Sunday, 24 April 2011

Consumed with envy...

...because I decided to apply for TGO Challenge after the expiry date for 2011 applications.

You see right about now I am reading tweets about folk who are making their final preparations for their crossing of Scotland, and it's making me ever so slightly green-tinged.

On the 13th of May 300 like-minded folk will be setting off from the western coast of the Highlands on a footpath which will not finish until they reach the waters of the North Sea.

They will have probably spent most of the year sorting gear, selling the old and testing the new with a view to making their challenge that tiny bit more comfortable. They will have deliberated about their route, re-planned sections in case of foul weather and listened closely to news of bridges and path obstructions with the potential to scupper carefully meticulated routes.

They will have learned of new eating, camping, supply-getting, and socialising venues on their routes and will doubtless have considered how to carry which foodstuffs and how much of them they'll need.

They will have learned of bereavements in the TGO community, new arrivals, challengers who have had to drop out and those who have gained a place as a result of their disappointment.

I have been through all of this and I am not even applying for TGOC 2012 until the form comes out in TGO Magazine's October issue - out September.

I have my route largely planned with a couple of foul weather alternatives to get pinned down.

I have revised my base kit from somewhere around
10kg to more or less 5kg including my pack.

I have got out into the wild outdoors much more to strengthen my legs and tone up.

I have reduced my bodily pack weight (aka Belly) from a gross bodyweight of 15st 8lb to 14st 4lb.

I have moved from mountain boots to trail running boots (a liberation).

I have shifted from heavy waterproofs to water-resistant wind-proofs.

I have over a year to go!

So all you challengers, please do me this one favour; please keep blogging, tweeting, podcasting (that one is best left to Bob Cartwright and his clan) , and posting on forums. It is keeping me inspired and making me rethink my approach to long-distance walking daily.

Bye for now, I'm just off to pack for a midweek break in Basecamp Billy (aka the caravan). Off to the Broads with my family for a bit more outdoors-ing!

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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

TGOC 2012 - Grid References

Tonight I realised that I have an absolute fascination with grid references.

For some reason they capture my imagination and compel me to put them down on paper. I have a couple of those notebooks with the black elastic strap on them, a bit like the Moleskine ones you can get for posh journalists.

So I have spent this evening logging every key point of every day of my intended route for TGOC 2012. Starting from Strathcarron in the west and finishing in Montrose in the East, going via Gordon Menzies' boat to Inverfarigaig and over the Monadhliath wilderness down through the Cairngorms via the committing Lairig Ghru to Derry Lodge. On to Braemar then heading either over Lochnagar after a pause at Loch callater lodge or down Jock's road into Glen Doll to Tarfside, Edzell, North Water Bridge and St Cyrus before walking South along the coast to Montrose.

I have picked a relatively low level route for most of my challenge because I want to break myself in to it and enjoy the experience rather than ruining myself after tough days in the high mountains. I want to finish and be able to want to come back again for another go.

As for the grid references I now have pages and pages of waypoints written down by hand, checked by computer and committed to my notebook which will come with me on the challenge.

At any point I will look at where I am and know exactly where I will be heading to next. My GPS will aid me in difficult situations but largely my faith will be put in my navigational ability and my map and compass so that I can truly soak up all that the physical reality of the grid references present.

Who would have thought that a couple of letters followed by a few numbers could have such an impact on a journey across Scotland?

Does anyone else out there have an obsession with the minutiae of route planning or mapreading?

Any other little obsessions with regard to logistics or cataloguing?

I'd be interested to hear....

I'm of to bed, dreaming of NH 9734 0131

Nighty night.

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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Langdale Pikes and more gear...

So I'm recently back from a weekend in Great Langdale and a round of 8 or 9 fells.  The pupose of the trip was fourfold:

1) to test out my new X-Talons
2) to get back into the swing of using trekking poles
3) to get a bit more hill fit
4) to get a mountain fix - I'd been away from them since October 2010!

On point one I succeeded - The X-talon 240s are tremendous if you have good confidence on your feet and take care when placing your steps.  They got wet from time to time but the intial cold sensation was soon overridden by warmth in a similar way in which a wetsuit might work.  The fit was good, a little loose if wearing thin socks but I wasn't so they didn't rub at all.  The soles were a tad soft, but again with good placement this would not be a problem.  Comfort-wise - tremendous!  My feet suffered no soreness over the 10 miles and 8 summits despite taking the steep descent off the front of Loft Crag at the end of the day.  Scramble-wise, they again performed well but the rock was dry - I'd be interested if they remained as grippy in the wet - time will tell.  In all, these are serious contenders for TGOC 2012. 

On point two, I failed miserably.  The poles were strapped neatly to my pack on the approach to Dungeon Ghyll where I was to remove them and use during the ascent and also for the remainder of the days yomp. 
they stayed fixed to my pack and only came off when my companions needed a steady on the Loft Crag descent.  As I am planning to carry the poles to use as supports for my shelter system, I need to get used to using them more, or else carry some lighter shelter poles.

In terms of getting hill fit - it seems that after the initial removal of rustiness, my second wind kicked in and I felt fantastic all day long.  There was a smidge of "can't be bothered" when approaching the last of the peaks of the day but I soon overcame this purely psychological issue and bounced my way down the hill to the campsite.  I was surprised at feeling so fresh given that I had had no hill action and little exercise of any kind for practically 6 months!  I put a large amount of this down to a slightly slower pace than usual, coupled with the X-Talons minimalist nature.  I felt truly liberated!

Point four - well, the weather was supremely kind offering no sign of rain or any wind to impede our travel.  The temperature was cool to warm so no heat or cold to hamper us.  The mountains were so familiar, and so welcoming.  I could have stayed forever, but I couldn't - I have a desk job!

The Langdale Pikes are a great testing ground for both body and kit - beating the low lying countryside of suffolk and the billiard table like terrain of Fenland!

Turning to gear - I succumbed to my temptation once again and despite earlier comments on this blog, swapped my MACPAC Pursuit for a much more minimalist GoLite Jam, at 840g a full kilo lighter than the MACPAC.  On first impressions I suspect that this will serve me well as my main pack.  The weight (or lack thereof) does not seem to have taken an affect on durability and the style is nice.  plenty of pockets and straps.  I can't wait to test it properly.  I feel another outing coming on....

Anyway - I'm off to check my eBay sales to see if I can afford to by any more kit.

Bye for now!