The Vault Regulars

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A milestone passed.

When i first started this blog it was basically just to learn how to do it. I was going to call it a day after a few weeks but thanks to Sheila and a number of other bloggers I kept it going.
It is therefore a fantastic event to have achieved 250,000 hits.
The thanks go to everyone who has made a contribution over the years. You know who you are. Cheers.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stormin on Kefalonia

Just a quick update. I have managed to sneak onto someone's WiFi! Ours is down after an almighty electrical storm. I have never heard thunder as loud as this.
Rosa, our villa owner says the LAN diverter has been hit and is all black inside. She's now changed it for a new box but still no internet so it looks like its more serious.
This is Greek time so it might be a while before we get into a position to add pics to the post.
We are now doing what you should do on holiday. Sit round the pool with an ice cream.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A lovely bit of Kiniros.

Yesterday, Tuesday was overcast and threatened a storm. The hills were blanketed with cloud rolling around. Leaning on the balcony of our villa we contemplated what to do as we had brought no wet weather gear at all. Sheila came up with the right answer, "it's warm so if we get soaked we will dry out fast". As it happened, although the threat remained all day it never amounted to more than the odd short shower.
We walked for about 3 hours just around the back lanes and farm tracks taking lots of pics of flowers and butterflies and on our return went down to a small cove for a swim.

Today, we warned Dorothy that we were going to have a walk up some hillsides and one especially christened the Jesus hill. This is apt blasphemy and has nothing to do with religion. There was a promise of great views and cake at the end.

Again the day is overcast but still 28 deg C. Plenty of fluids required.
Here are a few of the flowers seen today.




Someone's idea of fun in the garden. Brilliant.
Church of St. Gerasimos.
Interior of the Greek Orthodox church. Argostoli.
Sat at the rejuvenated water front at Argostoli.

A throng of people were staring into the harbour at the numerous large turtles that were taking advantage of the small fishing boats leftovers.
On our way through we spotted this chap selling off Kiniros steaks. We have no idea what Kiniros is, but it looks like a tuna steak. Maybe some foody can enlighten me. I bought 2 large steaks from him that weighed in at 1 kilo and it cost 12 euro.
Me buying Kiniros
Feeling quite pleased with the fresh purchase for our evening meal tonight we thought it apt to celebrate with a visit to the cake shop.

So we bought 8 delightful cakes. The lady serving asked if it was for a special occasion and I said no, we are going to eat them now, and will be back tomorrow for some more, but I may bring a knife so that we can buy a gateaux. Yummy.
The cakes unfortunately didn't make it 100yds. We found an empty bench and made pigs of ourselves.
We now had to get back to the villa with the fish as the weather had really improved. It was ideal for spoiling fish if we left it much longer and I didn't fancy a trail of flies or cats following us home.
Once back at the villa, I cleaned up the fish, washed and cut up into portions ready for later.
Right its almost G and T time so must dash.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A long way for a cake.

Having put the air con during the evening it was lovely and cool going to bed. We both slept well and arose early just before sun rise.
Mist covered the hills and there was a great inversion around one of the unnamed tops.
While it was still cool we decided to get breakfast over and walk the 5km into Argostoli town via a scenic route past Fanari lighthouse and Katavotras water wheel. This was not new territory for Sheila and I but it was for Dorothy.

It was a slow pace and as we passed some previously closed hotels it was good to see new life in them. Greece must be slowly getting to grips with the harsh austerity measures of previous years.
Prices however have moved up quite a bit from previous visits but the people are still welcoming as always.

The earthquake of late last year has created large cracks in what was a really nice waterfront promenade and numerous buildings were in the midst of repairs.
The fishermen were still selling their catches quayside and the fruit and veg market was in full swing. The aromas so different to the UK. We bought huge beef tomatoes, cucumber, onions, peaches and more but we had to remember what ever we bought we had to carry back.

Prior to wending our way the last couple of km back we decided to spoil ourselves with a delightful cake and a coffee.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A New Challenge.

Sheila is sick to death of listening to stories about that TGO Challenge 2014 and so decided to take us both away from it all to this idilic little spot on the beautiful island of Kefallinia.
After a 2 hr delay sat on the tarmac of Manchester international airport or Ringway as us locals still call it we arrived mid afternoon yesterday to a balmy temperature of 28 degrees C.
So I am now sat on the balcony enjoying breakfast and the view. Just been for a bit of a run and it was a slow one as the humidity is high. I am experiencing a little bit of what the England footballers are having to put up with. Shame. Just heard we got beat 2:1. Typical.

Anyway Dorothy has just had a message to check her euro lottery so with a bit of luck we might be staying longer than 2 weeks. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Vivo Barefoot Ultra Pure shoes

In March 2012 fellow blogger Laura asked me if i had any knowledge of the Vivo Barefoot shoes as i was then doing a post on the O1M’s here. At the time i had only seen the Barefoot's on review sites in the US and had never seen them in the UK. So i replied that i hadn’t any info.

For some reason the Vivo Barefoot’s went off my radar. I’m not sure why, but maybe i was a little sidetracked by the Hi-Tec Zuuk’s. Like lots of other folk i was pleased to get a pair and i thought i had a pretty good backpacking camp/bothy shoe.

TGO magazine even gave the Zuuk's an award at the annual ceremony as the best bit of kit for 2013.
Names such as Andrew Denton, Andy Howell, Chris Townsend, Emily Rodway, Daniel Nielson gave them the thumbs up, and i also did a review back in July 2013 here.

But without going back through old stories, the problem with the Zuuk’s is that when you get them wet doing river crossings or in camp walking through wet grass they take ages to dry. And i mean ages.
Wet feet are not what you want in camp during the evening, especially when you have just spent 1/2hr drying them, repairing the blisters, taping up sore areas etc etc.

Like lots of gear reviews, it’s very subjective, giving them a score out of ten depends on the environment you use them in and there would be a big difference in the score if you used them say on the PCT in the USA rather than the TGO Challenge in Scotland.

Many, many challengers used the Zuuk’s on this years challenge (2014) and only for the reason i mention, they take ages to dry, i can understand why. But we learn so much with hindsight.

Then one evening in the Sheilin of Mark bothy i noticed that fellow blogger John Sanderson had bucked the trend and gone for the Vivo Barefoot Ultra Pure. We had a chat about them and they are much better than the Zuuk’s for our purposes in wet Scotland or the UK for that matter.
The easiest way to describe them is that they are made from a similar feeling material to Crocs (EVA) but are lighter, more compressible, and are more of a shoe/slipper than a sandal. They are also 100% waterproof.
They are classed as a barefoot running shoe and are also available with a removable sock on the Vivo Ultra model if required.

Vivo Barefoot Ultra Pure

I won’t go through the specification on this post because Vivo do a more comprehensive job on their site here.
They are available in a number of colours and in a ladies version.

For the weight conscious backpacker. My size 7 shoe weighs 95 grams each.

If you buy the model with the removable sock then the sock weighs 49 grams each.
The  inner sock is quite robust and has its own footbed. It can be worn separately and would be ok for bothy or hostel wear. The sock is not waterproof.

Buying the Pure, less sock model, i would suggest buying a size down from normal as they are generous and sized to take the inner sock. With the sock i suggest normal size is fine.

I think these will be the shoe of the 2015 Challenge.



Tuesday, June 3, 2014

TGO Challenge 2014 Day 12. North Water Bridge to Montrose via Kinnebar Links.

Distance. 15.9km  Accum Distance 314.44km. 195.40Miles
Ascent. 105M       Accum Asccent. 7108M.  23,320.21ft.

Well this was it, the last day and a short one too. Although it was short it was mainly boring and tedious road walking. But when you look at the map the options are not great for alternatives.
We could have finished elsewhere, places of greater interest maybe but the reason for this finish was that JJ had to be on 3.30pm train out of here.

For once i didn’t sleep too well because of the traffic noise coming from both sides of the park. I was up at 6.30am and made use of the picnic table to have breakfast. A number of others were also up and some already gone.

Camp North Water Bridge.
JJ was up at 7.00am and we had a leisurely packing up. Said our farewells to David (Fellbound) and away we went.
Not much to say about the road walking except we needed to take great care crossing the A90. Then it was a back road all the way to Hillside. A very smart place of well kept gardens and a mixture of old and new housing.
 We stopped for a short period at the War Memorial in Hillside and admired the Mortar located on the top of the stonework.

War Memorial at Hillside

Down into the centre we went under the railway bridge and just opposite the Maltings took a right turn which leads to the delightful cafe at Charleton Farm Garden Centre. If you have never called in here then put it on your list for next time. The food is wonderful and the cakes are too.

 Charleton Garden Centre and Food Emporium


Parked at the garden centre we spotted this support van. We did wonder about it for a while!

We had a long chat with the staff about Independence and what came out crystal clear was that the public were not being told enough to make a clear decision. You cannot make a decision on what might happen or what you think will happen. The facts were few and far between.
many questions like, Health Care, Currency, Pensions, Tax, Salaries depending on the outcome of which currency were still topics unclear.

Anyway they had work to do and we needed to go. We made the beach after taking a footpath which no longer goes anywhere and so we had to return to the road. The Links were soon crossed and hey presto we were paddling. The North Sea was wonderful, the sky blue, the beach, long, clean and empty. The lighthouse and the waves were sparkling under a warm and bright sun. What a wonderful end to a fantastic journey.

JJ at the North Sea, Kinnebar Links
Scurdie Ness Lighthouse.


Oh No! Wet socks again.
It was easy walking down the beach and into town where we found the Park Hotel bustling with organisers and challengers. The HQ was manned by numerous red tee shirted folk including Mick and Gayle who provided refreshment and the challenge goodies which included the red T shirt, 2 badges, a certificate of achievement and a TGO buff.

I decided i would go and get the tent up and said my thanks and farewell’s to JJ.

Route Day 12.

TGO Challenge 2014 Day 12. Tarfside to North Water Bridge.

Distance. 25.90km.  Accum Distance. 298.54km
Ascent. 141M          Accum. Ascent. 7003M

The tent was wet and it was a bit mizzly as i looked out of the doorway on this our penultimate day of the challenge. As i made some tea the weather cleared up and as it was early decided to make some porridge. I wasn’t going to bother with breakfast today as we were going to head off down the glen to the Retreat and Museum where they were opening at 9.00am for challengers.

Having wiped the tent down and giving it a good shake to get rid of excess water i packed up and was ready to hit the road at 8.30am. The road down to and past the Retreat had more road kill than i can remember seeing in any other part of the UK.

Four challengers were already waiting for the doors to open and as we arrived the doors duly opened.
Breakfast was wonderful and lots of it including as much toast and tea or coffee as we wanted.
The Retreat and Museum. Glen Esk.
A sample of the museum.
Mike and Marion Parsons came in for refreshments and left way before us greedy pair. We caught up with them at the bridge west of Dalhastnie over the River North Esk.

Mike noticed that i was using the OMM Villain 45 rucksack which was his company at the time. I just happened to mention that i didn’t like it much, which wasn’t an entirely true statement but before i had chance to expand on why i didn’t like it Marion came back with the brilliant comment “Well we have had your money now, so we don’t care”. What more was there to say.

JJ and I walked with Mike and Marion all the way to North Water Bridge and a very pleasant and  enlightening day i had. Mike is so full of ideas and ventures. It was a pleasure to meet and walk with them both.

The walk along the North Esk is pleasant and especially good around the Rocks of Solitude. At one point we passed through a large herd of cows with young as well as a few young bulls. I wondered if we might be encroaching a little close, especially as one of them started scraping the ground with its hoof. But we passed without any problems.

As we came to a metalled road there was an ideal spot for lunch by a high bridge. It would seem that this idillic spot is also well used by locals as plenty of rubbish could be found around. Take your rubbish home!


The North Esk near the Rocks of Solitude.
The hills are gone and the flat lands lead to the sea.
Marion had the route well logged in her memory and on a couple of occasions Mike and I got told it’s this way.
Passing fields of gold or Rape seed plants in this case i enjoyed the aroma given off and also the aniseed from the Sweet Cicely.
The day passed quickly, chatting about this, that and the other and in no time we hit Edzell. It seemed strange after our time in the hills to hit such a metropolis. It was a bit of a shock to the system.
Obviously we had to visit the famous Tuck Inn Cafe for refreshments.
Fine suspension bridge at Edzell

The now wider and slower North Esk at Edzell.
About an hour later we set off again and after passing a Land Rover graveyard crossed the North Esk on quite a smart suspension bridge.

At this point in the days walk the intention was to choose a route that avoids the main road as much as possible. Although it’s not an A road it can still get very busy and its fast too.
It is possible to avoid a little more than we did if you check the detail on a larger scale map than our 1:50,000. But we avoided quite a bit and luckily the road was not that busy.
On the Airfield side of the road there is a wide grassy verge so at least here there is little danger of being run over. Our route took us through Arnhall Farm and then once past the airfield a back lane took us past the splendid house of Inglismaldie and onto the Caravan Park at North Water Bridge.

Inglismaldie Castle 
Inglismaldie Castle dates back to 1636 but has had many alterations over the years. It was owned by the Earls of Kintore.

The Caravan Park at North Water Bridge was a quiet place to camp and the facilities excellent. We did get a few strange glances from resident caravan owners who must have thought they were being invaded. They had nothing to worry about this night, we were all asleep by 9.30pm after a drop of sharing whisky.


Route Day 11.








TGO Challenge 2014 Day 11. Sheilin of Mark to Tarfside.

Distance. 17.90km.  Accum. Distance 272.64km
Ascent.  214M.  Accum. Ascent 6862M
Sheilin of Mark Bothy.
I must have dropped off to sleep very easy last night and it must have been around 9.00pm. I awoke about 3.00am and heard scuffling, scraping noises close to the tent. I kept still and listened but must have dropped off to sleep again. I woke up again about 6.00am. When i got out of the tent just before 7.00am there were a number of deer prints leading from the burn up and past the tent.

It was a lovely morning and the others were already packing up. I knew John S was going over to Mt Keen but i wasn’t 100% sure which way the others were going. It turned out that Merv and Dave were heading in our direction over to Glen Lee. I think Ian was too but i may be wrong.
 Mervyn natters to JJ.
Ian Sommerville, left, has already packed up his Duomid so mine was all alone.

As we packed up, mist was quickly rolling in from the north of Mt Keen and before too long half the mountain had just about disappeared.

As we made our way along the Waters of Mark many good wild camp sites were spotted.
Getting to the top of Muckle Cairn was just a matter of picking your way up through the peat hags, the top being marked by a small gathering of stones. We obviously didn’t choose the same route as the others as we saw no footprints until almost at the top.


The not very exciting top of Muckle Cairn
The weather was certainly different to yesterday afternoon. The tops gradually misting over but visibility was ok.
A couple of LRT’s leave the summit of Muckle Cairn, one heads down whilst the other heads across. We wanted the downward track heading SE to Glen Lee. This is a decent track but not overly used and has not therefore become a road like so many others.


Looking down to Glen Lee from Muckle Cairn
Just before we reached the crossing point of the Burn of Badrone we spotted 2 Land Rovers heading up the glen on another track which leads to the Knowe of Lee. They soon disappeared. We met Mervyn Grimshaw again and he stayed walking with us for the remainder of the day.
The stables of Lee were closed. The door falling in and had been tied up. It didn’t matter as the day was warm with no breeze.

Its a good scenic track all the way down the glen and we soon covered the distance to the Loch.  Impressive is the Burn of Inchgrundle as it tumbles down from the narrow gorge.
It was just about this time that we started thinking about a brew and although we passed a couple of decent places we didn’t actually stop until we reached Kirkton at the far end of the loch.

We found the signs “No camping as you may disturb the night fishermen” to be hilariously funny. Why would backpackers who go to sleep around 8.30 ish disturb night fishermen?
Maybe they mean the Glamping types who party and then leave the rubbish for someone else to clear up. Who knows. A little further on a slow worm was almost trodden on.



There sat on the bench at the head of the loch were a couple of ladies, one was from Maine USA, here on holiday and the very next challenger that came along was Julie Harle from Kentucky. We chatted for a few minutes and i thought she was a very confident hiker.

Lunch was very pleasant in perfect conditions sat on the bank of the loch. It was a bit of a struggle to move on but move on had to be done. Along the route we passed Invermark Castle or Tower House.



From here Tarfside is not that far and we were in no rush.
A short road walk brought us to a gate which goes round Hill of Rowan with it’s Monument. Mervyn wanted to go up on this trip so he left us whilst we continued on. The Bell shaped structure is properly known as the Maule Monument and was built by the first Baron Panmure in 1866 to commemorate seven members of the family, it is also dedicated to Lord Panmure, Lady Christian Maule and Lady Ramsey Macdonald.

Entering Tarfside, St Dunstans refuge is the first building we encountered. The good folk there did us proud with Bacon rolls, cakes, tea, coffee, beer and if you were very very lucky you may have got a Bombay Sapphire and tonic. Keith and Charlie had made themselves at home and why Keith was dressed up as a Roman in a pink toga is still a mystery. The sporran was quite fitting though.



St Dunstans Refuge kitchen.
Leaving the party atmosphere of the refuge having checked in with control, i walked the couple of hundred yards to the sports field which is kindly given over for challengers to camp on. Its a good spot and a lovely village. Quite a few challengers were already pitched. We had a pleasant late afternoon chatting and Julie came over to have a look at the Duomid before checking out the Trailstar opposite.


Camp Tarfside.
The refuge was doing evening meal and so quite a few opted for that option. I had enough food with me and so cooked that to reduce the weight of the sack. Martin Banfield arrived and came over for a chat and later we all met up in the Mason’s Arms.




Monday, June 2, 2014

TGO Challenge 2014 Day 10. Lochcallatter Lodge to Sheilin of Mark.

Distance. 23.10km   Accum. Distance 254.74km
Ascent. 986M   Accum. Ascent. 6648M

I awoke early having enjoyed one of the most memorable nights, not.. The snoring was loud enough to lift the roof tiles. Keith seemed to be getting the blame but i think it was George not Keith.
So downstairs others were about and it wasn’t long before Bill was up and making breakfast for us all. Thanks Bill, my porridge and your bacon butties serves me well.
As we breakfasted the door opened and in came 2 Californians, Christy and Dan Rosander. Full of joviality and at that time of the morning should be banned. So after intro’s and refreshments they had a good look round and checked out all the wonderful photographs of earlier crossings.

It wasn’t the best of days as we set off, although its straight up hill and therefore the body warms up quickly.
Its a decent path but as we got higher the wind really picked up and it was chilly. Two guys behind us were moving very quickly and it resulted that they were not challengers but weekenders who had camped at the far end of Loch Callater. They were peak bagging.
 Loch Callater with the lodge just visible at the head.
 Lochnagar somewhere in the murk

When we rounded Carn an t-Sagairt mor we were losing visibility rapidly. We made the decision to miss Lochnager top and go for the lesser ridged group leading to Broad Cairn. It meant that we would walk off our maps but we both had the luxury of a mapping GPS and a compass so it was considered adequate and the route followed the boundary.

There was a decent if sometimes obscure path down from our location to the first top of Fafernie at 1000M, our highest point so far. The two lads we met earlier were here and also a lady day walker.
Following the boundary our next tops were Cairn Bannock at 1012M our new highest point, point 991M unnamed, Cairn of Gowal at 993M and Broad Cairn at 998M. We had a fair sized snow field to cross and the views north towards Eagle Rock and the waterfalls were amazing.
Looking back, Eagles rock (rhs), waterfall at Allt a choire Bhoidheach and the summit of Carn a coire Bhoidheach with the cloud lifting.
JJ leans into the wind and prepares for take off.

Coming up to the summit of Broad Cairn.

It was a bit of a surprise when we looked over to Lochnagar and found the tops were clearing ever so rapidly. It certainly didn’t give us that impression earlier. Still it wasn’t a disappointment not doing Lochnagar as we did these other tops instead. At the summit of Broad Cairn we had fantastic views down Loch Muick and we could spot the general route onwards to Sheilin of Mark.

Coming down from Broad Cairn is quite steep and rocky and because of the wind chill encountered coming across the tops we both still had our shell jackets and gloves on in stark contrast from those coming up the other way who were in shorts and tee shirts. They would get a shock at the top.
Heading for the LRT and the animal huts at the watershed we spotted Keith and Charlie and waved.

View east from summit of Broad Cairn.
We were going to make a brew here but the water was less than inviting and so gave it a miss. We just had a bite to eat instead and then moved on.

We chose to walk the wide track that follows the high route along Loch Muick on the south east side.

Loch Muick and the route over to Dubh loch for the SE high level path. 


One of Queen Elizabeth’s smaller places.

Just before the track starts to descend to the Black Burn and around 630Metres we headed off across the peat hags in the general direction of Capel Road. Fortunately and gratefully the area was relatively dry. Lots of mountain hare were observed in all guises from summer brown to winter white.
As is usual in hag country its not easy to keep to a bearing exactly and as we had excellent visibility we just made for the track intersection where it splits up to Watery Hill.
The Lochnagar range now completely clear, taken from Capel Rd.

Once there it was an easy route to the summit of Black Hill 754M. The LRT goes further now than is indicated on the map and there is also a nice new shelter just prior to gaining the summit.
In hindsight, we maybe should have stayed on the boundary line to Gallow Hillock from the animal shed at the bottom of Broad Cairn and then followed the Capel Rd track. Or, stayed on the boundary line continuously to the Sheilin.  I wouldn’t recommend the route across the hags if the weather was poor or after a period of prolonged rain.

From the summit we followed an ATV track for a while down the NE shoulder of Black Hill to the Allt Darrarie. We should have followed the Burn of Mohammed until the intersection but i recon we followed the more obvious Kate’s Stripe and so we hit the Water of Mark south west of the Bothy. From here it was just a matter of following the water course to the bothy itself.

Weather wise the afternoon had been a stunner with extensive views. Although the distance was only 23km it had been a hard day and i was definitely feeling tired. It was great to find Dave Williams, Ian Sommerville, John Sanderson and Mervyn Grimshaw already at the bothy and we had a bit of a laugh together whilst making a meal. Completely by surprise it started to rain. It had been clear blue skies ten minutes before.


Route day 10.


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