Since returning from lots of snowy Torridonian excitement, I’ve been missing my chances to head out into exciting bits of the country and have been soaking up the joys of Manchester.
Glen Coe is a stunning location near Fort William, surrounded by possibly some of the best hiking in the UK. Ben Nevis is obviously the big name that world+dog forever is walking up the tourist path to the top of for charity, but there’s so much more to the area than the Ben Nevis tourist path. In fact, if you asked me to name my least favourite place in the area, it’d probably be the Glen Coe tourist path. Seriously, don’t do it. If you must do it, know that it will not be enjoyable.
 In my book, Torridon currently outranks it by a hairlength.
But Glen Coe has many more exciting (perhaps less easily accessible!) things to do – the Aonach Eagach – serious and committing ridge scramble, not for the faint hearted, Bidian Nam Bian, probably one my favourite mountains of the area thus far, Ben Nevis’s non-tourist route – ascent via the Càrn Mòr Dearg (CMD) arete.
Just north of Glen Coe are two ranges of munros – the Mamores and the Grey Corries Ridge – both ridges which aren’t too easily accessible by car, but which look like epics in themselves.
The coming week I’m planning to head up to Glen Coe, spend a few days doing day hikes from a campsite, and them embark on a 4-5 day trek across the Mamores and Grey Corries ridge, starting in Glen Nevis, and finishing at the station in Fort William.
Can I compare this to anything I’ve done previously? Possibly this time in Sweden – except there I followed a valley route, it was much colder, and I stayed in huts about 50% of the time, it’s somewhat comparable to both of these expeditions to the lakes, though I’d envisage camping at a higher level than I did on either of those occasions, and largely, following a set ridgeline, rather than making a crossing of several valleys.
As it’ll be interesting – not outrageously challenging, but there will be some scrambling involved, I’m trying to cut my rucksack weight to an utter minimum. My tent, sleeping bag etc, kit is all very light (apart from my camera!), but I’m going to be testing a theory, and I won’t be taking a stove at all.There’s a theoretical weight trade off between taking a stove, so you can rely on dried food like pasta, noodles, etc and “just adding warm water”. My theory is, that whilst that is true for long treks, it is less true for relatively short moves, where you can trade off the weight and simply take food you can eat cold. Of course, cooked food is nice and warming… but that train of thought fails to take into account what you’re supposed to do whilst it’s cooking (answer: freezing your bollocks off outside!) and whether it might be warmer to get inside your sleeping bag, and then eat some food.
Obviously, it remains to be seen, but the number of times I’ve taken stoves and dried food, and then not used them, for an entire two day trip, means that it’s worth the trial.
What am I going to take? I asked this question on Facebook and didn’t realise that it’d be such an emotive topic. I’m not sure. Probably a list of my favourite cold food: bread, cheese, tomato(s), peanut butter and that sort of thing. It’s 4-5 days, I won’t starve. (Did you know that the longest recorded of someone going without food is a year and 14 days?).
I currently have a resident knee injury, but I’m hoping my poles, plus liberal helpings of ibruprofen will see me round. If not, I’m not the person to do silly things – I give up and head back along the valleys.
What will it be like? I’m not sure. I think this will probably be my most lightweight trek thus far (in one of my lake district hikes – I carried a laptop – meaning I can now claim to have carried a laptop to the top of Scafell Pike… whatever that’s worth!) and that should make things quite a bit easier. In addition, hiking poles can really help steady you when you’re unbalanced due to a weighted back.
I’m looking forward to it. The camera is ready, the bag is half packed and I’m raring to go!
Bring it on!
I recently got back from an epic backpacking adventure in Northern Sweden. It was essentially 12 days of walking through the Swedish mountains, in the Arctic Circle, on my own. Every day (ish) I made a video blog, and whilst I’ve not finished (not started actually!) processing the mass of photos and video I took, I’ve finally got this sorted and uploaded.
Take a look:
Update 1 – Day 1 – From Nissunjåkka campsite near Abisko
Update 2 – Day 2 – From wild camping just outside Abisko National park, ~2km from Abiskojaurestugorna
Update 3 – Day 3 – From wild camping 10km between Abiskojaurestugorna and Unnas Allakastugorna
Update 4 – Day 4 – From the woodshed – Unnas Allakastugorna
Update 5 – Day 5 – From the hut – Allejaurestugorna
Update 6 – Day 6 – From the hut – Tjäktja Stugorn
Update 7 – Day 7/8 – From the mountain and Nallostugan
Update 8 – Day 8/9 – From wild camping at top end of Vistas Vagge and Radugastugan Shelter
Update 9 – Day 9 – From outside the huts at Abiskojaure Stugan
Update 10 – Day 10/11 – From Nissunjåkka campsite near Abisko/Abisko
So despite many exciting stories, I’ve returned from Northern Sweden, better than ever.
Over the time I was there, I managed to amass about 80GB of photos (JPG not RAW) and video – that’s roughly equivalent to 57,000 floppy disks or 117 CDs. As my current storage capabilities at home need a bit of a refresh, there may be a slight delay whilst I process things, breath, and start to write things up.
When I first thought about going hiking in Northern Sweden, I had considered doing it in summer, with beautiful sunshine beating down, swimming in glacier fed lakes… In fact, I chose not to do it then because I didn’t fancy 24 hour sunlight if I was trying to camp in a tent…
In October, there will be no swimming lakes. With an average temperature of 5 degrees, it’s no exaggeration to say that this is probably going to be the toughest expedition yet, and to make things even better, I’ve barely prepared myself in terms of kit, let alone physically or psychologically.
In many ways, the trip that I suspect will have prepared me most was a 2 day epic in the Lake District in January, over a damp and very windy weekend, except longer, and hopefully not as grim.
As backpacking goes, I’ve dedicated an inordinate amount of weight to food, and cameras, whilst minimising weight on clothes. Let’s do a bit of a kit list:
Sleeping and Shelter:
- Mountain Equipment Xero 550 down sleeping bag
- Themorest Neoair
- Vango Helium 200
- Silk sleeping bag liner
Food and cooking
- 3 litre Platypus
- Trangia stove + 1 pan + 500ml meths + flint/steel spark lighter
- 1 plastic spork and two sharp knives
- 2KG spaghetti
- ~1KG of “just add water” ramen noodles and rice
- ~1.5 KG of cheese in one-per-day-sized sealed packets
- Tomato puree and salsa as ad-hoc sauce.
- 1kg of dried fruit
- 24 chocolate bars
Cameras and electronics
- Nokia N900 smartphone
- Sanyo CA100 + spare battery
- Propono external battery pack (fits above devices) + continental charger
- Canon 5D mkII + 24-205 f4 lens + camera bag
- About 88GB of CF storage and 16GB of SD storage
- 9 Canon batteries
- Glidecam XR 2000
- 3 quick drying lightweight t-shirt vests
- 2 lightweight/quick drying synthetic long sleeved shirt
- 2 cotton/slow drying thermal long sleeved shirt (thanks Zhelyo!)
- 2 pair of shorts and one pair of tracksuit bottoms
- 3 pairs of boxers
- 2 waterproof, windproof, breathable microfibre fleeces
- 1 pair of padded sallopettes
- 2 pairs of dual lining socks, 1 pair of fluffy ‘extra warm’ socks
- 1 pair of Raichle hiking boots
- 1 pair of fingerless neoprene sailing gloves
- 1 pair of thick, padded sailing gloves
- Osprey rucksack
- Whistle, compass, headtorch and spare batteries
- Collins SAS survival guide
- First aid kit (painkillers, general meds, plasters)
- General toiletries
- Space blanket and towel
- Ice Axe
- Glasses and sunglasses
So the big question: how much does it weigh? I’m not sure. More than would be completely comfortable, but I think I can optimise the weight distribution further to put some heavy stuff higher up my back. I tried wearing it round the house and running up and down stairs a few times with it on. Unsurprisingly, after 6 or 7 sprints up and down the stairs, I was a bit tired, but I think it’s probably a good sign – it wasn’t completely unachievable.
Clearly, in the time not spent walking, sleeping, eating or thinking, the cameras are my main source of entertainment. The mobile phone is largely going to be left switched off. It’s worth noting that, for me, this is a quite bold technological setup as it does not include a laptop. As strange as this may seem, almost every serious expedition I’ve been on, has included a laptop for battery/connectivity/extra storage reasons. This is not very efficient, so hopefully I can manage without it. It’s also worth noting that this is likely to be the longest time I will have spent without internet access for, years(?). We’ll see how that goes.
Clearly, with minimal clothes, I’ll be forced to do some washing of clothes – hence the preference for quick drying synthetics that will drip dry, even in cold weather. The gloves sound a bit unpromisingly, but work surprisingly well together. I’m a tiny bit nervous that an extreme burst of very cold weather, or very wet weather, I might not be very well prepared for, but I think I have effective waterproofs, and I think that in the event of cold, putting on the maximum layers (or simply pitching the tent and calling it a day) should work ok.
I’m flying to Stockholm Arlanda, then getting the 19 hour sleeper train from the airport station, to Abisko – a tiny hamlet, in the Artic Circle in Northern Sweden and the trailhead of the Kungsleden. My plan is to do a 12-13 day circuit to the south of Abisko, returning on the 15th to head back to Stockholm and Manchester.
One thing is for certain: this trip will be like nothing I’ve done before it. Probably.
The Swedish Tourist Association – read “Tourist Information” – which looks after all of the paths and trails had this gem on it’s website. Clearly, those annoying puzzles that have irritated school children and programmers for years about Foxes, Donkeys, rowing boats and rivers originated from Sweden, because this was actually on their website:
Rowing trails with at least one rowboat on each shore are located where the trails traverse larger watercourses or lakes. Those who use the boats are responsible to ensure that one boat is on each side of the water. This can mean that the rowing must be done three times.
First, you have to row over to the other side to get the boat there, row back with it in tow, pull this boat up on the shore to then row over again to the spot from where you will continue you hike.
Some time ago, I was looking for new places to explore on Wikitravel and so I flew to Tallin, in Estonia, hired a bike from CityBike and spent two days visiting old soviet military bases, the Baltic sea, waterfalls and taking in the Estonian countryside.
As I travelled, I made video. This is that video. Have a watch.
Shot on a Sanyo CA100, edited in Kdenlive on Ubuntu
Licenced under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 licence.
Lullaby by Ghost (feat skoria and brad sucks) – CC-BY-NS 2.5
Sea of Something by i am this – CC-Sampling Plus 1.0
Computer by State Shirt (stateshirt.com) – CC-BY-NC-SA 2.5,
Kopeika by et_ – CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0
I have known that I really wanted to go camping (as in backpacking) sometime in January for quite a while.
Why? Why January, you might reasonably ask. You might point out it’s cold, the weather is rubbish and so the mere concept is bordering on crazy. Perhaps I should “go and watch TV instead”…
After the annual hype balloons of Christmas and New Year are ceremoniously popped, January begins with an anticlimax; nothing happens, no one wants to socialise, everyone wants to recover from Christmas, people must go back to work, students have exams… Instead of letting the infectious gloom of January get to me, I decided to head off to the Lake District for some wild winter camping fun!
After work on Friday, I caught the train from Manchester to Windermere, from where I caught the last Stagecoach 555 bus from Windermere station to Grasmere, arriving about 23:30 From Grasmere, I walked up Easedale, past Sour Milk Gill (given how pretty it was in the dark, it must be doubly impressive in the day) and up to Easedale Tarn.
I’d been warned about the wind a few times – my dad had mentioned it, the bus driver mentioned it, I’d thought of it anyway and read the forcasts; from what I read it didn’t look too bad.
As I turned the corner up to the tarn (00:05 by now), the wind hit me head on. It was strong. Very strong. I battled forward, the full moon supplementing the light of my head torch, illuminating massive crags round the tarn. It looked amazing. Well, it would have looked amazing, however, the wind was blowing so hard, it make it unpleasant to look directly into it. Finally, I was through the gap and the wind, subsided, minutely. My head torch could pick out white horses on the tarns surface. It was seriously windy. I briefly considered turning round and descending a couple of hundred metres to where it was a lot more sheltered, but I’d been told that there were some lumps and bumps one could pitch a tent behind – I went in search of them.
After failing for some time to find any respite from the wind, I noticed my head torch reflecting off a strange object near the shoreline; three reflective points shone back at me in a triangle; I walked closer and then suddenly, over the wind, I heard a shout – it was a tent. Hastily, I retreated my steps – it hadn’t been my intention to surprise any other campers – I hadn’t even considered there might be people as mad as me!
I pitched my tent relatively nearby. Well, let’s say I attempted to pitch my tent. Tents are in many ways like kites, except that they’re not meant to fly. Pitching a tent in a strong wind however, requires thought, and some planning. My Vango Helium Superlite 200 is easy to pitch compared to other tents, but still not a trivial task in those conditions. After some time it seemed to be largely “up”, so I went round to tighten all of the pegging points to their maximum. It was at this point that I noticed that points I’d tightened seemed to be getting untightened in the time it had take me to tighten something else. I ended up tying little knots and half hitches in then just to make sure it didn’t loosen. I pegged and repegged some points to make sure the pegs (shorter than standard ones to save weight) were in at the optimum angle (very shallow!). Having come to the conclusion, there was nothing much else I could do, I put me and my bag in the tent and sorted out the tensioning system (arguably my tents answer to guy ropes). It was now about 01:15 and it still felt very dicey, but there was nothing for it so I made myself as comfortable as possible, burrowing deep into my down sleeping bag.
After a noisy night, I awoke to find out it was about 09:00 and it was light. Everything seemed ok. The tent was still here. I didn’t appear to be floating in tarn… A couple of minutes later, after a large gust of wind, I noticed that the end of my tent where my head was seemed to have collapsed. Not good. Little problems can turn into big problems very quickly if left unattended; I dashed outside – it looked like the tail end peg had been completely pulled out and then catapulted over the entire tent (length ways) downwind. I fixed it up, but took it as a hint to start taking down my tent – again much easier said than done in gale force winds.
Oh I know you! You’re from Youtube!
Which completely floored me for a few seconds – the probability of being recognised from those videos hadn’t even crossed my mind. It turns out he’d seen my video of wild camping at Stickle Tarn.
Soon, conversations complete, it was time to go and I marched up the path towards Segeant Man, passing Codale Tarn as I did and getting some stunning views of Stickle Tarn as well. After an exciting ascent, I was slightly disappointed that the lump itself had nothing noteworthy to define it. From there, I set off (with help from my fully working compass), in the direction of High Raise. The route from Sergeants Man to High Raise is boggy, but nothing compared to what was to come later. High Raise was intensely windy but the stone shelter there provided remarkably good cover and I took a moment to consult Wainright on what was to come. I had decided not to ascend Ullscarf as originally intended on the basis that camping anywhere above 200 metres would probably be a lot less fun given the wind I was encountering. The plan was to head down to Greenup Edge and then head up Calf Crag, with a view to possibly doing Gibson Knot and Helm Crag as well. Originally I’d intended to do this ridge, but on the second day and now, as I realised that I needed to descend a lot, before I could even consider getting my tent out again, I figured I could have a shot at it all in one go.
The descent from High Raise to Greenup Edge was hellishly boggy and slippery, as was the descent from Greenup Edge to the head Wythburndale. Wainright describes the Wythburndale as being isolated and boggy and in my short experience of it, the boggyness definitely was a defining feature.
Squelching up Calf crag, the wind hit me once again, this time from behind, and I learned how difficult it is to keep your balance when being pushed from behind. I noticed the wind blowing the water of a tarn and sweeping spray up into the air in a menacing fashion. This was still no place for tents.
I continued along the ridge, which largely lacked anything particularly notable apart from birdeye views of upper Easdale. As I started to get towards Jackson’s Knott, I realised that the question I’d been toying with – whether I’d reach Grasmere in the light – was irrelevant. I could jump on a bus and go home whether it was light or not – I didn’t have to go searching for a new sheltered camping spot and something else to climb tomorrow – I could just scoot home and be happy with what I’d achieved. With an extra burst of energy, I passed Gibson Knott and soon climbed my way up Helm Crag.
Clearly Helm Crag has a beautiful view, however as the light was fading, as was my energy, I started to descent down to mountain and back to the busstop and the delights of civilisation.
Things I’ve learnt:
- That much wind is more than I want to put that tent through again
- Sourmilk Gill needs revisting in the light.
- Easedale tarn needs revisting in better weather
- Wythburndale is boggy
- Helm crag is probably quite an accessible climb for families etc
- I can tick off 5 Wainrights
- I’m tired after all that.
I got the train from Manchester with my bike and panniers, all the way to Kyle of Lochalsh on the west coast of Scotland. I then cycled over the Skye bridge onto Skye, up to Sconser, and then partly influenced by the awesome local blog “Life at the End of the Road“, I took the ferry to Rasaay, cycled up Calum’s Road and then came back the way I’d come.
It was really, really good fun.
I’m going to be exploring parts of the north western bits of the Lake District starting from Buttermere.
- Day 0: Buttermere to Haystacks (and back + My mother). Camp somewhere on Haystacks.
- Day 1: Buttermere to Haystacks/Green Gable/Great Gable/Pillar. Camp near Scoat Tarn
- Day 2: Scoat Tarn/Wasdale/Scafell Pike. Camp on eastern slope of Scafell.
- Day 3: Scafell – Eskdale. Meet UMHC, for Eskdale weekend trip.
- Day 4: UMHC Eskdale (Illgill Head)
- Day 5: UMHC Eskdale. Try to camp somewhere Came home with UMHC.
- Day 6: Bowfell. Camp somewhere.
- Day 7: Meet brother. Hike round somewhere. Home!