Category Archives: Random talk

A chance for us to give our thoughts and opinions on things.

Bug Strike on the Loch Leven Heritage Trail

I was determined that I was getting out on the mountain bike this weekend. I had a couple of new items to test, and I wasn’t going to let lousy weather get in my way!

In the end, I opted for the Loch Leven Heritage Trail. Being reasonably flat, on well maintained paths, it seemed like an obvious choice. Everywhere else would be a boggy quagmire on a day like today.

Besides… It has some nice scenery, a few shelters and hides to escape the rain and some good wildlife interest (I saw otter there just last week!). It’s also recently been completed as a 12.5 mile circuit, which does make it more fun on a bike.

Not today, though! I barely managed 5 miles in total.

It seems the wildlife interest was in the form of flies. They must have been hatching in their thousands. Typically, because the weather was so poor, I didn’t have glasses on, to protect my eyes.

The result? Well… That can be seen below, after a couple of brutal bug assaults on the right eye!

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I’ll learn!

Hopefully the swelling will die down in an hour or two… I want to get back out on the bike tomorrow, after all! (With glasses on, this time!)

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I’m still alive!

Wow, it’s been months since I posted an update!

The scary thing is that there’s not been much to talk about. I think we can safely say the first 3 months of the year were a bit of a non starter. It didn’t stop raining, and when it did, it was blowing a gale!

Things have started to pick up a bit now, though. As I mentioned before the turn of the year, I’ve now got a mountain bike, and I’ve found that cycling is the first exercise that hasn’t (touch wood!) Caused me any injuries or problems. Admittedly, most of my cycling so far has been on tarmac, but now that the weather is improving and the days are a reasonable length, I’m hoping to get off-road a bit more.

I’m still planning to get a few hikes in this year, too. It would be nice to bag a few Munro’s along the way – and if I can find ones that benefit from a cycle in/out, even better!

I’ll try and keep the blog updated now… I’ve actually got a good few bits of gear I’ve been using recently, which could do with a review here… The plan for the multisport gear has worked out quite well.

And finally, just a quick note to wish everyone on the TGO challenge good luck!

Looking towards next year

I’m feeling rather sorry for myself just now.

Since about 3am on Saturday morning, I’ve been feeling decidedly unwell. Nothing I eat is staying down… It’s coming out one hole or the other pretty sharpish!
Thanks to whoever decided to give me Norovirus as a late Christmas present. The big drawback is that even though it’s starting to ease off a little, I’m still going to be contagious for the next couple of days… Meaning that Hogmanay is going to be a solitary affair this year! 😦

So, since I’ve had nothing else to do, I’ve been thinking about plans for 2014… After all, it isn’t going to be any worse than this, is it?!

It’s times like this when you’re stuck indoors that you really begin to appreciate how important it is to get out, to live a little. For that reason, I want to try and make 2014 a significantly more active one than the past couple of years have been.

I get a 4 day weekend every 4 weeks, and I keep saying that I’ll be going somewhere and doing something with them, but for more than half, it just hasn’t happened. I think it’s about time I grew a pair and got out. What’s the point in having 3 waterproof jackets and 3 pairs of waterproof trousers if you hardly ever use them?! Particularly as they tend to be the most expensive items of clothing I own!
It’s time to man up a little, make plans and go for it… Sure, if the weather is severe, the plans can be modified (glens instead of hills, hostels and bothies instead of camping), just as long as I get out there!

I also want to increase the variety of activity I do, both for fitness sake and to keep things interesting. After the recent bike purchase, I’m currently loving getting out on the bike… But as a result, the running and hiking has reduced. I need to try and strike a decent balance, so that I can get the right mix. I don’t want any one activity to take over, to the detriment of others… Particularly as those people around me aren’t always interested in or capable of doing them all. I don’t want to isolate myself and go solo all the time.

I’ve already got a couple of things pencilled in with Janie for 2014, but nothing is set in stone as yet… I’ve a long weekend in April, where we’re considering going camping up Aviemore way… I should be able to satisfy all my outdoors needs up there! We might even do Caperwatch at RSPB Loch Garten… Done it twice before, and still I’ve never seen a wild Capercaillie in the flesh!
There’s also a plan in May to have another go at the West Highland Way, but again, nothing set in stone as yet.

There’s lots of things I’d like to do, though… Some close to home, some further afield. The bike is, I’m hoping, going to play a big role, in the sense that it’ll allow me to go further afield, and now that I’ve a rear pannier rack, it’ll allow me to go better provisioned (I’m thinking 10kg bags if coal dragged to bothies!), for multi day adventures.
I was given the book Scottish Hill Tracks for my Christmas, and it’s a safe bet that I’ll be testing out some of the routes, both on foot and on the bike. Locally, there’s a short track from Glenfarg down to Bridge of Earn and back, which will likely be getting attacked on the bike in the next few weeks. There are also hiking trips I want to do, and a fair bit of backpacking, too… I guess I just want to fill up more of my spare time doing the things I enjoy.

I don’t massively enjoy my job. It pays a wage, and that’s about it… So, if I want to have enjoyment in life, I need to make the most of my time off. And that’s the real plan for 2014. To get out more, whilst becoming more flexible and adaptable to conditions.

On that, I think I’ll leave this bit of a ramble… All that’s really left is to wish my loyal reader(s) a happy new year and lots of hill and trail time in 2014!

Multisport Gear

I’m starting to get fit again.

At least I think so. I saw a photo of myself from a few years ago today, while I was raking through some old files online, and I think it’s fair to say I was a wee bit chunkier then than I am now.

Strangely enough, I didn’t really consider myself as unfit back then… Though in hindsight, I definitely was!

I’ve now started trying multiple avenues of fitness, and it’s working. All aspects of my health have improved over the past few months.

Just over a week ago, I got a new bike (shown below, on it’s first outing), and I have to admit I’m loving it! That doesn’t mean I plan on stopping running, hiking or backpacking, though. I want to try and get a reasonable mix of all of them.

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Which brings me to the topic of this post… If I want to keep doing all of the things I like doing, without breaking the bank, I realistically need to adapt my existing gear for multiple uses, or get gear designed for multiple uses.

In terms of existing gear to adapt, that’s pretty easy… My Haglöfs Mid Flex pants are currently my go to trousers for both hiking and cycling. Having the harder wearing and stretchy panels at the rear and knees means that they should survive the constant use on the bike, and the articulation makes cycling pretty easy… But I can still use them as hiking trousers, too. Bonus!

Similarly, any microfleece is going to be suitable for any of the above tasks. They’re light enough and unrestrictive enough that they can be used for running, hiking or cycling at will… They’re a no brainer. Simple as that.

Now, in terms of multisport gear, I have to admit, I was worried that I’d have the problem of “jack of all trades, master of none” and this type of gear wouldn’t really be suitable. I was wrong, it seems.

When I started running home from work at night, I realised there was a couple of bits that I needed. I also knew that I’d be getting a bike a month or two later, so I sought out some multisport gear, and so far, they work a treat!

I’ve got a Berghaus Vapour Storm jacket. OK, it was originally designed as a running jacket, but after reading the review on Bike Radar, I figured it would be worth a punt. Besides, for the first month or so, it was a running jacket.

The other item was a pack that I could use for all of my planned activities. I’m a fan of using a hydration bladder, particularly when running and cycling, so a hydration pack was an obvious choice… I needed something that would carry a change of clothes for work, bike lock, etc or all the gear I’d need for a day hike. I went for the Osprey Manta 20. It fit the bill perfectly, and the compression straps do an excellent job of stopping gear moving around when I’m running. Again, as a multisport item, it far exceeded my expectations. Up until recently, it’s been my go to pack for day hikes and running trips. As we’re now into the colder months, and I need to take more gear on the hills, I’ve switched to my Kestrel 28 for the hills. The Manta is still the choice for the running and cycling, though!

There will always be items that are specific to a particular sport (running shoes, cycling shorts, cycling gloves, etc), but the majority of gear can be adapted for multiple uses.

I guess I’m suggesting that multisport gear shouldn’t be overlooked. You’d be surprised how well they perform on multiple disciplines, and let’s face it… 1 pack is better than 3!

Back in Business

I’ve not been around much, as my avid reader(s) will have noted. In fact, this is my first post in 3 months!

I’ve been trying to get past all my injuries and get back on my feet. I’ve been trying to improve my fitness and general health, and it seems to be working.

I took my first trip up the hills for some time at the weekend. I climbed up Auchnafree Hill with my brother. As this was the hill that gave me so many problems earlier in the year, I figured it would be a good one to test how well I get on with my return.

I can safely say I managed with no hints of pain to my hip or legs at all!

Now, I know better than to assume that everything is now OK. I’ve been out before and had no pain, only to suffer on the following trip. In this case, I am hopeful that the worst is behind me.

As to how I improved my fitness and health… Well, I basically went in at the deep end and decided to walk to work and walk/run home 3 times a week (making sure I had a rest day in between each run). Initially, I walked the level ground and uphills and ran the downhills, but these days I’m running most of the level ground and all the downhills. I’m still not quite fit enough to do the whole 4 miles without the need to slow to a walk to catch my breath, but I am improving all the time.

I’m hopeful that I’ll get fit enough soon, and will be able to partake of some trail running, to get off road a bit more, and into places where I feel more at home (give me woodland over the concrete jungle any day of the week!)

I’ve also signed up to get a bike through my work’s cycle to work scheme. I’m hoping to have that by the end of November/start of December. I know… Strange time to get a bike, but I reckon I’ve enough gear to keep me warm on the ride to/from work most of the winter (as long as the roads are free from proper snow, it should be safe enough, too), and come spring, I should be of a reasonable fitness to take the bike off road and cross country.
If anyone is interested, its an entry level 29er that I’m getting.

Anyway… I’m hoping that now I’ve been on the hills and been ok, I’ll have more confidence in my fitness and get out there and get more done. The blog should become a bit more frequently used as a result, and who knows, maybe the running and cycling stuff will creep in, too (I’m hoping to go Bikepacking at least once next year!).

Big change of plans and a gear clear-out

Well, it’s been quite a while since I last posted an update. I’ve been quite busy lately, but I’ve also been trying to sort my head out, in terms of where I am, and where I want to be for hiking and backpacking.

I’ve pretty much decided that I am going to limit myself to day hikes and overnighters for quite a while. If I wish to do a long, way marked trail, I’ll likely use more in the way of resupply points or I’ll use a courier service to carry the bulk of my gear. I simply don’t think my back and hips are capable of carrying bigger loads over extended periods of time.

All is not lost, though! Janie and I have been experimenting with campsite camping recently, and have gotten a Vango Icarus 500 tent for this purpose. It’s great to have a base like that, where there’s space to relax, dry out clothing, etc. It gives the ability to go away and do several day hikes from one base. It certainly makes life easier, and means I’ve still got plenty of options open to me.

I’ve done a few tests, and I can get all my gear for a comfortable overnighter in my Osprey Kestrel 28 rucksack, so will be using this for a wee while. Being able to do overnighters means I can still enjoy backpacking in Scotland.

I am, however, going to be getting rid of some gear. I was going to place them straight onto eBay, but decided I’d offer them up to blog readers for a week or two first!

Look below to see if anything is of interest to you

Items for sale

Alpkit Skyehigh 800 Sleeping bag, long length

I’ve only used this sleeping bag a couple of times, and I’ve decided that I’m going to limit my overnighters and camping to the warmer months. As such, I’ve no need for a winter sleeping bag.
Comfort rated to -10°, weighs 1.5kg for mine, in a long length.
Included cotton stuff sack and Sea to Summit Ultrasil Compression Sack, size M

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RRP over £150 for the bag and compression sack
I’m looking for £100 + postage

Berghaus Freeflow Pro 40 Rucksack

This rucksack is very good condition. Unlike most from the Freeflow range, the Pro models provide better storage and less restriction when it comes to packing it. This was my main pack when I walked the West Highland Way, 2 years ago.
It’s now surplus to requirements. The only time I would need a pack of this size would be when doing an overnighter in winter – which I don’t plan on doing anymore.

It has the usual little marks, as you would expect of a pack of this age, but is in excellent condition.

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Additional photos and my review of the pack from some time ago, here.

RRP of £110, though sadly no longer available.
Looking for £60 + postage

Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 Rucksack

This one was a difficult call to make, as I love this pack. Not only did it get a TGO Best Buy, it also got into Chris Townsend’s Top 10 new gear for 2012 – you don’t get much higher praise than that!
Sadly, if I’m not going to be doing any extended hikes, I don’t need a pack this size anymore. I may regret the sale of it in the future, but right now, it’s simply taking up space.

Due to my persistent back and hip problems, I’ve barely used it. There’s a couple of dirt marks on the base, and a small stain on one hip belt pocket, but otherwise “as new” (I think I’ve used it something like 4 times in total!)

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RRP of £150
I’m looking for £90 + postage.
Really will be sad to see this one go!

Extremities Active-X Balaclava, size L/XL

If I’m no longer winter hiking, I clearly don’t need this anymore.
I got this as part of the Extremities Lucky Bags at the start of the year, and I’ve never worn it.
Sold as New condition

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Yours for £7.50, including postage within the UK.

Extremities Cosmonaut Beanie, size L/XL

Like the balaclava, this one was in an Extremities Lucky Bag, and has never been worn. In fact, it still has all tags attached!
It’s a basic beanie, using Polartec Classic 200 fleece, with, what appears to be a water resistant ripstop nylon at the back (which, I’m guessing is designed to keep the worst of the rain off and reduce it wetting out when rain behind you)

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Yours for a mere £5, including postage within the UK.

For those items which I’ve not included postage costs in the asking price, you’d only be charged at cost, depending on your preferred method of delivery. (If you live in Fife or Edinburgh, I’m willing to deliver)
I reckon there’s a couple of bargains to be had for all you blog followers, before they get sent off to eBay for a general scrum!

Keep an eye on this page, as there are a couple of other items I’m Swithering on whether to sell or not (OR Furio jacket and MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes), so the list above may grow.

Anything not sold by 15th August will be put on eBay.

If you want something, please feel free to comment below, or send me an email at llendorin at googlemail dot com or even DM me on twitter!
Payment by PayPal only, unless taking delivery in person, in which case, I’ll take cash.

*UPDATE*

Due to lack of interest here, I’ve stuck most of the items on eBay now.

More pain and disappointment. Looking ahead.

As regular readers will know, I’m currently supposed to be walking the West Highland Way, as of yesterday.

As is becoming the norm for me, things haven’t gone to plan. About 3 miles before reaching Drymen, I started to get the now familiar twinge of pain in my hip area. The further I walked, the worse it got. When I reached the tarmac section for the last two miles walking in to Drymen, it was pretty excruciating.

In the end, I had to give in, so phoned for a lift out. I’m now writing this blog on my tablet, at home, while feeling a little bit despondent – particularly as the pain has subsided, as is normally the case with this.

Fixing the problem

I’m currently waiting on the healthcare people to call me back and confirm my appointment with the physiotherapist. Hopefully he’ll have some ideas and suggestions. However, I’ve had physiotherapy before, and while it does seem to work for a couple of months, the pain does seem to return in the long term.

As the pain only seems to occur when carrying loads or when doing sustained uphill or downhill (but the latter is also intermittent… It doesn’t always happen on a hill walk), the solution may be to lighten up further. Not that easy, without giving up on comfort while on the trail. I also don’t want to spend my whole life in the glens, and never risking going up the hills.

If there was one specific cause, it’d be easy to deal with, but it happens when wearing boots or shoes, with a variety of different packs, over short (5-6 miles) or long distances, it happens whether I’m using poles or not. It simply isn’t that easy a problem to fix.

Future options

I refuse to give up on backpacking completely. I simply won’t let that happen. I’d be lost without my escapes to the countryside… They’re probably the thing that keeps me sane. I’ve said several times to Janie that hiking and backpacking isn’t so much a want as a need for me. It helps me clear my head, get rid of any stresses, etc. Both my physical and mental health depend on it.

So what can I do?

Assuming this is going to be a problem for the foreseeable future, and that it isn’t going to be cured (you never know, it might!), there are a few options open to me.

1. Lighten up.

I could reduce the actual backpacking to overnighters, in glens, in the warmer months of the year. That way I could significantly reduce the pack weight.
As an example, let’s assume an Osprey Exos 34 pack (something I’ve been wanting to look into for overnighters. Still trying to find a place I can try one, though!), 1kg weight (size large)
Sleeping bag, 650g, mat, 397g, stove + fuel 700g, food, 400g, waterproofs, 620g, torch, 121g, first aid kit, 300g, Scarp 1, 1.5kg, approx.
That’d be a total pack weight of about 6-6.5kg (with water added)
I’m reasonably confident that I’d be able to cope with that on an overnighter. It would mean I’d still be able to enjoy some of the best walking about… Walks such as Corrour – Dalwhinnie, Fort William – Corrour, Kinlochleven – Corrour, the Minigaig pass, etc will all still be options for me.

2. Have a base camp

I’ve just obtained a new 5 man tent, which I can stand up in, for campsite camping. I could use this as a base, and just go for day hikes from there. There are several campsites in the UK which will give me local access to hills, whilst maintaining a base. It also means that if I do suffer pain, it’ll be easier, and more comfortable to have days off and arrange other plans while I recover.

3. Day hikes

Clearly, this is linked to the base camp idea, but also, standalone day hikes will still get me out and about and into the countryside, without having to be as heavily burdened

4. Hostels, Bunkhouses & B&Bs

A lot of walks (admittedly, not in the most remote areas) can be planned so that stopping points can be at hostels or the like. By doing this, I’d be able to do multi day hikes, without excessive weight, as no need to carry tent, stove, etc. The obvious drawback to this, as a plan, is the expense. It’s definitely not going to be a cheap way to travel!

5. Courier services

This is something I considered switching to yesterday, but didn’t have any sort of day pack with me. Basically, a lot of the more commercial and popular hiking trails offer baggage transfer options, where they’ll courier your gear to your next stopping point. This would mean the West Highland Way, Great Glen Way, Cateran Trail and the like would still be options… And it would work out cheaper than the hostel/bunkhouse route, too.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’ve done a fair amount of thinking since I got home yesterday. Yes, I’m still pissed that I’m at home, but I know that this thing isn’t going to get the best of me. It’s not going to stop me getting out on the hills or out on long distance trails. There are options available to me. Yes, in some cases, they are more expensive, and as a poor guy, that makes the opportunities to partake of them more limited, but that just means they’ll be more of an event when I do them!