I have just returned from the 65 mile Speyside Way walk from Aviemore in the Scottish Cairngorms to Buckie on the Moray coast, accompanied by my new tent. My write up can be found in the trails section.
As regular visitors will know, I am not in the habit of posting tent pictures for the sake of it, but I couldn’t resist a couple here. For people who like this sort of thing I have started a Camping Gallery as a memento of my trips.
As the sun is shining and I am stuck at home, I have been practising pitching my preloved Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid, in a non stealth shade of yellow sinylon, and sealing my old Force Ten tent. For the Duomid, after advice from several people, I used Colin’s method of attaching my two z poles together with cord, and Emma’s suggestion of using velcro to hold them together to form a support pole. The result works really well, and encourages me to use my poles more often.
I have worked out how to attach the inner to the tent using the back three pegs and the result feels really palatial after my snug Force Ten (below). It takes up a lot of space once all the guy ropes are staked out, but I guess they add to the stability of the shelter. On advice from Daron, I made a Polycro (Double glazing film) ground sheet to go under the inner and into the porch. (See above).
I welcome any advice from other Duomid users, as I hope to continue using it over the coming months. For anyone who is interested, there is a good pitching video for the Duomid on Stick’s Blog YouTube channel.
With thanks to Colin, Emma, Daron, Stick and Matt.
The world of routes has become more complex than it used to be. Personally I like to use paperback route books, but I usually read non fiction, adventure and technical books on my e book reader.
Regarding navigation, I prefer to keep my options open and switch from one method to another, having lost maps and had phone battery run out. I explore maps, route books and apps to get ideas for my walks as well as downloading and recording routes on Viewranger. At times I have relied entirely on GPX routes, but I am finding that maps and books remain important resources for me. I now try to ensure that I have a map and a digital route back up on all walks.
It is a new hybrid world that outdoor users live in now, with proponents of different methods debating which is best.
In acknowledgement of the good use I have put my route books to, I thought I would mention a few of the route books I use as well as the download sites:
- Townsend, Chris. ‘World Mountain Ranges – Scotland’ Cicerone. 2010
- ‘The UK Trailwalker’s Handbook’ Eighth Edition. LDWA. 2009
- Bagshaw, Chris et al. ’50 Walks in Durham and Northumbria’ AA. 2010
- Baker, Edward. ‘Walking the Cheviots’ Sigma. 1996.
- Hall, Alan. ‘Walking in Northumberland’ Cicerone. 2010
- Hallewell, Richard. ‘Short Walks in Northumbria’ The Ramblers. Collins. 2011
- Brooks and Conduit. ‘Northumberland, The Borders and Hadrian’s Wall’ Pathfinder. 2000.
- Hall, Alan. ‘The Border Country – A Walker’s Guide’ Cicerone. 2010.
- Jackson, Peter. ’25 Walks. The Scottish Borders’ Mercat Press. 2009
- Turnbull, Ronald. ‘Ben Nevis and Glencoe’ Cicerone. 2007
- Scotways. ‘Scottish Hill Tracks’ Scottish Mountaineering Trust. 2011.
My go-to sites for digital downloads are:
- LDWA website (Long Distance Walkers Association) for long distance walks in Britain (downloads only available to members)
- Walkhighlands.co.uk for long distance walks and day walks throughout Scotland
- Viewranger (now Outdooractive) navigation app on which I upload and download routes.
If you would like to recommend any new or interesting route books, sites, apps or maps, please let me know.
With a foreword by Cameron McNeish.
‘Those who decry peak bagging as mere list ticking fail to understand the commitment challenge and pleasure involved. Collecting summits means collecting experiences.’ Chris Townsend.
Drawing from more than forty years’ experience as an outdoorsman, and probably the world’s best known long distance walker who also writes, Chris Townsend describes the landscapes and wildlife, the walkers and climbers, and the authors who have influenced him in his latest lucid and fascinating book. Writing from his home in the heart of the Cairngorms he discusses the vital importance of wild places to our civilisation.
Critical acclaim for Chris Townsend:
‘This is what Chris’ books do. They shake you out of lethargy and install in you that love of the natural world that keeps us all going.’
Andy Howell, Outdoors Blog.
‘In the Scottish outdoor world names occasionally shine like the stars and very quickly fade into the night. Chris Townsend has remained a shining light for well over 35 years, a passionate and inspiring advocate for the wild corners of our land, an enthusiast who literally walks the walk.’
‘I first met Chris Townsend about thirty years ago cross country ski-ing in the Cairngorms. He is someone who practices what he preaches. Since his becoming a JMT Trustee I have much appreciated his insights and knowledge and he is a great voice for our cause.’
Peter Pearson, Chair of the John Muir Trust.
‘Chris Townsend is the all-around world champion hiking memoirist, guide, photographer, blogger, and techie.’
Ron Strickland, founder of the Pacific Northwest Trail.
About Chris Townsend
Chris Townsend writes regularly for TGO Magazine and has written 22 books on the outdoors, including the award winning The Backpacker’s Handbook; Scotland in Cicerone’s World Mountain Ranges series; Crossing Arizona; the story of an 800 mile walk along the Arizona Trail; Walking the Yukon, the story of 1000 mile walk through the Yukon Territory; The Munros and Tops, the story of his continuous round and A Year In The Life of The Cairngorms, a photographic study. His recent publications with Sandstone Press feature two long-distance walks he undertook in the USA, Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams (2012) and Rattlesnakes and Bald Eagles (2014).
Press queries: Ruth Killick (firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier in the year I was approached by Andrew White of Walks around Britain along with Damian Hall (writer and ultra runner who achieved a podium position in the tough Spine Race in 2015) to discuss our very different experiences of completing the Pennine Way, a national trail which celebrates it’s 50th birthday in 2015.
I backpacked the famous national trail over 20 days during the hottest part of the year, while Damian ran the route during the coldest part of the year in only 5 days. Talking about it was a great reminder of my hike along this brilliant trail and listening to Damian about his experience was fascinating. In the second part of the podcast we hear from organisations and people involved in repairing the erosion of the moorlands in the Peak District and the South Pennines.
Well, hikers have spoken. Following a brainstorming session on social media, I created a poll of polls (below) in which people were invited to nominate and vote for their top 3 international long distance trails.
As you can see from my previous post, the shortlist included trails from all over the world, including the USA, New Zealand, Scotland, France and Turkey. The picture below shows the results on the closing date, but please feel free to continue voting.
Unfortunately some of the less well known trails like the GR5 (Netherlands to the Mediterranean) and the Lycian Way in Turkey didn’t fare so well in the poll, but perhaps that was to be expected.
In the end the poll was just for fun and I hope you enjoyed taking part.
After a brainstorm on social media which involved some great hikers and runners, I thought I would collate the answers I received into a blog post so that you can vote for your top three trails. The closing date for votes is 1st March 2014.
Sorry if your favourite trail isn’t included in the poll but I had to close the nominations at some point. The list is entirely made up of trails suggested by people on social media. It can only ever be a selection as there are so many great trails out there. Please feel free to vote and add your own comments or additions to the list as a comment. Thanks for taking part.
Because of a fall at the end of 2012, this year got off to a slow start. My convalescent winter was spent reading about other people’s adventures, which inspired me to plan some of my own. The injury knocked my confidence, and dented confidence sometimes takes longer to recover from than broken bones.
I first ventured out into the country again on a group trip to Kirkby Stephen in February. I discovered how out of condition I was when I couldn’t complete the first 15 mile walk. I did manage a shorter walk the following day.
A few weeks later in March of 2013, I planned a week of some of my favourite Northumberland walks from a base in Rothbury in order to boost my fitness and my morale. Kirkby Stephen had taught me that I needed to take things at a more comfortable pace at first. Although it was still quite wintery on the hilltops, it was really good to get out again and revisit north Northumberland.
As some of you will know, my big plan for 2013 was to walk the Pennine Way to raise funds for Crisis UK, so I knew I had to get back into condition. With advice from some people about my camping kit, I began my attempt to transform myself from a slackpacker to a self supporting backpacker.
I made plans to do two hikes in the spring; the 65 mile St Cuthbert’s Way during the wintery April, followed by the 75 mile Cumbria Way during May. I never stop learning when I hike, and these hikes were no exception. I was able to experiment with new kit, footwear, and different kinds of accommodation. The strange weather of the 2013 spring presented challenges on both walks, with 25cm of snow in places across the Scottish borders, and hail showers on the Cumbria Way.
When the time came for me to set off on the Pennine Way in June, I was apprehensive about my achy tendons, and about camping in my new tent. I had consulted a podiatrist who gave me some exercises designed to prevent tendon injury, and sought some advice about camping, but I was still nervous when I arrived at Edale in June.
With hindsight, I can honestly say that all the kit and exercise preparation and all the advice I sought turned out to be valuable. I saw quite a few people on the Pennine Way during the summer heatwave with problems such as sunburn, heat exhaustion, heavy packs and injury, which luckily didn’t affect me during my hike.
I completed the hike in 20 days but allowed a few negative comments at the end to get under my skin, which wasn’t helpful. My advice is to avoid negative people as they will drag you down. Some of the “areas for improvement” which emerged on the Pennine Way were my wild-camping and my mountain skills so the remainder of 2013 has been spent trying to address these issues.
I was lucky enough to team up with 4 other wild-campers on social media for my first wild camp in the Peak District. After the Pennine Way, it was relaxing not to have a schedule to adhere to, and to have the logistics planned by somebody else. Many people have made the point that we are generally much safer in the hills than we are in most cities, so I have no excuses left to stop me getting out there to wild camp in 2014.
I had planned to try and fit two more short trails in to the end of the year, but responsibilities at home have put these on hold. I did manage half of the Northumberland coast path which I hope to finish at some stage.
I can’t write about this year without mentioning some of the people in it, as well as the hikes. As my ambitions to do longer trails have grown, I have realised that the best people to turn to for advice are people who have done them. It was therefore a huge pleasure to meet trail walkers Sarah, Alasdair, Colin and Chris and to chat about many aspects of their experience on some of the worlds great trails. In October I was invited to the Lake District by the National Trust to meet Tanya Oliver of Fix the Fells to see some of the vital path maintenance they do to tackle problems caused by erosion and poor drainage on the upland fell paths.
In November I took myself to the Kendal Mountain Festival to meet some more mountaineers. Over the weekend I met some friendly people, enjoyed some good craic, and saw some great talks and films, so I look forward to returning in the future. Watching films about mountains in the snow finally persuaded me that I need to improve my winter skills if I am going to complete any longer trails. Thus the year ended with me playing with my first ice axe and crampons at a Winter Skills lecture and booking myself onto a course.
At the end of 2013, many of the assumptions I had about hiking have disappeared, and I find myself planning to improve my mountain skills in the coming year. Thanks for reading and I hope all your plans for next year come to fruition. All I can say about 2013 really is who knew!
2013 has been an vintage adventure year with three solo trails and a return to the Lakeland fells. Although my hiking has been confined to this country, I have experienced everything from deep snow in April to intense heat three months later, which has presented some challenges. I have also met and listened to some inspiring people, with fascinating tales to tell, so lots to learn and write up in my review of the year, coming soon.
A year ago today I was feeling restless with my lot and decided to acknowledge my outdoor interests by creating this blog dedicated to my mum. Thanks to all the people who have followed and given feedback during that time.