Thursday 24 January 2013

It wasn’t me!

I had been thinking that at some point in the future I would have to replace me Paramo Velez, but I’m still very happy with it at the moment and was really just musing about what I would replace it with. A couple of weeks ago David and I had to play taxis as our girls wanted to go to Inverness shopping (bleugh, grrr, groan) so we treated ourselves to lunch and then went for a little browse. We accidentally fell into Craigdon Mountain Sports and after wondering upstairs I found myself sporting a rather lovely Alta II jacket. I think it was the colour that lured me to it, Foxglove/Elderberry. After admiring this rather lovely jacket for a while, examining it in quite some detail, I popped it back onto its hanger and onto the rack. This would be a good replacement, one day. (Especially at that price, £245 RRP, I’d be saving for a while!)

Just out of curiosity I had a little look on a certain auction website and there were indeed a few Alta II jackets, although none in the rather fetching combination I’d tried on. The one that caught my eye was this:


Paramo Alta II Heather/Damson

It had a very attractive price, £99 plus £4 postage and no bids.

I showed it to David.

Apparently he kept and eye on it.

And yesterday, it arrived!

Now all I need is a walk to go and try it out.

Tuesday 22 January 2013


Sunday proved my hands, or rather, the Raynaud’s Syndrome I suffer from and the effect it has on my extremities and the rest of me at times, can be a little problematic. I have suffered from the cold on both of my previous Challenges, but not suffered a Raynaud’s attack like that one. (Apart from when Laura and I arrived at St Drostan’s in Tarfside, happily I didn’t do the shock thing though) This is fortunate and I hope I never do however it would be silly not to take precautions. Obviously I always wear gloves. Even during the summer months I will have a pair of gloves about my person should they become necessary as it doesn’t even have to be particularly cold for my hands to react.

So, I’ve been doing some thinking and over the last few months, I’ve been making plans and finding solutions. Here they are.


A selection of handwear

Christmas 2011 David bought me a pair of Extremities Tuff Bag mitts. I wore them on last years Challenge and often over the year, usually with my merino flip flap mitts and they are absolutely brilliant. It’s not so much the waterproof qualities that impress me, but the windproofing is excellent.

At Cally Rally in October (a Scout/Guide camp weekend by the Loch Ness Canal when it is cold. Very, Very Cold) my pal Janet donned a rather nifty looking pair of gloves to protect her nails whilst pitching and striking camp. I tried them on and they were indeed a nifty bit of kit, a thin knitted glove with rubberised palm and fingers, leant to her by her husband who uses them whilst he is backpacking. Aha! They’d be neat if they fitted over my mitts.

In November I bought a couple of lucky bags from Terra Nova, one for David as a stocking filler and one for me because I’m greedy and I don’t like to miss out. One of the things I got was a pair of Polartec gloves. They are really comfy, cosy and fit inside my Tuff Bags. In summer, these would do a good job and as I’ve often been concerned that my mitts get damaged when I get them inadvertently velcroed to other bits of my kit, or wear holes in them whilst using my walking poles, these would be a good alternative. They also fit in side the gloves with the rubberised palms, so I can keep my hands warm and protected whilst pitching and striking camp.

Another problem I have on the Challenge is collecting water or washing my pots. Obviously I can’t wear cosy gloves when I’m doing these chores, or can I? A pair of Marigolds struck me as a mite heavy, but a tough pair of latex gloves would be just the job and blue ones are harder to lose.

All the protection I require for *161g, as opposed to the 130g two glove combination I carried previously, this arrangement will have everything covered, so to speak.


*Edited: Can’t count!

Monday 21 January 2013

Winter Winds

We decided to go for a little winter walk yesterday. There was some snow about, but not a massive amount and the forecast for our chosen area was for snow flurries, winds up to 15mph, -2°C but with wind chill of -15°C, feeling colder. The plan was to leave the car near Dorback Lodge and then make our way up Geal Charn Beag, along the wide open ridge to Geal Charn then carefully fall off the end to meet a track to bring us back to the abandoned steading at Upper Dell then onto the track to return us to the car. Simple.

The car was neatly abandoned and there was some faffing and some nibbles snaffled before we finally broke cover and started on our way. It was a little fresh.


Getting wrapped up


Checking for gaps

We made our way passed the old Lodge and kennels, making sure we didn’t make eye contact with gundogs that were baying for our blood. There’s no sneaking around at this place, you can’t avoid attracting attention and making sure there is someone to see your mistakes. I managed to avoid taking the wrong turn I took last time but was momentarily fooled by a well used track leading through an open gate. I was fairly sure it wasn’t what I was after so checked the map, then continued on the path we were on.

We were soon on what I know to be a well made estate track leading to a shooting hut that then makes a sharp turn and steep climb up to the Beag. The track had some bare patches where the wind was blowing the powdery snow along towards us and some drifting in places, but not too bad at this point. At times we were walking into a stiff cold breeze but most of the time we were protected from the wind and made steady progress up this gradually ascending track.


Behind us


There is a track


Some drifting

There were no real issues as we walked in. I’ve done this hill before, so whilst I was quite happy to go up again for a little winter walking experience, I wasn’t fretting about the possibility of having to turn back. I can be a little grumpy in these circumstances usually, but today I was happy. There were one or two little fords which were made a little more interesting with the ice and snow cover, but some careful prodding and sending TTS first (always a good plan) we had no problems or unexpected wet feet.


Ice and snow

After crossing the burn here, we went up a short sharp incline with an interesting amount of drifted snow. I was working hard up this bit as my little leggies were a shade short for the job.SDC14309



But still smiling!

After a bit more snow we eventually found the shooting hut. Last time it had been locked, but I really hoped that as it’s during the season, the door might be unlocked. To my utter joy, it was. Yey! It was quite interesting inside.


A walk in freezer!


Inside drifts


Hanging from the rafters


The windowsill on the inside

At first I thought the door had been left open, but there were no footprints and the door was shut when we arrived. It soon became clear the snow had been blown in  through the tiny gaps in the walls and windows and under the rafters by the viscous winds. Quite impressive! Still, the hut provided ample shelter from the freezing winds which, as we’d turned a corner, were now blowing directly at the front of the hut. It did not sound inviting outside as the wind howled around the little wooden building and we were happy to clear some snow from the benches and table so we could snuggle up and have a picnic and a warm coffee from the flask David had sensibly popped into his pack.

Soon it was time to move on and as the going so far had been fine, we decided to continue. We knew we would only briefly be walking into the teeth of the wind and then we’d turn sharply uphill to reach the plateau. The wind would then be behind us and although freezing cold, it wasn’t going to buffet us or cause any problems with mobility. Just as we were leaving the little hut haven, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps now would be a good idea to pop some hand warmers into my mitts, but the thought didn’t pause long enough and we were soon outside again.

I was aware that this part of the track is quite deep between the high heathery banks on either side, but it never occurred to me the effect this would have on the snow drifts. All of a sudden, we were tackling short but deep drifts, possibly six foot tall. They weren’t too difficult to get over, but it was slow and time consuming. I was working hard and quite warm, but I wasn’t moving quickly enough to keep this warmth surging around my body. My hands were constantly out in front of me as I used my poles to heave myself over each obstacle. I soon realised that I was losing the feeling in my hands and was in trouble. Uh oh, not the time or place for a Raynaud's attack. David was a little way ahead of me and although he paused to check I was still floundering around behind him, each time he turned away and carried on before I caught my breath and could indicate my situation.

I made a surge to catch up and managed to say “Can’t do this, I need to stop,” before turning my back to the wind and sinking to my knees to rest, fortunately on a patch of track with no snow cover. “You can’t stop there!” “I know, it’ll only be a minute, can’t feel my hands. Feel sick.” “Where are your hand warmers?” “Pack front pocket.” He quickly got the packet out, ripped it open and helped me put one into each mitt.

“Is it working?” “Don’t know, can’t feel anything, I’ll let you know.” “You need to get up.” “I can’t! I feel sick. I’ll faint. I’ll be fine in a minute.”

There was more rustling behind me, “Keep talking to me,” I’m fine. I’m going to be fine,” then my pack was lifted off and David helped me into his Torres gilet. I was now wearing five layers. We both knew that at this time my core body temperature was fine, but I was hunched on a frozen track in the icy wind and in the early stages of shock, obviously it wouldn’t take long to get into more serious difficulties. David put my thin foam foiled sit mat on the track for me to crawl onto for insulation. I knew it wouldn’t take long for me to recover, but David wasn’t sure how long this would be, so he sensibly swung into action.

“I’m going to take the packs to the hut. I’ll be back.”

And he was gone.

I huddled for a while longer and very soon could feel my hands a bit more. Strangely, they seemed to feel damp, but I think that was just the sensation of warmth spreading. I started to feel less sick and didn’t feel dizzy when I moved my head. I looked up and could see the hut and David, although I can’t actually remember which way he was headed at the time. I could see we had come a disappointingly short distance considering the amount of effort it had taken! I knew that I was feeling well enough to make another huge effort and get moving. Gingerly, I stood up. No whirling world, just the bitterly cold wind almost urging me on now, to head back. David hadn’t been able to manage all our kit, I picked up my sit mat and managed to fold it small enough to fit into the chest pocket of David’s gilet. I picked up a pair of walking poles in each hand and started to make my rather unwieldy way back towards the hut. And there was my hero, powering his way towards me.

He’d taken a different route back to me, having clambered up the heathery bank, he was romping along the top. When he reached me (I hadn’t got far) he helped me up too and we started to make our way back to the haven of the hut. It was quite rough going and very slow progress, but soon we were able to cut the corner across the tufty heather to the hut and fall inside.

I took a seat. We discussed changing gloves, but I knew that my merino flap flap mitts coupled with my Tuff Bag mitts were the best option, keeping my fingers together rather than separated. I was convinced my hands were much warmer anyway, but on putting one between his hands David declared they were frozen! They felt better to me. I opted to take the spare gilet off, the going would be easier from there and it would be handy to have another layer to put back on if required.

Soon we were on our way again, this time retracing our footsteps along the track back to Dorback Lodge. As we walked there was not much chatting. I was feeling quite drained by now but I knew I could keep putting one foot in front of the other at steady pace and eventually we’d get there. Another problem arose to impede me, all this ‘snow drift action’ had inflamed my left hip/groin and knee, a problem usually triggered by ‘heather action’. As the drifts we encountered got smaller the knee settled, but the hip/groin remained sore all the way back to the car.

We ran the gauntlet of the blood thirsty hounds, slid about a bit on the track recently polished by gamekeeper going about his business in his Landrover (more dented pride as I slid gracefully into a small drift, but no one was there to see except TTS and he was still more concerned than amused) and then we were back.

Do you know, oddly enough, I really enjoyed the walk! Tackling the snow and ice had been good fun, the snow inside the hut was unexpected and hilarious, the hut haven a treasure. I loved it. The ‘medical emergency’? Well, I suppose I’m used to it. It’s happened a lot over the years since I was a teenager, but not regularly. I know that if I huddle quietly for a short while, I’ll be fine. It must be very unnerving to witness and it makes me feel truly horrid, but David is getting used to it and has the advantage of Mountain First Aid training, so I know I’m safe with him around. Yes, I could have been in grave danger, but didn’t reach tipping point. Next time, the hand warmers go in when it occurs to me!

9.02 miles, 1210ft total ascent, 1.7 mph average, 5 hrs 24 mins total.

Thursday 3 January 2013

New Year’s Eve walk

I had set myself a little goal earlier in the year which I’d thought would be quite easily attainable. After quite a few unexpected, unavoidable and unfortunate set backs I found myself  under a little pressure to complete. Saturday was earmarked as a good day to complete, no one was working or needed a lift and we had no other plans. However, since Christmas I had been trying to cough one lung up at a time and had a sore throat and ribs. The forecast was not inviting and when I woke up to quite gusty conditions I came over all feak and weeble and cried off. As the day wore on and there was sunshine and blue skies I started to regret my decisions, but after accidently nodding off for a couple of hours, I thought it had probably been the right decision.
My last chance to complete was Monday, so a plan was hatched and come hell or high water, we'd be walking.
The sensible thing would obviously be to stay close to home as less travelling would ensure more daylight hours for walking. Also, if we positioned ourselves on the north side of any hills, they would afford us some protection from any grim conditions. A return to Revack it was then, and one offspring was persuaded to join us on this great occasion, enticed by the promise of a donkey…
We arrived slightly later than intended after accidently sleeping in a while, but were soon on our way about 11.40 am. We set off from the car park, up the slightly muddy track to the view point, which gave a great view of the weather. We didn’t hang around as it was a bit breezy, although not a cold one.

The weather from the view point

Beating a hasty retreat from the view point!

We took the clear track that winds its way to the trees and down to join a forestry path, then headed off on the meandering path towards Nethybridge. It’s a mainly clear path, with occasional boggy, muddy patches, but with plenty of shelter. We strolled easily at a pace that didn’t induce any coughing fits, hurrah.
We practiced a little map reading and navigation with Ciara as she is one of the Guides in the D of E group that I am leading for their bronze award. (David will be their Expedition Supervisor whilst I assist him and we’ll look after the Senior Section for their silver expedition too) I wanted to practice how I deliver my training as we’re doing ours in house rather than attending the large training days and Ciara makes a good guinea pig.

Damp in places

But still smiling!
We crossed the area of open ground  near some old lime kilns before climbing the short, steep slope where we re-entered the forestry. It was soon decided that lunch was our next priority and the next sheltered spot would be our picnic site. We didn’t find one, but we did have a shelter with us which was duly deployed over a handy fallen tree which provided surprisingly comfy seating. It was quite snug.

Not a dodgy bridge

Open boggy ground


We weren’t lost
After enjoying our fishy lunch (we had salmon and rocket, Ciara had tuna mayonnaise) we continued on the gently undulating, wandering path through Craigmore Wood, round the back of the Abernethy Outdoor Centre and popped out on to the road by Abernethy Primary School. A short bit of road walking took us up on to the Speyside Way, where we eventually spotted the donkey I had promised Ciara. She couldn’t get close enough to stroke its nose as I had done last time I visited, but it did responded to our calls and walk across the field to get as close as it could in the vain hope of some petting and a carrot. Perhaps he’d been put on a diet.

Little donkey
This is quite a pretty and straightforward stretch of the Way, which was handy as by this time we were starting to lose the light. Oops. Luckily, we’d all brought a head torch, although they didn’t need to be deployed until right at the end of the walk. Normally, when re-joining the road to return to the car park, there’s a 300m dice with danger along the road. This time, I decided to risk the little track straight across the road,as I had my Viewranger GPS with my and could see exactly where we were and where we wanted to be.within a few short minutes we were back at the car, swigging a wee dram of Singleton to celebrate reaching my 1000 mile goal before the end of the year.
Just before the end of the year…
A total of 11.1 miles and 1,431 ft ascent at an average of 2.1 mph.
An absolutely brilliant end to the year with two of my favourite walking partners. A special thank you to TTS without whom I wouldn’t have reached my goal. The Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve walks were essential and perfect. What a complete star x
(Published from my new Netbook. Such fun!)