I’ve hurt my back and that coupled with busy work life has meant no real outdoorsy-ness for a while. My lower back occasionally fubars (traced back to schoolboy rugby and then a very long tumble down an ice-field where it all went a bit somersault-y). This time it was brought on by an innocuous slip on some leaves on a steep cobbled path. Pah. Enough of a slip to have me eating diclofenac like smarties this last week or two
So I’m using this downtime to share some kit and also tech / gadget geekery info, which you might find useful.
1. Kit review – the POcpac wallet.
I recently spotted that an ex colleague (my old boss actually) has been distributing a waterproof wallet – initially aimed at the cyclist market – that keeps your phone, money, cards etc dry when you’re out on the road. He’s a keen cyclist and whilst that’s not my bag we got talking and he mentioned that it’s an ideal bit of kit for hikers and the outdoors crowd in general. A couple of days after our chat a pOcpac arrived in the post and although I haven’t had day-long hikes of late I have been up on the moors on a couple of (wet) occasions – so I’ve ‘test driven’ the pOcpac enough to get a feel for it.
I always take some spare change and also notes with me when I’m out an any length of a walk but I’ve tended to keep them in a sandwhich bag. Which is okay when it’s dry but often – it isn’t! So a waterproof wallet is a good idea. The pOcpac also acts as a phone pouch / wallet. My HTC HD is a tad larger than an iphone and it fitted in well, the zip closed up nicely even with a chunky phone like the HTC HD inside. And I was able to check my phone through the clear cover and navigate the touch screen despite drizzle on the cover – so it does what it says on the tin (website).
There’s also some clever technical properties which appeal to my geek nature too.. more details on the pOcpac website.
5 out of 5 for quality and usefulness (zip closes well, study construction and it fits with a slim profile into my trouser side pocket)
5 out of 5 for waterproofing (used on 2 occasions, one drizzle, the other low cloud and rain and both phone and money stayed dry).
2. Next up is some App news:
(I’m not getting a free App or software for this, just sharing the love as it were).
The guys who developed the West Highland Way app have a new one out: The Cotswold Way App
They sent me an email saying that this is the first app guide to the Cotswold Way long distance path .. and (pleasingly, as an Android fan) it’s available for Android phones and tablets. People can use it to plan their route and accommodation in advance and also day-to-day as they walk the route. From their news release: “The app can display a map of the route overlaid with the locations of essential facilities such as hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites, restaurants, pubs, shops, transport links, etc. Users can move around the map and touch a location to see information about the facilities there, including links to the appropriate website for further information. So people can find the best accommodation options and link straight to their websites for contact details and booking.”
Mapping / GPS routeplanners like Viewranger are available of course but this app seems to me to be a useful tool in undertaking one of the long distance trails and good luck to guys behind it.
More info available on the Calton Hill site.
3. And finally, there have been some updates on the Social Hiking website / service which I spotted.
If you like to share your trails/ hikes (and especially I guess if you’re embarking on a long distance challenge) then Social Hiking is to my mind a neat bit of technology. I think there’s a time for silence and solitude (real world and electronic) but also times when you want to share and keep your friends / family / supporters / buddies up to date with what you’re doing.
Again, no commercial link or incentive for me on this service – I just like it and if you’re a hiking geek, or a geeky hiker – it’s worth a look
I’ve had a couple of trips away of late, so this weekend I was determined to get out and get moving in prep for the upcoming Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge I’m doing (raising money for homeless charity Simon On The Streets). Saturday looked like the best day so that was the plan. A ‘proper’ walk, come what may. What I hadn’t planned for though, was just how long the (excellent) Olympics opening ceremony would go on for.. and how heavy the red wine I was drinking would be. Oops.
Saturday was therefore a bit of a slow start. And my reluctance to get up the hills wasn’t helped by the rain that started just as I was getting Brodie’s harness on. Anyway – rain,schmain – off we went, though neither of us in particularly high spirits!
I had planned (in my head) a route that would start out from the back of the garden (always a good place to start) and go straight up the hill to the catch-water near Shooters Nab above Marsden. The climb felt a bit hard this time (first time for a long time actually). I was a bit dehydrated and I was cursing myself for not drinking more water before I set off. There was approximately 10 miles ahead of us so I stopped to swig some water rather than start with a headache.
The route described a southerly, then west to north-westerly loop up above the Wessenden valley on the heritage trail and then joining the Pennine Way near the Deer Farm and heading over the moors between Swellands and Black Moss reservoirs towards the Oldham Way / Pennine Way.
The part between the Deer Farm and Swellands Res is one of my favourite parts of the moors whether rain, snow or (occasional!) blue sky. Walking down the little steep sided valley to the river (Wessenden Brook) and the wooden bridge, past the waterfall and then up the steepish hill to the phone mast (and Heritage Stone number X (can’t remember which one that is.. 11?)) is a nice little section and gets your heart going.. more so with a dog pulling you downhill sniffing out sheep and rabbits (every time).
We stopped for a quick lunch of cheese sandwich just after Black Moss res (Brodie being a bit partial to cheddar) before heading over the A62 and on to the impressive cliffs looking over Castleshaw reservoirs. I could have spent ages here poking around the interesting shapes of the rocks but would have had a bored dog to contend with.
I shot a short video near the Oldham Way / Pennine Way Cairn – Warning : terrible sound quality due to the incessant winds ..
We then headed a bit further north before turning east / south east, down Willykay Clough and down to Eastergate and the final tramp back into Marsden.
So about 10 or 11 miles in all and I had reckoned about 4.5 / 5 hours to complete. Which it turned out to be.
And after that first shower we had patchy blue skies but (very) strong winds to contend with over the first 3 or 4 hours or so (it got a bit wearing actually).
I’m glad I got out despite the initial reluctance and a few more 5+ hour walks to get fit for the 3 peaks are on the cards
If you enjoyed this post and admire my grit in fighting a mild hangover,
why not sponsor me for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks:
Just a quick ‘kit test’ in that I think I’ve mentioned the water bowl I have for the dog before but I think it merits a proper mention because it’s so handy.
The one we (well, Brodie Dog) uses is the Mountain Paws bowl. It’s collapsible and with two handles, I can secure it easily to my backpack.
And whilst she favours stream water (or puddle water, weird dog) I always take extra fresh water for her. The walk we did this weekend (end of July) was about 5 hours and the sun was out for most of it, so she was getting pretty hot. Having a water bowl with me made all the difference, there are lots of streams on the moors but not always where you want them, as it were.
Here she is with it, accessories are model’s own.
I’m going to be doing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge later this year – raising money for Simon On The Streets and this post isn’t so much about fund-raising .. I’ll be on that soon enough .. but more a prompt for me to get fitter (e.g now I’ve publicly committed to it!).
Saturday 8th September. That’s the day. As this isn’t an ‘official’ event challenge, I’m sorting out the details myself (but via the helpful 3 peaks site at http://www.thethreepeakschallenge.co.uk/ ).
I’ve got some friends doing it with me although I think maybe I’m the only one doing it for charity (or for SOTS anyway).
They don’t all know each other and some I don’t get to meet up much with ‘in real life’ – so this will be a great social / shared experience.
And also this is an invite for any of my hiking friends to join me if you like. It would be great to meet some of you in person. I think, based on the blogs that I follow, that pretty much all of you are more dedicated mountaineers than me, so the 3 peaks may not be so much of a challenge for you .. but you do get to see me in all my red-faced, out-of-breathe glory :-)
I did the Yorkshire 3 Peaks a year ago (http://halfwayhike.com/2011/07/18/3-peaks-1-monsoon-and-some-cola-bombs-completing-the-yorkshire-3-peaks-challenge/) and the weather was pretty awful.
Here’s hoping for bluer skies this year (a late summer maybe?)
Me, in ‘action’ last year:
Our second day on Rum was going to less about height and more about distance. We were heading over to Guirdil, the other Bothy on Rum. And what a beautiful start to the day – it was blue skies from the start. The occasionally heard cuckoo from the day before had made a couple of appearances during the night, I was blaming that, rather my snoring for keeping tent partner Nigel awake.
I’m not sure of the exact distance but I think it is about 6 or 7 miles as the crow (or cuckoo) flies between Dibidil and Guirdil bothies. But we weren’t cuckoos* so the real distance covered along parts of the coastal path and via the Harris Mausoleum was about 12 miles I would guess. And the best part of a day’s walk.
(* The cuckoo became a bit of a standing joke, in moments of quiet and rest during the day, the cuckoo (we were sure it was just one, stalking us) would pipe up. And some of us live in Marsden.. a village with its own ‘cuckoo legend’. So to come up to Scotland and be stalked by a cuckoo was pretty funny. We were hoping for Eagles, we got Cuckoos.)
The route took us essentially south-east to north-west of the island and across a few rivers (burns). There was quite a bit of rough moorland (which I felt at home on) and some steep cliffs that the path shadowed in places. Not any real climbing but it was still a fair trek. All of the sea views out to the further Hebrides were fantastic. Now we were on flatter ground (although some scrambling was still needed in a couple of places) I wished I had carted my DSLR with me. Ah well.
The first place we came across from Dibidil was the abandoned hunting lodge at papadil. Which I now know (see the link on the last post) is a name associated with early celtic ecclesiastical settlements. The little lake here was really pretty and ‘exploring’ the disused lodge was interesting.. we even had a curious deer appear as we headed away from the lodge and back up hill.
The lodge itself was overgrown with Rhododendron bushes.. very much like some occasional parts of the moors where I live (Marsden, Yorkshire). Victorian land owners had a penchant for planting these shrubs near estate houses. Left to their own devices they get really big of course. When the lodge was in its heyday the hunting parties would come around the island by boat whilst the staff would head inland from Kinloch. (Quick Ad: I was told that by author of a book on walking the small isles, Pete). Now it has reverted to a wild wood as it were, with shrubs / trees growing through the lodge windows and doors.
We then flanked around Ruinsival and its fairly steep slopes and headed to Harris bay, which was about a 3 hour tramp across some occasional rocky parts but mostly moor / bog (although not at all boggy when we were there). In wet and rainy weather I’m sure this would have been a lot, lot slower to cross with some very claggy sections.
Harris itself annoyed me. I think that’s the best word for it. The mausoleum is an oversized brash thing, a testament to one family’s vanity. John Bullough had the money (made from the cotton mill industry) to aggrandise his own passing. To be fair, he wasn’t the instigator of the enforced land clearance of the original island crofters (that came before him) but the building set amongst such a lovely ‘wild’ landscape is historically both interesting and annoying at the same time.
Without the distraction of the previous day’s vertigo, I had time to think about the islands. I was actually conceived on Skye (mum and dad lived there for a year when they were first married) and my mum was Scottish. Her family were from (more latterly) southern Scotland, working class folk from around Paisley. But (having started to trace my family tree) elements of the family originated further north. I’ve been to Scotland lots of course (and lived in Paisley for a year or so aged about 10), yet I’ve never been to any of the Islands before. So being on Rum and also seeing some of the more distant isles from various advantage points over the weekend was kind of cool. I think that was why the brash Harris mausoleum annoyed me, it cut through my romanticised revelries of celtic ancestry
Anyway – one great thing about Harris was the beach, it was great to be able to take our boots off for a while and sit under a blue, warm sky! What a great place to eat and have a break.
Some of the guys even had a paddle, to soothe those aching feet
I should mention that getting photos on the last 2 days (we had a 4 day trip in all) was thanks to a solar charger thing I bought recently. I’ve done kit review as it really worked out well. (see separate post).
From Harris we then had about 4 hours of hike across a mix of moors and also some rock / scree fields. And part of the route brought us pretty close to some very steep cliffs .. we kept back for the most part but there were a couple of places (around ominously named Wreck Bay) where you got some excellent views. Mr Vertigo kept a couple of feet back from the very very edge of course.
There had been some evidence of deer (and also some goats that I think live on Rum?) wherever we went – but that was mostly in the form of droppings and ticks. The ticks themselves were not so obvious on this particular day – more on the following, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Real deer evidence came around the Wreck Bay headland area where Steve picked up a really nice antler. Which was proudly strapped to his rucksack for the rest of the trip.
Speaking of evidence of wildlife.. I meant to mention on the previous post that sections of the Cuillins were riddled with burrows for what I think were Manx Shearwaters. The evidence being the holes themselves and lots of bird droppings. But of the birds, no sign. I’m guessing they were out at sea before coming back for the nesting season?
There was then a longish schlep across rough moors before we crossed Bealach an dubh-bhraigh and found our way towards Glen Guirdil.
The glen itself is really impressive, with Orval (at about 570 metres) imposing itself at the head of the glen over to our right as we walked down the steep glen flanks, in what was the beginning of late afternoon sun. The glen is steep-sided and the river at the bottom (Guirdil River) gets really full in wet / winter weather I believe. Thankfully it wasn’t in spate when we picked our way eventually across it after a long descent into the valley. It must get bad though as there are crossing suggestions posted on the notice board in the bothy. Up and behind us (and with the soundtrack of yet another Cuckoo) was a fenced off plantation and behind that, Bloodstone Hill. The hill dominated the view from the Bothy once we got to it.
Giuirdil Bothy was, for me, the more interesting of the two Bothies. I think the location, right on the edge of a bay, and the collection of derelict / collapsed building next to it make it really interesting. The guest book tells of the regular visits of deer down to the seashore. We did have a couple appear at twilight but they stayed behind the bothy , not straying onto the beach itself. But I think there is (or was) a stag called Brutus (if I remember the name rightly) who is a beach comber on occasion.
We decided to bivvy again rather than use the empty bothy but it was the base for the evening meal prep and also the place to stay warm in the rapidly cooling late evening air. We gathered up a lot of dried seaweed with one of the flotsam fishing crates, which we replenished again in the morning for the next visitors. The dried seaweed burned really well in the old fireplace and after a long day’s hike it was great to sit and chat with some candles lit and a fire on the go.
I would happily spend a week or two based at the bothy to get into the place and it’s quietness. And having a deer mooch about as you eat your breakfast outside can’t be bad.
Ah, update on Brutus. I just googled to check I’d got the name from the guest book right.. and turns out he’s a TV celeb. As seen on Autumn Watch on the BBC apparently:
So, that was the second day on Rum. Really enjoyable.
I’ll write up day 3 separately, it was essentially a hike across to Kinloch, dodging ticks (some of us) and eventually eating cake (all of us) without any climb or much elevation but for the sake of completeness I’ll do a quick post when I can.