying it on again I was both very impressed by the look and feel of the jacket…

New winter kit - first impressions

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Someone (probably famous) once said that "life is 95% anticipation" and for me that has been true of the last month while waiting for my new Yukon down jacket from PHD and, more recently, for my SkyHigh 1000 sleeping bag and Hunka bivy cover from Alpkit.


So after a long weekend, with the Monday and Tuesday off work, and after a few initial issues with Alpkit's online payment service (which was sorted out by Alpkit after a quick phone call - their service and support was impressive and I would recommend them in a flash) I arrived early to the office to find 2 boxes awaiting me......  Excited? Oh yes!




PH Designs - Yukon down jacket
Now PHD (Peter Hutchinson Designs) has a fairly impressive reputation when it comes to serious down clothing and just casting your eye over the front page of the website yields some fairly heavyweight quotes, so I was expecting big things from this jacket.


So, first impressions.  Well to start with the jacket is super light, 450g, and with box-wall …

A rare day off

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Today I find myself slightly at a lose end with the weather in usually sunny Romsey putting a temporary hold on my plans to get out on the bike and get some miles in before the winter mountaineering course with Talisman Mountaineering, that is rapidly drawing closer.


Realistically the only way that, in the next 9 weeks, I'm going to achieve anything close to a decent level of fitness is to haul my ass out on my trusty Cannondale CAAD7 road bike (or turbo trainer in the garage when its too dark or raining!) as much as possible and to get down to Calshot for climbing as often as I can.  
When I booked the course over Christmas I had the confidence of time on my side in regards to training and its been one of those things that I've managed to overlook until it hit me this weekend that I haven't done nearly enough to make the most of my trip to the Cairngorms.


I fell into that category of people who used to exercise a lot (gym 4 times a week and cycling 2-3 times a week) but who,…

Onwards and upwards

At last, I've finally managed to pull my finger out and get that all important card that lets me climb, on my own, at Calshot activity centre.
Now this is something that, if I'm honest, I've been "wanting" to do since climbing there during my time at Scouts during the 90's but having no friends outside of Scouts that had any interest in climbing this got pushed to one side and almost totally forgotten about. Until I started cycling with Matt and discovered that he was an accomplished climber and could take to me Calshot which re-kindled the fire to "do more climbing".  
From here I decided that I'd complete a course and the attain the necessary accreditation (basically a rubber stamp from Calshot) that allows me to turn up and climb solo (clearly I'll need someone to belay me!).
This turned out to be slightly ill fated though as my first attempt at booking a climbing course ended in cancellation due to lack of participants and the re-planned…

A week in the Lake District - Oct 2011

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It's been a long time coming...

....and on the 1st of October 2011 "it" finally arrived

For month's I'd been going over and over all the details in my head and planning the week-long trip to High Lorton in the Lake District.

There's too much to cram into one blog post and I don't really want to post a day-by-day account of the trip as I'm sure that no one but me will find it that interesting!  So here are the main details of the trip, I'll expand on the walks as necessary and give as much detail on routes, weather, kit etc as I can.

Where we stayed
High Lorton, Cumbria.  About 4 miles from Cockermouth and 8 (ish) from Keswick.  The cottage was ideal for us, big enough to while away the rainy, windy days and within budget!  High Lorton made an ideal base to explore from with the lakes of Buttermere and Loweswater only a stone's throw away.
It's worth pointing out that Keswick is a mecca for outdoor shops and I spent a good few hours walking aroun…

I think I've got everything I need at the moment!

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So it's sitting here, writing this, that I find myself in an unusual and slightly disconcerting position in that, in terms or walking/mountaineering kit, I have everything that I need - for the time being anyway!

Now it's worth pointing out that recently I have made a fair few purchases and it would probably be a good idea to review/rate these now - especially as I have no upcoming events or expeditions to plan or rave about, so here goes.  For each item I've tried to review in a set format;
1 - reason for purchase
2 - initial views
3 - tested?
4 - conclusion

Crux Shox Jacket
Reason for Purchase - after a long weekend hiking in the Lake District and suffering from a leaking and very disappointing experience with my Mountain Hardwear Argon jacket I decided it was time to a) send that jacket back and b) buy something more reliable. So a call (and visit) to Pegglers in Arundel saw me ordering this!
Initial Views - Impressive!  This is a jacket that is made for serious mountai…

Rab Baltoro Guide - first impressions

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So I caved today, after reading a couple of inspiring blog posts (The Journeyman Traveller Blog) I started to investigate the in's and outs of Rab Vapour rise softshells and convict myself of the definite need/requirement for one of these in my kit cupboard - which, for me, is never a hard thing to do!

However upon walking in to Cotswold Outdoors in Salisbury (which, I'd like to point out, is much more of a treasure trove of kit and advice than it first appears when walking through the door) and trying on the vapour rise jacket I wasn't 100% sure that it was what I actually needed to complement my outdoors wardrobe.

It's worth mentioning now that there were a couple of specific requirements that I had for this piece of kit;

Warmth and breathabilityA hood!Water resistant (nothing really serious but enough to withstand a shower)Fit - it has to fit over a base layer and under my Crux Shox shell without affecting movement in any way
So as you can see it's not simply a…

Wild camping on Cadair Idris

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Leaving Romsey behind at 2pm on a Saturday may seem like a crazy idea when the aim is to travel to the foothills of Cadair Idris in Snowdonia National Park but there is method to my madness!
The idea was to arrive around 6pm, park the car and then head up to Llyn Cau (Lake Cau) and set up the tent for a night of Wild Camping and then set off early the next morning on a circular route to the summit of Penygadair (893m) via Craig Cau and Mynydd Moel (863m) before returning to the car and heading home!

So it was almost bang on 6pm that I pulled into the car park just off the A487 at Minffordd - unfortunately there is no ticket option for an overnight stay so paying £6 to the (very eccentric) owner of the campsite a few hundred yards down the road achieved the required parking spot for the night.

Heading off up the very steep steps that follow the course of the Nant Cadair river from the visitor center takes you up to around 400m and the split of the paths where you fork off to the left…

Lake District Part 2 - Great Gable

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So here I am, back in the Lake District for the second weekend running - how lucky am I?!

It was just a seed of an idea that led to Marcus and I driving up yesterday (Friday 19th August 2011) to Wasdale Head and setting up camp in the National Trust campsite.  We left sunny Chandlers Ford about 9am and arrived in Wasdale at exactly 3pm - not a bad drive and the traffic (for once) was kind to us.
The site was good and although there are no marked pitches we managed to bag a spot next to a large oak tree overlooking the gently babbling waters of Lingmell Beck - ideal!

The plan was to arrive, pitch up, walk Great Gable and then head back to the Wasdale Inn for some dinner and then to walk up Scafell Pike in a circular route today (Saturday).  However, on arrive 2 things struck us; 1 the weather was pretty poor and getting worse and 2 time was not on our side and the 4hr walk that is Great Gable would not really allow us any time for error if we wanted to have something to eat at the pub!

Lake District Part 1 - Scafell and Wild Camping that wasn't

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So on Saturday 13th August 2011, after a fairly uneventful, but 6 hour long, drive up to Drigg (a small village near Ravensglass, Cumbria, we arrived at our campsite in the Lake District.

Shepherds View (link) seemed ideal for us - clean, not too big and not too busy! So we set up the tents (in the drizzle) and started to plan the next 4 days of walking and camping.

Now the plan was to set off on Sunday morning for a 2 day walk from Dalegarth station to Silecroft station some 30 miles away - via Harter fell and with a night of Wild Camping in the middle. It was something I'd been looking forward to for ages since reading the trip write up in an edition of Trail magazine and the thought of a night of Wild Camping in my new Marmot Grid tent was like being 7 years old again on Christmas Eve!

However, Sunday morning dawned and things started to go wrong from the outset - its probably easiest to list them and you will be able to imagine the promise of the 2 day walk slipping away the fur…

Is that really a relaxing break?

That was the question my boss put to me this morning when he asked what I had planned for the weekend and the early part of the next week that I had booked off work.

Yes, I replied, it's my idea of heaven. 4 days of walking, wild camping and getting outside and away from the headaches, stress and problem solving of office life in the Lake District.

It must have been 3 months ago now that I read an article in Trail magazine (which, along with The Great Outdoors mag is rapidly becoming my lifeline to the outdoors and the life I want to lead and would were it not for the annoying need to earn money to stay alive!) about a 2 day wild camping trip/walk in the Lake District, starting from the railway station at Dalegarth and culminating around 25 miles away at Silecroft station, and it got me thinking....

Ok, so "the Lakes" is a long drive from me, 6 hours ish to be precise, but over a long weekend, say 4 days, and with a good campsite as a base it could be fun - and invaluab…

Early morning MTB ride in the forest

For some reason I found myself awake at 5:50am today - on my day off!  So I decided I'd haul my ass out of bed and take the MTB out to the New Forest for a quick ride;



I arrived at Milkham car park (a favourite haunt for me and my riding mates for many years now) at about 6:50am and was just riding out of the car park and onto the trail when I realised, to my horror, that I'd left the old cleats on my summer MTB shoes and couldn't clip in to my pedals!
Now this may seem a bit over dramatic but it causes a fairly large issue when you have pedals about the size of a 50 pence piece and shoes with very stiff carbon soles - you can't clip in at all so can't get any real power (there's my excuse for the slightly slower ride time!) and can't get any stability..

Now the easy option would have been to bail and go home, and it did cross my mind, but I decided to carry on and get on with it.

It was a lovely morning, misty to start with no wind and around 15C - perfect…

2 day Lake District walk planning

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Well I'm nearly there, and thanks to my recent find (TrailZilla.com) I've managed to plan out the route for the 2 day walk + camp in the Lake District.

Full route details (via TrailZilla) can be viewed and downloaded here;
http://www.trailzilla.com/index.php?tid=7888

I thought that, after seeing the route in Trail Magazine, I should give it a go and that the 1 night of Wild Camping would be great additional experience for my ML Qualification - what I failed to realise however was that there was no real route info and on reading the write up from Trail closely there was also no real path that they followed!

Luckily TrailZilla has come to the rescue and has allowed me to plan the route (on OS 1:25k and 1:50k maps) in great detail and then download the .GPX route to my Garmin - happy days!

Now all I need to do is to finalise my kit list, pack my rucksack and get through the next week and a half at work so I can get walking.  Watch this space for a full review....

In an effort to get fit...

I finally made it back out on the bike this evening after work.

Only 9.68 miles on the road bike but it was worth it - felt good to back on the bike again and I'm going to make sure that tomorrow's day off isn't wasted and that I get the MTB out for 15 miles or so in the New Forest.

Details of this evening's ride are here - on Garmin Connect
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/103424801

Well, that's it - just a quick post this eve!

Just stretching the legs

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Had a nice, easy, walk in the New Forest on Saturday (30th July) - just to stretch my legs and get out in the fresh air more than anything else to be honest.


Started from the car park at Milkham Enclosure which is on the North side of the A31 and can be reached via the Stoney Cross road.  There is one main path leading from the car park and this is popular with Mountain Bikers as there is a nice 13mile (can be made longer) loop from here around a designated MTB path (this is marked on OS Explorer maps with orange dots) - I've ridden this loop hundreds of times myself as we used to use it as our summer training ride!

Following the main path takes you down into the enclosure itself and from here you can walk in pretty much any direction, or follow the marked routes.  Out of the enclosure to the North are Broomy and Holly Hatch enclosures and to the West is Slufters enclosure.  Going South takes you into Roe enclosure and then onto Bratley Plain before reaching the A31.

My walk was o…