One knee in the mud

Dalmuir Park fireworks is where we always end up, it’s usually very good and I can’t remember a night where it wasn’t clear and cold for the display.
Tonight it was pissing down and as they counted down to launch I swear it got defiantly heavier.
However, due to the power of positive thinking, or a rising cloud of ned sweat, or tory cuts affecting weather reliability, the rain fizzled out until the end of the display.
Nice.

Peter Hutchinson

Peter Hutchinson, founder of Mountain Equipment and PHD died aged 81 on Friday last week.

PHD had been very much on my mind last week. I’d been using two of the sleeping bags and other bits and pieces last week as I work on a long overdue review and then the winter sale post popped up on Facebook, complete with a purple Yukon jacket which had to be commented on of course. Then the news of Peter’s passing.
I only met Peter once when Phil and I went down to the factory for a visit. I was struck by the no nonsense, practicality of the man and the company as well as a joyful geekiness in his approach to the gear they made. He and Peter Elliott made a great double act and it was enlightening, educational and best of all, fun.

A workshop in a Victorian mill seemed the perfect place to find Peter and it took me back to my early years spent in similar environments where I watched blokes of a certain age weaving magic out of nothing. Steel stock or goose down, doesn’t matter, apply imagination and skill to either and I still think it’s a kind of magic when something good comes out the other side.

PHD has been a constant in my life for ten years or so and it’s part of a handful of elements that have made all the things I’ve done in the mountains not only more enjoyable that they might have been otherwise, but just possible. That’s thinking at work, not marketing.
Here’s to Peter and his generation of fellow innovators, the ones that did it all first.

Where the hell are you going? Said Gus, visibly amused.

Still this photie.

We were going to meet in the middle, the middle of a sort anyway, Loch Tay is sort of the middle, a middle which is probably anything south of the Great Glen.
A quick run up to the ridge, a camp by that big lochan and a jog back down and back to reality before we were missed.
However I was missed before I even headed north and had to visit some broken museum heating. I was already packed, I was ready, prepaired and repaired (old Laser Comp had been sewn) and oh my god, it was still late when I left.

Gus was in the same boat, that is a rudderless boat full of gear and running late. I got to the NTS car park on the road over the pass to Glen Lyon first.
The cloud was broken but moving pretty fast and it was cold when I opened and then quickly shut the door. Nice bit of snow, nice to actually see it face to face after a weekend of seeing it all on facebook.
“I have arrived” read my message. After a wee gap, he was driving after all, a lovely picture of a unicorn and a rainbow came through from Gus.
I appreciated this effort and mulled over it’s meaning before another attempt came through pretty quickly, “Grandtully!” this read. Not too far away then, back to worrying about the implications of the unicorn while I waited.

Soon enough there was banter and prepping in the car park, we were losing the light, but what the hell.

We wandered up the road, the sun already behind the ridges tumbling south from the Tarmachan Ridge. Showers roaming around but stayed away from us until we were higher and in the darkness.
Showers are just minging inconveniences at sea level, with a bit of height it’s like watching a dancer swish across the landscape, the layered skirts of rain or snow flowing softly across the hillsides. When the dancer turns your way though the spell breaks and it’s hoods up, get a move on. And we did.

Met some familiar faces on the way up, the NTS Path Repair Team. I’d interviewed the team back in July for the current members magazine and having a catch up was perfect for a companion piece that I’ll do on here.
Last time was on one of the hottest days of the year, now they’re in snow and rain with mud up to their necks. Heroes.

Meall nan Tarmachan gets pretty steep towards the top and we got wind driven snow, or it was more like micro hailstones I should say, to sting the cheeks and confuse the mind.
We’d rushed a bit and I was tired anyway, plus hungry and when we got to the ridge I confidently matched off towards the crags over the reservoir with Gus rightly saying “Er, no…”.

Turning round took us in the right direction. Jagged edged white shapes flashing in and out of sight as we trudged on through the dark. It felt further than the map suggested, that’s the hunger factor at work.
Been a wee while since I was in this situation, at 1000m at night in winter conditions looking for somewhere to sleep. It felt right, it felt good, it felt normal.

It helped that I was very comfy and warm. I was just right, even though I had a bunch of new kit on. I hadn’t sweated myself into a state or blistered into a stumble.
The ground slipped away to the north, this looked like it, the big lochan was down there, not too far. We found it, it was the big flat part with snow on it. Hmm, looks frozen.
Clang
Hmm, that’s very frozen.

“How much water you got?”
Er, a litre I think?
“Make it last…”

I could pitch this old  tent blindfolded and home was soon ready for residence with mat fattened and bags quietly lofting.
We made a cooking shelf on the bank behind us and the sound of gas burners cut through the unexpected silence as dinner bubbled ever closer.
Boiled in the bag chicken tikka, McK oatcakes and a wee Cabernet Sauvignon as the clouds cleared and stars twinkled above us ever so briefly.

This, I like this.

There was no night time ridge exploring, the lochan was circumnavigated to an extent, just enough to discover we’d found the best spot.
It got colder, the weather closed in and the only option was bed.

I was warm, in my old winter set up of PHD combi and liner, I was warm. I watched the frost grow up the inside of the tent as I kicked my socks off inside the bag.
In the early hours I actually woke up and had to pull down the liner bag as the temperature shot up, I lay there breathing in the cool air as the wind picked up and the tent started to shake. The spattering sound of frozen precipitation cut through the music in my earbuds. The temperature dropped again, I cooried in to my fat down layers as the red LED light showed the tent moving above me.
This old red flysheet had seen far worse than this, I didn’t give it a thought. Torch back off, I shut my eyes and nudged the volume up a little.

It was bright, not sunshine bright, diffused bright. It was half 7 or so, no way we were getting anything dramatic to look at over that ridge which was confirmed with a peer under the flysheet. A couple of inches of fresh snow had fallen and we were still in the clouds that had brought it.

Muffled coughing confirmed Gus was up too. Breakfast was now a priority, porridge and coffee. I had some water left and plenty fresh snow around to waste gas melting in the pot. The day was saved.

It was cold, but we were fine. A hot breakfast at camp is vital for me, it’s psychological as well as physical, I feel ready, even if that fades during the first steps of ascent after breaking camp, at least I started fresh.
We stayed for a while, one more cuppa is always welcome. Our patience was repaid with a few patches of blue sky and ever so brief views across to Meall Ghaordaidh and Glen Lyon. Never had views on the Tarmachan Ridge, this is the closest I’ve got I think. Ah well.

The creatures whose eyes we saw shining back at us and whose cries we heard in the night left its mark on the lochan’s fresh snow, not on us I’m glad to report.

We packed, wrapped up and headed for Meall Garbh. It was windy with a bit of snow carried in the gusts, fresh I would say.
That was as far as we went as we suspected would be the case. It looked awesome that narrow stretch heading west from the top, but not in big packs with a dump of fresh powder on it.

Back we went but this time we could at least see more than out pools of light. It’s proper winter and I wasn’t expecting that. Just awesome.

Under the cloud we saw colours again and the world was still there, just like we’d left it, maybe just with a lower snow line since the day before.
We met the paths team again, getting ready for lunch hiding in the helicopter rubble sacks for shelter. Really.

The plan was to grab some water at the burn and cook something hot at the car park, but it started raining and that idea soon washed away.
Dry t-shirts and socks and we were Killin bound.

Reading menus and peering through windows brought no transpiration until we got to the Falls of Dochart Inn over the bridge where a log fire and Halloweeen pumpkins had us pulling back chairs without hesitation.
The haggis was a joy as my cheeks burned and my suddenly gritty eyes looked ahead at the drive home.

A little bit #microadventure, a little bit hanging out with a china, all of it joy. New gear too, get around to that soon.

Lost Sector

I wonder how much of our time spent pursuing a passion is trying to find that feeling we had the first time we did it, saw it, felt it… ate it?

Familiarity has never taken the wow moments away from anything I love, the grin is always as wide when I hit that first chord, the giggling at the colours when the sun sets is just as giddy.

But it can never be the first time again, can it?

Maybe it’s a product of age, but I get flashbacks of a sort, moments of time travel where then and now meet and I swear I can feel “it”, whatever that may be.

This photie gives me “it”. I took it on Tuesday morning. The ridge had been hidden by darkness or cloud until the descent and now I couldn’t take my eyes off it on the way down. The nights’ fresh snow had given it a texture and a glow that went beyond pretty. I was partly, I dunno, 20 or 30 years ago, swinging Grivel climbing axes with enthusiastic incompetence with heels shredded in rigid boots as well as 21st Century Schizoid Man needing a hot lunch.

They say smells have the strongest memory triggers. Nah, these folk have never spent a lifetime in the mountains.

The joy and the melancholy mixed together in that moment was a strong brew indeed.

If I keep getting those moments, I am alive, obviously, but I’m still me too. As strange as that might sound, it’s good to know.

The bits inbetween

I’ve sort of gotten into the way of carrying a camera again, but I still find myself without it when I’m in places I could have been pointing it and pressing GO optimistically.
The phone saves the moments as best as it can, which is fine when it’s bright and clear, but why Sony of all people can’t make a decent low light camera for their current phones I don’t understand.

So, I get some wacky stuff that looks borderline psychedelic or animation still. I can live with that.

This one of Holly reminds me of something, movie poster or book cover that might have been briefly visible around the place a few years back?
Kilpatricks in the dark, love it.

Low tide at the beach is magic in the winter months.

The keys though, is it a youth culture thing, a remembrance thing? I kinda like not knowing the answers sometimes.

Camera strap in there. Ha.

I’m more of a kid that Holly is. She has advanced vocabulary* and uses it to put me in my place while I just laugh and do stupid voices to get her to keep running up and down in front of the old railway arch lights.

*Direct quote from teacher, I am proud. Proud.

 

No Photography Allowed

A wee spin out for lunch turned into a longer galavant. It’s often the way of it.

The big surprise was Kilchurn Castle being unlocked and accessible which I hadn’t been for years when we’d been here. There’s some closed areas, some fenced off bits and works are a little half heartedly underway. It’s a great place, I hope they fix it rather than forget it because it just exists and does not pay for itself.

Not far away is Strone Hill, a compact and very pretty forest walk. Two loops with benches by a burn, a waterfall and ancient spirits manifesting through the moss.
We’re suckers for these things, park, run, whoop and make up a story on the way back to the truck.

The most “Scottish” thing about this trip was this coo. Well, not so much the coo itself, but the story woven around it.

The big beastie is sitting on the path the Kilchurn Castle, it’s obviously where it hangs out when it’s not walking around slowly looking vacant.
However, after stepping over its tail, we were greeted by this first sign.

Then this one, because you totally took the first one on board.

Then there’s this one so they can find you and kill you for taking photies of the coo and not paying.

And then for bonus fun there’s the barbed wire protecting the photography business’s garden shed.

This whole thing is annoying and kinda distasteful. Normally I can just think “Fannies…” and wander on, but this all grated on me a bit.

Welcome to Scotland.

Highland Wildlife Park

We love alpacas and llamas. who knew that we could add vicunas to that wee list? It was one the surprises on our trip to the Highland Wildlife Park.

With broken truck suspension courtesy of the A82 and the lure of Ben Cruachan, we left for the A9 in Granny’s wee VW. I will say it has a better stereo, but that’s as far as I’ll go.
We got to Kingussie early but the park was already busy, we were straight into the overflow car park. Scotland used to shut in the autumn, these signs of life were unexpected. I soon learned it was polar cub related, but whatever the novelty, it’s nice to see stuff open and being visited.

We needed food more than anything else and the track from where we parked the motor went straight past the monkeys to the in-house cafe. This was disappointing though, it’s a – remove from the packet, heat and serve – affair. Friendly enough but just, well, rubbish.
If we’d walked just a little further we’d have seen the snack van with home made stovies in the main car park and went there instead.

Dammit.

Still, we were at the park long enough to need refueled and went to the van later and had chips at a picnic bench in the passing swish of sunshine. But there was a lot of other stuff before that…

When the tigers run you can feel the vibrations through the ground, but the paw prints smeared down the glass kinda confirmed that this isn’t a static exhibit, for all their vulnerability in the wider view, these beautiful creatures are missiles of muscle and teeth wrapped in a fur coat.

It’s quite a place this, on the fringes of the Cairngorms on a hillside which has views to inspire and crags within it big enough for the snow leopards to climb, play and hide if they want to.
Here’s a thing, you might not see what you came for, the animals aren’t poked and prodded into view, my lack of good photies of the inhabitants is evidence of that.
We were lucky and had feeding time at the Snow Leopard, but it was made into a problem solving exercise rather than just throwing them a bone. Fast and smooth, they leapt from ground the treetop and away again before I could point and click as I was still oohing and aahing.
Those big tails too. Beautiful.

The big draw is the polar bear cub. The birth was a special event, it doesn’t happen too much and any doubts I had that it was going to be a circus style sideshow slipped away when we saw the mum and cub at play in the water. Magical, mesmerising and muddy. You can’t fake fun like that.
The video shows an unannounced snack break and those voices aren’t ours.

I wonder what the future holds for these wonderful cuddly monsters.

Concentrate, you’re in the bear’s den… Close your eyes, hear the bear, feel the bear, be the bear….

The the residents all seem suited to the terrain and climate here, I suppose the clue is in the name of the place. I wonder how the horrific summer was for them, I wonder how the winter before it was? Got to come back in winter.

We love wolves and Holly’s never seen one. She was so excited going into the forest and when she got to see them it was kind of an emotional moment for both of us.
It’s fairy tales come to life, it’s a legend walking into reality on four carefully placed and silent paws.

The pups played, hiding the bones the grown ups were chewing when they got the chance to steal them. They were calm and lazy in the autumn sunshine, but those skinny bodies with the plush looking fur have weightlifter shoulders and necks with a face full of long sharp teeth. But here’s the thing, the eyes of a poet and dreamer too?
Magnificent creatures.

They have a wood to hide in so you might not see them. the viewing platform is raised out of their eyeline which is clever, they can be close to you but you’re not intruding too much.

I think it’s all about balance. My memories of animals and zoos from the 70’s is the cliche of them being knee deep in their own shite in a tiny enclosure. We are a world away from that now and I hope we never go too far and give into those who would ban animal captivity altogether.
As much as all these wonderful beast should be free, if we are to connect to them as living beings rather than seeing just a cute face attached to a television appeal I think we have to really see them, be near them, we have to know that they are real, living beings that we have to help and protect.
Me and Holly were inspired by being so close, it reaches right into the heart and soul. I really think that contact makes the difference between disposable pity and enduring empathy when you see another telly story about shrinking ice caps or bulldozed habitat.

We were the last round the safari drive part. We had to run to catch it before they shut the gate. the ranger was never far away, I think those brushes were to shoo us if we got too slow.

All day we spent here, so many wonderful burds and beasts. Loved it.

Yes, of course we went to the gift shop. Have you seen our plush polar bear cub?

It would have been rude not to visit Ruthven Barracks on the way back. Holly had never been and it’s been years since I’d last been.
So exposed here and still in such good nick.
We ran around reenacting an instantly made up story. The poor sod below had no idea he’d been cast as a plague victim and was about to be crushed by a loose stone from the parapet above. Well, if we’d have got up there in time.

Freezing though, winter is coming in 5… 4… 3…

And the Bands Played On

I love it. I’ve had a beanie on, I’ve had gloves on.
I’ve spent as much time looking down as I have up, so much going on around the woodland floor.
The colours and the smells, the bite in the early morning air.

I can hear the wind right now, the clouds are moving fast across the bright blue on the other side of the river and I’m wheel-less looking at it, still waiting for the new suspension parts to arrive for the truck. Mountaineering is indeed hazardous, broke the suspension on the way to Ben Cruachan last week.

Might have to head to the Kilpatricks, just in case like.

After lunch. I mean, priorities.

RSPB Loch Lomond

The weather was a bit crap on Sunday morning and we were lounging around with snacks and Steven Universe reruns.
“Want to go out?” I asked halfheartedly.
Nah, I’m good.

However, the window seemed to be getting brighter. Hmm, look… ?
Hmm, maybe…
I pulled up the map on my phone. Where could we go wasn’t the question, where haven’t we been was the tricky thing. Every quickly accessible track and trail has been well worn by us in recent times.
“Here, what about the RSPB thing at Gartocharn, burds an’ that? We’ve actually never been.”
A flurry of thrown pyjamas, a filling of water bottles and we were on the road.

In my mind I’d assumed their car park was a muddy layby that the truck would get stuck in, but to our surprise there’s a nice car park not too far from the main road with a wooden ranger station and a pop up marquee complete with a ranger and a volunteer ready to greet us.
We stopped for banter and information. Holly signed up once again having lapsed for a year and immediately found herself with arms full of RSPB stuff, which I later discovered is all really rather useful and interesting.

Armed with a leaf checklist and a big marker, we headed onto the first trail, detouring into the den building area first of course. This was a theme through the site, get involved, reach out and touch, leave the path, all messages that visitors might find unusual and it shows how things are changing for the better, “Keep off the Grass” is definitely a thing of the past.

The little trail reaches a lookout point that’s in the photie right at the top, a plywood hut that frames the view, will no doubt shelter a pensioner or two and provide kids with hide and seek opportunities.
The view is outstanding of course looking north to the Loch, Conic Hill, Ben Lomond and beyond, But it’s all a little far away. Some folks will love that, it just makes me want to get closer, and you can do that if you want to. The RSPB site extends right down to the lochside and it’s just asking to be explored.
We weren’t kitted out for that and it was getting late, the ranger station was locked by the time we got back, but we’ll be back sooner rather than later.

There’s some dry stone stumps here and there and some beautifully carved benches as well as some hidden sculptures in the woods, just keep your eyes open.
The signage is home made feeling, very unpretentious which I like. Everything feels new and shiny, the structures and the path, but it’s not obtrusive and it’ll weather quickly here.

The little pond had Holly whooping with joy as she ran out on the boardwalk. You can kneel and pond dip with bug identifiers posted nearby and there’s open edges by the water, they’re relying on people to get it right. I absolutely love that attitude.

We sat in the little shelter and had lunch. We did indeed see some of the creatures on the guide, in fact that really is another theme here. The place is bursting with life.
Birds swoop down to a feeder by the hut, all colours and shapes, songs in every key. You really could just sit here and spend your time just sitting.

It was getting grey again and was that a few spots of rain? But we headed into the open country to see what was doing and within a couple of minutes you’ve left the path and huts behind and your in the wilds. All it really takes is a step or two off the surfaced path, do it people, you’ll love it.

A little group of trees had the wackiest fungal infection I’ve seen with this clump home to some spiders. Just so sci-fi.
The ground dweller below was colourful but likely deadly? I might be a Woodland Trust ranger, but I do the fence, don’t ask me about the greenery.

This longer loop through the woods and past the pond is excellent, accessible and atmospheric, it subtlety feeds you the feeling of the wilds and lets you escape to them if you just step off that path.

We loved it. The short trails will be great for folks looking for their country park fix, but I think it’ll plant a seed of wanting more, because of where it is and how they’ve set it up. For us though, the possibilities for going further are actually kinda exciting. Rucksacks packed for next time.

I’ll tell you though, we never did find a chessie tree, I think it’s a trick question on the checklist so you can’t win the prize.

Obōz Sawtooth Low Review

Obōz were a new brand to me earlier in the year and I took the Sawtooth Low’s on test.
They’re somewhere between a trail shoe and that horrible old designation, an approach shoe. This just means I wouldn’t want to run in them, but everything else is fine. They’re chunky, but the exactly 900g for a UK9 doesn’t offend me at all and they feel light on my feet.

The fit out of the box cast my mind wistfully back to the days of Montrail before Columbia ransacked them for their intellectual properties. Tight heel cup, stiff under the heel and a wide forefoot with good flex. That was pretty much my perfect shoe right there.
However, over time the heel cup has stretched out quite a bit and I have to watch for that over longer distances in case I get a hot spot from heel movement as the laces slacken off over the miles. It’s a bit of a shame really, while not a show stopper, it’s limiting the use of the Sawtooths now to wee hills, Lang Craigs kickabouts and general gadding about.

The Sawtooth soles are decent, chunky enough and grippy even as we started to finally get some wet conditions underfoot. The rubber seems to be middle ground, not so soft that it’s wearing out fast and not to hard to grip, so longevity seems likely.
The sole is chunky at the sides which works well as it protects all that fancy stitching on the upper from a good bit of abrasion.

One thing though is the heel. It’s very rounded which is brillinat for walking your steps just curve gently into the ground on ever footfall, but try and dig your heel in on a steep descent and there’s nothing there to catch you.
I’ve had this design on plenty footwear over the years and it’s a trade off which works fine as long as you adjust yourself accordingly.

The Sawtooth’s upper are light and flexible with plenty mesh around the suede for letting the water back out and letting my feet dry off. The tongue is padded just right and the lacing is smooth and comfortable, not had a single rub under the laces, even if I’ve been pulling the laces up a bit more since the heels have slackened off a bit.

Obōz have stuck in a decent footbed which I’ve never changed. It’s the right volume, has kept it’s shape, doesn’t trap water and sits there and does it’s job. Easy to just stick in a throwaway cardboard foot shape these days.
There’s a nice toe bumper, protective but not overly stiff, although the sole is starting to peel off both shoes there a little now, we’ll see how that goes.

I’ve worn the Obōz Sawtooth Low’s for a few months now, as much with jeans as with outdoor gear. They have a user friendly feel which you don’t often get from pretentious lightweight trail shoes.
I like the Sawtooth’s and although the heel stretch was a disappointment, it just put them into a different category of use for me. I had them on yesterday as the RSPB site at Loch Lomond but no more Munro’s for them and that’s fine, I’ll still be wearing these until they come apart.

I cast an eye across Google shopping and these non waterproof versions (the only one worth considering of course) are going for £60 to £70 on average and that’s pretty good.

GUNSHIP

I was a teenager in the 80’s so I know what it was really like, in those ten years I went from child to man (ish…). It wasn’t a straight line between the two either and I still remember so much of it.
’80 was a big deal, the future was here and I was ready for it with one hand slowly letting go of my Hornby train set controller and the other hand on a leather jacket putting badges on the lapel. By ’81 I was going to the Glasgow Apollo and I was set in a new direction which I’ve never strayed from: music.
In ’83 there were suddenly girls, practical rather than theoretical. ’84 I got my first electric guitar. The next two years were a scrabble for a plan for my future but having discovered girls and guitars I blew it and left school wondering what to do next.
Still, by the end of the decade I was an engineer and had hair down past my waist.
And a 32″ waist. Oof.

All through this, what folk now call “The 80’s” was happening around me at arms length. The horrendous fashion and the universal neon highlights didn’t come anywhere near me but the sound of synthesizers was never far away if you were a movie fan and in the very early 80’s synths were still a bit counter culture and unusual in popular music. Their initial other worldliness softened as new wave absorbed them into regular pop and their voice became as unremarkable as a distorted guitar had become.

So when 80’s cultural references became increasingly popular I was a little dismissive, I remember Reagan, Thatcher and the birth of AIDS as much as anything from that time and I wasn’t a fan of Miami Vice. There wasn’t much in a revival for me, the music I loved back then is mostly still alive and well.
This attitude persisted until Stranger Things gripped me and didn’t let go. Googling the composers of the soundtrack started a chain of events thanks to the hardcore spying techniques used by the popular search engine and led me discover what is called synthwave by some – new artists making new music inspired by the sounds of the 80’s.

A lot of it just sounds like Jan Hammer or Tangerine Dream but one band has shone bright and pink out of the crowd for me, GUNSHIP. They write songs, not soundtrack pieces and the vocals bring the retro synth sounds alive. With a fat modern production and an ocean of analogue tones their debut album has been my favourite music for months.
There’s lots of cues from the past in their songs, but they still sound fresh, not recycled in any way. Their videos are brilliant too, plenty of cultural reference liberties taken with style and humour.

It’s so rare for me to find new music I really love, but GUNSHIP have done it for me and I have preordered a signed copy of the second album.
Hey, I’m not 50 just yet, so what the hell.

 

Tilley LTM6 Airflo Multicam Review

I like hats in general, but in the outdoors I feel odd without one. They keep the sun off my skin and out of my eyes, they slow down the sweat heading for my eyebrows, they compensate for poor hood design and they give me a handy bowl to drop in my keys and change.
Most importantly, a hat on me is like a picture hanging on a magnolia painted wall, it takes the bare look off me.

I like wide brims, it’s a sun and rain repeller, hats aren’t just for summer. I’ve spent years with cheapo bush hats from ebay and army surplus and at the same time always tried on Tilleys in the shops but found them both expensive and frankly, a bit dull. So my wallet played safe.
When I got the press release about this new airflo vented design and saw it also in came in the nice camo, it was a chance to see what the score was.

I read the instructions on the website, I measured my head and went for one size up from what I go for in Kromer welding caps, 7 1/2. When it arrived it fitted okay but as I wore it, it slackened off a little and I did think I’d got it wrong. Because although it says the hat shrinks a little in the wash, and bravely advises you to wash it often, I always think these statements are an exercise in arse covering, so they can say “we warned you” when someone boil washes and tumble dries their hat down to a size that only fits the teddy bear sitting on the chair in their bedroom (not from experience before you ask, totally random scenario).
However, after a couple of days of heavy sweating I washed it. When dry I pulled it on and it was perfect, size 7 3/8 perfect. It sat securely but not tightly just above my ears.
Since then it’s been worn almost daily and washed maybe every couple of weeks or just when it needs it. It has maintained it’s size and shape perfectly through this, even when crushed or rolled into a rucksack for a couple of days at a time.

The brim will shape to your preference to an extent, if you look at the top photie, that more pronounced front to back curve is me rolling it up at night.

This style has a wider brim that many Tilleys and it’s the one to go for, the extra coverage has been entirely necessary in the is horrendous sunshine we’ve had this summer.
The front and back extent a little further than the sides, capping the gap between hair (what’s left of it) and collar it channels rain away as much as it keeps the sun off.
The wider brim hasn’t been a problem in the wind, it’s flexible enough that the brims deflects and folds in strong gusts and the hat stays on my head.
In constant wind I pull down the lace which I leave loose round my neck as an anchor of sorts, but it tightens in as well if you want that drill instructor look.

You can see the lace below as well as the Airflo vent around the crown. This does works, heat rises out and because the mesh is on the vertical plane, rain doesn’t really get in either.
The fabric SPF is 50+ which I suppose matters on the crown where the fabric is single layer, so a bare scalp is pretty well protected.
The fabric’s water resistant as well, but only to an extent which is actually a good thing. Rain does run off and the fabric doesn’t get saturated so that the brim flops around my face, but it does absorb enough water so that you can dunk it in a burn and get it wet enough so that you can enjoy the cooling evaporation action as you walk.

I have suffered all summer in the +30degC heat we had, but out and about I was cooler in this hat than I was without it, mobile sunshade and aircon.

The inner sweatband is low profile so probably contributes to the size remaining consistent once washed as it won’t crush down over time. It’s smooth and wicks well, there’s been no irritation under heavy sweating at all.
There’s a wee pocket in the crown as you’ll see below, for mini Haribos or something. The hat floats too, just as advertised. I have tried it several times, mostly on purpose.

It’s nylon so it’s tough and it dries fast, it’s very well made indeed too, there’s not a stitch wrong on it. It’s very light at 108g and very packable too, fits into a pocket or rucksack lid. It’s £70…

…and I would pay that for a new one if this one got lost.
Not not even getting one cheek up on the fence here, I absolutely love this hat. It’s been everywhere with me the past few months and it’s instantly vital kit.
What I will say though is get the size right, I made a gamble and it worked out. Get in a shop and try them on.

Aye, get in a shop. Shops, while we still have them.

 

Calvin B Marshall

A ship out of water is a very odd thing. It’s the wring shape, it’s suddenly got a whole other bit at the bottom you never really see.
This summer, lying under it scraping the clatty stuff off the hull was one of the coolest places I found myself.

I did make the mistake of rubbing my face with white spirit to get the layer of bitumen off after the painting was done. For one thing, the diluted bitumen dyed my beard back to it’s original browny colour and when I saw it in the mirror I nearly passed out with the shock.
Next was the deep burning sensation on my face that lasted overnight. What an idiot. I blame the heat.

It’s nearly over.

It was an exciting moment. We lit some candles in the fireplace, the dusty ones that have been neglected for months, sitting randomly on rocks and logs taken from peaks and woods all over this awesome wee country.
It was exciting because it means that the large chrome fan isn’t blowing all the time as the temperature has dropped and that the nights are coming in a little bit earlier every day.
This is good.

I’ve always hated summer. This one didn’t change my perspective. My blood came close to stopping flowing numerous times.

The hills were horrific, I sweated and wheezed up dry tracks and found no joy in it. I abandoned it all as I after have over the years and did other stuff until the good times came back.

It’s not far away now, the trees are tired, there’s gold in those leaves crying to come out, the clouds are dark and full of promise and I can breathe again.

While some evenings out were I hate to say it, near perfect, where the blue skies and the warm rock felt soft rather than angry, I can’t help but think of one message: Autumn, don’t let me down.

Phone In Sick

There are few things better in life that passing on a spark or joy or enthusiasm or interest and watching it catch in someone else.

The school knew of my outdoor stuff, a parallel career of sorts I accidentally fell into about 11 years ago and when it came to World at Work week they asked if I’d talk to some of the classes about it all. I love the school and the folk in it, it would be a privilege and a joy.

I put together a slide show and I was amazed at how much I’ve done over the years and how varied it’s been. It was easy to put a wee talk together.
Every frame on the screen was a story, an explanation, a joke and possibly a practical demonstration too.

I had the kids as base camp, expedition and summiteers. Their task was to make camp and get their leader to the top. All with a ten second timer on the camera to get the summit shot.
This meant a tent, bag and mat, stove, sarcastically warm down jacket and an ice axe. It also meant moving furniture, we piled chairs and tables and all the classes soon has a mountain to climb. Some summits were on the teachers desks, some were on a cupboard. All were conquered, with a photo to prove it.

I did a couple of classes in the morning and it went so well I ended up staying all day and getting round most of the school. The kids were brilliant, they were interested, full of questions and ideas and I had a total blast.
We broke a pole on the tent and they had to fix it, I let them do it and they made a splint with pencils and tape. It worked fine and it held through two other classes pitching it.
They were wielding an ice axe without rubber or tape on it, I said it was sharp and they were all careful, even the ones climbing the furniture with it to take the summit photie. Kids are young, not daft.

It was funny in Holly’s class, they had no idea that she goes into the hills and the photies of us in action got a good reaction.
Best of all for me though, they all listened. I talked for an hour per class and they never tuned out once.

I think it did me good too. Seeing what I’ve done and explaining the why and how attached to it made me realise how much knowledge and experience I’ve got filed away in my head. I don’t exploit it nearly enough. Just need to acquire some discipline and application to mix in with it.

A fantastic day.