Friday 19 June 2009

New Post

Pitched at blind tarn late last night in a chilly wind. Sat by the tarn eating our food until fairly late and turned in as the wind howled outside.

Slept well but woke often with tent pushing against me! All good stuff. Just had a brew and a bite to eat and we're about to head off to rejoin the walna scar path to dunnerdale and a pint at the Newfield Inn.

We're doing a round of about 10 miles and will aim to pitch at Levers Water.

Ahh its good to be out!

Tuesday 16 June 2009

More Goodies And A Bonus….

On top of me receiving my Inov-8 Roclites yesterday, Ron Bell “off-of” Mountain Laurel Designs managed to get my new items over from the states fairly sharpish. I have been looking for some lightweight eVent gaiters and over-mitts since the last winter trip in the Lakes. On the recommendation of Martin “off-of” Summit and Valley, I decided I’d go for a pair of the Lightsnow Gaiters and the Rain Mitts.

Upon opening the parcel it became clear that something wasn’t entirely correct and I’d been sent the shorter SuperLight Gaiters instead! I contacted Ron today and he’s sending out the correct pair free of charge and I can keep the SuperLights for the trouble. A true gent and scholar in my opinion.

mld_superlight_gaitorSuperlight Gaiter 

Both are made from the excellent eVent fabric and both items appear to be very well made. The Superlight Gaiters weigh in at 46g a pair and are around 8.5 inches tall. Ron provides some lightweight bungee cord which you cut to the correct size for your specific shoe. The lace clip seems up to the job and I get a very good fit over my new Roclites 318s. Clearly, these aren’t going to last a lifetime but will be plenty good enough for a couple of years use – with a little care. I’ll do a review on these when I’ve had a chance to wear them a while.

weigh-in_mld_slgaitorsThe mitts seem a little large but then again they should be more breathable as a result and I’ll have more flexibility in the type I glove I can fit underneath. I’ll need to seam seal them before use but that’s a job for another time.

mld_rain_mitt MLD Rain Mitt

At the moment, these are weighing in at a pathetic 31g per pair – which is quite frankly brilliant.

weigh-in_mld_mittsThough I’m more interested in grip than weight on this topic, I finally got around to weighing my Merrrell trail shoes. At 880g a pair I’ll be saving roughly 220g on my feet in taking the Roclites and I guess it all makes a difference…The new trail shoes seem to fit far better now and I’ll be taking them up to the Lakes this Thursday. Here’s hoping I’ve got some Compeed somewhere! Again, I’ll let you know how I get on with these and it looks like we’ll get some mixed weather to test them in too….

Monday 15 June 2009

The Roclites Are Here!

In what can only be described as a friendly, fast and efficient service from The Climbers Shop, my replacement Inov-8 Roclite 318s have just arrived.

This pair are half a size smaller than the last and now seem to somewhere close to a good fit. There is a less pronounced heel cup in there over the Merrells but i'm hoping this won't be an issue but only time will tell.

Question is to I risk taking them up to the lakes for the next trip... What am I saying - of course I will! Now, where did I put the Compede!

Saturday 13 June 2009

Getting ready For The Off

In just under a week Paul and I heading up to the Lakes for a couple of nights and days in the hills. It’s the first time we’ve been out together since the November trip and I’ve really missed watching him burn food on his Jetboil. Loose plan at the minute is to head up to Coniston after work on Thursday night and go from there.

As usual for me lately, they’ll be some new stuff making an appearance on this trip. I’ve just bought some new Inov-8 Roclite 318s and my first home dehydrated meals.

These are my first Inov-8 trail shoes and the main sway to these over any other were the weight and grip. I currently use my loved but loathed Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slam GTX which let me down on the grip front every time I use them. I’ve coped (even during winter) but I can’t be confident on wet terrain, especially the old arch enemy – wet rock. Annoyingly nothing I’ve tried in the past few weeks fits anywhere near as perfectly as the Merrell’s so the Inov-8s need to prove themselves on that front. In the grip department though these look mean and I’ve a good feeling about them.

I’ve also been busy getting to know my cheap and nasty dehydrator which has produced very good results. I’ve been on about making my own meals for the hill for a while but only recently have I got around to it. I’ve gone for a Chilli Con Carne for the first trial and its worked really well. I’ve tried it with Smash and it tastes good after a pinch of salt.

Pour and Store Bag

I found these little “Pour and Store” bags when I dropped into the supermarket at lunch during the week. They are made by Poly-Lina and are ideal for storing and then rehydrating the meal at camp. I use mine with a ‘freezer bag cooking’ style cosy which means I don’t dirty my titanium pot. They are slightly heavier than your bog standard freezer bag but are more resilient and re-useable as a result.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Trip Report – Easedale Tarn Wild Camp

After two previous failed attempts, I was finally on the road for a walk and a wild camp. I left work at 3.10pm and took the M6 toll and therein started the trouble. On hitting Toll Plaza I had a 10 minute wait just to get through and pay, followed by various traffic troubles the further north I got. At this point I had already decided the head torch would be coming out and it would be a night walk if necessary. Frustrated and needing to stretch my legs I arrived at Grasmere for around 8.30.

Footwear on and pack adjusted, I left the car parked by the church (honesty box topped up of course) and I hit the Easedale Road at a blazing pace. On my last visit I seemed to recall the walk out of the village being really short but today, in a bit of a rush, it felt like an age. At this point I was practically jogging out of Grasmere!

grasmere-from-sourmilk-gillBack to Grasmere from Sourmilk Gill 

I’ve not been walking in the dark and I have to say that although I felt I had plenty of time before it actually got dark, I have to admit I was a little anxious. Later, when I thought about this I was annoyed at such an irrational response: I had time, I knew the route and I had GPS and a head torch if I really got stuck. I think this is my inexperience demon casting doubt once again.

Once out of the village on approaching Sourmilk Gill though, everything seemed to fall into place. Like my first solo trip last year, I suddenly found my flow and I hadn’t a care in the world – save for a comfortable pitch of course…

The weather was fairly warm with a slight breeze but as I got higher I could feel the dampness of the hill fog.

As I passed Cockly Crag and Easdale came into view I stopped to take stock of the route. Realising that Stickle Tarn was probably 40 minutes away I decided I’d settle for a pitch at Easedale Tarn. Pitch mode engaged, I tried to recall the landscape further around to the south west of the tarn. I remembered a spot on the western edge and thought I’d take to higher ground to take a look to check it was vacant. It was but an even better spot had been bagged just short of the path branching off to Blea Rigg. A Terra Nova Quasar by the looks of it and the next day I would find it was occupied by man and his young son.

By this point I was feeling particularly hungry and I just wanted to pitch and relax and get that homely feeling of having set up camp for the night.

I scanned the north shoreline but the scree slopes of Greathead Crag and Tarn Crag offered no immediately flat or grassy territory. I took to the path that skirts the northern shore hoping that I’d find a hidden grassy haven. The Gods were in high spirits and I found THE spot for the tent just a short distance from the path. The ground was such that the tent couldn’t be seen from the Sourmilk Gill entrance to the basin or the path running close by to Stythwaite Steps. It was wide open to the west but the forecast fortunately meant this wasn’t a problem tonight and it was late so I was doubtful of any walkers passing by at this point. I tested the lay of the ground and found it to be close to perfect so the poles were out snapping together before my pack hit the ground. Tent up, sleeping mat inflated and bag lofting I tried for a signal.

pitch_from_tarn_crag The tent from below Tarn Crag

Oddly the best signal was in the tent but only if the phone was left in the top tent pocket! I called Charl and popped the water on to boil for a brew and dinner. I had a dilemma at this point because I wanted to explore a bit before the light went completely but my hunger was painful at this point and I caved at the mere thought of hot food. Whilst the stove did what it does I lay back on my sleeping mat cursing myself for being a bit of stress-head on the way up. I was also trying to justify why I don’t do this more often…

brew_view A brew with a (slight) view!

The food was distinctly average and lacked salt (I know – not a characteristic you associate with shop bought dehydrated dust) so I wasn’t entirely satisfied. I pulled the whisky from the bag and before delving into the goodness I tried to gauge how long the toilet break would be after closing the tent and removing my tweeds – it turned out to be about 2 sips later!

I was completely besotted by the pitch and was trying to imagine how impossible this spot would be in good weather due to the crowds. I lay back and sent a blog post before zipping up the bag and listening to Elbow as I dropped off.

tent_light The glowing tent at dusk

The night was uneventful and in fact the only thing that woke me was the alarm. I checked outside and it was much the same as the night before (in cloud) only a bit brighter! I slumped back into the bag and just lay there listening to the silence only broken by the sound of running water and a little wind. It was bliss and I have to say I could have stayed in that spot all day. Eventually I pulled my trousers on and went to fetch some water from the stream running off Tarn Crag. Annoyingly I had to recover an empty packet of frankfurter sausages from the stream which was a crappy reminder that not all wild campers follow the code.

Two brews later and I was sat with the map and the MWIS forecast for the day. It didn’t look inspiring and I had a hard time deciding to try for High Raise. I checked the time and set about packing up. A final check of the site and (thanks to the short grass) there was no sign I’d been there at all.

sourmilk-gill-sourceCrossing the stepping stones at the source of Sourmilk Gill 

I joined the path back along the southern shore of the tarn, rejoining the main path between Eagles Crag and Belles Knott. The path was wet and slippery just as before and it reminded me just how little grip these Merrells provide. Looking across to Pavey Ark I was glad I hadn’t bothered to push on the night before. Stickle Tarn looked moody and wet and Jacks Rake was definitely not on my route today! I reluctantly made my way onto High Raise via Sergeant Man and by the time I got there my new Montane Terra Trousers were soaked through from the hill fog. This was a good test of their abilities as they seem to resist much less water than my much loved Mountain Equipment trousers. Nothing a good wash in Nikwax won’t cure. The Rab VR smock held up as usual – a grade A piece of kit for sure.

I wasn’t hanging about on High Raise with the poor visibility and wet trousers. I had to reach for the compass to make sure I was following the right track to Greenup Edge but soon picked up the path heading down to Far Easdale via Flour Gill. I think in clear weather this would be a nice descent and one which the map doesn’t do justice at the first glance. As I hit Grasmere it was raining quite persistently and though the Terra pants were soaked all I could think about was when I’d get another night in the hills!

Monday 1 June 2009

Power Struggle II

All the talk of the mobile blogging antics of the TGOers inspired this post, particularly those who are having trouble keeping their phones, PDA’s and other tomfoolery charged up.

Last August I got a Nokia N82 to replace my old phone. I quickly found that like most owners, if you wanted to use all the toys as well as the phone, you need to be no more than a day away from a plug socket!

I initially purchased  very cheap emergency charger taking 1 AA cell but that turned out to be useless for anything other than a life or death emergency!

I did a bit more research and got wind of a range of products from a UK company called Power Traveller. In October I bought a Power Chimp for the Wasdale Trip. The concept is simply a unit holding re-chargeable AA batteries which you can charge from the mains, a USB cable or a car charger. At first this seemed fine, it would charge the phone but there just wasn’t enough in it to give a full charge to the power hungry N82! When I got back I replaced the 1800mah rechargeable batteries that come with the Power Chimp with some higher capacity 2200mah. This worked to the extent that the battery meter would show a full charge but this charge never lasted as long as a normal charge from the mains.

I contacted Power Traveller about my problem and they suggested the PowerMonkey (the older brother of the Chimp) would be more suitable for smart phones and the iPhone in general. I went away and did some reading but no other N82 owners seemed to be able to vouch for its compatibility and experience has taught me that the N82 is a bit fussy when it comes to charging voltage and current etc. I went with it anyway and despite 1 initial problem it charges the phone fully and the charge it delivers lasts as long as a normal mains charge. Even better  despite being as small the Powerchimp, will deliver nearly 3 full charges to the N82 before it needs re-juicing itself. This is far more suitable for multiday backpacks, making the odd call, checking GPS position and of course mobile blogging!

powermonkey_charger Primate POWER!!!!

The initial problem was that the PowerMonkey would not charge the N82 if the battery was completely flat. Given the capacity of the unit I was prepared to live with it by charging before flat - but contacted PT again to see if they had any solutions. They responded with a phone call to let me know they have an additional charging tip that eliminates the problem with specific Nokia phones. I’m not sure how a passive piece of metal can remove the problem and can only assume its some sort of placebo effect for phones – tricking the little bugger into charging! In any case it works and is now a very flexible way of keeping your phone juiced. With the Coast to Coast trip coming up in September, we are only planning on making 1 stop in civilisation so this should keep the mobile blog posts coming thick and fast – even if the phone signal doesn’t!