Wednesday, 28 December 2011

2011 - The Year of No Wild Camps

I aim to keep this brief - from a backpacking point of view 2011 was indeed the year of no wild camps.  Not one!

I got out into the hills a bit, and went for a few local walks but wild camps were a-none. Some of the walks have been posted on this blog and you may have already read them.  My youngest son Ashley was born in January, when my eldest daughter Hope was just 20 months old.  To leave my wife with these little ones, and to leave them too, has been difficult and would have been more selfish than my conscience would allow.  Not to mention the fact that the funds required for a weekend of free-of-charge walking are increasing with every percentage point the chancellor slapped on a couple of pints of diesel.

I managed to get a myself involved in a charity walk around the Yorkshire Three Peaks which was a challenge for sure, but not so much so as it might have been a decade ago.  The event itself repulsed me but I had a view to get my two good pals - soon to be first-time parents - into the hills a couple of times before the wee one was to arrive.  It worked, and I hope that it won't be too long before they are all back on the trail, big-wheeled buggy in tow.  No wilderness night under silnylon here.

And I got up to Cumbria to help Den finish off his Wainwright round in September too.  That was a couple of brief dashes on a very wet weekend which although satisfying, and salubrious, and a tad drunken, didn't involve any camping in the hills.

Many a local (for local, read East Anglian) walk was enjoyed, long mornings in the field margins, bridleways and studlands.  Many a prime stealthy overnight spot was surveyed.  None were used.  I arrived home after each, refreshed and wonderfully tired, as every walk I take leaves me, but my still became low, and today I think I reached the valley bottom.  

The period of Christmas soaked through me and dripped out the other side, most of it I enjoyed and the rest I endured.  The lack of outdoors time had me selfishly grumpy.  Itchy.  Tetchy.  Unpalatable.

My wife came to the rescue today.  She gave me the most fantastic gift that the whole of the festive season failed to provide.  4 passes for overnighters leading up to TGO Challenge 2012.

About 18 months ago I began reading about TGO Challenge, and after a time, the gravitational pull of the associated blogosphere and mostly the compulsion created by Bob Cartwright, Andy Howell and Shirley Worral on their podcasts had me posting my application the moment it landed on my doorstep.  I got number 17 on the standby list, and in a week or so I will find out if that number has reduced.

I am assured that this number will reduce sufficiently so as to ensure a place on the Challenge and I am planning as if it were so, as you will have seen if you follow my post both here, on Twitter and occasionally on the Challenge message board.

In her gift, my wife has provided the liberation of days and nights outdoors.  One in Jan, One in Feb, One in March and One in April.  Each will involve at least a single night in the cocoon of my Tarptent and grant me the tiny fix of the wilds that I have discovered I need to remain buoyant in spirit.  Doug Scott could not have put it more eloquently when he was asked why he climbed 'because I get grumpy when I don't'.  What a lucky boy I am!

So, out with the old.  2011 - The Year of No Wild Camps.  And in with the New.  2012 - The Year of the Challenge.  

I'll leave you with a couple of photos which bring back fond memories of 2011 as it seems is customary among similar pages.  I hope you like them, and I look forward to seeing you on the hills this year, and maybe on the Challenge too.  

The Langdale Pikes from Blea Tarn
Enroute to Buttermere - Rannerdale Knotts in the middle-distance
And one of my favourites from 2010 as well - I couldn't resist.  Happy New Year!!!

2010 - My pal Den climbing up Allt Clach nan Taillear in July!!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


TGO Challenge Kit List laid out - awaiting judgement.
Following a few comments on my previous post, here is my kitlist for your scrutinous pleasure.  This is for day one with 6 days of grub in it.  In fairness I probably wont need to carry it all on day one, but that's where you lot come in.

Be kind, be humourous, and if you can be helpful at the same time, so much the better!

Category Item Weight (g)
Baselayer Technicals L/S Baselayer 210
Baselayer Baggie 15
Communication Nokia 1616 Mobile 75
Cooking Trangia 1l Kettle 175
Cooking Lifeventure Titanium Mug 60
Cooking Long Handled Spoon 15
Cooking MSR Pocket Rocket 75
Cooking Matches & Lighter 20
Cooking Gas Cart 500
Cooking Sea to Summit Baggie 25
First Aid First Aid Kit 90
First Aid Painkillers and Anti Diarrhoea 80
Food Be-well Exped Main Meal 180
Food Be-well Exped Main Meal 180
Food Be-well Exped Main Meal 180
Food Be-well Exped Main Meal 180
Food Be-well Exped Main Meal 180
Food Be-well Exped Main Meal 180
Food Be-well Exped Dessert 130
Food Be-well Exped Dessert 130
Food Wayfayrer Dessert 200
Food Wayfayrer Dessert 200
Food Be-Well ChocChip Flapjack 115
Food Be-Well ChocChip Flapjack 115
Food Be-Well ChocChip Flapjack 115
Food Be-Well ChocChip Flapjack 115
Food Be-Well ChocChip Flapjack 115
Food Be-Well ChocChip Flapjack 115
Food Be-Well ChocChip Flapjack 115
Food Be-Well ChocChip Flapjack 115
Food Be-Well ChocChip Flapjack 115
Food Be-Well ChocChip Flapjack 115
Food Smash Packet 175
Food Smash in Clip Top Container 175
Food Beef Jerky 100
Gloves Karrimor Gloves 50
Gloves Trekmates Silk Liner Gloves 25
Headgear Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap GTX 75
Headgear 2 x BUFF 75
Hydration 2ltr pop bottle 50
Hydration 2ltr platy 30
Hydration 2l water 2000
Hygiene MSR Pack Towel 30
Hygiene Nivea 4 Men Cool Kick 35ml Antiperspirant 35
Hygiene Small Bottle of Lifeventure All Purpose Soap 35
Hygiene Sunscreen 30SPF 25
Hygiene Smidge 75ml 85
Hygiene Loo roll 30
Hygiene Wet Wipes 45
Hygiene Kitchen Roll (10 Sheets) 15
Hygiene Sea to Summit Baggie 20
Insulation PHD Yukon Jacket 550
Insulation Montane Chuckchi Microfleece 230
Navigation Silva Expedition 4 Compass 45
Navigation Garmin Geko 201 (inc case) 110
Navigation Printed OS sheets in plastic case 320
Navigation Moleskine Notepad (Navigation Notes) 40
Odds & Sods Length of Dyneema 25
Odds & Sods Alpkit Carabiner (for the dyneema) 15
Odds & Sods Baladeo 22g Pocket Knife 22
Odds & Sods Spare Lighter 15
Odds & Sods Front Door Key 25
Odds & Sods Wallet & Cash 100
Outer Shell Mountain Hardwear Paclite Trousers 300
Outer Shell Mountain Equipment Changabang XCR 625
Power & Light 6xAAA Lithium Batteries & 3 x CR2032 65
Power & Light Petzl eLite 25
Power & Light DSL Mini Alu Light 10
Power & Light Spare Mobile Battery 20
Reading Kindle (inc protective case) 340
Rucksack MACPAC Pursuit Classic (Size 3) 1900
Shelter Tarptent Moment (including 4xAlpkit Spike Pegs) 1040
Sleeping Pacific Outdoor Equipment Ether Thermo 6 575
Sleeping Golite Ultralite 3-season Quilt 700
Trekking Fizan Compact Ultralight Poles 335
Trousers Pair of Running Leggings 225
Trousers Pair of Running Leggings 225
Trousers Baggie 15
Underwear Tilley Underpants 45
Underwear Bridgedale Hiker Socks 110
Underwear bridgedale Hiker Socks 110
Underwear Helly Hansen Baselayer 130
Underwear Baggie 15
Writing Moleskine Notepad (journal) 40
Writing Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.1 15
Writing Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.1 15
Writing Baggie 10

Food 6-days 3340
Water Max Carried 2000

F & W Total

Base Weight

Now awaiting critique..............

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

18.... ....14.3.... ....150

I went on a walk today. 

Last night I packed up my rucksack with everything.  That's it - everything that I planned to take on TGOC 2012 with me.  I weighed it and no matter how many ways I hung it from the luggage scales it was HEAVY - 18kg!

18 is just a number after all so I thought it best to test the number on the trail.  So I got my walking machine pal Den out of his box, dusted him off and we headed into the East Anglian countryside once more.  Day one on the challenge for me will be at worst a 15-miler so I thought I had better do a bit of a comparison.  I roughed out a circular route from Kirtling which was about that - 14.3 miles if you are interested.

At 0730h I picked Den up and we drove to our start point, parking just outside some houses in Kirtling village itself, wanting for a better spot to leave car, but the side of the road it had to be.  It was cold, and the wind didn't make it any better.

I forgot to take any pics on the first section of this walk, but I managed to drag the camera out of its pouch as we entered some paddocks.  Here is an uninteresting shot, but it is a shot of where we walked nonetheless.

Some paddocks not far from Kirtling
My pack felt very heavy on my shoulders, and my back was protesting.  Not a good sign, but I persevered.

The paddocks finally allowed us to squeeze from their grip and we popped out into the open.  Den was sporting a very nice bobble hat which he assured me was keeping him very warm.  It's one of those hats that is so wrong, it was swinging back to being right again.  A real hum-dinger.

Bobbles, and a Spyder
My pack was still feeling heavy, and not all that comfortable.  I made some adjustments, and it instantly felt better.  I forgot about it for a while, which was a better sign.  
Some shenanigans with OFFICIAL PATH EXTINGUISHMENTS got our goats up a wee bit - as is increasingly typical with the footpaths round our way.  The signs only seem to be obvious on the side from which we are NOT approaching!  Nevertheless a quick alteration to our route allowed the new footpath to spit us out onto the road about half a mile back from our intended point.  Cussing the now extended road section, and moaning about the failed promise of wild animals (see photo below) we marched on regardless through the lanes until the little green sign showed us back to the field margins, and on to Back Street where we stopped for an early bite to eat, and a brew.

Wild Animal?
Me having tea.
If I have a favourite place to walk in East Anglia, it has to be the narrow hedgerow-lined avenues.  Wooded either side, and leafy underfoot at this time of year - lovely.
Shortly after we set off, we agreed to make a note of the wild camping opportunities that we came across during the day.  These little avenues offered the greatest opportunity, and we knew that in summer we would be able to nip into the spinneys and copses to camp unnoticed by passers by.  In total, we counted six great spots in fourteen miles, plus a couple of questionable pitches, which would go at a push.  Not a bad result and worth noting for those of you who live near the National Parks but want to try a long-distance walk somewhere completely different.  I recommend it thoroughly having done several myself.  So long as you are canny, considerate, covert and stealthy and are willing to hang around until dusk before you pitch, and can be away at dawn, all will be well.

One of those wood-lined paths, wildcamping opportunities aplenty.
We managed few wildlife encounters, with raptors leading the count, seconded by winter thrushes and then finches.  Several Buzzards, a couple of Kestrels, and a Sparrowhawk followed by countless Fieldfares and Redwings in the treetops.  The finches were mainly Goldfinches and they decorated the bare twigs like Christmas trinkets.  One such tree had its own female Bullfinch bauble.  Lovely.
A muntjac was the only mammalian offering of the day (other than the Grey Squirrel but I don't count those - I am a mammal snob, you see).

The pack became awkward again, and this time no amounts of adjustment would alleviate the discomfort.  Luckily we had reached the latter stages of our route and we had by now swapped the tacky dough of clay for grassy verge and back-road.  Much easier from a navigational point of view, it offered a glimpse at some of the more opulent properties that speckle the rural lanes of our county.
Another shot of our only real pause for relaxation.
I can summarise that my legs and feet were tickety-boo with forty pound on my back.  My shoulders weren't really as tender as I had expected, but my back felt compressed.  I put this down to the fact that I couldn't get the belt tight enough on the pack to stop it sliding down my hips.  The result was to transfer all of the weight onto my shoulders.  The straps are really good on the pack, so the shoulders were unharmed, but my back really felt it.  I'm not relishing the thought of a few days with so much weight bearing down on me.  My plan now is to get the pack weight down once more.  If any of you have any ideas I'd be grateful to hear your views on how you go about packing.

Me and my burden, er bergen?
Maybe I should post the gear list as I had it on this day?

At least I have 150 days left in which to get this right!