The route is progressing well, actually it’s almost finished. I just have to fill in the route sheets now. This is a Challenge I shall be walking with Kate and discussing the route we realised she has never started from Mallaig, although we have spent quite a bit of time walking in the Knoydart. So, this year we will join the hordes sailing to Inverie.
This time we will take the simple road to Barrisdale, on to Fort Augustus, take the superhighway into Glen Doe and walk along the old country boundary before dripping down into Newtonmore. At Newtonmore we will be staying at Sue and Ali’s hostel. I’m not allowed to plan joint walks using just wildcamps and so am relieved to have secured their in-house room.
From Newtonmore we shall walk though the Rothumurcus to Cairngorm Footbridge — this stretch I’ve forest I’ve not done before. Weather allowing it’s then up Lurcher’s Cragg, a stroll across the Plateau before descending at Ben McDui. So, it looks like Braemar (although I’m mussing on going the wrong way through the little Laurig and approaching Ballater that way). From Ballater it looks like a stroll through the forest to Stonehaven again.
I’ll post the route shortly so that we might see if we are bumping into each other. Of course, some of you might use it to avoid us! Looking forward to seeing you all soon!
Routebuddy’s new Coast to Coast Challenge Map utilises the company’s unique screen ‘stitching’ technology to reduce a new map and add-ons that will be useful to anyone planning a coast-to-coast walk across the Scottish Highlands.
On this occasion I thought it would be more useful to you if I produced a video review, as you really have to see it in action to appreciate what this system can do. The review is in html format and should be viewable by all up-to-daye systems including tablets.
The 1:50K base map is available at a reasonable £19.99.
In addition, Routebuddy has created a number of specific 1:25 add-ons which stitch into the base map. These range in price depending on the ground covered. They start at £4.99 for part of the Torridon hills to £25 for the Cairngorms — good value for money.
Any other Routebuddy map can stitch into the base map and this review also displays a Harvey/BMC 1:40 working with the base map.
Not only can you view stitched maps on the same screen but you can print out the stitched maps on the same sheet of paper.
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.
f8, 1/400, ISO 50 at 38 mm
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.
Shap McDonnell ventures into the great footwear debate although my blog seems determined to lock him out for some reason — am investigating.
Shap’s issue is a little different to mine as he has very small feet, however, this means that he is also always on a quest to find decent performing and comfortable shoes.
Shap has gone back to Inov-8, to the Talon 200 specifically. He has shared a link with me that provides a bit of a review and more helpful blurb than Inov-8 themselves (which isn’t that difficult these days).
This a good little description. They key thing for me is the standard fit which is critical for those of us with wider feet. Even knows why it has taken Inov-8 so long to recognise that this range might interest those of us who don’t have narrow feet, but there you go.
I shall be adding this to my evaluation list.
I’m always happy to praise those who go that extra mile when it comes to customer service and especially those, these days, who monitor social media effectively.
It would appear that I am not alone in trying to find some new shoes and have been interested in Chris Townsend’s recommendation of the Berghaus Vapour Claw. As I reported, the Vapour Claw is not easily available and it would appear that I was right in assuming it will not be part of the ongoing range.
Berghaus contacted me over Twitter this morning asking what size I took and where I was based. They then scoured their stock itineraries. Sadly, they do not have any in stock and they confirm the shoes are not part of the 2016 range. However, I thought this was pretty good service — especially on a Sunday morning (although maybe they are huddled inside as well).
The Vapour Claw is to be replaced with an Explorer Active shoe which Go Outdoors are selling already — see here. Early reviews seem good but the shoes featured has a Gore Tex lining and has also got a bit heavier.
Still, good customer service always deserves to be highlighted.
It is horrible outside. Driving rain, gale force winds. This is not a day to be on the hills (although, of course, if you are caught up in this weather it can often be exhilarating).
It has been a morning for engaging in they hills from the comfort of the sofa. I’ve been reviewing Terry Abraham’s new film for a certain outdoor publication.I won’t say too much more except to say Terry has done it again. Wonderful stuff.
I just hope Terry has avoided the hills this weekend and is snug in some pub somewhere. I owe you a pint mate.
This footwear business continues to be something of a challenge. What do you do when you are not sure? Have a chat to Chris Townsend that’s what.
Chris reckons that the best trail shoes he has used in the last couple of years are the Berghaus Vapour Claw. I remembered the review on TGO, looked it up and thought these would do for me. Chris and I share wide feet so, generally, anything that works for Chris works for me.
So, off I set. I could find these but not in my size, indeed, they seem not to be available in the most popular sizes. Even Berghaus’ own site has very limited availability of the these shoes. Either they are about to be updated or deleted.
So, I’ve fallen back on the La Sportive Ultra Raptor. Reports will follow. Luckily I have one pair of Terrocs left and I’ll keep these in their box until just prior to the Challenge.
This is one for our resident business insider Charles Ross (come on Charles) I’m tossing the ball for you!).
I’ve written before about the problems of specialist gear with small runs. Gear is designed and produced using strict schedules. Order numbers have to be calculated way in advance of sales. Occasionally something can be a great hit, perhaps, unexpectedly. I suspect the internet has made this more of a problem. By the time the item is flying off shelves like hotcakes the designers have moved on two or even three design generations. This is frustrating for us but understandable when you think about it.
But what about when a long time winning formula is changed?