Archive for the 'Testing for review' Category

North Wales 2013 – Thursday/wildcamp/Friday mashup

51 today! A lie-in, breakfast in bed, pressies and cards - the perfect start to another roasting-hot day.

Outside the cottage the RAF did another low-level fly-by, I assumed that it wasn't all in my honour but it was impressive all the same:

 

Chinook #1

 

Chinook #2

 

Chinook #3

 

The resident Squadron Leader looks on, unimpressed by the thundering mechanical behemoth

 

We spent the day in Betws-y-Coed, sight-seeing and getting some retail therapy. As a birthday treat we dined at The Gwydyr Hotel, the food was very good although for some inexplicable reason, in a land that supports so many sheep, the kitchen had run out of lamb. No matter, the beef was fine alternative. Ice-creams were had from Cadwaladers Ice Cream Café, Chris got some walking-sandals from F*** & T***, and we spent much time in many shops trying and failing to get Anna some sunglasses that she'd be happy with.

After an evening meal back at the cottage me and Ella packed our kit - we were off up my mountain to introduce her gently to the delights of wildcamping. We took the same route as we had on Tuesday, eventually finding a great spot in the gap at the base of the Daear Ddu (a place that we christened "The Gap of Rohan"). We'd picked a fine night - clear, warm and calm, with a gentle up-slope breeze that kept the midges at bay. Ella went down to Llyn y Foel to get water while I pitched the tent:

 

The Banshee 300 pitched in the Gap of Rohan

 

After a supper of discounted Wayfarer meals (found a few days before in the bargain-bucket at Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports in Capel Curig) we settled for the night and slept well.

Friday morning was warm and clear, we were up at sunrise to see a warm glow on the mountain and misty haze in the Lledr Valley below. We wandered up onto the nearby ridge and had breakfast (courtesy of Decathlon's Aptonia range) al fresco on a suitable rock:

 

Moel Siabod cwm pano (the tent's on the left)

 

On the ridge just after sunrise

 

Lledr Valley - mist and haze

 

 Dolwyddelan Castle #1

 

 Ella doesn't do mornings...

 

but she does do breakfast

 

Dolwyddelan Castle #2

 

Cotton-grass

 

Ella

 

Heather

 

Knobbly #1

 

Knobbly #2

 

Striking camp didn't take long - we'd not brought much. With the weather set fair and with us being on familiar ground we'd figured that stuff like waterproofs, spare layers, rucksack liners, map/compass/GPS weren't really necessary. Hell, I even eschewed the Scarpa SLs and wore my tatty old Trezetas instead! No shorts though - I didn't want to scare the wildlife 😯

 

Holy Trezetas

 

We shouldered our packs and completed the circuit of Llyn y Foel, taking a few pics on the way:

 

Columnar jointing, Daear Ddu

 

Moel Siabod reflected in Llyn y Foel

 

Llyn y Foel and "The Gap of Rohan"

 

On the way back down we had time for a bit of exploring around the quarry. Ella kept finding rocks shaped like footprints, I aced her with this one that bore an uncanny resemblance to Brian Griffin:

 

Dug

 

Some of the small quarry buildings overlooking the reservoir looked like they'd be fine places for setting up a bivvy:

 

Quarry building 1 #1

 

Quarry building 1 #2

 

Quarry building 2 #1

 

That Lonesome Pine again

 

Ditto

 

Reedy margins

 

Nearly back at the cottage the view was extensive - here's a 180-degree pano:

 

Widescreen

 

Before long we were back at the cottage. Chris did us a superb cooked breakfast, partly to refuel us and partly to use up the bacon, eggs, hash-browns and other such stuff in the kitchen.

The afternoon proved to be hotter than the morning. Nobody was up for going out so we spent a leisurely afternoon getting a lot of our stuff packed up in order to make Saturday's 10 a.m. getaway a tad easier.

Outside the view down the Llugwy Valley was being ruined by these festrous things:

 

Moel Maelogen wind farm

 

Soon afterwards the RAF provided more entertainment. We wondered if we'd been overflown by royalty:

 

Charlie's Angel?

 

Packing almost done, I took a few parting-shots of the cottages:

 

Cottages #1

 

Cottages #2

 

The kitchen

 

The Boss

 

After that, and after a third-and-final hot meal, we had an early night in preparation for an early start on Saturday.

Ah… no problem, monkey-socks

Posted by on March 27th 2013 in Bargains, In the garden, Pics, Testing for review

As this is the 1000th post, I thought a few random recent pics would be appropriate.

I like random. Specific can be a tad boring.

 

 

After nearly 40 years of not making pies, it seems that I still have the knack.

 

This critter often visits but rarely stops. I think it's a Sparrowhawk, what say you?

 

Icicles on the observatory.

 

Soft-shell jacket in for review, courtesy of Berghaus.

 

Nearly-new used bargain: EQ3-2 mount complete with polar-scope and dual-axis tracking motor kit.
New price ~£300, acquired for a shade over £50.

 

What the WP dashboard widget is telling me.

Match postponed. Home Win.

Posted by on March 22nd 2013 in Great Escapes, Testing for review, Weather, Wildcamping

This was to be the weekend when I introduced Ella to the delights of wildcamping. We'd been looking forward to spending a couple of relaxing nights somewhere high and remote in the Far Eastern Fells, but the weather's banjaxed that idea:

 

 

It's taken several years to get her reasonably comfortable with the prospect of crapping in a hole dug in the middle of nowhere, but the added complication of having to dig away three feet of snow beforehand and then do the biz during a blizzard would probably be too much.

We'd intended to use the Vango Banshee 300 as it still needs to reviewed after being used in anger on the fells, but I think we would have needed the F10 Spindrift in the conditions that have been predicted. The Spindrift in full hoolie garb is twice the weight of the Banshee, add to that the extra insulation and winter metalwork demanded by the conditions and it's clear that the pack-weights would have been too much for her.

Then there's the irony factor - this very afternoon I received another item of kit to test/review... a softshell jacket that's "a perfect lightweight barrier for those cool, breezy, summer trails". That would have been perfect exactly a year ago when the temperatures were over 20 Celsius higher in the Lake District, but this weekend's episode of global... erm... warming demands down jackets rather than WINDSTOPPER® softies.

There's one more window of opportunity about two weeks hence. Fingers crossed!

Review – Vango Banshee 300 – Re-jigged

Posted by on June 25th 2012 in Shiny new kit, Testing for review

I've re-jigged the lines on the front-end of the Vango Banshee 300. I didn't like the way the running-loops at the line-lok ends ran through fabric loops on the vent-flap, there was potential for "sawing" during adjustment. Also, having vee-lines meant that it was impossible to adjust the angle of the vent-flap without altering the angle of the line that pulls out the centre of the end wall - the direction of pull there should be fixed. Weightwise I've measured nowt but I've lost a yard of line and gained a peg and a line-lok. If there's any extra to carry it's hardly going to break my back, is it? 

Anyway, here's what it looked like out-of-the bag:

 

 

 Front with original (dodgy) guy configuration - 2 vee-lines and 2 pegs

 

And here are a couple of shots showing the new config:

 

 

 Front with revised guy configuration - 3 single lines and 3 pegs

 

 

 As previous

 

There, that's better. You can't beat having adjustable flaps  🙂

Next I'll be adding a webbing-strap across the secondary entrance. Experiments with a bit of shock-cord indicated that it makes getting the correct pole-spacing much easier on that side, leading to less strain on the entrance-zips.

Review – Vango Banshee 300 – First thoughts

Posted by on June 13th 2012 in Shiny new kit, Testing for review

This item has been supplied by Christoph Hitchin, representing idealo.co.uk

The tent being reviewed is the 2012 version of the Vango Banshee 300, the idealo link is here and the Vango link is here.

It's been pitched on the lawn for a while and that's given me time to have a good look around and inside it, already I have the feeling that it's going to be as good as, if not better than, previous Vango offerings in the same price-bracket. The spec's good and the features are generally well-presented.

Let's start at the beginning - what do you get and what does it weigh?

  • Fly: 1270g
  • Inner: 898g
  • Tent-bag: 73g
  • 17 Pegs: 252g
  • Peg-bag: 8g
  • Poles: 352g
  • Pole-bag: 13g
  • Spares-pack: 22g

 

That's a total of 2888g which compares well with the published claimed weight of 2.75kg. It's not bad for a split-carry between two people - about 1.45kg each - an Akto comes in at more than that. For those who prefer imperial, 2888g is about 6lb 6oz. Price-wise the tent's a bit variable - the MRP is £140 but I've seen these on sale for around £75 recently.

Putting it up was a doddle, it's hardly rocket-science. For the terminally-inept there's a crib-sheet .pdf file online and there are three sheets of printed instructions sewn to the inside of the compression-bag. Pitching took 10 minutes first time out, that included attaching the inner and faffing with the lines. YMMV. It pitches outer-first or all-in-one, the poles and pole-sleeves are colour-coded and you'd be hard-pressed to get it wrong, there are only two poles and they are significantly different lengths so they won't fit in the wrong place. The pegs are standard Vango-issue ally hooks, fairly strong but they will bend if mistreated, unlike the harder-and-lighter top-class versions issued with my F10 Spindrift. There are webbing straps between most of the pole-ends which means that the pole-spacing should end up dead right every time (but read on...)

Anyway, here's what it looks like closed-up:

 

 Side

 

 Front with original (dodgy) guy configuration

 

Rear with original (dodgy) guy configuration

 

Rear with corrected guy configuration

You'll note the minor gripe about how the end-guys were attached. It's probably just me being a tad fussy, but I don't like running lines passing through static fabric loops - every re-tensioning saws away at the loops and eventually they fray, it's worse with icy lines. Far better to have static lines in static loops, IMO. I've corrected the lines at the rear, I'm waiting on some bits so as I can correct the ones at the front. The side ones were fine.

Those front and rear lines don't just hold the tent up, they hold up the vent-flaps too, and the front lines also steady the front wall where the inner is attached. The mesh vents are always open, there being no means of closing them, but they are well-protected:

 

 Rear mesh vent

 

Front mesh vent

 

Unlike the tent pictured on Vango's website, all of the fly's nine main pegging-points are tension-adjustable via reflective-webbing and buckle arrangements:

 

Adjustable pegging-point

 

It was while looking at these pegging-points that I noticed that the seam-taping was a bit errant - in some places the edge of the tape was very close to the seam-stitching. A thorough check of the fly's taping was conducted and this was the worst bit. It's OK but only just:

 

 Seam-taping could have been done with more care

 

There are orange bungee-loops at the bottom-edges of the fly right next to the entrance-flaps. I'm told that they're for the handles of clacky-sticks if you have a mind to prop open the flaps in fine conditions, the points go into the metal eyelets. Guying-out the clacky-stick would explain the two unused pegs:

 

Orange loop

Also shown above is one of the neat zip puller-loops on the fly, here's a better view:

 

Fly zip puller-loops

I like these puller-loops, they feel good and they stay open and finger-ready (unlike fabric or shock-cord loops) but they'd have been better if the cord that they're moulded onto was of the reflective variety. Sadly these puller-loops aren't fitted on the inner's zips or on the top pullers of the fly's zips, where cord-loops are used instead. A trick missed, I think, and hardly a budget-breaker, but it wouldn't be a deal-breaker.

Still, the zips are all of good quality and the double-ended fly-zips allow venting under a cowl at the top-end of each entrance-flap:

 

 Cowled venting

 

So, let's see it in the full with the flaps open and toggled-up:

 

 The main entrance showing a reasonable area for storage or cooking

 

The secondary entrance

 

So, have you spotted the problem yet? Maybe this next pic will make it more obvious:

 

 Both entrances in view

Yep, there's no webbing-strap across the secondary entrance. In order to get a taut pitch the pole-spacing must be correct right at the start or the secondary entrance either flaps or pulls apart. I've a mind to retro-fit a strap, I reckon I've got a suitable bit of webbing somewhere. Would have saved me some effort if it had been right first time though.

You'll be wanting a look inside, I suppose.

The inner is predictably saggy in parts, it's a design-constraint, it can't be fixed to something that's not itself fixed or taut. The inner hangs from under the pole-sleeves and is clipped or toggled to the fly in various places. To be fair, it's less saggy when the inner flaps are zipped up but I needed them open for these pics. The groundsheet is of the bathtub variety but it's a shallow bath - two inches max. The inner walls and ceiling are well-designed and there's good headroom for sitting in comfort provided you're not over-tall. The head end is part-mesh so the ventilation is good. There are four basic mesh storage pockets and zipped access to the space under the front end of the fly. This access has two covers - mesh and full-fabric - and so can be used as a further vent:

 

 Head end detail

 

The foot end is basic, it's wide enough for two kip-mats, there's another mesh panel and there's good clearance for big feet:

 

Foot end detail

 

There's not much more in there. There's no gear-loft or hanging-loops. The TBSII "Tension Band System" bands pass through the inner in the same vertical plane as the main pole, I haven't deployed the system yet and so can't comment on its effectiveness or on its intrusion into the inner space.

It's quite a big tent, wider than I'd expected. It's billed as a three-person shelter but I think that's pushing it a bit. It would just about cope with three in an emergency and with most of their gear left outside, but if comfort's your thing then two-plus-gear would be about right.

Use the fly without the inner and you'd have plenty of room for three. And you'd have 898g less to carry. Maybe I'll give it a shot sometime.

In order to give some sense of scale I decided to deploy our very own Banshee:

 

 Sitting

 

 Lengthways

 

Widthways, just for the hell of it

 

The storage bag is of the side-compression type and it has an effective drawcord closure. There was a length of webbing that connected each compression-strap and acted as a grab-handle, a nice touch but I've removed it as I can foresee no use for it.

 

Compression-bag

So far the tent's been out in some heavy rain and the fly sheds it well, directing it away from the zips and vents. Apart from the minor issues with the way the thing's been guyed and the more serious problem with the omitted webbing strap, I'm really impressed with this tent, I reckon that for the price it's well-specced, reasonably light and it'll be about right for two folk on the hills. I'm looking forward to seeing how it fares with me spending a night in it, but that'll be a tame garden-camping test. We're scheduled to take it on a wildcamp some time in the next few weeks when it'll see some proper action in the treeless wastes of Skiddaw Forest.

The big unknown is whether Chris will like it. She's used to the luxury of our 6kg 2006 F10 Spindrift which is bombproof, spacious and taut inside (pitches inner-first), and well-equipped with storage spaces at every turn. I've a feeling that for her, going lighterweight and downsizing is going to be quite a challenge.

Couldn’t wait

Posted by on June 11th 2012 in Shiny new kit, Testing for review

You know what it's like... new toys and all that:

 

 

 

 

Besides, it would have been a shame to waste the rain.

So far, it looks good. Took about ten minutes to pitch.

Spotted a couple of minor assembly errors already, such as the tail-end guys being incorrectly attached. No bother, I'll sort them later.

I'll give it a more thorough going-over tomorrow.

R & R @ Ambleside

Posted by on February 20th 2012 in Great Escapes, Illness and injury, Shiny new kit, Testing for review, YHA

After Thursday's drag up the M6 there was an unpleasant surprise waiting for us at Ings - the Little Chef was boarded-up! It's a sad loss - they used to serve fine food there and the service was always excellent. Fortunately we already had our evening meal planned at the hostel. We pushed on to Ambleside, nipped into Gaynor's to buy Anna a new pair of boots and then eventually booked in and settled at Ambleside YHA.

We'd taken up the YHA's "Winter Family Magic" offer - a family-room for four including an evening "family feast" for just £29.95 per night... it sounded good but the YHA website was a bit vague about the terms of the offer so I had enquired as to how they would cope with one of our party being a veggie, they said it was no problem. Since I made the booking the website details have been changed - turns out that they expected all four of us to have the same meal from the "family feast" menu... no good when we all eat different foods. Chris was sent in to negotiate the terms of their surrender and eventually we all got a meal of sorts. Chris ended up with a full 12" pizza, the kids and I got mashed spuds and non-Cumberland sausage covered with onion gravy. None of us got any vegetables despite the website saying that there would be peas or seasonal veg. It was disappointing, only the attitudes of the staff saved the day. The upside was that the dorm was fine with a view out over the upper reaches of Windermere.

Sometime during the evening the clouds cleared and the skies were ablaze with stars and meteors. I went out to grab some pics but for some reason the camera's focus started playing up and all the images were rubbish. Never mind, just seeing such a glorious night sky was enough.

We slept well that night.

Us adults were up bright and early on Friday. Predictably, the kids weren't so bright or so early. Outside it was a calm daybreak so I nipped out with the camera for a while:

 

Towards Coniston.

 

Reflections in Windermere.

 

 

Towards Langdale.

 

Back inside the kids were still in bed but they soon got a shift on when I told them that breakfast was being served. Breakfast was good, it made up for the disappointment of the previous meal. After that, we hit the road and headed for Longsleddale. I figured that a couple of easy Wainwrights would be a reasonable test for my new arse.

We parked up at Sadgill and made ready for the steep pull up the side of Grey Crag:

 

The steep approach to Grey Crag. Mouseover for an indication of the route.

 

Towards the head of Longsleddale.

 

Much steepness.

 

We had a short break at the top of the gully - Ella needed some heel-blister treatment:

 

Ella and Chris get to the top of the gully.

 

Another view up Longsleddale.

 

From there we traversed to the right around the crags in search of the survey pillar. The temperature was dropping and it started to drizzle so we found a sheltered spot for a snack-break. I'd imagine that on a fine day the views from there would be quite good:

 

Taking a break.

 

A few minutes of walking brought us to the survey pillar. A quick look through the slot confirmed that the next pillar, on Tarn Crag, was in plain sight:

 

The survey pillar, with Grey Crag in the background.

 

Lined up on the distant Tarn Crag survey pillar.

 

From there it was a gentle stroll across easy ground to the intake fence. The weather closed in and this was our last view of the valley:

 

Looking back towards the survey pillar and Longsleddale.

 

After crossing the intake fence we had a short breather - Anna was feeling a tad sick, possibly due to the sight of the multi-coloured Ella wearing my Montane Lite-Speed H2O jacket:

 

Rainbow Girl.

 

A few minutes later we made the top of Grey Crag. All was clag and rain so I didn't take any pics. We left the top ASAP and made off on a bearing for Tarn Crag - this was the first time the girls had walked in clag, I think that it may have taught them the value of being competent with the old-fashioned compass/map combo when there are no visible references.

Crossing the marshy depression to Tarn Crag was fun - much bog, some huge peat-hags and a fair old tarn had to be negotiated before we reached the relative dryness of the snowy up-slope. The final slopes were confusing and finding the summit cairn took a while as visibility was quite poor:

 

Anna and Ella atop Tarn Crag

 

The survey pillar on Tarn Crag.

 

Anna was still feeling poorly so we hastened northwards to find the fence and followed it down the peat-hagged slope to the col and turned left at the gate, heading for Brownhowe Bottom. There was a fair bit of waterlogged ground to be crossed and it proved to be the undoing of the kids... over the years I've developed a "trying to run over the water like a Basilisk" technique which generally keeps my feet dry, the kids think it's hilarious and call it "Geckoing"... they try to emulate it but always fail - Anna managed to get her boots and socks fully-dunked and waterlogged in a mad dash across a deeper-than-expected puddle, and Ella managed to kick the back of her own leg while trying to run across water. There was much moaning. And a little sympathy.

Eventually we reached the firm ground of the Gatescarth Pass track. The clag meant that it wasn't very scenic but we did manage to get a fine view of the falls below Wrengill Quarry:

 

The falls below Wrengill Quarry.

 

From there it was a simple if long trudge past Buckbarrow Crag before heading off into the clag once again:

 

Buckbarrow Crag - the notice says that it's off-limits due to nesting ravens.

 

The car's down there... somewhere.

 

Needless to say, it rained constantly for the rest of the day. After reaching the car we dumped the soggy stuff in the boot and drove to Ambleside via Kendal, not wishing to risk the back-roads as we had on the way in.

Back at the hostel we jumped through the fiery hoop of the evening meal arrangement again... this time Chris had a veggie-option pre-arranged, we had the chicken and bacon hot-pot (which wasn't a hot-pot at all, it was a bowl of roast-spuds with three roasted chicken drumsticks and some bits of micro-bacon, all covered with the same onion-gravy that had bedecked the previous-night's sausages) and still we didn't get any vegetables!

Eventually we summoned enough courage to decant the car's contents into the drying-room. The rest of the evening was spent playing cards and comparing our physical conditions... in addition to the injuries and ailments of the kids, Chris was feeling a tad asthmatic. Surprisingly, I'd had a good day - no bad pain or other difficulties, just a bit of soreness and thrush in the antipodes.

Friday night was stormy but Saturday morning didn't live up to the forecast - it was supposed to start down at zero and drop to minus 6C throughout the day, with a heavy hit of snow. In reality the morning was quite warm and bright - here's the view from our window:

 

Room with a view.

 

A bit closer.

 

Daughters on the stage.

 

Over breakfast we'd decided that we'd have a bit of retail therapy in Ambleside before spending a few hours at The Lakes Aquarium at Lakeside near Newby Bridge. As the day went on the weather got better, not worse:

 

Windermere at Lakeside.

 

There's plenty of interest thereabouts...

 

The end of the line.

 

Carp.

 

More carp.

 

Otters.

 

Otters again.

 

Aventacludea fuctifino (a relative of the Piranha).

 

Big Cat.

 

Crocagator.

 

It was as if I was looking in a mirror.

 

Yet another otter pic.

 

The most dangerous creature in the building...
holding a snake
.

  😈

 

Friday Summary:

Distance: 5.4 miles
Total ascent/descent: 1722 ft
Wainwright tops reached: Grey Crag (2093 ft), Tarn Crag (2176 ft). These were first-ascents for all of us.
Number of Wainwrights still to do: 7

Regarding gear taken for test-and-review... I took one item supplied by Adam Smith representing Go Outdoors - the Montane Lite-Speed H2O jacket. It was worn by Ella and, after her initial reluctance to don it because of the colour, she quite liked it. It kept her warm and dry without any condensation problems. She says that she'll prepare a review as soon as she's cleared her school-work.

Into the Underworld

Posted by on December 17th 2011 in My reviews, Shiny new kit, Testing for review
Tags:

For many years I didn't need baselayers. Youth, hair and a suitable metabolic rate ensured my warmth in all conditions. I well remember frosty days of winter fishing with my dad, I'd sit there all day long with just a light covering of clothes while he was wrapped up like an Eskimo and still he shivered.

The years crept on and eventually I relented and invested in some synthetic blue wonder-fabric LJs and top from SubZero. Indestructible they are, and mightily effective. If middle-age hadn't made me too big for them, I'd probably still be using them. They've been passed on to the next generation and are still doing well 25 years after purchasing them.

Those blue Meraklon things were replaced by some more-modern polyester Spiderman sets made by Five Seasons. They were ultra-cheap, I figured that they'd not be much cop and wouldn't stay the course, but they still work fine. The problem with them is, well, aromatic. Two days on the hill and they reek. I needed something more walking-partner-friendly.

Reading through a few relevant websites/forums/blogs confirmed what I already knew - that Merino's where it's all at. I decided to go there, I just needed some directions.

But how much to spend? And what to get? Hood? Thumb-loops? One-piece? More research was required. Opinions would be sought. Specifications would be pored-over and pics would be scrutinised.

 

 

Joe Newton's review of the Ibex Hooded Indie was interesting. At $170 for a set it would have been a stretch.

Hendrik Morkel's review of the Woolpower long-john and crew-neck set was equally interesting. Just over £110 for a set of these (or save six quid make do without a fly).

The I/O Bio Merino Contact Pilot Suit was recommended by a friend, but he ended up with a slap around the head :mrgreen:

No, I wasn't about to splash large amounts of cash on such sartorial elegance.

Aldi saved the day. LJs £15.99 a pop. Same price for a short-sleeved top. No hood, no fly, no thumb-loops. Any colour you like so long as it's black. I bought a set for me and a set for Chris.

 

 

 

They're basic but they're good for the money. The top stays tucked in and the LJs don't migrate anklewards. The top's neck is a tad more open than I'm used to but it's bearable, I'm getting used to it. The seams are fine, there are no scratchy labels, the fabric doesn't make me itch.

But do they pass the pong test?

Well, in the interests of pseudo-science I've been power-wearing them. Since buying them on December 1st, I've worn them every day dawn-to-midnight and also ten times overnight. While hostelling and winter-walking last weekend they were worn 24/7 except for when I was in the shower. They performed perfectly on the hill, I teamed the top with my Rab VR Climb jacket and the LJs with my Quechua Bionnassay trousers and all was fine. Perspiration was handled well during exertion, warmth was retained during stops.

My hi-tech testing-equipment consisted of my two daughters' noses... yesterday the as-yet unwashed armpits of the top were duly sniffed and it was declared that said garment "smells fine, just like a warm tee-shirt".

That's good enough for me.

Now, how much longer can I keep wearing these things before they are introduced to the washing machine?

Soloing from Patterdale

Posted by on December 15th 2011 in Great Escapes, Testing for review, YHA

After Friday's nightmare seven-hour drag up the M6 I was glad to be back on the familiar A591. The further I drove the deeper the surrounding snow was, and I was unsure as to whether the Kirkstone Pass would be navigable. In the end, after discussing the conditions with a few local folk, I decided to go for it and found that although the road-snow at the top hadn't iced over it was beginning to do so on the leeward side and that made the descent into Patterdale quite interesting.

After getting installed at the hostel the evening was spent planning routes, chatting with a Mary and Paul (a nice couple staying at the hostel) and going out into the frosty night to take some pics of the amazingly clear sky.

Saturday was cold and windy but dry with the odd bit of sunshine - perfect weather for taking in a few easy fells. I decided to nab Red Screes and Middle Dodd via Caiston Glen and the Scandale Pass. Not too far a journey, but walking into the wind and spindrift on the way up towards the Pass and then with a strong ice-laden side-wind on the pull up to Red Screes made it seem twice as far. I'll let the pics do the talking for a while...

 

The Red Screes and Middle Dodd route - about 4 miles and 2000ft of up and down.

 

Middle Dodd and High Hartsop Dodd from the Kirkstone Road.

 

A better view of Middle Dodd.

 

Looking back towards Hartsop.

 

Caiston Glen.

 

Little Hart Crag and High Hartsop Dodd from Broad Crag.

 

The wall above Broad Crag.

 

A wider view of Broad Crag and beyond.

 

Light over Morecambe Bay.

 

The Red Screes trig-point.

 

The Red Screes summit-cairn and shelter.

 

Looking down Smallthwaite Band towards Middle Dodd and Brotherswater.

 

 

Looking northwards from the upper cairn on Middle Dodd.

 

Red Screes from the upper cairn on Middle Dodd.

 

Westwards towards the Little Hart Crag and the Fairfield fells.

 

Eastwards - a glimpse of the Ill Bell ridge.

 

A better view of the lower cairn on Middle Dodd.

 

Steep ground on the descent.

 

As the descent got steeper, the views got better.

 

Moraines and fields.

 

A bit of blue sky above Little Hart Crag.

 

Sunlight on Angletarn Pikes.

 

The evening was spent much as before but without the photo-opportunities - rain had set in and cloud-cover was almost total. After a fine hostel meal and hours of chin-wagging with Mary and Paul I turned in for the night.

Sunday morning was different again - full of incessant driving rain and low clouds. Looking out from the hostel during breakfast I had half a mind to bail to the shops of Ambleside and Windermere, but managed to summon enough gumption for a quick slog up to Shipman Knotts. Another minor walk, but the clag, the wind and the abundant run-off made it quite an ordeal. There was still plenty of deep snow up there but sorry, there are hardly any pics from this walk - for most of the time the conditions were just too wet to risk soaking the camera. Here's what you get:

 

The Shipman Knotts route - about 4.5 miles and 1250ft of up and down.

 

Plenty of water in Stile End Beck.

 

A clagged-in Shipman Knotts from near Stile End Farm.

 

In spate - the Kent in Staveley.

 

And that's about it. I negotiated the A591/M6/A5 and was home in time for tea and a long session of sorting/washing/drying the gear. Job done.

Summary:

Wainwright tops reached: Red Screes (2541 ft), Middle Dodd (2106 ft), Shipman Knotts (1926 ft). All first-ascents for me.
Number of Wainwrights still to do: 9

On Saturday I was expecting that the overnight freeze would mean that the tops would be more icy than snowy, so I carried crampons. My expectations were wrong, though, and I didn't need them. I really should have taken the snooshows and the clackysticks instead - they would have saved a lot of post-holing in the seriously-deep drifts. The axe saved me several times on the steepest bits of the descent of Middle Dodd. On Sunday I took no such metalwork, I'd have been better-off taking a diving-suit and flippers!

Regarding gear taken for test-and-review... I took one item supplied by Adam Smith representing Go Outdoors. Yes, I actually got around to properly using that Montane Lite-Speed H2O jacket that I've had for months! Conditions on Sunday's walk were so wet and windy that I decided to use it as a shell over my Rab VR Climb jacket as an extra layer of defence. It kept out most of the driven rain and the hood worked well underneath my L.A. Mountain Cap. My only gripe with it is that because there are no pockets in the Lite-Speed I had to resort to gloves, and the cuffs of the jacket aren't glove-friendly. On the plus side, it kept me warm and dry and I didn't have to walk around with pockets full of water!

I was also trying out some base-layer stuff, but more about that later.

Review – Montane Lite-Speed H2O Jacket – First outing

Posted by on November 11th 2011 in My reviews, Shiny new kit, Testing for review

This item has been supplied on a "review-and-keep" basis by Adam Smith, representing Go Outdoors.

The jacket being reviewed is the Montane Lite-Speed H2O, the Go Outdoors link is here and the Montane link is here.

I would have given it a proper "on the hill" test some time ago but whenever I've been on the fells or out in the countryside the weather's been fine, so I've had to resort to wearing it in other circumstances.

So... this jacket is billed by Montane as "THE WORLD’S LIGHTEST WATERPROOF JACKET"... I can now confirm that it is very easy to wear, being light and sufficiently waterproof to withstand an hour's downpour while working on the garden. It coped well with the mud and sweat of some unseasonal digging, some condensation did form on the inside during the most demanding bits of manual labour but it was all dry after the mandatory tea-break.

On the plus side:

  • it was easily cleaned with a quick hose-down
  • it kept me warm and dry
  • I didn't lose it

On the minus side:

  • there are no pockets
  • the crinkly cuffs are uncomfortable and don't stop water running wrist-wards when hands are raised
  • the neighbour was giving me funny looks (but that could have been because I was digging in the rain)

Overall impression:

  • It does what it says in the sales blurb
  • I don't think it is as good as the Montane Featherlite Smock
  • I will wear it on the fellside and will report back on its performance, but I won't be gardening in it ever again
  • I don't think it's worth Go Outdoors' £90 RRP - for that sort of money I'd want pockets and better cuffs

Next time out I intend to get some pics of it in action. Today there was nobody about that I trust with my camera in the rain!

If you're in the market for a waterproof jacket, Go Outdoors have plenty of other waterproof jackets for your perusal here.

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