Friday, 25 March 2011

Karrimor Meridian Low eVent shoes

Yes. Another Gear Review !
Ok, I may not be a typical walker. But neither are you. So, shall we continue ? I need a lot of cushioning and support in a walking shoe. My feet have spread, and I am now a 46 as opposed to a 44 a few years ago..
I bought these just over a year ago, and they suit me just fine. At the time, I wasn't aware that Karrimor was not the iconic brand that it had been. They were listed at about £70, but I paid about £30 if I recall.
I have worn them almost continually ever since, apart from when I was sleeping, wearing a suit, or wearing the Jimmy Choos at weekends. Being old-fashioned, I felt I had to have a pair of boots for the winter and found a deeply discounted pair of Karrimor KSB 350s which are very similar except for being, well, boots. I could find no fault with them either, but have hardly worn them as I have seen the light regarding shoes for all seasons (almost).

So, dead comfy. Many of you would consider them heavy (I make them just under the kilo for a pair of size 11) but it's a trade-off I'm happy with. Grip I also find excellent, even on steep descents on wet grass.

Now, unfortunately< I dont keep stats. But after careful consideration, I reckon that they must have done at least 250 miles, and probably more like 350. And looking good for the same again !

But here's the killer. They are still waterproof ! Bog-trotting, puddle-jumping, burn-splashing - the only times I have had wet socks is when I've gone over the ankle.And, contrary to the received wisdom about shoes with membranes, I have not found them hard to dry out after getting wet inside. Overnight at the back door stuffed with The Warcry and they are ready the next morning..

I used to wonder when my grandad said, of a new purchase  "Well, I hope they'll see me oot"

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Funny old game, hillwalking.

Those of you who are studying this blog for a doctoral thesis will recall my recent sally up Tillicoultry Glen. About January, I think. Yes, the one with the cloud inversion picture.

I made it to within half a mile of the col/beallach/watershed thing and then retreated. It was officially declared a "Good Day" - children were given a day off school and bunting was hung across streets. Some time later, i tried to improve upon this performance, but couldn't manage any further than the zig-zags. This was a "Bad Day" - there was much foul language and cat kicking. The Board of Inquiry set up to investigate this debacle eventually reported that it was probably due to the respiratory infection which went on to devastate the world of outdoor blogging.

Yesterday, it was decided, was to be the occasion of Round 3. The forecast was for a dull start. but becoming brighter in the afternoon, which was a good excuse for a late start. - it was 12.15 as i passed the Clock Mill.
The objectives were
  1. Go for a walk
  2. Enjoy a day out in the hills
  3. Have a bit of a workout to improve my fitness
  4. Go past my previous high point
I don't have one of these yellow things that everyone you meet on the hill these days seems to carry, but the primitive combination of map and watch seemed to indicate that I was going well for the first hour. The next hour was not so good, and I was feeling my legs. (I think that this is still legal in Scotland).. I was seriously considering the possibility of not reaching my previous high point. About a couple of hundred yards short, I was about to turn back - it's purely symbolic, nothing to prove etc.

I pushed on, however, and took another photo from the same spot in the interest of symmetry  . It was then a question of going on a few yards further to set the target for the next time. And then a few yards more. And then,strangely, my legs started to feel better and i started to stride out a bit. And I was enjoying myself again. And then the sun came out. And there I was at the top of the pass.


Andrew Gannel Hill

I wandered about a bit, identified the tracks for Kings Seat and Andrew Gannel hills for future reference, orientated myself with the compass. And  then set off back down quite pleased with the afternoons work.A couple of slips and stumbles on the descent reminded me that that the connection between my feet and my brain is pretty tenuous these days.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A Bronze Age Dwarf and the Wind Farm

We start today's little jaunt in Alva. Now, I doubt that any one would dispute that Alva is not the poshest of the Hillfoots towns. It is currently home to Clan Haney of whom I will say nothing for legal and personal safety reasons. Readers from outwith the Central Belt can google "Big Mags".
Alva has always been famous for the eponymous glen where the power of water from the burns coming off the Ochils was harnessed to power the mills.

At the entrance to Alva Glen is a quarry with an interesting story. Back in 1913, a workman in the quarry noticed some rocks which seemed to have been arranged by hand. When they were removed, the body of a tiny female was found in a burial position.Subsequent tests showed that the remains had probably been interred during the Bronze Age. (Yeah, yeah, I hear you say. Boring history. If world leaders can't learn from it why should we ?) . Ah but the spooky bit is - 2 days later the workman went pack to the burial site for another look and was killed by a falling boulder!. At least that's what it says on the information board.

So, up the glen, under the water pipe and onto the traverse through the burnt gorse to Silver Glen

I was surprised to see that the sign was still in position.

The workers compound had been evacuated and tidied up.

Looking over to the Gargunnock Hills which had been a contender for today's walk. At least I think it's the Gargunnock Hills. My vision has been deteriorating quickly since the New Year. I suppose you have to be stoical about these little difficulties as you get older. It's only Nature's way of telling you to fuck off and die.

The path brings you out onto the wind farm access road which zig-zags up into the glen. I must admit that it provided such easy walking to where I wanted to go that I scabbed. Don't tell AS.

Here was today's target, The Nebit, from the convenient lunch time boulder.
"So you just ran straight up from there ?"
Ah, Grasshopper, you are young. The plan for today was to walk round to the back(north) side of the hill, and surprise it from behind. This is known as the Barrymore Manoeuvre.

The Nebit, seen here from Ben Ever, is a neat little whaleback lying between Alva and Silver Glens

On , then , up the track to the shiny new gate at the sheep pens where the path for Ben Ever, Ben Cleugh and points west goes off to the right. I followed a barely discernible path to the left up onto the ridge and then straight on to the top.

Far too windy for anything other than a quick fotie, and then straight over and down the southern ridge, marked on the map as The Gowles

Alva Glen

Another fine day, if a bit breezy on top. If you are ever in Central Scotland with a couple of hours to spare, I would recommend this wee hill. Not as busy as Dumyat.  About 4 miles and 1400 ft ascent.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Miles or Metres

The weather round here has been really shit for the last couple of weeks - snow, sleet, rain and fog. A window was promised for today, and so it turned out.Unfortunately, I had been working(sic) yesterday, and a bit of a lie-in plus some report writing ( and of course invoicing !) meant that it was about 11.30 before  I left the house. I hadn't decided on the walk when I set out - I had two options in mind - but the first stage would be the usual Mine Woods/ Reservoir, and I could make my mind up while having a cuppa at the dam wall.

I was sitting there, making a mental note to check my coffee for swan shit tomorrow, when  the waters parted and a young lady in a skimpy (but breathable) gold lame bikini emerged bearing two (obviously waterproof ) envelopes tucked into her top. "It's time to play Metres or Miles" she explained."One envelope contains a longish walk of several and a bit miles - the other is for a short sprint up a steepish hill" All I had to do was extract one envelope. This naturally took some time- there are certain things which shouldn't be rushed - but eventually I opened the "Miles" envelope and read "Circumnavigation of Dumyat via Lossburn Reservoir" . Good game, good game.

Over, then to the Heilandman's Well where there was further evidence of the increasing cost of essential hillwalking equipment.

For the information of anyone heading for the Southern Highlands this weekend.

Up there with the Spanish Inquisition in terms of expectedness

I had seen a little sign saying "Path" among the logs, but it led to a gooey mess of mud and brash, so I returned to the metalled track, stood to the side when a trailer came through, waved to the guy on the HIAB and carried on through the site.
Further on I saw where the "Path" came out. Jeez, they had cut a massive swathe just to let walkers avoid the loading operations. A bit OTT, if you ask me.

The back ( north) side of Dumyat

Lossburn Reservoir, supplying the good people of Clackmannan. Colsnaur Hill in the background.

Around about here I spotted some strange marks in the mud which I deduced to have been made by these Kahoonas Microspikes which are all the rage. I further deduced that they had been worn by an oriental gentleman of about 5'6'' in height, who wears a signet ring on the little finger of his right hand and walks with a limp.
" No shit, Sherlock ?"
"Plenty, Watson. Mainly ovine. And don't call me Sherlock"
"Look, Holmes. The impression of a heel !"
"No time for your facile impressions now, Watson.And how often do I have to remind you that your role in this partnership is to wear the frocks and write the scrips for the opium ?

The typical deep glens of the Ochils. As I was taking this photograph, I heard a skylark. It was one of these days.

And then you turn a corner and you're looking south over the Forth again

Incidentally, this was the wettest (underfoot) walk I've done for some time.

Walking west now along the Hillfoots. The familiar scarp face of Dumyat.

Here's what I might have won. Castle Law which was today's runner-up walk Better luck next time, Probably via Warlock Gully (aye, right ed.)

I did find the missing link. I was always sure that there must be way to walk from Blairlogie village to Logie Kirk without having to go along the main road. Today I found it, and lost a shoe (temporarily) in a bog.This means that when next I require inkjet cartridges, we can walk to ASDA this way. Wear wellies.

And from Logie back to the house via the kirk road/coffin road. Lovely day. My longest walk since the towpath debacle. The eelectric machine says 9+ miles and 1400 ft ascent, and who am I to disagree ?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Status Report

You may remember that we started off the year with some loose talk of The Project and some Donalds.
Well January, when it eventually got going, was quite promising. February, however, was a complete write-off due to weather and ill-health.March has looked more promising, but again a combination of weather, minor ailments and other commitments has limited the opportunities to push on to some of the bigger stuff.

My first major fitness goal is a 15 mile day with 2000+ ft ascent.On a "good" day, I could probably just about do that now, but the problem is knowing in advance whether it is going to be a "good" day. That, and recovery time, which now seems to take forever.
I am pretty much resigned to the fact that I will never manage The Project in a oner, and at best I might manage it in 5 or 6 1,2,or 3 day stages. A year ago the thought of overnight backpacking never entered my mind, but now........

So I suppose that means I will need to extract another £1000 from under the mattress.

But wait.

Might I be able to recycle some of the kit from the attic and the garage ?

Well, there's the Jag

3-season if I remember. Requires a hydraulic press to to get it into the stuffsack

Heavy, but beautifully engineered

M.E. Fitzroy. Holofil and Entrant. Dug this out and wore it quite a bit last December !

My old day-sack. Minimalist in the extreme.

Incidentally, I don't see this baby featuring on people's kit lists these days. Has it been made redundant by the mobile phone and reliance on MRT ? Along with the Party 7 , this used to be a survival essential.

Wot, no tent ? Well I can't find the fecker - I hope it has merely been mislaid rather than lost when moving house. It had a double alloy A-frame and ridge pole, green fly/ yellow (cotton ?) inner. Very robust. Might have been a Vango.

So what, I hear you ask, did all this stuff weigh ? No idea. I do seem to remember that 40lbs total pack weight was seen as a kind of yardstick..But the simple test was "Can you pick it up ?"
Looking at today's kit lists, I notice that we saved on the weight of all the electronic gadgets, spare batteries and chargers etc but compensated with half a stone of Kerr's Pinks. Also I don't remember carrying all these personal hygiene and grooming products. You always got a compartment to yourself on the train home.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Water Track

I opened the curtains to be greeted by a light covering of snow.
"Good morning, big fat hairy vision of evil" it said.
" Bugger off" I responded wittily. The last thing you want at  6am is the weather quoting Beat Poetry at you.

I had needed a change of scenery, and planned a wee walk in the Campsies, an area with which I remain inexplicably unfamiliar.So, what about the weather ? Well, the bed was cold, and the piece was made, so might as well go for it, eh ?
I engaged with the transport network.
As we travelled west, it became obvious that there was significant snow cover above about 100ft. The weather changed from dark and snow-threatening to sunny/ blue skies. My mood fluctuated between "Doomed. Doomed, I tell you." and "It might turn out not too bad"

Arriving in Blanefield, I initially failed to find the "unmissable" war memorial, and sat down on the steps of a big marble pillar with names on it to have another look at the map! Senior moment over, it was onward and upward

Water Works.
The track largely follows the line of pipes bringing water from Loch Katrine to supply the citizens of Glasgow. This masterpiece of Victorian engineering was hugely successful, but, unfortunately, the follow up project to supply them with soap failed miserably

Breakfast time for the kye, with Dumgoyne and Dumfoyne, two volcanic plugs, in the background..
Just past this point I needed a pee, and discovered that the new (non breathable) underwear I was wearing seemed to feature unfamiliar access arrangements . This, combined with the natural effect of the cold weather, resulted in a prolonged period of fumbling and hopping.

Tempting ?

There are a lot of these structures, where the pipes cross a burn


As I approached the distillery gift shop, I was assailed by several people in MacDiageo tartan eager to inform me that, as the millionth visitor, I was to be presented with 12 bottles of a special 27 year old single malt. I had to point out to them that I no longer indulged in alcoholic beverages and, no, I didn't know any one who would drink it for me. I settled instead for a rather attractive keyring. As I left, the disappointed PR people were pouring the specially bottled and labelled cratur down the drain, under the watchful eye of an exiseman.

Alan Sloman's TGO Challenge order is prepared for dispatch.

After crossing the road from the distillery, I wandered through the bond and onto the West Highland Way for the return on the opposite side of the valley. By this time the snow was melting like, well, sna aff a dyke.
The first section of the return was on one of these boring, hard on the feet, former railway lines. The mound on the right of the path is another buried water supply pipe. Ahead is another volcanic plug, Dumgoyach.

A tree graveyard.

Shortly after this the WHW swings uphill away from the railway track and  continues "round the back of "Dumgoyach. Soon the path seemed to be going upward into increasingly rough country with no shelter. Not the sort of place one would like to be caught in a blizzard. At that point the sky darkened, the wind picked up, and it began to snow. God, it was hell. White Hell. I stumbled on with only a four foot wide metalled track to guide me.
Many times I felt like lying down in the heather and letting the snow blow over me, ending it all.
 Only the thought of you, dear reader, kept me going.
 And then the sun came out again.
But it had been a pretty nasty 3 minutes while it lasted.

I had lunch - a turkey sandwich and a Penguin. ( I'm on a large flightless bird diet)

Straightforward stroll back to Blanefield. Looking back to this mornings outward leg - notice how the snow had melted

PS. I made up a bit of this post to make you cry.