Just received a copy of the latest Paramo catologue which I feature in. I was supported by, what is for me, a very local company. I live less than two minutes walk from their head office and was delighted to get their support for my Grona Bandet. I'd been using their gear for a while (principally my Velez Light) before and was given subsequently access to anything in their range for the trip which was a massive help.
Consequently, I know their marketing team well and their head designer, Greg Care. They still give me gear to use and abuse and want my feedback. For example over the last 12 months the Bora Fleece/Windshirt combo has been a real winner and even performed well in some very heavy rain in Jamtland. Less successful were the Maui trousers which got battered in Svalbard. I'm preparing a brief for their 'Range' and 'Fabrics' team and they are happy to take on board my suggestions. Greg's keen for me to try some of their gear in development and that's been fun too.
Accordingly, with some pleasure, I present 'Hill & Mountain' '14. (here)
I spent over 70 nights out backpacking this year and covered around 2000 kms in Scotland and Scandinavia. A big gear year that I thought I would round up on the cusp of 2014. Some real winners and some losers.
The real loser was my Golite Quest. My thoughts on it are here. Many positives but the quality of the finish is poor. I am grateful to Ultralight Outdoor Gear for their customer service. They are in the process of swapping the replacement Lightwave Wildtrek 70 for me (sizing is the issue as I feel an M2 will be the better fit) six months after they sent an initial replacement to Sweden. Service. I look forward to using the Wildtrek in the coming year. It's not the lightest at 1500 kg but I like it's features.
Tent wise the Scarp 1 has proven almost perfect. There are plenty of reviews online, the majority overwhelming positive. Myself I found it to really suit my needs.
Easy to pitch. Light to carry. Shrugs off most weather, particularly with the crossing poles that make it a four season UK tent. A joy to use in summer with it's double porches, light and airy. Highly recommended.
And inside it? My sleeping system worked well this summer. I was delighted with my cleaned and refurbished RAB bag, a top job by Cumbrian 'Mountaineering Designs'. That bag worked well in a range of temperatures in Scandinavia and the increased down around the core area was inspired. My sleeping mat was a 2012 Thermarest Prolite, no problems with that and it's got years left in it. An Exped pillow rounded it all off. I slept well.
I am grateful to Powertraveller for the 'Explorer'. It's a neat and compact little system that enabled me to keep my Kindle and my camera charged up when between supply stops (typically 10-12 days). The solar panels worked well too and most evenings it ticked over outside the tent keeping the battery topped up. Back in the UK it was good to have on my autumn/winter trips as it enabled me to keep my head torch (XP2) and camera fresh in cold battery draining weather.
For cooking the 'Ti-Tri' by Trail Designs was a huge success. I was somewhat reluctant to go back to meths the design of this stove means I have a fast and reliable meths cooking system. Paired with an Evernew Titanium burner I was boiling 600 mls of water in around four minutes. I used the wood burner occasionally and whilst it is no way efficient (in terms of time, the fuel was free!) it was fun and I could play at 'woodsman' in the forests of Jamtland and southern Lapland. Birch bark could arguably make the list as tinder, that's free mind!
So the 'Ti-Tri', an expensive but a worthwhile investment. Just make sure the lightweight windshield/stove doesn't catch in the wind and blow away! Back in Scotland I used gas for a number of reasons and was pleased with both my Primus Spider and Fire-Maple stoves.
Cookware it was plenty of titanium. The Snowpeak Mini Solo set was a joy to use this summer with the Ti-Tri. Back home I was pleased to be reunited with my MSR Titan Kettle.
Alloy Pacerpoles were new for me for 2013 and I liked them a lot. I'd used 'carbons' for many years (which I still like due to weight and compact shape) but the Alloys were incredibly robust over a very long distance. The tips wore out but have been easily replaced. That's only after two months constant use.
I've now the confidence to use a tarp (I've a Trailstar) relying on these poles as supports. The Pacerpole itself is a classic and I can't see myself using anything else.
I was grateful as well to Heather of Pacerpole for supplying some of the new 'mitts'. These worked well in cold weather in Autumn and Spring, really replacing gloves during the walking day. Recommended I think if you use Pacerpoles and pretty inexpensive.
I really appreciated as well the Camera Mount. A useful and light piece that enabled me to use the pole as a monopod for snaps.
Clothing wise Paramo supplied me with a ton of stuff. The Pasco worked well this summer and I like it. Perhaps if it had been on the market I may have plumped for the Bora system that worked so well in the autumn. I love my Velez trousers. I wore them as camp trousers this summer as much as rain trousers. Analogy has that advantage of being comfortable to wear.
The Grid baselayer is now a firm favourite. The Katmai shirt kept biting insects at bay at camp and pulled out of the pack uncreased and ready to wear at town stops. Essential.
Torres insulation has come into play this year too. The 'Sleeves' worked well this summer, combined with a light windshirt they give a surprising efficient and lightweight insulation system over the Pasco. Back in the UK I used the Torres vest and trousers in the winter Highlands and was glad for both.
Berghaus supplied me with a Mt Asgard Hybrid 'hydro down' jacket. It packs down small and is warm and weather tight. Montane's Terra trousers are my trouser of choice, a new pair proved as reliable as ever. On my feet Inov8 Terrocs. I got through two pairs this year and had no problems with me feet.
Hats and gloves from Extremities performed well too. My only grumble was tendency of the lightweight guide gloves to bleed 'colour' in wet weather staining my hands black. Apart from that they are good light weight gloves.
Food has been a mixture of my own dehydrated and commercial freeze dried. I was right that home dehydrated loses a taste intensity after some months but I really cut down on the expense of a two month trip doing my own. I have a 'nailed down' life long love of Ainsley Harriot soups and instant noodles. Many an evening I replaced lost electrolytes and nutrition with these readily available products.
Other stuff too. I'll be 'tongue in cheek' and call the various Jotul stoves I used as essential backpacking gear. Amazing stoves that were a joy to use. I want one!
As ever Alpkit for the small but important stuff including drybags and stuffsacks. Seeing how much these items cost in Sweden made me realise how lucky we are to have Alpkit in the UK with everything from titanium cookware to sleeping bags at a nice price.
An 'email shot' from Paramo to notify of a new video on their site. It's the tale of their Columbian factory and their manufacturing model which is based on community projects, primarily in Columbia but also in Vietnam.
Worth a watch.
Before I headed to the Cairngorms a few weeks ago Paramo offered me their new Bora System to try out. Initially the forecast was for some heavy weather (very heavy rain for the four day period) but an improving forecast encouraged me to have a run out with the Bora.
The Bora System is simply two garments. A fleece (made from the proprietary Nikwax Fleece), the Bora Fleece Hoodie, and the Bora Windproof Smock. The Smock, acts as the shell layer providing wind proofing and rain resistance. Combined, the principle is that the two provide a 'waterproofing' system equivalent to an Analogy Light garment (such as the Quito).
The technical blurb is that fleece is both water-repellent and wind resistant (described as "Directional – actively pushing water vapour and liquid water away from the body to keep the wearer dry"). The wind shirt cuts the windchill and assists in the transmission of the water away from the wearer (rain and sweat) to the surface. It also provides weather resistance too and when clean and proofed has an effective DWR.
Now I like Paramo, a lot. I've been using their kit for a few years now. They provided me with kit for my two month Grona Bandet this summer. I also live in the same village in Sussex, where they and Nikwax are based. Both companies important local employers as well as innovative British manufacturers looking now for export markets. I wish them well. You can take my views accordingly, there are other views online and indeed on this blog.
The first time I tried on both the fleece and the wind shirt I was struck by how contemporary both garments seemed. With a more athletic fit both garments fit well and have the bold colour schemes that a lot of manufacturers are using now. The fleece was comfortable and the hood close fitting providing a garment I would be happy to live in for a few days including sleeping. The smock fitted over the fleece. I was struck by how different it seemed in fit from other Paramo garments. Less 'boxy' in appearance. The sleeves as well were noticeably longer than other Paramo garments and covered the cuffs of the fleece in their entirety. The two garments have corresponding venting around the torso area enabling the user to vent air to the base layer.
The proof of the proverbial pudding lay in the eating, naturally. For me four days around an autumnal Cairngorms. The forecast was for a mix of showers and some more prolonged periods of rain. The weather was set for fairly mild but on higher ground the windspeed was sufficient for a windchill below freezing. I decided to give it a go.
The fleece was very comfortable to wear over the four days. I wore the windshirt on top most of the time because of wind and rain. When climbing I did begin to overheat and vented adequately using the torso vents. I did find myself looking for the arm vents that I had got used to with my Pasco (that I used in the summer), these arm vents are also to be found in the heavier version of the Summit Hoody and the Fuera Ascent. However, once on more lateral ground and descending I stayed at a comfortable temperature for backpacking.
The fleece hood was a comfortable fit. The wind shirt's hood was adequate too. Not quite as good as the two Fueras I think but I go the hang of it with two side and one back volume adjusters. The wind shirt's hood is generous enough to fit over a helmet for biking or climbing.
In short I was pleased with the Bora's performance. I remained warm, dry and comfortable in light to medium rain and some medium winds. The garments seemed to deal with water well in the conditions. I think there is a limitation in this system somewhere but I didn't find it on this trip. The weather was windy, but not terribly so. I had wet periods ranging from light to medium rain over a few hours. It was mild but naturally chilly on the top of the Cairngorm plateau. I wouldn't describe any of the rain I had as heavy so am unsure how the system would fare in the torrential stuff. I carried a synthetic vest (for me a Paramo Torres) and would always consider carrying one in case the weather got too heavy for the Bora.
I think for the experienced user the Bora provides very useful option. It's not a complete answer to weather proofing in the British hills but it's an option certainly for certain conditions. The plus of this system is a light and flexible mid-layer and 'shell' combination that work well in a defined range of conditions. Around 600 grams for the two. Both garments alone are good too. The fleece would certainly work well with other wind shirts and, indeed, other Paramo wind shirts such as the Fuera Ascent. The wind shirt alone is light and would suit trail running equally as light and breathable. I was initially worried about the durability of the Bora wind shirt but I think it will hold up well to 'pack rub'.
Would I have used it this summer? If I had known how few really terribly days northern Scandinavia was to dish up I think yes. Would I use in the Highlands with days and days of constant rain forecasted? I don't know the answer to that yet. I may have to wander around Sussex in the Bora in some terrible weather for a bit before I take that leap.
A quick autumnal Cairngorms foray, wandering the hills and glens. A good trip on the whole. Better weather than forecasted, fairly dry and certainly mild. Some serious train delays though that resulted in a major overhaul of my route plan. No Munros this trip (all done anyways in the main Cairngorm area) and Lochnagar still remains 'terra incognita' after two attempts to access it. Quiet days though on a simple 'stravaig'. Some new gear that worked well. Restful camps: enjoying the novelty of darkness after two months of Scandinavian white nights.
The highlight of this trip was the colour of the Cairngorms' forested glens. Green still just prevails but hues of yellows, browns and orange streak the evergreen pine forests as birch, ash and rowan prepare for the onset of winter. The grass of the mires are almost blonde. It was a spectacular. As I sat supping my pint of Stag in Aviemore last night I read in the paper that this years mild weather has resulted in a delayed autumn. Rothiemurchus forest, northerly and lying high at 400 metres was marching well into fall. My favourite forest was a riot of colour.
The pay off for the serenity of these hills was the journey up and down from London. Usually pretty quick and painless on the sleeper, not this time due to perhaps a systematic campaign of vandalism. Both my 'up' and 'down' journeys were delayed by several hours as the train struck metal strewn across the track in the early hours. Twice in four days. Five hours delay up meant being thrown off the train at Edinburgh at 8 am. I had to abandon my plan to catch a bus from Aberdeen to Braemar as I would have lost a day. Instead a local train to Perth and then Aviemore. A change of plan to include a simple wander to some favourite spots, my greatest hits. No hardship really. Lochnagar will keep. My vague notion of 'compleating' (I am over half way) stretches further into the future.
I arrived at Aviemore lunchtime, a familiar place and one where half the people wandering it's streets are dressed for the hills. I'd been keeping an eye on the weather since Perth. Speeding through the Pass of Drumochter I was pleased to note some brightness in breaking through a grey heavy sky. I decided though to have a fairly easy half day and play it cautious. MWIS had forecast heavy rain and gale force winds on Friday night. I was minded to camp in the shelter of Rothiemurchus Forest.
The plan was to climb up over the Moine Mhor and to Feshie. My route was to pass lonely Loch Einich so Friday afternoon saw me walk part way and pick a spot at the northerly limit of the Forest. A lovely grassy shelf with good access to a busy stream found around five o'clock. It was the perfect antidote to a broken night of travel chaos. Crossing poles fixed on the Scarp I busied myself with my usual camp routine. It was a joy to do this again after several weeks.
I love being out in the autumn. Night fall almost feels like an embrace after the light of summer. At this time of year darkness falls in Scotland at around six thirty. A tea candle in my UCO candle caddy is a cheerful companion as I eat and then set things ready for the morning.
It also gets me to bed early. I was tucked up by seven thirty. Read a bit, drink a little whisky and then an early night. I fell asleep to wind and rain, happy though.
Next day dawned grey but dry. A familiar route to Einich then over the top of the high Moine Mhor and over to Feshie. Quiet and steady walking, I don't see anyone else out on this rather damp October day. I'm pre-occupied as I walk. Recent developments at work hold my attention as I climb the steep hill path up onto the high foggy moor. A contrast to my two months out this summer when thoughts of the office and it's issues emptied out of my head after several days. Then the Grona Bandet was my all.
But the beauty of Glen Feshie puts everything into perspective. It's like a lost world. Remnants of the ancient Forest of Caledonia hidden in a canyon like glen. Small waterfalls adorn the steep flanks of the enveloping hills. I find my favoured spot and settle down to a quiet Saturday evening. Spaghetti Bolognese and a large (titanium) mug of red wine before whisky and bed.
Next a classic 'through route' for TGO challengers heading for Braemar. Perhaps the 'foul weather alternative' for some, the walk along the River Feshie and around to the Linn of Dee is no easy option. Fairly long and over wet boggy ground it will occupy a day. My goal is another favoured camp in Glen Luibeg, again amongst Scots pine. I find the walking easier than on other occasions and attribute that to lingering fitness from the summer. Wet and showery for most of the morning the day brightens as I move eastwards.
And then into the heart of the Cairngorms as I find my way to Luibeg. The 'Devils Point' looks as slick and menacing as ever. The estate path, when reached, assists in the last miles. I see a party of walkers head down from the ridge of Carn a' Mhaim. We don't meet though as I traverse rough bog and then into the embrace of the pines of Luibeg. I've been coming to this spot for over six years now. I note the deer fence has been removed as the aforestation project of the NTS has bedded in. There plenty of deer here. Today I hear the raw of stags engaged in the existential struggle of the rut. I am woken at three in the morning by one bellowing, seemingly, only yards from the tent. Outcomes rush through my sleepy head. Either he thinks the tent is another stag to fight or perhaps a female to mate with. I can't decide which of the two is worse...
I pack up reluctantly on my last morning and begin the walk back to Aviemore. There several option to a seat in the warmth of the Cairngorm Hotel. Today's is the climb up Sron Riach and onto the Cairngorm plateau via Macdui. Britain's second highest mountain is cloaked in customary heavy fog. Map and compass work get me across the featureless plateau. It's wet and cold up here but I am pleased with the performance of new gear. The Paramo Bora fleece and windshirt work well. The Pacerpole Mitts are in their element, my hands stay snug and warm.
Off the high ground of the Cairngorms without incident and a walk out through the forest. I enjoy a cup of tea and a wash amongst the pines and have a chat with a ranger who is keen to make sure I am not about to start a camp fire. Fair enough, it would take just one negligent fire to destroy the hundreds of acres of ancient forest in hours. I really love Rothiemurchus. As desk settles I walk through it one last time this trip and head for beer and curry in Aviemore.
So nothing too new on this walk. Just a meander through favoured spots and a little bit of time to myself. I've caught the Cairngorms in a mellow humour. Mild, though a little damp, living out in these hills and glens was easy. The colours of it's forest were memorable and are the key point of this trip. Another delayed train journey back to London doesn't diminish it.
And so a break for a few weeks and then perhaps an overly ambitious low-level walk through the Monadliath in November. Am I over-reaching? I'll need to plan for that and keep a weather eye out, literally. It'll be a fitting end though to this year if it comes off.
Cairngorm soon. Specifically an approach from the east through Lochnagar and out to Aviemore. My favourite hills.
The weather forecast was set for 'shocking' for the whole weekend. Heavy rain for four days, wind chill, blizzard conditions ahigh and swollen rivers. That seems to have lessened somewhat according to MWIS today.
Some new gear to play with thanks to the generosity of Paramo and Pacerpole. Paramo wise it's the Bora Fleece/Windshirt combo, it promises an 'Analogy Light' performance. Quite a fresh and contemporary styling from Paramo and it feels good on. I shall see how I fare.
From Pacerpole a neoprene mitt. This means I can wear a light glove and should have protection from the elements when walking. Good concept for the cold British hills.
Looking forward to it. Refreshing to only pack for four days and my bag feels as light as a feather. Whisky n' wine coming too ...
Not long to go, the spare room's piling up with stuff to be packed and I'm trying to ignore the nagging feeling that I'll forget to do or bring something important! Final posts as well on the comfort of our desktop. It will be tap tap at a Samsung Mini from now on.
Last few square meals and home cooking. From Saturday dehydrated fare and tons of Food Doctor bars and 'Knackerbrod' to fuel my walk. Last beer and wine as well so perhaps I'll raise a glass to those individuals and companies who've helped me with useful clothing, gear, advice and inspiration.
Firstly, Paramo for the total freedom of choice you've allowed me with your clothing range, the litres of Nikwax products and the generosity and support of your marketing and design teams. I've been using Paramo happily for years and, whilst it's not the lightest stuff around, I think it suits the climate of northern Scandinavia well. I'm carrying their waterproofs, synthetic insulation and the excellent Katmai shirt.
Next, thank you Heather Rhodes of Pacerpole for a set of your 'Alloys', camera attachment and plenty of spares. Simply the best poles, designed by a passionate hiker with a generous nature. I've really enjoyed our email correspondence and Heather has a touch of genius about her.
Thirdly, Powertraveller for the essential means to charge camera, phone and kindle. The Powermonkey is neat and portable and I would be lost without it. Then there's Terra Nova/Extremities who've kindly provided me with several pairs of gloves and hats. The Lightweight Guide gloves did well in the Highlands and coupled with the shell protection of the Tuff Bags I am set.
To all those in Sweden who have taken in my boxes and some who have gone beyond in the offer of accommodation. It's been a huge reassurance and I know I will meet some friendly people along the way.
To those in the bloggosphere who've commented on this site and, indeed, spent time reading this blog (there are one or two, it's encouraging and the spread of countries is fascinating). To established bloggers in the UK whose sites I've raided for kit inspiration and whose blogs fuel my passion for backpacking. To Roger of 'Neilsen Brown Outdoors' who shares my excitement of walking in 'Fjallen' and whose blog has provided such good reading over quite a few years. To Lars Wessel, the first successful walker of the Grona Bandet, who has answered my questions with generosity and whose trip report has been so useful. To the boys at 'Le Trek' who are 'pa vag' just now and who have shared the excitement of planning this trip. To 'backpackinglight.co.uk' who listed me on their site, and whose excellent podcasts have educated me in the way of the dehydrator.
To my long suffering wife and children, particularly my daughter whose birthday I will miss. We have shared some good family backpacking in recent years and will do more as the kids get bigger and stronger.
Finally, to Torkel and Annica of 'Vitagronabandet' whose inception of the 'Grona Bandet' essentially gave me the impetus to do a walk that I had always meant to do.
'Guld till alla'!
The longest day passed yesterday, up at five and a two hour trail run across Sussex and Kent before the commute to London. It's easy getting up early at this time of year, I shared the morning with plenty of wildlife, even approaching a deer who stood on a path ahead before it saw me and bolted through the undergrowth. My running is tentative at the moment. The countryside is lush and green, the trails though (footpaths) are becoming overgrown and hazards are hidden by foliage. It's not uncommon in my running year to sprain an ankle on hidden tree routes. I need to avoid that now, a weakened ankle ligament would be a worry with a two month walk ahead and plenty of distance to cover.
Southern England is at it's best just now. I'll miss it, along with many other things not least my wife and children. With the knowledge that calorie deprivation is around the corner I am being fairly indulgent with my eating and drinking (any old excuse!). Plenty of beer drunk, but fresh fruit and vegetables as well. My last quality beer may well be drunk in Stockholm next weekend. My brother-in-law has been to 'Systemet' to get some of my favourite Swedish beer in, Jamtlands. Four bottles of Barnsten await. After, that I imagine if I get beer it will be 'Norrlands'. Pretty non-descript but it will be wet and cold, I have though always loved the can design with it's picture of northern wilderness.
I was emailed earlier in the week by the last two recipients of my boxes. Lappland and Jamtland are now covered. I was worried about my boxes reaching their destinations but in the end it was painless, albeit expensive. In theory I am wholly self sufficient for two months. Fresh food will be enjoyed though when I get the chance in Duved, Hemavan and Abisko.
Fjallnas confirmed as well that they will get me across Lake Bolagen. I'll have three lake crossings in this trip, considerably less on my route than on the Kungsleden alternative. Chris Townsend in his last book, 'Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams' reflects in his PNT walk how difficult it was to cross the big lakes of Lappland.
A competition win of a 24 hour ration pack! I spotted some typos on a marketing email mailed by 'Beyond the Beaten Track', they sent a subsequent email inviting the first person to email back listing the typos to win a 24hr ration pack. I was obviously first (bored at work?) and won. Some interesting items if a lot of heavy wet food. I've filleted it and will take some items out with me. Interesting to note how many preservatives are used in all the products. It shows how much better a process freeze drying or home dehydration is.
I've picked up some repaired kit from Paramo this week. They've adapted my Velez trousers. I noted to Greg Care, Paramo's design guru, how the Analogy fabric literally fills when crossing a fast flowing river. This happened in Scotland in May, the Feshie was in spate. Greg said they had always considered building a drain into the bottom of the trouser (in short a stitched incision), Paramo made a customary adaptation for me and built a drain in. Also returned was my old Velez Adventure Light which has been repaired and adapted. My pack's straps had worn away the Analogy Light at the shoulder, they've customised mine by sewing in normal Analogy paneling. Looks good. I shall be using the Pasco. Heavy yes (I'm no lightweight hiker), but with the prototype Aero vest from Greg it's a good system with plenty of venting. Sweden's mountain summers can be great but like the UK expect wet and cold for long periods. I think the Pasco, Grid Classic and Aero Vest will work well.
'Vitagronabandet' have supplied a 'Spot' device to me to use. I don't usually carry one myself but it's needed to verify the journey. I've set it up so should be ready to go. I've also worked out posting/blogging on my phone. Seems to work ok though it's difficult typing on my tiny Samsung. The pictures are ok but grainy. I asked Weebly if they could be reduced in size to improve the quality and not have a single picture dominating the page. Apparently not though! I'll try and blog and tweet along the way, possibly the themes will be my aching feet, hunger, rain and mosquitos. Seriously though, I can't wait!
This was a lucky trip. From the 'off' at Euston station late on Thursday evening I had a sense of fortune with me. I've come back with some kit battered after a week in Knoydart and Kintail but with plenty of memories and a deeper sense of the Scottish Highlands.
I had my phone switched off during my last day at work so didn't receive the voicemail from Scotrail that there was a problem with my carriage on the sleeper, they were moving me from the 'Highland' service to the 'Lowland'. The consequence of the later train to Edinburgh would have been my bus connection missed by hours at Inverness and at least a day of my week wasted trying to get to Glenfinnan and the start of my walk. Instead I turned up at platform 15 (the longest in Britain to service the longest train in Britain, the Caledonian Sleeper) blissfully ignorant that one car of the thirty year rolling stock had failed and that I was to have my route north delayed.
Told that I should have been put on the Lowland the helpful assistant though found me a berth on the Fort William section of the train (the train splits at Edinburgh at about 4 am, sections head to either Fort William, Inverness or Aberdeen). Not only did this mean saving me a bus trip for several hours to get to Glenfinnan the following morning I got a first class berth and a ride up the spectacular West Highland line. Next morning I enjoyed, perhaps, the finest train journey in the world. The West Highland line is a hillwalker's delight as it passes right past many significant Munros. I've used the Sleeper in the past to arrive at the foot of these big hills and the start of some good backpacking. The journey was an absolute pleasure, the Highlands were bathed in bright spring sun and I arrived at Fort William in a good mood.
Jumping off the Sleeper I was preparing myself to spend several hours at the Fort waiting for the lunchtime Scotrail service to Glenfinnan and the start of my walk. To my surprise there was a tourist steam service leaving for Genfinnan in 15 minutes taking holiday makers on the 'Jacobite' to Mallaig. Securing a standing ticket in the buffet car I managed to get a quick trip around Morrisons (supermarket) as well and bought enough 'Cheese n' Ham Pasties' to feed me for a week's worth of lunches. Not something I normally eat but after a few days on the hill (they keep quite well and are high in calories) the food of the gods!
And so well ahead of schedule I set off from Glenfinnan to enjoy a week of backpacking and a good haul of Munros. The first day saw me remind myself that backpacking Munros is never that easy. Loaded with six days of food I moved slowly but by the end of the afternoon Sgurr nan Coreachan and Sgurr Thuilm were bagged. Camp that night was a high one at around 800 metres, I pitched about half a mile from the summit of Coreachan and the situation was spectacular. The visibility was astonishing and from my tent I gazed directly at Ben Nevis, some thirty miles away. As twilight grew at around 10 pm (there was no darkness on this trip) a huge new moon rose directly above the 'Ben' and crowned a memorable day.
The point of this walk was to explore Knoydart. My second morning saw drop down from my high camp to Glen Pean and a then a haul from Strathan to Glen Markie. I popped my head around the door of Kinbreak bothy. The downstairs was cold and dank but climbing into the loft I came across one of the most welcoming bothies I've seen. The upstairs was in good clean order and the area around the fireplace inviting. Perhaps in bad weather I would have stayed but the day was bright and warm and I enjoyed a second high camp after my third Munro, Gairich.
My third day was certainly the toughest of the walk. I followed the long high ridge from Gairich and by around 6 that evening was on my fourth Munro of the day, Sgurr na Ciche. I'd entered Knoydart proper and the mixture of mountain and sea was stunning. The day had been long and the descent from the Munro hard. Showers had left rock slick and greasy, hill descents often see the most accidents due to the combination of tiredness and gravity. It had been a long day and my concentration gone. I slipped and fell twice. I was fine but I've holed certain items of clothing and they will need to be repaired before my start at Grovelsjon at the end of this month.
I pitched the tent and crawled into it at around 9 pm. Heavy rain started, the only real precipitation of the trip, it was to last until lunchtime next day though but provided me with the perfect excuse to sleep late and to recover from three hard hill days.
The remainder of the trip saw me collect, in bright warm sunshine, the Munros of Knoydart. I was impressed by the peninsula and I'll be back again. The good estate tracks through the glens offer some good walking and the social history of the region is evident. I met more people certainly as I neared Inverie, Barrisdale was fairly busy on the walk out to Kinloch Hourne. I had the pleasure of some very good chats with some agreeable people. I enjoyed my stop at the tea room and b'n'b at Kinloch Hourne. Welcome sandwiches and tea and I appreciated my conversation with the owner. He showed my the band new Cicerone book on the 'Cape Wrath Trail', the 'trail' is becoming increasingly popular he was preparing for a party of Dutch walkers who were arriving late from Inverness.
A late camp followed from a favoured spot from last year's June week. A day's meander to Cluanie in 30 degree heat and I was ready for beer at the Inn before two bus journeys to Inverness and the Sleeper home. An absolutely cracking walk in great weather and with minimal midges. Sometimes Scotland cannot be beat.
Some real kit winners. I was very impressed by the Paramo Grid Classic. I was talked into this by Greg Care of Paramo, and sceptically ditched my merino. I am glad I did. This baselayer saw me comfortable in a wide range of temperatures and feels just right, it's coming with me this summer (note, I would buy a size up from your normal Paramo size - the medium worked well in summer heat but also dealt with some cool temperatures well).
The Trail Designs Tri-Ti is just great. Very efficient and a pleasure to use. The Scarp 1 ticks all boxes. Finally I am getting on very well with the Golite Quest 80. So far so good, it carries a load well but compresses nicely. Sadly damaged Montane Terras but I think that's my fault. A new pair, but my old pair have lasted seven years without similar damage. I'll email Montane tomorrow, they have been good to me so I'll see if I can get them repaired or replaced. Very impressed with my gloves from Extremities (Terra Nova). The 'Guide' gloves took a heavy fall very well and are tough but lightweight, no problems with them coming this summer (they dealt with wind and showers effectively) combined with the Paclite shell gloves, Guide Tuff Bags its a complete package. Finally, the Paramo Pasco continues to work well - the Grid Classic plus the prototype Aero Vest is an effective system.
A good week and some vital preparation for my long Swedish summer.
I'm packing up again to head to the Highlands. A route I have had my eye for for a while, through Glenfinnan and the west into Knoydart. After collecting the Munros of the region I'll head via the Saddle (though 'bagged' last summer) and to Shiel for the bus to Inverness. A trip of around a week and excellent preparation for the start of my Gronabandet late next month.
The weather looks cool and showery and I won't be blessed with the good weather I had last June as I collected the Munros of Shiel, Kintail and Glen Affric. The midges though (according to the midge forecast) look fairly inactive still so I'll thank the cold spring to date. I am in the west and this is where they are at their very worst.
Some new Paramo to try. I am persuaded that their 'Grid Classic' baselayer is worth a try. I wear merino normally, it's comfortable and holds the stink of backpacking at bay quite well. A discussion with Greg Care, Paramo's head designer, persuaded me that it's worth a go and to see if it works well as part of a Paramo system. I'll see how it fares and how badly I/it smell(s) at the end of the week. Synthetics generally function better than merino but harbour bacteria. I am trying the mid-layer of Greg's prototype 'aero' vest. The idea behind that is to ease pressure on the outer Analogy garment and to aid recovery as well as provide insulation. I like the look of the vest and it's light at 200 grams. I'll just see how it works but it's an interesting concept.
I was delighted to hear my first box has arrived in Abisko at under a week. I tracked it's progress across the channel and through to Sweden via Germany and Denmark. It then moved from Stockholm north and was delivered today to Abisko in just under a week. Apparently, it arrived in Abisko as part of the milk delivery from Kiruna! Interesting how logistics function in Lapland. When back from Scotland I'll make and push and get the other four out. The start of the Gronabandet is getting close though!