It’s with mixed emotions I’ve just submitted my last route to Trail, for the time being at least.
I’ve always run close to the deadlines for submitting these, there’s no other way to do it than with the most recent information possible or you’re as well just having a page saying “Buy the SMC books”. This has worked for me, with forestry operation changing long established route, new deer fences etc, but also against me as I have spent far too many days sitting in laybys in the pissing rain waiting for a clear hour to run up a hill I know well to get new photies.
Doing the routes has seen me visit or revisit many wonderful places and try to spread the joy of what I see there but I think it’s time for me to chase the patches of blue sky wherever they are, camp on a hill I hadn’t thought of until that day and look at the calendar to see how far away Christmas is, not how close a felt tipped pen cross through a day is.
It’s been an absolute joy the past few years, and the fact that everyone hates Trail amuses me no end as despite it being the most popular mag, as a hate figure it’s made me feel a little bit counter culture having been involved in it.
It’s product, like every other magazine or website out there despite any pretensions of being an authority on its subject, it’s made to sell, but that doesn’t mean there’s not good folk in there. Matt Swaine who brought me in originally was a good lad, Phoebe Smith, now editor of Wanderlust, who I did two of the hardest days on the trail I’ve ever done is passionate about wild places and instantly made my wants list as a post apocalypse team member. More recently Dan Aspel is who has suffered from my oblique approach to scheduling and deadlines, he’s man who loves the mountains and who I’ve enjoyed bantering with but unfortunately never managed out on the hill with. Yet.
“Tell Petesy to stop writing about music and go back to the mountains”. Someone said that to Joycee a few weeks back, someone she didn’t know either, I guess that’s the power and reach of the internet.
It won’t happen overnight, but now I wouldn’t be writing about every trip twice it might encourage me to write my trips up on the blog again. For the blog it has to be done right away, I have to get my thoughts down when I come back, if I leave it too late it’s just a description of where I’ve been and I don’t want to read that kind of shite on here when I’m 70. I want to read about the mistakes, the swearing, the donuts, the song in my head and just how awesome that sunrise is.
Aye. We’ll see.
The always excellent BBC Radio Scotland ‘s Out of Doors have me and fellow Kilpatrick Hills ranger Jo on this weekend talking to Mark Stephen on a walk around the Lang Craigs. Plenty of banter and laughs, we had a great time and the sun shone all day.
Did a piece on the long forgotten hydro scheme at Overtoun for the same show as well which we’d only recently found out about, lots of clues if you dig around.
Nice to see Mark again and do a show where we’re not sticking it to the national park for extending their bans and byelaws.
Catchup is here.
I really have to remember to bookmark some of the more interesting things I do on here in posts so I don’t forget them.
I’ve done a couple of covers recently, one each for the areas I love the most: music and mountains.
The first is the cover of Moonwalker, the book by Alan Rowan. It’s a fine account of night time ascents, something that I can very readily relate to.
I took the shot on the cover, indeed that’s also me in it the shot and it was cleverly adapted to perfectly fit the title by not me.
That’s a black Diamond Raven Ultra in my hand. How sad is it that I remember that.
Next up was something I hadn’t done for a long time, then I got all excited and properly into it. I did the cover for The Red Eyes EP, out now and very good indeed – old school punk with better musicianship, songwriting and production.
Main man (and old school pal) Alan described what he wanted and I did my best to make it. I did it from scratch too, I made the old-looking paper by crushing and dying white paper and everything else there is either hand drawn or placed onto the paper as it’s a single photie.
It was fun and I was so pleased when the band liked it and used it.
Making stuff is fun.
My latest Walkhighlands review is live here. I suppose it might look like I was doing a stunt of some sort, but I’ve been doing this stuff too long to even try any of that fancy shite these days so what it is is a straightforward account of a night in an emergency shelter.
I did learn some new stuff doing it and one thing that’s been in my head since then is that I’ve now spend the night in a £20 shelter and a £1200 tent in recent times and the difference between the experiences isn’t as big as the price gulf would suggest.
I did have a fine day to wake up to and this is the view I got when I sat up.
Here’s the decent enough kip area and my kit, that down gear really isn’t as straightforward as it looks. Detail in the article.
The Fanatic beanie is cut from Polartec Powerstretch and has been on my head or in my pocket on almost every trip for along time. It’s slightly oversized so it can be pulled down right over my ears and cover the back of my neck or pulled up where the fabric helps it sit like a normal beanie with an optional wee sticky up peak at the crown of my napper if I’m in the mood.
The fabric is excellent, it’s a top-end polyamide faced grade of Powerstretch so bobble resistance is excellent with regular wear and washing. It wicks fast, it dries fast, it has a little wind resistance and has the right amount of warmth for winter days and summer summit camps.
The best thing about it is I can sleep soundly in my tent at minus whatever degC while wearing it as it doesn’t itch or pull at my hair or make me too sweaty and the like.
I like peaked caps, they keep the sun out of my eyes, the rain off my glasses and the sun of my thinner than it used to be hair as well as giving a proper shape to some of those floppy hoods you get on test jackets.
The Equator comes in baseball cap flavour with a stretchy headband for one size fits all, a very stiff peak to ward off the wind and wet and its cut from a light softshell Flexable fabric which breathes and dries well and gives a close grippy but not compressy (I can’t of another word, so that one says what I want to say) fit which also means that the winds doesn’t easily pluck the cap off my heid when the wind gets under that peak. There’s reflective detailing to spoil your night time selfies too.
Maybe not vital kit, but it’s nice to know that thought and effort goes into producing genuinely usable bits of gear of a sort that we all suspect is really just a way of getting a brands logo onto somebody.
The Weather Warriors have been top of the list on cool or cold days for along time and have been through the washing machine pretty regularly as you can see in the photie.
After washing I’ve been pleased to discover that they return to shape very well and the looped inner surface is still bouncing back despite racking up the miles. The same applies to the end of the day when I pull them off my feet in the tent; they retain their shape well, meaning they keep their comfort the next day. There is nothing worse than damp shapeless socks the next morning, the make your boots feel like they’re someone else’s.
They dry fast, they wick very fast and do seem to keep my feet dry on the move even in winter boots, something that usually fills me with dread as I just think of hot spots, toe nails falling off and the years of anguish before I went back to bendy footwear.
The Weather Warriors are a rare breed for me in that I don’t carry spares when I wear them on an overnighter because they do dry completely if I leave them inside my sleeping bag and don’t smell for a few days.
However, I just got a new set and they took the little pull tabs at the top off. Aw, man.
The Xenon got a little lost in amongst the other Rab jackets that came in for my recent Walkhighlands reviews as they all looked a little better featured and for want of a less patronising expression, a bit more technical. However, the light weight, small pack size and rather fetching non-primary colour of the Xenon has seen it jammed into a rucksack or behind the drivers seat of the retro truck regularly as well as pulled on when just nipping out to the shops or up to 300m in the Kilpatricks to check a deer fence in the snow. It’s got an unassuming simple and accessible design that works just nice.
The spec is just what you’d want with Pertex Quantum inside and out for low weight, softness and decent weather resistance with 60g Primaloft One inside for a good level of heat retention and excellent compressibility – all for 352g in this size large.
There are two deep handwarmer pockets which meet in the middle, in an almost but not quite pouch fashion, a zipped chest pocket and a two-way main zip so you can keep the neck sealed to keep out the wind but still vent your core. It sounds faffy and pointless, but it works. The neck is fleece lined and the fit is slim-ish making it a good call as a winter midlayer if you feel the cold or want to layer up warm under a shell at camp. Should be a good summer camp jumper too.
Aye, it is a jumper and there’s nothing wrong with that.
30 years of bad experience with boots has seen me spend most of my hill time in trail shoes the past few years but now and again I get sent boots that don’t have me reaching for the Compeeds.
The Transalpina’s are a beefy fabric and suede boot at 1425g for a pair of UK9’s, there’s enough stiffness in the upper and the sole unit for me to wear Kahtoola and Hillsound spikes or lightweight crampons which has been handy especially up the Kilpatricks. But there’s still enough flex for my ankles to move and for me to have a natural walking gait, something I don’t find overly much.
The flex at the ankle works with a decent flex point at the toe so I can put miles in without getting achy. The heel cup is well shaped for my feet, fitted but not too neat. From the box the Transalpina’s caused me no grief and I’ve had no hot spots from heel lift.
The tongue is well shaped and padded enough just enough, I can pull the laces right in to get a good fit and I don’t feel any pressure or get sore spots after hours of wearing even in thinner socks. The Vibram outsole has decent grip although the lack of a heel counter can make muddy descents a little more sketchy to get the heart rate up.
The heel area is well supported and protected by an external plastic frame which lets me thoughtlessly stride into rocky or rough ground. I think this plastic frame has added to the longevity of the boots as although the suede is getting worn and shiny, the plastic is taking the hits first and it’s staying in good shape.
The upper is mostly suede but there’s enough fabric panels to let some of the sweat out a little quicker through the Gore-Tex membrane and the boots aren’t too hot or humid at all.
However that same Gore-Tex membrane is no less fragile than the ones fitted to any other pair of boots and both boots are now letting in a little at the toe flex point. It’s only a problem when my feet are submerged like when on a bog trot, but the day they finally cure this problem that will likely affect every well used Gore-Tex lined boot at some point will be a happy day for us all.
I know fit is a very subjective thing, these boots won’t fit everyone, but my feet are very suspicious of boots and it’s actually all being going well.
Winter came back with admirable enthusiasm today. Glad about that, we didn’t have time to finish our conversation that last time.
Intelligent, articulate and funny. When I was young he was just Spock, but as Leonard Nimoy it turned out he was just as good.
Thanks and goodbye.
I have seen and indeed taken a lot of photies of mountains and the one that has always caught my imagination the most is Fay Godwin‘s Meall Mor.
It’s a familiar sight as you travel west through Glen Coe and this shot captures the hill looking dramatic beyond its height. It’s also now historical as the road layout and markings changed long ago and the original visitor centre can be spied to the right by the trees.
I liked the old visitor centre, but what the hell do I know.
Unlike many outdoor shots it puts me right there beside the camera and that’s why I like having it around, it’s the only mountain photie I have on a wall at home.
I often wonder how long she waiting for the cloud behind her to line up just right to get the foreground in the shade or it she pulled over and ran out with the camera because it just right when she was passing.
Her stuff is wonderful and should be sought out and viewed by all.
Not so long ago I was all excited about a GPS watch which was super accurate and dead useful. Fast forward to now and on every trip to the hills there’s a queue of kit waiting to get charged in the truck on the way there – watch, headtorch, phone, iPod, battery charger for all the above… I’m actually a bit fed up with it all.
So when I got asked to review an Elliot Brown watch I started to see the possibilities of simple time keeping once again.
It’s not light, but it’s a tough bugger both externally and internally and essentially waterproof for what I’ll be doing with it. The big size made me think I’d made a mistake but ten minutes later it felt quite at home on my wrist and I’ve hardly had it back off the past couple of months.
The big face makes for great visibility, even without my glasses on and the webbing strap is comfy and looks to be wearing well.
More on this later, but the simplicity has made this an instant friendly face.
I was meant to be somewhere else but the retro truck couldn’t hack the road and the day was bleeding away into the fresh snow.
Ooh, what a horrible analogy.
Anyway, the Arrochar Alps saved the day once again. The car parks were full, the tops teeming with life, but a few folks always head for the “other” places and I joined them.
The week’s ran away from me a wee bit. But it has been punctuated by a bunch of colourful moments.
Winter’s been late arriving down here where all the people are, but it’s making up for it.
Visiting the Lang Craigs in the truck bridges the gap between down there and up there and it’s those rear wheels that need spikes, not my feet.