Wednesday, 23 June 2021

A Look At The July Issue Of The Great Outdoors

The July issue of The Great Outdoors is out now. In it I review the Merrell Moab Speed trail shoes, the Fjallraven Abisko Lite Trekking Jacket, and Rollasnax Wild Trail Mix. David Lintern and Lucy Wallace review five multi-day packs each and Lucy also reviews three warm-weather hats. 

Backpacking trips are the theme of the main features in this issue. Ursula Martin describes how the pandemic has affected her 5000 mile walk across Europe which she began in 2018 (and finished since this article was written). David Lintern explores the hills of Flowerdale in the NW Highlands, a feature illustrated, as usual, by his wonderful photos. Down in the Lake District Ronald Turnbull celebrates his 100th summit bivvy and looks back at his favourites. Also travelling light, though with a tarp, is James Forrest as he walks the West Highland Way in three days. And eight participants in this year's TGO Challenge - taking place as I write this - describe their route plans. I hope it's working out well for them all. 

Also in this issue Hanna Lindon investigates what's happening with ViewRanger and Outdoor Active and there's a Q&A with ViewRanger CEO Craig Wareham. Phoebe Smith says we need to talk about class and the outdoors. Jim Perrin looks at Lugnaquilla in the Wicklow Mountains. And as summer begins Helen Barnard, chief instructor at Plas y Brenon, shares tips on coping with hazards of hot weather.


Monday, 21 June 2021

Thoughts After Six Years As A Trustee Of The John Muir Trust

 

At the John Muir Trust AGM last weekend I ended my six year stint as a Trustee (two three-year terms are the maximum at any one time) and I've been thinking back over this time. 

Being a Trustee involves half a dozen or more meetings to attend each year and many, many papers and emails to read and respond to. The Board of Trustees is the governing body of the Trust and has many responsibilities. It's not the details of the meetings or the paperwork that I remember though, it's the dedication and hard work of the Trustees and the staff. As a member for many years I was a firm believer in the aims of the Trust but I have to admit that until I became a Trustee I had no idea of how much work it did or how many people were committed to seeing those aims become reality. 

Whilst much Trustee work is in indoor meetings and sitting at a computer once a year Trustees do visit one of the Trust's propeties each year along with members of staff to see the work of the Trust on the ground. I have great memories of visits to Skye, Quinag, Ben Nevis, and, especially, Helvellyn. I say especially as the decision to take over the management of the Glenridding Estate, which includes the whole eastern side of Helvellyn, was, I think the major one made while I was a Trustee. It was the Trust's first venture into land south of Scotland and thus very significant. I was very much in favour and I'm glad to see that it is working out well - mainly due to the excellent staff the Trust has there. The visit there was to let Trustees see the place for themselves before we took the decision to take it over.

I end my time as a Trustee very impressed with everyone involved in its running and their commitment. I hope I have contributed a little. I am very aware that many have contributed far more. This leaves me hopeful about the future of wild land. I think the Trust is a very important organisation and one I would encourage everyone who loves wild land to join. It's very much needed.

You can see join and support the John Muir Trust here.

The photos show Trustee and staff on visits to Skye, Quinag, Helvellyn and Ben Nevis.





Sunday, 13 June 2021

Gear I've Reviewed For TGO Online This Year

 

Jeans on test!

 

In March last year my online gear column for TGO magazine was suspended due to the pandemic. This year it's returned, though it's not called a column anymore. Here are links to the gear I've reviewed so far. 

 


Patagonia R1 Air Full-Zip Hoody

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Inov-8 Roclite Pro G 400 Gore-Tex Boots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Jetboil Stash Stove System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Land Rover Explore R Outdoor Phone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The North Face Summit Series L3 50/50 Hooded Down Jacket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Osprey Talon Pro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 BAM 73 Zero Denim & DU/ER Performance Denim Jeans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Millican The Smith Roll Pack 25L

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Klattermusen Brimer 24L Pack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Black Diamond Highline Stretch Shell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Merrell Moab Speed Trail Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Rollasnax Wild Trail Mix

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Fjallraven Abisko Lite Trekking Jacket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Columbia Zero Ice Cirro-Cool T-Shirt

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Twenty-five years ago on my Munros & Tops walk

 

On this day in 1996 I climbed the four Munros and one Top in the Arrochar Alps in the Southern Highlands. It was the 24th day of my summer long walk over all the 517 summits listed in Munro's Tables at the time (revisions have since reduced the number to 508). By this day I was well into the walk, having climbed 77 summits and walked 469 miles. The weather had been testing with strong winds and rain almost every day and sleet and hail early on. Only two days had been dry, sunny and calm, one of them the day I'd traversed the Aonach Eagach. I was thankful for that as I hadn't fancied that narrow exposed narrow rocky ridge with its scrambling sections in a big storm. 

The day on the Arrochar Alps was one of the better weather days so far. There was only a little rain and some of the summits were out of the mist. The light however was very flat and dull, making for similar photographs, not that I took many, as I hadn't on previous days. I was saving my precious film for better conditions. With digital I'd have taken photos anyway but that was still many years away. 

That night I camped on a tiny, almost flat patch of dry ground in a very boggy glen. The wind dropped and I could hear a cuckoo calling and a fox yelping. During the night the rain and wind returned, waking me early. As I headed for Ben Lomond I wondered when the weather would change and how long I could tolerate this stormy weather. I still had a long way to go and many hills to climb. 



Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Mountains & lochs: a walk in the NW Highlands

Camp 3. Looking across Lochan Fada to Slioch

Early summer or late spring? The beginning of June in the Highlands it never seems sure. This year, with the month starting with a hot spell, it felt like summer as I set off from Kinlochewe on a four day trip into the splendid wilds of  Letterewe and Fisherfield. Even a fairly strong breeze didn't cool me down or stop sweat soaking my clothes. Across Loch Maree clouds swirled above the Torridon peaks. Lovely woods of oak, birch and more lined the edge of the loch, remnants of a once vast forest. Inside enclosures set up by the Letterewe estate young trees were springing up, a heartening return. Above the trees new bracken was pushing up through the dead brown stalks of last year and I had to search around for an area of grass to pitch my tent.

Camp 1. Above Loch Maree.

From Loch Maree I headed into the hills, at first on a track and then cross-country as I climbed Beinn Lair, a fine hill but one that is little visited and has no paths as it doesn't reach the magical Munro altitude. To the south rose the great rocky west face of Slioch, a Munro I was to circle round and which stood out in many views though I didn't go up it on this trip.

The west face of Slioch

The sky remained cloudy and the wind grew stronger as I traversed long Beinn Lair. I had thought of a high camp but darkening clouds and a few heavy drops of rain suggested a storm, though out west the sun was sending shafts of light through the grey pall, and I decided to descend to the Fionn Loch.

View out to the sea from Beinn Lair

The rain came to nothing and down at the loch the wind had dwindled to barely a flicker. I sat outside the tent late watching the sunset. I thought there might be midges but none appeared. I think it was too dry.

Sunset at the Fionn Loch

The red sky at dusk didn't presage a clearing of the clouds though and at dawn they were still dark and thick. The wind was still light though and the midges still absent. I sat outside for breakfast.

Camp 2. By the Fionn Loch.

Excellent old stalking paths led out of the glen and up stony slopes to the col between Ruadh Stac Mor and A'Mhaighdean, the latter reckoned the remotest Munro. Compared with the day before the walking was easy even though the terrain was steep and rocky. A path makes so much difference. There were other walkers about too. I had seen no one on Beinn Lair. Munros attract.

Ruadh Stac Mor from the slopes of A'Mhaighdean

I had the summit of A'Mhaighdean to myself though. along with a welcome burst of weak sunshine and a thinning of the clouds. The views were superb, rock ridges running out to the sea, lochs glistening between steep mountains that faded away into the hazy distance. 

View from A'Mhaighdean





The rugged rock mountain of A'Mhaighdean vanished as I descended the eastern slopes. On this side wide gentle boggy slopes stretch down to Lochan Fada. A path runs to the col with the next Munro, Beinn Tarsuinn, then it was cross-country down to the lochan (a lochan that is much bigger than many lochs), the hardest walking of the whole day. Paths make such a difference!

Camp 3. Lochan Fada, with Beinn Lair on the left.

I camped on dry grass beside a stony beach. Again there were no midges. It was much colder as the clouds faded away to give a bright dawn with a blud sky. The walking remained tough as I made my way along the pathless north side of Lochan Fada, all bog and tussocks and heather. I was relieved to reach the path at the east end of the loch and take this down Gleann Bianasdail back to Loch Maree. Slioch again dominated the view.

Slioch and Lochan Fada

The clouds rolled in again and twenty minutes before I reached the car it started raining. I didn't mind. I did mind however when the rain stopped just as I walked into the sheltered car park as clouds of midges erupted instantly. This wasn't going to be a midge-free trip after all.


Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Book Review: The Earth Beneath My Feet by Andrew Terrill

Twenty-four years ago Andrew Terrill packed in his job and set out to explore the 'other' Europe, the hidden wild Europe, on a 7,000 mile walk from the southern tip of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea to the Norway's North Cape on the Arctic Ocean. Now he's written the story of this exciting and challenging venture. Just published The Earth Beneath My Feet covers the first eight months of the journey during which the author walks the length of the Apennine mountains and into winter in the Alps. 

I've known about this book since I met Andrew Terrill on my Colorado Rockies walk two years ago. Back then the book wasn't completely finished and he wasn't sure whether to look for a publisher or go down the self-publishing route. He settled on the latter and is selling it through Amazon

Since Andrew first told me about the book I've been looking forward to reading it, having enjoyed his many excellent features in The Great Outdoors over the years. My anticipation was further increased by the praise heaped on the book by editor Alex Roddie who reckoned it one of the best outdoor books he'd read. Now I have a copy I can say that Alex is right. I haven't finished the book yet, in fact I'm not half way through, but so far it is enthralling and intense. Despite the years that have passed Andrew Terrill has captured the excitement and thrill of youth, and the excitement and thrill of setting off on a long walk in wild country. I was immediately drawn into the journey and felt I was there with him as the landscape and people of southern Italy came to life. 

I'll post another review when I finish the book, and undoubtedly one of the second volume, On Sacred Ground, when it comes out. I love stories of long walks - indeed, it was such stories that set me off on my own long walks and my writing - and I have read many over the years. My two favourites haven't changed for decades though - Colin Fletcher's The Man Who Walked Through Time and Hamish Brown's Hamish's Mountain Walk. The Earth Beneath My Feet is up there with them. I now have three favourites. I think this book deserves to be a great success.

Saturday, 29 May 2021

There's still snow in the Cairngorms, but not everywhere.

Looking over Cairn Lochan to Braeriach

This year the end of May sees more snow than most years high in the Cairngorms. On the 28th I went up to see just how much was left. I didn't have any goal in mind - this is all familiar territory. I just wanted to be there for a while.

Fiacaill a' Choire Chais

Bright sunshine was broken by drifting clouds, some quite dark and ominous though no rain fell. The sky was deep blue, the snow shining. The mountains looked peaceful and beautiful. There was a cold south-east wind though and the snow was soft and in places deep, making walking arduous.

Cairn Lochan

The Cairngorm Plateau was mostly white, an unbroken sweep of snow from Cairn Lochan to Ben Macdui. If I was going that way I'd want skis or snowshoes. The deep drifts I crossed on Cairn Gorm itself were hard enough going but none were very extensive. Away from the Plateau the hills were less snowy. It looked as though Bynack More, Beinn Mheadhoin and Derry Cairngorm could all be climbed without crossing much snow.

Beinn Mheadhoin & Derry Cairngorm


View over Loch Avon to Beinn a'Bhuird & Beinn Mheadhoin

On Cairn Gorm summit the snow was thin. It'll be gone soon. The Weather Station, plastered with snow and ice at the end of April (see this post), was metal, stone and wood, steel grey and brown. 

The summit cairn was bare too, and backed by blue sky and ragged clouds. I'm still not used to it, I still miss the old much bigger cairn, though this was torn down many years ago.

Wandering round the summit I stared over the whiteness to Ben Macdui. Maybe there's time to get the skis out again. The snow is thawing fast. But there is an awful lot to thaw.

Ben Macdui

Cairn Toul & Sgor an Lochain Uaine