Trail, August ’08

I’m fairly frowning down at my words this month in that wee photie. I must have been losing in the “Get your tent up first competition” when they took that one.

The words? This month’s is a strange one, I feels like it’s the best one I’ve done, but… I hit the points I wanted to and got the information out as neatly and as easily read as I could in 300 words. But. I’m just not getting across exactly what going lightweight means to me, and what it lets me do. I’m giving some pointers about the kit and hoping that folk like the look of it and then go and do the next bits. What I’d like folk to see is something that’s very accessible to everyone like that last trip I did up to Beinn Narnain. Leaving late, skipping up the hill with a tiny pack and spending a comfortable, well-fed and wonderful night on the summit. Being geographically close to the mountains helps me with this stuff of course, but the lightweight gear makes these excursions so much more possible.

If I could show folk that kind of thing, it might swing a few floating voters over to trail shoes and 30g/m² fabrics. Someone said to me recently “You should keep your mouth shut, folk out in the hills with tents?”. Yes. What’s the point of having good stuff if you don’t share it.

Lots to get through in this issue, I think it’s a good one. I liked Simon’s lightweight piece, he got it right about being comfortable. There’s no point in carrying 3kg and being all tears and snotters. He still needs to ditch them big boots of course. The wild camping stuff was great, happy faces in a tent. That’s the outdoors right there.

I always worry that when the Trail folks are talking about lightweight, the tone can be a bit guarded. Always if’s and but’s. The engineer in me says let folk take responsibility for their own actions and just supply them with the facts. Just the engineer? Ach, balls. All of me says that, there’s no progress without risk. Just stick in a disclaimer to keep the suits happy.

12 thoughts on “Trail, August ’08”

  1. Simon’s article was a good write up. He could do more and I wish he did not go all silly so much with Faff, Ick and the like. Trail is good these days and folks are going light so something is getting through to them. Keep sharing the message.

  2. I’m usually slightly dissapointed with Trail each month, it looks good on the cover and the articles sound like they’re going to be in-depth and informative but I often find the main features fall short. This issue was different though, I liked it a whole lot more. Maybe it was because there was more about camping and ‘going lightweight’. However, when are they going to give a whole page over to ‘The Gospel according to PTC’ eh? And if they let you put your blog address at the bottom then you could give people more information if they were curious.

  3. I dunno I like Tral just as much as I like TGO but I like em both for differing reasons. I may switch my sub next year to TGO next year purely because Trail pops through my door monthly but TGO I have to hunt down in the shops which all seemingly only stock Trail.

    I liked Simons article as well as he wildcamping one, I also enjoyed the one the other month with you, GT and the reader down in the lakes. Obviously as I read the blog I reckon you would have a lot of interesting stuff in that head of yours to fill a whole article.

    I must point out I like the lack of extremeism in Trails going lightweight articles, sometime TGO puts me off when I see what Eddie Meechan takes into the hills. I’m with Simon, Comfort is important to me also. I reckon I’m fairly lightweight but deffo not SUL. My weekend pack is around 7 or 8 kilos including food water etc. I’m looking at a longer trip in Aug for about 7 days and I dont think My pack weight will go up any for this.

    My pack is still gradually getting lighter but the process is much slower and mostly governed by the missus and cashflow now.

    Keep writing, Ill keep reading ;)

  4. PTC, chatting about Trail again hey. It is interesting how the lightweight view has so much resistance over at the forum. Trail has a lot of stuff init, but holdfast’s point is right in that they often don’t have the depth. I don’t subscribe to the Eddy Meechan way but at least he has good researched and argued points. That falling short as holdfast points out is a grind. But Trail is going the right way. Still don’t get the climbing stuff as climbers will get there own dedicated magazines anyway?.

  5. Trail mag.. It’s good to mull over routes which you have done or plan to; it is also good as it mixes walk, run, climb. One thing….

    Didn’t like the article about poor advice in shops; right in principle of course but smacked of looking-down-nose-at-fellow-‘experts’. I guess the point was well made in that slack advice is dangerous. The article said the assistant was offering the wrong kind of boot for the environment (or some such). Ptc and many fellow mountain goers (we) will set out in any season with anything from fully rigid boots (& crampons) to fell running trainers based on our experience, need for comfort, the knowledge of the going & technical difficulty of the ground and general level of madness… Going back to Ptc’s comment at the top: the responsibility is with the climber, for themselves, their party and those under their influence. We manage the risk based on our experience and regard/choice for our accepted sphere of risk.

    I like this blog; Ptc has remembered why we do this. :)

    Rant over. Thx.

  6. Lots of good points.

    Trail is doing it mostly right, I understand why they hold back. I just wish that it didn’t have to be so.
    TGO has melted many a heid with their lightweight mallet. Trail is easing it in as being acceptable, but still as an alternative. It’s bringing the reader along, rather than saying “And now for something completely different…”. Good lads.

    The boot fitting feature? Aye, the horror…the horror…The whole boot fitting thing is a racket anyway and needs reviewed. Who made the accepred standards, who put them in charge, why are folk still listening to them?

    The Trail forum is difficult. The folk looking for facts, advice and inspiration, which there is in abundance, are sidelined by the stupids who just want to fanny around. It’s a shame.

    And as long as we’re all spreading the joy it’s all good, bless you people :o)

  7. I think Eddie Izzard sums up how you have to be more subtle in the way you try and persuade people in his sketch on advertising:

    I thought Simons article was excellent, especially from my newbie point of view. One of the best articles I’ve read in Trail, it makes a lot of sense. I also got a feeling I knew where some of his ideas came from? Now if they gave you the same amount of space….

    The Trail forum, I can see the point of view of some people, but I think they are nearly all into it for the fitness thing, cyclists, alpinists, marathon runners. I’m really not into fitness. When I started this past-time late last year I really liked the idea of wildcamping, but I saw the backpackers with 70 litre packs struggling on the flat at the end of the day. I thought “I’m not fit enough to do that, and I’ve not got the time to get that fit”
    Imagine my joy when I found it was in the most part un-necessary and taking just what I needed made it possible for me to do it. Did my first wild camp in November using a 35 litre rucsack, the only thing that wouldn’t fit in was a stove (not that I had one at the time!!)

  8. I am well seasoned in wondering in the wilderness light and heavy. One thing I am a ‘newbie’ at is blogging. What is typed into a blog in full rant can be taken is many different ways. Still that’s another risk… :)

    Lots of good points about the mags above; the essence seems to be:
    1. remind us why we go to these places (whether it is Hathersage, the Cordilliera Real, the Western Highlands or our back garden (Ptc) & whatever activity at whatever level.

    2. absolutely no mediocrity. I am not an engineer, but Ptc’s attitude appeals to me somehow.

    Chin up, girls.

  9. Hi ptc*,

    on the question of ‘giving folks ideas’ about camping on hilltops: I do share some of the concerns that people voice. To say that I enjoy reading your blog is something of an understatement. You write well, and your pictures are very evocative.

    However, I think there may be a bit of a danger that if more and more people take up summit camping, then we might end up having problems, given the delicate ecology of hilltops. We’re increasingly seeing problems with human waste at popular wild camps and it seems to me that one should give some consideration to this problem.

    I have been summit camping for years, well before you, I think. But I’ve kept it quiet. Have I been selfish? Probably. If I’m honest, I don’t like the idea of slogging up one of my favourite pitches only to find someone else already settled there for the night…

    At the same time, I’ve also resisted the temptation to share my experiences with others, to show off the nice cloud inversions I’ve had, that sort of thing. I’d dearly love to do that.

    But I think we owe it to the hills to keep things private. Think of the damage guidebooks have done, by pushing people to use the same route so that huge paths have been carved by folks going up the same way.

    And so on.

    I’m not sure I’ve worked out all the sides of the argument. I can see where you’re coming from. At the same time, I think there is a definite danger that some locations you’re implicitly recommending as camp sites will suffer in the long term if too many people go there.

    Sure. Summit camping can be tough and unpredictable, so there are natural limits to the number of people that will take it up.

    But it’s a thought nonetheless. I’m sure you won’t agree, but there you go.

    Thanks for the inspiring tales anyway!

  10. Hi Andy

    I did think about all the stuff you’ve mentioned. It’s only while I’m rammed with work and not getting out I’ve started writing up some older stuff that I’d kept quiet about for years.
    I don’t think folk will take to it wholesale, and this did worry me a while back. There’s too many percieved and actual risks in it. It’s familiarity with the Scottish hills and experience that makes it easy for me to head out with a tent and without any kind of a plan.
    There’s also an element of the pointlessness of it, taking two days to climb a hill that takes 5 hours at most. List tickers will never go for that.

    There’s plenty of traditional high camp sites which I avoid, and I always camp miles away from water, and I’ll state here and now that I never have nor ever will take a shit high on a Munro. It gets left behind or it can wait. I do tent to make it difficult for myself.

    So, I do take what you say to heart as I would never knowingly do anything to harm the hills. But, by talking about this stuff I hope I’m showing that the hills are more than a collection of ticks in a book, more than an excursion, more than just a venue for an activity. That they’re wonderful, living, timeless and magical places. Set apart from our regular world. A summit camp changes your perspective of the hills, to watch the day end and a new one begin takes you closer in a tangible yet indefinable way.
    The utter joy of that has to be expressed.

    Alright! :o)


  11. Hi Petesy,

    As I say, I’m not really sure about all the sides of the argument at all.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the experience though. The hill-ticking mentality is awful (even though I do hill-ticking myself…) and you’re spot on: it’s the apparent pointlessness of taking two days to do a 5 hour trip that makes it so worthwhile!

    I’ve now reached the stage that I go to lesser hills which I know to be unfrequented just to get that magic that comes from pitches like the one in the last picture in the comment thread! That’s worth more than 20 Munros off your list…

    But I still remember the sense of anger I got when I saw a discarded tennent can near Loch nan Eun (the one off Glen Shee). Sure, you get them near tops even if folks don’t go camping, but I suppose the point of my comment was that there may be something in folks saying one should not publicise too widely the joys of summit camping…

    But you’re right too: you also want to shout to the world how great it is. And perhaps ultimately, it is an experience that teaches you *respect* for the hills, so that may well be all to the good.

    Personally, I treasure the moment, around 5/6pm, when you feel the hills are being drained of people, and they become yours, or rather, you become part of them, like the deer and the hares and the plovers.

    And I now positively hate day trips when I have to come off the hills just as they start glowing in the long lights…

    Och, it’s a conundrum all right…

  12. Mmm, I think Andy’s point is one many of us stash at the back of the cupboard rather than deal with. Saying that, (to paraphrase Ptc, may be) judging by what I see on the hill there are still comparatively few people with the experience or desire to head out and endure the extreme end of the elements. I only hope this stays below what the environment can cope with.

    If it does not, may be we should lobby the parks to use tickets like the Kiwi’s have for the tracks and climbing approaches in NZ. They only issue them to you if they are within their quota for people on the route and if they think you are up to it. This second criterion can be a bit like being interviewed by your headmaster: “do you have any idea what you are doing crossing the blah blah in deep midwinter .. and that young lady you are with.. is she equipped etc etc”. It is well meant but quite amusing.

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