The Vault Regulars

Friday, August 31, 2012

Gairloch Thursday.

 A bright morning with clear views of the hills. Sheila and I decided to go for a run and just as we set off it started to rain. Fortunately it was just a short shower. We ran from Gairloch to the turn off to Big Sands and back which is roughly 9km of undulations. My Achilles tendon was playing up and although i finished the run it's a bit painful now.

 Back at base and showered the day was indeed getting hotter. The weather here changes hour to hour as well as day by day. We decided to go and have a look at the area south of Gairloch bay. To Port Henderson and Red Point.

 Just passing the Sheildaig Hotel we spotted the most herons ever seen in one place. It was a strange sight, we counted  20 of them and they were equally spaced along the shoreline just like match anglers.
 The car park used by walkers going to Fairy Lochs was packed. Obviously taking the opportunity of the good weather today.

 As we rounded the headland at Port Henderson the views were amazing. We could see the Outer Hebrides clearly and Skye was so close you could almost touch it. Blaven and the Coulin ridge was magnificent, looking better than i have ever seen it before.

 Getting to Red Point, there were plenty of people about but the car park wasn't full. We had a walk about along the edge taking photo's. The light here on a day like this, just wonderful.

On the drive back to Gairloch we stopped for a coffee at a lovely off road spot with terrific views of Baosbheinn and Beinn an Eoin beyond. The south end of Baosbheinn looked extremely difficult. The whole view south looking at the Torridon range, Beinn Alligin  and Sgurr Mhor again magnificent

 Martin you are right, we should have done at least one of those tops but there are 3 of us and it's not particularly a walking holiday. More a holiday with some walking. We will be back here to do them soon i hope.

 We called in to the Community Hall where a sale of outdoor gear was being held but nothing took my fancy.

 The sun going down in a clear sky sparkled on a calm sea as we made our way to the Melvaig Inn for our evening meal. We hadn't booked a table, just took a chance. We were lucky, after us they turned everyone away. Louise you kept this a secret. Without doubt this was the best meal we had all week.
Whitebait, Scallops, Lemon Sole, fresh bread, butter and garlic sauce. Apple crumble with cream, custard or ice cream. Cask beers. And a reasonable price too.

 Back at base we sat in the garden, hopeful that we might see a shooting star. We didn't but never mind it was a lovely night.
Hope tomorrow is as nice as today.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gairloch - Wednesday.

 A new day with new hopes of a brighter dry day. Looked out the window and yes! It was raining. But it was brighter. Bright rain i suppose. We had no need to rush around we leisurely had breakfast and packed the rucksack with the waterproofs and set off to the car park at the pier.

 It stopped raining, but i kept my overtrousers on and discarded the gaiters. We were off into the hills. Not high ones mind, we couldn't see them. But hills anyway.

 The path went up past the waterfalls in Flowerdale and beyond to the watershed which i think is also the estate boundary. A good stile got us up and over the deer fence without any problems and a thin track led us up to an old sheepfold underneath the crags of An Groban (383Metres).  Taking a thin overgrown track that roughly goes North following the outflow from Loch Airigh a Phuill, then East and then South we gained height to a small bealach before reaching the top of An Groban. On the way up the lower hill tops had been clear but as would have it by the time we got to the top it had clagged in. Typical i thought, all the effort for nothing. No view. I was hoping that we would see Loch Maree from here but i wasn't going to find out.

 We stayed around the summit trig point for 5 minutes in the hope that it would clear but it wasn't to be and so we moved off back down to the bealach and took a slightly different descent down to the outflow. Finding a suitable place to cross we picked out a route which would take us east up to the twin summited top of Meall Fuaraidh.

 It was a really interesting route, we stopped numerous times to look at eratics. An awful lot of red granite seems to have been deposited up here, some huge boulders perched precariously as well as the small stones which seem to have been collected and used as cairns.

 We crossed to get the views from both tops and the mist started to clear from the east giving some interrupted views of the higher peaks of Beinn Airigh Charr and Meall Mheinnidh and more.
 This area although not high in mountain terms is absolutely stunning. The tops surrounding loch Airigh a Phuill, Loch na Feithe Mugaig and Loch Airigh Mhic Criadh are simply wonderful. In some ways it reminded us of our recent visit to the Galloway hills and lochs.

 We stopped for a coffee and was immediately inundated with the dreaded you know what. Little biting beasties. The midge nets came out and waterproofs were donned until we set off again. There was no breeze to keep them at bay and i'm sure that because they never got fed yesterday they were ravenous today.

 It is definitely worth putting on your list if you have never done this area before, like ourselves.  Without a shadow of a doubt you would enjoy a short backpacking trip to cover all these relatively low tops in a weekend. We never saw a soul the whole day until we returned via the waterfall path.
In fact the waterfall higher up towards the loch is actually better than the one that all the tourists set out to see below. And if you manage to get here on a lovely crisp day when the views of the higher mountains are clear it would be wonderful.

 It's been a delightful walk and one we would extend if we ever get to come here again.


Gairloch - Tuesday.

We expected bad weather yesterday (Monday), but it wasn't too bad. A bit different today, its rough. Not fit to go high as rain sweeps in enclosing the high mountains.
 We decided that a coastal visit would be the best bet and drove on to Poolewe. Just as you descend into Poolewe from Gairloch there is a fabulous view down Loch Maree from the footpath on the south side, heading east.
 It went black, it rained, it hammered down. We sat in the car and watched people heading back onto the campsite wearing dripping wet jeans. Jeans!
 The signs were out for a local market in the village hall so we ran to the entrance along with plenty of others. It was a good decision as we bought quite a few items. We had a pleasant hour in there looking over the new and old photographs, bric a brac,  books, bread, cakes etc, etc. Chatting to a local photographer who's house was close to where we are staying.

 Still raining, we had a drive past the Poolewe Hotel along the single track road up to the beach at Mellangaum. A wide expanse of sand, windswept. I took the camera and tripod but the sand was too soft to hold the camera level and the wind was whipping up the sand and throwing it in our faces. Not many people about, just four others doing the same as us three.

 The camp ground there is very cheap although there are no facilities as far as we could see, but i admit that due to the adverse weather we didn't check it out. I have to presume that there is a toilet and a water hose somewhere. Cost £2 per day or £10 per week.
 We checked out the second world war remnants, a gun placement and observatory i believe, although there is not much remaining.

 Being a poor day weather wise, we drove back beyond Gairloch and turned along the south side of the Loch. We didn't go beyond Badachro as the pub was open and it would have been rude not to call in.
 Sheila volunteered to drive, so i had 2 pints of Beinn Dearg from the Ullapool brewery. Pricy! £3.60 a pint. I didn't know whether to drink it or take it home for posterity. I did drink it and persuaded myself that, "Well we are on holiday".

 Lets hope for a better day tomorrow so we can do a hill walk.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Gairloch - Monday.

 It was a shock today when we found out about the tragedy that occurred yesterday evening. It's difficult to comprehend after it had been such a lovely day with a still loch. 3 youngsters and a father dead after capsizing from their canoe. We watched from the croft as the search helicopter scanned the shoreline in the dark, spotlight highlighting the water edge and kicking spray high.
 At this time we didn't know what the search was for but we knew with all the activity it wasn't a practice. We feel for the families.

 Today we expected really poor weather after watching the forecast and although we awoke to rain hitting the window it didn't last long. We didn't rush to get ready as we had only planned a short low walk so that Dorothy would enjoy it too.
 We drove into the village and parked on the waterfront at Flowerdale. Although the odd shower came and went it was still not waterproof weather, in fact it was quite warm. There was a stiff breeze but as we set off for the walk up to the waterfalls it became sheltered and quite humid in the forestry.

 Flowerdale estates have done some new paths which are not marked on the OS map but they are easy to follow and end up at the waterfalls. It was a shame that Flowerdale house has tried to become "Private" by putting up cheap and nasty screening. Shame for it's such a lovely house.

 Quite a few wild flowers were photographed along the way,with Fungi and lichens too. The Rowan berries were incredibly bright red.

 Walking up beyond the waterfalls we headed for open moorland. An Groban and Sithean Mor looked enticing but too much for Dorothy. The views will be wonderful so Sheila and I will head up there soon. Crossing the bridge over Gleann a Ghrobain, we stopped for a coffee. No sooner had we stopped than we were inundated with the dreaded midge. We covered up and had a good laugh wearing midge nets drinking coffee. Another short shower came and went but again nothing much but the wind was picking up.

 Heading back down the track we passed Flowerdale House and turned sharp right. A good path through the forestry which comes out adjacent to a well kept cemetery. Just a short road walk back to the car.

 Back to base for some lunch. Louise you are so right, what a wonderful butchers.

 Post lunch we headed off to Melvaig for a high coastal walk. The views simply wonderful, the light amazing and the wind fierce. At some points it almost blew the camera tripod over and made us all look like Michelin men. Still it was great to be out here enjoying another day in this wonderful place.
 The Outer Hebrides looming in the haze and Skye shinning in the bright sun.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gairloch - Sunday

 We awoke today to fantastic light over to the high mountains stretching across to Torridon. I wasn't for rising but the view was too good to stay in bed. I grabbed the camera and tripod, set up in the garden of the cottage and took what shots i thought were decent.

 There was no breeze and the morning sun had heat in it. This was going to be a nice day, you can just tell. We both felt we should go for a run whilst it was so peaceful and quiet so we changed into running gear and set off. From Gairloch we headed off to Big Sand about 4 miles away and then reversed. There was the odd person about as we passed the SYH but nobody about at the Sands holiday park. It's a lovely site this, more like a golf course than a camping spot and with plenty of shelter if the wind gets up. I presume this is where you set up Louise.

 Back at base Sheila and Dorothy made a cooked breakfast before we set out to walk to Kerry bay and back. About another 4 miles.  We should have booked a boat trip for today because it was a stunningly, clear, hot day. There were even people in the sea. I think they must have been accompanied by psychiatrists because i know i would have to be drunk to go in.

 A coffee and cake at the wonderful Mountain Coffee company went down a treat and a quick look around the shop, so full of interesting books, maps, pictures etc. We headed back to base and spent the late afternoon soaking up the sun. Well it is for the first time this year.
 Again sorry for the lack of images. They just refuse to load at the moment.

 It's now 5.30pm and we are talking about what to have for Tea. The midges are just starting to give us grief and the red dots are appearing at a rapid rate. The sun is losing it's heat as it's now dropping down just to the north of Skye. Cloud, grey cloud is filtering out the rays and it's looking like we have had the best of the day.

 More tomorrow. Forecast not too good.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Onwards and Upwards to Gairloch

 When we booked this trip we completely forgot it was bank holiday and we had a fair old drive to get to Gairloch, high up on Scotlands west coast.
 Sheila spent many an hour trying to find overnight accommodation on route for just in case the traffic was bad. She finally found a place just outside Inverness.

 We 3, Sheila, Dorothy and I set off quite early Friday morning hopeful that we could get a head start on the traffic, predicted to be busy. So it was a pleasant surprise that we made good progress and to be honest the traffic was reasonable. Well reasonable until we got close to Perth. Then it started to rain with a big "R". So heavy we could hardly see the road.

 Plenty of signs littered the roadside advertising some big horsy doo at a posh castle on the A9 road. What with the rain, the horse box's the 100's of Harley's heading for Aviemore, progress was pitifully slow. So slow in fact  that we did Manchester to Stirling faster than we did Perth to Inverness. What a dreadful road that A9 is. If there is any road in the UK that needs another lane then this is it. It will be off my transport route options from now on. I think it would have been quicker to cycle it.

 Anyway we got to our overnight stop after fish and chips for lunch at 3.30pm in Aviemore. We was going to have a walk round Aviemore to stretch our legs but it was inundated with bikers so we just carried on our way.

  We had a pleasant stay at the Old North Inn, nothing special but good enough for an overnight stop. The locals bar was interesting and we enjoyed the banter with them.

 The morning saw the rain had not abated but wasn't heavy. The forecast was for an improving situation and this proved correct. The drive along Strath Bran and Loch Maree was a joy. The scenery stunning and Beinn Eighe enticing. I did take some photo's but the internet connection here where we are staying in Gairloch is not wide enough to both view and upload any photographs. I believe that the library has wifi so i will try and log on to it on Monday.
 The weather here as i type this is very blustery and a bit nippy. Cloud base about 300metres.
We are constantly looking across the bay hopeful we see whales and dolphins.

More to come.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Casio Protrek Altimeter Watch SGW-300HB-3AVER

Casio Protrek SGW-300HB-3AVER

 Last year i was walking down from Greendale Gill near Nether Wasdale, testing a pair of neoprene gloves. I found that the cuff of the gloves was quite tight and so i took off my Suunto Vector watch and put it in my pocket.
 When i got back to the car the watch had vanished. I walked back so far along the path but no sign of it. I went back the following day and tried to find it but was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Plenty of people were out walking and i gave them my phone number just in case they came across it but to no avail.
 Now you will probably find the next sentence a strange one with me having searched high and low for it. I didn’t particularly like the Suunto watch. 

 I found the Altimeter and Barometer awkward to set and more times than not i didn’t bother with it. I found it’s trail logging a nightmare and i never used that much. The alarm was as much use as a chocolate fireguard, the electronic compass cut out before you had really had chance to assess the direction you wanted and the strap broke twice. Apart from that the watch was fine.

 Considering the cost of the Suunto Vector, i think it was £150 when i bought it and it’s lack of affection on my part i decided that i wasn’t going to replace it with a new one. 
 In the meantime i had bought a Satmap Active 10 GPS which gives all that information anyway. So i just bought a Timex expedition watch, not expensive, and if i lost this one it wouldn’t hurt the pocket as much.
 And time has passed.

 One of the things i really miss in the hills is an altimeter. But you have one on your GPS i can hear you say. Well yes you do, just as long as the GPS is switched on and its not in the depths of your rucksack or as sometimes happens, you left it at home. 

 So i was checking out altimeters, just altimeters, not watches and i was quite taken back by how expensive they were. These expensive ones were not for me as i have a GPS, did i mention that?

 I was about to call it a day when i googled Altimeter watches. Lots were found but again the usual culprits were up there and still far more than i wanted to pay. 
 Then in the side bar i noticed this Casio watch with a price tag of £39.99. Now that’s more like it, i could loose that i thought. 
 I did what we all do now and i read a few reviews and as usual some were good and some bad. Some said the Altimeter was completely useless and not to buy it and some said it was accurate. Who do you believe? But overall the points were more positive than not. I decided to take the plunge.

 Now i read the instruction book which funnily enough i found easy to understand. That in itself is quite unusual because to this day i still havn’t got my head round the Vector instruction book and picture portfolio.
 I read that the 2 sensors for air pressure and hence altitude, were factory set but can vary and instructions were there about how to reset them.
 With this type of kit and sensors, expensive or cheap they work in a similar fashion. Barometric pressure changes and so altitude readings change and visa versa. The best method of setting it is on the day of the walk and in the area you are walking, not 100 miles away in the garden before you set off.
 Position yourself in a location where you know the spot height and check the reading. Adjust it as required within 5 metres. I have found that it will maintain this all day but it is always worthwhile when at other spot heights, like trig points etc just to have a look and see if it is correct. 

 Barometric pressure can change very quickly in the UK with our fickle weather and that is probably why some people have given the Casio poor reviews, because they just don’t check and adjust enough to cope with the changes in pressure. If you expect it to read right day in and day out without any  manual adjustment then you are very much mistaken. This will never happen.

 On Saturday, the day of my last post, i set my datum height at a known spot of 150 metres high. It actually read 175metres on the watch so i hoped that the barometer had risen since i last set it at home.
I quickly and easily reduced the hight to the 150metres. So much easier than with the old Vector.
When we got to the summit of Swirl how i checked to see what the elevation was and as you can see from the photo below it was 800 metres.

 Swirl How is 802metres high. The watch rounds off numbers so it could have gone to either 800 or 805 metres and i would be more than happy with it. If this is not accurate enough then i think peoples expectations of this type of equipment out way its capabilities. It will do me.

 The watch also has a temperature reading which just like the Suunto Vector is very much affected by body temperature. So if you require a correct reading the watch has to be removed from the wrist and given time to settle. Again the temperature sensor is easily adjusted if found to be high or low when comparing it to a known accurate source.
 The alarm of which there are five individual alarm settings, is far superior to the Suunto Vector but the background light is not as good. Adequate but could be better. It doesn’t have an electronic compass and it doesn’t have the ability to log your walk/ride.

 Overall i am more than pleased with it. It performs the basic functions well. It’s not as heavy or bulky as some i have seen. It’s easy to read and adjust. The green bar across the centre of the screen is a weather window it’s arrows pointing to show rising or dropping pressure. (The screen is also scratch proof. (added 22/08/12))

 For the price of £39.99 i must say it’s great value for money. It will certainly be accompanying me in future. Well, until i loose it anyway.

Please note that it has only been my intention here to cover the Altimeter/Barometer/temperature parts of the watch function. But it has other functions like stop watch, countdown timer, numerous separate time zone capabilities and more which can be googled if you want to review the whole watch specification.





Monday, August 13, 2012

Turner Landscapes Fell Race 2012

 Saturday 11th August 2012

The Turner Landscapes fell race is a charity race for the Alzheimer’s society. Last year Sheila and i were marshal on Swirl How and i had not recovered from Shingles. It was a most dreadful day and thought that i might not be able to carry on. The weather on the day was also pretty bad.
 This year we were asked if we would like to donate a day to help out again, doing the same marshalling point. Obviously, we said yes or i wouldn’t be typing a post about it.
 Now i/we, have heard all the tongue in cheek jokes like “We would have run but couldn’t remember where the start was” etc etc. No more Alzheimer jokes are required thanks.
 So to the race.
 It starts and finishes in a field adjacent to Turner Hall campsite in the lovely Duddon Valley Cumbria.
The Duddon valley - view south.
The tops covered by marshals are Grey Friar, Swirl How, Old Man of Coniston, Dow Crag, and White Pike. My unofficial stats for the race are 16.5kl and 850 M of ascent.
Turner Hall Farm and Grey Friar.
 Gathering up our equipment, paper, pens, board, etc and the extremely important radio we set off for Three Shires where, if we are there early enough we can manage to park up. If not then we can end up having a bit of a walk.
 We always ascend via Wet Side Edge as this is the shortest and most accessible route. If you need to get a runner off the fell quickly then with the car being relatively close it makes life a bit easier.
Pike O’Blisco and Wrynose pass.
 The route up is quite well defined with cairns along the way. The views you get on a clear day are just spectacular. I particularly enjoy the view of Bowfell  and the Crinkles from here.
Cold Pike (right foreground). Crinkles in shadow with Bowfell in sun.
 We were making speedy progress today, Sheila setting quite a pace. I had to stop a couple of times supposedly to take a photograph but it was just to catch my breath. We caught up and passed a family group with about 5 small terriers we never saw them the rest of the walk so i don’t know which way they went. The edge gives fine views across the district and although it was quite a hazy sort of day the distant fells  as well as those in close proximity could still be made out. So different to when we did the Duddon Fell race in June.

 Sheila on Carrs with Grey Friar behind
 Wet Side Edge with Little Langdale in the valley.
 We stopped on Carrs to look at the memorial to the 8 Canadian crew that were killed in the Halifax plane crash here in 1944. They were only a few metres below the ridge line when the fatal accident happened in bad weather.

It doesn’t matter how many dozens of times i have passed this place i still stop and read the inscriptions. Some of the Halifax wreckage is still visible below Carrs in Broad Slack.
Broad Slack
 Approaching the summit i checked the watch and we were in good time. There were plenty of people around who said hello and were dressed for summer. They must have found it strange that we were layering up and putting waterproofs on when most people were layering down.
 The thing is, if you keep moving you wouldn’t get cold but standing still for a couple of hours you can still become hyperthermic without realising. So the plan is always to layer up.
 We checked in to race control to let them know we were in position and the chat across the radio was quite amusing at times. Being nicely early at the summit gave us a bit of time to wander around and take in the scenery before the business of checking in runners started in earnest.
 Just near the sheepfold at the head of Greenburn Beck i spotted a yellow dot. It turned out to be a North Face tent wild camping in a lovely spot.
Wild Camp near Greenburn beck.
 I have wild camped here myself and although it can get very windy it’s still a lovely spot. We were quite envious of the peace and quiet these people were having in comparison to our noisy night on the camp site. The campsite was very busy with hardly space left on the usual 2 main fields. Anthony, said that this year has been a disaster regarding numbers of campers. So this weekend’s crowds was great to see. He will always find room for everyone even if it means opening up new fields. You will never get turned away unless your too rowdy.
Our base camp set up with Scarp 2 and kitchen basha.
 We did get a bit of sarcasm for being glampers this weekend and we were told that if we were not careful we would be heading for camper van territory. Hm. Friends eh. 
Still the basha was quite good and if used in the opposite way to the set up above ie long ways, it would be a good wild camp bivi as it only weighs 600 grams.
 Time passes by so quickly, and before long we heard on the radio that the first runners were through Grey Friar checkpoint. 
 We checked the skyline and sure enough the runners were fast approaching. If you have never seen fell runners in full flight then you should make the effort to watch a race. They are lightening fast on the downhills which really does have to be seen to be believed. A few minutes later and we were doing our job of marking times and checking race numbers. 

The front runner from Ambleside AC. Tom Gibbs 



Quite a few walkers had stopped to watch as the runners approached, said thanks for marshalling and sped off heading for Old Man of Coniston. We were asked do they never stop for a sandwich or to look at the views. That gave us a bit of a giggle. Then one lady approached and told us she had seen a runner way off the track and must be lost or something. We explained that runners don’t have to follow strict routes and that as long as they go to all the checkpoints they can use what ever route they want to.
A think she was a bit happier to hear that and away off towards Wetherlam she went.

 Due to the fine weather i managed to take quite a few photo’s of the majority of runners and i will put a link at the end of this post for those who may want to have a look and if anyone wants to copy the pictures then be my guest. No need to ask me.
I will also put a link to our photo’s of the weekend.

 Pike O’Stickle from Swirl How
Carrs and the Scafell range in the haze, from Swirl How

 Seathwaite tarn
Dow Crag

  Because we were only the second checkpoint all the runners were soon passed us. This means that if we hurry up we could get back to the start point for the soup and cakes that are put on by the organisers and although because this race is for charity, and there are no specific prizes, the first runner to finish and the first lady to finish always get a hand shake from legend Joss Naylor. We made it back in time, so thanks to the ladies who made the cakes etc, wonderful.
 Unfortunately i missed getting a photo of the handshakes because i had left the camera in the car and didn’t have enough time to get it and get back before it was all over. There’s no hanging about with these guys.
However, i was kindly allowed to copy a fellow marshal's image. Thanks Ian.
Tom, Joss and Anna

The official race results have not been posted yet but i will amend this when they are available. We had a really lovely day and the weather was fantastic. Thanks for inviting us to take part.

Link to Turner Landscapes 2012 fell runner photo’s. HERE

Link to our weekends hill scenes etc. HERE

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

GoreTex reproofing

Need your GoreTex jacket professionally cleaned, reproofed and DWR reinstated?

Well i came across this recently and i think it's a good deal so i am passing it on to you dear readers for your enjoyment whilst the next row is brewing in the Holympics!

The TG Store is offering existing customers of theirs, this service for FREE except for postage and packing.

But, don't sigh now, if you have never bought anything from them and don't have an account then the price for the service is £10 for one item and £16 for two. Now i think that is a fair price.

Anyway you can take a look see and if you find this of interest it's HERE.

Find it Here