Thursday 23 June 2011

It was an accident, cough.

Well, sort of. After The Challenge, I’d decided that my waterproof jacket needed a rethink. I love Montane, all three of my main jackets (waterproof, soft shell and down) are Montane and they are great, but I felt the Quattro didn’t perform as well as I would have liked. Mind you, they were challenging conditions, so I shouldn’t have felt too let down. I just felt a bit damp.

I think the  main issue was breathability, which actually could have been my own fault as I was determined to keep my Dynamo on underneath the Quattro. The Dynamo breathes brilliant, but when really, really wet, the Quattro, struggled, so between the two was damp, although my base layer was fine (merino, of course!) I should have taken off the Dynamo perhaps, but the strength of the wind made me feel cold (psychological, I’m sure). I came to the conclusion I needed to change something and as I love my Dynamo so much, it was the Quattro that had to go. At least into my day pack rather than for longer trips (if I get to do any more, honeybun…)

The plan was to try out David’s Paramo before buying one for myself. It’s obviously too big for me and that probably adds to it feeling so heavy, but I was lacking in wet weather, somewhat surprisingly, to really try it out. I had to make do with testing it’s breathability in warm, damp conditions and as it was, it seemed ok. Then, there came an opportunity and lo and behold…


I don’t know how that happened.

Fortunately, I still had my birthday money from mum to spend. It’s neutral, so it won’t clash with any of my black gear or any of the other stuff that, er, clashes with each other.

Obviously, the reflective stripe works. Excellent.

So long as I don’t fall into a drift of grubby snow, I’ll be fine.

I don’t do things like that. No, not me. Never…

Monday 20 June 2011


Whilst on the Challenge, I had many pleasant chats with a lot of people, but one in particular has been bugging me ever since. Fairly near the end of my walk, on the way from Tarfside to North Water Bridge, Laura and I walked a short way with a group of chaps we’d both bumped into intermittently along the way. I walked and chatted with one of them who was being sponsored on his Challenge, (I think his name was Andy, but I’m rubbish with names) and we were talking about a small market town in Lincolnshire, Louth. We got to talking about well known figures that came from or who had lived there or had connections in the area and I mentioned an actor who crops up all over the place and has recently played a professor in the Harry Potter films, but I couldn’t think of his name (no surprise there then…)

His name came to me in a blinding flash whilst I was in the hotel room at The Park, but of course, the moment had passed and the information was now immaterial. Now, however, I can’t get the name out of my head! I’m hoping that once I’ve declared it out loud, it will leave me alone.

Jim Broadbent.

There you go.

Hopefully, I can happily forget it again now.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Icebreaker reviews

I have been asked by the Nature Shop to review two garments from Icebreaker.
Original specifications
Tech t liteTech t lite petal £49 (Photograph pinched from the net)
Versatile Superfine can be worn solo in the heat and layered in cooler conditions. A lightweight system of fine layers designed to travel across seasons and continents, Superfine regulates temperature, is highly breathable, doesn’t hold odour and takes less energy to produce than cotton. 
Our lightest ultrafine merino t-shirt is soft and gentle against the skin. This Icebreaker favourite - now with a stunning floral design - has classic styling and keeps you cool, dry and comfortable, whether you're trekking through a tropical rainforest or running along a beach in midsummer.
New Zealand's tree daisy - featured on this cool new design - is a flower that naturally attracts.
Regular fit
Crewe neck
Set-in sleeves
371051zephyrhoodblizz Icebreaker Zephyr Hood £89 (Photograph pinched from the net)All season lifestyle sweaters, perfect for urban living and travel.

Keep out winter winds with the brand new Zephyr Hood. We're expecting the Zephyr to become one of Icebreaker's most popular styles, thanks to its cosy fabric, shaped hood, essential winter colours and beautiful, nature-inspired prints.
Shaped hood
Set-in sleeves
Forward side seam
Single running stitch graphic embroidery
Icebreaker pip label
Both of these garments arrived in excellent condition. Once removed from their packaging, they could be worn immediately with no worries about creases. There were no problems with the stitching nor any loose threads.
The tech t lite petal t-shirt is a relaxed, shaped fit, suitably styled for active or casual wear. It is soft against the skin and feels light to wear, barely noticeable. The fabric gives excellent temperature control in warm or cool conditions. I wore the t-shirt almost continually for a fortnight for trips to Tesco, gentle strolls,  brisk walks and general lounging around the house with no undue effect on the appearance of the garment or any unpleasant odour. I also happily layered this top with the Zephyr Hood. Weight 106g, weighed on my digital kitchen scales.
The Zephyr Hood is a shaped fit suitable for active or casual wear. Again, it is soft and comfortable to wear in warm and cool temperatures. I regularly layered the Hood with the tech t lite petal t-shirt during similar activities and never had a bundled or restricted feeling and remained at a comfortable temperature. The Hood kept its shape well and remained odour free. Weight 315g, weighed on my digital kitchen scales.
In the end, I washed both of these garments for the purposes of this review, rather than because they needed to be washed. They both washed well and dried quickly. It was my choice not to iron either garment and to wear them again straight away. The t-shirt was a little crumpled initially, but ‘ironed out’ once worn, but the Hood, being a slightly heavier fabric, was un-creased.
SDC11762 Tech t lite petal after first wash
SDC11764 Zephyr Hood after first wash
I received many compliments from friends about both of these garments, the styling and softness of the fabric were the main talking points. I have been delighted with both of these tops as they easily lived up to the my expectations of Icebreaker garments. If there was anything I might change (other than being more adventurous with colour, I must stop being so safe!) it would be the cuffs of the Zephyr Hood. Part of this is just personal preference, I’m not keen on a big cuff, but I actually think it would fit the styling of the top better if they matched the hem and hood of the top.
SDC11768 Cuff against hem
SDC11769 Cuff against hood
However, this is a minor issue and I still loved both of these tops and I know they will play an integral part in my wardrobe, both for everyday wear and as part of my walking gear. They are both already on my kit list for my next Challenge! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend either of these garments as I think they are versatile and practical as well as excellent quality.
As to Nature Shop, using their site is easy, payment straightforward and delivery prompt. The items were packaged simply but effectively, there was no damage or unnecessary creasing to the garments. All round an excellent experience and thank you to Katarina for having given me this opportunity, it was actually great fun!

Friday 10 June 2011

My kind of day

It was a beautiful start to the day, perfect Challenge weather, so, rather than entertaining TTS’s suggestion that I cut the grass today, I decided to go for a stroll. It was, after all, the perfect day for a bit of bird spotting.
I strolled to the post office first, primarily to post a Thank You card to Val, Tina and Sarah at Cougie Lodge. They were party to me not giving up on the second day of my Challenge (what a wuss, I ask you…) then on I went to the marshes. As I’d hoped, the burn was low, indicating a low tide, so I ambled on to the marshes, binoculars at the ready.
What a glorious day, blue skies with the odd fluffy, white cloud, plenty of warm sunshine, a breeze just light enough to keep off the flies, but not enough to chill when pausing to enjoy the view.
There were  acrobatic swallows, charming goldfinches (ho ho! Sorry), bubbling curlew, tuneful skylarks (I’m deliberately avoiding alliteration here…) insistent oystercatchers and plentiful meadow pipits, not to mention the less exciting gulls and corvids.
I crossed the burn, past by the Three Bears’ House (old defence turret thingy/pillbox) and I made my way to a handy tree trunk made for perching my bum on and waited.
And waited.
And waited.
My patience (which is unusual) was eventually rewarded when I spotted two osprey, fishing in the bay! They were way out and tricky to see, one disappeared when I took my eye off it momentarily, but I saw the other one dive and the huge splash as it hit the target. Judging by the way it was mobbed by the local gulls, I suspect it was successful and disappeared off to enjoy the catch, or feed it to an expectant mate or maybe even chicks! (No camera, of course.)
There was another bird, behaving in a suspiciously osprey like way, but I didn’t see it dive, just flying to a perch on the opposite river bank and staying quite a while, typical of a bird enjoying a meal. Trouble was, it was at quite a distance and the water haze made it difficult to pick out any detail, so I couldn’t positively ID it as an osprey. My guess would be yes, but that maybe because I want it to have been one!
A far better way to spend my time than cutting the grass. That’ll still be there in the morning.
On days like this, I love my world.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

A life more ordinary

Firstly, I went for my regular Monday walk yesterday, not only was it rather pleasant and not at all painful, it was the first time I’d worn my Brashers since my return and they were back to their old, comfy selves. Brilliant.

Secondly, whilst on my regular Monday walk, I was able to pop to see my osprey nest. I’d been worried about the nest due to the dreadful storm we had while I was Challenging. I was delighted to find an osprey on the nest, possibly still incubating eggs or maybe on chicks by now. Excellent!

I’ve made a decision on my new footwear. You may remember, if you pay any attention at all (and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t , I don’t!) I had purchased a pair of Keen Shasta boots. Sadly, after only twenty miles, these had developed a defect, the mesh was fraying in several places, so I had to return them and decided not to replace them straight away. The shoes I actually want to replace are Merrell Siren Sport Ventillators and they have been great, but a shade snug for anything more than a stroll, although I do wear them constantly for pottering, trips to Tesco etc.. I have come to the conclusion that these in a bigger size would be perfect. On investigation, I’ve come up with three models that I’m going to take a close look at, all mid boots, the Ventillator, the Chameleon and the Moab. Almost sorted!

I now know when I’m going to get to play with my beautiful, new PHD sleeping bag. I’ve been asked to help at another Guide camp (groan, what was I thinking?!) so this will give me an ideal opportunity to try it out, I can’t wait! Kind of.

So, there you go. Back to dull, dull, dull!

Saturday 4 June 2011

Life after

So, I’ve been home a week.

Usually, when I can’t get something out of my head, it’s something bad, something annoying, something I wish I’d done differently, better, or not at all. It’s a continuous, tortuous nightmare that goes round and round my head, driving me to distraction and much itching (my eczema tends to be stress related…)

This time, it’s a good thing that I can’t get out of my head, I think about it so many times, everyday. It’s driving me to distraction, but not itching. (It doesn’t help that I’m catching up with other peoples’ reports and photographs, it gets a bit obsessive!)

Get the feeling I’ll be back.

Especially as I’ve already had a vague look at a couple of routes, not the ones I’ve already saved, new ones. Oh dear.

The healing is going well. I was able to remove the Compeed from my heel whilst I was still at the hotel, much to Laura’s delight, but I haven’t yet tested the new skin out much, it looks a bit delicate still.

SDC11746I think the yellow bits surrounded by red are where the  depth of the blisters were

I’ve realised that I probably didn’t feel them as I should have done because I was taking painkillers for my shoulder injury at the time and it obviously dulled the pain in my heel. Still, that meant I could keep going because I was oblivious. Was a bit of a mess according to TTS who had to patch it up in Braemar. Good lad. I have noticed a lack of sensation in that area though. Hopefully, that’ll improve in time.

The shoulder is appears to be completely better. I’ve had no pain or discomfort since last weekend, so that’s good.

I’ve been looking at new kit. I have decided, however, that most of it will not be purchased for a year or two yet, if at all. I will replace bits as and when they need to be, for instance, my waterproof jacket. I like my Quattro, but I think I need something more substantial or maybe just different for a Challenge experience. I’m researching.

Oh well, back to real life.