Trail, October ’08

I like this months column better. There’s a bit of banter in there as well as facts. The Laurel and Hardy reference isn’t just me shoe-horning in analogies (again). When I was on the West Highland Way a few months back, I was regularly passing folk who did have that very aesthetic. What struck me was that all the vital stuff was strapped to the outside of their monster packs, so what the hell did they have on the inside?
The modular carrying subject matter, may seem only tenuously “lightweight” as many folk understand it, but it’s actually at the core of carrying only what is necessary. It’s a concept that’s being developed with varying degrees of success by manufacturers from big to garden shed. It’ll be interesting to see how much of it makes it into the shops as it’ll be completely over the heads of the store buyers who largely decide what we get to play with each season.

My other piece this month is me worrying the Trail nutritionist. My lunchbox contents are partly the result of having to think fast on the phone to Claire Maxted when making up the list, but seeing it again it’s not too far from the truth.
I would swap a Mars Bar for a Honey Stinger energy bar, maybe add in some energy chews. But more often than not on a day trip I’ll have less that is on the list. That’s not going lightweight, that just taking what I need.
This is again part of the notion that hillwalking in the UK is an expedition to the greater ranges/another planet for which you have to be appropriately equipped. It isn’t as we all know, it’s walking up a slope.
I know there’s dangers, the fatalities we see make that all too plain. But instead of building up the mystique and aura of the mountains, maybe we should make them the places of equal accessibility and hazard that they actually are. Would that allow more people access to information and safety issues, rather than folk looking at equipment and skills feeling overwhelmed and carrying on thinking “We’ll be fine”.
The hills should be more inclusive rather than use-of-equipment led as it seems they have increasingly become. That’s another target going lightweight hits near the centre.

28 thoughts on “Trail, October ’08”

  1. Lol, it’s true what you say about the WHW! Up on the Devil’s Staircase on our recent Kinlochleven jaunt we passed so many people with bursting packs adorned with tents, sleeping mats, dangling water bottles, and above all flapping, sagging bin-liners! Most of them were still in full waterproofs at least half an hour after the showers gave way to sunshine too.

    But despite that the majority seemed to have smiles on their faces :)

    Oh, and then there was the trio of French girls we saw: one had a Massive pack (must’ve been 120 litres), one had a daysack, and one had nothing at all – the communal approach to going lightweight? We couldn’t help but wonder how they decided who got to carry the big pack UP Devil’s Staircase though…..

  2. If you ain’t grinning from ear to ear when you watch that clip then there is something wrong with you! Cheers for that PTC!

    The situation is even odder over here in Scandinavia, home of some of the best lightweight gear going. There is much more of an acceptance of taking very little into ‘the nature’ resulting in small backpacks or even ‘lumbar packs’ and clothing during the summer months consists of mostly running gear or short shorts and bikini tops (for the ladies you understand). But the locals will not let go of their stout leather boots. I’ve more or less been ‘ordered’ by our hosts not to wear my Roclite’s and to wear boots this weekend even though all the information I can glean on the 1500m mountain we will be climbing suggests a pretty easy gradient with no scrambling or technical parts whatsoever. Maybe I should wear my ‘plimsoles’ just to prove a point!

  3. Icebugs! That’ll show them.
    I’ll look forward to hearing how you get after the weekend. Proper muntains you’ve got there :o)

    I love Laurel and Hardy. They seem like they’re two favourite uncles from when I was a wee boy, and I still laugh out loud every time I watch them.

  4. Regarding your demystifying the mountains comment. I agree, but have a slightly different slant.

    There is much talk about our wilderness and wild places, but I would argue that there is zero wilderness in Scotland and a lot of our wild places aren’t especially wild. Remote – maybe (but not really compared to other countrues). Rough, occassionally (once you get off the nearbye stalkers path). Steep and craggy – yip, but almost always avoidable.

    It’s the weather that makes things rough. Gales, thick mist, whiteoutes – that is what takes us out of the comfort zone, and makes things tricky if not downright dangerous.

    So our mountains (with a fewe exceptions)are not especially wild, but the weather can be.

  5. I totally agree with that David. The weather is what sets the difficulty level.
    Only skills and experience can help you with that. Getting those are vital, and I wonder how many folk miss it out because it all seems like too much. That’s the folk that we need to reach with “Here’s a hill, your Millets stuff is fine, let me help you with that map and compass”, what we get is “The new Scarpa Manta is vital for the British mountains”.

    I know I cover a lot of top end gear on here, but it’s a different thing. You can be an activist, and enthusiast, a geek. Or all of the above. Ah, thats me.

  6. Couldn’t agree more – its about skills and experience, and basic gear can do the job.

    What better/lighter/ warmer gear does is mitigate a bit of misery and improve personal comfort around the margins.

  7. I’m completely disillusioned that Claire Maxted rang you up to talk about your lunchbox (pun intended!).
    I assumed that Trail staff mugged some poor sod on the hills and tiped out their lunchbox onto the ground so they could inspect the contents. And they just ring up a mate who makes it up over the phone!!
    I shall not be renewing my Trail subscription now….

  8. I also saw WHW heavyweight thing though…I met a Swedish bloke heading north at the Kingshouse on Mon who had 35Kilos on his back. He had to stick his pack on the wall to get it on his back.

    I think 3 times I was asked to unpack and repack my pack so others could compare theirs to mine. Oh BTW I took the spare kecks and top you said I shouldnae take and was glad of them in the Inveroran and the SYHA. You were right though, I could’ve easily done without them though if I had to.

  9. Clean clothes are handy if you’re going near people it must be said :o)
    35kg? There’s no need for that kind of nonsense at all. Maybe he had a paraglider in there?

    I had the same as you, folk disbelieving me when I said I was camping because my pack was so wee.

  10. Aye, the funny thing is though I could’ve gone a lot lighter if I wanted. I had a book and everything ;o)

  11. Kate and I found that with our wee Brecon wander; lonely bloke stopped to chat and seemed surprised when Kate said we were heading off to find somewhere to camp. He didn’t quite sneak another look at the packs but his expression was certainly surprise.

    And we aint that lightweight compared to some peeps.

  12. Sadly I see many overweight (in their pack that is) walkers in Denmark and Australia. Especially given that here in Denmark it is flat! I do wonder though if we are talking about big volume gear and not necessarily big weights. It seems to me that whilst low weight gear is important so is low volume as in this way we can use a smaller pack and require a smaller shelter and so on.

  13. Well, I’m back from my weekend in the Norwegian Alps and I’m feeling tired and a little stuffed after all the humble pie I’ve been eating. Suffice to say I have discovered that there may be times when a good pair of boots should still have a space saved for them on the shoe rack next to the trail runners… I’ll have a sleep on it first.

  14. rogerbluff, that’s a good point and one which I try to bring up, pack size/volume as well as weight. I find a smaller pack much more comfortable, even if it’s a little heavier. I’ve stopped using my titanium cooking pot and I use a heavier aluminium one because I like the handles and the shape.
    Ot takes a bit of tweaking to get your kit right and like you say, it’s finding a balance.

    holdfast, I won’t argue. I look forward to hearing all about it.
    I’ve got boots coming in for test, proper boots too!

  15. I ended up taking boots and shoes. Uncharacteristically for me they were both lined. I took a pair of Salomon trail runners and some Keen Targhee mids which still hadn’t had a decent day out in them. I still couldn’t decide which to wear right up until we left the campsite but went for the Keen’s and hoped they didn’t require breaking in. The result? Seven hours up and down a 1500+m mountain through scree and snow and no problems what-so-ever. Would i have been ok in my runners? Who knows. I’ve done similar mountains in my Roclites and been ok in good weather but it’s nice to have a ‘heavier’ option (but not too heavy!).

  16. The Keens are just about right in height and stiffness, I like them a lot.
    I’ve got the winter vesions sitting here ready for snow (which you alreday have ya bugger). They’re nor as aggressive in the sole dept as some, so we’ll see…

  17. Is that the Blackcombs? They look right. The lack of grip is my only concern with the Keens. I’m thinking about Icebug Speeds or some Kahtoolas for winter. I can’t believe we’re talking about snow already. I’ve even been snooping around already for some winter troos that I can walk and xc ski in.

  18. You’re in the right place to keit yourself out. Haglofs, Lundhags, Norrona, Dale, factory shops top make your eyes water…

    The boots are the other ones, like the blackcombes, I can’t remember the name, they look more obviously like Targhees. It’ll come back to me.

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