Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas

I thought I'd just post a message wishing you all a Merry Christmas whatever you are doing.

Me, I'm stuck in front of the TV watching High School Musical whilst travelling slowly along the path to recovery since catching the flu - This is not the destiny I had planned for myself! In my ideal Christmas holiday I'd be in the pub for a bit and then rushing home to wrap the last of the presents. Instead, I've spent the last few days in bed and wrapping the odd gift when bored of being bed ridden.

Its been a good first year backpacking - or at least I think it has. I've learnt so much from fellow bloggers.....and from making loads of my own mistakes or course!

So, thanks for all your advice, guidance and humour this past year and I hope Santa brings whatever geeky fantasies you desire! I'm off to watch Santa Clause the Movie - Now its Christmas!

Joyeux Noel

Monday, 22 December 2008

UK Everest Challenge 2009

Just spotted this over at Grough and was impressed by the idea.

I like the fact that buzzilions of other people charity fundraising armies can't easily adopt the challenge and completely suck the life out of it. Also, because it's not a real Everest attemp it also means that more money goes directly to the chosen charites. I don't know, maybe its Christmas and I've been visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past or something but it just made me want to support it.

Go straight to their blog for updates on their preparations and to donate if you're feeling like the charitable type. If not then feel free to go back to your turkey for one and last years mince pies!

.....Note to Santa: Please see my post above, I've tried my best to be a good boy and I don't really think leaving it this late is a problem. See you in a few days...

Karma restored.

Friday, 12 December 2008

New Digital Compact for Landscapes

I might have mentioned a few times my desire to bring my DSLR out with me in the mountains to get some better photos. Well, I may have also mentioned that I’ve never got over my hang-ups about the weight to bring it! My Nokia N82 is great but the quality just isn’t up to the standard I’m used to. So I’m met with the dilemma of the lightweight photographer: Weight VS picture quality.

I’ve been on the hunt for a while but nothing was meeting the strict criteria for my budget until I told Santa how good I’d been and he (she) agreed to chip in. So, without further a do…..and in the style Gordon Ramsey:

  • 28mm wide angle lens
  • 3.8x zoom
  • 8.1MP sensor
  • RAW capability (with firmware hack)
  • Image Stabilisation
  • 155g

The Canon IXUS 860IS – DONE.

Review to follow after Santa delivers and I’ve had chance to use it in Paris in early January.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Trip Report: Lingmel & Scafell Pike – Day Two

By 5am I was wide awake and itching to get up like a child on Christmas Day. It wasn’t just excitement, I needed the loo.

There was ice on the inside of tent fly which wasn’t filling me with much motivation to leave my cosy sleeping bag. The alarm finally went off at 6.30 and we gingerly got out of the bags for an 800m toilet break. My shoes had completely frozen and putting my warm feet inside wasn’t a feeling I relished!

big_agnes_frostA cold early start

The plan was to leave the tent pitched and take just what we needed to the summit of Scafell Pike. I think Paul and I were attached to our Cumulus sleeping bags because despite the fact we agreed that the tent (and the gear in it) would be safe, these were the only items we refused to leave behind!

We could tell we would be cutting it fine for sunrise if we didn’t get a move on so we set off at around 7am. The snow made the track a little difficult to see, especially in the low light. We picked our way to the top and it became obvious we were just on time for sunrise as we approached the summit shelter.

dawn_walking The summit approach

I’d not seen anything like it before. I’ve seen sunrise and sunsets in some beautiful places but from the mountains it has its own character. Our timing was jammy and the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon. We just stood there and watched and for a change it was a while before one us said something ridiculous.

sunrise_silhouette Paul’s spooky silhouette

It was simply stunning and the light just kept getting better and better. I wished I’d brought my SLR but in hindsight it wouldn’t have liked the temperatures we were experiencing and I just made do with the N82. Paul and I were firing off pictures and recording video like it was our last night on earth!

Scafell_pike_sunrise My ugly mug ruining a perfectly good shot

The view from the top was endless. We had unrestricted views in all directions and I can’t imagine how many times we’d have to go back to get anything like it again.

Sunlight_on-ScafellsSunrise on the Scafells

We took shelter from the wind and made the highest cup of tea in England! It was so cold the sweat in my gloves had frozen having only removed them minutes before. We spent about an hour enjoying the views and watching the light change before we headed back down to see if our tent had been ransacked by Lakeland bears!

Everything had gone perfectly and every view we saw was of pure wintry goodness. As we looked down onto Lingmel the size of our neighbours became more apparent than it had seemed from down there the day before.

winter_wonderland Descending the winter landscape

I treasured the whole descent and wished I didn’t have to leave. We could see the fog coming in from the west as the forecast had predicted. I think this was the point when I became a bit feral and the thought of the office gave me a feeling of dread. I began to understand that none of that stuff is real, its just the lives we make for ourselves and as easily as it is created it can be undone. Looking out to the west I just stood and pondered, taking in every last detail of just being there. This is a beautiful country.

absorb_landscape The life we make for ourselves

Friday, 5 December 2008

Trip Report: Lingmel & Scafell Pike – Day One

It was my turn to drive so I headed over to get Paul at around 6.30am. We’d both managed to catch the terrible cold doing the rounds at work but we’d decided to brave it with plenty of cold and flu pills. We stopped off for a full English breakfast to clog the arteries at a service station and finally arrived at Wasdale Head at just before 11. The drive deeper into the valley had revealed that the Gods had answered our prayers for snow on the tops and at this point I’d forgotten about my hideous cold!

north_wast_water_fells Yewbarrow, Great Gable & Lingmel from shore of Wast Water

We drove down to the Barn Door gear shop next to the Wasdale Head Inn as neither of us could resist the lure of a gear shop! We bought some spare batteries for the head torches and Paul finally gave in to the merits of Exped dry bags! We made our way back to the parking bay opposite the entrance to the Wasdale Head NT campsite for the starting point of the trip. As we made our final preparations at the car we were treated to some sleet but this was short lived and the sun made an appearance through the frequent openings in the cloud cover. It was looking good weather-wise and I was like a small boy itching to get into the snow.

I’d managed to resist bringing cider and had chosen my Marmot Precip over my Patagonia water-proof so my pack was a gem to put on. I set up my walking poles and we set off past the campsite and up Lingmel Gill.


Middle Fell & Wast Water from Lingmel Gill

The temperature was fairly cool and the slight breeze coming off the mountain made it chilly when not moving. The anticipation of the snow above was almost too much to bear but hunger took over and we stopped just off the track to take on fuel. Paul mustn’t have been as hungry as me because he decided to burn half of his noodles to the bottom of his one-trick Jetboil. Utter glee is all I feel when I hear that familiar sound of Spork on carbonised food! I presented him with a small cut-off from a scouring pad I’d brought as a gift and as we cleaned up it began to snow.

snow_for_lunch Snow for Lunch

The Montane Featherlite Smock was a new item in my pack and it was worth every penny. Normally I would have worn my Marmot Precip over my base and/or midlayer to stop the wind or rain but the Featherlite was perfect and the Precip didn’t make it out of the bag, even in the snow. A highly recommended piece of kit. The walking poles took a bit of getting used to but I quickly found my flow and I could feel them taking some of the pressure of my pathetic knees. I think I was a convert by the time we had reached the snowline!

The cloud cleared as the afternoon went on and we couldn’t help but stop (at what felt like every 100m) to take a photo as the clouds did a runner and the blue sky was left to pick up the pieces.


Me at Hollow Stones

Our progress wasn’t particularly slow but starting late meant there was some dynamic, real-time, micro route management to be done! We consulted the map and decided that we’d pitch on Lingmel, take advantage of the good forecast and make for Scafell Pike for sunrise. This meant we could explore Lingmel Crag and Col and enjoy the snow after we’d pitched.

I’d left the winter boots at home and was a little concerned my feet would get wet in the snow. I’d decided not buy to the Integral Designs Shortie gaiters as I wasn’t convinced I’d need them – fortunately my trial shoes performed perfectly and my trousers kept the snow out in the deeper sections.

We cleared the snow from a relatively flat spot and pitched at around 3.30pm. As we pitched we heard voices and a family of walkers made a bee line for us from the lower western slope of Scafell Pike. They were lost and wanted to make their way back to Wasdale Head. Two of the lads were German and they were excited to practice their English. They all expressed the fact that Paul and I were mad for camping this high and left us with a Christian magazine! They’ll recruit anywhere those guys – you’re not even safe at 800m! I suppose it was better then them rocking up at the tent with brief cases on Sunday morning though!


Sunset from the pitch

It was now getting cold and we had to cook. It was time for the Montane Anti-Freeze to make an appearance and it stole the show. It was perfect for milling about around the camp, cooking and just taking in the views. Another great piece of kit and the pack size and weight is fantastic. The wind picked up as the sun was setting and I had a chance to use my new windscreen in anger. Quite simply it worked a treat and made a huge difference to boil times. Paul’s Jetboil struggled a bit despite his heat exchanger and I think he realised he could do with a screen. I settled down to my beef bourguignon with rice as the sun went down behind the tent.

It’s true, winter nights are long when wild camping and Paul are had exhausted all conversation, reviewed all pictures and were in our sleeping bags for bed at about 7.30! Life inside the sleeping bag was good but outside it was freezing! We had some snow at about 12.30am which woke me and I just had to have a look. Luckily it was only a short shower and the wind had dropped, because the fly sheet wasn’t set up for any drifting snow storms! All in this was a great first day and Scafell was the target next morning……