Monday, 11 August 2014

Exploring the West Coast (Scotland)

Just back from a 4 day short trip exploring the West Coast around Applecross/Ullapool. Went on my own on a 19992 DR650 which was ideal for the roads in the area.

First day was from Troon to Applecross going across on the Dunoon ferry, through Inverary, Glen Orchy, Ft William, Lochcarron etc.

On the Dunoon Ferry, Looks Like Rain!!

Glen Orchy

Clunie Dam, Raining Again but a Chance to get 'Off-Road'

Back In The Sunshine 
Rain Again? Surely Not.
Bealach na Ba

Applecross Campsite

Potatoes On the Boil

Day 2 took me to Torridon , Lower Diabeg, Poolewe, down to a disused WW2 coastal battery at the mouth of Loch Ewe and from there to Ullapool.

Turn Left Past The Applecross Inn and Keep Going

Turn Left At Torridon, 9 Miles Down and 9 Back to Lower Diabeg

Lower Diabeg

Looking Towards Torridon on the Road Back from Lower Diabeg

Beinn Eighe

WW2 Coastal Battery, Loch Ewe

Memorial to Those Who Lost Their Lives on the Arctic Convoys, One wreath was to those lost on the HMS Maharatta 

Broomfield Campsite
MSR Whisperlite Intl, and Trangia 27 Kettle, 25+ Years Old and Still Going Strong
Loch Broom

Day 3 was the start of the return route, I went from Ullapool across the country to Muir of Ord, Beauly, along Glen Affric to Cannich and from there to Drumnadrochit and on to Ft William.

Tim & Nick, Father and Son from North Dakota, talking Bikes in Drumnadrochit

Cooking Under the Flysheet in Glen Nevis

Relaxing, lying on half of the 'Footprint' 
The Best Motorcycle Boots I've ever had, Haix Goretex Lined, German Army Issue. Waterproof & Breathable 10/10  

Still Raining

Standing Water in the porch at @5.00am After 12 hours of persistent rain followed by a Thunderstorm.

Stopped Raining at Last.

The last day saw me leave Ft William and go by Glencoe, a detour down to Loch Etive and back then continuing along Loch Lomond, over the Erskine bridge and down to Troon via Greenock, Inverkip etc.

Stopped for Lunch at Glencoe 

Glen Etive

Glen Etive

Glen Etive

The advantage of having going lightweight when backpacking was that my gear fitted in a 35L roll bag and small ammunition box which I'd bolted to my luggage rack. That might seem like a fairly large amount of kit but on a motorcycle I need to carry tools and spares that I wouldn't carry when walking. I also took real cooking kit including a Petrol Stove (I can use fuel from the bike) so that I could actually cook rather than use freeze dried meals.

My gear was all stuff I've used in the past, still using the Phreeranger in spite of having bought a TN Laser Comp, Wild Country Zephyros 1 and Robens Mythos Solo since I last posted on the blog. I also used my PHD Ultra Minim, a Multimat Self inflate mat and MSR Whisperlite. The only problem I had was after the thunderstorm in Ft William, the sewn-in groundsheet on the Phreeranger isn't waterproof but I've always managed using a Silnylon footprint. Unfortunately during the 5.00am thunderstorm the ground couldn't take the amount of rain and with about half an inch of standing water it got between the footprint and sewn-in groundsheet and then soaked through to the inner. Thankfully my kit remained dry (the important stuff anyway) as I was on the sleeping mat, only my bike jacket and trousers were slightly wet. It's something that needs sorted properly though but in the meantime I'll have to use the Robens Mythos Solo even if it is a significantly smaller than the Phreeranger.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cairgorm Day Walk, Northern Corries

I was over in Scotland in July for a week car camping with the family but did manage a couple of day walks. The 1st was a walk around the northern corries starting from the ski center at Glenmore in the Cairngorms. We were camped at the campsite in Glenmore so with I set off leaving wife, daughter and niece who were intending visiting the Reindeer center and so on.

It had been showery the previous day since leaving Braemar and although it was fine when I left the car park at the ski center it didn't look like it would be a rain free day. I simply followed the path that crosses below the northern corries and by the time I'd reached Coire nan Lochain I was down to a t-shirt. The cloud kept rolling in though and by the time I was heading up between Coire nan lochain and Lurchers Crag the wind picked up a little and the 1st drops of rain appeared. At this point there was no indication of how long the rain would last so I pulled on my waterproofs, Marmot Essence jacket and TNF Resolve over-trousers (recieved from Webtogs for review)

As I reached the plateau with Coire nan Lochain to my left visibility was poor although the cloud did tend to lighten/thicken continually. I hadn't gone far along the path when I saw in the distance what looked like a herd of reindeer. They were pretty far away and weren't in a direct line with where I was going so I continued on towards the point where I'd turn and head towards the high point on Coire nan Lochain.

The rain eventually stopped and the sun started to break through and as visibility improved I saw another herd of reindeer, I say another but it may well have been the same herd I'd seen earlier that had simply moved up the steeper western slopes of Coire nan Lochain whereas I'd taken the longer less steep approach.

Although they weren't directly between me and the cairn they started to walk in my direction. I was pretty sure that they weren't going to be a problem so I kept on going and they kept on coming until they were right beside me, within touching distance. I'm sure they're used to humans but even so it was a real buzz to be alone on the hill with a herd of reindeer. There were a few calves with them and although they were quite comfortable while I took some photographs something, perhaps I made a sudden movement, spooked them and they raced off although they didn't go far.

Once I'd reached the cairn on Coire nan Lochain I continued arourd the rim of the corrie towards Coire An'Sneachta. The weather was fine now although there was still a stiff breeze in places so i removed my fleece (Mountain Hardwear 100wt Full Zip) but wore the Marmot Essence as a wind shirt, I've found the Marmot Essence to be breathable enough that I don't carry an actual windshirt anymore. The views towards Ben MacDui and Loch Etchacan were fantastic especially as the cloud kept drifting around and as I reached the Fiacall a Coire Cas I stopped for lunch. Taking in the views it would have been nice to have stayed out overnight but it wasn't to be this time.

Having re-fuelled I continued on up to the top of Cairngorm before decending to the Ptarmigan resturant where I was able to go in for a mug of coffee. Although all the equipment that comes with Cairngorm being a ski center is a bit of an eyesore it doesn't bother me too much, the reality is that there's enough space for everyone, same for the mtb/downhill ski stuff at Aonach Mor. That said I'll be hypocritical and say I'm glad that they didn't manage to expand the ski center into the northern corries as was suggested a few years ago.

Having left the Ptarmigan I continued to the car park by way of the 'Windy Ridge' walk. Apart from the rain I'd had on the way up to the plateau at the start it'd been dry all day but as I was getting myself organised at the ski center the rain started and it was really heavy on the way back to the campsite. As it turned out the others had been stuck in the tent all day as it had started raining shortly after I'd left.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Home DIY, Computer Problems and Car Camping.

I havdn't had a chance to get out recently as I was busy renovating/re decorating my daughters room, one of those jobs I hate as it always turns out to be more involved than expected. Thankfully the worst is over but at the same time my computer started crashing and I didn't have time to work on it. In the end I reluctantly bought a new tower, reluctantly as I was quite happy running Windows XP and didn't want to change to Windows 7.

Although I use my computer quite a bit I'm not a computer junkie, I don't want to know how it works, why it works or need to have multimedia capability or a home network to keep in touch with the other 2 members of my family so I expected to be frustrated by the latest offering from Microsoft and it turns out I was right.

In addition to the above we'd planned to go to Scotland for a week car camping and I've only just got home. I didn't expect to get much walking done although I did manage a walk around the Northern Corries in the Cairngorms and started out to do the Ring of Steall but turned back due to feeling a bit off on the day.

We got back late Thursday night and yesterday was spent sorting out kit and trying to get the new computer sorted. In the end I pulled the hard drive from the old computer and installed it in the new one as it was easier to transfer my files that way. Of course some documents won't display properly and I still have all my programs to re-install.

I'll get there in the end.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Mountain Hardwear Micro Chill Fleece Jacket

I had the opportunity to try a Mountain Hardwear Micro Chill 1/2 zip fleece top a while back thanks to Webtogs. Although it was a nice enough top I felt that it was a bit expensive given that it was a fairly basic design. I also mentioned the full zip version which had a few other features that I felt made it worth the small increase in price.

The features missing on the 1/2 zip version that I'd have liked were a waist draw cord and some kind of cuff on the sleeves. The Micro Chill Full Zip fleece has both and in addition has a small zipped chest pocket and 2 zipped hand warmer pockets. I mentioned at the time that I didn't own a 100 wt fleece but I found that the more I wore the 1/2 zip version the more often I found myself looking at the jacket, in the end I decided to purchase one.

I choose size medium the same as the 1/2 zip as although it's a little looser than perhaps a 100 wt fleece should be I wanted the extra arm length, I also choose the same colour. Delivery was quick as usual, I ordered on Friday afternoon and the jacket arrived on Monday. The fit is pretty much the same as the 1/2 zip as you'd expect and I'm very pleased with it. I much prefer to have a waist draw cord generally but as I up sized slightly in this case it's almost a necessity. The shock cord is slightly stiff and I may replace it with a softer cord in time.

The shock cord adjusts at both side by way of a captive cord lock although it's slightly over engineered. Rather than attach the cord lock directly by way of a webbing loop the webbing loop has a plastic ring which in turn prevents the cord lock from moving.

The main zip is quite chunky and allows the jacket to be zipped into a compatible shell while the pocket zip are less chunky. The cuffs appear to be loose like the ones on the 1/2 zip version but actually have inner cuffs which seem to be made from a lycra type fabric. This works quite well, the cuffs aren't bulky yet the fleece protects the lycra and as the inner cuffs are wide they aren't uncomfortable or restrictive.

One thing that did strike me as a bit strange though is the shoulder/sleeve design. I mentioned when I reviewed the 1/2 zip version that the sleeves were raglan style rather than regular set in style and that the seams were flat stitched to reduce bulk or rubbing from rucksac shoulder straps, the full zip version in spite of sharing the same name (Micro Chill) has set in regular seam shoulders. This isn't something that concerns me personally but it's worth noting if you suffer from sensitive shoulders.

Although the full zip version is more expensive at £49.50, the 1/2 zip version being £40.49 I personally feel that if you're spending £40 or so it's worth spending the extra £10 for the increased versatility.