Thursday 1 March 2012

Winter Lost, Revisiting Glen Feshie

Eight days after my wintry camping trip to Glen Feshie and Mullach Clach a'Bhlair I returned to the area again with a companion up from the south who wanted to camp wild and climb a new Munro. As he'd already climbed Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui and we only had around 24 hours Mullach Clach a'Bhlair seemed a good choice. This time, due to a latish start, we walked up the glen and camped and then climbed the hill, which ensured we weren't making camp in the dark. The forecast was for mild, cloudy and windy weather. The thaw that had begun the morning of my previous trip had continued all week but I was still surprised at just how much snow had gone. Down in the glen there was none, on the hills just tiny patches. Compare the picture above and the top picture on my blog post of February 21 to see the difference.

Camp made we climbed the Druim nam Bo ridge to Mullach Clach a'Bhlair. Lochan nam Bo, which had been frozen solid the week before, was open water with just one collapsing snow bank above one corner. Higher up there was no snow, just thick damp mist and soft, sodden ground. The summit cairn was sitting in a pool of water. One week of mild south westerly winds and all was changed.

Having tested an unfamiliar tent on the first trip and had a disturbed night due to the wind shaking it I resisted the temptation to take an old trusted tent this time, instead trying a Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar, lent to me by Tony Hobbs. The Trailstar has received praise from many experienced backpackers, including Colin Ibbotson, whose knowledge of shelters and how they perform in Scottish conditions is great (he has designed his own tarps that outperform many tents - see my blog post for July 14, 2009). The Trailstar is a five-sided tarp available in silnylon or Cuben Fibre. Tony's is made from the latter material. Initially I pitched the Trailstar with a high central pole and door for maximum headroom and ease of entry and exit. There was a gusty wind but it wasn't affecting the shelter enough to be of concern. A few hours after I fell asleep the wind strengthened though and woke me as it swept under the edge of the shelter and rattled the fabric above the entrance. This time I could do something about it however. I lowered the central pole and adjusted the pegging round the perimeter so it was at ground level and then lowered the entrance pole. The shelter became quiet and only the odd stray breeze drifted inside. I slept well. Quite impressive.


  1. Colin Ibbotson1 March 2012 at 05:40

    Lucky you having a cuben Trailstar to play with! Not seen one myself yet. How did you find it to pitch? Tony found it a challenge to get drum tight which is something I've not found a problem with the silnylon version. I have MLD's cricket tarp in cuben and silnylon and find the cuben version slightly harder to pitch. A bit of stretch in the fabric gives silnylon the edge here.

  2. Yes, the change has been remarkably swift. I camped in Glen Gairn over the weekend and only a few determined snow patches were clinging on to the north side of the Corbetts there. Ben Avon was a little more white higher up but nevertheless, a very different landscape to that of just a few days earlier. The cuben Trailstar looks very nice in the photos and I guess this time of year (pre-midge) is good for just going with a tarp.

  3. Colin, I did find it a little fiddly to get tight at first. Oddly in the garden I found a 1.2m pitch easier than a 1m one but in Glen Feshie I found the opposite. The lack of stretch means the pitch does have to be precise.I think I'd prefer the silnylon one.

    Nick, yes, no midges yet! Oookworks does a mesh inner for the Trailstar which would make it a year round shelter.

  4. I don't own a Trailstar but another type of pyramid shelter a Duomid, this shelter perform flawless in the Pàramo weather! the only problem is the misting with high humidity but most of the time a couple my duomid with a ID eVent Overbag.

    Is good to read some positive feedback by Chris on MLD products.

    P.D: Excuse my english.

  5. It will be interesting to see how Chris feels after a little use of this. Does it get easier to pitch in various forms.
    Tony Hobbs - yes me ;-)

    PS - not letting me right click to paste in my pbase walks page.

  6. It was Colin's write up that led me to buy the (silnylon)Trailstar in 2010. It is definately the best shelter I've ever had.

    It really can take full blown storms! I used it last year on the TGOC and will be using it again this May.

    I've used an MLD bug bivy - not as good as the Oookworks inner specifically for the Trailstar. But, my preference is still to use a bivy bag with built in headnet.

    I know MLD gear has quite a following in the UK - will you be doing a write up on the Cuben Trailstar for the TGO Mag?

  7. Tony, having pitched it five or six times now it's already easier!

    Gordon, I probably will write it up for TGO. And I may well use a Trailstar on the TGOC this year.

  8. !!!!!!!!!!!!

    As you well know Chris, from the private vids you saw. You may have got better at pitching it.

    Darn evolution went into reverse for me ;-)

    Well, I'm sure that you will be able to point me in the right direction.

    Me :-)