Monday, 31 May 2010

The National 3 Peaks Challenge - Snowdon (Peak Number 3)

View Snowdon Round Trip in a larger map

It transpired the girls had already made it to the top however they had actually taken the route that the train takes to the top of Snowdon from Llanberis.

We were very well versed now at getting enough clobber together for the ascent of a mountain (this one being Snowdon) and we were set to go in no time. We managed to leave the car at about 2:00pm in blazing sunshine without a cloud in the sky, should we not have been so exhausted and in such a hurry it would have been a really pleasant saunter up to the top. An executive decision was made to head south and take the Miners Path (there are two routes, the Miners Path and the Pyg Track) as it was generally flatter and more meandering than the Pyg track - until they meet about 2/3rds of the way up Snowdon. This turned out to be a one of my all time backfires. Whilst I was walking on the flat or almost flat my heel rubbed on the back of my shoe and it was tender feeling as though someone had packed my shoe with broken glass.

I was trailing the pack by some distance, the time was against us badly but the pain really prevented me making any quicker progress, hopefully I could make it back on the uphill. The walk itself is stunning though passing by various lakes as you go. Llyn Teryn is the first you pass, from here you can see a pretty ugly water pipe that bisects the landscape as it climbs straight up the mountain. This pipe carries water to the Hydroelectric works below in Cwn Dyli. By the waters edge you can see the remains of the miners weekday barracks.

As you continue up the path, there is no real ascent being made at this point and it was pretty punishing, you arrive at the very blue Llyn Llydaw. Blue because of the copper content of the lake which is as a result of all the copper that has been thrown in to the lake by the miners. This naturally means that there are zero fish in here. It's good to know this in advance as it does look pretty welcoming when you're actually there. You head over the causeway that goes over the lake and you pass on the right hand side the remains of the copper crushing buildings. These are reputed to have never made any money, so much so that there is a letter from a Victorian lady who describes "we have a new hobby in Wales, we dig holes in the ground and pour money into them!" great investment - sounds like some of our banks!

snowdon summit
You get an awesome view of the summit of Snowdon from here along with the walkers hiking along the ridge line. With it being such a great day - there were hoards. The road-like path continues up to the next lake, Glaslyn, which is smaller than the last. From here the path ascends to meet with the Pyg Track (named after the Pen y Gwryd, the name of the hotel at the bottom of the pass much used by the earlier mountain walkers). This is really where the climb begins and my pain subsided. I'd caught up with the other guys here and I was starting to get concerned about the diminishing hours we had. This was slightly compounded due to the volume of people heading up the mountain which slows you down as you end up going at their pace rather than yours. Everyone stayed positive though and we were striding out where we could in order to ensure that not only did we get to the top but that we get to the bottom by 6:45pm.

Some of the guys exchanged pleasantries with what I assumed was someone they had already met on another hillside before this one. As she left them I overheard her say to her walking companion "They are in totally the wrong place to complete it in time!" My heart sank and so much ran through my particularly mushy and slow brain (it was even slower than normal). I voiced my concerns to the blokes. Some where positive, some were down. We stopped and exchanged views on chances of success, we had three hours to get to the top and back down again. From over our shoulders we heard "You'll easily get to the top in three hours!" from a helpful stranger. I asked him if we'll get down again in that time, the look on his face confirmed our concern. "Yeah, hmmm, if you run."

We'd come all this way, had such nightmares and run into problem after problem. If we hadn't got caught in traffic in Glasgow, if we hadn't got lost in the Lake District, if we had bought an Atlas when we had the chance, if we had brought an Atlas with us in the first place, if we had brought a TomTom, if we'd done any of these things we'd have done it but noooooooooo. That said something took over and the sensation of what we'd already done dawned on us, we were 21 hours in and we have to give it some to do it but it wasn't out of the question yet so with grit and determination we forged our way for the summit, foaming at the mouth as a result of the volume of dextrose tablets I was troughing. Best to go for it then repeat what we'd already done at a later stage.

Snowdon Summit and Railway
On Snowdon Summit
We managed to get to summit by 4:30pm. We saw Michelle and Nicky and they were full of encouragement which was a top boost - they'd been up here an age so were pretty ready to head down fortunately. There was no time for anything, no cup of tea, as was originally planned, no ice cream no nothing - apart from the photos to prove we'd been there. The Pyg Track is shorter but steeper so we decided to get down this one, jogging on all but the flat bits (jogging on the flat was exhausting and agony). The pad in the back of my shoe was pushing my foot forward and I could feel my toe getting bruised, no time to worry about it. This is exactly where accidents happen if you're not careful but it was dry the light was great and I wasn't feeling the urge to redo this whole 3 peaks challenge in order to complete it in the 24 hours to speed was my best friend.

Descending Snowdon
We made great progress on the descent and when we rounded the corner that revealed the finish like with time to spare we could rejoice, we had about done it, we were there we surely couldn't fail at this point. We waited for all the guys so that we all crossed the line together, which we duly did, with an enormous sense of satistaction and joy and in need of a pint. We got down off Snowdon and into the car park by 6:15pm and the Saturday, completing the national 3 peaks challenge and the mountains of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, along with the four hundred and some miles in between in 23 hours 30 minutes. And we were thirsty, really thirsty, so we quenched it. Oh joy.

The National 3 Peaks Finish

Friday, 28 May 2010

The National 3 Peaks Challenge - Scafell Pike (Peak Number 2)

View Scafell Pike - 3 Peaks in a larger map

Bleary eyed we got out of the van in the Lake District and put clean socks on and my shoes ready to drag ourselves up Scafell Pike. This was far from a pleasant experience. I hadn't changed the dressing on my foot as it had wept during the first walk and it had dried so I didn't was to pull the wound off with the dressing. I'm not sure if this was the reason or not as to why it was giving me so much grief from the off. I was thankful that I had the key for the van in case I ended up turning back.

We'd left the van (075873) at 6am and only minutes later started passing people that we recognised from Ben Nevis, I was a bit delirious at this point, due to the total lack of sleep although looking at the dudes heading off for Snowdon I actually felt quite fresh, this was what we were to look forward to and more (or worse). Looking up you can see the path trace up the Scafell Pike and again into thick cloud - ace! This is a spectacular view on a clear day however this wasn't to be one of them.

You follow Lingmell Gill heading up Scafell Pike with the stream on your right. You then cross the stream where the path veers to the right (at 195075). This can be a bit of a precarious crossing and if you stay and watch long enough you should see someone go in, one of our guys did. This is always a source of huge amusement and lifts spirits - even if it's yourself.

By this point everyone is feeling the burn and on little or no sleep anything was an effort. Harry had made himself a strong mix of lemon cordial and water which turned on him with a vengeance and ended up exiting his body with great haste on a number of occasions all over the hillside. The view of Wastwater (the deepest lake in the Lake District and indeed inEngland) is awesome from this ascent. However it wasn't long before we'd hit the fog line and the views that we'd enjoyed disappeared into the mist leaving us staring at the floor and trudging uphill one step at a time. I employed the slow but sure theory and kept plugging away.

wastwater from Scafell Pike on the national 3 peaks
The path forks (at 202074) and we took the left fork, I've made this mistake before and the right fork takes you up towards the Lords Rake and some pretty challenging gullies leading to the Scafell Pike summit - this was not the day to be attempting this. There was a constant stream of people heading down now as we trudged up through the cloud one step at a time. The fatigue was setting in pretty heavily now but we had a place to be and a time to be there so no stops were scheduled on this ascent and none were taken, just a steady yomp to the top.

scafell pike summit
Eventually we arrived, in the cloud, at the top of Scafell Pike with the second of the three summits now conquered. The time was by now around 8am and we had to get down, with very limited visibility there was nothing to hang around for apart from to catch our breath. With the burn affecting different muscles groups on the descent everyone roared off aiming downhill - next stop the bottom. There was still patchy snow at the top with gave a clue as to the temperature, up here though it felt nowhere near as baltic as it was up on Ben Nevis in Scotland only hours earlier.

With poles out to cushion the impact it wasn't too long before we'd emerged out of the cloud and the view of Wastwater was pretty impressive. No time really to take it in, today was a challenge rather than a ramble. In brief sporadic moments the cloud whipped back up and surrounded us momentarily eradicating the view. We yomped back down to the van with knees starting to give a bit a grief but we were through half way now and although time was tight we were in with a shot of completing the 3 peaks in the 24 hours.

cloud on scafell pike
We arrived at the van for 9:30am to the smell of sausages as a car next to us (all the other vans had already left for Snowdon) prepared lunch for themselves or their compadres who had hiked off into the yonder somewhere to return to a hearty feast. Feeling pretty shattered now, starving and craving snags we'd managed to get up and down Scafell Pike in three and a half hours, fair play we weren't pulling up any trees but we were pretty pleased with that and it certainly put us back in the running for complete the 3 Peaks in the 24 hours which I certainly thought had slipped from our palms as we were tearing though non marked villages around 4 hours earlier.

Same drill as before we all grabbed food, took off shoes to give our feet a breather and jumped aboard the, by now a bit grotty, fun bus. There were shortbread crumbs all over the back seat and coffee swilling up and down the floor. These were minor issues we could sort at a later stage for now we had to get to Llanberis and the base of Snowdon like yesterday.

With that in mind Ken took the wheel and we tore out of the Lake District (I think) - I managed to get some sleep in and dozed pretty much until we came off the A55.

View Directions to snowdon in a larger map

We were meeting a couple of our girlfriends, who were going to climb Snowdon with us but they'd got a reasonably early start so were already there to our knowledge. We arrived somewhere near the bottom car park and the roads were lined with cars, the weather had brightened up a treat and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. If we weren't so tired we may have marvelled at the view.

Being right up against it timewise we drove to the car park with our fingers and toes crossed for a space. There weren't any so we decided to wait on the off chance people would be leaving. It was the right call and within 10 mins we were in the car park and throwing kit on to get a shift on. It was touch and go whether we were going to get up and down before 6:45pm.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The National 3 Peaks Challenge - Ben Nevis (Peak Number 1)

View Ben Nevis in a larger map

Suited and booted we started off across the bridge opposite the Youth Hostel (717128) at 6:45pm we figured we had until around 10pm before we'd start losing light so we had to get cracking. This became particularly important when we realised that Ben Nevis summit was shrouded in cloud - somewhere, anywhere up in front.

We started off up the foothills following the path that zig zagged as we went. Not 10 minutes after we started everyone was stopping to shed layers that we'd donned in the expectation that it was going to be cold - err wrong, at least for the time being.

The path winds it's way up the hill then crosses a waterfall by means of a bridge. We seemed to be passing an awful lot of people heading in the opposite direction to us however only one passed us heading up the way. On the whole we got off to a great start, my heel was giving me some grief on the flat but anything more than a gradual incline and I walked on the balls of my feet meaning I couldn't feel anything.

climbing Ben Nevis national 3 peaks challenge
The path wound to the left up one side of a huge valley, it was here that we started to get some awesome views of the mountains at the far side of Glen Nevis and Glencoe far into the distance.

lochan on ben nevis
As we appeared over the initial ridge on Ben Nevis at a height of about 500 metres and we came across the Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, here we could see hoards of people (including the only chap that passed us) in the distance heading down the path. Whether they'd hit the summit or not I wasn't sure, it did strike me that they probably had as it appeared to be an odd time for such hoards of people to be yomping up Ben Nevis - the biggest mountain in the UK. As we turned the corner (at 147725) you can start to see where materials have been lifted up the mountain in order to restore the pathways which is so vital for what is really a tourist attraction. With the number of people that walk this path on an annual basis it's state is sure to deteriorate in a short space of time, this is why it is so sad to hear that the operations of the Nevis Partnership are to cease operations (read the full article here) which will largely affect the condition of the mountain paths.

path down ben nevis
Going was slow giving priority to those going downhill at this time, it was phenomenal how many people were starting to appear from out of the clouds which were now starting to get thicker and thicker.

heading into ben nevis cloud
It was essential that at this point we all stuck together and at all times we could all see each other and should anyone fall out of sight we all hollered until we were all as a group again. Bit slow going but always better safe than sorry. Once we were in the cloud I was constantly checking the Satmap to ensure that the path that we were on was in fact the right path as visibility was limited. This is a very well trodden path and the way ahead is very clear. Some passers by let us know that it was about 20 mins to Ben Nevis summit from the start of the snow.

It seemed to be relentless with no snow in sight and no landmarks to get a gauge of the distance the only fix on location we had was the Satmap Active 10 which gave us the altitude and therefore the ascent we had left.

Realising we were running short on daylight we really had to push on and the thigh burn was really kicking in as was the biting cold. Gloves, hats, jumpers were all thrown on to keep the cold at bay even though we were slogging our guts out to get up there it wasn't enough to warm the extremities. Not far later we hit the snow and we were forcing ourselves on gasping for breath, not down to the altitude more the exertion due to the pace we were doing. Poles were now a necessity, dragging ourselves up the hill, without them would have been a case of 1 step forward, 2 steps back.

Knowing that we couldn't be up here for long as we had to be out of the cloud this side of darkness we were striding out jeering each other on, everyone was well aware of the time frame but hearing it from the other dudes made sure you didn't ease off the gas and I didn't until I got cramp, as did Si. Every step it was firing up my left quad from my knee to the top of my leg both on the inside and out - every step I was screaming into the mist in fierce pain. We'd not eaten a bite since we left the van and we were paying the price. Kenny had some nuts to hand so he loaded my palms and I troughed them, this seemed to do the trick and kept it at bay for now.

I'd never been up Ben Nevis before so didn't know the landmarks on the summit, Ken did however and recognised the cairn with the shelter at the top - which apparently was an observatory in times gone by. Gotta say the view of the stars from here on a clear night would be heavenly, sadly we weren't blessed with that fortune. We had the customary photo where everyone put on a loose smile to prove that we'd been there, we ate chocolate and we got head torches out of bags to guide our way down - all in about the time that it's taken you to read the last two lines.

ben nevis summit
And we started off down the way at pace to try to get out of the cloud and out of the cold. We couldn't get out of the cold quick enough and checking the temperature it was around -2 degrees. My hands were in agony with the cold. Dave let me borrow his gloves to try get some warmth back into them. I carried my poles under my arm and put all my fingers and thumbs into the gloves together in an attempt to get some feeling back. Sadly we couldn't wait for this and had to truck down in the meantime. Si's cramp hadn't dispersed he was now onto re hydration sachets to try get rid of it. It had instant benefits but didn't get rid of it entirely. As we emerged out of the cloud the night lightened up. Bizarrely the cloud was localised over the summit of Ben Nevis itself and in places the sky was quite clear giving us enough light to descend the hill under.

From this point we didn't need torches until we rounded the valley top and walked past the loch that we'd past earlier on. Lucky really as Pike had lost his (turns out he lost it in his bag, that was on his back, we later found out). The descent was a touch slow and the zig zag path out of the valley and back to the river was pretty rocky. This is where accidents can happen so there was no point in rushing things and writing ourselves off, particularly as some of us were in trainers. My foot gave me a fair amount of grief here not having sight of where I was putting my feet.

Successfully down we got back to the van at midnight with Ben Nevis done. We literally opened up the boot chucked all our clobber in and got some food out, we were on the road within minutes following the 265 mile route to teh Lake District as laid out on the map below.

Pike was at the wheel this time, giving the rest of us the chance of some kip. Well kip wasn't really what we got as we careered down the Highland B roads and along the windy shores of the colossal Loch Lomond. I more got a headache where my head bounced off the window for around 90 minutes in a semi slumber as we ricocheted south leaving me feeling as though I was wearing the window like a brittle sombrero.

Somewhere around Glasgow (I think, I'm not sure, it was still dark though) we changed driver and Dave had a blaze.

On the motorways now I did sleep-ish.

At around 4am I was woken up (I don't know who it was by) with the words "Dave says can you drive?" I was behind the wheel seconds later to give Dave a shot at trying to get some snooze in before we set to with Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

Having been asleep my eyes were still half glued shut where my contact lens had set behind my eyelids. My vision was a touch foggy although I thought it better to keep this nugget of wisom to myself for the time being. I took over the driving as we'd just come off the motorway heading around the Northern Lake District heading for the coast. This is where we really started to regret not having bought an atlas. We had two iPhones which were both telling us to go in opposite directions. We had an OS map for Scafell Pike, which we would have been able to use in about 9 miles time, so we were in the hands of god and we guessed. After some time of blazing round country lanes in the dusky light, following our noses we somehow successfully arrived at a roundabout that we'd torn round about 45 minutes earlier, the challenge was slipping away from us already. In the end the trusty satmap got us back on track in the right direction and we arrived at the car park at 5:45am to a line of hire vans occupied by drivers awaiting the return of their climbers so that they could get underway to Snowdon, we didn't have that luxury.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Trekking for Charity - a scam?

We all get so much annoying spam in the Inbox. Now, I'm currently more than happy with my downstairs department, I've never bought an Australian lottery ticket so could never possibly have won their lotto and I'm certainly not succumbing to the temptation of injecting $36,000,000,000 into my beer fund on behalf of Dr Gaius Obaseki - a Nigerian air to the thrown who is eager to exit his country for fear of death (he has someone knocking at the door as he's typing the email to me). Anyway within my spam I recently received one that caught my eye, one that offered me a charity trek through Nepal.

The deal was I paid a deposit of £350, so long as I obtained a sponsorship fee of £3000. This instantly struck me as being a bit whiffy of rather pungent and rather old sardines. How on earth could flights, all internal travel, all accommodation, all meals on the trekking days, water, refreshments, guides, a doctor and medical support be covered for a 10 day trip for this measly pittance of a sum. Well the truth of the matter is that they obviously cannot. The sponsorship that you raise is clearly used to cover the cost of the holiday.

Now I had heard of this with regard to skydives but not trekking. With this in mind I went for a surf on the crest of t'internet and found a trek up Kilimanjaro under the same guise with Marie Curie. This insisted that you paid £350 by means of a deposit then raise a minimum of £3750 for the charity.

What amount of this actually goes to the charity I think is any ones guess. These Treks for Charity are obviously a way to entice would be trekkers who are unable to undertake such "Once in a Lifetime" opportunities without financial assistance from sponsors. This therefore means that a substantial amount of the sponsorship fund is not going to the intended charity but is in fact going to the trekking companies themselves.

Personally I don't know how people get away with this as you're not sponsoring them to Trek Kilimanjaro, you're in fact paying for them to Trek Kilimanjaro and donating a mere fraction of your sponsorship to the designated charity. I feel this is a way for companies to get business by telling the trekkers they can trek this or trek that for a paltry few pounds under the guise that it's for charity when really it's for the trekking company with a fractional and notional contribution going to the charity itself.

Superb marketing ploy from the trekking company as it broadens their target market from all the people who want to Trek Kilimanjaro and pay for it TO ALSO INCLUDE all the people that want to Trek Kilimanjaro without paying for it. I may be being possibly a touch cynical here but it may be a preference for the trekking companies to take the sponsorship guests as their price does not have to be competitive because the trekker isn't in fact paying for the pleasure so could in fact could be at an inflated rate (no proof on that, just a mere possibility). In fact the charities/companies running these operations advise the participants that should they be asked how much of the minimum sponsorship goes to the charity to try to be vague and avoid answering the question.

I actually got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about this (can't you tell) and trawled further through t'internet. I came across Skydives for charity. This has to be the biggest scam going. For example with skyline parachuting you pay nothing, that's right, nothing! You raise £360 (at least, I can't see it being much more than that as once the punter has hit that figure they get their free skydive), and there you go you get your free skydive. But what exorbitant fee to the skydive company charge to the charity for the pleasure, I doubt this will be competitive as it doesn't need to be, why? Because the person paying for it isn't paying for it. To boot for every £1 that is raised by Skydiving operations for charity, it costs the NHS £13.75 in hospital fees - I'm digressing a touch.

It may possibly appear that I am being stingy by not giving to charity, quite the contrary I donate to a well known charity each month by means of direct debit and support them whole heartedly. This is the best way I feel I can support that charity. It is pretty galling though still that these charities are supposed to be there for the support and development of technologies to assist those in need. With the boss on £200,000 a year? Money well spent? Well, possibly so actually. It is a fortune of an amount of cash but ultimately it's all comparable, if you paid him/her half that do you get the same productivity out of them - I doubt it. In effect as frustrating as it may be (as you don't want the cash going in the bosses pockets, you want it being effective on the front line), it is actually well spent.

In conclusion, if I am asked by someone to sponsor them on the basis that they need to reach a minimum sponsorship fee to enable them to partake in the trek, I would politely decline and suggest that if they do complete the goal then I will donate a specific fee directly to the charity itself. Should I undertake a challenge myself for charity, all the cash I earned (apart from the 7% slice or therabouts that Justgiving take) would go to the charity and not towards my holiday fund.

Apologies for the rant, I just think it's being a touch opportunistic from a commercial point of view, it's not very fair for the person sponsoring and paying the money to think that upon the success of the challenge £10 will go to cancer research when in fact it will go to a Kilimanjaro Trekking company of some description with a fraction of that reaching those it was intended for.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The National 3 Peaks Challenge - getting started

Date: 14th-15th May
National 3 Peaks Mountains: Ben Nevis 1344m (Scotland), Scafell Pike 980m (England), Snowdon 1080m (Wales)
Distance: 24 miles
Vertical ascent: 2980 metres
Time Allowed: 24 hours
Road miles 475 miles

In the face of all adversity and totally ill prepared (from a point of view of training not from an equipped angle), on Friday 14th May 2010, 7 of us embarked on a self supported attempt of the National 3 Peaks Challenge.

My day started in hospital having my foot treated and dressed. I had a surfing accident about a fortnight back in Australia where I had the heel of my foot sliced off leaving me unable to wear shoes or trainers. The prospect of doing some 20 odd mountain miles along the hiking trail in flip flops was not turning me on so I had to somehow conceal and protect the yellow and green soggy mess that my heel had become in order to make the yomp palatable. Once dressed I was packed up with plenty of dressings and given strict instructions to strip it all off after each mountain and let it dry out in the hours between walking before redressing it to start the next of the 3 peaks.

All the chaps arrived at mine and we set off in the fun bus just 15 mins later than hoped at 11:45am, not bad considering 2 of the guys had meetings that morning.

Half an hour up the road we realised that we had no satnav, furthermore we had no atlas but with senses of direction and iPhones being overworked we decided we'd plough on and get an atlas when we stopped. This necessity slipped our mind at the first stop and at the 2nd they were £20 so our senses of direction were to continue being overworked unless we acquired one for a fraction of that price.

We were hoping to be at Ben Nevis base to kick off on the first hiking trail of the 3 Peaks by 5pm to get the show on the road. Naturally this plan was whisked out of the window as we hit the Glasgow rush hour traffic. After crawling into Glasgow for what seemed like an age we decided it might be wise to postpone the attempt by a day as mounting Ben Nevis in the dark was a particularly bad idea, well it was never going to happen. It crossed our minds to get a hotel for the night and go out for a few beers. Everyone got excited at this prospect, until we realised that the van had to be back by 2am on Sunday morning not leaving us enough time to do Scafell Pike and Snowdon. Dissapointment spread amongst the ranks, this meant it was do or die (well not literally, more like do or don't).

With that in mind and Kenny at the wheel we forged our way through Glasgow and got the hammer down Fort William wards.

With white knuckles, sweaty palms and palpitations we arrived at the base of Ben Nevis and parked in a layby across the road from youth hostel in Glen Nevis at a time that seemed to be before we'd left Glasgow however it was indeed around 6:30pm (Friday 14th May), here we were ready to start the National 3 Peaks Challenge. We all leaped out of the van and ripped bags out of the boot as we changed into our walking kit in the middle of the road ready to get a wriggle on and get up that hill. Not off to a great start, it could surely only get better. Well that was one way of looking at it.....

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Mountain Equipment Lightline Down Jacket Review

I've had the Mountain Equipment Lightline Jacket for a few months, it's been well used so I thought I'd note my view of the piece of kit.

I previously had a duvet top by means of a buffalo but if did occasionally cause me a touch of hot and sweaty claustrophobic frustration when it came to getting it on and off. Once on the buffalo is a great piece of kit and keeps you toasty to a great degree even when it gets wet, contrary to it's down counterparts. But it is a bit tough to get on and off especially when you don further layers underneath.
This led me to hunt out a duvet jacket at a reasonable price but that would keep me sufficiently warm. There are so many to choose from but I could immediately narrow down the selection as I wanted one with s hood to keep my neck and melon warm. The theory behind them not having hoods is that you can put on a beanie, but there's nothing to stop you putting a beanie on under a hood and be especially balmy. So that said I ended up plumping for the Mountain Equipment Lightline. I tried on a couple and this one is as comfy as I tried. Sadly as it is the first duvet jacket I've owned I can only give a review of it on isolation and not against another similar jacket.
That said I've used it through the winter whilst walking in the Lake District and in the Highlands of Scotland and have not at any point wished for any more. I did in fact use the same jacket during my ascent of Kilimanjaro (although this one was hired) and there too it proved to be more than sufficient in the warmth department. Granted I only used it for actual walking in during the summit day, the rest of the time I only wore it around the camp, but for both sitting and walking in it was a comfortable piece of kit.
It has a wired hood which is a bonus and stops the hood from sagging and impacting on your field of view whilst out on the hill. It also has adjustable velcro cuffs which I feel would be more comfortable and less irritating than their elasticated cousins. The main zip is a touch awkward to do up but there is a knack to it and once you've got this figured it's a doddle.
Another point of note is that there is no flap along the main zip to keep out any icy breeze however whilst I've been out in nothing considered to be a gale I haven't found this to be an issue. There are drawstrings around the gem though to keep the warmth in and stop it
escaping downwards.
The shell of the Lightline jacket appears to be a touch flimsy and you feel conscious that catching it could easily result in a riiiiiiiiiip and a resulting flap that can only be repaired with duct tape leaving you looking like a real Bobby dazzler. Not true, again it is pretty tough and takes a fair amount of hammer with no worries - that said I wouldn't be keen to deliberately go out and put that to the test.
The Mountain Equipment Lighline has a Driloft coating which is windproof and highly waterproof. I've worn it out in damp weather and it held out ok although I'd be concerned if I had to rely on it's waterproofing in the event of a deluge, being down and all, in this department it will never compete with it's synthetic counterpart.
To summise I reckon Mountain Equipment have made a great jacket in this one at a relatively cheap price, I'm really pleased with it, fair play it does have a few shortcomings but on the whole they are negligable and amount to very little.
I got mine for £140 from Go Outdoors however it is currently on sale at Field and Trek for £120. Otherwise still a great price for a good piece of winter kit, don't get me wrong there are more technical jackets on the market but for those you pay the price.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The National 3 Peaks are a knocking on my foot

As I previously posted we are attempting the National 3 Peaks this weekend and my heel is currently looking redder than raw following my accident a week last Saturday where I had part of my heel sliced off by a random surfer's fin down under. I am now continually coating it in betadine, aside a days savlon on Saturday, in the hope that miracles happen, healing said wound enabling me to at least put some thing other than flip flops on (which I have been in for the last 3 weeks now and counting - they sure do look odd with a shirt and tie). I can now hear the clock loudly ticking in my lugs without any sympathy for my plates of meat.

The only other alternative is to somehow dress it on the day with micropore or blister plasters or some other fine innovation to stop it from rubbing or giving me grief sufficiently long enough for me to go from the sea near Fort William up and over them there National 3 Peaks and to the finish line in the sea somewhere in North Wales.

In the meantime I am googling like the fury in the hunt of a miracle cure, thus far none have been found in any of the following; salt water, paw paw cream, savlon, betadine, detol.

The search continues............

Friday, 7 May 2010

My mind's been miles away - making waves

Quite literally, I've actully been down under in Australia for the last 2 1/2 weeks on a surf trip up the East Coast.

We were blessed and had 2 weeks of sunshine with the very occasional, very brief burst of rain (which tended to be of an eve whilst we were partaking in liquid refreshment under canvas) that caused no inconvenience whatsoever along with constant clean waves and sea temperatures of over 20 degrees it was a trip from heaven.

I stayed with various friends out there, both Aussie and British, for the duration of the break. Two of us flew out from the UK into Sydney (thankfully a day before some northernmost hill started slaying travelling Europeans flight itineraries) for a couple of days where left soon after seeing the sights (which I'd already taken in when I lived there) and headed up towards Forster where we met three mates in Booty Booty national park in a campsite on the beach. The next week took us on a road trip camping in various isolated beachside campsites (firstly in Point Plomer then near Lennox Head) before arriving in Byron Bay where we had an appartment for the weekend.

More waves were had by all despite the swell dropping off a touch. Respite was taken in Brisbane for a few days before firing up to Noosa for a couple of days to surf the point breaks of the National Park before heading back to Brisbane to commence the day long journey home. All told an awesome trip with awesome friends and awesome waves.

Now the training must recommence for the impending English 3000's. This is going to be a touch of a sluggish start as during the last session of surf I was run over causing a chunk of my heel to be sliced off by a fin of the surfer concerned. Any footwear is a no go at the moment and I'm into my 3rd week of flip flops which is a bit bizarre around the office whilst still donning my shirt and tie. That said I am keen as the proverbial mustard to get up to the Lake District to continue the walking regime in preparation for next months English 3000's walk (the Lakeland 3000's with a twist). I was hoping to get up there this weekend to get up Scafell Pike but I am now thinking that this coming weekend is going to be a write off and will have to be spent on my backside or doing some other activity requiring minimal movement, frustratingly. Just hoping that my sliced and diced plate of meat is in some reasonable fettle to complete the National 3 Peaks walk next weekend.

And relax..........................

At least until I am back on my (healthy) feet.

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