Blood and Custard

Tuesday I felt a bit wabbit, on Wednesday I was mispronouncing words at lunch and by that evening I was oot. There’s a bug going around apparently and I got bugged.
My future self will remember some of the details no doubt and my present self doesn’t want to think about it right now other than the unexplainable hallucination during a fevered night where I was lying on a bed of mugs and was very worried that I would break them.

Today is an improvement, Heinz Cream of Chicken Soup and Irn Bru have saved me once again. And the telly.

It’s not often I get my DVD’s on these days, but this afternoon has been a good one. First on was Railways of Scotland Volume 5, The Western Highlands. It’s all about the tracks from Glasgow to Fort William and Mallaig and takes in Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. The most recent footage must be 40 years old and far from being dull train spotter stuff it’s all about the scenery, the people and the places. You get to see the mountains without somebody annoyingly interpreting it for you, the narrator is quietly informative, the diesel engines soothing and any music understated.
One surprise every time I see it has to be Tyndrum in the 60’s, the only buildings there were the house that’s now the Green Welly garage, that old bit where you pay for your fuel, and the row of miners cottages just over the bridge from it. That’s it. I wonder what’ll happen to Bridge of Orchy when it grows up too.

Since then it’s been Weir’s Way non-stop. Ah what a timeless joy that is. You know STV were planning to bring back a modern version this year with a new presenter and canned it. It’s a shame, the BBC’s got a monopoly on all the outdoor stuff.

Anyway, the battle on the carpet has escalated, we’re having daleks versus the alien at the moment. Mind you, the winner is always adipose, he’s out of shape but he’s got the weight advantage.

32 thoughts on “Blood and Custard”

  1. A friend of mine owns one of the miners cottages over the wee bridge and there’s some great old photos on the wall of Tyndrum before it was a petrol station. Quite spooky. Never warmed much to Tyndrum until it came to mean a hot meal and a bath after a climb. Love it now.

    Weir’s Way is some of the most beautiful television ever. Got the box set and it’s perfect for being ill to.

    Tom was a God amongst men.

  2. Tyndrum has saved the day many times when I was too tired for the last miles home and needed fed. On foot. on my mountain bike and driving now I think about it.

    Had hours of Weir’s Way today, his voice is the best medicine out there.

  3. Jeez….all the symptoms of a stotter of a hangover but not the “fun” of getting there. Sounds like a dose of the tartan tablets & some TLC for you……….perchance some bacon butties + brown sauce + the IrnBru.

    Weir……..a wee bit odd but definitely a character. People forget just what a hard climber/expeditioner he was in the early days.

    Tyndrum. Many a happy WET hour spent in the Green Wellies !!

  4. I’m hoping for a better day tomorrow, bacon sounds good and I’ve got tattie scones ready to join in with some eggs too. We’ll see.

    I’ve read a lot of Tom Weirs early books and he really was badass in the years before he go onto the telly. Done a lot wildlife and the environment too, and the first thing we think of is the wee bloke in the woolly bunnet.

  5. Aye, but what a bunnet it was (and probably still is – it really should be in a climbers museum somewhere).

    On a gear related note though, reading about Toms lot and earlier generations is a great giver of perspective. It’s all been said before I know, but the climbs these guys did was with kit that would make any gramme counter faint on the spot. I’ve often found myself in an easy gully with a pair of tools and twelve points thinking “mmm..this was done in 1896 by a guy in a jumper and a big stick”.

    Not that progress is a bad thing (after all I’m spending an unhealthy amount of time looking at this site for new gear), but just so long as we remember to get oot there with what we’ve got.

  6. Sleeping wrapped in a wool blanket under a crag? That generation were as tough as nails. I tried to do something similar with all my modern gear about a year ago and it didn’t go entirely well. I’m too soft.

    Aye, it’s not about the gear, that’s one of the reasons I went towards lighter gear, simplifying things and removing the faff, all the kit I didn’t need but modern convention said I did.

    Always a dilemma for me that stuff, I love gear, testing and seeing development, but it’s the times sitting by my tent at dusk and dawn is what it’s really about.

  7. “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
    — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    The first truly lightweight fanatic?

    Obviously all that fresh air & sleeping under boulders hasn’t improved your immune system ;)

  8. Alan that’s one of my favourite quotes – you’re a star.

    A mind my first trips to The Coe as a teenager, I couldn’t afford a tent so I slept under bridges (seriously there’s some good ones – noisy, but dry). My pack still weighed ten tonnes though!

    We shouldn’t be hard on ourselves though. I’ll bet climbers 100 years from now will look back and say “Aye they used to carry a whole Laser Comp by themselves” “Really?” “Aye they were hard bastards back then”

    Anyway this forum’s much too addictive – I’m off to make some spaghetti.

  9. Aye, brilliant quote that.

    I’m watching Tom Weir sitting with Bob Grieve and Jock Nimlin by a wood fire on the edge of Loch Lomond talking about their early days in the 20’s and 30’s.
    Bob Grieve recalls his sleeping bag which was a blanket sewn up one side stuffed with Glasgow Heralds. Nimlin talks about taking the whole weekend to get to Ben Lomond and back.

    We’ve never had it so good, or so easy. Bless these hero’s for making it all possible for us.

    I’m now stir crazy watching this stuff. I’ve been to Knoydart, Kintail and Ben Alder today too.

  10. “I’ve been to Knoydart, Kintail and Ben Alder today too”…………pretty rich seam you’ve mined there Pete. I think that I’ll follow your idea & just watch it on the computer. No more great outdoors. No getting wet & miserable & NO MORE MIDGES……..Yippeeeeee

    Certainly beats getting arrested for lighting fires on Loch Lomond side. Sigh.

    “so I slept under bridges (seriously there’s some good ones – noisy, but dry)”……..ah that’ll be “The Bendy” then :) Good man.

  11. Ah The Bendy Bendy. Luxury! Only ever got that to myself once. The first time I tried it was full of big scary men so I said hello and ran away. There were other quieter bridges I used that were better suited to daft laddies trying to accidently drown themselves.

    Don’t think The Bendy exists anymore but it’s going back a long time now for me. Have to say talking about it really makes me want another shot of troll life. Go on..try and stop me.

    Anyone know if The Bendy or a Bendy replacement are in operation?

  12. Here we go.

    There’s a proper howff in the lost valley on Bidean, I was in it years back, a space under the big boulders all nicely walled in.
    My Arrochar Alps one is here, looking back it seems kinda fun

    Weir’s Ways’ away now the girls are back, but there’s some cracking howffs on his trek around Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape route. Natural ones too, and big enough for half a dizen folk. Cleverly he never gives away the exact locations.

  13. And there it is. Cheers. Still not sure if it’s still there but hey ho there’s other options.

    The Arrocher howff looked like a riot but I’m sorely tempted with Bidean. If it could take two people I might organize a wee climb. How easy is it to find?

    Still haven’t decided on a new tent (which was how I found your site), but this flashback to roughing it has got me all hot and bothered. Maybe I should get a bivvy this year instead, but I know exactly NOTHING about them. My one real concern would be the tiny biting ones – there’re coming soon, so I’d need protection!

    Talking of kit queries, is there any etiquette to picking your brains (in terms of where to post these things) or can I just beast in anywhere?

    Anyway thanks for the info and entertainment. Hope Tom did the trick and you’re on the mend.

  14. I came across the Bidean howff by accident on descent one time. It’s in the tumble of big boulders that the river disappears under. I’d need to have a wee search myself, but if you’re ready to bivi for the night you’re never stuck around there.

    A bivi big is nice for a change. The one I used on that Arrochar trip was just a basic Terra Nova body bag, but I’ve used a hooped bivi in the past which was great, could get all my gear inside it’s around these pages and/or and
    It’s a brilliant bit of kit, the hood means you can read a book (if that’s your thing) but also it means you can have an open door if the rain’s falling the right way. Midge net in there too.
    A few folk make similar designs, Black Diamond, Golite I think? The eVent fabric on the Big Agnes makes for a dry sleeping bag in the morning though.

    Midges? Camp high, keep out the wee buggers reach :o)

    Picking my brains? There used to be a gear banter page which got to 500 comments and I archived as it took ten minutes to scroll down it. I then did a gear diary once a week so I could update what the test kit was doing and that good for random stuff, but I’m hopeless at keeping up regular stuff, so aye, just wire in wherever :o)

    The folk that read and comment on here are all full of knowledge and experiece, it’s the banter that keeps me right.

  15. Ah, it’s the Big Agnes Three Wire you’ve got isn’t it? I had it in mind that you had the Integral Designs Unishelter… have you used one of those at all?

    I’m getting a bit interested in putting a bit of bivvying back into the mix, and mulling over the options.

    I’m not sure what’s happening with Integral Designs since Equip bought them though – I had hoped it’d make their products more available over here, but it seems to be the opposite. The All-Event Bivi/Overbag seems to have disappeared completely from the range, and the Unishelter is out of stock everywhere this side of the pond. Don’t suppose you’ve any info…?

  16. The only Intergral Designs kit I’ve had was the tarp I did for Trail, and like you say that was difficult to get a hold of.
    I think the Equip thing is meant to be a non-interference arrangement, but there’s always motives beyond the obvious, buying access to new fabrics, methods, design personnel, territories etc
    I’ll ask when I see them at KORS. If they’re friendlier than last year.

    The footprint of a bivi gives great flexibility, sometimes You wonder if you’ll get a tent pitched, where you’ll always get a bivi in. I’m walking the ridge from the Cluanie Inn to the Glen Shiel Hotel at some point over the next couple of months and I know I’ll be taking a bivi for that one, I remember lots of ridge and not much wide flatness!

  17. “I’m hopeless at keeping up regular stuff, so aye, just wire in wherever :o)”……….bad move……….means that I’ll never be off here bothering you !!

    As a “resource” I really do think think that the site/blog is fantastic. No bullsh*t. Clearly a lot of time & effort has been expended in keeping the site up to date.

    Apart from my current tent query (now solved….I think) my current problem is transport. Not that I need any but I do wonder just where you stash your car when away on trips. I’m seriously looking at only using public transport as the leaving of vehicles is a tad risky these days. Probably even more so if you advertise the fact that your away by leaving details in the windscreen of routes, days away etc.

    Maybe it’s an age thing……As they say……….I used to be undecided now I’m just no sure !!

    So conclusion: Any info on the leaving of transport in remote areas gratefully received. If not on site then by other means :)

  18. Not wanting to take anything away from the blog but gypsymac might be interested in:

    Personally the “no seeums” put me off any sort of bivy in the summer. Hear what you say Pete but I remember sitting on top of Luny Bin & the little bu**ers were still biting.
    Best of luck with the Cluanie thing. Though that I might stay at the inn and get picked up at the end of the ridge. Ah the luxury of it.

  19. Ah, you are wise and kind :o)

    Leaving the motor? Done it from Ben Lomond to Sutherland to the Cairngorms and never had a problem, but there’s an element of luck in that. Leave any outdoor or tourist gear on show and it’s a giveaway, anywhere on the A9 is asking for trouble, but susrprisingly the A82 has been okay. There’s always somewhere to leave the motor, sometimes it’ll mean extra walking, sometimes it’ll mean asking someone if it’s okay, but don’t let it put you off.
    Sometimes I do leave a note, “Someone knows where I am, what I’m doing and when I’ll be back. Thanks for checking on me.” I’ll leave it on the passenger seat so that casual passers-by won’t see it (notes on the dashboard just say “unattended”) but police etc will.

    UKC, first funny thing is that Dan Bailey’s reviewing the stove I sent him :o)
    I got midges at a 900m camp in Knoydart, they are hardy out there. But it’s not usually a big problem at height, I sit outside until bedtime most nights and I can’t recall any trouble in recent times. Higher is usually drier ground, less food for the wee buggers and a bit breezier maybe?

    A camp at 600m in Glen Coe was horrendous, I got eaten alive at breakfast.

  20. Cheers ptc*. I’m also in touch with Ultralightoutdoorgear at the moment so I’ve taken the opportunity to ask if they know anything about Integral Designs’ current state of play… we’ll see.

    I was in Cotswold Rock Bottom at Betws today and they had Rab’s Superlite Event Bivi (discontinued but very similar to current Ascent and Alpine Lite models) reduced to £90. Quite a bargain but I resisted because I’m not yet sure if I want a basic zipped bivi, one with some sort of mesh panel, or something a bit more sophisticated with a hoop and mesh.

    I’ve seen the Ascent bivi which has a zip-in mesh panel so in theory you can leave the hood open in fine weather – but the zips for the mesh don’t meet, leaving about 2″ at each side unsecured between the top zip and the bottom one. I can’t help thinking that’s enough for some damn midgies to find their way in :(
    It might be possible to add some velcro to seal the gap – depending where the stitching might have to go – but I can’t help thinking that for a relatively top-end product like that you shouldn’t have to bodge a solution. (Of course it’s only a solution if there really is a problem… I’m only surmising.)

  21. I know if I had to chose between the two I’ve got I’d take the Three-Wire, purely for comfort and protection. I’ve used it in rain, wind and snow and I never had any trouble.
    That hood makes such a difference, but it’s twice the packsize and weight of the Terra Nova thing.
    Those Rab models look good, as do the Mountain Equipment ones with that fancy hood with a window affair.
    The thing is the plain bag-cover style bivi bags are so damned flexible and packable, you can doss anywhere you like. The only trouble I have is having to sleep with my head in some sort of natural shelter, I just couldn’t zip it over my head without getting too warm and stuffy within seconds.
    I suppose it’s all a suck it and see thing?

  22. Alan, thanks for the link – it all helps.

    Pete, the three wire looks like my kind of bivvy in that it’s got your ass covered in most situations/seasons and yes, as Bill Hicks said “I’m a reader”. Yes it’s (relatively) heavy and expensive but I think for me it’s less about the weight and more about kipping out where a tent can’t go. it’s all about balance and compromise isn’t it? That said it’s be good to have a superlight one for one night out in the right conditions. (Sigh)…I think it’ll be a tent this year after all.

    As far as where a tent can’t go, you seem to get your Laser everywhere which has been a real revelation to me. I’ve had a purely irrational dislike of them up till now but I don’t think Terra Nova could have a better piece of marketing than your photos.

    Thought I’d boiled it down to a couple (with the Scarp 1 the potential winner) but I am starting to lean towards the Comp now.

    God I wish I was back under that bridge as a pup. I had so few choices.

    You must get bored listening to people whine for six months about what tent to get and then watch smugly as they end up with a Laser Comp. It’s a bit like me and the kids I teach. They all want Vs and droopy heastocks but end up with a Paul or a Tele!

  23. I started with a V, went to Les Paul and went back to a V to help with my midlife crisis :o)

    Tha Scarp’s got a big following, folk swear by it. The Laser’s suffer do from folk being suspicious of them, too much spent pitching them in gardens and fretting and not enough time sticking them on the hills I think.
    The arguing over tents you see on forums is pointless, it’s your home for the night so personal preference comes into it a lot, what’s comfy, what’s familiar too.

    I just clicked with the original Laserlite and it’s never left me down, the red Comp you’ll see on here’s been flattened in a storm and it’s still my choice for when I take the long walk into the Cursed Earth never to return.

    But, nothing’s perfect. It’s finding the best fit, the least compromise or the best balance. And of course, whet’s going to be the most fun and encourage you to get out and use it.

  24. Ocht I know. The problem is that what’s familiar to me is a 2.7kg semi-geodesic full of dirty gear and dirtier people. I just don’t have any point of reference so in many ways I’ll probably be happy with whatever I get.

    I’d be interested to know what you used for solo trips before you found the Laser.

  25. That there is the very crux of it all, I didn’t go solo, it was always in two-man tents. When the Laserlite came out it was like been given a golden ticket, all the stuff I wanted to do was suddenly really easy to do. Because of work etc my trips are often last minute decisions or quick dashes late in the day, and the Laser’s have been perfect for that.
    Before that though was a Terra Nova Voyager, brilliant tent and now feels awfy heavy :o)

  26. Exactly. If another manufacturer had got to you first who knows how these pages might read. I really feel I’m paying for the freedom and I’m not sure all the little niggles I read about various tents would bother me that much. A tent that gets universally panned (The Helium 100) was described as a glorified bivvy due it’s small size, but I couldn’t help thinking “so what’s wrong with that?. It’s cheap, strong, light and it’d get me oot for a couple of days.

    As I said before your pictures have almost sold me on the Laser (what is this that camps before me…figure in purple which points at me-ee). You camped in the places I want to and you survived to tell the tale, so what more can you ask?

    I think I’ll take my brain out and buy whatever comes up cheap at the point when I’ve some spare cash lying about.

    I’d rather be out in ANYTHING than sitting in front of my moniter. This forum is genuinely helping though.

    Thanks again.

  27. Helium 100? Got the black Ultralight version on here somewhere, great tent if you use a karrimat. With a fat sleepmat my sleeping bag gets crushed at the narrow end and gets soaked with condensation. Very strong design in bad weather, it is light, packs small and pitches quick.
    That’s probably as good a version as freedom in a stuffsack as anything else?

    I’m always surprised and glad when this place is useful you know.

  28. Late as usual, I hope you’re feeling much better by now…

    Amazing how even when sick you manage to give us a good read ;-)

  29. Aye, sick my arse. I’ll bet he just needed a break from us eejits.

    So long as you keep taking new gear into the Scottish hills it’ll always be useful. I’ve been all over the net for this stuff and I’m sick of reading reviews of kit that wasn’t tested in the way that I intend to use it. The site is exactly what a lot of us need to hear, so keep up the good work.

    No pressure or anything.

  30. gfonso, a little better every day glad to say. I’m half packed for Fisherfield right now and I’m 50/50 about when to go, it’s the drive to Poolewe and a 45km trek straight after, the next three days look glorious but energy levels are very low.
    Sitting here with the map and weather forecast willing Monday and Tuesday to be better!

    gypsymac, you’re very kind.
    I suppose geography and flexible schedule are always on my side. With testing I gotten used to dealing with new and unfamiliar kit too and just take it out on trips, there’s nothing quite like taking a tent out of the wrapper for the first time at 1000m :o)

  31. ptc*, back to the Big Agnes Three Wire for a min please – is yours the original (orange) one where the poles are sort of internal? Or the newer red/grey one where the poles are all external with clips. Have you seen both? Any views on which is better? I think they’ve also reduced the amount of eVent in the newer one?

  32. Mine’s the firt-genration orange one, indeed the first dogeared salesman sample that came to the UK :o)
    Haven’t seen one in the flesh since, but Big Agnes in the UK is all change this year so there might be some chances for us to get a proper look at the kit.
    The original pole was a little tricky to fit, but rock solid once in. I wonder if they changed after users did the bivi or themselves some damage?

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