Saturday, 29 January 2011

The scenic route, lead from behind

I know we wanted, as a group of friends that walk together, to take the weight off Angela’s shoulders as she is studying hard. What I do not know is, how on earth did I find myself planning, organising and leading our monthly walks?! Not that I mind, it is, after all, good practice, but it’s nerve wrecking. I don’t mind being responsible for my own temporary disorientation, but I don’t like being responsible for a group. My good friend Sally supported me when I consulted the map and each time confirmed my choice of path, helping to bolster my confidence.

Alison C., Allison W., Angela, Judith, Sally, Sarah and I set off from Dallas Dhu Distillery for what turned out to be a somewhat scenic route through Altyre Woods on a relatively bright, mostly dry day which was actually a shade warmer than expected.

I’m not sure quite where I took the wrong turn, but it didn’t take us too far out of our way and we were soon heading to Clashdhu, bypassing the Dava Way to take us on a wet path above Altyre Burn and bring us out at Craigroy.

SDC11149View over Altyre Woods to the Moray Firth 

SDC11150I like bringing up the rear SDC11151

A snack stop by the Altye Burn

We turned towards Burntack and took the track onto Romach Hill, which first took us steeply up. Sadly, Judith’s ‘inadequate bottom’ started to give significant problems with muscle spasm in her legs and as the path was going to take us away from civilisation in a couple of miles, she felt she should turn back where she could easily reach a road for her husband to collect her. I hope she finds some suitable exercises to return her to full fitness soon.

SDC11152 Looking back towards Craigroy

We continued on to find the dam at the head of Romach Loch, the former reservoir for Forres. I don’t know why I was so surprised to find it still fairly frozen. It was very pretty and eerily quiet, so we had lunch.

SDC11155 Ladies that lunch

SDC11157 Frozen Loch Romach

We were soon on our way, some more up and again, I was fooled by forestry paths on the map not quite matching those on the ground, but we knew we were going in the right direction and carried on, passed Blackhills Farm to bring us out at a former picnic spot we recognised (relief!). We knew exactly how to return to the distillery now without the map, but soon found ourselves another girly down as Sarah took the road into Rafford and the remainder carried on to rejoin the Dava Way.

Alison W. left us at the end of the Dava and the rest carried on, through the houses and past the schools until Alison C., left us, and then there were three. Sally and Angela went to call on a friend for a lift and I phoned home  to arrange collection from the park.

Despite the odd detour, this was a thoroughly enjoyable walk, mainly due to the wonderful company (I really miss the girlies) and good weather conditions. The path finding left a little to be desired, but was overall a success. Could be more tricky when navigating a route without bits I recognise!

I walked 15.7 miles 1495 ft

Angela and Sally walked 15.2 miles 1455 ft

Alison C. walked 15 miles 1442 ft

Alison W. walked 14.7 miles 1399 ft

Sarah walked 13.3 miles 1382 ft

Judith walked 7.63 miles 936 ft

(All figures a bit of guess work)

1 hr 18 mins rest stops

5 hrs 12 mins walking

So, all in all, not a bad day’s walking!

Friday, 28 January 2011

The tale of the missing compass

We have three compasses. I don’t know why, but apparently  they are all different (bit technical for a bear of little brain) and they all live on  David’s shelves, separately of course.

It came to light that one of the said compasses, the one I prefer (the simplest, obviously) had gone for a walk. Unaccompanied.

The shelves were emptied and restacked, it was amazing what rubbish was found, but not the missing compass.

The car was searched.

Nay luck.

Various coat and rucksack pockets.

No sign.

So, Ciara and I thought we’d empty the hat and glove box, (a large, slatted pine box under the stairs) and search all the other bags and waterproof jacket pockets therein. First though, I pulled said box away from the wall, just for a peek.

And lo! There was the wandering compass!

Relief. The hand doesn’t have to reach into the pocket for a new one.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Chill pill required

I am beginning to take this all a little too seriously. I need to step away from the pack and maps for a while. I could also do with a lesson in using my calculator.

I had a minor panic this morning when, after another practice pack (because I now have most of my food) I weighed the pack and myself and calculated 28lbs. 28lbs! Nooo!

So this afternoon I made some minor adjustments, including adding the odd, small item I’d forgotten this morning and removing a spare top, a small amount of food and decanted some foot gel into a smaller pot.

Low and behold, this afternoon my pack is weighing in at a more respectable 22lbs.
But I know I only took out a small amount and actually added one or two small items.  I definitely did not remove 6lbs worth.

My conclusion?

My maths is just as rubbish as it’s always been.


Panic over.

I would go and have a lie down in a darkened room, but it’s Brownies tonight. Give me strength…

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Lists galore!

I’ve been making the odd list. Lists are my thing, I like the order they give, the sense of control, I find them comforting. While I’ve been recuperating with just a little walking on Monday, I’ve been trying to fill my day by doing little useful jobs that I can then tick off the main list.
One of those jobs was to make a list of items still to buy, a daily food requirement list, parcels lists (what parcels need to go where and when, containing what and what’s to be sent back.) Another job which was not a list, but still required order, removing yet more map covers (AARRGGGGH!!) and noting important grid references.
So, I think I’ve listed everything I can at this point in time. I’m sure I’ll find more to list nearer the time, but for now I’m done. I won’t go into detail, you’ll just tell me to get help.
And I’ve finished the map thing too, I now know more details about my maps than you could possibly imagine.
I have discovered a new toy on my travels on the web. At the Post Office website, you can work out how much your parcels will cost and even pay for and print off the postage, wow! Don’t tell me, you already knew about this, but I’m going to be having hours of fun with it!
All I need to do now is GET FIT! Once I’ve stopped coughing my lungs up, this should get easier…

Friday, 21 January 2011

Window shopping is dangerous

We’ve had a problem with the car for the last month or so, a strange, occasional smell of burning, which I found a tad disconcerting (?!), so David duly booked the car in to be looked at. Unfortunately, his garage of choice in Inverness. Fortunately, I decided I needed a bimble around Inverness to keep him company and perhaps to do a little window shopping.

We did a bit.

In between morning coffee, lunch and afternoon coffee, we visited several shops and I must confess, there was a high percentage of outdoor shops on the list. Almost 100% as it happens.

And on our journey, we found some gortex patches, (to patch David’s new Paclite trousers which he managed to rip on his winter skills training day in the Cairngorms yesterday) and a pair of these little beauties.

keenf256111_162401_jb Medicine in the form of Keen Venice H2

These were just the medicine I needed for the bout of tonsillitis I’ve succumbed to in the last couple of days (what next?) . They are just a shade lighter than my Merrell Siren Ventilators, but I figured they’d dry even more quickly after a river crossing, (or perhaps it won’t even matter if they are wet) as well as be comfortable around camp or even for stretches of walking on suitable terrain. We like! Strangely, in the blurb, they are described as ‘waterproof’. Really?

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Wanton vandalism

I have been confined to barracks, again, after aggravating my knee, which was a bit daft. The bruising has all but gone and there is no pain unless pressure is applied, but even then, not much pain, so I’m disappointed not to be back to full fitness after such a silly fall.

Never mind, there are other jobs to be done that don’t involve steaming up and down stairs or pounding up roads and across fields. I’ve been poring over the maps of my recently vetted route, making a note of significant grid references for the most tricky junctions. Maybe this isn’t everyone’s method, but it keeps me happy, except for one, minor detail…

Removing map covers and writing on them (some in china pencil) feels so wrong!

But then, sometimes, naughty is nice. Isn’t it?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Look, look, look!

(Did I get your attention?)
I postponed my walk slightly today so that I could wait in for the postman, just on the slight chance he might have a package for me. Bob and Rose have worked their magic and he did!
SDC11094 Look, sweeties too!
I wouldn’t let myself investigate further before I’d been for a walk, so a sped off for three miles down the cycle path and back. It was a beautiful day and much less slippery, thank goodness, but I still approached some bits a little gingerly as there had been a hard frost overnight.
Upon my return, I immediately set to, practice packing my fabulous new Pinnacle. Actually, it was probably more a case of stuffing everything in just to weigh it and what a difference!  Just 19.4 lbs, wow! That even includes the odd item I forgot last time, like sun cream, hand and  magic foot gels, pan lid, repellent. I’ve still to allow for water and a bit more food, but I’m so chuffed! Money well spent.
Now, I just need to work out the best way to pack it.
SDC11098 Looks a little dumpy, just like me! (You should see the side view. Except I’m less green…)
SDC11095 The devastation when I returned from my walk
Oh, I’m a happy bunny. Each day I’m getting more and more over-excited. I’m like a child looking forward to Christmas!
(Shaved a little more weight off myself too, which all helps. That’s half of the Festive overindulgence dealt with!)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Wow! That was quick!

I have my route back already, Alvar and Ann Thorn have given me some really useful tips and my route has the all clear! Not really surprising, not because of my excellent planning, but because it's a very simple route. It should have signposts saying "First Time Challengers This Way"!

Very excited now.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

All sorts of progress

Firstly, did I mention I’ve sent Roger my route? I know I’ve a few weeks before the deadline, but I decided to take the plunge and tweak no more.

This has lead to a surprising progression on the practice pack packing front.

During the route planning, I hit upon a minor inconvenience with regards to bed and breakfast accommodation. I really resented the single person supplement which bumped up the cost to the price for two, so I’ve opted for wild camps or camp sites all the way. This has the advantage of saving money, but there’s always ways to do that.

It seemed fair compensation for having no comfy bed to have a comfortable crossing, in other words, a lighter backpack. Extreme perhaps, but fair.

So, now have a Golite Pinnacle (Womens) in Coriander/Thyme winging it’s way to me from backpackinglight. (With a friend. A lightweight hipflask.)

Me? Impulsive?

A tad.

But it’s all progress!

How to scare yourself stupid in two easy moves

Step one: Go for your usual three miles stroll

The swelling on my knee has gone and now it’s just a beautiful shade of black/purple/blue. It’s no longer painful to move or walk, but I do still occasionally catch myself out if I kneel down. Or turn over in bed (apparently, I’m crying in my sleep every time, but my sleep isn’t being disturbed, so that’s good…) so I went for a walk.

I knew it would be tricky getting out of the estate to the cycle path and back, but was disappointed to find the cycle path itself somewhat slippery and bearing in mind recent events, I decided to shorten my walk and take the marshes path. This wasn’t much better, as it turned out. In fact, the only moment of ‘hairy arm-waving’ (just so that’s clear!) was on the muddy path, which turned out to be sheet ice, not wet mud. Ooops. However, no one was around to witness and I didn’t hit the deck, so I continued. The cycle path, when I returned to it, was a mixture of frozen, partly defrosted snow and sheet ice, but not thick enough to wear my microspikes (which I’d left at home) so I gingerly made my way home.

Step two: Practice packing your pack

When I got home, I’d only covered two miles and was bored with a couple of hours to kill before darling hubby came home for lunch, so I decided to practice packing the pack.

It’s amazing where you can shave a few grams off here and there. All those useful packets suddenly become redundant, map covers carefully unstuck (this felt like vandalism to me, I can’t even write my name in the cover of a book, in pencil).

Then came the great weigh in. Oh grief, 22lbs. Only to then remember I hadn’t counted my Platypus, with water. Or the full amount of food, only having ordered a couple of meals to try so far. Then I noticed the sun cream and midge repellent sitting on the shelf. I’d left out the matches too!

More shaving required.

I’ll probably have nightmares tonight, as well as pain.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Best foot forward, but mind the miniscule patch of ice

Regular readers (there may be one or two) will know I walk a regular six mile route on a Monday with a couple of friends during term time. The term started on Thursday this week (a Thursday, I ask you, what is that all about?!) so we walked on Friday. That was maybe my first mistake.

My second was holding the lead of The Other Louise’s (TOL) dog,  a beagle called Ailsa, so that she had free hands to perform a necessary dog-related task. It became tricky for some reason when handing the lead back, one of those strange extending jobs, and the lead was dropped. I went to grab the handle as it dropped to the floor, I felt responsibility for dropping it, but I must have put my foot on the only miniscule patch of ice on the pavement because the next thing I knew, I was lying face down with a sore hand and an exploding knee. Ouch.

Of course, I immediately scrambled to my feet and exclaimed, “I’m fine, fine, let’s go!” whilst feeling a *little limp inside. The pain in my knee was raging, but I distracted myself by surreptitiously checking my hands to discover the heal of my right hand was cut and bleeding, a tissue and pressure were duly applied unnoticed by my companions and as we walked on, the pain in my knee lessened.

Towards the end of the walk, TOL’s new boots were giving her grief, so I was glad to slow down a bit as my knee had begun to get sore again.

When I finally got home after collecting David for lunch, I checked my knee to discover swelling and bruising. Arnica and paracetamol were taken and an ice pack applied, but I felt very sorry for myself for the rest of the day. I shall have to rest it for a few days, so the start of my training regime is on hold, again. Pants! I have discovered, however, that the most excellent dressing for a cut in such an awkward place is a Tesco blister plaster! Snug fit, water tight and pain relieving.

*I have a habit of going into shock at the drop of a hat, a Reynaud's attack is a regular cause and I usually feel so rotten I have to sit before I fall. I decided to ignore the beginnings of the feeling and luckily managed to walk on.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

First short walk of the year

We didn’t manage to break out on New Years Day, but Sunday saw us beetling off to Glenmore for a short walk around Loch Morlich. I had planned a five and a half mile circuit of the loch, but in reality, those of us who don’t have any Kahtoola Microspikes were finding it very slow going, so the route was shortened to around four miles.

SDC11092 Magic

It was a grey day and quite chilly, around freezing all day with the odd lonely snowflake floating down, but there was now wind to speak of so it only felt cold if you stood around too long not doing much, (which the one of us with Microspikes did from time to time.)

I had expected the track to be compacted snow, as it was, because this is an extremely popular area to enjoy a little winter sports, cross country skiing and the like, or even just to enjoy the view whilst taking the dog for a stroll.

SDC11088I stood on a small mound, just so I didn’t feel so short!

SDC11089The frozen loch, looking west(ish)

We still managed to stop for a snack en route, a few sandwiches were consumed and some experimental trail mix was nibbled. Ciara wasn’t impressed with salty Smarties, but the boys, well, they eat anything, don’t they?!

SDC11090   Why odd gaiters? No idea, he likes odd socks too

SDC11091 North(ish) towards my favourite corbett on the right, Meall a’ Bhuachaille

There were lots of people around and some were even brave/stupid enough to make their way across the loch. We stuck to the path.

We even had time to pop into the cafe at the end of the walk for a hot chocolate, but it was getting too dark by this time to enjoy watching the local bird or squirrel population and too early for the pine martin to put in an appearance, so we supped up and crossed the road back to the car.

A nice little stroll, making on average two miles an hour, obviously slowed by the conditions. I was glad of all my merino (MIMF) layers, I didn’t get too chilly whilst waiting for less well equipped members to catch up.

Total Falls

Aedan 1

Conall 2

Ciara 4 (bless her, just like her mother!)