Saturday, 31 December 2011

Gear of 2011

Well what worked and what didn't... to be honest I didn't do that much this year but a few things stood out.  The Exped Synmat Basic 7.5 was used over 24 nights in the USA and at a couple of festivals in the summer, and proved to be a great purchase.  Easy to inflate and deflate, warm, relatively lightweight and tough.  The mat lacks an internal pump but to be honest I never had too much trouble blowing it up manually.  Most nights I slept directly on the mat and used my sleeping bag as a quilt, this might be a sign it was too warm. 

A late buy in the year was a Rab Latok Alpine jacket, it's only had two outings so far but the eVent material is proving to be a far superior offering than the Hyvent based jacket it replaced.  OK, it should be better than the Hyvent as it costs over twice as much and is by all accounts the most breathable material out there.  I'm a fat lad, so I break into a sweat putting on my shoes, the old jacket used to get wet in the forearms and it seemed that this was where the sweat accumulated (nice..).  On the SWCP earlier in the year there was times I could wring out arms (even nicer...).  The Latok Alpine has had none of these issues so far, comes with a good hood, fairly lightweight and has to big pockets.  These are a touch high up for my tastes (high up to allow use with a climbing harness), so it's hard to stand around with my hands in my pockets!

The LED Lenser H7 is a very bright (too bright at times) headtorch that I use at work and out and about camping.  At 140 Lumens it packs a big punch of 3 AAA's.  Many a time I've forgot how bright it is and half blinded friends and workmates, oops sorry.  It does however have one flaw in that more than once it has been turned on in my bag and drained the batteries without me knowing.  This could prove dangerous in the hills but can be planned for (being careful of how its placed in bag or taking a battery out in the day).

Thursday, 22 December 2011

2011 Highlights Part 4

My trip round the USA was an obvious highlight of the year, but there was also highlights within the highlights. From small little things like wandering round Redwood forests looking for Ewoks, having black bears visiting the campsite (yes we stayed 100m back...ok we are tourists the camera will protect me!), the joys of REI (gear porn...) and a multitude of wildlife/walking/camp experiences.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

2011 Highlights Part 3

September saw me manage to get 4 weeks off work and head out to the USA for a tour up the west coast to Seattle and back down again through the middle of the country. After 2 days up the coast we headed inland to Yosemite. I had been here 2 years before and it was just as spectacular. Last time was in April and there was ice on the ground making the mist trail treacherous. This time it was over 30 degrees C and for this pale skinned English boy it may of been too much!

The Panorama Trail was an 8.5 Mile hike from Glacier Point down to the valley bottom at Happy Isles Bridge. With 375m of uphill and 1325m of downhill it put a lot of strain on my (as usual) untrained legs. The trail starts with a nice downhill section for 2.2 miles to Illilouette Creek and things were going well for the group. The next 2 miles was a 200m climb which I have to say was knackering! Panorama Point does what it suggests and the view are mind blowing, with half dome towering over all the Valley.

The trail breaks out on to the idyllic but deadly Nevada falls, a couple had gone over the edge months before, their bodies never found. The water was high due to the unusually heavy snows and long melt season. From this point it was mostly downhill, and in my mind that usually means the easy bit...

Unfortunately with 3 litres of water already drunk and the 2 bottles empty the heat was still taking its toil and the beautiful walk down from Nevada falls turned it to a trudge and a slog. I had a touch of heat stroke (obvious by the fact I was feeling cold!) combined with what seemed like a relentless number of steps. All in all the last 3 miles were horrible! The only satisfaction was that most of the group of 12 couldn't walk the next day! Those steps downhill were a killer on the thighs! Today mostly fuelled by Walmart m&m trail mix and Ibuprofen.

(And yes I did wear a hat!)

Saturday, 17 December 2011

2011 highlights Part 2

Festivals and music were yet again big this year. Levellers in Bedford, Mumfords in Wimbledon, Acrade Fire in Hyde Park, Foo Fighters in MK, Latitude in Suffolk and Anna Calvi in Shepherds bush. Didn't see as many bands as other years but was still a good year.

Arcade Fire were quite fantastic in Hyde Park, along with Mumfords, Beruit and the Vaccines. People at the back complained it was too quiet but 20-30 rows from the front and it sounded pretty good to me! The Foo Fighters in MK was a great show, Biffy Clyro got the vast crowd going and Dave Grohl and the Foos took it to another level. I first saw the Foos in 1995, they have got a tiny bit bigger since then!.

Latitude was a damp affair, but the tent and waterproof handled it with ease. The Outwell Nevada M (with extension) may of been a tad big for 2 but luxury whilst the majority of festival goers were using pop up or Argos specials. Dry - Yup, get changed standing up - yup, sit under extension and barbecue in the rain - yup. See a bit of camping was done!

2011 Highlights Part 1

Walks were few are far between in 2011, mainly due to laziness and a fear of hills and rain. One of the best walks in 2011 involved both. The last week in March saw James and myself driving down to Newquay for a few days on the South West Coast Path (SWCP). Using a combination on Hostels, Premier Inns, Buses and dumping the car in Newquay, we could do 3 nice days along the SWCP from Padstow to Perrenporth.

First day was a bus ride from Newquay to Padstow and a 12(ish) mile walk to Treyarnon Bay YHA. The day started well with the bus breaking down, but James was in his zone, as a mechanic he loved diving into the engine armed with nothing more than a Swiss Army Knife. I obviously stood back and tried to nod in the right places..yeah it's obviously a broken grommet on the water flange...pffft so obvious...

Considering neither of us had done any walks of any note I think we did OK, being fueled by pasties and in good weather. It was my first time in A Youth Hostel and was pleasantly surprised. Decent food and a bar, yes a bar with cider...might of had a couple...just to recover of course.

Second day had the twin evils of rain and hills, by hills I mean anything with a slope, we also had 14 miles to walk to Newquay. It rained all morning and was to be honest a bit grim. However once the sun broke out it was a lovely afternoon. All went better than expected till about a mile away from the hotel when the legs had a moment and went on strike. Legs stiffened up badly. Today was fueled by ice creams and Ibuprofen.

Third day was supposed to be a 12 miles (ish) wander to Perranporth, where we we would catch the bus back to Newquay. The weather turned to rain just before Crantock and the will to live was blown away between Porth Joke and Holywell bay. Quite literally blown away as the wind was strong enough to lean into and made the day much more draining than it should be. I bailed out at Holywell Bay as I was knackered, sore, achy...James completed the whole walk but didn't see the need to brag about it... Today was again fueled by Ibuprofen.

A good few days but lack of fitness or preparation made it harder than it should of been. Losing the ability to walk down stairs due to leg stiffness was a clue

Friday, 16 December 2011

The first post...

Could be a very short lasting blog but I love a good fad. Seems a bit narcissistic and will surely highlight my distict lack of grammer, spelling, imagination and class...