Thursday, 18 December 2014

Powermonkey Explorer 2 – First look

Power – 6000mAh
Weight – 292g (my scales), 300g with ‘out’ adaptor, 307g with ‘in’ and out’ adaptor. 

This thing is built like a tank.  Press promo’s show someone driving a Land Rover over the top of it, and I can believe it!  It looks solid and it feels solid.  It does however weigh a solid 392 grams.

I currently own a few power packs, my current fave is the Lepow moonstone 6000mAh, which I used recently in the USA (I have others from Anker and TeckNet).  I use them on multiday trips, camping and festivals. 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Quick review - inReach SE

The inReach SE is a two way communicator and tracker.  It uses the Iridium satellite network (alongside GPS) to send text messages to either email addresses or a mobile number.  It can be used on its own, but I mainly used mine synced via Bluetooth to my iPhone.

The inReach SE in it's normal position...
The inReach can also be used as a tracker and can be set up to send a tracking ‘ping’ every ten minutes.  This then appears on the inReach mapshare and shows friends and family just where I am (and how slow I was going!). 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Quick review - zPacks Solplex

The zPacks Solplex is a single walled lightweight shelter designed and made in the USA.  I have spent 16 nights so far in mine, so this is more of an initial review rather than a long term review.  I took this shelter straight out on my trip, no practice, no checking, I DO NOT recommend this for any piece of gear and it is rather foolhardy.

The shelter is quick and easy to erect.  I bought carbon poles from zPacks rather than use my trekking poles, this was partly due to knowing that I had no time to test and practice getting the heights correct.  It took some of the guesswork out.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

JMT Post-mortem

My JMT adventure was a series of up and down moments.  I had a great time and a few ‘moments’ too.  The JMT is a great walk and one that I will complete.  I completed around 50 miles on this trip and it was quite stunning, yet I know the best is regarded to be later along the trail.

I was (to be blunt) too big/fat to do the trek justice.  I struggled badly on the hills and this made me very slow.  I was walking 7-8 hours yet at times felt like I was treading water.  Whilst I had no great schedule that I had to stick to, there are practical issues to going so slow.  You need enough food and fuel basically.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tuolumne Meadows to Upper Lyell Forks

11.99 Miles
367m Ascent 

After yesterday’s day off (despite it raining) I was feeling pretty fresh.  It had been fairly cold overnight with a nice layer of frost and a morning temperature of a degree or two above freezing.  The Zpacks Solplex had stood up to the rain with no issues, though having a bear locker (campground) meant that I had my rucksack well undercover. 
I was on the trail pretty early and there was plenty of frost in the shade.  I thought the slight chill in the air was perfect!  Which shows how much I had been overheating.  Beginning from the campground the path follows the edge of the Lyell creek, a gorgeously clear river. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sunrise High Sierra Camp to Tuolumne Meadows

8.51 Miles
276m Ascent
I had planned a fairly early start, but in the end I didn’t set off until after 8.  I was a bit better organised yet still had a bit too much faffing around.  It had got down to around 6 degrees last night so there was a nice chill in the air. 

The day started well across the flat meadow for around a mile.  The path climbed steeply below the Columbia Finger and yet again I struggled, the climb was only around 200m yet I must have taken around an hour.  Another JMT’er stopped for a chat.  It only gets harder was his great advice!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Sunrise Creek to Sunrise High Sierra Camp

4.04 Miles
381m Ascent 

Last night was my first real night alone in the woods.  It was quiet… too quiet!  I slept OK, it was still quite warm at night, too warm under the quilt and too cold without.  I was feeling a bit better and my appetite was returning. 
Today was going to be a short day.  Due to changing my first day, I had enough food to stay on a four day schedule to get to Tuolumne.  From camp I still had a decent climb of around 300m, it was still taking me too long on these sections.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Little Yosemite Valley to Sunrise Creek

8.39 Miles
748m Ascent

I had a much better night’s sleep, probably due to being tired, all that fresh air!  The campground was awake early, but it was after 9 before I got going.  My lack of training was reflected in my lack of camp routine.  I was just slow getting organised. 

The trail heads up towards Half Dome and hits a nice 300m climb up switch backs within half a mile of the camp.  Despite being fairly early it was getting warm quickly.  Something I was worried about.  My pack felt good and didn’t feel overly heavy, yet my pace was stupidly slow.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley

9.38 Miles
377m Ascent 

After a restless night’s sleep (it was too warm!)  I caught the bus up to Glacier Point to start my adventures. The plan had been changed the day before after getting my Wilderness Permit.  I had planned to have an easy day (partly to help acclimatise) and have a 4 mile walk down to Illilouette creek.  However, the ranger had pretty much insisted that I head straight to Little Yosemite Valley.

The change added around 5 miles to the day and a good increase on elevation.  I underestimated how warm it is in the valley, this despite previous visits at similar times in the year.  My thermometer was above 30 degrees for most of the day.  It hit me hard.  I was using Nuun on every drink, and by having a Sawyer squeeze I had plenty of water.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Oooh a kit list!

I'm close to finalising what I am going to take on my trip to the USA, recent weather has led me to consider a warmer sleeping bag.  Apart from that it's pretty final.  I'm sure a few odds and ends will sneak in to drag the weights higher!

The Odds and ends
I am also in a dilemma over the camera I am taking.  I'm very tempted to take the Panasonic GH3, mainly due to the dark skies and the opportunities that creates.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Tetris and the Bear Can

My food plan looked great on paper. So I decided to try packing my food for my first section, from Glacier Point to Reds. 7 days on the trail, with 5 full days of food. Weighs in at 3.6kgs (7.94lbs). I couldn't fit it in...

Anybody good at Tetris? 

(Yes I am repacking the Porridge oats!)

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Culture of Optimism

From the mighty Google - Post Marathon Blues 

Symptoms of post-marathon depression match those associated with general depression. The person’s thoughts become negative and his energy level is drastically diminished. He might experience feelings of anxiety, irritability and despair. Runners experiencing depression commonly have difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite and erratic sleeping patterns.

I didn’t run a marathon, yet the above symptoms resonated.  It wasn’t something I’d heard of to be honest, until reading a book the other week when this subject cropped up.  As the author listed the symptoms, I was mentally ticking them off, yep got that, that too…

It’s safe to say my walking and health have plummeted since coming back from Nepal.  It wasn’t supposed to work like that.  It was meant to be a springboard, a reward for a year of work.  In the 10 weeks after coming back I have gained 16kgs (Over 2.5 stone or 35Ilbs), daily steps dropped by a daily average of 10,000 and the number of walks completed stood at a mighty 2.

I was always going to cut some slack for a week or 2, I deserved it after all.  2 weeks become 3, then 4 and all the gains drifted past.  I could see it happening, I could see the scales going the wrong way and the clothes getting tighter.

The JMT is now looking impossible.  Confidence is shot.  Walking in the wilderness needs a bit of training and a modicum of health.  I have neither.

My heart says ‘sod it, just wing it like usual’; my head is full of doubt.  The flights and hotels are booked, so I can’t waste them?  Right?

The hearts voice is getting louder, wing it, wing it, wing it…. what's the worst that could happen?

(Note to future self, when you embark on a weight loss regime, don’t throw away all your old clothes at the first sign of success… )

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Tips/thoughts for Everest Base Camp

A few random thoughts –

Use lip balm, my lips were ruined, cracked and very sore.
Don’t get suntan cream with a pump bottle, mine and one other failed.  Use a tube!
Take a solar panel and battery (if you have one).  Easier than recharging at a teahouse (it’s just a faff).
Take advice on what and where to eat, the guides have a good idea what each place does well.
Don’t worry too much about the food, yak steaks, fried eggs and chips are lovely!
Pack your gear in waterproof bags, it can rain and the porters might not cover the bags!
If you can walk up Scarfell Pike or Snowden, then you can handle the terrain.  Altitude is an unknown till you get there.
If you camp at EBC you need warmer clothes and sleeping bag!
In the teahouses my sleeping bag (-9 comfort) was too hot and used as a quilt.  At EBC it was just warm enough. (For me at this time of year).
Walking shoes were fine.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Everest - I have been on a wander up a big hill

It’s fair to say that this trip was one on the best ever.  Stunning views, great company, challenges, tough, rewarding and fun.  It was all I wanted and more, helped by the fact I actually exceeded my personal goals. 

The trip was well organised and well-paced.  We were lucky in that the group was happy with a similar pace, no racing snakes!  We were also fairly lucky with the weather, most days were good and fairly warm.  I was also lucky in that I had minimal issues with the altitude, in fact most days I didn’t notice it.  I was blowing hard on the steep sections, but nothing more than I do back home!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp

Today would be a relatively short day heading up towards the Everest Base Camp.  The path was rough and fairly narrow and undulated along the side of the valley.  As per normal now the views were stunning with mountains towering above.

The path undulated (as usual!) along the rocky moraine/scree.  The path was very busy from EBC.  After the accident lots of teams had abandoned the mountain.  The Discovery channel had planned a major broadcast over 7 nights (A sort of springwatch, Everest Live), but this had been cancelled.  We saw lots of equipment being carried down, showing how big an operation it had been.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Lobuche to Gorak Shep

Today was due to be a big day.  A walk to Gorak Shep, breaking 5000m and a possible climb up Kala Patthar.  I was feeling good, and doing a lot better than I thought I would be. The day before had been great and at times I had been 'flying'.

A few hours later and I was back down with a bump.  The walk to Gorak Shep isn't that hard, it climbs around 200m over a few hours with only one notable climb.  For the first hour the trek is fairly flat before a short steep climb onto a glacier.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Dingboche to Lobuche

After the relaxing rest day we were back on the move.  A short but sharp climb out of Dingboche followed the same path as the acclimatization hike the day before.  It was still as steep and got the blood flowing early in the morning. 

The valley was fairly gradual and it was a good walk surrounded by high mountains.  Summer pastures and huts provides shelter to the Yaks and Yak men during the summer months.  We passed above the village of Pheriche in the deep valley below, in a few days time we would be returning via a tea house below. 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Dingboche Rest Day

Today we had an acclimatisation day in Dingboche.  As it was a nice rest day we were allowed a 30 minute lie in!  The acclimatisation walk today headed up a ridge covered in prayer flags and chortens.  The views are incredible, Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Taboche, Cholatse and the seemingly small Island peak (only 6100m!).


Whilst only a short walk in distance, you can get pretty high (4700m).  The afternoon was spent on the kindle and generally resting.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Tengbouche to Dingboche

Today had a gentle start, dropping down from Tengbouche to the village of Debouche.  The path was mainly through woods dropping down to an old bridge across the river.  This fairly substantial bridge collapsed last year in the monsoon, so we carried on down lower to cross a temporary wooden bridge.

This section of the path is prone to landslips and rock falls, so there was no pausing or rest stops!  After the wooden bridge the path climbed steeply to regain some of the lost height.  Ama Dablam is again the biggest and most majestic mountain looking over us.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Kjangjuma to Tengboche

The day started fairly easily, undulating along with great views down the steep valley.  We had great
views of Ama Dablam, which is a superb looking peak and looks just like a mountain should!  The glacier on top is massive and looks like it could collapse at any moment!

Today was a lot warmer at around 20 degrees, so we were back in t-shirts.  The path undulated gently along before dropping steeply to another suspension bridge at Phunki Tenga.  This place is famous for its water powered prayer wheels; unfortunately most appeared to be broken.  We then began another steep climb.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Namche Bazzar to Kyangjuma

Most guides recommend a 2 night stay in Namche Bazzar to help with acclimatisation, but we only stayed 1 and then moved onto Kyangjuma.   This small town is slightly higher than Namche Bazzar but a couple of hours down the trail. 

We headed up and out of Namche Bazzar towards the Shyanboche airstrip.  This is a hard steep climb to start the day with and certainly gets the heart going.  Some of our group were beginning to see signs of mild AMS, this included people much fitter than I.  This shows how variable altitude is on the body, it truly is a lottery.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Phakding to Namche Bazzar

We had an early start to the day, woke at 06.30 with a cup of tea.  This was the standard practice, a nice hot cup of tea followed by a check from the Leader (Sukman) around 15 mins later.  He was looking for signs of any altitude issues, and to get us out of bed!

Today would be a much harder day and one I was fearing.  I had no idea how I would cope with the altitude and I knew that the climb into Namche Bazzar was a fairly tough steep climb of around 600m.  I know I struggle on steep hills so I had some trepidation. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Lukla to Phakding

The day began in spectacular fashion with the infamous flight from Kathmandu to Lukla.  Renown as one of the most dangerous airports in the world (combined with the fact that the EU has banned every Nepali airline for safety reasons), there was more of a sense of anticipation/apprehension than a normal flight. 

It was a lovely clear day and by all accounts there were great views over the mountains and Everest.  These views are very dependent on what seat you can grab!  The left hand side or front row is the best.   The flight is short and sweet but the landing is even shorter!   Lukla’s runway is a one shot only affair, you either get it right or crash, there are no second chances.

Monday, 17 March 2014

#59 Illgill Head, Whin Rigg and Miterdale

12.37 Miles
910 Metres Ascent

The fog had rolled in the previous evening and by the morning the tent was covered in condensation, inside and out.  This led to a slightly slower start to the day.  After the previous walk I had expected to wake with sore legs, but I felt surprisingly OK.  There is a danger that I’m actually getting fitter.

Today’s walk was planned to be easier (in ascent not mileage) than the previous two days and with the murky weather it seemed to fit quite nicely.  Heading from the campsite up past Brackenclose the path climbs steadily up past Fence Wood.  The path is well used and maintained; in fact it was so clear I actually walked past my planned route and kept on going.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

#58 The Mosedale Horseshoe

12.43 Miles
1102 Metres Ascent

Today was going to be a big walk and the weather was firmly on my side.  Clear blue skies for the second day in a row.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  I was woken up early by the sound of a Sea King buzzing around Scarfell.  I had hoped it was an exercise, but the time of day suggested otherwise.  (I learnt later it was looking for a missing walker, who was sadly found later at the bottom of a waterfall).

Heading out from the campsite, I followed the bridle path towards Wasdale.  This involved crossing a river, luckily it wasn’t flowing to strongly, though I still got wet feet.   The route passes the Wasdale Head Inn and the bottom of Kirk Fell.  This is an option on this walk but the path straight up Kirk fell just looked ridiculous!  

#57 Scarfell Pike (nearly!)

5.47 Miles
770 Metres Ascent

After a long drive I arrived at the edge of Wast Water and was blown away by the view.  The valley is stunning, especially in the sun, and its hard to drive without sneaking a few looks at the hills I'll soon be climbing up.  I camped at the Wasdale National trust campsite (great location and great site), and by the time I had set up the tent it was already 3pm.

This gave me approx. 3 hours before sunset.  This wasn't the ideal situation to try a walk up England's highest peak, however with a fully planned few days, it was my only chance.  I gave myself a turn around time of about 5 and would see how far I would get.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The stupidity of pushing on

Title says it all really.  Popped out for a short 9 miles today, mainly to free up the muscles after Friday.  I was a little achy but not too bad considered.  I have some new shoes from Keen so a short walk to break them in a little seemed a good idea.

2 miles later and the familiar feeling of a blister forming on the right heel should of had me turning round (my Merrel Moabs do the same the first couple of times out).  But oh no, that would be too sensible.  The idea of cutting short a 9 mile walk was too much.  So I pushed on, another mile.

I then realised I had a first aid kit!  I always carry it so might as well use it.  Out came the compeed.  This should of been a patch to get me home, but again I pressed on.  I soon came to my senses and turned home.  I now have a nice blister just in time for my trip to Wasdale.  Stupid.   

#55 Kinder Low to Mam Tor

16.28 Miles
1048 Metres Ascent

“I want to go for a walk”
“Ok, could do Barton Hills?”
“I want something hard work”
“Peaks are nearest, but its 3 hours away?”
“I’ll drive”
“Really?  Ok I have a 13.5 miler in mind”

So the day was planned.  James volunteered to drive and I came up with something a decent length with a healthy amount of up’s.   I guessed about 5 and a half hours of walking, which is a decent amount for us.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Challenge Update - The End of Winter

Ok winter is over! It's all sunshine from now on?  Right?  I can wish can't I?

Things have been a bit damp, to say the least.  However, I have managed 8 walks over the month, but I could and should of done more.  I had the chance to do at least 4-5 more walks but due to one thing or another they just didn't happen. 

Still, it was the most miles in a month I have ever done.

February - 89.47 miles and 3147 metres ascent.

January - 44.4 miles and 1303 metres ascent.
December - 71.49 miles and 1724 metres ascent.
November - 44.07 miles and 1857 metres ascent.
October - 27.97 miles and 643 metres ascent.
September - 71.40 miles and 4129 metres ascent.
August - 62.63 miles and 913 metres ascent.
July - 16.24 miles and 258 metres ascent.
June -  82.05 miles and 1063 metres ascent.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Gearing up for the John Muir Trail

It has to be said, it doesn't take much for me to justify in my head buying new gear.  So a big trip to the USA is more than the perfect excuse to look at some different options.    The main requirements are to cut weight, but retain as much function/comfort as I can.  The weight issue is a high priority, as I could be carrying 8+ kgs of food towards the end of the trip.  That alone could double the weight I'm carrying.

Though it has to be said, back in the day (the hazy memories of DofE) the rule of thumb was no more than a third of your bodyweight.  Now even using my ideal weight as opposed to the real weight, it would give me a max weight of about 25kgs.  I'm aiming for about 8kgs + 8kgs (food) + 2kgs (water) = 18kgs at its max.  The lighter it is, the easier it is.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Initial Food ideas for the John Muir Trail

Food on the trail can be an issue on any long distance hike, you need a certain amount of calories at the lightest weight you can.  On the John Muir Trail (JMT) there is an added issue of the lack of resupply in the second half of the trail, meaning I will have to carry all the food I need for around 8-9 days.  

On most English trails I doubt you would go for more than a couple of days without finding a pub or shop to buy food from.  On the JMT there will be nothing for 110 miles between the Muir Trail Ranch and Mount Whitney.

This means I have to actually think about the food in detail.  It needs to have enough calories to keep me going and be light enough to actually carry.  There are different approaches, from carrying numerous energy and chocolate bars (and that’s it) to carrying the kitchen sink.  Neither of those ideas appeals to me.

Friday, 21 February 2014

John Muir Trail – Outline Plan

The John Muir Trail (JMT) requires a certain amount of planning due to its location and the logistics involved.   For an overseas visitor you have extra issues to deal with, such as where to fly to, buying food in country, transport and accommodation before and after the trek.  On top of that there is the usual issues and saving enough money and booking time off work. 

My current plan involves me being in the USA from the 31st Aug to the 2nd Oct with 21 days on the trail, including any rest days.  My plan is to have at least 1 rest day at either the Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) or the Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR).  My preferred starting point is from Glacier Point, but the permit system restricts trailheads so I might have to go with whatever I get.

The Glacier point trailhead means I will likely spend the first night off the JMT.  I have walked this section (Panorama trail -from Glacier Point to Nevada Falls) and the ‘normal’ JMT route via Happy Valley to Nevada falls (Mist Trail and JMT) before.  The Mist trail is steeper, more steps and a lot busier with day hikers, in some sections there can be queues depending on the time of day.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The John Muir Trail 2014

I suppose it’s time to announce the big trip for 2014.  Whilst it’s hardly been a secret, I had nothing ‘official’ in place.  In September 2014 I will hopefully be walking (and completing) the John Muir Trail (JMT) in California, USA.

The start of the John Muir Trail.
The JMT is a 211 mile long trail through the wilderness with a total elevation gain of approximately 14,000m.  The trail starts in Yosemite Valley and ends on top of the highest point in the contiguous USA, Mount Whitney (4,421 m).  However, from the end of the trail it’s another 11 miles to Whitney Portal, where a café and burger awaits!

Friday, 7 February 2014

#49 Whitworth to Todmorden

14.04 Miles
744 Metres Ascent


For once I had time on my side and had no real deadline.  I had this route in mind for a while but due to one thing and another I hadn’t got round to it.  The weather was OK, overcast and windy but it wasn’t raining!

The first part of the route was very familiar, up the rake and around the top of Watergrove.   Things are still very wet but the Pennine bridleway is probably the best track in the region.  I decided to climb Clay Pots hill as an added extra.  It seemed a good idea at the time, adding about 2 miles and 200 metres to the day.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Rooley Moor

12.3 Miles
447 Metres Ascent


Another day and another tight deadline.  I had pretty much 4hrs to do something with.  So a ‘dash’ up Rooley Moor was in order.  As I’ve said in the past, this is a good hard track that takes you up and over the moors.
It was windy again but dry.  The sun even came out at a few points!  There were a few points I could have done with sunglasses, which after yesterday was a shock to the system. 

Why am I enjoying this?

10.87 Miles
363 Metres Ascent


It’s past 6pm.   Sunset was over an hour ago.   The wind is gusting to 40mph.  It is 4°C without adding the wind-chill and it’s raining.  Why am I walking across the moors above Whitworth?  And why am I enjoying this?
I was back on familiar turf above Whitworth and Watergrove, after spending a good part of the day driving.  I had planned something longer, but my usual lateness was compounded by a strict home by 7pm deadline (When your mum tells you your tea will be on the table at 7, it’s the sort of deadline you can’t afford to miss!).

Friday, 24 January 2014

#45 Watergrove to Calderbrook

10.87 Miles
363 Metres Ascent

I had planned a few routes for the next 3 days and it’s only typical that I had to change these plans at the last minute!   Family ‘bookings’ meant I could initially stay out until 1, but this changed to 12.30 by the night before.  In the end I was out of the house by 8am, on a cold dank morning.  The stream running down the middle of the road from the rake was an early indicator of the moisture content of the hills above!
The changed plan meant I was going to walk for approx. an hour and a half, then turn around, retrace my steps before a little loop to add a few more miles in.  Not a pretty solution by any means but it was easy to plan and also meant I had a good idea of my times.

Monday, 20 January 2014

All points of the Compass

Furthest East I have been = Kabul, Afghanistan.
Furthest West I have been = Forks, WA, USA.
Furthest South I have been = Mount Pleasant, Falklands.
Furthest North I have been = Lossiemouth, Scotland.

Disappointed that Scotland is as far North as I have been!  So I will have to add Iceland, Greenland and Alaska to the planning lists!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Mud Mud Glorious Mud

Only a short 9 miles today, avoiding most of the mud.  The fields are super saturated, the rivers are in flood and then the sun came out so not all bad! 

Sadly the weather is set for more rain.  I might end up on the harder track at Grafham a lot more than I'd want this year.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Challenge Update - End of the year! Roll on 2014

All things considered, December has been a decent month with 7 walks.  Admittedly they have mostly been fairly uninspiring local walks but at least I'm out and about!  Fitting stuff in while working silly hours is still an issue, but the money is always good.

Unfortunately most of the local walks are pretty waterlogged so it can be hard to get motivated for something muddy and slippy that doesn't offer much in the way of views and adventure.  I still need more hills to climb, so January will involve a bit more travel!

December - 71.49 miles and 1724 metres ascent.

November - 44.07 miles and 1857 metres ascent.
October - 27.97 miles and 643 metres ascent.
September - 71.40 miles and 4129 metres ascent.
August - 62.63 miles and 913 metres ascent.
July - 16.24 miles and 258 metres ascent.
June -  82.05 miles and 1063 metres ascent.