I was doing some decorating yesterday, listening to Charlie Musselwhite. What a blues harpist!
If you like the blues, listen to this live version of Christo Redemptor (mispelt Redentor on YouTube). Smooth or what!
I was doing some decorating yesterday, listening to Charlie Musselwhite. What a blues harpist!
If you like the blues, listen to this live version of Christo Redemptor (mispelt Redentor on YouTube). Smooth or what!
Regular readers will know that I switched to pitta (or pita) bread sandwiches from normal bread a while ago. I transitioned from oval to Waitrose round wholemeal pitta bread but then found Food Doctor pitta bread. They are a bit more expensive at £1.05 for 6 compared with 79p. However they keep a lot longer and they have a variety of cereals and seeds. They have more taste and are a good source of fibre. I like them with a slice of Jaarlsberg cheese. They are very filling and I find that two (with cheese) can keep me going all day. The beauty of pitta over normal bread is that it is more compact and crush resistant.
One thing I forgot to mention after my latest trip was that the GPS function on my iPhone had a seizure. Previously I had been very impressed with its accuracy. However, on the way down to Moor Divock, I was trying to find where I was in relation to a branch in the path and it was very badly out. First of all it positioned me in the Midlands somewhere. Then it told me twice that I was in Penrith. At the fourth time of asking, it showed me reasonably accurately where I was. I experimented a few more times and found myself located in Penrith a couple of times before I got an accurate fix. Very strange. It could be that I was quite low on battery and the GPS system couldn’t draw enough power. Anyway, I pass it on as a warning to be careful about believing a GPS fixing. I’ve always used a GPS as a secondary tool rather than a primary route finding tool. I will be more wary in future. I’m glad it wasn’t misty.
I was interested in one of the links coming to my blog that was from the LFTO forum. Mutterings about biased reviewing are nothing new. If you think about it, all reviews are biased. What I like may not be what you like or suitable for you. “Hike your own hike” as a certain John Manning says.
I want to make it clear that apart from two items (a pair of HiTec boots and a Stickpic), I have not received any free gear. I have also only received one piece of discounted gear (a pair of Salomon Quest boots). Everything else has been paid for by my own hard-earned pennies.
You could argue that this introduces bias as, perhaps, I don’t want to admit that I’ve bought a lemon. Also my gear choices are selective rather than covering the market. However, I always endeavour to give an honest opinion in an effort to help others. Sometimes that opinion will change over time as I use a piece of gear and I find limitations or problems.
All I can say is that I am beholden to no manufacturer or retailer as I carry no advertising, neither do I receive any freebies (with the exceptions I’ve mentioned). The other thing I’d like to say is that, in theory, I don’t owe readers anything. Unlike a magazine or OM, I receive no financial rewards for doing this.
I do this for my own pleasure, but also have an altruistic motive in wanting to share my experiences so others can benefit from them. The Ultrahike reviews are a good example of this. This is a product that I purchased because it fitted a niche I wanted to fill. There is very little information elsewhere on it, so I thought an in-depth look at it was worthwhile and would interest others.
This is the way I want to do my blog. Others do it differently and that doesn’t invalidate them or make them worse. One of the good things about blogdom is the variety. Enjoy it. Remember it’s free!
I woke before dawn as the stags started bellowing again. The temperature dropped markedly according to my thermometer, so I donned my down jacket inside my sleeping bag. About 7.30 I got out of the tent. Hayeswater was almost still and the first rays of sun were hitting the hills. The sky was completely clear.
It was a bit chilly and I was glad of my Minimus jacket. I was surprised (again) at how little condensation there was inside the fly of the Scarp. The disadvantage of my pitch was that it would be in shadow for some time as the sun started to warm the far end of the reservoir. I had breakfast and packed and was away by about 9.30.
As I walked from shadow to sun, the temperature suddenly rose and I stopped to readjust my clothes. I saw a couple of other walkers before heading up the Knott. The first part of the climb is a bit of a puff, but at least height is gained quickly. There was hardly a breeze and I was sweating profusely. As I hit the ridge and the path from Angletarn Pikes, there was a welcome breeze. Then I spotted the second stag of the trip, some way away on the slopes of Rampsgill Head. This time I was far enough away not to disturb it. Using the zoom on the camera I managed to take a couple of photos.
The path from The Knott to the Straights of Riggindale is a bit of a motorway. I remember sheltering from a snow shower behind the wall a couple of years ago. Today it was beautiful, a warm, sunny autumn morning. On reaching the Straights I turned left for the gentle climb up Rampsgill Head. Although Rampsgill Head is unimpressive as a summit, it is a fine viewpoint. To the north, you can look straight down Martindale to Hallin Fell. To the east, you can look across the Eden Valley to Cross Fell and the Dun Fells. To the south are the Howgill Fells. To the east and the south, the hills appeared to holding back the clouds, leaving Lakeland in glorious sunshine.
From Rampsgill Head, my route was a straightforward ridge walk with glorious views all around. The low angle of the sun was casting shadows I the cwms of the Hellvellyn range and Blencathra and Skiddaw were clearly visible to the north. The haze and lingering mist in the valleys (not a perfect inversion unfortunately) were not ideal for photography, but the panorama was a feast for the eyes.
High Raise with its cairn and shelter was the high point of the ridge and I stopped for a snack and some photos. From here the path became a bit boggy in parts, though not as bad as Wainwright makes out. It is easy walking over Raven Howe, Red Crag to Whether Hill. At Wether Hill, I stopped for lunch sitting on the stones surrounding the modest standing stone. Again the views all round were impressive.
The ascent to Loadpot Hill was the last bit of climbing. Just before the trig point, there are some ruins (Lowther House). There is also another standing stone, which according to Wainwright is a parish boundary marker. I was to see several more on the way down to Moor Divock. On the descent, I met a couple of dog walkers.
I decided to follow the main path rather than go via Bonscale Pike, which was probably a mistake as Bonscale and Arthur’s Pike would have been a more interesting walk. The path down to Moor Divock is a bit boring and the surrounding landscape a bit dreary. After crossing a couple of becks, I turned left along a track, following a tractor with a trailer loaded with rolls of bracken.
Passing a house (Roehead), the track becomes a road leading to Pooley Bridge. After turning left again, it was then a short walk back to Park Foot camp site. I was relieved to find that the noisy party of Geordies were no longer there. Apart from my tent there were only two other tents on the site.
The next morning I woke to thick mist. If I had been up in the fells, I would have seen an inversion. It meant packing a wet tent, but it was better than rain! Remarkably, I had had no rain for the entire trip. It certainly was a good walk, with wonderful views and variations, together with two great wild camps.
I woke part way through the night and just couldn’t get comfortable again. My neck was really sore. As it got light, I saw the reason: my pillow had slipped off the sleeping mat. After a more comfortable hour in my sleeping bag, I decided to get up. The morning air was cool rather than cold, but I was grateful for my PHD Minimus down jacket.
Initially the sky was clear, but it quickly started to cloud over, which was disappointing. I adopted a relatively leisurely approach to breakfast and as a result I wasn’t away until 10 o’clock. The clouds were now quite thick overhead.
Just after Ruthwaite Lodge a startled stag appeared out of nowhere about 20 metres in front of me, leapt gracefully over the path and charged up the hill swerving around a sheep and disappeared over the crest of the ridge. It all happened so quickly, that I didn’t have time for a photo.
Although the path up Grisedale is a bit of a trudge, the compensation is the scenery, particularly towards Dollywagon Pike. When I reached Grisedale Tarn I decided to fill my water bottle. As I bent down I saw in the distance a man in a bright green Paramo Velez followed by a woman and a dog. Surely this couldn’t be the Sloman and Peewiglet! Nope, it was another beardy bloke in shorts and the lady had a Jack Russell terrier on a lead.
Ascending Grisedale Hause, the sun decided to make a welcome appearance. From the Hause to the top of Fairfield was a bit of a slog, with plenty of loose rock on the path. On the summit there was a surprisingly strong, biting wind. After a wander around, I decided to change my route. Originally I had planned to go to Dove Crag and then descend Dovedale. Instead I decided to go over Cofa Pike and down Deepdale, to avoid the wind.
Even though I had been to Deepdale Hause via Cofa Pike recently, I had forgotten how steep and awkward the path was. On the way down I met numerous walkers on their way up. At Deepdale Hause I turned east and descended the steep path down to the head of Deepdale. On reaching some large boulders I decided it was time to have some lunch. As I unpacked, I was passed by another walker, the only one I was to see in Deepdale.
As I ate lunch I admired the crags to the south. I didn’t hang around too long and was soon descending to a small ravine. It has been a long time since I had walked in Deepdale and it was a lot wilder than I had remembered. There were several waterfalls in the ravine, although mainly out of sight of the path.
Further down the valley, there was abundant evidence of glaciations with numerous drumlins. Amongst these and the meandering beck, I spied a flat stretch of grass, which appeared to be the only feasible place to camp in Deepdale. I shall return one day to explore, but it was too early in the afternoon to stop.
All too soon I reached Wall End and civilisation. I crossed over the main road and through some fields to the eastern side of Patterdale before turning south towards Hartsop. I’ve down this path several times recently, so I motored on, pausing only briefly to take a photo of the waterfall below Lingy Crag.
On reaching Hartsop, I turned left through the village and then up the reservoir track. In retrospect I should have taken the path on the southern side of the beck, but I continued to the Water Board building and then crossed the beck via the wooden footbridge. From here it was a short sharp climb to regain the main path.
On reaching Hayeswater, the breeze stiffened considerably. I contoured around the northern shore to a flattish piece of land caused by a debris slide (probably post glaciations). Although not completely flat it was feasible as a camp site. I hurriedly pitched the tent, collected some water and dived inside to get out of the wind. Once inside it was obvious that I had underestimated the slope, which was more across the slope than end to end. After dinner, I decide than I wouldn’t be able to sleep without rolling off my sleeping mat, so I packed everything into the rucksack and then turned the tent so it was sloping head to toe, which was much more comfortable.
As I settled down to sleep, I could hear three stags bellowing like sick sheep. A couple of hours after dusk, the wind subsided and the stags became quiet so I could drift off into sleep.
Family health issues almost prevented me from doing this trip. The day’s delay, however, worked in my favour as you’ll see. Now that I’m “economically inactive”, I’m getting used to driving up to the Lake District, this being my fourth visit this year. I decided to revisit the Eastern Lakes, partly because it is easier to reach from the motorway and partly because I wanted to wild camp in Grisedale and at Hayeswater again.
I decided to make Park Foot at Pooley Bridge my base camp. Established camp sites are the best place to leave the car for a few days without worrying whether something might happen to it. They also give a bail out option and have the lure of a hot shower at the end of a trip.
I’m fairly sure that I camped at Park Foot thirty-odd years ago, not that I can remember much about it. When I arrived, there were only about four tents on the whole camp site. I selected a pitch well away from anyone else and settled down to dinner with a very excellent Coq au Vin from Fuizion Foods.
Just as I finished two cars arrived and parked about twenty metres away. There was a lot of door slamming and shouting. Oh dear! This seemed to be a group of Geordies intent on having a weekend on the lash. Up went two large tents, a gazebo and an unfeasibly long beach wind break. The wind break gave it away. Whenever parties try to wall themselves off on a camp site, you know you’re in for trouble.
After a little deliberation, I decided to repack all my gear into my bags, pick up my tent (one advantage of a geodesic) and move well away from them. Later in the evening, after dark, this proved to be a very wise move as they were indeed intent on a huge drinking and shouting session replete with arc lights, which lasted until about one in the morning. Fortunately I was far enough away for the revelries to be hardly audible. I know they went on beyond one o’clock because I had to pay a visit to the toilet block in the night.
The next day dawned dry but quite cloudy and murky. After a leisurely breakfast, I packed and was away by ten o’clock. The objective of the day’s walk was to walk the length of Ullswater along its southern shore and then part way up Grisedale and wild camp in the woods. Unfortunately, the road hugs the shore until Howtown, so I walked to just beyond Cross Dormont before taking the parallel path above the road but below Arthur’s Pike.
The initial path to Crook-a-Dyke was through fields, but beyond it was a muddy maze through gorse bushes. After about half a mile it became quite a pleasant track with intermittent views of Ullswater through the trees. The clouds were low, making for a murky light, not very good for photography, but pleasantly moody on the eye. Nearing Howtown, Hallin Fell came to dominate the view. The descent into Howtown passes several whitewashed buildings. After the hotel, a path branches off to follow the lake shore.
This next section is quite delightful, passing through woods and initially giving a splendid view north east up the lake. Being a Saturday, there were quite a number of casual day walkers and I had to dodge in and out of them to overtake. Despite taking a lot of pictures and having a heavier pack, I was still a lot faster!
Rounding the point and entering another wooded stretch, I was starting to feel hungry. However, there was no obvious place to have lunch, so I continued to Sandwick. At the end of the woods there is an attractive little beach, which was tempting as a lunch spot, but there was a family and a dog playing so I pushed on. Sandwick is just a row of cottages and a farm house, but utterly charming, although the occupants must get fed up with the pedestrian traffic and cars parked on the verge.
I followed the path a bit further and a grassy bank presented itself as a pleasant lunch spot with a decent view. I had already completed about half my intended walk, so there was no hurry. A number of walkers and mountain bikers passed by as I munched through some cheese pita bread sandwiches. The cold breeze prevented me from dawdling too long.
Rounding Long Crag, the weather started to brighten. By the time I reached Silver Point, shafts of sun had penetrated the clouds. There’s a lovely little beach east of Silver Point where two tents were pitched. I hope the occupants left no trace as it is a beautiful spot to pitch. Instead of following the path I walked out to the point to explore and take a few photos. You could possibly pitch on the point as well as there a few flat patches of grass.
After a short climb up Silver Crag, the path turns into a farm track, passing a derelict building with an impressively sagging roof. After passing the farm, I crossed the bridge and walked a short way along the main road. Beyond the church, I turned up the lane leading to Grisedale.
A short climb took me out of the woods and gave me the first proper view of Grisedale. The leaves on the trees were turning brown and provided a photo opportunity. Another climb brought me on to the path on the northern side of Grisedale. By this time the sun had broken through, lighting up the valley. As I came level with the woods, I passed two oriental lads who were rushing down the valley. My greeting was not returned. They didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves!
I decided to walk in the woods to see whether there was a better pitch than the one I had used last year. Where the floor of the wood was flat, it had been churned up by cattle. Where it wasn’t churned up, the ground was sloping. It transpired that my pitch of last year was the best spot. It was reasonably flat, sheltered and secluded, so I put up the tent in almost exactly the same place. There are some other potential pitches at the south eastern end of the woods, but they suffer from being more open and from noise from the beck.
After pitching the tent, I made the most of the sunshine and had a wander around. Dinner was Savoury Minced Beef, which was delicious. The sun was soon behind the hills and the temperature started to drop. As darkness fell, I experimented with a few photos of the tent with a light in it. I then repaired to my sleeping bag for an early night.
I read on Andy Howell’s blog that Paramo are going to discontinue the 3rd Element jacket. The reason given is that it has been difficult to convince people to buy such a strange garment. However, as Alan Sloman points out, commenting on Andy’s post, it has been quite difficult to find the 3rd Element in the shops. I bought mine online.
If you are wavering, you really ought to snap one up before they are gone. They are probably the most adaptable and flexible jacket ever produced. The good thing about Paramo is that they last for ever.
I seem to be a bit of a curse on Paramo jackets. Whenever I suggest that a jacket is good, e.g. the Viento, the Vasco, the 3rd Element, Paramo seem to get rid of them. Will the curse work on the Velez Adventure Light?
Andy makes another interesting point saying:
“Perhaps, the problem with the Third Element was that there just aren’t that many of us about. Sometimes I think that 80% of regular backpackers in the UK know each other, if not in person then through the internet. Maybe there just aren’t that many of us!”
It makes me wonder whether backpacking is more of a micro minority pastime than a minority pastime. Sure a lot of people walk in the hills, but the vast majority appear to be day walkers. I don’t decry day walkers; I was a day walker for many years until I started backpacking again five years ago. It was interesting when I was in the Lakes recently, I’m not sure that any of the walkers that I met were backpackers. I was the only one who was visibly carrying a tent.
Part of me is glad that most walkers don’t want to wild camp in the hills as it might get quite crowded. I’ve always been surprised recently at the lack of wild campers when I’ve been up in the Lakes. On the other hand, people are missing out on the sublime pleasure of wild camping. It also suggests that the market for lightweight backpacking gear could be considerably smaller than we might think.
Left to right: Viento, 3rd Element, Vasco
Here’s a quick summary of how some of my other gear performed on my recent Lake District trip.
Paramo Adventure Light Velez: I’m really impressed by this smock. The outer material is soft but close woven. It is much smoother than the conventional Paramo material. This might be an issue with some hip belts, although it was not a problem with the Ultrahike. I don’t think the material will be as durable either, so some extra care might need to be taken. The roll away hood is great and means that the collar is deeper than the conventional Velez, which I like. The side vents are brilliant for venting and the lighter material makes it easier to roll the sleeves up. Is it better than the 3rd Element? I think it is different rather than better or worse. The big advantage is the lower weight (560g vs. 740g ) and greater packability.
PHD Minimus Jacket: I though it might be overkill to have a down jacket, but it proved to be a great piece of gear. It was useful for warmth both early morning and in the evening. It is significantly warmer than the Haglofs LIM Barrier smock. I like having hand warmer pockets (which the LIM Barrier lacks). The Minimus packs down small, yet lofts very quickly when unpacked. The back is a bit short, so it rides up when bending over. I liked the microfleece inside the collar. The hood is OK but I would prefer a drawcord. I used the hood instead of my sleeping bag hood one night and found it to be very effective. At 362g for the jacket and 54g for the hood, the Minmus is a very weight effective way of keeping warm.
Integral Designs Hot Socks: For a bit of luxury in the tent, you can’t beat these. They keep your feet nice and warm. At 120g, there is very little weight penalty and they can be worn inside your sleeping bag if its very cold. I think they are better than down bivvy boots as they are not as badly affected by damp, resist compression and are warmer under your feet.
Rohan Ultra T-shirt and Boxers: This stuff is so thin, it feels as though it will fall apart. However, it seems quite robust. The T-shirt weighs 62g and Boxers 37g. The material feels like silk and is very comfortable to wear. They don’t hold much moisture as they are so thin. It seems to evaporate almost immediately. The T-shirt was more comfortable than the Montane Terra T. I might try the slightly heavier weight Rohan T as well. Smell was not an issue either.
Salomon Fastpacker GTX: It was a relief to return to these after experimenting with Inov-8 Roclites and AKU NS 564s. I’m glad I resisted using the Salomon Quests as the Fastpackers were supremely comfortable. For me, these are just the best boots ever. I can’t understand why some people claim they have poor grip. For me they seem to have great grip on grass and rock, wet or dry. I only had one minor slip all trip. I know some don’t like Goretex linings, but the ones on the Fastpackers seem to work really well. My feet remained dry and never over heated.
Cumulus Quantum 350: This bag has superb loft and is lovely and silky to the touch. I like the trapeziodal baffles, which seem to prevent cold spots. My only criticisms are that the down collar could be a bit fatter and that the zip baffle should be wider at the shoulders to prefer the zip dangling in your face (mod on the way!). Apart from that, this is a great bag. I used the Aplkit Pipedream 400 at base camp. I don’t think there’s much to choose between the two bags in terms of warmth, but the Quantum definitely packs down smaller and feels more luxurious.
Super Delios: Worked perfectly and is definitely easier to use than the Travel Tap. It is great to be able to put the purifier cap on Platypus type bladders (I use Source ones). The only criticism is that one of the plastic retainers for the cap has snapped. I am going to reinforce this with a bit of tape.
I reckon getting the right rucksack is more difficult than the right footwear. At least with footwear you can do some trial walks where it becomes obvious quite quickly whether there are any problems. With packs, I think you need a good two-day walk to assess whether there are any issues.
I approached my recent trip with a modicum of apprehension as to whether the Ultrahike would live up to my expectations. It certainly felt good when I did a test load, but the real proof would come from my three-day trip in the Lakes last week.
I’m pleased to say that overall, then Ultrahike did well. It’s not perfect, but it is very good. The most important aspect of any pack is whether it carries well; other considerations are secondary. If it’s uncomfortable, everything else counts for nothing.
The Ultrahike has a generally comfortable and stable carry. Most of the weight is effectively transferred to the well designed hip belt. The hip belt is a great design. The split means that the top of the belt goes over the crest of your hip, while the bottom finger goes below. Unlike conventional hip belts this means there is no pressure on the point of the hip. It also helps ventilation and the hip belt was significantly less sweaty than some other designs. I’m a 34″ waist and the belt was near the end stops, so I don’t think it would fit waists smaller than 33″.
I addition to the main fastening buckle, there are two further buckles on each side that alter the tilt of the belt slightly. The semi-rigid plastic strips on each finger mean that the belt can effectively carry the entire weight of the pack quite easily. I was concerned that it might make the pack quite rigid, but, in fact, it was reasonably flexible. The only slight drawback was that the lower finger of the belt led to some slight tenderness where it rested on my buttock muscle. This eased on the third day as the plastic became more malleable and I suspect this is a pack that will improve over time. If I was redesigning it, I would make the padding a bit thicker here.
Although the shoulder straps are quite firm, they are well contoured and were very comfortable and reasonably well padded. The sternum strap was easy to adjust, although it was close to fully extended, even though I’m a 40″ chest. It’s a shame that there are no webbing ladders on the shoulder straps as it is difficult to add shock loops for a bottle. Although I started with a bottle attached to the shoulder straps, I changed to storing it in the side pocket.
The side pockets are very good. One side was big enough to hold my Scarp1 tent and peg bag. In the other pocket I had a water bottle, a Platypus type bottle (not always full), tripod and a hat or cap. The pockets are well positioned, so it is easy to access and replace a water bottle without dislocating your shoulder.
The lid pocket (which has a water-resistant zip) was big enough to hold a waterproof jacket and over-trousers plus a dry bag with valuables. It’s a shame that there isn’t a separate pocket under the lid to keep valuables safe.
The main sack has a hydration sleeve, but no other pockets or compartments. It was a joy to have a relatively capacious sack, which swallowed my gear easily. Unlike the Mariposa or Ohm, I didn’t have to compress my sleeping bag and clothes too much. I could easily have fitted in some more gear if it had been necessary. The drawcord closure could be a bit wider.
Down each side is a draw string compression system. While I can see the logic for these systems, I think two cinch straps is a better system. The cords can catch on items packed into the side pockets. A webbing strap would also be more useful for securing long items such as a tent. I added a shock cord with a cord lock to secure my Scarp. This is a bit fiddly as the loops for the compression cord are quite small.
I also added some shock cord across the front of the pack to secure my walking poles. Theoretically the points of the walking pole can be placed through the ice axe loops (there’s a short run of elastic to secure the tips), but I felt my system was more secure and elegant. Again, the loops for the shock cord are quite small. Supplied with the pack is some shock cord on the top of the lid pocket. I found this useful to stash my jacket when I wasn’t using it.
I had some concerns that the back system might be quite sweaty as there is no spacer mesh. However, I found the reverse to be true. It was one of the least sweaty back systems I’ve used. It’s certainly a lot less sweaty than the Ohm and Mariposa. Although the foam pad is quite flexible, the “n” shaped aluminium frame means that the contents of the pack don’t dig into your back and it doesn’t require the careful packing that the Ohm, or to a lesser extent my Aether 60 requires.
Overall, I really like this pack. It will take another couple of trips for me to be sure, but I think it has the right compromises of being reasonably light weight (1150g), yet having a good back system that will easily carry heavier loads if necessary. With consumables and water, I was carrying about 13.5kg (base weight was just below 10kg). Hopefully the hip belt will soften a bit more. Even so I found the pack very comfortable. I don’t know how water-proof it is, but I put all my vulnerable gear in dry sacks. At least the pack shouldn’t absorb water as is the tendency of some other packs like the Exos.