Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Out again - finally!


Tess chilling out.

Patch - looking troublesome as ever!

"The Girls" taking a break.

The view from Cnicht summit.

I've finally been out again in the mountains of Snowdonia...and here are some photo's to prove it!!

Due to the addition of my Border Collie, Tess, I don't have a large enough backpacking tent at the moment - and I think a Collie, a Jack Russell, and myself would be pushing it squeezing into the bivvi bag! So this time I took the larger tent, set up "base camp" in a campsite in Beddgelert and did some lovely day walks. This time was my second time up Cnicht, but last time I included it in a totally different route approaching from the other side (and with two different dogs - no longer with us), this time I walked a circular route from Croeso.

It was a fantastic day - walm and sunny. Even the breeze on top of the mountain was warm. Lovely.

Another fab walk we did over the weekend included two lakes NE of Betws-Y-Coed but I'm sorry I forget their names and don't have the map with me at the moment! Lovely walk though with a nice mix of forestry, water and fab views.

The dogs were great - Patch was game on as she usually is in Snowdonia. It was Tess' first trip, and although she found the whole experience a little overwhelming -she's not vary brave when it comes to people - and there were many on Cnicht and the campsite, and she found the climb up the mountain a bit tricky for a nervous fatty, but had great fun around the lakes and forestry.

It was a lovely weekend...I'm now gearing up ready to go again this weekend!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

I'm back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I haven't been on here for some time. There have been a few changes since my last post...the trip to Vietnam was cancelled, the summer was spent busy dog training which was great fun but I missed getting away hiking...and the biggest change was the end of my marriage.

Before you say how sorry you are and feel sorry for me, you should know that it was my decision. It's a long story, but things hadn't been right for a long time and I felt it was the right decision to make. Ending a marriage is not easy, I'm left forever wondering if it was the right thing to do - and breaking someone's heart and having your family turn their back for a while really is not easy. Still, what's done is done, and it's time to move on.

Thoughts are now being turned to a summer of backpacking. The horses are now out after a winter of stabling them and being unable to get away, and although they still need some TLC I will soon be able to get away to the hills. I'm now planning excursions for the two long bank holiday weekends coming up next month...maybe snowdonia, maybe the Elan Valley, maybe Exmoor, maybe Brecon....the maps will soon be out for some serious planning. I just wish Scotland were closer!

A new tent is need though, as I've previously used either the Laser Competition or a bivi and tarp for myself and Patch (my Jack Russell), but the addition last summer of my Border Collie (Tess) now means larger accomodation is needed. The problem is, money is now tight... so if anyone out there has an ultra lightweight 2 man tent out there that they want to sell very cheaply then I'm all ears! I may yet try cramming Tess into the bivi bag as it is a good roomy one (Big Agnes) but the thought of two wet dogs in there isn't too appealing...!

All change!

Monday, 5 July 2010

A trip to Vietnam on the cards?!

Hiking this summer hasn't gone well....I've spent many weekends (and weeks) at Barking Mad Dog Training Centre in Gravely (near Stevenage) to get our unruly pack of dogs under control, as well as taking steps myself to become a dog trainer.

I'm itching to get out with a pack on my back, and am determined to squeeze at least one trip in before the summer is over.

However...there could be a rather exciting trip on the cards...to Vietnam! Richard from the dog training centre (ex "Dog Borstal" Judge Richard Clarke) went there earlier this year to train Vietnamese dogs (that would otherwise have been used as food) to track turtles - a conservation project for the turtles, that has the added benefit of trying to change the attitude of the Vietnamese people towards the dogs. Hopefully in the future they will be seen as worthy working animals and pets rather than just as food. The project was so successful Richard has been asked to return to Vietnam to train another set of dogs and handlers in a new area.

Money permitting, I will be going also to help train - and learn an awful lot while I am there. The dogs and husband will be left at home while I get to grips with the jungle and insects...I've been reading about the leeches - not good.

I can't wait!

Monday, 10 May 2010


What a frustrating year so far - as far as hiking goes....

Following a fantastic couple of days at Barking Mad Dog Training Centre in Gravely we are busy working through our dogs issues...Patch's noise phobias have no quick fix, however we do go out for a local walk every morning (before the RAF start playing overhead) and her confidence is growing. Unfortunately we've been told not to take the dogs out together until some issues have been sorted, so hiking has been put on hold. I can't tell you how frustrated I am!

We also have a new addtion... a 3 yr old border collie who was given to me as a failed sheepdog from a local farm. She has never even been in a house let alone on a lead, so she is as raw as they come - but she is a sweetheart. She and Patch are getting along nicely (although our other jack russell, Snowy, can be a bit of a cowbag).....which means there is a possibility of a long distance hike on the cards with both Tess (the new girl) and Patch - Patch loves having another dog around to boost her confidence. All I need to do now is persuade John that solo hiking really isn't such a bad idea.

I'm going to need a bigger tent....I wonder if I can squeeze a collie into my bivy bag as well as Patch.....

(Apologies for the lack of hiking stuff at the moment - and thanks for those still following while things are quiet. Hopefully posts will be a little more interesting soon!)

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Almost out again!

Having spent a long winter stuck at home looking after my old horses, the milder weather and emerging grass means it's just about time to leave the horses to fend for themselves and get away to the great outdoors again.

In my frustration I've bought 4 books from amazon (internet shopping is just too easy) for ideas on new backpacking jaunts as well as a book on dehydrating food - last years summer spent eating Batchelors Pasta 'n' Sauce is not to be repeated!

Maps have been examined, put away, brought back out to be examined again...swapped for a different area...examined again...put away again, and I'm still not decided where to go for Easter weekend - but Dartmoor is a distinct possibility.

The big problem I'm having now is the forcast of rain is not helping my efforts to persuade John that backpacking is a much better idea than caravanning. I've always struggled to drag him out as it is, but since buying the new (old) caravan last year it's become more of a battle. "Discussions" have already been had over the 3 seperate week long excursions I've been planning for the summer. This could be interesting!

Tomorrow we leave in the caravan for a 3 day dog training course in Stevenage. I'm really hoping to make progress with Patch's noise phobia's and confidence - then maybe I can steal away for a weekend backpacking with her alone!

Friday, 19 March 2010

JOGLE photo's!

Leaving John O'Groats

Patch Pooped

Dunrobin Castle


I found Nessy on the Great Glen Way at Inverness!

A rare glimpse of Loch Ness from the Great Glen Way

A refreshing stop on the West Highland Way

The Falkirk Wheel

A bothy on the Southern Upland Way where I stayed the night (not my pack!)

The bivvi and tarp set up used for a large part of the hike (Big Agnes 3 hoop bivvi and MSR E-Wing Tarp)

Patch chilling out under the tarp! All she needs now is a beer...

Soggy on the Pennine Way (photo taken by Mike - who I passed on the way)

The Pennine Way

The Pennine Way...again...

Still on the Pennine Way!

The last pitch in a field by the seafront at Penzance (tent - Terra Nova Competition)

Entering Lands End!

The end photo!

Here they are - I finally figured out how to get them out of my phone!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The kit review - what worked & what didn't!

Here's a kit review at long last...it may be of some help to this years challengers!

Backpack - Golite Quest (1355g)
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Wonderfully light weight but still tough and comfortable. I grew very fond of this pack!

Sea to Summit pack liner (94g)
This was the lightweight (ultra-sil?) version and it was hopeless. Water got in every time it rained.

Bivi - Big Agnes 3 wire (850g)
Excellent - loads of room for both patch and myself. I'm very fond of this also now!

Tarp -MSR E-Wing (185)
Brilliant - kept the rain off and was suprisingly stable in wind. A good amount of room underneath too. It's lovely to sit under a tarp and watch the rain!

Terra Nova laser Competition (950g)
Generally good. Quick and easy to put up and take down, nice and roomy. I din't have too much confidence in high wind - largely as the outer would blow against the inner and I worried about getting sodden - although it never happened. I did have condensation problems during the last 10 days of the hike, although I'm not sure that it wasn't water seeping through the groundsheet - I have more testing to do.

(I left on the 1st June and finished on the 19th August - during this time I spent the first month using the tent to avoid midge problems in Scotland. I then spent the second month or so using the Bivvi and tarp. I used the tent again for the last 10 days as I got fed up with being stared at on campsites! During the whole jogle I spent 2 nights in a youth hostel, 3 in b&b's and 2 with friends - other than that I was always camping -except when I had days off with John in the caravan 3 times during the hike...about 8 days total I think)

Sleeping Bag - Cumulus Quantum 200 (536g)
Excellent bag. There were a few nights after leaving JOG that were pretty cold, and I did feel it - but with Patch in the bag, my down jacket on and my coat zipped up around the bottom of the bag I was comfy. For the rest of the hike it was great - warm enough and so light weight and small pack size. It developed a stitching fault at the end of the hike but it was repaired and returned to me with no bother by the manufacturer.

Sleeping Mat - Thermarest NeoAir (370g)
Brilliant. Faultless. Comfy. Lightweight and small pack size.

Big Agnes Pumphouse (46g)
Brilliant bit of kit - made light work of inflating the NeoAir mattress night after night and doubled as a dry bag for my sleeping bag. Ace

Stove - Primus Micron Ti
Initially brilliant - lightweight and user friendly, however one of the arms developed problems folding out into position and then it snapped off with a broken weld. I'm still waiting for Primus to get back to me about this (no reply to my email yet).

Cook Pot / Mug - MSR Titan (118g)
Brilliant, lightweight, reliable.

North Face Merino Wool Tops (186)
Wouldn't be without this. I feel the cold but found I didn't need a fleece with these. The clothing combination of T'shirt, merino top, waterproof coat and down jacket meant I was always comfortable in every climate.

Waterproof Coat - Bergahus Paclite (390) / Montane Adventure Jacket (420)
I started with the Montane Adventure Jacket which initially did a great job of keeping the water out, but it soon leaked so I swapped it with the Berghaus paclite...which did the same. I've come to the conclusion that all lightweight jackets will probably do the same - as long as they keep the worst of the rain out I found this to be ok. A wet back and shoulders (where my pack had been) became the norm.

Waterproof Overtrousers - Berghaus Paclite (150g)
To my suprise these did a great job - although the bottoms were trashed by the end of the hike.

Down Jacket - PHD Ultra Down Pullover (224g)
Brilliant - I loved this. It kept me warm in the evening / at night when necessary and packed to a tiny size. I'm very fond of this!

Boots - Asolo Atlantis GTX (1130) / Brasher Hillmaster (1200)/ Asics trainers (570)
The Asolo boots were comfortable but not at all waterproof - just walking through wet grass would lead to sodden feet for the day (or weeks...at one point I though I was going to get trench foot...). I later changed to the Brashers which were uncomfortable and had a soft sole that wore quickly. For the last 8 days or so I finished in Asics gel trainers which were heaven! So light and comfortable! They let plenty of air to my toes which was lovely on hot days! Although I got wet feet in them (obviously not waterproof) they did dry quickly - even while wearing them (and my sock too!).

Superfeet insoles
Fab - I put these in any footwear I wear hiking

Engo patches (blister prevention)
These were great! I put one behind my heel on each boot to prevent blisters and I had no problems - until I took one off without realising I didn't have a replacement with me. I tried using a square of gaffer tape instead but it just didn't do the job the same. I immediately had blood blisters developing on my heel. As soon as a new ENGO patch was put in the boot the problem was solved. These are great - they say they will last up to 300 miles but the ones in my boots lasted 500 which I think is pretty impressive - especially as my boots were soaking wet for a large part of the time (ENGO patches stick to the inside of your boots and prevent friction).

GPS - Satmap (with GB 1:50000 memory card) (290)
Excellent - a bit heavy and often unnecessary but a good bit of kit. It did give up the ghost at one point but satmap straight away sent me a demo unit to use while they sorted mine - they were great. I later found the problem may actually have been my dead batteries that I got muddled with the good ones though - I haven't told them that! Satmap are a fab company with great customer support.

Pack Towel - MSR (ultralight) (28g for 2 I think)
Simple but so good - tiny towels but absorb loads of water and do the job nicely. Tiny and light weight. Dry quickly when hung off the pack. One for me, one for Patch!

Multi use Soap - Dr Bronner's
Did the job ok - saved lots of weight, but I looked forward to proper shampoo for my hair...as it got longer it never felt good using this! Useful though - doubled as toothpaste.

Coat - Ruffwear Cloudchaser jacket (110g)
Brilliant. It kept Patch lovely and dry - at the end of the day I would zip this off her and she would be clean and dry underneath - good for the tent! The coats belly area would be muddy but I would rub this off on some grass and leave it in the tent porch / under the tarp overnight to dry. By morning it was always dry and ready to wear again. The seams at the bottom of the front legs did start rubbing Patch so I cut them off - been fine since!

Ruffwear Grip Trex Boots + Liners (193g)
These helped Patch initially in the hike on some long days but they did rub the joints on the top of her toes so in the end I sent them home.

Vetwrap (34g)
I took this just in case for Patch but ended up using it myself when I did something to the muscle running under the outside of my foot on day two! I've only used this on horses before it it really helped my foot when I was struggling! A lightweight bandage that is so useful it should be in every 1st aid kit.

Bow Wow Butterbalm (35g) (from Collarways)
An unusual bit of luxury but it did a great job soothing Patch's feet and my chapped hands!

That's the main stuff. I have to thank quite a few fellow bloggers - particularly Gayle for helping me get the weight of my pack down and persuading me to take just one set of clothes - that's what I did and she was absolutely right - it was much more comfortable carrying a lighter load...even though I may not have felt as fresh as I could!

Happy travels!