Thursday, 9 April 2009

Trip to the Cairngorms

Just back last night after a few days in Scotland, my plan was to do a bit of walking/camping in the Cairngorms coming in from the Linn of Dee. I'd already booked the ferry so even though the weather forecast wasn't promising I had little choice but go. The trip didn't exactly go according to plan, for one thing I decided to leave my ice axe, crampons and stiffer boots in the car to save a bit of weight (my pack was already around 19kg what with gear that isn't exactly lightweight, 4 days food and around 1.5kg of camera and lens) I didn't really have any definite plans preferring to be flexible but with the benefit of hindsight I was perhaps a bit too flexible as I wandered around a lot and changed my mind too often.

In any case it was an opportunity to try some new gear and some older gear in a different environment. It was my 1st real try with my new Terra Nova Laser so I was looking forward to seeing how I managed, also I'd opted to take an EK Kombi as my sole means of cooking, I'd brought my C-3 mini gas stove but decided to leave it in the car reasoning that in the absence of suitable fuel for the wood stove I could rely on the back-up alcohol burner. Most of my main meals were made up of a variety of supermarket dehydrated meals but I did take a Wayfarer and a Mountain House main meal for variety.

My kit list was as follows,

Terra Nova Laser

In addition to the 12 supplied pegs I took
4 x Vargo nails
10 x Camcleat Y's

That added 250g

Plus a Footprint at 194g

Cooking Gear
EK Kombi c/w Meths burner
Alpkit Mitymug
Tibetan ti 450ml mug
Plastic Mug
Tibetan ti Folding Spork
GSI Long Handled Spoon
Mora Carbon knife c/w flint
Cosy for Ziplock Bags
2 x 250ml Bottles of Meths
6 x 14g Esbit Tabs

Sleeping Gear
Field & Trek Moonlite Down Bag (bit of a misnomer as it weighs over 2kg)
Highlander Thermalite Compact Self Inflating Mat (another misnomer as it's neither compact or lite, just over 1kg)

Water carrying
Aquagear Bottle
L Ortlieb Bag (only filled prior to setting up camp)

I made up 4 foodpacks which consisted more or less of the following,
Breakfast - Muesli, Coffee
Lunch - Fruit/Cereal Bar, Mini Smoked Cheese, Garibaldi biscuits, Cuppa-soup*, Instant Mocha/Cappuccino*, Chocolate (Mars)
Main Meal - Cuppa Soup, Cup Pasta, Mrs Mathesons Smoked sausage, Coffee.
Night Snacks - Cuppa Soup, Coffee + whatever was left from Lunch/Main Meal.

I tend to drink a lot of coffee and eat constantly when I'm stuck in the tent with nothing to do so everything was used up, in fact the Mountain House Rice and Chili was so utterly disgusting that I couldn't eat it, that resulted in using additional fuel (fortunately using the wood stove at that time) and a raid on the next days meal. I'm definitely going for a dehydrator, one from Westfalia at £26 will be fine. I don't expect to see a massive weight saving as the only stuff that wasn't dehydrated was the sausage but at least I can make something I like in the quantities I need.

Osram Dot-it LED light
Energizer Headlight

Clothing Carried
Shell Gloves
Lowe Mountain Cap
Goretex jacket
Light Trespass Overtrousers
Montane Flux
Spare L/S Sub Zero Thermal
Pair light Fleece Trouser Liners
Spare pair short Socks

1st Aid Kit
Repair kit
Wash Kit
Panasonic SDR-S7 Cardcam + 2 spare batteries (carried in a CCS Belt Pouch)
Olympus E-3 & 14-54mm lens + 2 spare batteries & spare CF Cards (carried in a CCS Pouch clipped to the rucksack shoulder straps)
Lens Pens/cloth
Pair Highlander Trekking Poles
German Army Penknife

Clothing Worn
Chocolate Fish Merino L/S Base layer
Mountain Equipment Liskamm Trousers
Fleece Zip Neck Top (£2 at Primark)
Tacgear Windshirt
Fleece Hat
Salomon Socks
Meindl Borneo Boots

I used a Karrimor Condor 65l SA rucksac to carry it all.

I think the only thing apart from the 1st aid kit that didn't get used was the spare base layer top, the fleece trouser liners I wore once at night. Of the other stuff I could probably manage without,

Folding Spork
Plastic Mug
Mora Knife (retaining the Flint)

That would save 172g. I won't take the TN wire skewers again, they're light but compromised, instead I'd take 6 Camcleat Y's, 4 Vargo Nails and 6 Blacks Alloy Skewers for a total weight of 249g. As it turned out I was glad to have the TN Wires, I accidental left the EK Kombi Windshield support rods behind after stopping for lunch on day 1 and had to use 2 TN Wires that evening, actually picked the 2 rods up again on the way back!!

Of the rest I'm not sure where to make a saving, the sleeping bag is sorted as I'd already ordered a PHD bag at around 900g, a saving of over 1kg, I should and probably would have taken a smaller camera but for the fact that my wife had taken it with her to Spain. That would save 889g (E-3 + Lens 1418g, C5050 529g) As for the sleeping mat, well I could have taken an Alpkit Wee Airic or gone retro with a Karrimat Extreme strapped to the outside which incidentally I had to do with the Thermalite. Either option should save about 500g although I'm considering a Pacific Outdoors Ether Thermo 6 at 623g. It seems pointless saving 100g but all the 100g here and there add up and at 10st I can't afford to carry any unnecessary weight.

Although the trip was a bit shambolic due to poor planning and indecision everything worked pretty much as it should, the Kombi performed flawlessly, used 3 times in wood stove configuration, once with an Esbit tab simply to see how it performed and all cooking that was done inside the porch was done using the meths back-up as a stand alone stove. I had no problems with stability as a skewer through the baseplate kept it rock solid.

The Laser was mainly fine but I have to say there are a few areas where I feel that a compromise was accepted in an attempt to save a few spec sheet grams. It seems to be extremely prone to condensation, even with the ends vents hiked up, that wouldn't necessarily be a major issue if the inner and fly could be separated easily but they can't so by the time it was packed and bagged the entire tent, inner and outer was saturated. I have to say that once pitched it does offer a comfortable amount of space for 1 especially if you're sitting out bad weather as I did in Glen Nevis when it rained constantly from arrival late afternoon Tuesday until I left late morning Wednesday. I'll post a few thoughts on the Laser comparing it with the Phoenix Phreeranger/Phreeranger EB but that'll keep for another time.

Of the clothing I used everything was fine, the Liskamm's were warm, pretty windproof and water resistant and dried quickly, the Montane Flux was fine but I expected that as I'd almost worn it out when I got it, the Tacgear windshirt did what it was supposed to do and was pretty cheap, my fleece cost £4 from Primark (zip neck, shockcorded hem, elasticated cuffs, 2 handwarmer pockets) and did what a fleece is supposed to do and the Chocolate Fish Merino top worked away in the background keeping me dry, warm and socially acceptable.

The biggest problem I had was my rucksack, for some reason I couldn't get it comfortable, it seemed to press on the belt of my trousers or cut into my shoulders, never had a problem with it before, the only thing I can think of is that since I last carried that amount of weight in it I've had a bad RTA on a motorbike, a few broken ribs and a broken shoulder blade among other things resulted in my right shoulder being 1-2" lower than the left, either that or my wife is right, I've just had too many birthdays :-)

All in all not exactly how I imagined it but I'm looking forward to a return visit with a lighter load and some idea of where I'm going. Perhaps the weather will be a bit more predictable next time!!


  1. Any chance of a write-up of the trip itself?

    "Predictable weather"?? You were talking about Scotland there? Spoils the fun. ;-)

  2. Aye I suppose I could write something but to be honest nothing very exciting happened.

    Good point about the weather, when I took the pic of Glenmore with the rainbow there was horizontal rain/sleet at the car park a few hundred yards further up!!!

  3. LOL dude, at least you got out there. I live locally and yet, with one thing and another, haven't been out. Drove round Braemar and down Glenshee and then past the Aviemore side, and watched snow on some hills and nothing on others. And sometimes the same hill had snow on one side, but not on the other.

    Glad you got out. Good to just go for a wander.

  4. How I miss my old Phreeranger! Someone please revive it.

  5. On I could have taken this or that. Lessons learnt are good. Best bit is you took yourself to UK wonderland. The Cairngorms are FANTASTIC. I have a lot of reading to go here Mac

  6. I'm going back in about 3 weeks time so it'll be interesting to see how it goes with a revised/lighter kit and the benefit of hindsight.

  7. Just dug out my PH.EB and checked it over. Resealed the fly (painted the sealant on) and have just hosed it down - beaded beautifully! Now going to reseal grounsheet, just to be sure, although the water on the ground hasn't soaked through so it's probably OK. Will be cycling JOG-LE next week so want to take this tent instead of the slightly bigger/heavier Hilleberg. Although it will be beginning of August, I'm not looking forward to the unpredictable Scottish weather - aarrgh! Indi :-)

    1. I'm heading off to Scotland next week on a short motorbike trip. Although I have a Robens Mythos Solo, Wild Country Zephyros 1 and Terra Nova Laser Competition 1 I've still decided to take a Phreeranger.