As I’ve posted before, I shall sadly not be on this year’s event. However, here is my little contribution — The TGO Song.
This is a marching song with a good chorus — perfected by Challengers as we marched through the Fetteresso Forest on our way to ice cream and the coast. The song namecheck some of our finest comrades!
When I return next year I shall expect to hear it sung with gusto!
The TGO Song — mp3
Some clever sod asked me whether there is a B side. There is.
Here is a ballad based on Iain Thompson’s book — Isolation Shepherd — an account of his life as a shepherd on the shores of Loch Monar —a famous TGO landmark.
The Monar Shepherd — mp3
Of course, you don’t have to be a TGO Challenger to sing the song. You never know, it might inspire you to tackle the event yourself!
For a couple of years now I have been looking tropical my main waterproof. This has served me well but after almost a decade of use the fabric has got thinner and the jacket stopped being properly waterproof a few years ago!
Choosing a replacement has been difficult. I’ve tried on a couple of jackets in shops that seem to be sized weirdly, X Large jackets that seem not to the right size across the shoulders. The next problem has been price. The cost of the latest designs and fabrics has become quite ridiculous. I’m simply not going to pay silly money for something that might be a wee bit more breathable.
It was fellow Challenger that first recommended the Alpamayo to me two or three years ago. Gordon is a sensible chap. He likes his gear lightweight but not at the cost of comfort of effectiveness. Everything from PHD I hoverer bought has been top-notch and so in the end I finally got round to following Gordon’s advice!
The first thing you notice about the Alpamayo is its size. PHD size their jackets to allow for the wearing of their down jackets below which is helpful I think. The smock fits nice and loosely but is not flappy. There is no scope tail but the smock has a decent, protective, length to it which I like.
The main zip on the jacket is tough and solid and protected by a proper baffle and waterproof seams. A single chest pocket also uses a similar zip and waterproof protection. There is also an inside pocket with a key holder. The hood is properly adjusted and is probably the best hood I have used on a waterproof jacket. The wire frame is tough and the hood is easily adjusted by an adjuster at the read and my two adjustable toggles on the base. The smock cuffs feature very tough and solid Velcro adjusters. Everything about the construction is very solid and the smock oozes quality. The fabric is not thin but is smooth to the touch
In the use the smock is totally waterproof and windproof without being heavy. The walk on the Black Mountains was a real test of any waterproof garment; the smock design proved more comfortable and protective than I think a jacket would have been. The sealed zips and zip protection proved to be very effective.
While the weather in on the Black Mountain Trip was pretty foul it was mild. Fighting against the wind meant working hard and at no time did I feel the smock lacked for breathability.
The Alpamayo uses PHD’s own HS3 fabric. I’m not exactly sure what this is as many waterproof fabrics — including eVent — can be licensed to be used under individual brand names. What I do know is that this fabric is more than breathable enough for me.
My Alpamayo is X Large size and weighs 470 grams. It costs £259 and can only be obtained from PHD using website. Long experience of buying from PHD tells me that you cranky on their sizing guide — for example, you would have to pretty large to have to go up to the XX Large size (which can be ordered). I idk the over sizing as I thing the option of using a down jacket in cold weather — that is not compacted too much — can be a real bonus. There is a jacket version of the smock available which adds about another 100 grams.
You won’t see this garment reviewed that often as it doesn’t use one of the main name fabrics. However, this is a first rate piece of kit that simply won’t let you down.
Over the next few months I will continue testing and report back with a long term review.
In this internet age it is tempting to think that we know all about the great trails of the world even if we have never ever hiked them ourselves. There are many tells journals to read. There are many hikers who now blog or micro blog as they walk. We know all about the trail infrastructure, we can download the maps and, of course, we all now know about the famous Trail Angels of the Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT.
Chris Townsend walked the PCT over 30 years ago. Back then the trail was a reality but it was nowhere near as popular as it is today. I think the year Chris hiked it only 11 people completed it. It has taken 30 years for Chris to produce this book and it seems he only embarked on the task after encouragement from his new publishers, Sandstone Press. Sandstone should take a bow as this is a very fine book indeed. When reviewing Chris’ recent Grizzly Bears and Razor clams (I think it was) put forward the view that Chris’ writing is just getting better and better. Rattlesnakes confirms this.
The PCT is an epic trail and 30 odd years ago walking it was even more epic as the trail infrastructure that we have today simply wasn’t there. To make things even more dramatic Chris walked the PCT after one of the heaviest snow falls recorded making much of the first section of the walk quite a challenge.
The PCT runs for 2,650 miles, starting at the Mexican borders and running North (at least that’s how most people tackle it) through California, Oregon and Washington States. The trail takes in the Mojave desert, the High Sierra Mountains, The Cascade Mountains and many of the great US forests along the way.
This PCT walk was Chris’ first mammoth hike and this book combines both the excitement of that youthful walk with a maturity of reflection that is simply beguiling. Above all else it is the natural drama of the trail environment that is the star of this book but the way Chris details the development of the PCT (both before and since his walk) is fascinating.
A modern journal on the PCT would inevitably feature a lot of words about gear and while this is a book about moving through landscape there’s enough to keen gear junkies happy. For this trip Chris was provided with some of the first Gore Tex waterproofs that landed in the UK. It was also on this trip that Chris saw the light and turned (mid trip) to lightweight trail shoes from heavy boots. There is the drama of a broken pack and the search for a replacement. But mostly this is about the walk.
The heavy snowfall results in a trip that seems a very different one to many accounts that I have read. Chris is famous for walking alone but the snow heavy sections dictated walking in small groups for safety. Not only was there a lot of snow to cross but tiny and often dry creeks had turned into raging torrents. What comes over nicely is the relationship that is built up amongst these trail companions. Chris remarks towards the end of the book tat he had walked much of a thousand miles with some of them and yet they ended up knowing little about each other’s lives back in the ‘real world’. However, you do get a great sense of the trail intensity of these friendships. While not having undertake a venture like this myself this — levelling of human experience — is a feature of any long trail walk and, I think, is one of the reasons for the longevity of the TGO Challenge where you often have little idea about the people you are walking with save for their own views of the immediate experience
A lot of the other usual ingredients are on show here, stories of serial breakfast eating in tiny, backwater, trail towns, the joys of a shower after weeks of walking and so on.
But what makes this a joy to read is the sharing of Chris’ discovery of life on a trail like this, the beauty of the desert, the joys of the high mountains, the fascinating variety of the forests and the glorious wildcamps along the way. I wish I could describe this all a bit more eloquently but you’ll just have to go and read the book!
This was the trip that I guess formed the Chris Townsend that most of us know today. I’m glad that he took a long time to write this as I think we’ve ended up with a fascinating and probably more enduring book.
When I finished reading the book I rang up Colin Ibbotson who told me that the book had made him want to go out and hit the trail again. I know when he means. Putting the book down I had to go out for a walk and spend a night camping on the side of the hill, a far more modest experience without doubt but this is what Chris’ books do. They shake you out of lethargy and install in you that love of the natural world that keeps us all going.
This is very firmly recommended.
I’ve had a couple of queries recently about finding alcohol when you are in the mountains or on the continent. French and Spanish outdoor stores rarely carry clonal for stoves. One of my readers emailed in a slight panic yesterday from a Spanish trailhead town from where he was about to start walking.
Stove alcohol will not be found in outdoors shops. You will find it in hardware stores. Most French and Spanish towns still have stores that sell all manner of hardware products. In my experience the alcohol is of a high quality and burns well, but you will have to buy it in litre containers — containers that look like this:
In France ask for alcohol de bruyer. (The direct translation is Esprits Méthodiques but I’ve never seen it described as this).
In Spain ask for alcohol de quemar
You should never have any trouble finding this. It is very cheap, 2 Euros for 1 litre at the moment I am told!
Sadly, Kate and I have both had to pull out of this year’s TGO Challenge! Kate’s mother died a few weeks ago and we are having to spend more time with her father. And just at the same time my mother’s health has taken a terminal nosedive!
We will be back next year. Meanwhile, I suppose I should finish last year’s journal.
So, it’s back to snatched days on the hills whenever I can over the next few months. I’ll try and make these sound interesting!
For those of you preparing for the off — just make sure you have a great time!
A lot of you will know that I am a great believer in dehydrating my own meals. This is mainly because my past experience of commercial dried foods was not good. However, I’m aware that things have moved on a lot over recent years.
I’ve been recently been sent some samples for review, from TentMeals. I shan’t be using these as Challenge Freebies or anything like that but I will be testing and reviewing them.
It has always been the additives that have done me in the past. This company promise ‘high energy and healthy’ food.
You can see their stuff here:
It all looks promising. I’ll be considering whether the portion size is adequate as well as taste and quality! The reviews might not come all at once but will start this week.
Those of you who like supporting good cases might be interested in the Big Hospice Hike , to support the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow.
Grab your boots and get ready for our new challenge – the Big Hospice Hike. Not for the faint hearted, our 22-mile walk includes a climb up Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southerly Munro.
Starting at Balmaha on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, the Big Hospice Hike will take you along a section of the West Highland Way to the village of Rowardennan, the starting point for the main path up Ben Lomond. You will begin your ascent up the mountain, which boasts spectacular views of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Once reaching the summit at 974m, you’ll descend and complete your challenge by walking back to the finish line at Balmaha.
About 1100 patients are cared for by the hospice each year and we are providing support for about 400 patients and family members at any one time. Our new challenge promises not only to be a rewarding experience for you but for our patients and families who will benefit from the funds raised. Teams, made up of friends, family or work colleagues, will all be walking … Why don’t you join them???
Your choices are:
1. Start at Balmaha and walk via the West Highland to Rowardennan where you’ll start your ascent of Scotland’s most southerly Munro – Ben Lomond. Once you’ve descended you’ll walk back to Balmaha where your challenge will conclude (22 miles). £30 registration fee applies. Minimum sponsorship £200.
2. If the 22-mile hike isn’t for you but you’re still keen to ‘bag a Munro’ and take in the fantastic views of the length of Loch Lomond, you can sign up for the climb-only challenge, starting and ending in Rowardennan (7.5 miles). £20 registration fee applies. Minimum sponsorship £150.
Chatting my friend Tony yesterday the subject of conversation turned to feet _ he’d been reading my recent TGO piece. He asked how my heel pain (Plantar Fasciitis) was at the moment. Well, the good news is that this is has not really been a problem for twelve months now. A lot of experimenting and following tips given by readers here seems to have made a big difference. Tony suggested writing about it.
So, here we go. These are some of the things that I’ve done which seem to help!
Edited 31 Jan 17