F10 Helium UL 1

Hmmm. I’ve bought a new tent. I do have a bit of a collection! Why did I buy this? Well, I’ve been thinking about doing some of the shorter trails in East Anglia as an alternative to driving North to the Peak District, Lake District or North Wales. They don’t have the hills that I love, but they are a lot closer and flatter, which will be less strenuous. The biggest issue for me is the challenge of wild camping. That’s why I thought of getting a different tent.

None of my tents are particularly stealth, except for the Helm 1, which is a bit heavy. I wanted something that didn’t weigh more than about a kilo and didn’t use trekking poles as they are a bit superfluous on lowland trails. I wanted a double skin tent that was fly sheet first pitch with a small footprint. The other feature that is important for lowland camping is a fly sheet colour that wouldn’t draw attention, green or brown.

Tents I narrowed it down to were the Terra Nova Laser Compact 1 and Starlite 1 and the F10 Helium UL 1. The Starlite looked good but I rejected because of lack of headroom as it is too low to sit up comfortably. The Laser Compact and Helium are very similar but there are some important differences.

The Helium is a lot cheaper, at less than half the price of the Laser Compact. The Laser is slightly lighter, saving 141g, taking the tent and poles together (892g vs 1,033g) . The poles in the Helium account for most of this difference (102g). The supplied pegs are a bit heavier too, but I will swap some of them. The colours are slightly different with the Laser being a darker green. Helium is a darker, more khaki green than the publicity photos and should blend in well. Obviously camo would be best but that isn’t really an option in mainstream tents!

Looking at the dimension diagrams, the dimensions of the two tents are virtually identical. The Helium inner is marginally shorter and the porch slightly smaller. However, the headroom is better because of the pre-bent poles which means the apex of the arch is virtually flat. The F10 also has tension band system (TBS) which should add stability. To be honest, the TBS is quite intrusive and fiddly on the Helium and I’d rather have double guys each side on the pole arch like Hilleberg tents. Another difference is the groundsheet on the Helium which is 70D compared with 30D on the Laser, although the hydrostatic head is slightly lower.

I haven’t seen a Laser Compact in the flesh, but I did own a Laser Competition. Comparing the Helium with the Laser Competition, the inner feels roomier, I suspect the ends are marginally wider. The porch is a lot smaller, but you can detach the inner at the centre of the door and pull it back to make more space. Extra care will be needed if cooking in the porch.

I don’t like the door tie back system. There’s a toggle on the fly sheet hem which connects to a ring on the roof of the inner. Not only is it fiddly but it seems to come loose easily. I tried some clothes pegs, but those can slip too. I’ve ordered some magnetic tie backs which hopefully will solve this issue ( https://speedsterstoves.co.uk/other-products/speedster-stoves-silicone-magnets.html ). It’s a real issue if you are cooking in the porch, as the door coming loose could flap against the stove a catch fire. A poor design IMO.

There are two small mesh pockets inside the roof of the inner. Personally I’d rather there were a larger mesh pocket at either end, which would be more useful. The inner door opens up virtually the whole side of the inner and can be clipped away tidily. The outer door has a double ended zip so the top can be opened for ventilation and there’s a buckle at the hem to relieve tension.

It’s very easy and quick to pitch. It feels pretty solid even without the TBS in place. For lowland camping it should be fine. I’m sure it would be fine in the hills as well, but like the Laser, it will probably flap a bit in high winds. Hopefully the vents at each end will help control condensation better than the old Laser, plus the door can be ventilated at the top. I suspect it will still be quite condensation prone though, which is unavoidable in these kind of tents.

One thing I was surprised about was the small pack size. It packs to about 30cms long and has a really good “burrito” style bag. It’s so much easier to pack than a stuff sack and there are two straps to compact it further. The bag is a bit heavy at 56g, but the utility more than offsets this. There’s a useful repair kit with patches and a pole sleeve (15g).

All in all it’s a really nice tent. If you don’t use trekking poles, then it’s pretty light and there aren’t many double skin tents that are lighter. Taking into account features and price, it’s a difficult tent to beat. Here I must give a special shout out to OutdoorGear in Bournemouth who answered my questions promptly and gave me a good service. My tent was delivered next day by DPD at no extra charge. I paid £225 vs a list price of £315, which is the cheapest I’ve seen the Helium.

If you want to check it out: https://www.outdoorgear.co.uk/Force-Ten-F10-Helium-UL-1-Tent-sku51106001.asp?subcat=1-3-person&cat=tents-by-size&dept=tents&size=1p

Disclosure: I have no relationship with OutdoorGear other than as a customer.


Fairbrook Naze

I was up in the Peak District last week and did a little overnighter on Kinder Scout. My original plan was to camp at Seal Stones. However, the going was a bit slower than I anticipated and I ended up camping at Fairbrook Naze. I parked the car near Moorfield just outside Glossop and walked up Bray Clough then on to the shooting cabin.

Bray Clough

From the shooting cabin, there’s a path south that follows a line of shooting butts which picks up the path eastwards to Mill Hill. It was reasonably dry under foot and the sun was shining. Spring had arrived!

Looking towards Glossop

There were some good views back to Glossop. Pretty soon I reached the flagstone path to Mill Hill. At the top of Mill Hill, I had a splendid view of Kinder Scout.

Kinder Scout from Mill Hill

I followed the Pennine Way towards Kinder Scout but instead of going up Kinder, I took the path towards Ashop Head and then along the River Ashop. Not surprisingly there were numerous boggy areas where side streams met the main stream. It was slow going negotiating the bogs and regularly crossing the River Ashop as the path meandered from side to side. None of it was difficult but it was slow.

River Ashop with Fairbrook Naze in the distance

As the river valley widened out a bit, the going got a bit easier.

River Ashop and Kinder Edge

One sad sight was a dead lamb sprawled across the path.

As I walked on, the valley became more like a ravine. The good news was the footbridge marked on the map was in the right place and in good condition, otherwise it would’ve been tricky to cross.

Ruin and footbridge

At the top of the short steep climb out of the river valley, I decided that my original route plan to Gate Side Clough and then up to Seal Stones would take too long so I decided to take a short cut up to Fairbrook Naze and possibly go on to Seal Stones from there. Fortunately, there was a faint path headed towards the Naze.

Fairbrook Naze

I headed for a stile over the wire fence that skirts around the base of the escarpment. On the other side there didn’t appear to be any path going up, so I just went straight up. It was pretty steep but not difficult. A the top I picked up the path that follows the Edge.

Kinder Edge looking east

As I rounded the corner of the Naze, someone had bagged a camp spot right on the edge. It must be quite a popular spot as it’s the second time I’ve seen someone camped there. There are a couple of other camp spots before you get to Fair Brook but my intetion was still to go to Seal Stones. I decided to get some water at Fair Brook. It was dark and peaty but it would have to do.

Fair Brook and Seal Stones in middle distance

The ground on the other side was uneven and I got a reoccurence of the foot issue that I had on Dartmoor. As time was getting on, I decided to look for a spot to camp. A little way beyond the brook a reasonably flat spot appeared just off the path, so I decided to park myself there.

Camp just beyond Fair Brook with Fairbrook Naze in the distance

By this time it had become quite breezy. Although not totally sheltered, my pitch provided a little bit of respite from the wind. After a bit of a faff around, I sorted out some food and a cup of tea. After eating, I had a little explore. I was quite pleased with my pitch despite it being not far from the path. The northern edge of Kinder is much less frequented than the Edale side and no one came past.

Fairbrook Naze

It was quite windy overnight, although well within the capabilities of the X-Mid. The weather forecast had been for rain by midday. However about half an hour after I woke up, it started to rain. Instead of hanging around, I had a quick breakfast and packed up. Because of the wind and rain, I didn’t take any more photos.

Instead of neatly folding the tent, I just stuffed it into the side pocket of my Mariposa rucksack and set off. There was no great rush, so I took it steadily. While the rain wasn’t heavy, the wind made it quite cold. I had a pair of thin disposable polythene gloves in my medical kit and used them to stop my hands getting cold while packing the tent away. They were so good, that I kept them on when I started walking. They were great at stopping my hands from freezing. In some ways they are better than conventional waterproof gloves as you retain dexterity so I could even re-tie my bootlaces. They are also touch screen friendly.

It was quite a pleasant walk along The Edge despite the weather. Just as I reached the Pennine Way, the mist descended. It didn’t matter much as the navigation was straightforward. I reversed previous day’s route. It was all pretty easy, although it was wetter under foot. I was back to the car well before midday. All in all, it was a nice little trip and a good first camp of the year.

Toe separators

When I went to Dartmoor in October, I had a reoccurrence of my Morton’s Neuroma issue. MN is an inflammation between the third and fourth metatarsals. In bad cases in can be very painful. In my case, it’s relatively mild. Rather than pain, it’s a bit like getting an electric shock. One way to alleviate it is to separate your toes. On the walk I used some Superdrug gel toe protectors. I searched for a better solution and found these on Amazon. I’ve been wearing them for a couple of weeks and they seem to be working. They are more comfortable than the toe protectors and stay in place. They are soft and easy to rinse. I’m not saying they will work for everyone but they seem to be working for me. Not expensive either.

Air Beam rescue

Air Beam with yoga ball plug

When I first got the Air Beam frame for my Gossamer Gear Mariposa, it was fantastic. It made it so comfortable but after a couple of years, it started to slowly deflate, so I’d have to add air every hour or so. It got worse and worse until it was unusable. I couldn’t find a leak so I just put it at the back of the gear cupboard and forgot about it.

Recently a member of Trek-lite forum said they had cured the problem by using a silicone stopper. Apparently the problem was not the frame itself but the valve in the bulb that is used to inflate it. I couldn’t find a silicone stopper but a yoga ball plug looked promising (and cheap) so I ordered some from Amazon. To my amazement, it cured the problem and there was no deflation, even after leaving it inflated for a week. Next time I go out I’ll give it a proper test but I’m confident I’ll be able to use the Air Beam again. It will also work in my GG Murmur pack.

An old photo of the Air Beam with leaky bulb

A big thank you

I want to thank Ultralight Outdoor Gear and Sierra Designs for their excellent customer service. As you know, I like to see how gear works, so I removed the Y frame in my Flex Capacitor rucksack. It was very difficult to put back in place. So much so, that I broke one of the connectors on the frame. It was my fault as I tried to force it back into the pocket that secures the top of the frame.

I contacted UOG to see if I could get a replacement. In short order, they contacted Sierra Designs who posted to me two new connectors. The new ones are a new design. They are solid rather than hollow, making them stronger. Maybe there have been other failures too? The pair are 3g heavier, but who cares for such a trivial increase?

Having disassembled the frame, removed the existing connector and the broken piece (with a Swiss penknife) in the other screw hole, I screwed in the new connectors and replaced the two Y arms. After reinstalling the frame, I used a spoon handle to lever the top of the frame garage over the end of the frame (both sides). It was pretty easy to do although the fit is very tight. You need to wiggle the garage around a bit to get a secure fit before engaging the Velcro tabs.

There is a video on YouTube on how to do this. However, it looks like it’s an earlier version of the pack and you have to do it slightly differently. You insert the spoon handle into the roof of the garage, then ease the top of the garage over the top of the frame. It requires a little bit of effort but is not difficult.

Anyway a big thank you to Damon at Sierra Designs and Rob at UOG for rescuing my pack. Unless you have to, it’s probably best not to remove the frame! I’m itching to use the pack but it probably won’t be until February now with the long winter nights.

Paramo – they don’t make ’em like this anymore

Paramo is the Marmite of the outdoors and seems to attract more love and loathing than most bits of kit. Personally, I like Paramo but it’s not perfect. I treat it as a very rain resistant soft shell. On the odd occasion it can get overwhelmed by heavy rain in strong winds, but the vast majority of the time, it does its job. It’s more comfortable than a hard shell, especially in changeable conditions. They are much more breathable and most jackets have good venting options. While the jackets are excellent, I’m not keen on the trousers. They seem to be more vulnerable to leakage, especially when the material rubs together.

Like most manufacturers, over the years, they’ve changed the styles, although much less frequently than many more fashion conscious brands. Consistency, reliability and quality have been hallmarks of Paramo over the years. They were eco friendly and socially responsible before it became trendy. They’ve also been at the vanguard of repairing their products if anything gets damaged or worn. Effectively their jackets last virtually forever.

I’ve lost count of the number of Paramo jackets I’ve had. The purpose of this post is to pay homage to the great jackets they have made but are no longer in their range. In fact, I’d say the ones I’m going to mention are better than ones in their current range.


Vasco jacket at start of 2014 TGO Challenge

The Vasco jacket is probably my favourite. I used mine on my 2014 TGO Challenge. It was so good I bought a second when they stopped making them from the Paramo eBay outlet, just in case I lost or ruined my original. I probably shouldn’t have bothered as both are still going strong and look good. I did get Paramo to repair the velcro on the chest pocket rain flaps on my first jacket (same for my 3rd Element jacket).

Why do I like the Vasco so much? Unlike some Paramo jackets it has quite a trim but not tight cut and fits me well and has enough room underneath for a thick fleece if required. The sleeve length is perfect for me coming down to the middle of the back of my hand. I love the bite tab velcro wrist adjustment which adds a bit of structure.

Ventilation is great with arm vents, a massive venting yoke over your shoulder blades and a stud flap behind the main zip which means the zip can be open but the front stays closed. Additionally the high chest pocket zips can be left open with the velcro rain flap closed for more ventilation. They are also a decent size for storage and hand warming. There’s another useful interior chest mesh pocket, large enough for a phone.

The hood is detachable with stud attachments. It’s not quite as good as the hood on the 3rd Element but does have the advantage of packing away into the collar. The fit is good and the liner means you don’t have to wear a hat underneath. Overall it’s a really great jacket. Both my jackets are mid blue with black side panels. I think the old colours are better than most of the new ones.

3rd Element

3rd Element in the Carneddau

I suspect you either love or hate this jacket. If you’ve not come across it before, it’s a little whacky. This is the second iteration, which is better than the original. You can separate the body to wear as a gilet from the hood/shoulder/arms section. In theory you could wear the top separately but I never have, hence there are three ways you can wear it.

Like the Vasco, it’s quite a trim cut, indeed, the gilet is quite snug. The arms are a little longer than the Vasco. As I mentioned before, the hood is fixed and even better. Effectively there is a double layer of material over your shoulders making it warmer and more weatherproof.

It’s also warmer as there aren’t the same venting options as the Vasco (no arm vents or yoke vent). Nevertheless it has the same stud and front zip flap arrangement as well as the option of opening the shoulder zips which attach the top section to the gilet. The chest pockets are the same as the Vasco and can also be opened to help venting.

I really like the option of turning the 3rd Element into a gilet, which gives a lot of flexibility. I find gilets are great for cooler weather, keeping your torso warm but preventing overheating as your arms can lose heat. If it gets cold, you just pop the top on. Admittedly it’s a bit fiddly to re-engage the zippers, but you’re still well protected from rain even without doing them up.

You won’t be be surprised to know I have two! My original one is red with grey side panels. The second one is green with black side panels. The reason I got the second one was it was very cheap on the Paramo eBay website and priced to go. It might even have been the last to be sold as it had been out of production for some time. Again, I like the colours more than the current pallet.


Quito on the 2017 TGO Challenge

The Quito recently went out of production, which is a shame as it’s a great jacket. It’s lighter at 500g than the Vasco (711g) or 3rd Element (756g). The main reason it is lighter is that it has a thinner outer material. While it’s not as robust, it’s still pretty durable. That said, it’s not as hard wearing as the Vasco or 3rd Element and is showing more wear and tear despite not being as old.

I was a bit sceptical about how water resistant the lighter material would be but it seems to be pretty good. Perhaps the denser weave helps. It has a totally different fit to the other two jackets. Despite being a Medium like the others, it’s a baggier fit with long sleeves. I turn the ends up most of the time. It has a simpler cuff closure too with a cloth tab and velcro, not a bite tab. I prefer the bite tab but it’s not a deal breaker.

Where the Quito scores is the massive venting zips which run from the hip all the way up the body and half way down the arm. They have a two way zip which gives massive flexibility. Behind the zips at the waist there are also two hidden hand pockets. Unfortunately they don’t have internal closures so they are better as hand warmers rather than storage. There are two internal mesh chest pockets too, but you have to open the front zip to access them. Unlike the two other jackets there’s no stud stand behind the zip, so the jacket is fully open when unzipped. This is less of an issue because of the massive venting zips.

The hood can be folded away to make a collar via a velcro tab. It’s not a brilliant arrangement but simpler and lighter than folding into a hood pocket. However, the hood is excellent when worn. Mine is a very bright red, which is much better than the original or subsequent colours. My only real criticism is that the fit is a bit baggy. I was tempted to get a Small, but didn’t like the colour options. I used my Quito on my 2017 TGO Challenge and it was great. I can’t understand why they stopped making it.

Velez Adventure Light

Velez Adventure Light on the 2015 TGO Challenge

Ok. This doesn’t quite fit the post title because they still make the Velez Adventure Light. However, mine is a slightly different version which they don’t make any more as it has the bite tab cuffs rather than simple velcro tabs (like the Quito). It has a similar lightweight outer fabric to the Quito but not exactly the same. Unlike the Quito, it has a more trim fit, which I prefer.

Unlike the others, the Velez is a smock, which is not everyone’s cup of tea but I like it. It has two large torso zips to get on and off, which also provide great venting. There’s a large chest kangaroo pocket for storage (or additional venting). The neck zip also aids getting it on and off as well as yet more venting. The sleeves are just the right length and can be rolled up for cooling.

The hood folds away into the collar which stops it flapping in the wind as well as providing some structure. Like the others the hood is excellent. It’s a really comfortable smock but slightly heavier than the Quito at 560g. It’s also very weather resistant. I wore it on my 2015 TGO Challenge. On day three the weather was awful, very wet and windy. I wore the Velez all day and didn’t get wet from either rain or sweat. I was very impressed. In some ways it’s the best of the lot. Oh and it’s an attractive red and grey too.


As you can tell, I’m a Paramo fan. That said, I often carry a lightweight hard shell just in case of torrential wind driven rain. It is such a shame that these jackets have been discontinued. I’m sure the current offerings are fine, but it seems to me, the designs are not quite as good. I also think the colour options are nowhere near as attractive. Fortunately, these jackets will last forever, so I (probably) won’t be buying any more!

Flex Capacitor- Exped Flash Pocket adaption

I’ve got used to having a stash pocket on the front of my packs. While you can use the mesh bladder pocket from inside the Flex Capacitor, it’s quite small and doesn’t adapt very well when you change the pack size. It also means you lose a useful internal pocket for maps and bits and pieces. I’ve been using the Exped Flash Pocket on my Ultrahike. As I’m junking the Ultrahike, I thought I’d adapt the Flash pocket for the Flex Capacitor.

It was really easy to do. I reconfigured the top retaining straps of the Flash Pocket into loops which the top set of straps on the Flex Capacitor thread through. This means they adapt to the circumference of the pack whatever size it is. At the base, I’ve added some kamsnaps at either side of the Flash Pocket, which marry up with snaps on the ice axe loops on the pack. At the top, in the centre, I’ve added a small karabiner to stop the pocket sagging.

It fits even better than I expected. The only downside is I can’t reverse the pocket so the solid side faces out, which can be useful on occasion. However, the mesh is pretty robust and I could always replace the pocket if I ripped the mesh. Sierra Designs ought to produce a pocket of their own as it’s a really easy addition. I might add a couple of loops part way down to marry up with the lower set of straps, although it seems to work well as it is.

Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60L

Unfortunately my Lightwave Ultrahike 60 has come to the end of its life. The waterproof coating on the inside of the pack has gone all sticky and is coming off. I was tempted to get another one, but there are very few around and none my size, so I looked around for alternatives. The two that were on my radar were the Atom Packs Mo 60 and the Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60L.

While I was tempted to get the Mo 60, I already have a Mo 50. They aren’t that readily available and quite expensive, so I plumped for the Flex Capacitor, which arrived yesterday. It’s a totally different pack to the Mo. Apart from the price, I was attracted to the idea of being able to expand and contract the pack.

Fully expanded

There are plenty of other reviews elsewhere so I’ll be brief. It is very well made with no flaws that I can see. I bought the M/L with the S/M hip belt and it seems to fit me well. The hip belt is quite stiff and nicely contoured so it should be comfortable. I stuffed it with a couple of sleeping bags and it seemed to carry well, but I’ll only know when I take it out with a decent load. The shoulder padding feels a bit weird, but I’m sure it will be fine when I’m used to it.

Shock cord on top

Of course I’ve added a few tweaks. I’ve put a V of shock cord on the top do I can store a jacket or sit pad on top of the pack. I’ve made it adjustable with a cord lock. It can also be unthreaded easily if I don’t want it. It doesn’t interfere with opening the top pocket or the main body of the pack as it can be easily flipped to either side.

I didn’t like the zip pulls so I replaced those. Someone mentioned the zip pulls for the top pocket and main opening can be confused so I different colours, yellow for the top pocket and red for the two zips for the main compartment. They look more stylish than the original yellow cord ones. Mine have plastic toggles which are easier to pull. I used black ones for the hip belt pockets.

New zip pulls

I like to carry a length of thin closed cell foam mat to put under my air mattress so I used a short length of elastic attached to the internal pack back seams with safety pins to secure the foam mattress inside the pack. The photo below is not very good, but you get the idea.

Overall it seems a good pack, although very different to what I’ve been used to with no large stretch pocket on the outside, so I’ll have to get used to packing in a very different way. Weight is 1.3kg, slightly higher than the advertised 1.2kg, but not a disaster.

Losing confidence

Start of my 2014 TGO Challenge

I’ve been retired for over twelve years now, which has enabled me to do a reasonable amount of backpacking including four TGO Challenges, three of which were complete crossings. Over most of that period, my body has been in decent shape for the rigours of backpacking. I did have a minor back issue some years ago, but it never really restricted me.

Then in 2019, I injured my knee in Scotland and had to bail out of a trip. I tweaked a knee ligament so that I couldn’t walk without pain. After rest, physio and exercises, it took about a year to recover. Even then it was another year or so before I felt it was back to some semblance of normality. I was still cautious and wore a knee support.

Of course, lockdowns meant I couldn’t do much backpacking so it was difficult to know whether it was really fully recovered. Age is obviously a factor too. I recognised that I needed to do some strengthening exercises, which I started this year and seemed to make a difference.

This year all seemed to be going well. I did a trip to the Yorkshire Dales, where I seemed to have returned to fitness with no problems from my knee. I’ve done some shorter walks with no issues. I did an overnighter with a friend on Kinder with some tough off piste stuff. No issues. Then I did a full circuit of Kinder Scout and felt really good. This year I’ve not had to use the knee support either.

Unfortunately, right at the end of my Kinder circuit, I fell and hit my head and other knee really hard. I was lucky not to be knocked out. While my head recovered quickly, my right knee (not the one I injured in Scotland) has been slow to recover. On my Dartmoor trip it was uncomfortable going downhill and on uneven ground. It’s probably a bruised kneecap which apparently does take sometime to heal.

Walking from the car park to Taw Marsh, my right knee was complaining a bit, but not enough to be an issue. Everything seemed fine, but it the morning, my left knee didn’t feel quite right. There was some discomfort behind my knee. Again it wasn’t bad enough to stop me, but as a precaution, I put on my knee support.

I packed and walked up to Metheral Hill. When I reached the boundary stone, I decided to go off the path to cut across the top. It was very uneven and tussocky, hard on the knees and feet. By this time the discomfort was more noticeable behind my knee. Then I got a recurrence of the Morton’s neuroma in my left foot that I had a few years back. Every time my foot pushed on the outside of my boot, it compressed my metatarsals and sent what felt like an electric shock up through my foot.

Luckily I didn’t have to go too far off piste before I hit a path again. On more level ground, things seemed to calm down. Getting over Wild Tor and Watern Tor was ok, with just occasional shocks. However, it was more difficult on the far side of Watern Tor towards Teignhead Farm as I was effectively contouring on a slope with the same issue of pressing my foot on the outside of the boot.

I was regretting not using leather boots rather than fabric boots as leather probably would’ve been more supportive and might have mitigated the issue. Half way to the farm, I got a 3G signal and checked the weather forecast. It didn’t look great from evening for about 48 hours.

So with the foot/knee issues and the weather outlook, I decided to not go as far as I had planned. That meant I could take it slowly and rest the next day as the weather looked miserable. I made it ok to camp and sat out the next day and following morning.

When I set out to return to Taw Marsh, I had only a half day’s walk, so I knew I could take it easy. I also decided to take a lower route via Scorhill, partly because there was less ascent and better ground, but also because there had been a lot of rain. Scorhill has a clapper bridge and a footbridge over the streams, so there’d be no issue with flood water.

In the past I’ve found that toe separators alleviate Morton’s neuroma. I didn’t have any of those, but I did have some gel toe protectors to prevent bruising. Using two of those seemed to largely get rid of the “electric shocks”. The knee issues were still noticeable but not crippling so I managed to get the walk done. The last part up and over Hound Tor was a bit uncomfortable but not too bad. I must admit I was relieved to get back to Taw Marsh as it would only be a short walk in the morning back to the car.

I have to say, my confidence has been knocked a bit by this. I had hoped both knee issues and Morton’s neuroma were behind me. I think the Morton’s neuroma is manageable with the toe protectors. I’m also investigating footbeds.

The knees are a little more tricky. I think my right knee (the one I bashed) will eventually be ok. Bruised bones take a long time to heal apparently. It does seem to be improving although I still notice it a bit going downhill and if I sit down for too long.

My left knee is a bit more of an issue. The good news is I don’t think it’s anything to do with the ligament as it’s a different area (back of the knee). I think it’s to do with flexibility and straining it when kneeling in the tent. I noticed a while ago that my left knee doesn’t bend as far as my right. In addition to my knee strengthening exercises, I have been doing some simple stretching exercises. Clearly these haven’t been enough.

Once the discomfort has disappeared (not there yet), I’m going to start some more stretching exercises. In fact I’m going to find some more general stretching exercises too. The problem with modern living is we don’t really stretch our bodies, so as we get older we become less flexible. I have a friend who is a physio so I’m going to ask her.

I can’t see myself doing any backpacking before next March, so I can rest my body until it’s healed and then start over again with strength and stretching exercises. I’ve got an exercise bike too, so I need to be more disciplined about using that. Most days I go out for a couple of brisk walks too.

Hopefully, I can get back on track, but these niggly injuries are annoying. One further thing that is a bit of a trial is that in the cold, damp months my left knee aches like crazy. I’m experimenting with a simple elastic bandage to see if keeping it warm helps. Age is a bummer. The big lesson is as you get older you do have to work to stay fit. In the past, I didn’t really have to bother much. It’s annoying not being able to have complete confidence in your body’s resilience.

Stormy Dartmoor

Last week I was on Dartmoor for four nights. Things didn’t quite work out as expected. I had planned a decent walk around the North Moor, but I had to delay leaving by a day which messed up the coordination with the firing schedule as the Okehampton Range was due to be used, so I rearranged to stay on the eastern side of the moor. My original intention was to walk to from Taw Marsh to Hameldown to camp somewhere around there. I would then have a leisurely two day walk back, probably camping at South Teign Head for one night before returning to Taw Marsh.

However, the weather forecast worsened just before the trip. While the first night was fine and the next day was good, when I checked the forecast midway through the first day, the overnight forecast was rain and high winds with the next day low cloud and still windy. I decided Hameldown was too exposed and shortend my day to camp at South Teign Head near Fernworthy Forest. The forecast for the following day was even worse with heavy rain due until late morning, so the most sensible thing seemed to be to stay put until it cleared.

In the end the rain was very heavy (as well as high winds, although it was quite sheltered in my camp spot). It didn’t clear until midday, which left me just enough time to get back to Taw Marsh before sunset. The walk back was pretty wet underfoot. I decided not to go back via Watern Tor as Walla Brook can be tricky to cross so I rerouted via Scorhill where there is a clapper bridge.

It was a good walk although the wind at times was ferocious. Just after Scorhill I encountered two low flying helicopters on manouevres which was fun to watch. The track up to Hound Tor was pretty rough as was the first part of the descent down to Taw Marsh but I made it back with about an hour’s daylight to spare.

It was great to do a multiday trip even if it didn’t work out quite as planned. Unfortunately I did pick up a couple of minor injuries to my knee and my foot, but hopefully they will sort themselves out with some rest. That’s basically the backpacking season over for me this year. Hopefully next year will be a bit more productive. I’m going to work hard on leg strengthening exercises as I seem to be picking up some niggling injuries. Here’s a few pictures.

Taw Marsh
Taw Marsh
Wild Tor
Watern Tor
Teignhead Farm
South Teign Head and Fernworthy Forest
View south from White Ridge
Fernworthy near Teignhead Farm looking north
Shovel Down looking towards Scorhill
Scorhill Clapper Bridge
Taw Marsh
Taw Marsh

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