Tuesday 3 January 2012

New Year, New TGO: Show Shelters, Waterproofs & Warm Feet

An igloo in the Wind River Range, Wyoming

The New Year starts with a new issue of TGO, dated February 2012. (In fact it arrived on the last day of 2011 but it's taken a few days to escape the festivities and write about it). My backpacking column is about snow shelters, something I'm hoping to build with some others in the Cairngorms later this month if there's enough snow (and it's falling steadily at present). In the gear section I've reviewed 14 waterproofs suitable for winter, which is to say not minimalist and ultralight, and in the hill skill pages I've looked at keeping feet warm in the snow.

The rest of the magazine is pretty well packed with good stuff. Cameron McNeish and Carey Davies go on a pub crawl in the Lake District (and climb some hills along the way), which brought back some memories for me, as I've spent many nights in some of those bars, including a good few New Years Eves. Carey Davies also learns to love cold snowy mountains (how could anyone not do so?) on Stob Ban in the Mamores while Cameron, perhaps still with pubs rather than hills in mind, thinks about comedy and songs with outdoor themes in his On the Hill column. Cameron mentions Ed Byrne who himself visits Stanage Edge and learns a bit about landscape photography with Chiz Dakin while wielding an alarmingly large looking camera. Returning to winter in the Highlands editor Emily Rodway describes a grand weekend just after the hurricane last month spent climbing Ben A'Ghlo and Ben Vrackie in Highland Perthshire. Elsewhere John Gilham traverses Cadair Idris from Barmouth to Dolgellau, which sounds an interesting trip. February's Photo Essay is a stunning set of photos of the Northern Lights by Bjorn Jorgensen, which had me thinking of the times I've seen this spectacular display in the Yukon and Norway. In fact much of this issue seems to have stirred old memories as Jim Perrin's Bookshelf is about an old favourite of mine, W.H.Murray's Mountaineering in Scotland. I'm surprised Jim doesn't also mention Murray's Undiscovered Scotland, an equally fine book in my opinion. I have the two in an old Diadem omnibus edition that is much thumbed and much treasured. Sticking with the Scottish hills Graham Forbes asks what's the point of climbing Munros in bad weather, making the excellent point that rather than travelling a long distance to climb a hill in the clag you might as well climb a local hill and save the time and petrol. 

On Bynack More

Other gear articles are a review of the curious Bergmonch combination folding bike and rucksack by Nathan Skinner and an overview of footwear for various seasons and activities by Judy Armstrong. In Hill Skills Kevin Walker describes the aspect of slope navigation technique; Jay Nicholson gives advice on avoiding emergencies in the winter hills; Chris Fenn reviews soups; Dave Price gives Nathan Skinner some tips on using a mountain bike and Dylan Baker describes compact system cameras, which I think are the best ones for walkers who want high quality images. I disagree with the writer about the zooms for these cameras though as I use one all the time and find it fine - as well as being slow Dylan Baker says these lenses "ruin the aesthetics and portability". Well, compared with a DSLR a CSC with zoom lens is very portable and as for the looks of my camera, I don't give a damn. 

I must admit though that the piece that gave me most pleasure in this issue is a short Hill Skills one on the latest research into stretching by Chris Highcock. Why should a piece on the boring activity of stretching delight me so much? Because it says that it's pointless and may even "make you slower, weaker and less efficient". Yippee! I've thought that for years, based on nothing more than personal experience and an intense dislike of the activity. Now I have academic research to back me up. Many years ago when I regularly did long hill runs and mountain marathons I tried stretching because all these super-fit runners I saw at the start of events were doing it and saying it was essential if I wanted to avoid injury. The only result was that I ached more the day after running and stretching than after the days when I didn't stretch at all so I soon abandoned it despite dire warnings as to the results. I can now not stretch and feel that this is a positive approach. That makes me happy.


  1. That was a quick response! I did like it, very much. Sticking to warming up slowly by doing the activity itself has always been my approach.

  2. Cheers. Some of that research is listed at


    if people want to check out more

  3. Did I detect a nod in my direction there...;-)
    I also don't bother with warming up. So it must be right :-)
    Will see if mag in my shop later.

  4. I will be honest I haven't bought TGO for ages, but this issue sounds interesting. If nothing else I could do with reading up on snow shelters before the mentioned trip later in the month.

    My experience with stretching is much the same. Some of the stretching I have seen at the start of races looked more tiring than the running I did in the race.

  5. Chris,
    I'm glad you are doing a piece in TGO on keeping feet warm in winter conditions. I remember you once suggested down booties for use in and around camp. This is an excellent but quite costly solution. With soaked boots and socks, I'm still inclined to stick my feet inside my rucsac when cooking outside. This obviously only works when I'm not likely to move very far from the stove!

    Any new ideas will be very welcome.

    Cheers, Dave Porter

  6. I'm another fan of starting off slowly and it's an approach which works for an activity like fell walking where nearly every step is different. But I strongly suspect a lifetime of something like cycling or road running will shorten sinews if you don't take regular measures to remedy the short comings of your chosen activity.

    My own physical problems arose from not paying proper respect to core stability. I got away with it while I was kayaking but, when that stopped, major back problems soon set in. Looking after core stability while young will improve the quality of your later years.

  7. Perhaps I should be clear that the research I pointed to was particularly saying that stretching as a warm up is not advised and does not prevent injury or subsequent sore muscles. I do think that there is a role for stretches to address specific issues eg those of us who spend a lot of time sitting can often benefit from stretching the hip flexors.

    I'd agree too on the benefits of a stronger core and in recent TGO issues we have presented some key exercises for that particularly with the plank, bird dog and side plank.