Monday 31 October 2016

OWPG Awards for Out There and a feature on Hydration

Whilst I was away on my recent walk the Outdoor Writers And Photographers Guild announced their annual awards and I'm delighted to find that I won two of them - for my book Out There and for a feature on Hydration that appeared in The Great Outdoors.

On Out There the judges commented 'a thoroughly engaging account of the author's lifelong involvement with the great outdoors ..... with plenty of ready quotes to delight winter night conversations for fellow dreamers of wild places. Townsend speaks frankly, and with the authority of a connoisseur'.

Pictures from Yosemite and the Ansel Adams Wilderness

The view from Red Peak Pass, Yosemite National Park

As I work through the photos from my recent trip I'll post selections here, starting with a few from the first few days of the walk, when the weather was very hot and sunny. I expected to have to deal with the heat and with lack of water in the desert. In fact the hottest weather was at the start of the walk and there was also a lack of water here with many creeks dry.

The first few hours of the walk took me past Liberty Dome and Nevada Falls in Yosemite National Park
Sadler Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness - welcome water!
The North Fork of the San Joaquin River at Hemlock Crossing, Ansel Adams Wilderness - more welcome water.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Autumn Colours in Strathspey

Returning home from a long walk inevitably means being greeted by vast numbers of emails (and, these days, Twitter and Facebook messages) and piles of post. Four days on from my arrival back and I've only just begun ploughing through all of these (apologies to anyone awaiting a reply!). Staying indoors suddenly immobile at a desk is neither a good idea nor, I suspect, really possible for me and I have ventured out each day for at least an hour or so in the outdoors. Very soon there'll be a hill. There will have to be a hill!

Today the sun shone weakly through thin clouds, the soft light ideal for showing the remaining autumn colours at their best. Wandering through the fields and woods I came on many still bright aspens, birches, cherries and willows, though many others have shed all their leaves. In the distance the mountains were grey silhouettes against the diffuse brightness of the late afternoon sky. Large flocks of fieldfares whirled over the fields. I'm told easterly winds have brought an increase in these winter migrants from Scandinavia.

Friday 28 October 2016

Back Home After A Superb Trip

Camp above Evolution Valley, High Sierra
For thirty-two days I walked through beautiful wild country from Yosemite Valley to Death Valley. Every adventure comes to an end though and a few days ago I reached Badwater in Death Valley and my wonderful journey was over. Then I had to get home. That took two rides from friendly Canadians, a night in Las Vegas, five airports, an excellent meeting with Smarter Backpacking author Jorgen Johansson that gave some relief from the surreal weirdness of cities and airports, a train journey and a final drive home in the dark, by which time I'd lost all sense of the time of day or whether I was tired or hungry or neither. Two days later I'm still not sure!

Lower Ottoway Lake, High Sierra
My mind is still in the mountains and forest and desert though and will be for some time to come as I absorb everything I saw and experienced. I've started sorting through my photographs - the ones I took with my cameras not those I posted during the walk, which were taken with my smartphone. I'm thinking about the pieces I'll write too - there'll be more here and also in the next two issues of The Great Outdoors. Look out for a big spread with an analysis of the gear I used in the January issue. Eventually I expect there'll be slide shows too, though none are booked yet. Slowly I'll come back to life here. Slowly. I don't want to lose the magic of the wilds, the satisfaction and completeness of a month in nature. Not yet. Or ever.

In LeConte Canyon, High Sierra

Monday 24 October 2016

Through the desert, Death Valley.

Alien worlds at the finish of this superb walk. This morning I woke alone in the desert watching the day awaken. This evening I'm half way up a hotel tower in Las Vegas. Outside there are searingly bright artificial lights. Thunderous music surges up from the street. In between these places I walked across the weird Death Valley playa, 280 feet below sea level, crunching through the salt crust, and then hitched two rides, both with very pleasant Canadians (thanks folks), to Furnace Creek and then Las Vegas, the latter mostly in heavy rain, the first of the trip.

Before this surreal last day I'd crossed the Inyo Mountains, walked through the Joshua tree forest of Lee Flats, then descended from the Darwin Plateau to pretty Darwin Falls, the first water in 55 miles. Then came restaurant food at the Panamint Springs Resort followed by a walk across the flat shining white Panamint playa and then along the valley and up to the Panamint Mountains and an ascent of Telescope Peak, at 11,048 feet the highest peak in Death Valley National Park. From the summit I looked over Death Valley itself, far below, and out to mountain ranges vanishing into the distance, perhaps the best view of the whole walk.

Now it's time to go home and see how the Cairngorms are getting on. In the meantime here are some pictures of the last week.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Through the High Sierra

Since my last post I've crossed six passes over 10,000 feet high, descended into Kings Canyon, climbed Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the High Sierra and in the 48 contiguous States, and finally descended out of the mountains to Lone Pine in Owens Valley, the first place with a good Internet connection since Reds Meadow. Most significantly though I've revelled in the beauty and splendour of the wilderness.

Now the Sierra Nevada is behind me. Tomorrow I will head up into the desert Inyo Mountains laden with water.

Here are some pictures of the last two weeks.